Thanks to reader American Goy for tipping me off to this fascinating story in The Guardian about the almost arrest of Israeli general Doron Almog for war crimes (he was the commander who approved the 2002 assassination of Saleh Shehadeh, resulting in the toppling of an entire apartment building and the killing of nearly 20 civilian residents and neighbors).
I wrote about this dramatic incident when it happened in 2005 noting that I approved of holding both Israeli officers and Palestinian and Hezbollah militants responsible for their assault on civilian populations. I thought it would be an incredibly powerful statement against the Occupation. One that would be heard around the world. It would’ve met with fierce anger and resentment within most sectors of Israeli society. Something along the order of how Serbia reacted to the arrest and trial of Slobodan Milosevic and others implicated in Balkan war crimes. But just as Serbia has come to understand, albeit grudgingly, the reason why this was important, eventually I’m convinced Israel would come to a similar level of understanding, if not acceptance.
What is especially intriguing about the Guardian story is that it makes clear that the British attorney general himself approved the secret indictment of Almog:
The arrest warrant was issued at Bow Street magistrates court, central London. It was believed to be the first warrant for war crimes of its kind issued in Britain against an Israeli national over conduct in the conflict with Palestinians.
The attorney general would have had to sanction the war crimes prosecution before it went ahead.
This means that the Blair government was prepared for the tremendous fallout that would’ve occurred in British-Israel relations. Of course, it is possible that the government itself warned the Israeli embassy about the impending arrest, thus enabling Almog to flee back to Israel, thereby avoiding an international incident.
There are several troubling aspects of the incident revealed in the police investigation. First, the commanding officer on the scene decided not to board Almog’s plane to arrest him despite the fact that it was on British soil. Supposedly, he feared a gun battle between El Al security guards and any security detail that might have accompanied Almog. I’d say he was right to be concerned about such an eventuality. But tell me this–would any Israeli security officer have risked an international diplomatic incident by commencing a firefight at a British airport? The idea beggars belief.
Additionally, the indictment filed was supposedly secret, yet the police reached out to a member of the Jewish community to prepare for the eventuality of the arrest of an unnamed Israeli high-profile suspect:
…Before the planned arrest, Scotland Yard consulted West Midlands police and a special police unit called the national Communities Tensions Team, for advice on reaction in the British Jewish community. A “trusted partner” of the police, a Jewish contact, also made inquiries about finding a lawyer for Almog and raising his bail money, once he was arrested. The document says the inquiries were made “discreetly” without Almog’s name being mentioned.
What use is such secrecy if you inform the community of what you’re planning? Do the police think this individual didn’t turn right around and inform the Israeli embassy of the impending arrest? Do they think in a tight knit community like the one in Britain that such an inquiry can be made “discreetly?”
I would say that the British police made themselves into something of a laughingstock over this. Either that or they didn’t want to arrest Almog in the first place and are justifying their craven behavior after the fact.
Finally, Almog’s “who-me” response to the incident would be laughable if it weren’t so serious:
Almog said: “As a soldier and a general, I have never committed a crime. Many times I have saved Palestinian lives by risking my life and the lives of my soldiers.”
The actions of the Israeli army in Gaza were to prevent terrorist attacks against Israel, he said.
Tell that to this Gazan survivor of the Shehadeh assassination quoted in a Gideon Levy dispatch published originally in Haaretz:
Among the ruins, I met Mohammed Matar, a Palestinian laborer who had worked in Israel for 30 years, lying in the rubble of his home, his arm and eye bandaged. In the “targeted killing” planned by Dichter’s Shin Bet, Matar lost his daughter, his daughter-in-law and four toddler grandchildren. The pictures of the horror from the Gazan neighborhood have haunted me ever since. Someone, I thought, must pay for this. Could it be that no one is to blame or responsible for such an act?
Maybe the Brits should posthumously arrest their former Prime Minister Churchill…look at all the innocent German civilians he killed. Since they can’t do that, maybe they should just disinterr him.
Richard, how the hell do you expect us here in Israel to fight a war against terrorism so that you can feel good about yourself as a Jew?
Richard Silverstein says
That’s precisely the problem you face. You only understand the language & acts of war. You have no idea how to win the peace. You think you can go on fighting yr war on terror forever but give no thought to how you’ll ever stop the war. I don’t write this blog to feel good about myself. I write this blog to lobby for a reasonable, sensible approach to resolving the I-P conflict. And I do this on behalf of Israel with whose destiny I am intertwined. This may give you the willies but tough luck.
If you can’t tell the diff. between Adolph Hitler & Imad Mugniyah then far be it fr. me to educate you.
More than welcome; it is a fascinating story.
What exactly is the difference between Mughniya and Hitler, other than the fact that Mughniya doesn’t have the technological and industrial base at hand to commit mass murder the way Hitler did? Have you noted that a lot of Arabs, particularly Lebanese, but not only, hate him and HIZBULLAH?
Richard Silverstein says
You left out a few things:
1. Hitler led one of the most powerful states in the world at the time & Mugniyah was 2nd in command of a guerilla movement.
2. Hitler’s publicly stated ideology was the eradicate all the Jews of Europe & he came close to doing so; along with almost taking over all of Europe in the process. Hezbollah’s aim is to liberate Lebanese land still held by Israel.
There is a diff. between genocide and resistance though you’d like to obscure the distinction. The rest of us seem to get it though not you.
Also, you seem to think that I admire Mugniyah & Hezbollah, which I do not. It’s Israel’s actions & policies in this case I oppose; & not that I support those of Hezbollah.
Israel is not “occupying” any Lebanese territory. The UN confirmed that. But even if it was, is carrying on an endless terror war justified for this? You are always wanting Israel to talk, I am sure they would be glad to on this issue. HIZBULLAH has repeatedly said that they, like HAMAS do not recognize the right of Israel to exist and will fight to eradicate it. This is what they say.
Richard Silverstein says
Disingenuous. Israel occupies Shebaa Farms. You claim it isn’t Lebanese. Then it’s Syrian. Whatever the case, it’s occupied. Until it’s returned to its rightful Arab owner there will never be peace bet. either Hezbollah, Lebanon, Syria & Israel.
Re: carrying on a war for territory: that seems to one of the primary motives for many, if not most wars. This one is no exception.
As for exterminationism–these groups are pragmatic enough to realize that some of their goals they can realize & some they can’t. And they most emphatically can’t now & never will be able to come close to realizing that goal, if it is one they really adhere to.