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Shabtai Rosenne and the Qibya Coverup

Shabtai Rosenne

Shabtai Rosenne, from the days he served in the Israeli foreign service (AP)

Shabtai Rosenne is the 93 year-old Israeli appointee to the panel investigating the IDF’s attack on the Gaza flotilla last month.  He has had a distinguished career as an scholar specializing in international law and in the diplomatic corps.  I’ve written here about the ludicrousness of placing a nonagenarian in such a key position on such a sensitive political body.  But Nahum Barnea published a new charge against Rozen that strengthens my argument.

In 1953, there were repeated cross-border attacks from Israel and Jordan on each other’s territory in which citizens of both countries were killed.  Some attacks were carried out by military forces and some by irregular forces attempting to take vengeance on the other side for the losses of the 1948 War.  Finally fed up with this violence, David Ben Gurion, Israel’s prime minister resolved to strike a savage blow against a Jordanian target that would end the guerilla attacks once and for all.

Ben Gurion and his defense minister, the notorious Pinhas Lavon, planned the attack on the West Bank village of Qibya without notifying the rest of the cabinet.  Foreign minister Moshe Sharett was informed in general terms though given no specifics about the exact nature of the attack.

During an all-day assault, Israeli forces under the command of Ariel Sharon, destroyed 41 buildings in the village including the school.  Many homes were dynamited with the residents still within them.  60 residents were killed.  The response by the international community was, much like the Gaza flotilla incident, pure outrage.  In the aftermath of the bloodbath and the ensuing furor, the IDF turned to the foreign ministry to devise a way to mitigate the damage to Israel’s reputation.

In his memoir, Sharett explains that a plan was devised to deny the army had anything to do with the attack and to claim it was the result of attacks from Israeli border settlements who were angry with the continuing incursions against them from the Jordanian side.  As a result, Ben Gurion released this entirely mendacious statement:

None deplores it more than the Government of Israel, if … innocent blood was spilled … The Government of Israel rejects with all vigor the absurd and fantastic allegation that 600 men of the IDF took part in the action … We have carried out a searching investigation and it is clear beyond doubt that not a single army unit was absent from its base on the night of the attack on Qibya.

We can see that the lies of current Israeli governments find their paternity in one of the august founders of the modern state.

Sharett further notes that at a strategy meeting, Shabtai Rosenne, one of his senior advisors, suggested that in order to make Ben Gurion’s claim credible that Israel should pass a law enabling it to collectively punish the border settlements for their alleged misdeeds.  Sharett was aghast.  He didn’t believe the world would buy the original claim that the army wasn’t involved.  He thought Rozen’s further subterfuge was an insult to the world’s intelligence.

Barnea writes:

Sharett was angered.  He hadn’t expected those advisers closest to him would lend themselves to such a fabrication which no one in the world would believe.

So 57 years ago Shabtai Rosenne prepared lies on behalf of a state which had committed war crimes against Palestinian civilians.  Today, he is called upon again to defend Israeli soldiers who killed in cold blood.  Plus ca change, plus la meme chose.  But this time, we know Rosenne’s past and raise it to discredit the proceedings of this farce of an inquiry endorsed so heartily by Barack Obama and Bibi Netanyahu.

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{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Dave Boxthorn June 18, 2010, 5:19 AM

    “A soldier is paid to die for his country. A diplomat is paid to lie for his country”

    Going by your requirements, no diplomat or ex-diplomat would ever be allowed on any commission of inquiry.

    • Richard Silverstein June 18, 2010, 10:14 AM

      Not true. Believe it or not, there are distinguished Israeli figures who could serve on this committee as long as it was truly free & independent (which it isn’t) whose hands are not dripping in blood or who haven’t advocated patently immoral policies.

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