Senator Pat Leahy (Dem. VT), at the instigation of some of his Vermont constituents, is proposing to add three IDF special forces units to the list of those military forces to which the U.S. may not offer aid:
Leahy, who heads the Senate Appropriations Committee’s sub-committee on foreign operations, was the principle sponsor of a 1997 bill prohibiting the United States from providing military assistance or funding to foreign military units suspected of human rights abuses or war crimes. The law also stipulates that the U.S. Defense Department screen foreign officers and soldiers who come to the United States for training for this purpose.
Leahy wants the new clause to become a part of the U.S. foreign assistance legislation for 2012, placing restrictions on military assistance to Israel, particularly to those three units.
Leahy says these units are responsible for harming innocent Palestinian civilians and that no system of investigation is in place to ensure that their members are not committing human rights violations. According to Leahy’s proposal, U.S. military assistance to Israel would be subject to the same restrictions that apply to countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan.
They would join a rogue’s gallery of groups like the Nicaraguan contras and the Indonesian army when it inflicted genocide on East Timor.
The units to be punished are Shayetet 13 (responsible for the Mavi Marmara massacre), the Duvdevan undercover unit responsible for many of the IDF’s targeted assassinations of Palestinian militants (and civilians), and the Air Force’s Shaldag unit. Each of these units has been responsible for killings of civilians that could and should be investigated for violations of both Israeli and international law. None of them have faced any Israel or international legal accountability (and I do not construe fatally flawed inadequate government appointed investigations of Mavi Marmara as any serious form of accountability).
What is particularly entertaining in Haaretz’s article is the flagrant hasbara snow job Ehud Barak inflicted on Leahy in a so far unsuccessful attempt to dissuade him from supporting the designation:
Barak, who met with Leahy privately, was quoted by the senior Israeli official as telling the senator: “The difference between Israel and terror groups or other countries in the Middle East is that we give an accounting and there is monitoring.”
Barak also said the IDF had a strict judiciary with broader powers than the judiciary in the United States armed forces.
Barak was also quoted as telling Leahy that the IDF military advocate general is not subservient to the military command, but rather to the attorney general, and has complete autonomy.
“If a Palestinian is injured, he can approach the High Court of Justice,” Barak said. “The investigations undergo judicial review that is independent of commanders. There are dozens of hearings every year that are based on Palestinians’ complaints against soldiers. They reach the highest and most independent authorities,” he said.
So let’s take it from the top: the IDF “gives an accounting” and monitors abuses. Like the single Israeli officer reprimanded (secretly) for abuses during Operation Cast Lead (and that only because of heat brought by the Goldstone Report) after 1,100 Gaza civilians were murdered by the IDF including 300 children. Or like news of the targeted assassinations leaked to Uri Blau by Anat Kamm, which violated explicit rulings of the Israeli Supreme Court. These killings which in some cases were of unarmed men, were nominally investigated by the attorney general who gave the IDF a clean bill of health. You mean that sort of accounting and monitoring?
To claim that the IDF system of military justice is “stricter” than the U.S. army is saying little. Neither army has a justice system that is worth much. But at least in the U.S. system some soldiers are held accountable sometimes for abuses committed during war. Not many. But at least some. In the IDF soldiers are almost never held accountable. In the few cases in which they are it is usually because there was video footage or the abuse of a foreign national was killed.
As for Barak’s claim that the military advocate general is accountable to a civilian legal authority, that too means little since that civilian authority is predisposed against holding IDF soldiers accountable for their actions as has been proven time beyond measure.
Finally, the fact that a Palestinian may approach the Supreme Court means very little since the Court is inclined except in the most extreme cases to rule in favor of the military. In almost no cases does the Court find that a soldier has violated the rights of a Palestinian. Yes, there are a few examples in which they do support a Palestinian claim. But they are so few and far between that they serve as exceptions to prove the rule.
All this being said, you and I both know what will happen here. Pat Leahy, being a good liberal Democrat from a state with a strong human rights caucus, is going through the motions to establish his bona fides with his constituents. The legislation will never make it to a final vote. It will be quietly withdrawn at some point in the process. Then Leahy will be able to tell Vermonters he gave it his best shot, while also telling Barak that he did Israel a favor by getting the legislation killed.
That being said, I’m willing to accept this as a small victory in the path toward Israeli accountability for potential war crimes. I applaud Leahy’s efforts and if he proves me wrong and stands by this till the end, my hat will be off to him.
Shaldag is not a navy unit.
and neither You or the respectful senator have the slightest idea what the Unit is all about, they do not come close to dealing with civilians.
Shaldag are a commando unit and they are responsible for what the IDF calls “targeted killings” and other people just call murder.
It’s on the Hebrew wikipedia page: http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%99%D7%97%D7%99%D7%93%D7%AA_%D7%A9%D7%9C%D7%93%D7%92
I’ts a commando unit, but their role is classified.
The wiki you linked to mentions their involvement with some target killings. That is not their role.
And if you read the wiki page you can learn that Shaldag isn’t a navy unit.
Richard Silverstein says
Sayetet 13 is the navy unit. Shaldag is the air force unit. I misread a portion of the Haaretz article. So sue me. As for civilain dead, there are many unfortunately who were killed as collateral damage in these killings. Those on the Mavi Marmara were largely unarmed and certainly civilians. I would say it’s you who don’t know what those units do. And I would say that as a U.S. senator, Leahy is privileged to quite a bit of intelligence information about what these units do, probably more than even you know.
I don’t need to sue you for anything. I just would like to point that you need to read haaretz to learn who Shaldag belongs to, and even Haaretz doesn’t disclose what’s the role of this unit is. Which means that YOU do not know.
as for what type of information the senator has, i don’t know, neither do you. i do know that his decision makes no sense, as there are IDF units that spend months operating in the west bank and Gaza. The Units he mentioned do not.
Well, maybe Leahy should simply put the entire IDF on his list of bad actors. It might be difficult to know for sure which individual units are responsible for human rights abuses. Ultimately it is the government itself that is responsible.
Politically Leahy might have decided it looks better to single out particular units if he really does know that those are responsible for particular crimes. But I would prefer we just do as Shaun says below, and scale back all of our military aid to the region, making it clear that we do this in part because the aid is used to kill or abuse civilians. Though making it clear that Israel is one of the bad actors.
While I’m dreaming, then we’d do a serious investigation into our own war crimes.
Richard Silverstein says
Even Wikipedia will tell u what Shaldag does and has done. There’s very little mystery about it though hasbarists like u would have us believe that the Israeli supermen in these units have supernatural & secret powers.
So please be our guest and enlighten us savages on what shaldag do. while at it please explain what Sayeret Matkal does to if you could, i was always curious.
and it has nothing to do with superman abilities. You have no idea what you own american SEALS are doing, and you have no ideas what the units above do.
Richard Silverstein says
I told you the operational mission of each of them is described in Wikipedia including some of the more famous & infamous incidents w. which they are associated.
Since you’re new here let’s give you the lay of the land. I write the blog. You comment. I set the agenda as I see fit. You don’t. In other words, you don’t tell me what to do. If you do, I get a tad testy. And you don’t want to make me testy.
BTW, I never said you were a “savage,” but it’s an interesting choice of phrase don’t you think?
It’s simple: the IDF obsession is with Palestinians: how to control, contain, detain, oppress and kill as many possible and find excuses i.e. lies to justify all of these acts.
THAT IS CRYSTAL CLEAR.
I feel like a parrot.
even after reading the corresponding wiki pages, you have no idea what the units are doing, you have no idea what’s their theater of operations, etc.
as a given you are not aware of the facts that these units do not spend the majority of their time in the west bank or the gaza strip.
Richard Silverstein says
This is yr last word on this. One comment rule is NOT to say the same thing more than once. You’ve repeated yrself THREE times, which is 3 times too many. If you comment again on this subject, you’ll be moderated.
The West Bank and Gaza have nothing to do with anything. Shayetet 13 killed the Mavi Marmara activists off Gaza. Duvdevan kills Palestinians wherever it finds them & certainly operates precisely in the places you claim it doesn’t. I’m less familiar with Shaldag, but it certainly has as many sins on its record as the other 2 units. And I’m satisfied that a U.S. senator has plenty of documentary evidence to damn these units. And if you disagree, I’d challenge you to call his office and ask for the evidence he’s using to make this judgment. If you don’t we’ll know you for what you are–a loud-mouthed lout.
Is this Leonid, not the one who used to comment here already?
Richard Silverstein says
No at all. Leonid Levin not to be confused w Leonid Lyubanov.
“. Duvdevan kills Palestinians wherever it finds them & certainly operates precisely in the places you claim it doesn’t”
That is not true, i never said a word about Duvdevan, I was talking about Shaldag, didn’t mention Duvdevan. and please show me on this thread or other, where did i mentioned Duvdevan, otherwise i would have to conclude that you lie.
Oh, and i did call the senators office, that’s how i got them to issue a response, which i copied in my response below.
I happen to agree with Leahy but I think that the US should scale down all its military funding to the entire region, Israel, Egypt Pakistan etc. At least in Israel this would mean that the Defense ministry would have to rethink many of its outrageous and wasteful expenditure on foreign military equipment that is ultimately unsustainable and irrelevant to the Israeli region, for example the stagnant F-35 project and the various M4 and A4 models which have proved mediocre to Israeli desires and specifications.
The rest of the world would also be forced to spend more money locally and rely less on their US equipped military to enforce their agenda.
Within the US the gradual scaling back of foreign military aid could also have a positive impact. The US arms contractors who receive sweet government deals to develop alternative, not necessarily better methods for killing people, will lose their handouts and much of their extra clout.
Finally I think that it perhaps it should be pointed out the US equivalent of these Israeli units operate in foreign countries in blatant disregard of international law.
Intentional, pre-conceived extra-judicial killing of any unarmed civilian (be they a bystander, a neighbour, a resistance activist, a child or a grown-up) is a murder.
When such murders are routinely committed by military forces against occupied population under their guardianship, the perpetrators are war-criminals.
When you knowingly fund (war-)criminals, you’re an accomplice.
Deïr Yassin says
And Leahy will probably not be re-elected. Isn’t that what has happened to many politicians who’ve put their nose too deep into ‘the special relationship’ ?
Richard Silverstein says
He’s 71 & may not run again.
Either (as Richard suggested) he’s not about to rerun, or we’ll soon hear the old “misunderstanding” excuse, once he’s been reminded of the rules.
Kudos to Senator Leahy. I agree with Shaun about reducing military aid to the entire region. We Americans need to concentrate on fixing our economy.
RE: “Sen. Pat Leahy Proposes Banning U.S. Military Aid to IDF Occupation Forces” ~ R.S.
MY COMMENT: I sent Senator Leahy a brief email in support of this (and thanking him).
• TO SEND EMAIL – http://leahy.senate.gov/contact/
Cool! I’m gonna send an email as well, aiming to generate (conceivably?) some embarrassment when he backs out the legislation “for lack of support.” Make it hurt.
Shaun has the right idea, I think: Stop supporting the IDF altogether.
Thanks for the agreements, even though I am sure we come from different perspectives. I wrote that the US should stop funding all foreign militaries. From Israel to Saudi Arabia.
Money is transferable, “fungible”. If the USA pays ANY money to Israel, that money CAN (an IS) USED to pay for the occupation and the settlements and the murders.
This is the argument, BTW, the USA uses to make it a criminal offense for USAers to give money to HAMAS, even for hospitals and other charities — ANY money given to HAMAS (sez the USA) frees-up money for HAMAS to use for terrorism.
You come across as someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
You take a word published in haaretz, and you do not bother checking it with the senator, which is what a responsible reporter / blogger would do.
““Senator Leahy does not discuss private conversations he has had for decades with Israeli leaders.
“However, the Haaretz article contains significant inaccuracies. He has not proposed legislation to withhold U.S. aid to units of the Israel Defense Forces. ”
and now of course instead of admitting your poor professionalism you will blame AIPAC.
Richard Silverstein says
You come across as an insufferable bore who’s said this same comment more than one time already. I’m rapidly losing patience with you & your shelf life may be coming due. Consider yrself warned. If you violate the comment rules again, you will face the consequences.