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Lest We Forget

The Israeli Holocaust Against the Palestinians

What hypocrisy!

Israelis Forbid War Crimes Investigation in Jenin

The nation founded on exploitation of a martyr complex over war crimes, now blocks investigation of its own crimes against humanity

Compiled by Michael A. Hoffman II

Worried that a UN investigation could form the basis for war crimes prosecutions against Israeli soldiers, the Israeli government announced April 30, 2002 that it wouldn't allow a U.N. investigation in Jenin, a Palestinian refugee camp that is overseen by UN agencies, within occupied territory that by treaty is controlled by the governing Palestinian Authority. Nonetheless, the Israeli security Cabinet--led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon--voted against letting the investigation proceed.

The UN investigators were to be led by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. The 20-member UN commission was charged with assessing the civilian death toll from the April 2002 Israeli attack on Jenin, where hundreds of civilians were killed during three weeks of assaults by jets, helicopters and bulldozers in a "zone" closed to the media by the Israeli army.

"There are lots of accusations, lots of rumors, and we don't know what is true and what is not, and I really thought it was in everyone's interest to clarify this matter as soon as possible," said UN Secretary General Koffi Annan.

John D. Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the world body, said the United States is opposed to the Jenin war crimes inquiry. Though the United States was the original sponsor of the Security Council resolution endorsing the Jenin investigation, American diplomats had come to view the UN inquiry as "a divisive and potentially dangerous distraction."

From the Israeli viewpoint, cancellation of the U.N. investigation would be preferable to an investigation it feared would reveal the extent of the war crimes committed by Israeli forces while the media and aid groups were banned from the area.

"Whatever penalty Israel will pay (in terms of lost prestige) is less than the cost of a report that is one-sided and uses terms such as 'war crimes," said Gerald Steinberg, a political scientist at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv.

Annan sent a letter to the Israeli government April 27 assuring the Israelis that their soldiers and others interviewed by the fact-finding team would be guaranteed anonymity, and that there would be no transcripts that might be used in war crimes prosecutions.

In recent weeks the Israelis also refused entry into Jenin by a team of U.N. human rights investigators led by former Irish President Mary Robinson, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, and Felipe Gonzalez, a former Spanish prime minister.

The Israeli cabinet decision reflected a consensus among Israelis that the United Nations is biased against the Jewish state and that any U.N. inquiry into war crimes in the Jenin camp would inevitably end badly for Israeli public relations and Israel's image. One senior Foreign Ministry official said Israel had been wary of the war crimes investigation from the start. "We have every right in the world to be extremely suspicious about anything that comes out of the U.N.," said the diplomat. "We may be paranoid, but we have good reason to be."

As the U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, Kieran Prendergast, noted to the council April 30, the investigation was originally endorsed "on the basis of assurances of full Israeli cooperation" from the Israeli foreign and defense ministers. But when the UN named a team dominated by specialists in international law and war crimes, the Israelis retracted their promise of support. Israeli officials were also outraged by the remarks of Terje Roed-Larsen, the U.N. envoy to the Middle East, who described "horrifying scenes of human suffering" at the Jenin camp. Prendergast said that "with every passing day it becomes more difficult to determine what took place on the ground in Jenin."

In Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said he feared that the UN Security Council would "interpret our refusal as if we were scared that they might discover something." In an interview with Israeli radio, Peres said he told Secretary of State Colin Powell by telephone on April 29: "Our army is still fighting....What do you want, for us to put them on trial? Tell our soldiers that they should show up [to testify] with a lawyer?' We have no intention of letting [Israeli] soldiers be investigated or even give testimony..."

Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian official said, "I think this is equivalent to giving Sharon the license to do it again, to kill again and to commit slaughter again." On April 30, the group Physicians for Human Rights issued a preliminary forensic assessment of Jenin's dead and wounded, referring to the deliberate targeting of Palestinians civilians and blocked access to medical care.

Sharon, who was found by an Israeli commission to have been "indirectly responsible" for a 1982 massacre at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp, took a defiant tone. To him and other senior Israeli officials, the United Nations inquiry is a case of selective investigation, to be followed by spurious prosecution. "No attempt to tarnish our name or to put us on trial before the world will succeed," Sharon said.

The Israelis sought to have American Major-General William Nash, of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), appointed to head the U.N. probe. The position of the CFR is that the Israelis should have been allowed to determine the make-up of the commission: "There should have been more consultation with the host government (Israel) before appointing the members," said David Philips, Nash's deputy at the CFR. "The composition of the initial group created the impression that the mission was being politicized."

Numerous war crimes investigations were conducted in Germany, Poland and Japanese colonies after World War Two, and more recently in the Balkans with regard to ethnic cleansing; and in Rwanda where genocide was determined to have been committed. War crimes investigations held in Germany and Japan after World War II set the standard for such proceedings, establishing the principle that soldiers must be held responsible for atrocities committed during war. Since then, a series of Geneva conventions have defined violations in three categories:

WAR CRIMES, such as mistreatment of prisoners and targeting civilians.

CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, such as deportation and murder of civilian populations, and racial, ethnic and political persecution.

GENOCIDE, defined as "deliberately inflicting on a group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

Several Western governments have also established permanent tribunals for the investigation of elderly persons, many of them refugees from Communism, accused of having committed war crimes against Jews 60 years ago. For example, in the US, the Office of Special Investigation (OSI), was established in 1979 as part of the Department of Justice to investigate "war criminals living in the United States."

The OSI drove Andrije Artukovic, former minister of the interior of Croatia back to Communist Yugoslavia. The OSI deported Catholic Bishop Valerian Trifa back to Communist Romania. Arthur Rudolph, the distinguished NASA rocket scientist, was also investigated and driven out of the US as a "war criminal." In the cases of Alfred Deutscher and Michael Popczuk, the men committed suicide after being targeted by the OSI.

Claims that these war crimes investigations were politicized and tainted by pro-Communist or Zionist bias were dismissed out of hand as an obstruction of human rights and humanitarian and international law.

The traditions about war crimes committed against Jews is central to the maintenance of the Israeli state, a sly tool for obtaining Palestinian land and for portraying a nuclear power with a penchant for pulverizing dark-skinned civilians as a "victim of intolerance." Billions of dollars have been paid by Europeans--and continue to be paid-- to the Israeli government and its agencies as "war crimes reparations."

The Israelis, however, regard themselves as immune from international prosecution for war crimes or responsibility for reparations to Palestinians. On April 28, 2002 the Associated Press reported Foreign Minister Shimon Peres as declaring, "Israel won't sit in the place of the accused. Israel will sit in the place of the accuser."

The AP dispatch added that the Israeli foreign minister described charges of Israeli war crimes in Jenin as,"baseless blame, almost a blood libel, on Israel."

Very few Americans would support "incursions" into the predominately black ghetto of Los Angeles by tanks, helicopter gunships, D-9 armored bulldozers and F-16 jet fighters if a minority of African-Americans were planting suicide bombs in white areas. If the US military were to bulldoze and bomb black ghettos into a moonscape of rubble, with whole families buried beneath the wreckage, as collective punishment of all blacks for the actions of a few terrorists, most Americans would revolt at the injustice and virtual genocide such attacks would represent.

But so warped is the distorting prism of Jewish supremacy in the American media, that the monstrous Israeli policy of collective punishment of the entire Palestinian people is repeatedly upheld by Congress and the White House, in defiance of the Geneva Convention and the definition of war crimes imposed by the Americans themselves after WWII.

The current propaganda line describes a war against the Palestinian people in terms of a struggle against "terrorists," with the racist implication that all Palestinian people are terrorists, men, women and children. A similar racist innuendo was maintained by the American media with regard to the Vietnamese people during the early days of the American war in Southeast Asia.

Iraq hits at UN for hypocrisy on Israel

"The Iraqi deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, accused the United Nations of double standards yesterday for imposing sanctions on Baghdad for eleven years, but failing to take any action against Israel for blocking a fact-finding inquiry into military action at the Jenin refugee camp. 'The secretary general cannot challenge America and its ally Israel,' Mr Aziz said in Baghdad..." The Guardian (U.K.), May 2, 2002.

Milosevic's Deputy Surrenders to War Crimes Court

THE HAGUE - Nikola Sainovic, Slobodan Milosevic's deputy premier, joined his former leader behind bars in The Hague on May 2, 2002 to face charges of waging a 1999 terror campaign against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. --Reuters, May 2, 2002.

Human Rights Watch: Israeli soldiers "committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions"

JENIN REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank, May 2 - A day after Israeli opposition killed plans for a United Nations fact-finding mission into the Israeli Army's disputed attack on this refugee camp, a weeklong investigation by an American rights group found that... Israeli forces used civilians to walk protectively in front of them throughout the incursion; destroyed more houses than needed for "any conceivable military purpose"; and blocked the passage of ambulances and relief groups to the camp for 11 days. The document, based on more than 100 interviews and written by Human Rights Watch, a group that is generally considered fair-minded, concluded that those actions, among others, constituted "strong prima facie evidence" that Israeli soldiers "committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, or war crimes" and called for further investigation by Israeli or international bodies. The Human Rights Watch senior researcher who led the project, Peter Bouckaert, said: "We have no doubt that extremely serious violations of the laws of war were committed. The evidence is certainly strong enough to warrant a war crimes investigation." Yet the inquiry may well be the last of its kind - especially since Secretary General Kofi Annan's decision May 1 to disband the (UN) fact-finding team. --N.Y. Times, May 3, 2002.

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Copyright©1996-2002 by Michael Hoffman

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