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Tag: Gaza War

Is Richard Goldstone An Anti-Semite?

Head of the UN fact finding Mission on Operation Cast Lead, Richard Goldstone, released in the Jerusalem Post an op-ed article, in defense of his, mainly Israeli and American criticizers. The article comes five weeks after the official release of the Goldstone Report.

Switzerland UN Gaza War CrimesThe President of the Human Rights Council announced the mandate that the Report was:

“to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.”

Justice Goldstone maintained in the article that his intentions were entirely subjective. He reminded his enemies that he is former member of the South African Constitutional Court and former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda; that he has a history of supporting the Jewish State, and served on the Board of Governors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. And also that he was highly critical of the “alleged fraud and theft by governments and political leaders in a number of countries in connection with the United Nations Iraq Oil for Food program.”

He explained that

“In all of these, allegations [I] reached the highest political echelons. In every instance, I spoke out strongly in favor of full investigations and, where appropriate, criminal prosecutions. I have spoken out over the years on behalf of the International Bar Association against human rights violations in many countries, including Sri Lanka, China, Russia, Iran, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.”

Since the likes of Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz called him a Jewish “anti-Semite”; Goldstone felt the need to clear things up. “As A Jew” he wrote, “I felt a greater and not a lesser obligation to do so. It is well documented that as a condition of my participation I insisted upon and received an evenhanded mandate to investigate all sides and that is what we sought to do.”

Richard Falk, a Princeton University professor, and strong criticizer of the IDF in terms of alleged violations of Human Rights against Palestinians, predicts that “the weight of the report will be felt by world public opinion.

Goldstone Indicted a Fictional Character of War Crimes in the Past

Richard GoldstoneIt seems that Judge Richard Goldstone – the selfsame jurist in charge of the Goldstone Report accusing the IDF of “war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity” in Gaza this past winter – indicted a fictional Serbian character for war crimes back in 1995.

While we all know that fictional characters can often be really really bad and evil, indicting them as part of an international criminal tribunal is perhaps taking it a bit too far. And is the step from indicting fictional characters to indicting real people for fictional crimes really that big of a leap?

So the story goes, as first reported by Makor Rishon newspaper in Israel, that back when Yugoslavia was breaking up, Goldstone presented an indictment of several Serbs for crimes against humanity. Among those was a man named Gruban, with a silhouette for a picture, charged with raping Muslim prisoners in a Serbian concentration camp. The witness to these crimes was supposedly “Witness F,” who claimed to suffer at the hands of Gruban.

As the picture of Gruban’s silhouette was distributed, all of his details – including description, father’s name, location, and age, were listed as “unknown.” Later identified as Gruban Malic, he was found to have been a fictional character from a Serbian World War II novel called Hero on a Donkey.

The hoax began because some American journalist really, really wanted to see a real live war criminal. So a Yugoslavian war correspondent who probably read Hero on a Donkey, told the journalist about Gruban Malic, likely trying to get the journalist off his back, or simply pulling his leg. He later wrote his own book, Hero on a Donkey Goes to The Hague, capitalizing on the fascination with the silhouetted war criminal with no known description, and how his comment to an American Journalist took off suddenly into an indictment.

The charges were dropped in 1998 for lack of evidence. (Note: Not lack of reality though.) I wonder when the charges against Israel will be dropped as well. Does it even matter?

War Crimes Lawsuit Filed Against Barak

Ehud BarakIt seems our Defense Minister may find himself in a bit of a legal pickle for his alleged “war crimes” committed in Gaza in December/January when he decided enough was enough and Hamas should stop firing rockets at Israel already. A lawyer representing Palestinian families apparently asked a London court to order the arrest of Ehud Barak on suspicion of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. Barak was urged by government officials in Israel to leave Britain immediately. But like a man, he stayed, instead of running away at the threats. As I type this, he is still there, and we don’t know exactly what will happen.

When I heard this, my mind moved right to Ahmadenijad and Gaddafi as they twaddled around New York, the latter actually looking for a place to pitch his tent. Nobody would let him, thank God, and he had to spend the night in the Lybian embassy without a tent, poor soul. Why doesn’t anybody arrest THESE people on suspicion of war crimes? I’d say bombing a plane full of civilians counts, or seeking nuclear weapons maybe? How about just being a dictator? Why doesn’t that count for anything anymore?

The argument Israel is planning to make is that Barak, as an official in the Israel government, has diplomatic immunity, which means even if he WERE a war criminal, they can’t really touch him. But the secret is this. This doesn’t really have to do with legal issues, whether he has immunity or not, or whether he is actually a war criminal. It has to do with, yes, Anti Semitism. If they really want to prosecute Barak, believe me, they’ll find a way to do it.

In my opinion, Israel shouldn’t make any legal arguments to anyone besides the following one: “Be quiet and leave me alone.”

And who wants to even think about what will happen to the dying Labor party if Barak is detained in England for war crimes? What happens to Netanyahu’s coalition then?

Barak is scheduled to meet today with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Foreign Minister David Miliband about the Iranian issue, and was warned about a possible move such as this, which was finally made by attorney Michel Massiah.
The British court is expected to decide Tuesday whether to discuss the claim, which was filed on behalf of Palestinian families hurt during the Gaza war.

The Defense Minister’s office refused to comment on the lawsuit filed against him.

Cast Lead or Lead Weight?

Israeli foreign ministry spokesmen have blasted a UN report blaming the IDF for excessive damage to Palestinian and UN installations during the January Operation Cast Lead military conflict in Gaza. The report specifically mentioned damage and casualties sustained to a UN food and supply depot, where tons of rice, sugar and other foodstuffs were being stored, as well as medical supplies. Palestinian schools and other institutions shelled and bombed by the IDF were also mentioned as being targets during the 21 day operation.

Gaza War Hill of Shame (AP)

Gaza War Hill of Shame (AP)

Government and IDF spokesmen refuted these claims, saying that eyewitness accounts, as well as ground and aerial photos indicated that Palestinian fighters were either using these facilities to fire at IDF units or were shooting Qassam and other missiles at Israeli cities and settlements from them, as well as store arms and munitions. Due to the intense crowded conditions of these areas, if Palestinians were launching attacks from buildings located next to UN installations, or schools, hospitals and other facilities, it was very difficult to avoid hitting other buildings; as often was the case.

The apparent bias of the report, which appear to disregard Israeli claims that the IDF did not intentionally fire on UN and other high profile locations, indicates that Israel is getting the “short end of the stick” in regards to the UN’s apportionment of blame.

A letter sent by the Israeli government to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted specifically that the IDF did its utmost to coordinate all operations with UN personnel, and worked in close cooperation with UN inspection teams following the end of the fighting. It was noted in the letter that the UN inspection team is not a legal authority, and hence has no right to function in that capacity.

Hamas leaders were specifically pointed out as using violence and intimidation against the Palestinian population to prevent them from telling the truth as to what really happened during this time. This includes that fact that Hamas placed its men and military equipment in close proximity to these installations, in order to make it more difficult for the IDF when attacking Palestinian insurgents; something not mentioned in the U.N. report.

On matter that wasn’t brought up was the fact that foreign reporters were prevented from entering Gaza during the operation, and were forced to set up their news centers on a hill outside the border with Gaza; the hill subsequently being named “the hill of shame.” Undoubtedly, a number of these journalists, and their auxiliary crews, are alive and well today due to this fact. But of course, that’s another issue.

No Turkish Delight

Row Between Israel and Turkey Threatens to Damage Historic Ties

The sharp exchange of words at the World Economic Forum between Israeli President Shimon Peres and Turkish Prime Minister Recep ErdoÄŸan over who started the Operation Cast Lead war in Gaza, is a sad and ominous message regarding the deterioration of relations between the two countries.

Prior to the recent 22 day war in Gaza, Turkey and Israel had enjoyed fairly decent relations with one another, despite the increase in terrorism against Jewish targets in Turkey and a rise in Islamic fundamentalism that begun to increase in this country despite efforts by Mr. ErdoÄŸan’s Justice and Development Party to create closer ties to the West, and his efforts to act as an intermediary in preliminary peace talks between Israel and Syria. All that has changed now, and relations between the two countries have sunk to such a low that many Israeli travel agents have cancelled tourism package bookings to Turkey and are considering canceling package tour trips to Anatoly and other Turkish resort locations popular with Israelis.

Turkish DelightPrior to the economic forum conference, held in Davos, Switzerland, Mr. ErdoÄŸan was quoted at a news conference that it appeared that it was Israel, and not the Hamas organization, that broke the 6 month cease fire agreement, while not mentioning the rocket that were being fired into Israel by Hamas and other militants, despite the cease fire.

It is a bit strange, as well as frustrating, that Turkey P.M. ErdoÄŸan could make a statement that Israel broke the truce with Hamas, despite the fact that around 300 mortar shells and rockets were fired by Hamas militants into Israel. This statement, by a Turkish head of government, only re-enforces the ongoing changes occurring in a country that appears to be drifting further into Islamization, and away from the secular ideals so adamantly espoused by Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey.

When Kurdish rebels make attacks against Turkish villages and towns bordering on Turkey’s borders with Iraq or Iran, Turkish air and ground forces retaliate – sometimes fiercely. Some of these retaliations have resulted in large scale intrusions into Kurkish areas, on scales not unlike the IDF’s entry into Gaza. Yet, the U.N. and other international forums have condemned the Turkish government on a much smaller scale than Israel has been condemned. This truth was mentioned by Mr. Peres when he asked Mr. ErdoÄŸan what his government would do if missiles were to rain down on Istanbul.

The right of self defense must be the same for both countries; and Mr. ErdoÄŸan and his government should be well aware of this fact. As Israel and Turkey enjoy a goodly amount of trade with each other, it would be a real pity if this were to end or be sharply reduced.

Labor Party Primaries Hardly Noticed In Israel

No One Worth Voting For - Labour 2007With Israel Labor Party primaries only hours away, and on top of current security issues such as the beleaguered town of Sderot and military actions into Gaza, tomorrow’s inter-party primary elections for a new Labor Party leader seem to be so boring that even the most mediocre TV program will probably receive better ratings.

The three front-runners, including present party leader and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, also include former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and a newer ‘kid on the block’ former Naval Chief Ami Ayalon; who appears to be the front runner, and the only new face among a group of hopefuls whose aspirations are not generating any excitement within a political party which is only a shadow of it’s former self.

Peretz, running a distant third behind ‘Rear-Admiral’ Ayalon and Barak ‘The Watchmaker’ (Barak’s favorite hobby is disassembling and reassembling watches and clocks) still thinks he can pull off an upset and retain his present position, made increasingly unstable in the aftermath of the sensational Winograd Report. Amir appears to have delusions of grandeur, however, as pre-primary polls show him able to garner less than 20% of the party vote, compared to Barak’s 31% and Ayalon’s 35%.

Barak also appears to be suffering from a few delusions himself, as his short term as Prime Minister resulted in Israel’s hasty pull-out from Lebanon in May, 2000, followed by the disappointing Camp David Summit later that summer and the Second Intifada in the fall. Even Barak himself seems to have some doubts as he was quoted recently as saying: “if there will be a run-off, I’ll lose it (the election)”.

Ayalon appears to be the only possible man who might possibly be able to bring some new life into the party which was virtually unopposed in Israeli politics for nearly thirty years. But in light of present realities, even he may have an uphill struggle due to infighting within Labor, together with Ayalon’s personal connections with Palestinian Professor Sari Nusseibeh concerning a two state solution for Israelis and Palestinians; a not too popular conception nowadays with Kassam rockets still raining down on Israel’s southern regions. The aftermath of last summer’s war, coupled with the present Hamas led hostilities in the south, has increased right winged feelings and given strength to more hawkish political parties, particularly opposition Likud party leader Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Natanyahu.

In the fall-out from events which may occur during the coming days (especially if the conflict with the Palestinians grows more intense) it may even set the stage for such people as Arkadi Gaidamak to become even more popular at the expense of current politicians, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who appears to holding onto power by the skin of his teeth. If Gaidamak continues to win friends and influence people, as he has with his assistance to Sderot residents and others in distress, even he might be a possible political leader in the not so distant future. After all, with all the millions that Arkady has, he doesn’t need to be corrupt – he has enough money already.

Labor’s chances of being in the next Israeli government are not too good at this point. But Israeli politics often results in strange bedfellows; and when push comes to shove, this party could very well be right in there again, alongside an even more right-winged government. After all, a deal is a deal, even if the ‘menu’ is not too palatable.

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