Reason for Hope and Despair in Palestine
By Stephen Lendman
First the good news.
On May 24, Haaretz headlined "Turkey issues arrest warrants for ex-IDF officers," saying:
Four former senior IDF officers were named. They include Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, military intelligence head Amos Yadlin, naval commander Eliezer Marom, and air force intelligence head Avishai Levi.
They were accused of ordering the May 31, 2010 Mavi Marmara massacre. Israeli commandos attacked the vessel with orders to assassinate targeted victims.
They killed nine Turkish nationals, wounded dozens more, and terrorized everyone on board. It was a premeditated attack against unarmed, nonviolent activists delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza.
They were interdicted in international waters. That alone constitutes piracy. Cold-blooded murder is another issue altogether. In September 2010, the UN Human Rights Council issued damning findings.
It cited serious international law violations. They accused Israeli forces of lawlessly "assault(ing) and intercepti(ng)" the Mavi Marmara "in international waters."
It said doing so "was unnecessary, disproportionate, excessive, inappropriate and resulted in the wholly avoidable killing and maiming of a large number of civilian passengers."
It added that Israel made "a deliberate attempt....to suppress or destroy evidence." It also fabricated its own version of events. Fake videos and other falsified materials were produced.
Under Fourth Geneva's Article 146, each High Contracting Party is “under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts."
Under the principle of universal jurisdiction (UJ), another High Contracting Party may conduct prosecutions in their place. More on that below.
Key also is Fourth Geneva's Article 33. It prohibits collective punishment. Gaza's blockade is illegal. It violates Fourth Geneva and other international law. Isolating Gaza is a war crime. Prosecutions are warranted. High Contracting parties are obligated to enforce binding laws. Failure means complicity.
The Turkish newspaper Sabah said the accused Israelis will be arrested if they ever enter Turkish territory. Ankara's Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, expressed his "government's determination to defend the rights of Turkish citizens."
Whether an Istanbul court will, in fact, indict remains to be seen. It has until about June 8 to decide. Reports suggest Washington is applying heavy pressure to protect Israel.
Haaretz said sources "speculated that Ankara might be planning to use the indictment (to) pressur(e) Congress to approve the sale of armed American drones to Turkey."
Obama approved the sale. Congress balked. At issue is Turkey's hostility to Israel.
Prosecutor Mehmet Akif Ekinci seeks 10 "consecutive life sentences." It's for nine deaths plus another victim still in coma.
Charges included voluntary manslaughter, attempted voluntary manslaughter, intentional injury, incitement to assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, abduction or confiscation of maritime vessels, property damage, false arrest, and mistreatment of prisoners.
The indictment covers 144 pages. Its based on 600 testimonies, including from 490 passengers. Relatives of those killed were interviewed. Eye witnesses are most credible. It's hard refuting what they said. In fact, they corroborated each others' accounts.
Israel repeatedly commits atrocities like the Mavi Marmara massacre. Cast Lead was the most egregious since the 1967 Six Day War. Both constituted premeditated lawlessness. Crimes of war and against humanity were committed.
Nuremberg chief prosecutor Robert Jackson called them the "supreme international crime against peace." Convicted Nazis were hanged. No Israeli ever was ever held to account.
Senior officials especially are culpable and left free to kill again with impunity. It's long past time that ended. Whether Turkey follows through remains to be seen.
Prosecuting and imprisoning high Israeli officials is crucial. Henceforth others will feel vulnerable. So will their US counterparts.
Ending their impunity is vital. Expect it eventually. Israeli officials know it. So far their behavior hasn't changed. Universal jurisdiction (UJ) leaves them vulnerable.
UJ is a well established principle. It holds that certain crimes are too grave to ignore. They include genocide, crimes of war and against humanity. Like America and key NATO partners, Israel is guilty multiples times over.
UJ permits nations to investigate and prosecute foreign nationals when countries of residence don't, won't, or can't for any reason. Israel used it to convict and execute Adolph Eichmann.
A US court sentenced Chuckie Taylor to 97 years in prison for torture. He's former Liberian President Charles Taylor's son. The Hague convicted and sentenced his father to 50 years imprisonment for war crimes and other offenses.
Though never held accountable for murdering Chileans and other human rights abuses, Britain used a Spanish court provisional warrant to apprehend Augusto Pinochet.
He was held him under house arrest for 18 months. It set a precedent. It let other heads of state and top officials know they're vulnerable. Pinochet's bogus ill health claim sent him home. He arrived irreparably damaged and disgraced.
Other top officials who matter most haven't been targeted. UJ permits doing it. Justice demands it be done.
Under Article 7 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg:
"The official position of defendants, whether as Head of State or responsible officials in Government departments, shall not be considered as freeing them from responsibility or mitigating punishment."
No one deserves immunity from high crimes demanding accountability. It's time culpable American and Israeli officials were brought to justice. Delay is unconscionable. Multiple reasons exist to prosecute. Perhaps one day they'll be exercised responsibly.
Those most culpable are considered hostis humani generis - enemies of mankind. War crimes are against the jus gentium - the law of nations. International law was established to address them.
The Nuremberg Charter, Tribunal and Principles determined that crimes of war and against humanity are "international crimes" to grave to ignore.
Tribunal Principles hold that "(a)ny person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment...."
"(C)rimes against international law are committed by men, not by abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit (them) can the provisions of international law be enforced."
The Rome Statute's Article 25 of the International Criminal Court codified the principle. It affirmed that persons culpable of crimes and war and against humanity be prosecuted.
Nuremberg established that immunity is null and void. Top officials, including heads of state, should be held accountable. Western and Israeli ones so far escaped judgment even though fundamental international law affirms no one is above the law.
Henry Kissinger, GW Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and other former US officials check with the State Department before traveling abroad to some countries. They want assurances no arrest warrants await them.
According to the London Independent , Israeli government and military officials express similar concerns. They avoid visiting Britain "for fear of arrest on war crimes charges, it was revealed."
Major General (res.) Doron Almog cancelled a July London speaking engagement "on the advice of the Israeli government."
In 2005, he was nearly arrested. A court-issued warrant awaited him. Staying on his plane saved him. He was tipped off that police were waiting. Currently he's in charge of dispossessing Negev Israeli Arabs (Bedouins) from their own land and property.
Former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni also avoided arrest my means of a Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) legal assessment. Major General Yohanan Locker and other senior Israeli officials avoid UK travel.
Although Britain softened its UJ legislation, it remains untested. Culpable Israelis are loathe to try. Maybe they'll slip up elsewhere. Hopefully one day they'll answer for their crimes.
The bad new is no surprise.
Israel violated terms it struck with Palestinian hunger strikers multiple ways. Gazan prisoners were transferred far from family members to make visitations virtually impossible. Remaining hunger strikers have been tortured, isolated, and denied medical treatment.
Administrative detentions were renewed after Israel promised release when current sentences end. At least eight Palestinians are affected. Mohammed Maher Bader is among them. He's an elected Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Change and Reform Bloc member.
So are 19 other PLC detainees. They include Speaker Aziz Dweik. They're lawlessly held on spurious charges or none at all. Due process, judicial fairness, and appropriate defense rights are denied. Israel can hold them indefinitely.
Agreements its authorities make aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Israel repudiates international law. It scoffs at its legal, moral, and ethical obligations. It brutalizes Palestinians for praying to the wrong God or belonging to the wrong political group or party. Even Jews challenging injustice aren't safe.
Like America, Israel is no fit place to live in. For Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, it's hell.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.