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Alan Dershowitz in L.A. Times: Not all civilian deaths are equally tragic

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Published: Saturday July 22, 2006

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In today's Los Angeles Times, Harvard University Professor Alan Dershowitz has written a column in which he argues that the value of some civilian wartime casualties is less than others.

"There is a vast difference both moral and legal between a 2-year-old who is killed by an enemy rocket and a 30-year-old civilian who has allowed his house to be used to store Katyusha rockets," argues Dershowitz. "Both are technically civilians, but the former is far more innocent than the latter. There is also a difference between a civilian who merely favors or even votes for a terrorist group and one who provides financial or other material support for terrorism," he continues.

"The Israeli army has given well-publicized notice to civilians to leave those areas of southern Lebanon that have been turned into war zones. Those who voluntarily remain behind have become complicit. Some those who cannot leave on their own should be counted among the innocent victims," wrote Dershowitz.

In response, Kevin Drum, of Washington Monthly countered Dershowitz's thoughts by writing:

Excepting the lame and the sick, then, anyone who declines to leave their home despite Israeli orders to do so is, ipso facto, complicit with terrorism and presumably fair game once the Israeli invasion gets under way. How they get totted up after the killing is over depends on where they fall on Dershowitz's nebulous "continuum."

This is very clever. Alan Dershowitz, after all, is nothing if not very clever. But I wonder how he'd respond to a similarly clever and nuanced definition of the word "terrorist"?

Dershowitz's article ends, "Every civilian death is a tragedy, but some are more tragic than others."

The complete column by Deshowitz may be read here.
The related Washington Monthly entry may be read here.