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RESPONSE TO "LICENSE TO KILL"

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 License to bash Israel
By Maurice Ostroff                  

The article, "A license to kill"  in Y-Net of April18, 2011  by Meretz National Executive member, Susie Becher (reproduced in the right hand column) demands a reply.

First of all the headline “LICENCE TO KILL” is alarming, misleading and unworthy of Y-Net’s usual measured tone. There is absolutely nothing in the text to remotely justify it.
 
Secondly, the sub-heading “Concept of innocent civilians largely wiped from Israel’s public consciousness, conscience” is meaningless and bears no resemblance to reality.

Thirdly, none of the three members of the UN fact-finding mission, who “turned on’ Judge Goldstone is a judge as described by the writer. Nor as claimed by Ms. Bechar, did they rebut or refute anything in Judge Goldstone’s now famous oped in the Washington Post. They did not even make a pretence of addressing his reasoning. They merely stated categorically that their minds are made up and that they don't wish to be bothered by any new developments or evidence may influence them to re-evaluate their opinions.

Fourthly the writer’s claim that more than half of the approximately 1,400 Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead were not combatants has been contradicted by none other than Hamas interior minister Fathi Hammad who publicly admitted that the number of combatant casualties was very close to the 709 announced by the IDF, leading to the conclusion that the IDF statistics were more reliable than those provided by various NGO’s.

In view of Mr. Hammad’s admission, there is no reason, other than prejudice, to avoid quoting, in addition to those claimed by others, the numbers reported by the IDF. According to the Goldstone Report the IDF reported a total of 1,166 killed of whom 709 were identified as Hamas terror operatives, 295 as uninvolved Palestinians and162 not yet been attributed to any organization. Of the 295 “uninvolved” 89 were children under the age of 16 and 49 women. According to these figures, at least 60 per cent, and possibly as many as three out of four, of those killed were combatants.

Ms. Becher’s description of the term “uninvolved persons” as “shameful” is incomprehensible. In fact it is a far more suitable term than “innocent” to describe non-combatants, since describing them as “innocents” implies that combatants on both sides are guilty and one may well ask “innocent of what and guilty of what”.

The claim that the police casualties were civilians is obviously incorrect since the Gaza police incorporates the Executive Force which is acknowledged in the Goldstone Report itself to consist of some estimated 6,800 members of the armed wings of Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees.

The statement, with no attempt at substantiation, that there was wanton disregard for human life by the IDF is a malicious damaging accusation that serves no purpose other than to feed the unjustified widespread hatred of Israel and to hinder the search for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Ms. Bechar appears to indicate that the stealing of secret military documents by journalist Anat Kam is excusable because they reportedly exposed illegal targeted killings of Palestinian militants. It is therefore fair to ask how she knows that if indeed targeted killings were mentioned, that these proposed killings were illegal. Tomes have been written by legal and military experts on the legality of targeted killings. According to Haaretz of December 14, 2006, the Israel High court ruled that International law does not forbid targeted killings and Harvard national Security journal published an in depth paper on the subject in June 2010

According to the Washington Post, of February 14, 2010, the Obama administration has authorized such attacks more frequently than the George W. Bush administration did in its final years.

In the circumstances permit me to be skeptical about Ms. Becher’s qualifications to decide and publicly allege that “illegal” targeted killings were proposed in the documents stolen by Ms. Kamm, that Ms. Becher presumably has not even seen.

With great respect, I suggest to the Meretz party, that it encourage its senior members to divert their energies from destructive baseless criticism, to contributing positive feasible suggestions for attaining peaceful coexistence with our Arab neighbors.

y-netlogo.jpg

 A license to kill

Op-ed: Concept of innocent civilians largely wiped from Israel’s public consciousness, conscience

Susie Becher
Published:  04.18.11, 00:01 / Israel Opinion
 

One does not need to read the rebuttal by the three judges who served on the Goldstone panel to understand that that the Netanyahu government’s rejoicing over Judge Goldstone’s Washington Post op-ed and its demands that the report be repealed are unfounded.

 

Judge Goldstone did not issue a retraction, nor did he recommend Israel for a Good Conduct Medal. While he did say his report would have looked different had he known then what he knows now, nothing in the article suggests that the baby should be thrown out with the bathwater.

 

What Goldstone does say is that although there is evidence of cases where Israeli soldiers opened fire on civilians, these incidents were apparently the acts of individuals and not the execution of a policy adopted by the upper echelons.

 

I believe Judge Goldstone today just as I did at the time the report was issued. I don’t think the decision-makers in Jerusalem or army headquarters have crossed that line where they would order the troops to deliberately hunt and gun down innocent civilians... yet.

 

However, the fact that more than half of the approximately 1,400 Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead did not take part in the hostilities, and that almost half of the dead non-combatants were minors, shows that there was wanton disregard for human life, and the documentation of even isolated incidents where IDF soldiers shot first and never asked questions constitutes a serious indictment of “the most moral army in the world.”

 

It was during the Second Lebanon War that former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz coined the shameful term “the uninvolved,” asserting that there is no presumption of innocence when it comes to Palestinian civilians of any age. Years later, this phrase has been ensconced in the lexicon of the Israeli government, military and mainstream media, effectively wiping the concept of innocent civilians from the public consciousness and conscience.

 

This is the atmosphere in which the IDF operates, an atmosphere that constitutes a license to kill.

 

Security trumps law

Everyone remembers that journalist Anat Kam leaked classified military documents, but few recall that the documents reportedly exposed illegal targeted killings of Palestinian militants. This same selective process can be witnessed among those who feel vindicated by Goldstone’s ruminations, focusing solely on his reconsideration of the evidence of war crimes and ignoring the many damning findings by which he stands.

 

More worrisome is the fact that even fewer believe that the acts Kam disclosed are a greater concern than the leaks themselves. In the minds of the Israeli public, threats to security – real or imagined – trump legal considerations every time.

 

Earlier this week, it was reported that the military advocate general is going to close the investigation into the killing of Palestinians carrying white flags who were ordered out of the house in which they had taken shelter in the al-Zaytoun neighborhood during the Gaza war. Among those killed in the incident were several members of the Hajji family, including a three-year-old, another of the so-called “uninvolved.”

 

According to the reports, the investigation is going to be closed because no evidence was found that the soldiers acted against orders. Surely there is no need to elaborate on the associations generated by the “only following orders” defense.

 

True, Goldstone did say that Israel comes out favorably when compared with the actions of Hamas, which deliberately targeted civilian populations and failed to comply with the demand that it investigate the mission’s findings regarding serious war crimes on the part of the Palestinians, but the actions of Hamas are not the standard by which Israel should be measuring its moral conduct.

 

 
A fragile ceasefire between Hamas and Israel is currently bringing calm to the south, but there can be no doubt that its days are numbered. With no hope of a political solution in sight, the rocket fire will eventually resume and Cast Lead II will not be far behind. The lesson that there is no military solution to this conflict remains unlearned, and it will be left to the next UN fact-finding mission to determine the extent to which the death and destruction was “intentional” – as if there is any absolution to be found when children die because of circumstances rather than policy.

 

Susie Becher is a member of the Meretz National Executive

 

 

 

  

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