Category Archives: Israel’s War Crimes

Israelis rattled by search for truth about the Nakba: First “truth commission” in Israel

Israelis rattled by search for truth about the Nakba
14 December 2014

‘truth commission’ avoids issue of reconciliation as veteran Israeli fighters due to confess to 1948 war crimesMiddle East Eye – 9 December 2014

The first-ever “truth commission” in Israel, to be held on Wednesday, will feature confessions from veteran Israeli fighters of the 1948 war who are expected to admit to perpetrating war crimes as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes.

The commission is the culmination of more than decade of antagonistic confrontations between a small group of activists called Zochrot, the Hebrew word for Remembering, and the Israeli authorities as well as much of the Jewish public.

Founded in 2002, Zochrot is dedicated to educating Israeli Jews about what Palestinians call the Nakba, Arabic for catastrophe, referring to Israel’s creation on the ruins of their homeland more than six decades ago. The group also campaigns for the right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel, probably the biggest taboo in Israeli society.

The commission, which has no official standing, could be the first of several such events around Israel, to investigate atrocities and war crimes committed in different localities, said Liat Rosenberg, Zochrot’s director.

“We have looked to other such commissions around the world as models, most obviously in South Africa,” she said. “But unlike the one there, ours does not include the element of reconciliation because the conflict here has yet to be resolved.

“We cannot talk about reconciliation when the Nakba is ongoing. We are still in a situation where there is apartheid, constant violations of human rights and 70 percent of the Palestinian community are refugees.”

The commission is likely to provoke outrage from the Israeli government, which passed the so-called Nakba Law in 2011 to try to make it harder to commemorate Palestinian suffering. The impact of the law is being widely felt. Just last month, the culture ministry vowed to block a government grant to a Tel Aviv cultural centre that hosted a Zochrot film festival on the Nakba.
Names kept secret

Rosenberg said Israeli veteran fighters and Palestinian witnesses participating in the truth commission had asked for their names to be kept secret until the hearings for fear that friends and family would put pressure on them to withdraw.

The commission is being held in the city of Beersheva, a once-Bedouin town that was ethnically cleansed in 1948 and is today the largest Jewish city in the Negev region in southern Israel.

Zochrot said it had chosen the city to host the first event event because forced expulsions of Bedouin from the Negev had taken place not only in 1948, but had continued on a large scale, out of view of observers, for many years afterwards.

The commission is the latest project by Zochrot that discredits a traditional Israeli narrative that some 750,000 Palestinians left under orders from Arab leaders and that Israel’s army acted only in self-defence. Such beliefs have fed into the common assumption from the Israeli public that Israel’s army is the “most moral in the world”.

“This is not just about researching the truth,” said Rosenberg. “The truth of the Nakba is to a large degree known, but the task is to expose the truth to the Israeli Jewish public – both so that it is forced to take responsibility for what happened and so there can be accountability.”

The commission is the direct result of a project launched by Zochrot two years ago to create an alternative archive of the Nakba, based on filmed testimonies from Palestinian refugees and Israeli veterans. Activists fear that, as the generation of refugees and fighters dies off, they will take their secrets to the grave.

Israeli military archives relating to the 1948 war began being opened to academics in the late 1980s. This led to a group of so-called “new historians” overturning the traditional accounts of that period and unearthing written evidence of massacres and ethnic cleansing operations for the first time.
Archives closed

However, historians have reported in recent years that the Israeli authorities have become more reluctant to open files and many of the more controversial episodes of the 1948 war are still unclear.

Rosenberg hopes the commission will begin to fill some of the gaps.

According to Rosenberg, three Israeli fighters and three Palestinian witnesses will testify before a panel of six commissioners. The commissioners will then question them further about events and make follow up recommendations.

The hearings are due to be streamed online.

One veteran of the fighting in the Negev, Amnon Neumann, has already gone on record in testimony that can be seen in Zochrot’s film archive.

He has said the Bedouin in the Negev – contrary to popular Israeli perception – put up almost no resistance to advancing Jewish forces because they lacked “a military capacity” and “had no weapons”. Nonetheless, he said, the Israeli army terrified the Bedouin villagers out of their homes by shooting either at them, or above their heads.

“We drove them out. Women and children went to Gaza. … By the morning there was nobody there. We burnt their houses,” Neumann said.

When villagers tried to sneak back to tend crops or vineyards under the cover of night, he recounted, the soldiers opened fire. “We would shoot and kill them. This was part of the horrible things we did.”

In other filmed testimony, Mordechai Bar-On, an officer in 1948 with the Givati Brigade, confirmed that orders were to shoot “infiltrators” – a reference to refugees who tried to return to their villages. “Even if there were women and children. I remember I told myself that we would do it. … There was an order to kill, not even catch them,” Bar-On said.

For the most part, the Israeli veterans are coming forward now out of a feeling of guilt.

“At that time I did not see anything wrong with what we were doing,” Neumann said. “If I was told to do things that I do not want to mention [here], I did them with no doubts at all. … Not now. It is already 50, 60 years that I am filled with regret.”

But challenges remain, and despite veterans coming forward, piecing together events can still be difficult.

Rosenberg said many of those giving filmed testimony, including Neumann, have been reluctant to go into details of the war crimes they participated in. It is now hoped that the questioning by the commissioners will encourage participants to be even more forthcoming.
Put on trucks to Gaza

The commission will also move beyond the 1948 period and examine expulsions in the semi-desert Negev region, comprising nearly two-thirds of Israel’s landmass, for the 12 years following the war.

Isolated from the rest of the new state of Israel, the Negev was largely unmonitored as the Israeli military carried out expulsions of Bedouin throughout the 1950s, said Raneen Jeries, a Zochrot organiser.

More than 2,000 Palestinian inhabitants of al-Majdal, which later became the Jewish city of Ashkelon, were put on trucks and shipped to Gaza nearly two years after the war ended, according to Nur Masalha, a Palestinian historian and expert on Israeli “transfer” policies.

Jeries said the legacy of the events of 1948 was being felt to this day, with policies of expulsion continuing in the Negev and the occupied territories.

Haaretz reporter Amira Hass revealed three months ago that the Israeli military was planning to forcibly relocate for a second time the Jahalin tribe. The tribe was driven out of the Negev in 1948 and fled to the safety of the West Bank, then under Jordanian control. However, Israel occupied the land after the 1967 war, and it seems that Israeli authorities now want to expel some 12,500 Jahalin tribes people, this time to a site near Jericho.

Zochrot had been successful in forcing Israelis to recognise the Nakba and a darker side to the 1948 war, said Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva, where the truth commission is to be held.

“A decade ago, if I mentioned the Nakba in a class of 150 students, hardly any of them would have known what I meant. Now 80 or 90 per cent would know,” Gordon told MEE.

Gordon also attributed the change both to Zochrot’s activities and statements by Arab legislators representing Israel’s large Palestinian minority, comprising a fifth of the total population.
Law against commemoration

But as the issue of the Nakba has become more visible in Israel, sensitivity about it has only grown. Ahead of Nakba Day last May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at the Palestinian Authority for commemorating the day, saying: “They are standing silent to mark the tragedy of the establishment of Israel, the state of the Jewish people.”

Palestinians were educating their children with “endless propaganda” calling for the disappearance of Israel, he said.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett went further, saying: “We need not tolerate Israeli Arabs who promote Nakba Day.”

The government has backed up its rhetoric with legislation, passing a Nakba Law in 2011 that denies public funds to institutions and organisations that commemorate the Palestinians’ dispossession. The measure is partly seen as a reaction to Zochrot’s growing success.

The original legislation, which would have criminalised any commemoration of the Nakba – making many of Zochrot’s activities illegal – was water-downed after Israel came under strong international pressure.

In Zochrot’s early years, its main efforts were directed at escorting Israeli Jews and Palestinian refugees to some of the more than 500 Palestinian villages that Israel destroyed during and after the 1948 war. The villages were razed to prevent refugees from returning home.

The remnants of most of the villages are now barely traceable, hidden under forests planted by a charity called the Jewish National Fund or lost within gated communities in which only Jews can live.

Zochrot has continued such visits, placing signposts to remind the new Jewish inhabitants that their communities are built on the ruins of Palestinian homes, often belonging to neighbours living a short distance away. A large proportion of Israel’s Palestinian minority were internally displaced by the 1948 war and live close to their original homes but are barred from returning.
Backlash on campuses

Eitan Bronstein, who founded Zochrot, said the current challenge was how to change Israeli Jews’ perception of the Nakba.

“They now recognise the word but what does it mean to them? Many, it seems, think it is simply a negative label Palestinians have attached to Israel’s establishment. We have an Independence Day that they call their Nakba,” Bronstein said.

“We need to educate them about the events of the Nakba, what occurred and our responsibility for it. They have to stop thinking of it as just propaganda against Israel.”

The right wing, including the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, has grown increasingly rattled by Zochrot’s agenda-setting programme of events.

The popularity of a far-right youth movement, Im Tirtzu, has grown rapidly on Israeli university campuses over the past few years, in part as a backlash to commemorations of the Nakba by Zochrot and Palestinian students.

Last month, when Zochrot held its second Nakba and Right of Return Film Festival in Tel Aviv, the culture minister, Limor Livnat, immediately threatened to pull a government grant worth more than $450,000 from the cinema that hosted it.

“The state cannot bear the cost of funding of an entity that encourages debate over what the Palestinians call ‘the right of return’,” Livnat said in a statement. She was reported to have based her decision on her reading of the Nakba Law.

“The antagonism towards Zochrot and the idea of the Nakba is part of the educational process,” said Bronstein. “It is a necessary phase Israel needs to pass through if we are to get to a point of reconciliation.”
Unfazed by threats

Bronstein and others have faced angry opposition from the Israeli public and police as they have tried to stage Nakba commemorations – most notably in Tel Aviv in 2012, when they were surrounded by riot police for four hours. Three Zochrot activists were arrested.

Yet Zochrot’s organisers, whose members include both Jewish and Palestinian citizens, seem largely unfazed by the threats and hostility their group generates.

Last year Zochrot arranged a conference that for the first time examined not just the principle of the right of return but practical ways to implement it.

This year the group launched a phone app, called iNakba, in three languages, which provides users with detailed maps and information on the destroyed villages.

Jeries said it had had thousands of downloads, giving Israelis for the first time the chance to peel away the subsequent layers of construction and forestation to see what was destroyed, often on their doorstep.

Tagged as: Bedouin, destroyed villages, Nakba
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Racism is the Foundation of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge

Racism is the Foundation of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge
Jul 30 2014, by Joel Beinin

On 30 June Ayelet Shaked, chairwoman of the Knesset faction of the ultra-right wing ha-Bayit ha-Yehudi (Jewish Home) Party, a key member of the coalition government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, posted on her Facebook page a previously unpublished article written by the late Uri Elitzur. Elitzur, a pro-settler journalist and former chief-of-staff to Netanyahu, wrote:

Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism… They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now, this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They must follow their sons. Nothing would be more just. They should go, as well as the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.

Shaked’s post appeared the day the bodies of three abducted settler teens­—Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach—were discovered. It has since received more than 5,200 “likes.”

For over two weeks, Netanyahu and the media whipped the country into a hysterical state, accusing Hamas of responsibility for abducting the teens without providing evidence to support the claim and promoting hopes that they would be found alive, although the government knew that the boys were likely murdered within minutes of their abduction. Their deaths provided a pretext for more violent expressions of Israeli anti-Arab racism than ever before.

The viciousness of Mordechai Kedar, lecturer in Arabic literature at Bar Ilan University, was even more creative than Shaked and Elitzur’s merely genocidal proposal. “The only thing that can deter terrorists like those who kidnapped the children and killed them,” he said, “is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped.” As a university-based “expert,” Kedar’s heinous suggestion is based on his “understanding” of Arab culture. “It sounds very bad, but that’s the Middle East,” he explained, hastening to add, “I’m not talking about what we should or shouldn’t do. I’m talking about the facts.”

Racism has become a legitimate, indeed an integral, component of Israeli public culture, making assertions like these seem “normal.” The public devaluation of Arab life enables a society that sees itself as “enlightened” and “democratic” to repeatedly send its army to slaughter the largely defenseless population of the Gaza Strip—1.8 million people, mostly descendants of refugees who arrived during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and have been, to a greater or lesser extent, imprisoned since 1994.

Conciliatory gestures, on the other hand, are scorned. Just two days after Shaked’s Facebook post, Orthodox Jews kidnapped sixteen-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir from the Shu‘afat neighborhood of East Jerusalem and burned him alive in the Jerusalem Forest. Amir Peretz (Hatnua) was the only government minister to visit the grieving family. For this effort he received dozens of posts on his Facebook page threatening to kill him and his family. Meanwhile, vandals twice destroyed memorials erected to Abu Khdeir on the spot of his immolation.

The international community typically sees the manifestations of Israel’s violent racism only when they erupt as assaults on the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, or Lebanon. But Israel’s increasingly poisonous anti-Arab and anti-Muslim public culture prepares the ground of domestic public opinion long before any military operation and immunizes the army from most criticism of its “excesses.” Moreover, Israeli anti-democratic and racist sentiment is increasingly directed against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who comprise twenty percent of the population.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beytenu (Israel Is Our Home) Party made his political reputation on the slogan “No Loyalty, No Citizenship”—a demand that Palestinian Israelis swear loyalty oaths as a condition of retaining their citizenship. Since 2004 Lieberman has also advocated “transferring” Palestinian-Israelis residing in the Triangle region to a future Palestinian state, while annexing most West Bank settlements to Israel. In November 2011 Haaretz published a partial list of ten “loyalty-citizenship” bills in various stages of legislation designed to “determine certain citizens’ rights according to their ‘loyalty’ to the state.”

While Lieberman and other MKs pursue legal channels to legally undermine the citizenship of Palestinian-Israelis, their civil rights are already in serious danger. In 2010 eighteen local rabbis warned that the Galilee town of Safed faced an “Arab takeover” and instructed Jewish residents to inform on and boycott Jews who sold or rented dwellings to Arabs. In addition to promoting segregated housing, Safed’s Chief Rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, tried to ban Arab students from attending Safed Academic College (about 1,300 Palestinian-Israelis are enrolled, some of whom live in Safed). The rabbinical statement incited rampages by religious Jews chanting “Death to the Arabs,” leading Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy to dub Safed “the most racist city” in Israel. In Karmiel and Upper Nazareth—towns established as part of Israel’s campaign to “Judaize the Galilee”—elected officials have led similar campaigns.

Palestinian Israeli Knesset members receive regular verbal abuse from their Jewish “colleagues.” For example, Hanin Zoabi (National Democratic Alliance), who participated in the 2010 Freedom Flotilla to the Gaza Strip, which Israeli naval commandos attacked, killing nine Turks (one of whom also held US citizenship), has been particularly targeted. In the verbal sparring over the murder of the three teens Foreign Minister Lieberman called her a “terrorist.” Not to be outdone, Miri Regev (Likud) said Zoabi should be “expelled to Gaza and stripped of her [Knesset] immunity.” Other Knesset members—some from putatively “liberal” parties—piled on. [Update: Yesterday—29 July—Hanin Zoabi was suspended from Knesset].

Violence against Arabs in and around Israeli-annexed “Greater Jerusalem” is particularly intense. Much of it is the work of Orthodox Jews. The Jewish Defense League, banned in Israel in 1994 and designated a terrorist organization by the FBI in 2001, and several similar groups regularly assault and harass Arabs. The day of the funeral of the three abducted teens, some two hundred Israelis rampaged through the streets of Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs.” The previous evening, hardcore fans of the Betar Jerusalem football club, known as La Familia, rallied chanting, “Death to the Arabs.”  The same chant is frequently heard at games of the team, which is associated with the Likud and does not hire Arab players. Hate marches, beatings and shootings of Arabs, and destruction of their property, long common in the West Bank, have become regular events in Israel-proper in the last month.

The citizenship-loyalty bills, Safed’s designation as “the most racist city,” the attacks volleyed at Palestinian elected officials, and mob violence against Arabs all took place before Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on 8 July. The operation—more aggressively dubbed “Firm Cliff” in Hebrew—constitutes Israel’s third assault on the Gaza Strip since 2008. As of yesterday, 29 July, the Palestinian death toll in that operation has reached over 1,200, the great majority of them civilians. Thirty-two Israeli soldiers and three civilians have also died. Israeli security officials sardonically call these operations “mowing the lawn” because well-informed observers know that Hamas cannot be uprooted and is capable of rebuilding its military capacity. There is no long-term strategy, except, as Gideon Levy put it, to kill Palestinians. Major General (res.) Oren Shachor elaborated, “If we kill their families, that will frighten them.” And what might deter Israel?

[This piece originally appeared in a special weeklong series on the Stanford University Press blog, and is reposted here in partnership with SUP blog. The entire ten-part series can be found on the SUP blog.]

Palestinian Recourse to the International Criminal Court: The Time has Come

Palestinian Recourse to the International Criminal Court: The Time has Come
By Prof. Richard Falk

[Prefatory Note: “Palestine’s Dilemma: To Go or Not to Go to the International Criminal Court” was published on July 13, 2014 on the website of Middle East Eye, a site I strong recommend to all those with an interest in Middle East issues; this post represents a somewhat revised text, but within the framework of the original; the political plausibility of invoking the Inteernational Criminal Court to investigate allegations of criminality directed at Israel increases with each passing day.]

Ever since this latest Israeli major military operation against Gaza started on July 8, there have been frequent suggestions that Israel is guilty of war crimes, and that Palestine should do its best to activate the International Criminal Court (ICC) on its behalf. The evidence overwhelmingly supports basic Palestinian allegations—Israel is guilty either of aggression in violation of the UN Charter or is in flagrant violation of its obligations as the Occupying Power under the Geneva Convention to protect the civilian population of an Occupied People; Israel seems guilty of using excessive and disproportionate force against a defenseless society in the Gaza Strip; and Israel, among an array of other offenses, seems guilty of committing Crimes Against Humanity in the form of imposing an apartheid regime in the West Bank and through the transfer of population to an occupied territory as it has proceeded with its massive settlement project.

Considering this background of apparent Israeli criminality it would seem a no brainer for the Palestinian Authority to seek the help of the ICC in waging its struggle to win over world public opinion to their struggle. After all, the Palestinians are without military or diplomatic capabilities to oppose Israel, and it is on law and global solidarity must rest their hopes for eventually realizing their rights, particularly the right of self-determination and the right of return. Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank are demanding that their leaders in the Palestinian Authority adhere to the Rome Statute, and become members of the ICC without further delay. It has become part of the message of Palestinian street politics that the Palestinians are being criminally victimized, and that the Palestinian Authority if it wants to retain the slightest shred of respect as representatives of the Palestinian people must join in this understanding of the Palestinian plight and stop ‘playing nice’ with Israeli authorities.

Such reasoning from a Palestinian perspective is reinforced by the May 8th letter sent by 17 respected human rights NGOs to President Mahmoud Abbas urging Palestine to become a member of the ICC, and act to end Israel’s impunity. This was not a grandstanding gesture dreamed up on the irresponsible political margins of liberal Western society. Among the signatories were such human rights stalwarts as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Al Haq, and the International Commission of Jurists, entities known for their temporizing prudence in relation to the powers that be.

Adding further credence to the idea that the ICC option should be explored was the intense opposition by Israel and United States, ominously threatening the PA with dire consequences if it tried to join the ICC, much less to seek justice through its activating its investigative procedures. The American ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, herself long ago prominent as a human rights advocate, revealed Washington’s nervous hand when she confessed that the ICC “is something that really poses a profound threat to Israel.” I am not sure that Power would like to live with the idea that because Israel is so vulnerable to mounting a legal challenge that its impunity must be upheld whatever the embarrassment to Washington of doing so. France and Germany have been more circumspect, saying absurdly that recourse to the ICC by Palestine should be avoided because it would disrupt ‘the final status negotiations,’ as if this pseudo-diplomacy was ever of any of value, a chimera if there ever was one, in the elusive quest for a just peace.

In a better world, the PA would not hesitate to invoke the authority of the ICC, but in the world as it is, the decision is not so simple. To begin with, is the question of access, which is limited to states. Back in 2009, the PA tried to adhere to the Rome Statute, which is the treaty governing the ICC, and was rebuffed by the prosecutor who turned the issue over to the Security Council, claiming a lack of authority to determined whether the PA represented a ‘state.’ Subsequently, on November 29th the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly recognized Palestine as ‘a nonmember observer state.’ Luis Moreno–Ocampo who had acted in 2009 for the ICC, and now speaking as the former prosecutor, asserted that in his opinion Palestine would now in view of the General Assembly action qualify as a state enjoying the option of becoming an ICC member. Normally, ICC jurisdiction is limited to crimes committed after the state becomes a member, but there is a provision that enables a declaration to be made accepting jurisdiction for crimes committed at any date in its territory so long as it is after the ICC itself was established in 2002.

Is this enough? Israel has never become a party to the Rome Statute setting up the ICC, and would certainly refuse to cooperate with a prosecutor who sought to investigate war crimes charges with the possible intention of prosecution. In this regard, recourse to ICC might appear to be futile as even if arrest warrants were to be issued by the court, as was done in relation to Qaddafi and his son in 2011, there would be no prospect that the accused Israeli political and military figures would be handed over, and without the presence of such defendants in the court at The Hague, a criminal trial cannot go forward. This illustrates a basic problem with the enforcement of international criminal law. It has been effective only against the losers in wars fought against the interests of the West and, to some extent, against those whose crimes are in countries located in sub-Saharan Africa. This biased form of international criminal law implementation has been the pattern since the first major effort was made after World War II at Nuremberg and Tokyo. Surviving German and Japanese leaders were prosecuted for their crimes while exempting the winners, despite Allied responsibility for the systematic bombing of civilian populations by way of strategic bombing and the American responsibility for dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Unfortunately, up to this time the ICC has not been able to get rid of this legacy of ‘victors’ justice,’ which has harmed its credibility and reputation. All ICC cases so far have involved accused from sub-Saharan African countries. The refusal of the ICC to investigate allegations of war crimes of the aggressors in relation the Iraq War of 2003 is a dramatic confirmation that leading states, especially the United States, possess a geopolitical veto over what the ICC can do. The ICC failure to investigate the crimes of Bush and Blair, as well as their entourage of complicit top officials, vividly shows the operations of double standards. Perhaps, the climate of opinion has evolved to the point where there would be an impulse to investigate the charges against Israel even if procedural obstacles preventing the case from being carried to completion. Any serious attempt to investigate the criminal accountability of Israeli political and military leaders would add legitimacy to the Palestinian struggle, and might have a positive spillover effect on the global solidarity movement and the intensifying BDS campaign.

Yet there are other roadblocks. First of all, the PA would definitely have to be prepared to deal with the wrath of Israel, undoubtedly supported by the United States and more blandly by several European countries. The push back could go in either of two directions: Israel formally annexing most or all of the West Bank, which it seems determined to do in any event, or more likely in the short run, withholding the transfer of funds needed by the PA to support its governmental operations. The U.S. Congress would be certain to follow the lead of Tel Aviv even if the Obama presidency might be more inclined to limit its opposition to a diplomatic slap on the PA wrist as it did recently in reacting to the June formation of the interim unity government, an important step toward reconciling Fatah and Hamas, and overcoming the fragmentation that has hampered Palestinian representation in international venues in recent years.

A second potential obstacle concerns the jurisdictional authority of the ICC, which extends to all war crimes committed on the territory of a treaty member, which means that leaders of Hamas would also likely be investigated and indicted for their reliance on indiscriminate rockets aimed in the direction of Israeli civilian targets.There is even speculation that given the politics of the ICC such that crimes alleged against Hamas might be exclusively pursued.

If we assume that these obstacles have been considered, and Palestine still wants to go ahead with efforts to activate the investigation of war crimes in Gaza, but also in the rest of occupied Palestine, what then? And assume further, that the ICC reacts responsibly, and gives the bulk of its attention to the allegations directed against Israel, the political actor that controls most aspects of the relationship. There are several major crimes against humanity enumerated in Articles 5-9 of the Rome Statute for which there exists abundant evidence as to make indictment and conviction of Israeli leaders all but inevitable if Palestine uses its privilege to activate an investigation and somehow is able to produce the defendants to face trial: reliance on excessive force, imposing an apartheid regime, collective punishment, population transfers in relations to settlements, maintenance of the separation wall in Palestine.

The underlying criminality of the recent aggression associated with Protective Edge (Israel’s name for its 2014 attack on Gaza) cannot be investigated at this point by the ICC, and this seriously limits its authority. It was only in 2010 that an amendment was adopted by the required 2/3 majority of the 122 treaty members on an agreed definition of aggression, but it will not become operative until 2017. In this respect, there is a big hole in the coverage of war crimes currently under the authority of the ICC.

Despite all these problems, recourse to the ICC remains a valuable trump card in the PA thin deck, and playing it might begin to change the balance of forces bearing on the conflict that has for decades now denied the Palestinian people their basic rights under international law. If this should happen, it would also be a great challenge to and opportunity for the ICC finally to override the geopolitical veto that has so far kept criminal accountability within the tight circle of ‘victors’ justice’ and hence only accorded the peoples of the world a very power-laden and biased experience of justice.

Israel bans radio advert listing names of children killed in Gaza

Israel bans radio advert listing names of children killed in Gaza

Human rights group B’Tselem will petition Israel’s supreme court after advert was deemed to be ‘politically controversial’
in Jerusale
The Guardian,
Aid agencies said on Wednesday that a child had been killed in Gaza on average every hour for the preceding two days. Photograph: Khalil Hamra/AP

The Israeli Broadcasting Authority has banned a radio advertisement from a human rights organisation which listed the names of some of the scores of children killed in Gaza since the conflict began 17 days ago.

B’Tselem‘s appeal against the decision was rejected on Wednesday. It intends to petition Israel‘s supreme court on Sunday in an effort to get the ban overturned.

The IBA said the ad’s content was “politically controversial”. The broadcast refers to child deaths in Gaza and reads out some of the victims’ names.

In its appeal, B’Tselem demanded to know what was controversial about the item. “Is it controversial that the children [aren’t] alive? That they’re children? That those are their names? These are facts that we wish to bring to the public’s knowledge.”

In a statement, the human rights group said: “So far more than 600 people have been killed in bombings in Gaza, more than 150 of them children. But apart from a brief report on the number of fatalities, the Israeli media refrains from covering them.” By Thursday morning, the death toll in Gaza had exceeded 700.

B’Tselem went on: “IBA says broadcasting the children’s names is politically controversial. But refusing to do so is in itself a far-reaching statement – it says the huge price being paid by civilians in Gaza, many of them children, must be censored.”

Aid agencies said on Wednesday that a child had been killed in Gaza on average every hour for the preceding two days, and more than 70,000 children had been forced to flee their homes. There has also been a spike in the number of premature births.

“The shocking number of children being killed, injured, or displaced in Gaza demands an unequivocal international response to stop the bloodshed,” Save the Children said. “Entire families are being wiped out in seconds as a result of the targeting of homes.”

Dr Yousif al Swaiti, director of al-Awda hospital, said: “We have witnessed many premature births as a result of the fear and psychological disorders caused by the military offensive. The number of cases of premature births per day has doubled, compared to the average daily rate before the escalation.”

Eliminating the Palestinians as a political entity

Eliminating the Palestinians as a political entity

The government is intent on destroying every political entity in the West Bank and turning the Palestinians into a marginalized, fragmented people.

By Yitzhak Laor | 05:28 11.07.14 | 1

Israel’s policies in the West Bank are turning the Palestinian people, at best, into a fragmented, marginalized people deprived of their rights. Photo by AFP
In the midst of events, with all the TV commotion enveloping the current crisis, one tends to forget the crux of the matter, the continuous chain linking it to previous steps – the foiling of negotiations with the Palestinians, refusal to release prisoners as agreed upon, incitement against their unity government and the expansion of settlements.

All of these are part of this right-wing government’s plan to destroy any political entity in the occupied territories, turning the Palestinian people, at best, into a fragmented, marginalized people deprived of their rights.

The conflict is costing little Jewish blood but much Arab blood. In any event, in the absence of significant opposition, Israel is intent on inheriting it all – as few Palestinians as possible, with maximal destruction, despair, poverty and real estate.

The Oslo Accords, with their implicit assent to the settlements, were signed by Israel after 25 years of occupation to the backdrop of the collapse of the Soviet Union, which temporarily left the United States as the sole power in the region. Now, with the gradual disengagement of Washington, the right-wing government and its satellites are planning to rescind not only the Oslo Accords, but to abolish any political entity in Palestine.

This is the strategy carried out by the IDF in its “inter-war campaign.” It calls for a crisis from time to time, a Palestinian yearning for freedom, a few Israeli deaths with some grieving and much unity, with a drive to further break the Palestinians, in the name of deterrence or the Zionist vision. And what if Jihadists arise there on the ruins of the popular resistance movements? Very good! This will only further serve our territorial greed.

The blood is always the blood of innocents. The objective is always to maximize the opportunities for expansion with no internal dissent.

That is how the current crisis began – two youths and a young man were abducted in the occupied territories by terrorists, who come from the occupied nation. These facts were known from the outset, and apparently there was no reason for us to “unite as one nation, regardless of left or right.” We don’t go into around-the-clock televised mode when Israeli hikers disappear in Chile. We don’t gather around in a national grief session when a whole family is wiped out in a traffic accident on the Arava road. Only when it comes to the occupation – in which case a brutal murder is much more effective than a land mine – do we turn into a proud and tearful nation.

The State of Israel is the best military mobilizing officer in the democratic world. Every such crisis is exploited in order to turn the masses into a furious mob, while expanding destruction in the territories. At the head of the mob always appears the fascist leader of the moment, prepared to stoke the flames. This is how we got Ariel Sharon after his visit to the Temple Mount. Avigdor Lieberman acquired his national stature during the bloodbath of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in December 2008. Now, he and others are vying for the next achievement in the incitement campaign against Israel’s Arab citizens.

It’s a pity that of all times, it is during a crisis, such as during the search for the abducted teens, that the Israeli left stutters. Some among them obediently stand to attention, not comprehending what is actually transpiring in the occupied territories. Some of them actually explained that they would temporarily join the herd, emerging strengthened, since the herd will have sympathized with them. But the herd always smells blood, or reeks of it. Even when it is bloodied itself it will not reverse direction since there is no external force – an organized left that retains memories of past circumstances – that will hit again and again, saying: “Remember what we said? It’s the occupation!”

Gone are the days of street demonstrations attended by both Arabs and Jews, which ceased with “Cast Lead.” Up until the kidnapping crisis people here were occupied with MK Meir Shitreet’s housekeeper and her hush money. This was – for those who need reminding – during the hunger strike staged by administrative detainees. The silence continued during the search for the bodies, the mass arrests, the breaking into Palestinian homes and the torture.

Benjamin Netanyahu is not lying when he casts blame on the Palestinians. They are still there, and hence, as far as he is concerned, they pose an obstacle to peace. We are in the midst of a colonial story. Not the oppression of a nation but its elimination as a political entity. No opposition agenda can bypass this truth.

Tribunal Issues Landmark Verdict against Israel for Genocide

Tribunal Issues Landmark Verdict against Israel for Genocide

Analysis and Opinion

Global Research, December 01, 2013

To a crowded courtroom on the late afternoon of November 25, presiding Judge Lamin Mohd Yunus announced the verdict by an international panel of seven jurists:

“The Tribunal is satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that the first defendant, (General) Amos Yaron, is guilty of crimes against humanity and genocide, and the second defendant, the State of Israel, is guilty of genocide.”

The landmark ruling against Israel for its genocide against the Palestinian people rendered by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal is significant for several reasons:

–          In contrast to other non-official courts of conscience on Palestinian rights, for example, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (New York 2012), the prosecution in Kuala Lumpur took a step beyond war crimes and crimes against humanity to the higher and broader charge of genocide.

–          The decision was rendered during the ongoing commission of the alleged crime by the defendant, rather than after the fact as in earlier genocide cases.

–          Instead of limiting its ruling to individuals who ordered genocidal actions, the jurists also charged the state as a defendant.

–          As a consequence, this case breaks the tradition of immunity of nation-states from criminal prosecution under international law.

–          The decision introduces a legal basis for international action to protect minorities from genocide as a lawful alternative to the current response of so-called humanitarian intervention, invasion, occupation and regime change, which have often been as illegitimate and more destructive, and in some cases as genocidal as the original violation being punished.

 The Kuala Lumpur Tribunal based its momentous decision on the 1948 Genocide Convention, which prohibits and punishes the killing, causing of harm and deliberate infliction of conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of a group of people, targeted for their ethnicity, religion or race. In instances of genocide, these criminal acts are done with the specific intent of destroying as a part or in whole of the targeted group, as in this plight the Palestinian people.

The defendants, Gen. Yaron and the Israeli State , through its representatives, refused to accept the Tribunal summons and appear in court.

Prominent Israeli legal scholars also refused invitations to serve as defense counsel. The Tribunal therefore appointed an Amicus Curae (defense counsel, referred to by the Latin term for “friends of the court”), including attorneys Jason Kay Kit Leon, Larissa Cadd, Dr. Rohimi Shapiee and Matthew Witbrodt, to defend the accused. Even absent Israeli participation, the defense proved to be forceful and often made heated remarks in Israel’s defense, especially during the cross-examinations of expert witnesses.

Why Not New York , London , Paris or Berlin

One point to note is that the sponsoring Kuala Lumpur Commission on War Crimes and its associated international Tribunal is unrelated to Malaysia and its legal system, aside from the participation of some Malaysian jurists and citizens in its proceedings. Malaysian laws are in many areas quite different from and sometimes in diametric opposition to the legal opinions of the international Tribunal. The independence of this “court of conscience” allows an approach to international law unconstrained by local norms, but this also means that the Tribunal lacks an enforcement capability.

That the first-ever Tribunal to prosecute Israel for genocide was initiated in Southeast Asia offers some indication of the continuing sensitivity within the traditional “center” of international law, Western Europe and North America, toward the circumstances behind Israel’s creation.

The Kuala Lumpur proceedings are bound to raise controversy and discomfort, especially among a reluctant West, since the historical motive behind creating a modern Jewish state in 1948 was largely a response to the abandonment of European Jewry to the pogroms and extermination program of the Third Reich, which in its early stages went unopposed by Western governments and prominent opinion leaders in the Atlantic community.

The courage to finally confront Israel after nearly seven decades of eviction and merciless brutality against the Palestinian people was summoned not by the Atlantic community but in faraway Southeast Asia , where a law case could be pursued with critical distance, logical dispassion and an absence of historical complicity. In short, an evidence-based fair trial found Israel to be guilty of genocide.

Why Israel

Why then was Israel singled out by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission on genocide charges before its Tribunal, when many other states have gone unpunished? Chief prosecutor Gurdial Singh explained:

“Other settler states, for example Australia, have offered compensation and apologized for the dispossession and harm to their indigenous populations, while Israel remains unapologetic and continues its campaign of destruction against Palestinians and to make their conditions unlivable inside and outside its borders.”

In contrast with previous special courts involving genocide charges, this Tribunal left the time frame of events open-ended, by starting just before the creation of the State of Israel until the present and, presumably, into the future until Israel ceases its expansionist campaign against the Palestinians and offers instead justice and reconciliation. By comparison in prior cases invoking the Genocide Convention, including those against former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Cambodia and Sierra Leone, the mass killings of civilians were perpetrated within a short time-frame by political leaders of the then-governing regime or by a major political faction.

The Kuala Lumpur Tribunal asserted that the modern Jewish state, in contrast to other cases, had since even before its inception pursued a genocidal program as a consistent feature and indeed a foundation of state policy. Therefore, genocide in the Israeli case cannot be solely attributed as the isolated action of a leader, political party or elected government but remains the responsibility of the state itself.

Genocide as Response

The specific intent of Israeli state policy, since even before the founding of Israel, was discussed in a live-video transmission by expert witness Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian at University of Exeter in the UK and the director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies. His research has revealed that a planning group of top-ranking Jewish military leaders in the Haganah militia, led by David Ben Gurion (who later became Israel’s first prime minister) devised an ethnic-cleansing program to rid the future Israel of its Arab predecessors. Called Plan Dalet (the letter “D” indicating the fourth plan of a colonialist agenda) was to be activated as soon as the British suspended the Palestine Mandate.

With the declaration of Israeli statehood in 1948, a coordinated armed campaign by Israeli military forces and paramilitary units against hundreds of Palestinian urban neighborhoods and rural villages led to the flight of an estimated 700,000 refugees from Palestine and parts of neighboring Trans-Jordan, including Jerusalem . Although the Israeli intent was intended to intimidate the Palestinians into relocating outside the borders, but before long village populations that refused to flee were mass murdered.

The forcible deportation of indigenous inhabitants from their homes and land was a criminal act of ethnic cleansing, Pappe said. That policy, however, soon metamorphosed into a systematic campaign to destroy Palestinians, that is, genocide. Under cross-examination by defense team, the historian explained, that as an Israeli citizen and son of Jewish refugees who escaped Nazi-ruled Germany , it is morally, ethically and historically inconsistent to condemn the genocide against Jews while endorsing a new one against Palestinians.

 Cumulative Record of Crimes

The Israeli record of massacres, extrajudicial killings and daily harassment of Palestinian comprises a continuum of criminal behavior over the past 67 years. Given the overwhelming evidence, the prosecution team therefore decided to focus on key cases, which were extensively reported in the news media and/or were subject of investigations. These included:

–          the September 1982 massacre of Palestinians, mainly women and children, at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in a southwest district of Beirut, Lebanon;

–          lethal firing of teargas canisters and “rubber” bullets by Israeli Defense Forces that resulted in the deaths of unarmed civilians during the Intifada campaigns and subsequent protests; and

–          intensive and indiscriminate aerial bombing and artillery shelling of civilian quarters in the Gaza Strip in 2008.

  Among the witnesses who testified in person or via video transmission included:

–          a former university student who was shot without warning at a peaceful protest by an Israeli sniper firing a fragmentary bullet that caused extensive and permanent damage to his internal organs;

–          a Christian resident of the West Bank who was repeatedly imprisoned and tortured on grounds of subversion;

–          a female resident of Nablus who suffered mental anxiety due to her imprisonment and subsequent social ostracism; and

–          two men from the Al Sammouni clan of Gaza, which lost 21 family members, mainly children and women, in an Israeli commando raid on their home.

–          a Palestinian physician who conducted studies on the psychological trauma inflicted, particularly on children, as result of constant intimidation, massive violence and state terror during and following the second Intifada;

–          Expert witness Paola Manduca, an Italian chemist and toxicologist, who found extreme levels of toxic contamination of the soil and water across the Gaza Strip caused by Israeli weapons made of heavy metals and cancer-causing compounds.

 Killing Fields

Professor Pappe said that the mass killing of defenseless civilians trapped without avenues of escape within a cordon or enclosure is clear evidence of genocidal policy, as happened inside the Beirut refugee camps surrounded by Israeli tanks and hostile Phalangist militiamen and inside Gaza cities that are ringed by a wall-fence.

For the Beirut atrocity, Israeli Defense Force commander General Amos Yaron was charged in absentia for crimes against humanity and genocide. Among the witnesses who testified in person on the Camps Sabra and Shatilla events were:

–          Chahira Abouardini, a widow whose husband and three children were murdered by Israeli-allied militiamen at Camp Shatilla, provided a graphic account of the carnage, describing piles of bullet-riddled bodies and, in one case, of a pregnant women whose belly had been slit open and with her dead unborn child left on top of her corpse. She recounted how refugees were rounded up from their homes and lined against walls for summary execution by automatic weapons fire.-

–          Dr. Ang Swee Chai, a London-based Singaporean surgeon and medical volunteer at the time at a hospital run by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, with the aid of the International Committee of the Red Cross, testified that another Beirut hospital had been bombed by Israeli jets, all Palestinian facilities including schools and hospitals were deliberately destroyed by artillery barrages and explosive charges, and ambulances were intercepted and their drivers shot dead. She stated that an Israeli observation post positioned in the 7-storey Kuwaiti Embassy, located on a hilltop, had an unobstructed view of the refugee camp, indicating that the Israeli forces were directing a joint operation to exterminate the refugees left behind under the international plan to withdraw the PLO from Lebanon . In her forensic investigation of the bullet wound that injured a male nurse at her hospital, Dr. Ang determined that the sniper fire had come from the Israeli-occupied Embassy building

Considering the Israeli checkpoints on roads and its vantage points, Brigadier General Amos Yaron as field commander of the Beirut incursion and occupation, had effective control over the camps. His close liaison with the local militia leader meant that Yaron had condoned the 36-hour rampage by militiamen, which led to an estimated 3,500 civilian deaths. No orders were issued to prevent the one-sided violence, prosecutor Aziz Rahman argued before the Tribunal. A 1983 special commission report, under its chairman Nobel Laureate Sean MacBride, concluded that Israel had “complicity in genocide”. Research findings gathered since then indicate that Yaron was not merely complicit but held personal responsibility for the massacre.

A point contested by the Amicus Curae defense team was that then Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, an official of superior rank, should have been prosecuted instead of Gen. Yaron. (The prosecution had earlier declined to serve notice on Sharon, who has been in a coma for many years and is unable to testify in hisown defense. Moreover, Yaron had wide sway of authority as field commander in a battle zone outside the borders of Israel .) Prosecutor Gurdial Singh pointed out that Israel not only failed to file criminal charges against Yaron and his subordinates but subsequently awarded and repeatedly promoted the general and his circle. Yaron was therefore found guilty as accused.

Responsibility of the State

International law has traditionally taken for granted the immunity of states from prosecution by a court in another country. There are several reasons for immunity of states, even for high crimes such as genocide and serious violations of various humanitarian codes.

–          International law and the treaty system are based on the principle of equality among states, which are parties to and enforcers of international agreements. The criminal conviction of a state for serious crimes would automatically weigh against the accused party, thereby causing an imbalance in relations and introducing unfairness to the international system.

-The sovereignty of states is a fundamental protection against aggression or undue interference by a foreign state or alliance of nation-states.

–          As argued by defense counsel Matthew Witbrodt, prosecution of and penalties imposed on a state would result in collective punishment of all of its citizens. (Since the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, the international community has tried to avoid forms of collective punishment, including heavy war reparations.)

 On the other side of the coin, total immunity for the state can encourage violations of international law by dictatorial, racist and/or bigoted regimes. The absence of legal challenge by foreign courts therefore leaves few legitimate means to pressure the offending state. The more “peaceful” methods include economic sanctions, which can be interpreted as a type of collective punishment against a victimized citizenry.

With no legal recourse to counter mass atrocities, other states then must launch interventions through extralegal and often illegal strategies of covert warfare,  proxy insurgencies or biased peacekeeping operations. The subsequent invasion and occupation by self-appointed saviors can be more harmful to the people, and to the principles of law, than the original violations of the offending regime.

Thus,  quoting its opinion upon the verdict, a “reason the Tribunal wishes to reject the doctrine of absolute state immunity from prosecution in matters of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity is that the existing international law on war and peace, and humanitarianism, is being enforced in a grossly inequitable manner. Small, weak nations, mostly in Africa and Asia , are periodically subjected to devastating sanctions, military interventions and regime changes. At the same time, unbearable atrocities and brutalities are inflicted on the military weak nations of Latin America, Africa and Asia by powerful nations in the North Atlantic and their allies go unscrutinized and unpunished.”

The alternative to the law of the jungle applied by self-appointed unilateral powers or coalitions of the willing is the reform of international law to balance sovereignty with the responsibility of the state for high crimes such as genocide.

Restricting Sovereignty

In its opinion on the ruling, the Tribunal therefore offered a rational method for limiting sovereignty in cases of gross crimes: “Where there is a conflict between two principles of law, the one hierarchically higher in importance should prevail. To our mind, the international law doctrine against impleading (suing) a foreign state, being lower than that that of the prohibition against genocide, resulted in the charge against the State of Israel.”

The Tribunal did not spell out how a genocide ruling can be enforced or provide a model for a reconstitution of state. Presumably and theoretically, the general effect of genocide-based restrictions on sovereignty would be to dissuade and deter state administrations from perpetrating mass atrocities with impunity. Under a legal standard for common action to stop genocide, a preventive intervention could then proceed under accepted rules of engagement and with safeguards against unwarranted violence by peacekeepers. When an inherently extreme policy in embedded in the constitution or state regulations, a lawfully grounded international authority could then abolish that state structure and reconstitute a legitimate state subject to a referendum. A legal process for constitutional change is far preferable to the current method of arbitrary regime change favorable to the interests of and politically subservient to an occupation authority. This remains hypothetical, showing only that the international community is yet to seriously consider the alternative to the present unlawful model.

Restriction of state sovereignty, as the Tribunal noted, is a new and evolving trend in international law. The U.S. permits its citizens to file lawsuits in federal court against states that harbor terrorists, and although this is covered under tort law, such cases inherently restrict the sovereignty of foreign countries. The European Union has also constrained the sovereignty of member states. Under the 1978 State Immunity Act, the British privy council ruled that vessels owned by foreign governments are subject to the same liability laws as commercial vessels.

As argued by the Tribunal panel in their opinion, “We find it rather mind-boggling when some courts can consider commercial disputes as a reason for not allowing a state to be shielded by the state immunity principle and yet strenuously protect such a state in cases of genocide or other war crimes. Human lives cannot be less important than financial gain.”

The vigorous and often well-founded arguments by the Amicus Curae team in defense of Israel were constructive criticism that greatly helped to focus the Tribunal on the complexities of international law. In heated courtroom debate, defense counsel Jason Kay Kit Leon opined that “the elephant in the room” was Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians, for instance, the launching of unguided rockets at settlements, and that Israeli forces have acted in self-defense. The thrust of his claim was based on “In Defense of Israel” by Harvard law scholar and attorney Alan Dershowitz.

The jurists, however, accepted the prosecution argument. “It is our finding that much of the Palestinian-generated violence is not on Israel’s own territory, but from and on Israeli-occupied Palestinian land. Much of the violence perpetrated by Palestinians in a reaction to the brutalities of the vicious racism and genocide that is a tragic feature of Palestinian life.”

The opinion went further, by stating: “We also hold that the force of the IDF is excessive, totally disproportionate and a violation of international humanitarian law. The methods used are unspeakably inhumane and amount to war crimes.”

Internal Disputes

Earlier disputes within the Commission had led to a two-month adjournment of trial proceedings due to harsh and sometimes bitter accusations between participants. In the conflicted process, several judges recused themselves or were absent due to schedule conflicts and one prominent prosecutor resigned in protest of suspected tampering of the judicial panel. These controversies fortunately served to clarify rather than muddy the legal issues and court procedures, resulting in stronger arguments on both sides. Taking Israel to task is never an easy proposition.

Thereby, a stunning precedent in international law was achieved with the Tribunal’s unanimous decision to charge a state for the high crime of genocide. The arguments and verdict against the State of Israel will undoubted be a hotly debated test case for legal scholars over years to come. Since its Charter does not allow an appeal process, the case of “The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission Against the State of Israel” will stand as the nub of controversy for human-rights law and the principle of sovereignty for nation-states.

While citing several precedents, the strongest argument for implication of the state is outlined in the 2007 genocide case of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Yugoslavia , which covered the Sebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslms by Serb-dominated federal armed forces. As Canadian jurist John Philpot, who earlier served on the Rwanda Tribunal, pointed out following the reading of the verdict “Bosnia/Herzegovina clearly laid out the culpability of the state and thus served as the precedent for our judgment against Israel .”

According to the Bosnia/Herzogovina ruling, “Genocide is a international crime entailing national and international responsibility on the part of individuals and states” and “if an organ of the state, or a person or group whose acts are legally attributable to the state, commits any of the acts proscribed by Article 3 of the (Genocide) Convention, the international responsibility of that state is incurred.

A point to note: The Rwanda and Yugoslavia genocide cases, are considered by some legal experts to be flawed by the underlying covert and illegal factor of great-power interference. These cases were cited infrequently and judiciously by the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal, which exercised proper case in selection of appropriate passages, while relying on a much wider range of legal precedents in regard to liability of the state.

Critique: Going Beyond Reparations

Until this genocide ruling by the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal, offending states and their foreign sponsors have evaded responsibility while the entire burden of guilt has been placed on the individual agents of weak nation-states. Under the Tribunal ruling, both the core state apparatus – including the executive office, military command, intelligence agencies, supportive ministries and, in many cases, the judiciary and police – bear as much and, in some cases, more criminal responsibility for genocide as individual leaders or military officers.

Yet that is still insufficient when the primary responsibility should rest on powerful sponsor states that move from supporting the offending regime toward punishing its rebellious hubris. The nexus of powerful and ruthless states and global elites, with their machinery for war-making and arms production, creates the political state of siege, the economic strangulation and the covert weapons trade that prompt weaker states to perpetrate genocide.

Barely addressed in just one paragraph of the Tribunal opinion is the reality that powerful states oppose any dilution of their absolute state immunity with the unspoken objective of preserving their war-making powers. The dominant Atlantic allies have cited genocide solely as a pretext to expand their global domain though invasions under a broad and vague “responsibility to protect” principle and have imposed new constitutions on defeated adversaries authored by foreign legal scholars while guised as the ideals of domestic political revolutions. Meanwhile, their own genocidal state structures, centered in the national-security structure and military command, categorically reject any international controls over extralegal interventions operated under the cover of humanitarian operations.

Also, in limiting its call for remedial action to reparations from Israel , the Tribunal wasted a precious opportunity to demand full justice for the Palestinian nation. What is realistically required is an international peacekeeping force to guarantee the withdrawal of the Israeli miltary and police force from Palestinian territory until a domestic law-enforcement and security force can take over; the elimination of wall-fences, checkpoints and other barriers to the free movement of citizens; the return of occupied land in Palestine; financial restitution for the loss of lands and property inside the boundaries of Israel; and an official apology for the countless crimes committed.

Furthermore, the continuity of genocide perpetrated by the core state structure and abetted by the complicity of much of the Israeli population demands that the offending state must be reorganized under a new constitution free of religious bias and racial discrimination to ensure legal norms that prevent a repetition of genocide. This objective should require an international occupation of Israel in event that powerful elements in Israeli society refuse to comply with international law. Israel should be spared the violence unleashed against the Third Reich, but stern justice and strong rule of law are nonetheless required in situations of ideological conformity based on the goals of genocide.

  Courage and Wisdom

Whatever its few shortcomings, the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal demonstrated immense courage, foresight and wisdom in leveling the long-overdue charge of genocide against the State of Israel. The Tribunal correctly framed genocide in the context of international law rather than merely as a localized violation. The verdict along with the sophisticated judicial opinion provides an important initiative toward deterring the great powers from promoting and exploiting genocides among weaker nations and victimized peoples.

The Tribunal verdict raised not only a legal challenge to supporters of the Zionist cause in the United States and Europe but also appealed to universal moral principles in the tradition of high-minded rhetoric. “Much as we condemn violence and pray for peace, it must be stated that no power on Earth can douse the flame of freedom from the human spirit. As long as there is suppression, there will always be people prepared to die on their feet rather than live on their knees.”

 The precedent-setting decision by the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal is a giant step forward not only for dispossessed Palestinians but also for humanity as a whole.

Author: Yoichi Shimatsu, an East and Southeast Asia focused journalist, is former editor of The Japan Times Weekly in Tokyo.

Exposing Israel’s original sins



By Gideon Levy

“Correcting a Mistake – Jews and Arabs in Palestine/Israel, 1936-1956,” by               Benny Morris, Am Oved Publishers, 241 pages,


Oh, we were so good (and did so many bad things). We were so right (and caused so many injustices). We were so beautiful (and our actions resulted in so much ugliness). And oh, we were so innocent and spread so many lies – lies and half-truths that we told ourselves and the rest of the world. We, who were born afterward, weren’t told the whole truth; they only taught us the good parts, of which there were many. But, after all, there were also dark chapters which we heard nothing about. Instead, we were fed lies – there’s just no other word for it.


They lied when they told us that the Arabs of Lod and Ramle “asked to leave their cities” (the head of the history department of the Israel Defense Forces).  They lied when they told us that the murderous Kibiya operation was carried out by “enraged residents” (David Ben-Gurion).  They lied when they told us that all the “infiltrators” were bloodthirsty terrorists, that all the Arab states wanted to destroy us and that we were the only ones who simply wanted peace all the time.


They lied; oh, how they lied. We didn’t hear a thing about the horrific massacre in Safsaf; and not a syllable was uttered about the deportation plans.


The Arabs were always the bad guys. We were the absolute righteous, or the exclusive victims – or so we were told. Perhaps they didn’t want to spoil it for us; perhaps they didn’t want to ruin it for themselves. The huge celebration of a nation without a country that came to a country without a nation, settled it, caused its barren wilderness to blossom and established a glorious state – with exemplary, impeccable morality – should have been complete. As large, true and deserving as it may be, however, this celebration cannot be complete without recounting its entire history. Historical mud-slinging The time for telling the whole truth is well upon us. Over the past 12 years or so – and much to the distress of the “old” historians, whose enterprises are developing cracks – a number of “new” historians have taken up the challenge.


The rage with which the old historians are responding to the new historical enterprise is, perhaps, the entire story: If they had questioned their truths, which are beginning to crumble before their denying, repressive eyes, it is doubtful whether they would be so angry. After all, if they are so sure of themselves, why are they reacting so vociferously and making such a fuss? History, as the saying goes, will be the judge … won’t it?


As the doubts begin to surface, with Yitzhak Rabin, the banisher of the Arabs of Lod and Ramle, admitting his deeds even before the historian who tried to ignore and cover them up did, it is easy to understand the mud-slinging campaign that the old historians are waging against their new colleagues. With nowhere else to turn, this is their last resort. With no other sanctuary available, patriotism, as per usual, becomes the safe harbor.


Benny Morris certainly has a large stake in the new historical enterprise, even if it would have been better if he had let others determine that, “The turning point … came in 1988, heralded, inter alia, in the first article in this compilation” (page 12). Morris’ two earlier books – “Israel’s Border Wars, 1949-1956: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation and the Countdown to the Suez War” (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1993), and “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1948” (Cambridge Middle East Library, 1987) – are foundations for an understanding of the roots of the Israeli-Arab conflict.


If you want to understand the Palestinian uprising in the territories, go to these two books. If you want to understand why a settlement is impossible without a solution to the refugee problem, go to Morris. All the early-warning signs appear in his works. They show how our relationship with the Arabs began. Everything that followed, up until this very day, is anchored in their – and particularly our – original sins, which Morris and his colleagues have exposed.


Don’t get me wrong. Among his colleagues, the new historians, Morris is certainly the least political and most Zionistic. His name doesn’t appear on the protest petitions of the extreme left, and he defines himself as a Zionist, without reservations. He is more concerned with his historical findings than he is with their political and moral implications. Sometimes, his findings appear to cause him a certain discomfort, but you won’t catch him voicing unequivocal moral assessments of his revelations, as chilling as they may be, particularly not to anyone who didn’t know an Avraham (or Ibrahim) of those days.


He hasn’t written ideological articles either. As assiduous a researcher, and as hard-working an in-the-field reporter (Morris began his professional life as a journalist) as he was, he presents the story and leaves us to draw most of the conclusions.


Morris’ conclusions, one can safely assume, are a lot more forgiving than one would expect, and in this, lies his strength: Despite the claims leveled against the new historians, Morris does not home in on a target before embarking on his research. Neither does he hesitate to present findings that contradict or weaken his basic theories. For Morris, the experience determines the consciousness, and not vice-versa. A small ideologist and a significant historian – that’s Morris in a nutshell.


His new book, “Correcting a Mistake,” is a collection of articles that come together to form a gripping, infuriating collage of injustices committed between 1936-1956 by the Jewish community of Palestine, and thereafter, the state, against the native Palestinians.


No contrition


This time, in contrast to his other books, Morris doesn’t focus on one particular issue. Contrary to the connotations stemming from the name of the book, this is not an expression of contrition. Morris doesn’t present new findings to sweeten the previous bitter pills he asked us to swallow. Quite the opposite: Regrettably, the opening of the archives, which had been closed for some 50 years, and the exposure of new material has shed more light on the picture, which Morris had painted, in shadow, and which now, stirs up more fury than he first imagined.


“The Deportations of the Hiram Operation: Correcting a Mistake” is the title of the article from which the collection takes its name. “Sometimes a historian must correct a mistake,” Morris writes, and the reader is riveted. Perhaps it never happened? Perhaps there were no deportations or massacres? Perhaps Morris was wrong and everything was done by the book?


Not a chance! Over a decade after the publication of “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1948,” Morris reveals that he did, indeed, make a mistake, but errors and omissions accepted. He believed Major General (res.) Moshe Carmel and other sources, who told him that no deportation orders were issued during the course of Operation Hiram, to be the dirtiest there was.


And now, the IDF archives have been opened and there we find a cable dated October 31, 1948, signed by Major General Carmel and addressed to all the division and district commanders under his command: “Do all you can to immediately and quickly purge the conquered territories of all hostile elements in accordance with the orders issued. The residents should be helped to leave the areas that have been conquered.”


Perhaps this was the right thing to do; perhaps there was no alternative. But why lie all these years? Why didn’t they say: “Righteousness encountered righteousness; a victim encountered a victim; and this was the inevitable result. We had to deport them. It was either them or us.” It’s a lot more convincing than lying about it. The only thing is, Carmel’s deportation order isn’t the whole truth which Morris reveals in “Correcting a Mistake.”


Apparently, Carmel’s troops carried out massacres in no less than 10 (!) villages in the north of the country. They would gather the men of these villages in the square, choose a few of them, sometimes dozens, stand them up against a wall and shoot them. Because the IDF has kept the relevant document under wraps, we know nothing about these massacres. We can only hope that this nonsense, this outrageous practice of keeping things confidential, passes from the world and that 52 years on, we will eventually learn everything – where we went wrong and the evil things we did.


Blood-chilling testimonies


In any event, Morris presents a number of blood-chilling testimonies, first hand, about the massacres carried out during Operation Hiram, the numbers of which are different to and far more serious than any other operation. No, he doesn’t say that Carmel ordered the massacres; who knows, perhaps there’s another confidential document that does, and Morris will have to correct another mistake. But, he deduces – based on the large number of incidents in this particular operation, their similar nature, and the fact that no one was punished in their wake – that the commanders understood Carmel’s orders to be a stamp of approval for acts of murder that would make the residents of the villages flee.


Up until a short while ago, one could have run into the pleasant-mannered Carmel, who served as a government minister on behalf of the now-defunct Achdut Ha’avoda and Ma’arach parties, sitting in the Beit Ariella municipal library in Tel Aviv, seven days a week, and browsing through the newspapers like one of the pensioners. He was also among the very good people who did a number of very bad things.


Terrible things were done after the War of Independence, too; for example, in the town of Majdal in 1950. At that stage, Israel was already quite sure of itself – big, but not big enough, as far as it was concerned.


Some 10,000 Palestinians lived in Majdal before the war and, in October 1948, thousands more refugees from nearby villages joined them. Majdal fell in November and most of its residents and refugees fled wherever they could, leaving some 3,000 inhabitants, mostly women and the elderly. Orders in Hebrew and Yiddish were posted in the streets of the town, warning the soldiers to be aware of “undesirable” behavior on the part of the town’s residents. “As was customary in such instances,” the Israeli intelligence officer wrote, “the behavior of the population was obsequious and adulatory.”


Majdal was too close to Gaza for Israel’s liking. In December 1948, IDF soldiers “swept through” the town and deported some 500 of its remaining inhabitants. In 1949, Yigal Allon demanded “to transfer all the Arab inhabitants.” Ben- Gurion objected. An inter-ministerial committee for the “transfer of Arabs from place to place” – yes, we had one of those as well – decided to thin out the population somewhat; another ministerial committee – “on abandoned property” – decided to settle Majdal with Jews.


>From committee to committee, Majdal was “Judaized,” until, with 2,500 Jewish residents, it became known as Migdal-Ad.


In December 1949, more Arabs were deported so as to vacate a few more houses – “abandoned property” – for a few more discharged soldiers. The IDF made the life of those Arab who remained a misery, hoping they’d get the message. The new commanding officer of the Southern Command, Moshe Dayan, rekindled the ideas of his predecessor, Yigal Allon.


“I hope that perhaps in the coming years, there will be another opportunity to transfer these Arabs [170,000 Israeli Arabs – G.L.] out of the Land of Israel,” he said at a meeting of the Mapai faction, outlining its ideas while in uniform. Dayan backed up his words with actions: He submitted a detailed proposal for “the evacuation of the Arab inhabitants of the town of Majdal.” The chief of staff agreed and Ben-Gurion authorized the plan. The government was circumvented, the Histadrut labor federation objected, and Rabin informed the residents.


The transfer began at the beginning of 1950, although the “official operation” took off in June. There were still those who spoke of dispersing the Arabs around the country; in the end, they were deported to Gaza. They were loaded onto trucks and dropped off at the border – “deliveries,” as they were termed. Just to remind you again, the state already existed. The last delivery of 229 people left for Gaza on October 21; the Egyptians didn’t bat an eyelid.


Back in Israel, the officials pondered over how to distribute the “abandoned” houses, most of which went to individuals who had some political clout. In 1956, Migdal-Ad changed its name to Ashkelon. To this very day, the former residents of Majdal live in the shacks and shanties of the refugee camps in Gaza.


How many Israelis know this story? How many have heard it before? How many have ever thought of the refugees on whose destroyed homes the city of Ashkelon was founded?


‘Tearful assassin’


But the most enlightening and probably most significant document presented in the book is the journal of concerned-citizen Yosef Nachmani, perhaps the original tearful assassin, certainly not the last.


For 40 years, Nachmani spearheaded the Zionist enterprise in the Land of Israel – a high-ranking member of the pre-independence underground, Haganah; the director of the offices of the Jewish National Fund in Tiberias; and the man responsible for purchasing and settling land throughout the Galilee and Jezreel Valley regions.


Nachmani’s beliefs underwent numerous upheavals all through his life: At first, he supported the transfer; then, he sobered up. At first, he was in favor of adopting a harsh approach; then, his conscience started eating away at him. At first, he dispossessed; then, he denounced. At first, he fired; then, he cried.


But above all, he was a fascinating observer. At least one particular portion of his journal requires repeating here: ” … the acts of cruelty committed by our soldiers. After they went into Safsaf, the village and its people raised a white flag. They separated the men from the women, tied the hands of some 50 to 60 peasants and shot and killed them, burying them in a single hole. They also raped a number of the women from the village. Alongside the wood, he [probably an eye-witness by the name of Freedman – G.L.] saw a few dead women, among them one who was holding her dead child in her arms …


“In Salha, which raised a white flag, they carried out a real massacre, killing men and women, about 60 to 70 people. Where did they find such a degree of cruelty like that of the Nazis? They learned from them.”


Bosnia? Kosovo? Chechniya? Rwanda? No, not at all; right here, and not that long ago.


Morris, as calculated as ever, concludes: “The fundamental change in the thoughts and actions of Nachmani between 1947-1949 leaves the observer with a sense of paradox and admiration and gives him a key to understanding Zionism and its success. Zionism has always had two faces: a constructive, moral, compromising and considerate aspect; and a destructive, selfish, militant, chauvinistic-racist one. Both are sincere and real … The simultaneous existence of these two facets was one of the most significant keys to the success of Zionism” – shooting and weeping.


But, there were also incidents in which they shot – oh, and how they shot – and didn’t weep at all. And lied. This is the picture that emerges from the chapter about the Israeli press at the time of the Kibiya affair, which expresses the dark side of the then already five-year-old state: no longer a community struggling to establish a country, but an orderly, victorious state, thought of as a democracy, with David Ben-Gurion, who lies, poker-faced, and its press, which brazenly conceals scandalous information from its readers and even lies knowingly – all for the glory of the State of Israel.


“First of all, the facts,” as Morris writes. On the night of October 12-13, 1953, a group of infiltrators crossed the border into Israel, reached Yehud and threw a grenade into the home of the Kanias family. The mother and her two young children were killed. Retribution was two days in coming: Soldiers from the IDF commando unit (Unit 101) raided Kibiya, going from house to house, throwing in grenades and shooting indiscriminately. The result: 60 dead, most of them women and children.


The Israeli leaders did not make mention of most of these facts to the public, but worse still – a thousands times worse – neither did the Israeli press. The Mapai newspaper, Ha’dor, tried, at first, not to refrain from reporting a thing about the massacre; the other newspapers offered partial and even blatantly false versions of the story.


Morris, on the article in Ma’ariv by the legendary Azriel Carlibach: “There is hardly one sentence among Carlibach’s words that does not defile, distort or twist the truth, either explicitly or implicitly; whereas the words of Radio Ramallah, as quoted in the Hebrew press, were almost all the simple truth.”


Most of the press – aside from Kol Ha’am, and later Ha’aretz and Al Hamishmar, all of which expressed reservations – reported that the Kibiya killers weren’t IDF conscripts, but rather outraged residents that went out to seek vengeance. Unit 101 or outraged residents? The press and then prime minister David Ben-Gurion knew, Morris writes, that this was a propaganda-like lie.


I read this chapter twice – once, before the outbreak of the “Al-Aqsa Intifada”; and then again, a short while thereafter. After my first reading, I was incensed by the Israeli press of old – a collaborator and distorter – and I took pride in the long way it has come since then.


After my second reading, and in the wake of the way in which the new Intifada has been covered by sections of the Israeli media, I was faced with the following question: Have we really changed, or perhaps, in testing times, does the Israeli press return to its bad old place of being the state’s trumpet, just as it was in Kibiya, just as Morris describes? Then, the press inflamed passions by giving prominence to the Israeli victims (relatively few) and playing down the Arab ones (tenfold more), greatly enhancing the Israelis’ sense of being the victim, the exclusive sufferers.


So, is there anything new under the sun?


The things that Morris writes about the Kibiya press hold true, in part, for the press of the past few days: “As a whole, the press approached the Kibiya operation as an enlisted press, justifying, no matter what, government policy and the actions of the IDF … The feeling was that if the entire world was denouncing [Israel], then the press here must unite, to beautify and repel the criticism.”


Some things never change.


Isn’t it best for us to know about all these things? Isn’t it important for us to know about all these things, particularly now, in such difficult times? That’s where it all started. That’s how it all began

List of Israeli suspects of war crimes 2008

The following information was received anonymously; presumably from a member of the Israeli Military. It was presented as follows:

Underlining the following people is an act of retribution and affront. They are the direct perpetrators, agents for the state of Israel that in Dec.- Jan. 2008- 2009 attacked scores of people in the besieged Gaza. The people listed here held positions of command at the time of the attack therefore not only did they perform on behalf of a murderous state mechanism but actively encouraged other people to do the same. They bear a distinctive personal responsibility. They range from low-level field commanders to the highest echelons of the Israeli army. All took an active and direct role in the offensive.

In underlining them we are purposefully directing attention to individuals rather than the static structures through which they operate. We are aligning people with actions. It is to these persons and others, Like them, to which we must object and bring our plaints to bear upon.

This information was pirated. We encourage people to seek out other such similar information, it is readily available in the public sphere and inside public officials’ locked cabinets. This is a form of resistance that can be effectively sustained for a long while.

This project for one, has only just begun, do your bit so that this virtual list may come to bear upon the physical.


IDF order will enable mass deportation from West Bank

Last update – 07:51 11/04/2010

IDF order will enable mass deportation from West Bank

By Amira Hass

A new military order aimed at preventing infiltration will come into force this week, enabling the deportation of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank, or their indictment on charges carrying prison terms of up to seven years.

When the order comes into effect, tens of thousands of Palestinians will automatically become criminal offenders liable to be severely punished.

Given the security authorities’ actions over the past decade, the first Palestinians likely to be targeted under the new rules will be those whose ID cards bear home addresses in the Gaza Strip – people born in Gaza and their West Bank-born children – or those born in the West Bank or abroad who for various reasons lost their residency status. Also likely to be targeted are foreign-born spouses of Palestinians.

Until now, Israeli civil courts have occasionally prevented the expulsion of these three groups from the West Bank. The new order, however, puts them under the sole jurisdiction of Israeli military courts.

The new order defines anyone who enters the West Bank illegally as an infiltrator, as well as “a person who is present in the area and does not lawfully hold a permit.” The order takes the original 1969 definition of infiltrator to the extreme, as the term originally applied only to those illegally staying in Israel after having passed through countries then classified as enemy states – Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.

The order’s language is both general and ambiguous, stipulating that the term infiltrator will also be applied to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, citizens of countries with which Israel has friendly ties (such as the United States) and Israeli citizens, whether Arab or Jewish. All this depends on the judgment of Israel Defense Forces commanders in the field.

The new guidelines are expected to clamp down on protests in the West Bank.

The Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual was the first Israeli human rights to issue warnings against the order, signed six months ago by then-commander of IDF forces in Judea and Samaria Area Gadi Shamni.

Two weeks ago, Hamoked director Dalia Kerstein sent GOC Central Command Avi Mizrahi a request to delay the order, given “the dramatic change it causes in relation to the human rights of a tremendous number of people.”

According to the provisions, “a person is presumed to be an infiltrator if he is present in the area without a document or permit which attest to his lawful presence in the area without reasonable justification.” Such documentation, it says, must be “issued by the commander of IDF forces in the Judea and Samaria area or someone acting on his behalf.”

The instructions, however, are unclear over whether the permits referred to are those currently in force, or also refer to new permits that military commanders might issue in the future. The provision are also unclear about the status of bearers of West Bank residency cards, and disregards the existence of the Palestinian Authority and the agreements Israel signed with it and the PLO.

The order stipulates that if a commander discovers that an infiltrator has recently entered a given area, he “may order his deportation before 72 hours elapse from the time he is served the written deportation order, provided the infiltrator is deported to the country or area from whence he infiltrated.”

The order also allows for criminal proceedings against suspected infiltrators that could produce sentences of up to seven years. Individuals able to prove that they entered the West Bank legally but without permission to remain there will also be tried, on charges carrying a maximum sentence of three years. (According to current Israeli law, illegal residents typically receive one-year sentences.)

The new provision also allow the IDF commander in the area to require that the infiltrator pay for the cost of his own detention, custody and expulsion, up to a total of NIS 7,500.

Currently, Palestinians need special permits to enter areas near the separation fence, even if their homes are there, and Palestinians have long been barred from the Jordan Valley without special authorization. Until 2009, East Jerusalemites needed permission to enter Area A, territory under full PA control.

The fear that Palestinians with Gaza addresses will be the first to be targeted by this order is based on measures that Israel has taken in recent years to curtail their right to live, work, study or even visit the West Bank. These measures violated the Oslo Accords.

According to a decision by the West Bank commander that was not backed by military legislation, since 2007, Palestinians with Gaza addresses must request a permit to stay in the West Bank. Since 2000, they have been defined as illegal sojourners if they have Gaza addresses, as if they were citizens of a foreign state. Many of them have been deported to Gaza, including those born in the West Bank.

One group expected to be particularly harmed by the new rules are Palestinians who moved to the West Bank under family reunification provisions, which Israel stopped granting for several years.

In 2007, amid a number of Hamoked petitions and as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, tens of thousands of people received Palestinian residency cards. The PA distributed the cards, but Israel had exclusive control over who could receive them. Thousands of Palestinians, however, remained classified as “illegal sojourners,” including many who are not citizens of any other country.

The new order is the latest step by the Israeli government in recent years to require permits that limit the freedom of movement and residency previously conferred by Palestinian ID cards. The new regulations are particularly sweeping, allowing for criminal measures and the mass expulsion of people from their homes.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office said in response, “The amendments to the order on preventing infiltration, signed by GOC Central Command, were issued as part of a series of manifests, orders and appointments in Judea and Samaria, in Hebrew and Arabic as required, and will be posted in the offices of the Civil Administration and military courts’ defense attorneys in Judea and Samaria. The IDF is ready to implement the order, which is not intended to apply to Israelis, but to illegal sojourners in Judea and Samaria.”

Olmert, Livni, and Barak May Face War Crimes Trial in Norway

Olmert, Livni, and Barak May Face War Crimes Trial in Norway

by Yehudah Lev Kay
(Arutz Sheva, 22 April 2009)

( Six Norwegian lawyers announced on Tuesday their intent to press charges of war crimes against top Israeli officials, including former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, for their actions in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. Israel’s operation, which was launched to end Hamas terrorist rocket fire, resulted in the death of 1,300 Gazans and 13 Israelis.

The lawyers plan to file their claim on Wednesday under a Norwegian law which allows courts to hear cases involving war crimes. They will present their case to Norwax’s chief prosecutor and ask for the arrest and extradition of Olmert, former Defense Minister Ehud Barak, former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and seven IDF officers.


One of the lawyers, Kjell Brgfjeld, told the French news agency AFP, that the case will be brought on behalf of “three people of Palestinian origin living in Norway and 20 families who lost loved ones or property during the attack.” The case will accuse the Israeli officials of “massive terrorist attacks” which killed civilians. It will also charge Israel with using weapons against civilian targets such as hospitals and medical staff.


The lawyers’ statement said regarding the accused Israeli figures, “There can be no doubt that these subjects knew about, ordered or approved the actions in Gaza and that they had considered the consequences of these actions.” While the group admits the case may not reach court, lawyer Harald Stabell claimed, “If we do nothing, it is more likely that a similar attack will happen again in the future.”


Ties between Israel and Norway are already strained after Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store chose not to leave the hall during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at the Durban II UN racism conference in Geneva in which he called Israel a racist state. Store spoke to the plenum immediately after Ahmadinejad, however, and harshly criticized the Iranian leader’s words.


Yitzhak Rabin: An Eulogy

Yitzhak Rabin: An Eulogy  
Communique by Elias Davidsson to those concerned with truth, honesty and justice 1995, regarding the death of Yitzhak Rabin, Israel's Prime Minister. On Saturday 4. November 1995 an extremist Zionist assassinated Israel's Prime Minister, Mr. Yitzhak Rabin, in Tel Aviv. The murderer claimed that Mr. Rabin was a traitor to the Jewish people and should be killed. Within hours after Rabin's death, a massive and world-wide disinformation campaign was launched extolling Mr. Rabin as a great statesman and commending him for his will and courage to make peace with the Palestinians.  European and American politicians vied with each other to sing the praise of Mr. Rabin for his statesmanship. Once again the media failed to make the distinction between propaganda and news, between facts and phantasy. Once again the media became a mere tool in the hands of powerful interests.
 While the event of the assassination was clearly dramatic and sensational, one of the less noticed sequels of this event was the closure by the Israeli army of the Gaza strip. The word 'closure' does not convey though the nature of such action. What it entails is that 800.000 people, men, women and children, are closed off from the outside world behind barbed wire in what is the largest ghetto of the Middle-East.  The closure was reported in some media - in small letters though. No one connected this closure with the policies of the late Mr. Rabin, his Zionist ideology, his participation in ethnical cleansing. No one dared to put things in proportion:  On one hand the assassination of one old person who has in his lifetime harmed hundreds of thousands of people and on the other the collective punishment of 800.000 people for one sole reason: They are Arabs.
 For the sake of completeness it is worthwhile to mention here the fact that Israel is entitled, according to the 'peace' accords Mssrs. Rabin and Arafat signed between themselves, to close off the Palestinians in their ghettoes whenever they wish. Thus, Israel routinely closes the Palestinians in their 'homelands' whenever the Israeli public demands it: In high holidays and in days of mourning. The 'peace' we are witnessing is the peace between the ruler and the ruled, not that of two equal partners. Such peace cannot last and will not last.
 Yitzhak Rabin was a uncompromising Zionist since his youth. He never strayed from his Zionist ideals. Those who accuse Mr. Rabin of treason against the Jewish people, do it either in bad faith or they are just hallucinating. Mr. Rabin obtained, with perseverance and the full backing of the United States' administration, what no other Zionist leader until then could obtain: The official recognition of Israel by Arab states and the PLO leadership, the end of the Arab trade boycott against Israel, the continuation (in a new form) of Israel's de facto sovereignty over all of Palestine, the control by Israel of Palestinian land and water resources, the end of the Intifada, the dismantlement of the PLO and the liquidation of the Palestinian refugee question. The dismal financial situation of the PLO, after the Gulf war, provided Israel with the opportunity to deal a deadly blow to Palestinian aspirations. This was the biggest victory obtained by the Zionist movement since its inception.
 Yitzhak Rabin was a committed Zionist, little prone for sentimentality and compassion. He did not hate Arabs. For him the presence of Palestinians constituted merely a negative factor for the realization of a secure and strong Jewish state. This factor had to be eliminated or neutralized. Mr. Rabin did not hesitate to use any means to achieve these purposes. No Israeli, living or dead, has ever reached the extent of Mr. Rabin's crimes: 
- In 1948 Mr. Rabin ordered his soldiers to expell all the inhabitants of Lydda and Ramleh from their homes, about 50.000 people. As the inhabitants were not willing to leave on their own accord, a few massacres and some rapes, convinced them to leave. On their march to exodus, many more died. 
- In 1967 Mr. Rabin ordered the Israeli army to expell the inhabitants of three villages near Latroun (Emwas, Nuba and Beit Yalou) and blow up their homes. These 10.000 people were never allowed to return, build their homes or even bury their dead on the former villages' land.
 - In 1988 Mr. Rabin ordered Israeli soldiers to break the bones of Palestinian youngsters by systematic blows as an extra-judicial and immediate form of corporal punishment to deter them throwing stones on the occupation forces.
 - In 1993 (only two years ago !!), Mr. Rabin ordered the Israeli army to carpet-bomb South-Lebanon with the aim to provoke the flight of about half a million people from their homes, to depopulate the targeted area. All the above actions are classified as war crimes in international law. It is the duty of all signatory states of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 to prosecute any individual responsible for such acts. The fact that prosecution has not taken place has little to with lack of evidence but with the lack of morality and political will.  
 Mr. Rabin was never willing to discuss publicly his participation in the above deeds. His strong political position, including a full support of several US administrations that he enjoyed, precluded any international action to bring him to trial.  He has thus avoided trial and could ignore with impunity all charges levelled against him in the press.
 It is perhaps ironical that it was a zealous Zionist who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin, but this should not come as a surprise. Zionism was at all times a ruthless, inhuman ideology and enterprise, which placed racist and nationalist ideology above the rights of individuals. But while Labour-Zionism reserved racist and inhuman practices to non-Jews, the more extreme form of Zionism - often termed Revisionism -  did not spare Jews from physical assault, if they were considered lax on Arabs. From the point of view of Palestinian Arabs, the difference between the two main segments of Zionism is merely a matter of taste: Both have aimed and aim at the liquidation of Palestinian nationalism and the final dispossession of Palestinians.
 Now that Yitzhak Rabin cannot harm anybody any more, it is incumbent upon Israelis to face squarely his true life story, including his participation in war crimes. It is important to make Israelis aware that facing the criminal past of their leaders does not implicate them of criminal complicity. The Zionist leadership has systematically repressed public knowledge about this dark record. Most Israelis are not aware of the nature and extent of crimes  committed by their leaders. The victims of these crimes still await at least an apology from the Israeli public for these crimes and some form of moral and material compensation.
 The duty of all well-intentioned people is to uphold principles of justice and truth. The agreements made between the Zionist regime and Mr. Arafat under conditions of coercion are a travesty of justice and truth. They were concluded without consulting the principal victims of Zionism - the inhabitants of the occupied territories and the Palestinian refugees. They therefore cannot lead  to real peace but to further alienation and conflict. Those who stood by the Palestinian people during their years of struggle, should continue to do so, until the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, reaffirmed year after year by the General Assembly of the United Nations, are fulfilled.  There is no alternative to justice. And only justice can lead to a lasting peace.
 Elias Davidsson  

In 1967 Six-Day War Egyptian POWs Ordered to Dig Graves, Then Shot by Israeli Army

In 1967 Six-Day War Egyptian POWs Ordered to Dig Graves, Then Shot by Israeli Army

By Gabby Bron *
(translated by Prof. Israel Shahak)

It was the publication of the claims, made by Dr. Aryeh Yitzhaki,(1) about what really occurred during the Six Day War [June 1967] that caused me to recall what had happened and what I and my comrades had seen during my reserve service.

On the third day of that war we saw Egyptian POWs being executed after a "court martial". The explanation given to us was that those killed were Palestinian "Fedayin" fighters from the Gaza Strip who had disguised themselves as soldiers in order to escape from our forces". I witnessed their executions with my own eyes in the morning of June 8, 1967 in the airport area in al-Arish, Sinai. This was where the headquarters of the brigade commanded by General Israel Tal, in which I had served, were located.

On that morning we heard that hundreds of Egyptian POWs were being held in the headquarters and we had time to go to look at them. About 150 POW’s were held in an open building serving as a cover for airplanes, surrounded on three sides by high sand-bag embankments. They were densely crowded and sitting on the ground with their hands on the back of their necks.

Adjoining the prison compound, guarded by military police, there were two men sitting at a table. They wore Israeli army uniforms and steel helmets with faces almost entirely covered by sun glasses and khaki-colored handkerchiefs. Every few minutes, the military police took one of the POWs from the prison compound and escorted him to the table. A short conversation, which we were not able to hear, was then conducted. Following it, the POW was escorted by two military policemen to a place behind the building.

I followed the procedure. The POW was escorted to a distance of about 100 meters from the building and given a spade. I watched the POW digging a big pit which took about 15 minutes. Then the policemen ordered him to throw out the spade. When he did so one of them pointed his Uzi gun at the POW inside the pit and shot two short bullet bursts, consisting maybe of three four bullets each. The POW fell dead. After a few minutes another POW was escorted to the same pit, forced to go into it and was also shot dead. A third POW was brought to the same place and also shot dead. Since the process was repeated a number of times, the grave was filled up. I witnessed about ten such executions.

We were standing there, near the place where the POW’s were being held and we watched silently. The fact that a number of soldiers were watching the spectacle was apparently unwelcome because after a time Colonel Eshel, the commander of the communication battalion of the brigade, appeared and shouted at the soldiers, ordering them to leave. When we didn’t show any willingness to obey, Colonel Eshel pulled out his personal revolver and threatened us with it. Raising his voice even more, he was able to get the soldiers to obey, including me.

The reserve soldiers who heard about what had happened were horrified,(2) and about the noon an officer, whose identity I cannot recall, came to explain to the reserve soldiers that the men of the Military Intelligence were identifying "Fedayin" fighters of the Gaza Strip who had murdered Jews and disguised themselves. At that time of the continuing war, it seemed a reasonable explanation.(3) The day after, a rumor circulated that, in another al-Arish location, "hundreds of Egyptian POWs who interfered with the advance of our forces", were liquidated. Dr. Aryeh Yitzhaki must be referring now to this rumor as an established tact. ( Yediot Ahronot, August 17, 1995) Dr. Israel Shahak, a Holocaust survivor and retired professor of chemistry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is chairman of the Israeli League of Human and Civil Rights.

* A journalist of pronounced right-wing views.


   1. The reference is to the well-authenticated claims made by Dr. Yitzhaki and published a day before, that the elite unit "Shaked Patrol" of the Israeli army, then commanded by Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (now the Housing minister in Rabin’s government), had murdered a number of Palestinians serving in a special battalion of the Egyptian army. These claims implicate Rabin who was the Chief of Staff at that time.
   2. The older reserve soldiers of the Israeli army are apt to be shocked by crimes callously committed by the younger (18-21) draft soldiers.
   3. I don’t know why this outrageous murder seemed "reasonable" to Bron and his comrades at the time. I strongly suspect that an order was given "to weed out" Palestinians serving in the Egyptian army and to murder them after establishing their Palestinian identity through their dialect – the real purpose of the short conversation described above.


Mass Murders in 1956 Sinai War

The murders in the 1956 Sinai War were first exposed by Davar’s correspondent Amir Oren who found the story of the atrocities buried in an obscure army journal couched in the most sterile language possible. The appearance of Oren’s report could not be stopped by the army censorship because of its prior publication. However, the very lively discussion stopped a day after the publication of the last of the articles in this collection. (Some articles were published afterwards about the killing of Israeli POWs by Egyptians and Syrians.) According to my sources, heavy pressure was exerted by the Israel government once it became apparent that the investigation could reach upward and implicate [Prime Minister] Yitzhak Rabin.     Prof. Israel Shahak (translator)
Mass Murders in 1956 Sinai War

Excerpt from Oren’s Research Report

By Ronal Fisher

It began on Monday, October 29, 1956, at exactly 16:59. Paratroopers’ Battalion 890 under the command of Raphael (Raful) Eitan was parachuted on the eastern side of the Mitla pass, deep in enemy territory. This was the first moment of the war, to be known later as the Suez War.

There were 395 fighters, including the commander, Raful, who participated in the jump. While they were still hovering between heaven and earth, the soldiers identified two large tents on the eastern side of the Mitla pass. They did not open fire from the air nor were they able, at that stage, to determine exactly who was there. Later it became clear. They were civilians, Egyptian public works employees, who happened to be at the place where the Israeli army commanders decided to parachute their force. They were captured and taken prisoners.

Two days later, after the awaited link-up was made with Division 202, Sharon assumed command in Mitla and Raful’s battalion was ordered to move on to Ras Sudar. The Egyptian workers who had been captured on the first day of the parachuting were not loaded on the trucks and did not join the battalion which began to move to the south in a convoy, nor were they transferred to Sharon’s soldiers. In fact, none of the soldiers of Battalion 890 can testify to having seen them alive after the force packed up and left.

Lieutenant Colonel (reserves) Danny Wolf (known as Rahav), recipient of the Award of Valor(1) in the Six Day War, today admits that the Egyptian civil engineering workers were slaughtered on the second day of the campaign while the battalion was still isolated Wolf, who later became the commander of the Shaked Elite Unit, was at the time a soldier in the company commanders’ course in Battalion 890. If it had been up to him, he now says, the Egyptians would remained alive. On the other hand, there were the circumstances of that time. Wolf, like all who were there, does not like to talk about that part of the campaign, and has been careful to remain silent all these years. Now he is talking.

Wolf: "There were 20 or 25 men. I do not remember exactly how many. All were dressed in white jellabas. Road workers, poor guys. It is an extremely hard work in the middle of the desert. They whined from thirst and hunger. They could have been left there with some food and water, theoretically, but the truth is that we did not have enough water for ourselves. Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to find justifications for what we did. But the truth. any way you look at it, is that there was nothing we could do with them. We were about to move, we received an order to advance and they were stuck among us. Releasing them was inconceivable, because the last thing that any of us wanted to do, was to provide free information to the Egyptians about how to locate and screw us before the arrival of Sharon’s force. The army had taken us and thrown us, Battalion 890, hundreds of kilometers inside enemy territory, without reinforcements or anything. It was not a simple situation. I personally would not have shot those k workers in any case. Not even in our situation. But the people who did, shot."

Did you see with your own eyes that the Egyptian workers were shot dead?

"What do you mean, did I see it? About 300 people saw it, nearly the entire battalion. We stood on the hills when some officers took them one kilometer to the south, away from us. Then they started to mow them down. It was not a pleasant sight."

What did they do?

"Some of them were frozen to the spot, some fell, some fled. Look, it was not a professional murder. I don’t think that they all died. Perhaps some of them understood what was going on, got to their feet and ran to the desert. It is very likely that some of them survived."

Who shot?

"Aryeh Biro, the commander."

Who gave the order?

"Raful, the battalion commander."


General (reserves) Aryeh Biro, 68, was discharged from the Israeli army ten years ago. He was known as "the Prussian officer" and the nickname was given to him for his toughness. Biro, a typical product of the forests where the partisans fought and of the concentration camps in Europe, was Raful’s right-hand man through the 1956 campaign. Biro was thought to be Raful’s identical twin, to the point that people would confuse of the two. The same looks, the same countenance of an expressionless peasant, the same style of speech, the same blind courage. Those who argued against their world-view used to say that they turned Battalion 890 into a band of Cossacks. Those who supported their values said that they had turned the men of 890 into courageous Jewish fighters.

For years, Biro did not speak about the events of the war. Now he has broken his silence, starting with what happened at the jump site.

Biro: "South of us, pretty close to the position we took, there was a quarry. There were exactly 49 people there, not 15, not 20 and not 30. All of them were road workers from the Egyptian public works department. Some were Bedouins and some were perhaps Egyptians. We tied their hands and led them to the quarry. They were frightened and shattered. Raful did not give us an explicit order and I did not ask for any. In any case, only an idiot would ask his commander for permission to do what was his duty to do. In any event I can tell you that Raful did not grieve over the bodies of the workers killed by us. He also didn’t punish whoever it was that finished the job there and got rid of them. They were a burden, a pain in the butt, and until we finished them off we could not find the time to deal with the other matters. The stories about us of letting them run and then massacring them are nonsense. They died and that is that. One of them really did manage to flee with bullets in his leg and chest, but he came back several hours later on all fours. We did not understand why. Very quickly we found that he was simply thirsty. Instead of getting to the radiator of some truck, emptying it into his belly and waiting for an Egyptian patrol to pass, the idiot came to me to ask for water. I am not responsible for the stupidity of the enemy and he quickly found himself among his friends. As to the question who fired and who did not fire at the workers, why is it important? Between you and me, the main thing is that they did fire."


The battle of the Mitla began on the following morning, the third day of the war. Many from the battalion were wounded. But Battalion 890 was not destroyed or neutralized. On the fourth day of the campaign, with a smaller, hurt and angry force, they received the order to move forward into the desert, to Ras Sudar. From every aspect, that was an unexpected order. No one actually knew where the Egyptian divisions were located(2) and the intelligence reports and navigation maps were inaccurate. Nor did anyone know how to reach the destination and how to identify the place when they did arrive. In a convoy of nine old vehicles, and several captured ones and four jeeps, with Biro at the head, they went to seek the location of Ras Sudar. Like all those who went through the campaign, their feeling was that they were going to their death, venturing forward without any possibility of withdrawal. With this feeling and the pain over the loss of their comrades, the next massacre was only a question of time.

The Egyptians, who smelled the "red feet"–the nickname of Raful’s paratroopers–did not want to conduct a battle with them and simply fled. The feeling that battalion 890 was going towards its death was dispelled. They did not face organized Egyptian troops.

Lieutenant Colonel (reserves) Shaul Ziv, then aged 17, a soldier in Platoon 5 and later the commander of Sea Commando Unit 13, admitted that the events of Ras Sudar disturbed him for years. Ziv has refused, up to now, to speak of his memories of that campaign.

Ziv: "All in all, we were in a pretty good mood by the time we camped at Ras Sudar. The guys confiscated many booty vehicles from the Egyptian oil company and played around, driving wildly. The fact that we did not confront any Egyptian commando unit, anyone willing to battle us, was a relief on one hand, but on the other hand, the tension, the anxiety of those who were living war for the first time, had not been vented by actual fighting. I remember that my unit settled on both sides of the road, when suddenly a truck loaded with people appeared from a bend on the road. At first no one paid any attention to them. In fact, when I think about it today, if they had continued driving towards us without making a provocation, they would have passed us without our noticing them. But, apparently, they were frightened. They did not expect to find us in the middle of Sinai. One of them fired, out of hysteria, a few aimless bullets. Even before the truck came into our range of fire, it was obvious that we had to eliminate it. Whoever fires, as far as we are concerned, is the enemy from any aspect. The truck, I remember as though it were today, was open in the back, was hit in the driver’s compartment by my rifle-fired anti-tank grenade, swung to the side of the road and halted. The people who were hanging on it, holding on to the doors or sitting on the hood, flew several meters in the air and were thrown onto the sand. My hit was right on target, and one minute later it was quiet. I looked at the truck and at the people in it. They were stunned. They did not move. Already then I could see that they were Fedayin [Palestinian guerillas]. Possibly there were also Egyptian soldiers there but not in uniform. In any event, it was certainly not an organized Egyptian army unit.

I turned back to dismantle the grenade rifle and all at once I saw our unit assaulting them. It was a mad scene. Biro gave the order, and each person caught the gun closest to him and fired. It was a huge round of fire that shook the desert. I did not shoot, I only stood there and watched the truck and our guys, and did not grasp what was going on, why they were doing that. For me everything ended when my anti-tank grenade blew away the head of the truck driver. The cruel attack afterwards seemed totally uncalled for. The people in the truck simply remained standing and they absorbed hundreds of our bullets without responding, without moving."

Biro, the commander, does not deny the order given to attack the truck. He does not now even deny that the shooting was one-sided, but it is difficult to win over the impression that this changes the picture as far as he is concerned. He simply does not understand even now how they managed to load so many people in one truck.

"I have developed a feeling of keeping the finger on the trigger," Biro said, "when I shot someone and he is hit, I feel it in my hand, between the fingers. But that time a strange thing happened. As soon as I gave the order to fire, I myself started shooting from a Carl Gustav rifle I had taken as booty at the Mitla. I started emptying clips into the people on the truck and for some reason I felt as though I hit a person with each bullet I fired, but still, they remained standing as though the bullets had gone in one side and left through the other without leaving holes in their stomachs. I was stunned. That was a big mystery to me. Only later, when I shouted to halt fire and went over to the truck, I understood what had happened. The truck was so crowded that the people inside did not have room to fall. Those who died, died standing up."

Shaul Ziv claims that the affair of the truck at Ras Sudar did not end there. In fact, it did not even really begin.

Ziv: "Sometimes, in the kibbutz, you can see a wagon loaded with cans of milk being dragged from the barn, after the day’s milking, and if a can overturns and spills, the whole wagon begins to drip from all sides, within seconds. I remembered that when I stood there, next to the Fedayin truck after the attack. It was simply horrifying. Blood ran from every crevice in the truck in huge amounts. When the back door was opened, the bodies tumbled out one on top of the other, all at once. I estimate that there were 40-50 people there. It was difficult to count in the mess of flesh that formed there. They fell on each other, at the side of the road, next to the truck. All or most of them were dressed in white jellabas, which were not so white by then. I saw enough shocking scenes when I commanded the naval commando, but this was especially terrible. Even if I had seen worse things in my lifetime, that case was especially enraging because I could not bear the thought that we shot people without a battle. What was more terrible was that after we removed the dead bodies from the truck we found that there were about 20 people still living. Most of them were bleeding. One had a hole in the arm, another in the jaw but they were alive. I have no idea how they survived after that barrage of fire. Perhaps it was due to the huge mass of people in the truck who, with their bodies absorbing one bullet after another, shielded those who managed to push back into the center. I don’t know. In any case, I remember clearly that when the truck was emptied of the bodies, our guys tied the hands of those who were still alive. At that time I did not know what was going to be done with them and I was already concerned with entirely different matters. I think that I received an order to move to Sharm al-Sheikh and was hurrying to get my gear in order. Suddenly I saw our storage manager, H., who was never considered to be a big hero, and K., Biro’s deputy, running towards the truck, climbing into the driver’s compartment and starting to fire barrages inside. I froze. They did not stop for a second, they did not take a rest to change clips in their guns. They fired and fired and fired until their arms got tired. I do not remember whether any other guy joined them in that massacre, but I clearly remember the two of them standing in the driver’s compartment and pounding the 20 prisoners tied in the truck. A bullet didn’t hit one of the prisoners right, it went directly into the main artery in the neck and a fountain of blood spewed on their clothes, drenching them. I thought that it would never end. "

K. and H. were personal prot

Massacre survivors want Sharon to suffer

Massacre survivors want Sharon to suffer

Cilina Nasser in Beirut, for Aljazeera 

Monday, 9 January 2006 

Nawal Abu Rodaina does not want Ariel Sharon to die. At least not yet.

Not before the Israeli prime minister is punished for his role in the massacre of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon more than 23 years ago.

Rodaina was only eight when Israeli-allied Lebanese Christian Phalange militiamen rampaged through the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut, killing hundreds, possibly thousands of people at the height of Lebanon’s civil war that pitted various factions – including a sizeable Palestinian refugee population – against each other.

It was also soon after Israel’s invasion of the Lebanese capital in 1982.

No Palestinian fighters were found or handed over to Israeli forces and no weapons alleged to be in the camps were found.

Rodaina and her brother, Mohammed, survived. But 800-3500 others, depending on whose figures one takes, were killed, including women and children.

“Memories are etched so deeply in my mind that I can’t forget them for as long as I live,” says Nawal.

She blames Sharon for all her suffering and wants him held accountable.

“Sharon’s death won’t relieve me because he was not tried and punished for the crimes he committed against my family and the families of hundreds of other Palestinians like me,” she says.

Camps encircled

The massacres began three months after Israel invaded Lebanon and two days after Bashir Gemayel, the then Lebanese president, was assassinated.

On 15 September 1982, Israeli tanks and soldiers surrounded Sabra and Shatila, setting up checkpoints at strategic locations and crossroads around the camps to monitor the entry and exit of every person.

During the late afternoon and evening the camps were shelled. Israeli forces used flares at night to illuminate the area.

Mohammed, who was only five at the time, recalls: “I sat on my father’s lap and he held me very tightly to his chest throughout the shelling.”

The next day, 150 heavily armed Israeli-allied Christian Phalange fighters, who supported Gemayel, entered the camps of the Palestinian refugees.

Mohammed’s family had already moved to their uncle’s house, which they thought was safer since their home was located on the main street.

“My father was telling us not to be scared and that we would be fine. But there were gun shots and noises and we couldn’t help but cry, especially when the militiamen broke the windows of the house with their rifle butts,” Mohammed says.

He remembers how his father was optimistic that nothing bad would happen, until the armed men appeared at the door step.

“He knew that he was going to die,” Mohammed says.

“The Phalangists ordered the men to line up next to a wall just outside the house while the women and children were allowed to leave.”

Family killed

The last time Mohammed saw his father, Shawkat, was when the head of the family was lined up with nine other men against a wall in Shatila. He remembers how his father had to raise his hands, placing them on the wall shoulder-width apart.

As the little child walked hurriedly away through the narrow alleyways of the camp with his mother and sister, Nawal, they heard a loud burst of gunfire.

“I kept saying to myself, ‘Daddy must have escaped and he will come back for us’.”

After several days, however, Mohammed knew his father had not escaped.

Also killed were Mohammed’s pregnant sister, Amal Abu Rodaina, and her husband who lived 300m away from her parents’ home.

Her body was found split open with her unborn baby lying on her chest.

“Her Lebanese neighbour who survived told us that the militiamen were betting over the sex of the baby before killing her and removing the foetus,” Mohammed says.

Sharon’s role

Sharon, who is gravely ill after suffering a brain haemorrhage last week, was defence minister and the general of the Israeli army, which was in full control of Beirut at the time.

Sharon was found “indirectly responsible” by an Israeli commission investigating the massacre since his forces controlled the area and approved the entry of the Phalangists into the camps, ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge.

He was forced to step down.

Nawal, Mohammed and other families of the victims filed a lawsuit against him in Belgium a few years ago hoping that a Belgian anti-atrocity law would bring the perpetrators to justice.

But in June 2002, Brussels decided to amend the law from universal jurisdiction, limiting it to Belgian citizens.

“The Belgians should have stood by us because we are weak … but weak people have no rights,” Mohammed said at the time. “Justice is absent.”

Memories live on

Nevertheless, the memories live on and have been reawakened by news of Sharon’s failing health.

Mohammed still flips through a photo album of his once happy family and says he will always cherish the past.

“This is my father when he was on pilgrimage… This is my mother before she had a stroke… This is my sister who was pregnant when she was killed.”

Nawal and Mohammed’s mother had a stroke in the early nineties, just a day after she watched a documentary about the massacre aired on television to mark the event’s anniversary.

Although she was only a teenager at the time, Nawal had to take care of her ill mother, who died a year later.

She could hardly understand the words her mother uttered and had to change diapers for her after she was confined to bed and semi-paralysed.

“I hope Sharon will stay alive and suffer just like he made my mother suffer,” she says.

“No one should feel sad for him.”

Ten years after Sabra and Shatilla

 Ten years after Sabra and Shatilla


 Maariv, 18 September 1992.    
By: Immanuel Rozen (transl. from Hebrew by Israel Shahak)

"Shoot freely, shoot as much as you want, at whatever you want"

Ten years later, major (reserves) Gil Agnon has still forgotten nothing. It was noontime, in West Beirut, the eve of the Jewish New Year, September 1982. Lieutenant Avi Garbovsky, deputy commander of Company 6 of his tank battalion, arrived at the command post. Agmon recalls Garbovsky telling him excitedly: "O, God, do not ask me what I have seen", Garbovsky panted and Agmon thinks that there was in fact a misunderstanding behind the excitement, since Garbovsky had not understood what he had seen. But he said that he had seen Falanga soldiers beating two youths and dragging them into the stadium. Later, shots were heard, and they came out without the youths. And still later he saw some Falangists killing five women and children, and then another one shooting a civilian at close range. Agmon remembers his confused, unfocused, story. But it was clear that Garbovsky had seen something. And everyone, meaning the battalion’s officers who were present and ~ho heard the tale, had really not yet known anything about the massacre In Sabra and Shatilla, but Agmon thinks they already had a gut feeling. When Garbovsky stopped talking they were silent, until someone flung into the loaded silence what everyone had been thinking: "Damn it", he said, "what the hell are we doing here".

We felt a terrible anger, mainly anger", says Agmon, "we did not really know what to do next. Everyone went to his own corner in silence. It was New Year’s Eve, and the atmosphere was awful. We decided to go and to hold a toast with the soldiers and wish them a

A Massacre Foretold (at Al-Khiam, Lebanon)

A Massacre Foretold

 Hadashot, March 19, 1993
By Aharon Klein (transl. from Hebrew by Israel Shahak)

Al-Khiam was the first [Lebanese] town occupied by Golani’s first breakthrough battalion in the Litani operation, on March. It was 15 years ago. They were told that they will find terrorists there, but the latter had already escaped to the north. But there were Lebanese civilians in the town, who had chosen to remain. They made a mistake; soldiers from Major Sa’ad Hadad’s militia (1) have simply slaughtered all of them. 

The first part of the massacre took place right under the nose of the occupying Israeli army, when Hadad’s forces left some 40 corpses in the town’s streets in between half an hour and an hour. After the withdrawal of the Golani, most of the remaining were ‘murdered too. It is difficult to estimate how many Lebanese civilians were slaughtered at al-Khiam, but by crossing pieces of information and testimonies, it turns out that it was an earlier and somewhat smaller version of Sabra and Shatilla. The Defense minister was Ezer Weitzman (now President of Israel)

The disguised gangster units of the Israeli army (IV)

The disguised gangster units of the Israeli army  (IV)

Haaretz, 20 July 1992.
By: Danny Rubinstein

A Dangerous Disguise

The damage caused by the Israeli military units operating in an Arab disguise in the Territories is growing all the time. When these units began to operate secretly in the first stage of the Intifada, there were some who doubted their usefulness. Maybe they. were needed at that time to report activists and agitators in mass-demonstrations.

Later the units grew and became an instrument for catching wanted individuals. True, they showed some successes, but the price paid was high. Not only a price of errors and unnecessary victims, not only a moral price that we all pay for the activity of such secret units, but also a price of disrupting normal life in the West Bank and the Gaza [Strip] whose inhabitants have difficulties to return to the routine that marked their life prior to the Intifada.

Since 1967, for over 20 years, the security forces in the. territories operated efficiently without the units in Arab disguise. The Defense Minister and the Chief of Staff should better consider if the time has not come to disband these units who have made for some time headlines in the press in various negative contexts.

The units in Arab disguise create an atmosphere of confusion among the Arab public, without any justification. It is easy to imagine an Arab family in a village, a refugee camp or an urban neighbourhood whom unknown armed persons in civilian clothes wake up in the middle of the night with shouts in Arabic. Many persons In the Territories have weapons by now. There are not only the soldiers and the security services. There are also settlers all of whom are armed, as well as Fatah and Hamas squads and members of other factions. There are also armed gangs of robbers and thieves. All of them frighten the people and nobody likes to open them the door in the middle of the night. Everybody can disguise himself to mislead the inhabitants and many do so. Not only the Israeli soldiers and killer-squads may appear in military uniform. Everything is possible.

And what happens if an Arab just walks and young men in civilian clothes threaten him with a gun? What should he do? In a fraction of a second he must guess if these are soldiers, or members of a terror squad who decided to kill him, or just robbers. According to the guess he has to decide if he should run away, or stop and lift his hands up. An error in the guess might cost him his life. The Israeli army is, of course, aware of these problems and various measures have been taken to prevent errors inherent in the shooting and killing, but stories that are spread in the West Bank and Gaza show that units in Arab disguise make not a few mistakes. The Israeli army has formed the "Mista’aravim" units, in order to sow confusion and mistrust among the public which takes part in the mass uprising. But today, when the West Bank and Gaza are returning to a considerable extent to a relative calm, the authorities’ must not be the cause of rousing fears and anxieties by all kinds of disguised people. The sophisticated secret activity of the security services should be enough.

The disguised gangster units of the Israeli army (III)

The disguised gangster units of the Israeli army  (III)

Haaretz, 17 July 1992.    
By: Yizhar Be’er (transl. by Israel Shahak)

The colleagues who made a mistake

"Miscalculation" was the reason given for the displacement of the Duvdevan unit commander in the West Bank by the general commanding Central Command. The decision, the report says, was taken following the findings of the investigations made after the death of a soldier of that unit, Sergeant Eli Isha, who was shot . by mistake by a member of the same unit during art operation in the village of Barta’a. How can it happen that an Israeli soldier is shot dead by his comrades? The Israeli army Spokesman has promised many times that the soldiers of the special units are also observing strictly the orders for opening fire, according to the procedure of arresting a suspect: First you call the suspect to stop; if he does not, you fire a warning shot Into the aIr and only then you aim at his legs. If the soldiers had acted strictly according to this procedure, Eli Isha might be alive today. It is unthinkable that a soldier who hears somebody shouting at him "half does not understand that his comrades made a mistake and think that he is the enemy, neither is it reasonable to assume that nothing is done to clarify the mistake.

The explanation of what happened in Barta’a can be therefore, that in this case the members of the unit (being disguised as Arabs) acted according to the methods really used in it: shooting without a warning at Palestinians who are suspected by them of carrying arms (whether the soldiers are in danger or not) and in some cases also shooting without a warning the masked men who paint grafitti or other unarmed suspects. The "B’Tselem" report published in June, contained cases of shooting without a warning at masked men and other Palestinians, armed and unarmed. In some cases Palestinians were shot dead by mistake because of wrong identification. Others were shot after throwing stones at vehicles brought on purpose by the soldiers of the special units into places where violence may break out – either as a bait or as a provocation. These facts were proven by many testimonies submitted to the investigators of B’Tselem, the Israeli center for Human Rights in the Territories. A famous example is the testimony of the Elimelech couple who saw from the veranda of their Arab friend in the village of Dura, how soldiers, who burst out from the dark, shot without warning at two youngsters who painted slogans.

For almost two years, since the units were formed until the army revealed their existence, the Israeli army Spokesman denied that they exist. After the fact was confirmed, the Spokesman rejected the claims that the units operate contrary to the instructions for opening fire and that the soldiers pull the trigger all too easily. He even didn’t bother to answer extensively the findings and the conclusions contained in the "B’Tselem" report on this issue, and merely rejected them absolutely. He claimed that the report represents a one-sided picture that distorted totally a clear reality. "There is no policy or reality in the Israeli army of intentional killing of wanted individuals… The principle of the sacred value of human life is a basic element in the Israeli army. There is no change nor will be any change in this issue", he promised. 

The cases shown in the report include the shooting at three villagers who returned to their homes in Kfar Kadum in the night, after bringing a cow to a neighboring village. The soldiers who shot the three (one was killed and another was wounded) were in an ambush and thought by mistake that the three were the men for whom they were waiting. The Israeli Army Spokesman claimed after the incident that the villagers had threatened the soldiders with a knlfe and a stlck.  But this excuse must be viewed with suspicion, considering the circumstances of the incident. Obviously, it is hard to Imagine that three innocent villagers who encounter in the night a squad of armed soldiers who call them to stop would attack them at once with shouts of "Allah Akhbar”. But even if this happened and the three threatened the soldiers with only a knife and a stick, why haven’t the surviving villagers been brought to court till today?

The same question must also be asked with regard to the above mentioned incident in the village of Dura, where two young men who painted slogans were shot. An Israeli army Spokesman claimed that the young Arabs were armed with chains and that the armed soldiers felt threatened by them. If so, why were the wounded released to their homes and not arrested (one of them was arrested at a later stage for a short while and released)? Does the Israeli army forgive so easily masked men who are armed with chains? Perhaps have the military authorities have decided that these boys got already their punishment when bullets pierced their knees?

Note 1: The writer is the general director of B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Territories.

The disguised gangster units of the Israeli army (II)

Foreword: There can be no doubt that the two units, Duvdevan ["Cherry"] and Samson called in common "Mista’arvim" (soldiers disguised as Arabs) are simply licensed killers. Nevertheless, much of their membership is drawn from what is considered as the Jewish left, especially from the kibbutzim where these units enjoy the greatest possible popularity, as the items I and Ia show. Item II, although wntten by a correspondent known for his flattery, contains a lot of useful information. The dispute about those death-squads was caused not by their murders of Palestinians, but by thelr failures, as shown by the cases of near suicide or of the killing of their own members. This dispute continues and will be further reported.
All emphases mine. Israel Shahak.

The disguised gangster units of the Israeli army  (II)

Hadashot, 17 July 1992.    
By: Alex Fishman


H. was the first to grasp the enormity of the tragedy. The body which lay next to the center of Barta’a village was wrapped in a civilian shirt, but underneath it H. noticed an army garment. He turned to his friends and said: You killed Eli. A short time prior to that H. had heard the shots and had run towards their direction. When he met with his comrades, they were still certain that they had killed a wanted person. Within seconds they understood what had really happened. Two days after the operational accident in Barta’a, on Friday, Colonel A. reported to the division commander, Brigadier General Moshe Ya’elon. Yaelon made it clear to A. that he was being released from his post and that a replacement is being looked for. Yaelon, to be precise, had been looking for a replacement for a long time. On Sunday, A. reported to his patron, General Danny Yatom [the commander of the Central Command]. This time even Yatom understood that If he will not remove A. from his post, it would be done by his superiors. After Barta’a he could no longer protect A.

For two months the army was seething with displeasure. The regional brigade commanders had constantly criticized the Duvdevan commander, and inside that unit people were angry at him. When after Barta’a he returned to the base, H. stood before a barrage of questions. The comrades tried to understand, but asked questions. It Is doubtful whether anyone of them would have dared to open his mouth. A. was hard with them. With his predecessor the atmosphere was open, everyone spoke their mind iJ, any situation. Officers in the unit used to arrange Investigating Military Police Interrogations for him, which always ended in his acquittal.

The speculations of the unit’s soldiers were a part of a long list of questions which the deputy commander of the brigade, now investigating the Barta’a affair, tries to deal with. He is examining which parts of the battle procedure which they repeated before the action were followed, and which parts were neglected. The mista’arvim, due to the nature of their activity, need to put a special emphasis on several areas in the battle procedure. The question of coordination, for example, is critical. The unit carries out each week dozens of operations in Arab villages with the fighters disguised. In the course of each opepration it must be clear where exactly each one of the "civilians? is going to be. The procedure is supposed to guarantee that. Today, after the tragedy, officers in the brigades under whose responsibility the mista’aravim operate write the procedures on posters in their offices, a bit too late. The work of the officer investigating the Barta’a affair might even end in transferring the file to the prosecution. A. was dismissed, his predecessor left the post in an uneasy manner, and prior to that, the Duvedevan unit was commanded by an officer who was not allowed to continue his military service. The trail of the first commander of the Mista’arvim unit in Gaza, Shimshon, ended last week when he was dismissed by the regional commander of Gaza due to disciplinary offenses.      

In addition the non-complimentary sta!istics of the mista’arvim units, during the recent period there were many additional dismissals in the elite units as a whole: A battalion commander in the parachooter division was dismissed following the death of officer Yiftah Otolongi in a training accident, the commander of an extra-elite unit was dismissed following the death of two of his soldiers from dehydration, a reserve duty pilot of a senior offlcer rank, was suspended after his judgement led to the death of a soldier in a helicopter crash. And that is not the entire list. Perhaps there is a systematic problem of the entire army.

Discipline like in the Unit 101
At least with regard to Shimshon and Duvdevan, the army is willing to admit that it has a special problem in chosing commanders, mainly since the nature of these units is not purely military. In fact, only during the past year dld the army formulate some sort of permanent structure for them. The name Duvdevan was borne by a tiny military unit already before the IntIfada In the mld-1980s. There is little in common between that unit and the present Duvdevan and Shimshon. From the core of another type of unit grew units defined as assault units, dealing with the problems of the Intifada by unconventional means. Shimshon was established in Gaza at the beginning of the Intifada as a special unit of the Southern Command, following the model of Duvdevan in the Central Command. However, during the first year the use of these units was very limited. A long time passed before the army understood that the Intifada will continue for a long time and that they had to produce soldiers suited to it.     .

During these first years soldiers who had been rejected from elite units for some reason or another, were reaching Duvdevan and Shimshon. The atmosphere that developed in the two units was remniscent of the good old days of Unit 101 in the 1950s – less from the level of performance and more on the level of discipline. It seems that even today it is difficult to remove that tradition, although the army is making a serious effort to instill in these units norms of a totally military framework. As the special units of the Command, Duvdevan and Shimshon were the regional commanders’ pampered pets. The General Staff invested in them. The amount of special vehicles purchased for them would not shame a medium sized parking lot of the General Command itself. The results, at least during the first two years, did not always justify the investments. Only two years ago did Duvdevan finally earn an achievement justifying the Regional Commander to be proud of it, when five heavily wanted members of the Red Eagles were liquidated in a barbershop.(1) That liquidation proved that the combination of good intelligence and proper cooperation of the unit could lead to operational achievements. The hitherto wasted potential led to mutual accusations between the intelligence and the army. The army argued: You are not bringing us information. The intelligence claimed: There is information, but you do not know how to use it.

The Mista’arvim operate in small groups. In the beginning the military authorities did not know how to swallow that new profession and to suit it to the frequent changes in the Intifada’s image. Even the officers in the field did not always understand what was to be done with them. What did they know how to do? What do they do better than conventional fighters? There were days in which the teams dispersed in the field wasted their time in routine work, when the then Chief of Staff, Dan Shomron. did not understand why the Regional Commanders were yelling out for additional forces. In check ups carried out for him it was found that at least one third of the soldiers in the special units were not in the field. Some of them were. permanently on leave at home, others were training, others still in educational seminars,and some were at their permanent bases.     

The current Chief of Staff, Ehud Barak, took them under his wing already at the beginning of his service. He knew each week what each team of them was doing and some of the employment problems disappeared. About 18 months ago the Mlsta’arvlm units underwent a substantial turnover. The General Staff understood only then that the Intifada will require professionalism. Therefore, regular infantry companies were esta

The disguised gangster units of the Israeli army (Ia)

Foreword: There can be no doubt that the two units, Duvdevan ["Cherry"] and Samson called in common "Mista’arvim" (soldiers disguised as Arabs) are simply licensed killers. Nevertheless, much of their membership is drawn from what is considered as the Jewish left, especially from the kibbutzim where these units enjoy the greatest possible popularity, as the items I and Ia show. Item II, although wntten by a correspondent known for his flattery, contains a lot of useful information. The dispute about those death-squads was caused not by their murders of Palestinians, but by thelr failures, as shown by the cases of near suicide or of the killing of their own members. This dispute continues and will be further reported.
All emphases mine. Israel Shahak.

The disguised gangster units of the Israeli army  (Ia)

Al Hamishmar, kibbutz supplement, 4 August 1992    
By Avi Benayahu

The young kibbutznik draftees swamp the Mista’aravim units. Excerpts

To be accepted into into "the special units", Duvdevan and Sampson, who operate disguised as Arabs is considered this summer as the highest possible status symbol among the kibbutz youth who are being drafted to the army. They are being swept  by the secrecy, the creative imagination involved by the unit’s actions and by the mascullne image its members have in the kibbutzim and are willing to make every effort to join them in spite of the criticism of those units, also in Israel but mainly outside it … By a special order of the commanders of the Central and Southern Commands, generals Yatom and Vilnay, the commanders of these special umts had to meet all groups of the kibbutz draftees, in order to persuade them to volunteer to these units. The commanders, being well-built and much decorated males with a revolver prominently displayed on their hips, and being equipped with video tapes showing the killing of the wanted as it really happened, made a very positive impression on the kibbutz youth.

I was told lately by the commander of one of the units, that the young kibbutzniks simply swamp all the special units, and that very many of them are already serving in Duvdevan and Sampson with great success. Four young kibbutzniks are competing, on the average, for each free place. It can be stated now that the Chief of Staff’s decision to reveal the existence of the units was intended, inter alia, to remove the hesitations previously voiced by parents and teachers in some kibbutzim, especially in those of Mapam, about their boys volunteering to such units. They used to ask them to volunteer to pilot course, or to the paratroopers. But after the Chief of Staff’s decision kibbutzniks will [not] dare any more to oppose any boy’s decision to volunteer to this most interesting and creative task …