As I noted in my last postIsrael fears UN investigation on its crimes in Gaza

…Israel Today quoted official Israeli politicians as saying that the UN commission of inquiry will be much more damning than the ‘Goldstone Commission’ report issued by a similar committee in the aftermath of the aggression on Gaza at the end of 2008, especially since the “Goldstone Commission” was a “fact-finding committee”, whilst the current committee is a ‘commission of inquiry.’

The newspaper considered the differences to be ‘extremely worrisome’ because the probe could refer its conclusions to the International Criminal Court and bring to trial the leadership in Israel on charges of committing war crimes, should the case reach such a conclusion.

The newspaper said that the Israeli government has formed a team to deal with the commission of inquiry, and the team will focus on facing legal and political campaigns as well as the international media immediately after the aggression on Gaza ends.

It seems that Israel will repeat its claims and arguments that the Palestinian resistance in the Gaza Strip worked from within populated areas and used civilians as human shields, and that this lead to a large number of civilian deaths.

Haaretz reported today that the IDF puts together team to deflect war-crime allegations…

Legal work is being done ahead of possible international investigations like those that followed the 2009 Gaza offensive and the Mavi Marmara incident.

The Israel Defense Forces has established a team to collect evidence on the fighting with Hamas in Gaza in case the army is accused of war crimes. The IDF reiterated yesterday that Hamas had committed crimes, not Israel.

The team, headed by the chief of the IDF’s Planning Directorate, Maj. Gen. Nimrod Sheffer, includes officials from the Military Advocate General’s Office, Southern Command, the Gaza Division and the air force.

The team will collect evidence about Palestinian civilians used as human shields, particularly video documentation by the air force. The officials note a number of events in which Palestinian civilians have been harmed and it is not clear who was responsible. This includes firing on the Shati refugee camp and Shifa Hospital, a military source said.

The IDF also intends to discuss the air force’s target planning, which includes calculations of possible damage to surrounding buildings and sites during an air strike.

The daily Israel Hayom, which first reported on the establishment of the team Friday, said officials from government ministries would also be on board, including the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry.

Legal work is being done ahead of possible international investigations like the ones that followed Israel’s January 2009 ground offensive in Gaza and the 2010 commando raid on the Gaza-bound ship the Mavi Marmara. The new team will also present findings on the conduct of Hamas during the fighting in Gaza over the past three and a half weeks.

Sheffer’s work will run simultaneously with probes coordinated by Maj. Gen. Noam Tibon, who is heading a General Staff panel tasked with clarifying cases in which the IDF harmed noncombatants.

Reflecting back on the ‘Cast Lead’ debacle, Wikileaks, had released this Tel Aviv cable…

IDF TO INVESTIGATE COMPLAINTS OF CRIMINAL CONDUCT BY ITS FORCES DURING OPERATION CAST LEAD

1. (C) Initial IDF rejection of allegations of criminal conduct by troops involved in Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip has given way to admission that some 100 complaints have been leveled at the Israeli military regarding the conduct of its forces during the military assault on Hamas. Media reports, confirmed by calls to IDF contacts that suggested the IDF would issue a press release July 30 containing virtually the same information, said that the IDF is reviewing these complaints and the Judge Advocate General has already ordered criminal investigations into 15 of the cases, although it is unclear whether this represents a policy change within the military or merely a “lessons learned” phase following a major military operation. At least one Israeli organization appears to have played a key role in forcing the IDF to break the silence on misconduct in the field.

————————– 26 SOLDIERS WHO WERE THERE ————————–

2. (C) The allegations of criminal conduct by various organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the International Red Cross have been persistent since the conclusion of “Cast Lead” in January 2009. Individual Palestinians also testified to IDF abuses such as looting, beatings, vandalism of property and the use of the local population as human shields. But by far the strongest reverbration in Israel was that created by the Israeli organization ‘Breaking the Silence,’ which collected testimony from 26 unnamed IDF soldiers. All of the soldiers had been involved in Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, and testified to instances where Gazans were used as human shields, incendiary phosphorous shells were fired over civilian population areas, and other examples of excessive firepower that caused unnecessary fatalities and destruction of property.

———————————– THE MILITARY SPOKESMAN STRIKES BACK ———————————–

3. (C) Brigadier General Avi Benayahu, the IDF military spokesman, is a seasoned player when it comes to handling the media. ‘Breaking the Silence’ constituted a very different challenge, however, as the testimony was by Israelis who had served in the operation being criticized. Their allegations were not easy to dismiss, and Benayahu was careful not to refute them outright or imply that they were untrue or misleading. Instead, he pointed the finger at the methodology of the organization that had gathered their anonymous testimony, denouncing ‘Breaking the Silence’ for making general allegations and failing to investigate the details. As part of his campaign to discredit ‘Breaking the Silence,’ the IDF Spokesman claimed that it had been masquerading as a non-profit organization when in reality it was a registered (for profit) company, even quoting its putative registration number in a live interview with Israel Army Radio. (‘Breaking the Silence’ has not to our knowledge responded to the allegation. According to the media, the GOI has expressed its dissatisfaction with some European governments who have reportedly channeled funds to ‘Breaking the Silence.)’ Finally, Benayahu lambasted the organization for failing to submit its report to the IDF with a sufficient delay ahead of publication — it gave 24 hours — so that the military could investigate the testimonies. In other words, the IDF was outraged that ‘Breaking the Silence’ went public rather than give the IDF ‘first refusal’ on a military investigation that is public only in terms of its findings.

———————————– THE DEFENSE MINISTER STAKES A CLAIM ———————————–

4. (C) Along with his all-out campaign to discredit the report, Benayahu also had the support of Defense Minister Barak, who quickly chastised critics of the IDF. Barak, perhaps concerned both with troop morale and the appearance of his concern, was quoted as saying ‘Any criticism of the IDF from this or that organization is misplaced and misdirected. If someone has a criticism, or information or conclusions about IDF actions, they should bring them to me as Minister of Defense … and to the Israeli government that instructed the IDF to restore quiet to the communities in the South.’ The media has highlighted Barak’s repeated claims that the IDF is the world’s most moral Army. Nevertheless, the allegations of the 26 soldiers also elicited from the IDF Spokesman’s Unit a statement that the IDF ‘is committed to investigating any claim supported by facts’ and that ‘by order of the IDF CHief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi, five investigations headed by specialists in the field examined various aspects of the operation … and that the IDF is currently investigating other incidents which relate to individual claims …’

——————————– ENTER THE JUDGE ADVOCATE GENERAL ——————————–

5. (C) A long-standing joke in the Israeli military relates to the need for an attorney as an essential component of the combat soldiers assault equipment. On the even of Operation Cast Lead, the media put out the word that the plan of attack had been so carefully worked out that it would take the troops through the treacherous minefields of international law, a promise that now seems overly optimistic. The Goldstone Comission, the International Red Cross, and Human Rights Watch are all demanding accountability on Israel’s part fo the 1400 Palestinians killed — according to Palestinian claims — and the enormous damage to civilian property int he Gaza Strip. The case of the IDF Spokesman versus “Breaking the Silence” might indicate, however, that in the Israeli context, the most effective pressure comes from home.

Well, we all know what happened with the Goldstone Commission’s fact-finding report, maybe the Commission of Inquiry will result in actual War Crime charges, if not prosecutions…!

Btw, as I had pointed out the calculations of Foodstuffs for Gaza in my last post, Wikileaks also released a cable on the Economic Siege…

CASHLESS IN GAZA?

Since the Hamas takeover, Israel has designated Gaza as a ‘hostile entity,’ and maintained an economic embargo against the territory. Under this designation, decisions on shekels in circulation in Gaza and the territory’s economy in general are treated by the GOI as security matters, and therefore are subject to the same high levesl of uncertainty that the GOI uses to keep potential sources of security threat off-balance. Israeli officials have confirmed to Embassy officials on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis. The Palestinian Authority’s request for a guaranteed ‘floor’ transfer rate of NIS 100 million per month will not be seriously considered by the GOI until after January 2009, when the Palestinian political situation becomes more clear. In any case, given the size of the population and economy in Gaza, GOI interlocutors find it implausible that the number of workers on the Palestinian Authority,s (PA) payroll there and the amount of money to be paid each month accurately reflect the current size of the territory,s civil service or its future government service requirements, nor do they agree with the PA’s contention that these payments are buying loyalty. Furthermore, GOI officials doubt the effectiveness and authority of the Palestinian Monetary Authority (PMA) to regulate and police banks in Gaza. Israeli officials reject the PA,s argument that denying banks the liquidity to pay PA salaries in full bolsters the Hamas regime. While some acknowledge the gains to Hamas from a weakened formal banking sector in Gaza, they argue that such gains are small relative to the cost of giving Hamas greater access to shekels or the economic benefits they bring to Gazans. A USG policy that encourages the GOI to review its present policies (as requested by the Office of the Quartet Representative and the PA) while pressing the Israelis to approve as much funding each month as possible under security constraints, assisting the PA to improve its regulatory regimes and due diligence procedures, and continuing to foster direct dialogue between officials of the GOI and PA on Gaza issues in the monthly Joint Economic Commission meetings is our best bet for minimizing economic/political gains to Hamas in Gaza.

Meanwhile, in the Knesset today, the hatred boiled over again… Acting Knesset Speaker Moshe Feiglin expels ‘Arab’ Knesset members…

Acting Knesset Speaker Moshe Feiglin ousted, one by one, three Arab Knesset Members from the Knesset on Sunday after they called Israeli soldiers ‘murderers.’ The audio is in Hebrew, but the visible anger of the Arab MKs and the reaction by MK Feiglin are worth 1,000 words. MK Ibrahim Sarsur started the action by citing Palestinian Authority Arabs who were ‘murdered’ by IDF ‘heroes.’ Feiglin pointed his arm at him and told him to leave the podium after repeating his accusation. Sarsur continued his rant, and Feiglin pointed in the direction of Knesset guards, who forcibly escorted the dishonorable Knesset Member out of the chamber. ‘Get out. Get out. Get out,’ Feiglin told Sarsur, who got in his last licks by accusing Feiglin of ‘representing the Nazis.’ ‘I announce to Knesset Members that anyone who labels soldier as murderers will not remain in the session, not even for a second,’ Feiglin declared. Next up was Masud Ganaim, who said, ‘You butchered. You murdered. The army is an army of murderers, and you can expel me,’ which Feiglin promptly did. Number three was Ahmed Tibi, who disturbed remarks from the podium by MK Elazar Stern.

The carnage continued with another War Crime committed today…

To be sure… Israel shells another UN school– and even the US is ‘appalled’

As scenes of carnage fill the screen with news of another grotesque Israeli attack on a UN school this morning the thought crossed my mind, ‘This could not be, so soon after, it must be old footage.’ But no, it is all too real and has happened again. Ten people have been killed and ‘dozens’ more injured when the deadly strike hit a street just outside of the gates of the school this morning in Rafah.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called for an investigation, and stated the U.S. was ‘appalled’ at the ‘disgraceful shelling’ and ‘urged Israel to do more’ to prevent civilian casualties.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon called the attack ‘criminal’ and ‘a moral outrage’ but I’m failing to grasp how this will prevent another incident of gross civilian human slaughter from reoccurring in the following days.

Do you suppose the outrage will dent our U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel…? (PDF!)

Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $121 billion (current, or non-inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although in the past Israel also received significant economic assistance. Strong congressional support for Israel has resulted in Israel receiving benefits not available to any other countries; for example, Israel can use some U.S. military assistance both for research and development in the United States and for military purchases from Israeli manufacturers. In addition, U.S. assistance earmarked for Israel is generally delivered in the first 30 days of the fiscal year, while most other
recipients normally receive aid in installments, and Israel (as is also the case with Egypt) is permitted to use cash flow financing for its U.S. arms purchases. In addition to receiving U.S. State Department-administered foreign assistance, Israel also receives funds from annual defense appropriations bills for rocket and missile defense programs. Israel pursues some of those programs jointly with the United States. {…}

3.1 billion, plus:

Iron Dome – 504 million

David’s Sling – 150 million

Arrow II, III – 44 million and 74 million,

Budget for 2015 is even larger

The U.S. ‘can’t be Israel’s rehab sponsor and its drug dealer’

Meanwhile, We shall live to tell the stories of war crimes in Gaza

In wrapping up…

In Austin, Chicago, DC, and, Globally…!

Namaste…!