Last week Defense Minister Ehud Barak urged the UN to shelve a push for an independent investigation into the deadly flotilla raid which claimed the lives of 9 people, one of which was shot twice in the legs, once in the back, once in the face and once in the back of the head from 45cm (<1 1/2ft) away, claiming Israel would conduct it’s own international investigation. But just who will make up this ‘international committee’, will they come with a bias and be impartial and can Israel be trusted to not just investigate itself but punish any crimes?
Haaretz reported the two international observers will be:
Observer, David Trimble, 65 (Northern Ireland) – The first minister of Northern Ireland. A Nobel Peace Prize laureate, he was instrumental in securing the Ulster power-sharing agreement between Protestants whom he represented and Catholics known as the Good Friday Agreement that was brokered by U.S. mediator George Mitchell, currently a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. Observer, Ken Watkin (Canada) – The former head of the Canadian military’s judiciary holding the rank of brigadier-general, Watkin was legal adviser to a Canadian military/civilian board of inquiry investigating the activities of the Canadian Airborne Regiment Battle Group in Somalia. From 1995-2005 he was counsel in respect of various investigations and inquiries arising from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. He has also served as legal adviser to the Canadian navy and to Canadian commanders in Bosnia.
Sounds pretty good, right? I mean the first guy won a peace prize for helping establish peace with the IRA (though, now the US government and US Spreme Court feel that would be an act of terrorism) but in reality, at least according to Haaretz:
Trimble joined the “Friends of Israel” initiative launched in Paris some two weeks ago, in which Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Dore Gold, was also involved. Gold is considered a close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Who are the Friends of Israel you may ask? Being a friend doesn’t sound too bad…except a member of the Jersulem Post staff described it as:
The leaders — who include the Nobel Peace Prize laureate David Trimble, Peru’s former president Alejandro Toledo, Italian philosopher Marcello Pera, former United States ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and British historian Andrew Roberts — say they seek to counter the attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel and its right to live in peace within safe and defensible borders. The initiative is being launched now, its sponsors said in a statement, because of their outrage and concern about the “unprecedented delegitimation campaign against Israel, driven by the enemies of the Jewish state and perversely assumed by numerous international authorities.”They added that it differs from previous such efforts in that this initiative “is promoted by people who are not Jewish and whose motivations are based on the deep conviction that Israel is part of the Western world. In fact, today Israel is a fundamental actor for the future of the West. Although the peace process is important, the members of Friends of Israel Initiative are more concerned about the onslaught of radical Islamism as well as the specter of a nuclear Iran since these are threats affecting not only Israel, but the entire world.”
Oh, so he’s actually a ‘leader’ in the group, not just a member in a group that is extremely paranoid and thinks the world is out to get Israel.
Bah, still, he won a Nobel Peace prize for helping negotiate peace with the IRA so he should see similarities with Hamas and the IRA, right?
Stand firm on Hamas,’ N. Ireland peacemaker advises Israel Lord David Trimble calls on international community to “stand firm” regarding Hamas ahead of the Annapolis conference next month.Comparing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Northern Ireland is “misleading and demonstrably false,” Lord David Trimble, a 1998 Nobel Peace Laureate for his efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland, said last week. He spoke at the launch in Parliament of his report entitled “Misunderstanding Ulster,” published by Conservative Friends of Israel. The lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process had been misunderstood, Trimble said, adding that Israel “is not Ulster.”
Oh….but surely the general will stand up for what’s right? oh, wait, he was involved in a torture scandal and refused to cooperate or answer questions.
Can we really allow Israel to investigate itself in this? After all, look at what happened with their investigation into the use of White Phosphorous during Operation Cast Lead, which Israel’s investigation found:
The results of the investigation, which were provided to the UN over the weekend as a response to the Goldstone Report, found that the two men were responsible for firing shells at the UN headquarters where more than 700 Palestinians had taken shelter.
And according to Amnesty International:
The white phosphorus landed next to some fuel trucks and caused a large fire which destroyed tons of humanitarian aid. Prior to this strike the compound had already been hit an hour earlier and the Israeli authorities had been informed by UNRWA officials and had given assurance that no further strikes would be launched on the compound. In another incident on the same day a white phosphorus shell landed in the al-Quds hospital in Gaza City also causing a fire which forced hospital staff to evacuate the patients.
The Guardian also reported that 60-70 patients died in just 1 hospital unit from severe burns consistent with white phosphorous.
As The Geneva Treaty of 1980 stipulates that white phosphorus should not be used as a weapon of war in civilian areas and Israel denied the use of these munitions for weeks.
The Israeli military last night denied using phosphorus, but refused to say what had been deployed. “Israel uses munitions that are allowed for under international law,” said Captain Ishai David, spokesman for the Israel Defence Forces.
Photographic evidence has emerged that proves that Israel has been using controversial white phosphorus shells during its offensive in Gaza, despite official denials by the Israel Defence Forces. There is also evidence that the rounds have injured Palestinian civilians, causing severe burns. The use of white phosphorus against civilians is prohibited under international law.The Times has identified stockpiles of white phosphorus (WP) shells from high-resolution images taken of Israel Defence Forces (IDF) artillery units on the Israeli-Gaza border this week. The pale blue 155mm rounds are clearly marked with the designation M825A1, an American-made WP munition. The shell is an improved version with a more limited dispersion of the phosphorus, which ignites on contact with oxygen…..
Rows of the pale blue M825A1 WP shells were photographed on January 4 on the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border. Another picture showed the same munitions stacked up behind an Israeli self-propelled howitzer.
Confronted with the latest evidence, an IDF spokeswoman insisted that the M825A1 shell was not a WP type. “This is what we call a quiet shell – it is empty, it has no explosives and no white phosphorus. There is nothing inside it,” she said.
In a statement issued yesterday the spokesman’s office said: “We don’t specify operational details, nor the type of ammunition that we use, but any ammunition that is used by the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] is within the scope of international law.”
On 13 January Brig-Gen Avi Benayahu, chief spokesman for the Israel Defense Force (IDF), said that in its assault on Gaza Israel was using weapons in accordance with international treaties and conventions. He denied Israel was using white phosphorus. ”I repeat Commander in Chief Ashkenazi’s words: The allegations of the IDF using WP [white phosphorus] are false.”
Remnants of an Israeli white phosphorus shell, identified by the marking on the outer casing — M825A1 — have been found in the village of Sheikh Ajilin in western Gaza….. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) reiterated that they would not comment on specific weaponry being used in Gaza but added that any ammunition used by the IDF was “within the scope of international law”.
The Israeli military came close to acknowledging for the first time yesterday its use of white phosphorus munitions during the war in Gaza, but continued to insist that it did not breach international law. As fresh evidence emerged of Gazan civilians being burned by phosphorus, Avital Leibovich, the army spokeswoman, said its use was “legal according to international law…All the munitions we were using were legal, like the French, American and British armies. We used munitions according to international law.
After weeks of denying that it used white phosphorus in the heavily populated Gaza Strip, Israel finally admitted yesterday that the weapon was deployed in its offensive. The army’s use of white phosphorus – which makes a distinctive shellburst of dozens of smoke trails – was reported first by The Times on January 5, when it was strenuously denied by the army. Now, in the face of mounting evidence and international outcry, Israel has been forced to backtrack on that initial denial. “Yes, phosphorus was used but not in any illegal manner,” Yigal Palmor, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, told The Times. “Some practices could be illegal but we are going into that. The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) is holding an investigation concerning one specific incident.”
Here is a video with still and moving images by Human Rights Watch of White Phosphorous being used in densely populated areas including a UN school.
This video may contain images depicting the reality and horror of war/violence and should only be viewed by a mature audience.]
Rain of Fire: Israel’s Unlawful Use of White Phosphorous in Gaza (2009)
HumanRightsWatch | March 26, 2009
They also released a 71 page report titled Rain of Fire: Israel’s Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza
So, after countless denials Israel finally admitted white phosphorous rounds were used and after it was proven they were used in densely populated areas, what do you think the punishment for committing these war crimes was?
Well, that really isn’t that clear….according to The Times
Israel has reprimanded two senior army officers who were responsible for firing white phosphorus artillery shells at a UN compound during last year’s offensive in Gaza. In the first admission of any wrongdoing the Israeli military found that Brigadier-General Eyal Eisenberg and Colonel Ilan Malka were guilty “of exceeding their authority in a manner that jeopardised the lives of others”.
Here’s where it gets good
The two officers disciplined yesterday were served a mild reprimand and had a “note” placed in their personal files noting their involvement. One defence official described the punishment as a “slap on the wrist.”
As if a post-it note was enough of a punishment for a war crime let’s not be so fast because Haaretz reported
The Israel Defense Forces on Monday denied that two of its senior officers had been summoned for disciplinary action after headquarters staff found that the men exceeded their authority in approving the use of phosphorus shells during last year’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip, as the Israeli government wrote in a recent report….. [T]he IDF on Monday flatly denied that Division Commander Brig. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg and Givati Brigade Commander Col. Ilan Malka been subject to disciplinary action by GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yoav Gallant. It did not deny that the munitions were in fact used during the war, however.
The sad thing is lying about a crime and then virtually doing nothing about it seems to be a pattern.
Take the death of cameraman, director and producer James Miller, whose death is captured in the documentary, A Death In Gaza. Less than a month before Miller was shot and killed Tom Hurndall was shot in the head by an IDF sniper as he tried to save some Palestinian children being shot at, put into a coma and died less than a year later. Less than a month before that Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an IDF bulldozer as it tore down Palestinian homes.
As can be seen in the documentary and was reported by The Independent
James, Saira and their local fixer Aboud headed directly for the vehicle, shouting in English and Arabic. Saira was holding a British passport, Aboud held a white flag on to which James was shining a torch. From the veranda, the Associated Press cameraman filmed the scene…..They had walked about 20 metres from the veranda when the first shot rang out. The team froze. For 13 seconds, there is silence broken only by Saira’s cry: “We are British journalists.” Then comes the second shot, which killed James. He was shot in the front of his neck.
“The IDF expresses sorrow at the death of the cameraman who entered a combat zone,” a spokesman said. “Cameramen who knowingly enter a combat zone endanger themselves as well as the troops, and clearly run the risk of being caught in the crossfire.”The IDF said its troops were uncovering a tunnel Friday near the Israeli-Egyptian border that had been used to smuggle weapons when they came under antitank missile and light-weapons fire from Palestinian gunmen.
When Israeli troops returned fire, Miller was hit in the crossfire and killed, an IDF spokesman said…..
During the operation, Israeli forces came under fire from Palestinians, who threw hand grenades and Molotov cocktails, the spokesman added
Wow, an anti-tank missile, light-weapons fire, grenades and Molotov cocktails! That should have been quite the spectacle on the video of the event but I suppose those crafty Palestinians have created silent and non visual weapons since any such thing is lacking from the video of the event.
Another pattern: blame the victim. That might be a valid point had there actually been any attack on the IDF that night.
Initial findings from an Israeli Defence Forces investigation into the affair indicate that the correspondent was shot in the back, with sources suggesting that he may have been hit by Palestinian gunfire.
IDF attorney tells family two-year internal probe had not uncovered proof of wrongdoing and IDF soldiers would not be put on trial…“The findings of the military police show that the commanding officer of the unit at the scene allegedly fired his weapon in breach of Israel Defense Force rules of engagement,” Mandelblith said. “However, it is not legally possible to link this shooting to the gun shot sustained by Miller (to) provide a reasonable chance for conviction.”
The new information sought by the Israeli authorities relates to expert analysis conducted on behalf of the Metropolitan police using footage from the scene Mr Miller’s death, taken by a crew from Associated Press Television News.That evidence, produced from a report for the Metropolitan police earlier this summer, indicated that the shots that night in Gaza in May 2003 came only from the direction of an Israeli armoured vehicle, contradicting Israel’s insistence that Mr Miller was caught in crossfire.
On June 26 this year, this information prompted then attorney general Lord Goldsmith to give the Israeli authorities six weeks to open a criminal investigation, with the deadline expiring today.
The Israeli justice ministry initially responded that it was not prepared to be bound by a UK government timetable……
The coroner, Dr Scott Reid, wrote to Lord Goldsmith inviting him to “consider starting criminal proceedings in the UK against members of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) for an offence of willful killing”.
Despite what Mr Miller’s family insist is “clear evidence” that the 34-year-old was killed by an Israeli soldier – whom Mr Miller’s widow Sophy named at the London inquest – an Israeli inquiry cleared a soldier of firearms misuse and he was acquitted by the head of the Israeli army’s southern command.
So, we go from heavy gunfight, where it was Miller’s fault for being there, to “well, we just don’t know” to “calculated and cold-blooded murder, without a shadow of a doubt.”
Chris Cobb-Smith, a former Royal Marine and weapons inspector, told the inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court in London: “This was calculated and cold-blooded murder, without a shadow of a doubt.”“These shots were not fired by a soldier who was frightened, not fired by a soldier facing incoming fire – these were slow, deliberate, calculated and aimed shots.”
The 10-member inquest jury heard how Mr Miller had been wearing a helmet and flak jacket with the letters TV written in bright fluorescent tape as he approached the soldiers at around 11pm on May 2, 2003. He was holding a torch which shone on a large white flag being held by his interpreter.
A shot was fired, followed by a second – and fatal – shot 12 to 13 seconds later. Several more shots were fired at in bursts hitting the Palestinian house from which the TV crew had emerged.
Mr Cobb-Smith said this illustrated that the shots were deliberate.
“That is not a nervous soldier,” he said. “It is a soldier aiming and firing deliberately. He should not have been firing anywhere near a lit building, anywhere near where he knew there were women, children or foreign journalists.”….
Major Freddie Mead, a ballistics expert, was shown examining the fragments of bullet which had lodged into Mr Miller’s flak jacket after he was shot.
Maj Mead said the bullet was standard issue for Israeli soldiers and said the fact that the bullet had buckled meant it had been fired at close range, “certainly less than 200 metres”.
Footage of Mr Miller’s death was shown to an unnamed Israeli soldier who was quoted as saying that members of the IDF should not fire unless they felt they were under threat.
He was quoted as saying: “There is no chance that it was an accident – the soldier could clearly see him, it was a perfect shot. I do not know what to say, it looks like murder, it looks like he wants to kill him.”
Mr Cobb-Smith said that although it was night-time, the TV crew would have been back-lit by lights from the house. The Israeli soldiers would also have had night vision equipment which would have made it obvious that the cameraman, reporter and interpreter presented no threat.
The security expert was also critical of the Israeli army as it was unable to provide a record of soldiers’ weapons and any ammunition they may have discharged.
“Any responsible army would maintain an accurate record of which weapon was issued to which soldier,” he said.
After the shooting, the guns of the IDF soldiers involved were not seized for 11 weeks, the inquest heard, and even then the soldiers were given two weeks’ notice that their weapons would be confiscated. The Israeli forces, who did not wish to take part in the inquest, were also accused of bulldozing the site of the shooting three days later, destroying crucial evidence.
Any rational person would think the IDF officer was reprimanded in some way and yet…
The soldier who killed Mr Miller, Lieutenant Hib al-Heib, was cleared by an army inquiry and later promoted to captain.
Israel finally settled out of court nearly 6 years later paying his widow £1.5million.
So, I ask again, can we really trust Israel to investigate this incident with the flotilla and to prosecute any wrongdoing? They have proven in the overwhelming majority of cases they investigated themselves they can not be trusted to do anything but brush it aside.
So, I ask again, can we really trust Israel to investigate this incident with the flotilla??