This is how it starts. Palestinians and anti-Occupation activists scream bloody murder for years about Israeli war crimes. The world mumbles under its breath: “Yeah sure.” Israel finally crosses a red line with two brutal wars massacring civilians in Gaza and Lebanon. An eminent international jurist writes a voluminous report for a United Nations committee documenting said war crimes. Israel begins to take notice and mounts its own counter-attack. A chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court announces he is considering filing charges against a specific IDF officer.
Perhaps the prosecutor will file such charges. Perhaps the officer will be served with a summons. Perhaps he will refuse to submit to the ICC’s jurisdiction. Or perhaps nothing will come of this particular case. But make no mistake. Lt. Col. David Benjamin , citizen of Israel and South Africa may be the first investigated or even charged. But he will not be the last. In fact, he will be the first of many.
The first case may go far or nowhere. Israel will scream bloody murder. It will refuse jurisdiction. It will claim a double standard. It will claim moral hypocrisy. Many Israeli supporters will bridle with indignation. But as time goes on more and more such cases will be brought. The ice will be broken and moral dam will burst. Israeli officers will face justice. They will go to jail. Their faces will be plastered across the world (and Israeli) press. Finally, the opprobrium of the rest of the world may sink into to the typical Israel’s obdurate consciousness. It may not happen this year or even next. But it will happen.
And when it does, Israel’s standing will fall ever so slightly. Along with increasing successes of the BDS movement and other anti-Occupation activism, Israel’s impunity will end. It will be made to pay a price. And at some point the pain will become so intense it will register for the average Israeli. And along may come Israel’s DeKlerk who realizes the entire regime is liable to collapse unless Israel reaches an accord. Bibi is certainly not that DeKlerk and nothing good can come from him. I’m afraid Israel will have to suffer much more before it understands that its Bibis do not have the answers. But eventually I’m convinced that Israelis will be able to be pragmatic and see a new political paradigm is needed. And there may be one wise enough to become the Israeli DeKlerk.
Many observers are likening this wider world awakening to Israel’s impunity regarding war crimes to the development of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. This is certainly an apt historical analogy.
But in terms of a legal analogy, I’m also reminded about the history of tobacco industry liability lawsuits. A decade or two ago you’d hear every so often of a plaintiff filing suit against one of the tobacco companies. Invariably the suits would be thrown out of court. But some time later, you’d hear that a plaintiff actually succeeded in bringing the case to trial even though a jury refused to find the tobacco company negligent. Then came the state attorneys general lawsuit against Big Tobacco and the hundreds of millions of dollar settlement. Then the CEOs of Big Tobacco lied before Congress claiming their product was not addictive. Recently, the federal government proposed regulating tobacco the same as other products. Finally, tobacco will banned or so tightly regulated that it will be much harder for people to become addicted.
Ideas like tobacco liability and Israeli war crimes are tough to swallow at first. But due to the blunders of an industry and a nation and egregious violations of law and common decency by both, taboos and barriers begin slowly to break down. What once was unthinkable becomes thinkable and even commonly accepted. It will happen, im yirtzeh ha-Shem.
Here’s some more background on the Benjamin case:
The ICC began looking into Benjamin’s case after receiving material from pro-Palestinian organizations in South Africa. The material included a transcript of an interview Benjamin gave to the web site Bloomberg.com, in which the officer recounted his involvement in legal consultations with the IDF ahead of army operations.
“We were intimately involved in planning,” Benjamin said, including “authorizing the targets that could be struck, war materiel – everything passed by us.”
Benjamin served for many years as legal adviser to the GOC Southern Command, and later headed the Military Advocate General’s department on international law.
In August, he visited South Africa to attend a conference organized by the local Jewish community on international law during wartime, with special reference to the Gaza war. Benjamin later described the trip as a “personal hasbara [public diplomacy] trip.”
The pro-Palestinian organizations promptly asked South African state prosecutors to open an investigation into suspicions that Benjamin had committed war crimes in Gaza. To avoid a potential confrontation with local authorities, Benjamin left South Africa several days earlier than he had planned.
At the conference, Benjamin rejected claims that the IDF committed war crimes in Gaza, as well as demands that Israel’s wartime conduct be subject to an external investigation.
Dennis Davis – a South African district court judge and international law lecturer at the University of Cape Town, who directed the conference – said he firmly opposed the remarks delivered by Benjamin, who was once his law student. Davis added that were Benjamin still his student, he would “fail him.”
I find it a delicious irony that Benjamin is the chief Israeli military legal “scholar” used by Alan Dershowitz in his pro-Israel screed film, The Case for Israel: Democracy’s Outpost (I kid you not–that’s the subtitle). This is hoisting Benjamin, the IDF and Dershowitz on their own petard. I only wish Der Dersh would volunteer to serve as an IDF lawyer in the next shande-war Israel prosecutes against one of its neighbors. If he takes responsibility for approving the IDF’s choice of targets like Benjamin did, then maybe he could be prosecuted too. Though unfortunately, the U.S. has not yet ratified the UN treaty and isn’t subject to the ICC. Alas.
I can only hope some of these Israeli war criminals will start being kidnapped and transported to foreign countries for trial, regardless of their citizenship. This appears to be both the Israeli and American way.
The ICC should investigate the US lobby group.
Both the US and Israeli intelligence have known about the so-called NEW facility in Iran for more than a year.
Iran, at this time has no nuclear weapons and will be unable to make even one small nuclear device for maybe one year.
On the other hand, Israel is estimated to have a secret stockpile of between 250-450 nuclear warheads and delivery systems already operational by air, ground and submarine.
That’s the scary scenario – not Iran who is a signatory to both the NPT and the IAEA. Israel is a signatory to neither and therefore her nuclear arsenal is uninspected and unknown. That’s the real problem.
Any nuclear arms reduction as proposed by the US and agreed by existing nuclear weapon states, DOES NOT APPLY TO ISRAEL who still refuses to admit to nuclear arms possession. That means that the US, UK, Russia, France and China, and hopefully India and Pakistan, will start to reduce nuclear weapon stockpiles, whilst Israel can continue to increase its covert arsenal.
Israel demands PA drop war crimes suit at The Hague
No war crime appeals to the court, then MAYBE better mobile telephone connections for Palestinians if they keep silent of war crimes. Simply “comical” blackmailing. Bibi’s “economical peace” in practice.
If Israel has the most moral army in the world, as they claim endlessly, why are they so afraid of international courts?
Because, you see, there is a global conspiracy, engineered by fundamentalist Muslims without doubt, to unjustly and hatefully get back at Israel.
The paranoid conspiracy theories have come full circle. I’m still waiting for “Protocols of the Elders of Islam”. Embryonic forms have been popping up here and there on the Internets.
“Israel will have to suffer much more before it understands…
Please forgive me, but I am fine with Israel suffering as long as it insists upon bringing that suffering on itself by causing others to suffer as it has done from the beginning of its existence until now. What I do care is the suffering that Israel brings upon others. I do not want to see more of that, and I am not overly concerned about what it will take to force Israel to stop.
You’re out of touch with Israeli reality. The reality here is that people rather die standing than live their lives on their knees. They’ve been there, done that.
BDS and demonization of Israel are utterly irrelevant in this context.
On the contrary, Silvia, I am very in touch with Israeli reality, including Israeli delusional fantasies.
William Burns says
Rather die standing than live on your knees? That’s the ol’ Hamas spirit!
Actually, it’s very Masada.
Richard Silverstein says
Richard Silverstein says
I think the illusions & willful ignorance of many Israelis of the crimes committed in their name is becoming increasingly irrelevant, actually. Eventually, all this will catch up to them & they will be made to pay the price. They could’ve found a solution to this conflict years ago. But they chose not to & putting off the inevitable will cost them more the longer it takes to finally resolve the conflict.
BDS doesn’t demonize Israel. It actually provides it a way out of the mess it’s gotten itself into. I don’t expect you or many other Israelis to recognize this–at least not now. But Neve Gordon does & soon thousands more will as well.
Operation Cast Lead will go down in history as the most moral war ever fought against an evil enemy who stopped at nothing -including sacrificing its own citizens – to win the world’s sympathy.
Silvia darling, Zionist man-milk can be hazardous to your mental health. Happy new year babykilla’.
Did you mean: Operation [Drop Dead] will go down in history as the most moral war [Hamas] ever fought against an evil enemy who stopped at nothing – including sacrificing [Palestinian] citizens – to win the world’s sympathy by any chance?
Earlier you wrote that Israelis would “rather die standing than live their lives on their knees.” If Palestinians are denied the same, then that is racism. Alas, as we all know racism is second nature to most Israelis.
You’re right that Jews have “been there, done that,” but that is not something to be bragging about if one has not learned much from it.
In February this year, the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen made an Israel-friendly post-Drop Dead documentary on Gaza for the Panorama series which is worth watching (it’s a half hour long: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00hk9p7 ). The documentary tells the well-known story of Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish’s experience during the conflict. The doctor lost three of his daughters to Israeli tank shells after the IDF thought they saw Hamas spotters in a building where the three girls were studying – in their bedroom, on the second floor (third if you’re American) of their 5-storey house. So the IDF aimed their tank’s gun at the bedroom and fired two shells, blowing the three girls to bits. In the documentary Jeremy Bowen asked Israeli Cabinet Minister, Meir Shitreet, why the IDF fired on Dr Abuelaish’s house. The interview went like this:
JB: What about the case of Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish? Now, the official Israeli army enquiry said that that was a reasonable decision to take in the cicumstances to attack his home. How can it be reasonable?
MS: Of course, we are very sorry for what happened to him.
JB: He was very angry with the Israeli army, I spoke to him…
MS: If somebody has to be blamed it would be Hamas. Because, when Hamas is holding – inside a very high density area – explosives, missiles, arsenals of weapons, what do you expect us to do? To say that now we’re not…aren’t doing anything?
JB: There were no weapons in his house.
MS: No but, by…by…BY his house there was a weapon. That’s exactly the problem.
So, the IDF claims they were firing at Hamas spotters on the second floor (third if you’re American) of the doctor’s 5-storey house. And the Israeli cabinet claims the IDF were firing at an arsenal of Hamas weapons BY the house. Bear in mind, a tank’s gun has to be aimed at something and the shell fired will follow the trajectory of the gun in a straight line until gravity drags it down. Unless the Israeli military is in possession of tank shells that defy the laws of physics, this episode is another prominent example of an Israeli war crime. And all the spin in the world won’t make it otherwise.
As the laws of physics are invoked, allow me to state the obvious — tank rounds often go astray. They may be improperly aimed, and their charges (the powder that fires the shell) may have been improperly stored or loaded. It’s not what you see in the movies.
The real question is whether the shell should have been fired at all. Let the courts decide. Let the laws of war be invoked.
I would be delighted if the ICC brings charges against IDF members using unnecessary or disproportionate force. Having met and worked with 14 of the 18 ICC judges, I believe that if it is within their power to bring charges, they will. However, they are driven by the criminality of the thing, not the politics or the weight of numbers killed. If they feel they have jurisdiction (under an oddity I detailed in another post) they will CERTAINLY get around to bringing Hamas rocketeers to trial as well, and maybe functionaries in the big powers (the US, Iran, etc.) that finance the mayhem and give license to target civilians).
“As the laws of physics are invoked, allow me to state the obvious — tank rounds often go astray.”
Oh, come on! This is the oldest IOF excuse in the book. They use it nearly every time they kill children. It was a “mistake”. We really weren’t aiming at three schoolgirls studying in their bedroom on the second floor, we were aiming at – ummmm – oh, there was a Hamas guy across the street – yeah, that’s it, a Hamas guy across the street. If the IOF makes as many mistakes as it claims it does, then it has got to be the most incompetent military in the world. And the problem with this particular incident is that they have changed their story so many times that you have to know they are covering up.
Israel has targeted civilians, including children, as a regular practice since the pre-state period. 1948 was all about grabbing more territory, and getting rid of as many of the Palestinian inhabitants as possible, and it didn’t end there. It is as obvious as anything can possibly be that their primary target in Gaza was civilians and civilian infrastructure. Nobody kills such a high percentage of civilians, and in particular such a high percentage of children by mistake. My god, they scheduled their first surprise attack on Gaza at exactly the time that kids would be walking home from school, and therefore out in the open streets. Does anyone seriously believe that they did not know what they were doing?
Give us a break, Steve, please, from your pompous harrumphing apologetics. The only people who are going to buy them are our little band of hasbarists.
You’re right, it’s not like in the movies. They are far, far more accurate than typically portrayed in the movies.
Look, I had this discussion at Mondoweiss several months before. There is simply no way to miss a stationary target with a 120mm, Rheinmetall-clone type tank gun at such a short distance – unless there was some major technical defect.
And since no such defect was mentioned in the report the IDF produced about the killing of Dr. Al-Aish’s daughters – indeed no technical difficulties of any kind were mentioned – we can safely conclude that they hit exactly what they aimed at.
All the report said amounted to: There were “suspicious figures” moving in the house, so we fired at it. And it is quite obvious that said “suspicious figures” were the Doctor’s family.
Sorry. I’ve followed the “defense” industry for 40 years and have written major technical texts on quality control. I’ve also been inside US tanks, underway and during simulated firings (a laser rather than a shell records the hits).
I’ve watched supposedly well trained soldiers firing all kinds of weapons, and making gross mistakes while aiming them in SIMULATED battles. Imagine the mistake levels in real battles!
Stationary tanks firing at stationary targets using the 120 mm smoothbore cannon and normal rounds (without terminal guidance) hit within 20 feet of aiming point at 300 yards only 90-95% of the time. 20 feet is the difference between two floors in a house. MOVING tanks only do 70-80%. These numbers are for the Abrams, the best US tank. I believe the Israelis use the same guns and aiming platform on their tanks.
Shells that HAVE terminal guidance can only be used at very long ranges — not in an urban setting.
That’s why I said the crime was in firing at all.
I do admire IDT intelligence that pinpointed the girls in that particular room and deliberately decided to kill them, I guess for the crimes of being Palestinian and for staying on the top floor of a building while tank shells were being fired.
Isn’t it enough to note that the firing of the shell itself in this case is almost certainly a violation of the Geneva Convention? Why make up additional facts about imaginary magical tanks? (I have my opinion on that….)
So, if the IOF had been aiming at a “suspicious figure” on the ground, as one of their several stories has it, they had only a 5-10% chance of missing by more than 20 feet. What are the chances that they would miss by 60 feet vertically, and more than 20 feet horizontally? And if, say, even 50% of the civilian targets they hit are due to the inherent 5-10% inaccuracy of their weapons, how is it that they manage to hit civilians and civilian targets far more often than they hit combatants? And why can’t they pick one story and stick to it? Why do they keep changing their stories?
And how DO you explain the fact that they scheduled the first masive attack in the Gaza massacre – the only one that was bound to be completely unexpected – precisely when hundreds of thousands of school children would be out in the open on the streets walking home from school. Do you actually believe that was not calculated?
And no, it is not enough to note that firing the shell itself was a crime. That is only the beginning – the base crime, if you will – of that incident. The crime is compounded and compounded by layer upon layer of additional crimes. Oh – and if memory serves, they did not fire on and hit the house only once, but at least two or three times, I believe. Are you suggesting that each time they were off by 60 feet vertically and more than 20 feet horizontally? If so, then at least the weapons are consistently inaccurate, aren’t they?
I dunno where your data are from. They are apparently faulty, or misinterpreted. (And yes, I served in the military.)
We are talking about very short ranges here. The inherent accuracy of even considerably more primitive weapons is more than enough to practically guarantee a hit in this case. A miss would have been a remarkable enough error to be mentioned in the IDF report – which it wasn’t.
Obviously there is a lot of inaccuracy in combat.Most of the IDF casualties were inflicted by the IDF. Duh.
“And how DO you explain the fact that they scheduled the first masive attack in the Gaza massacre – the only one that was bound to be completely unexpected – precisely when hundreds of thousands of school children would be out in the open on the streets walking home from school. Do you actually believe that was not calculated?”
You have repeated that slander so many times I feel I have to address it. You see, children didn’t go to school and were not in the street that day. And they were not in school because long before the attacks phone calls were made both to institutions and residents in Gaza that an attack was imminent. Leaflets were dropped as well. The media knew it, Gazans were interviewed about it on Israeli radio, and they had plenty of time to take cover.
Inexpected? Surprise? Children in the streets? Hardly.
However, I am certain than someone like you, “devoutly” -in your own words – dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the suffering of the Jews, didn’t feel anything when for 8 years, Sderot children were pounded with rockets day in day out precisely at the time children went to and from their schools.
Richard Silverstein says
What planet are you on, Silvia? There was no warning to Gazans BEFORE the invasion though there certainly were warnings AFTER the troops were already there. Why would the IDF have warned Gazans they were invading BEFORE they did so thus eliminating what little element of surprise there might’ve been?
Silvia, the next time you make such a piece of garbage statement like this you’ll be banned. The only reason I don’t do so now is that I’m bending over backwards not to be overly harsh to right wing commenters like you. But you are sorely testing my patience.
That would mean there must’ve been scores of such children killed and wounded, right? So how many were there, Silvia? And how does this number compare with the number of children killed by the IDF during the Gaza war?
“children didn’t go to school and were not in the street that day. And they were not in school because long before the attacks phone calls were made both to institutions and residents in Gaza that an attack was imminent.”
That is a transparent lie.
“someone like you, “devoutly” -in your own words – dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the suffering of the Jews”
And that is a libelous statement.
Looks like cracks are starting to show in the wall of immunity. Let’s hope this means the apartheid wall will be crumbling soon too.
I haven’t been keeping up lately, but where is Richard Witty? Did he get banished or is he MIA? Is he OK or is he Silvia?
Richard Silverstein says
Richard continues to haunt the threads though not as intensively as he used to. But there’s something about his comments lately that make them even less coherent than normal. I hope he’s OK.
Come on, Richard Witty is hardly a Silvia type. Poor guy is trying to walk on both sides of the street at once, and is therefore very confused. No wonder he is rarely coherent. I suspect he knows what is right, and simply cannot get past the denial dictated by his lifelong Zionist indoctrination. It takes a lot of strength to do that, and most do not have it.
What are the chances this incident will be investigated by any body?
[URL deleted per comment rules]
Richard Silverstein says
If you do this again, you will be banned. You know my rules about hateful propaganda. Besides, how do we know what this video is documenting? Can you prove what it’s about? Unless you can, I don’t want here any reference to this bullshit (the video shows people being executed by firing squad to a soundtrack of Arabic music).
I find what you’ve done here vile. Do anything like it again & you’ll lose yr privileges.
Fine. But I made no claims about what the video is documenting. But you can be sure that wherever the video was taken, whether in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan Gaza or other, no international “human rights group” will try to track down the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
And speaking of your rules, Andrew called Sylvia a “babykilla”. Is that consistent with your rules?
Richard Silverstein says
No, I’m not comfortable with calling anyone a babykiller & thanks for bringing that to my attention. It is entirely inappropriate.
Before anyone brings such video material to the attention of my readers I’d like them to do the research to discover what it is they’re watching. I don’t make it a habit of denouncing Arab countries & their actions w/o being able to document what it & who it is I’m denouncing & why.
Thanks for the answer, Mr. Silverstein. I really have been wondering what happened to him. I hope he’s okay, too. I don’t agree with him, but I don’t wish him any ill will.