CNN's Banfield: Since Conscription in Israel Makes 'Everyone' a Soldier, Everyone's a Target

November 20th, 2014 5:32 PM

Next time she's looking for work, Ashleigh Banfield might consider public relations for Hamas. Then again, she's already doing it.

In the wake of Tuesday's horrific attack by Palestinians against four men during morning prayer at a synagogue in Jerusalem, Banfield earnestly sought to find someway, anyway to explain how the massacre might be justified.

Her opening came while speaking with retired Harvard Law School  professor Alan Dershowitz, whose new book, "Terror Tunnels: The Case for Israel's Just War Against Hamas," leaves little doubt that he supports Israelis' right to defend themselves from predators committed to their annihilation --

BANFIELD: It feels like there's no end and now we're starting to see potentially that this could be more lone wolf than organizational.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, it's never lone wolf in the sense that you read the statements made by (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud) Abbas and by Hamas and you see that there are incitements there. When Abbas said ...

BANFIELD: Well, Abbas said he was condemning it, though ...

DERSHOWITZ: ... that was fine but he wrote a letter of consolation to the man who previously murdered an Israeli in a similar area and he wrote a letter to the family, and they name parks after their terrorists and murderers. Israel, on the other hand, always condemns individuals who make attacks on individual Palestinians. So there's no moral equation or symmetry there.

BANFIELD: And then ultimately when you're looking there, and I think Americans can really identify with this having been involved in a war on terror for 13 years, it is still a war, it is not just crimes. Effectively, there's a philosophical war going on and soldiers come in all forms.


BANFIELD: And when you have mandatory conscription and service in Israel, effectively Palestinians will say it's war against everyone because everyone's a soldier.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, that's just racism and bigotry to say that everyone is a soldier.

BANFIELD: But everybody is.

DERSHOWITZ: No, not everybody is, first of all, number one. Number two, they're not soldiers at the time. The law of war is very clear -- you can't kill a 2-year-old child claiming he's going to be a soldier. I guess then Israel could say, we can kill a 2-year-old Palestinian because he'll grow up and be a terrorist. You have to have rules of warfare and rules of warfare forbid the deliberate killing of civilians and this was a deliberate killing of civilians in a synagogue.

Not sure about you, but I know which of the two I'd want representing me in court ...

As Dershowitz stated, not "everyone" in Israel serves in the military under mandatory conscription -- and even if that were true, internationally recognized laws of war do not allow indiscriminate killing of military personnel under all circumstances. You'd think a CNN anchor hosting a show on legal issues would know this.

Banfield went beyond saying the conscription argument is cited by Palestinians -- she claimed Palestinians could "effectively" make this argument. In other words, she sees it as valid.

Those exempt from military service in Israel include married and pregnant women, mothers, religious scholars, conscientious objectors, Israelis living abroad, Arab citizens and some with criminals records. Due to the exemptions, an estimated 40 percent of Israelis never serve in their military. Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned in 2007 that the nation's armed services were "gradually becoming the army of half the people."

The Knesset voted overwhelmingly in March to end the exemption for ultra-Orthodox Jews studying in seminary, an exemption in place since Israel's founding in 1948.

In the case of four men murdered at the Kehilot Yaakov synagogue in Jerusalem -- three rabbis and a British-born Jew who immigrated to Israel in 1993 -- all of the victims were well past the age of 30 and would have been exempt from military service.

Dershowitz was so angered by Banfield's assertion, he later told The Algemeiner, that "it really required me to control my temper."

Banfield, Dershowitz alleged, "parroted Hamas' outrageous argument that every 2 year old and 90 year old in Israel is a soldier. It's particularly ironic in the context of the attack on the synagogue, because the people killed were beyond military age."