War crimes charges for Israel?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to US legislators to help Israel stave off a feared global push to bring Israeli military and political leaders to trial on war crimes charges in the wake of the Gaza offensive, the New York Post reported Aug. 6. Congress members visiting Israel as guests of AIPAC, were urged by Bibi to go to bat for Israeli officials seekng to avoid ending up in the dock at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The delegation included Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), who said: "The prime minister asked us to work together to ensure that this strategy of going to the ICC does not succeed." Netanyahu "wants the US to use all the tools that we have at our disposal to, number one, make sure the world knows that war crimes were not committed by Israel, they were committed by Hamas. And that Israel should not be held to a double standard." (JP)

Palestinian leaders have already filed a complaint with the ICC, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has broached ICC action on Gaza. Now a group of Moroccan attorneys have filed war crimes charges agaisnst Gen. Sami Turgeman, the chief of the IDF's Southern Command and a key architect of Operation Protective Edge—who happens to have been born in Marrakech. They argue that as a dual national, he can be tried in the Moroccan courts. (Le 360, France, Aug. 4)

Akram Abusharar, Palestinian native who lives in California's Orange County, has brought suit against US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel demanding they "cease all military aid to all Israelis and the Israeli government" and declare Israeli military officers "persona non grata," barring them entry to the United States. Abusharar, a licensed attorney in Michigan though he lives and works in Anaheim, filed his suit Aug. 5 in the federal court in Santa Ana. Abusharar says Israeli military forces bombed his family's home in Gaza using "weapons provided" to the Israeli armed forces by Kerry and Hagel.

"Plaintiff and his family have suffered at the hands of the Israeli army over the years," the complaint states. "His brother was killed when he was 16 in 1988 by the Israeli army. His family of over 30 people was nearly killed in the explosion this past week. His father passed away as a result of the siege in Gaza because he could not obtain the proper medical treatment in April 2014. Many other homes in the area have been bombed and destroyed."

Abusharar charges Kerry and Hagel with violating the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, baning military equipment transfers to nations that grossly violate human rights. Court officials in Orange County sent a 60-day summons requesting that Kerry and Hagel reply to the complaint. (OC Weekly, Aug. 6)

Of course, no "double standard" is manifested by these actions. The double standard is that which holds Israel (and the US) above international law. Netanyahu and Moshe Ya'alon and Sami Turgeman should be in The Hague for exactly the same reasons Slobodan Milosevic and Charles Taylor were—and  Bashar Assad will be soon, with any luck. (Of course, we'd be just as happy to see Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld there too, but that is an even longer shot.)

Israeli leaders may be in denial, but this is becoming ever more apparent to the world. The Economist this week notes the case of Henk Zanoli, 91, who as a member of the Dutch resistance during World War II saved the life of a young Jewish boy, escorting him back to his own home village where he was hidden by Zanoli's mother. The boy survived to emigrate to Israel. Zanoli's father, Henk Senior, had already been interned for resistance activities, and would die in Mauthausen concentration camp. Three years ago, the Israeli Holocaust museum Yad Vashem awarded its "Righteous Among the Nations" medal—given to non-Jews who rescued Jews from the Nazis—to Zanoli and (posthumously) his mother.

On Aug. 11, Haaretz reported, Zanoli sent Yad Vashem its medal back. It emerges that Zanoli's great-niece, Angelique Eijpe, is a Dutch diplomat, deputy head of the Netherlands' mission in Oman, and her husband, Ismail Zi'adah, is a Palestinian economist who was born in Gaza's al-Bureij refugee camp. On July 20, the Zi'adah family house in al-Bureij was hit by an Israeli bomb, killing six members of the extended family, including the matriarch, three of her sons, and a 12-year-old grandson. In a letter to Israel's ambassador in The Hague, Zanoli said that he could not in good conscience keep the Israeli medal.

I understand that in your professional role, in which I am addressing you here, you may not be able to express understanding for my decision. However, I am convinced that at both a personal and human level you will have a profound understanding of the fact that for me to hold on to the honor granted by the State of Israel, under these circumstances, will be both an insult to the memory of my courageous mother who risked her life and that of her children fighting against suppression and for the preservation of human life as well as an insult to those in my family, four generations on, who lost no less than six of their relatives in Gaza at the hands of the State of Israel.

Zanoli now joins such voices of towering moral authority as Marek Edelman and Stéphane Hessel in calling out the Israeli state. 

How much longer before the world listens?

Hamas signs Palestinian application for ICC membership

Hamas has signed a proposal for the Palestinians to apply to join the International Criminal Court at which legal action could be taken against Israel, the organization's deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzouq wrote on his Facebook page. President Mahmoud Abbas is circulating a document among all Palestinian factions to win support for the proposal. (AFP)

ICC asked to open war crimes investigation of Hamas leader

The Shurat HaDin of the Israel Law Center announced Sept. 3 that they have asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor to open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. The request claims Mashaal is criminally liable for the war crime of executions without due process because he "formulated, directs and approves the executions and oversees Hamas' governance of Gaza." Further, the request alleges that on August 22, 2014, Hamas executed 18 so-called collaborators who had been convicted of no crime, including a public execution of seven of the collaborators. Meshall currently lives in Qatar, but the Shurat HaDin argues the ICC may find jurisdiction over him because his orders directed the war crimes in Gaza.

From Jurist, Sept. 3. Used with permission.

US court holds Arab Bank liable to victims of Hamas

A jury for the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York on Sept. 22 found the Jordan-based Arab Bank liable for providing material support to Hamas. The plaintiffs were 300 victims injured in attacks by Hamas against Israel. The jury found that Arab Bank conducted business with leaders and members of Hamas, financing a number of attacks in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in the early 2000s. A separate trial will be conducted to determine damages. Arab Bank plans to appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, claiming the court made significant errors regarding numerous aspects of the trial.

From Jurist, Sept. 23. Used with permission.

Palestinian leader accuses Israel of 'genocide' at UN

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of carrying out a "war of genocide" in Gaza in his speech at the UN General Assembly. Abbas said Israeli "war crimes" in Gaza should be punished, but stopped short of saying he would take the issue to the International Criminal Court. His speech brought strong condemnation from Israel and from the US, which described it as "offensive." (BBC News)

UN rights body urges Israel to investigate alleged war crimes

The UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) on Oct. 30 urged Israel to investigate alleged violations committed by its forces during the recent wars in Gaza to ensure justice. Israel's latest attacks in the Gaza Strip, the third in only seven years, resulted in more than 2,100 deaths. Many of those hurt or killed in the 51-day conflict were civilians. The UNHRC called on Israel to uphold the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, asking them to "ensure that all human rights violations committed during its military operations in the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014 are thoroughly, effectively, independently and impartially investigated, that perpetrators, including, in particular, persons in positions of command are prosecuted and sanctioned." Additionally, the UNHRC implored Israel to cease administrative detention of Palestinians, confiscation of land, forced eviction, and construction on the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

From Jurist, Oct. 30. Used with permission.

Amnesty slams Israel on Gaza casualties

Israeli forces have killed scores of Palestinian civilians in attacks targeting houses full of families which in some cases have amounted to war crimes, Amnesty International has disclosed in a new report on the latest Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip. "Families under the Rubble: Israeli Attacks on Inhabited Homes" details eight cases where residential family homes in Gaza were attacked by Israeli forces without warning during Operation Protective Edge in July and August 2014, causing the deaths of at least 104 civilians including 62 children. The report reveals a pattern of frequent Israeli attacks using large aerial bombs to level civilian homes, sometimes killing entire families.

"Israeli forces have brazenly flouted the laws of war by carrying out a series of attacks on civilian homes, displaying callous indifference to the carnage caused," said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International. "The report exposes a pattern of attacks on civilian homes by Israeli forces which have shown a shocking disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians, who were given no warning and had no chance to flee." (AI, Nov. 5)

ICC prosecutor: no charges in Israeli flotilla raid

The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, said Nov. 5 there is no reasonable basis (PDF) to continue the investigation of a 2010 raid by the Israeli Defense Forces on flotilla vessels headed for Gaza. While the prosecutor says war crimes may have occurred when Israeli forces intercepted the Mavi Marmara, any potential charges that arise from the matter would not be "of sufficient gravity to justify further action by the court" as required by the Rome Statute. Bensouda said that per the statute, the ICC must prioritize large-scale war crimes or those carried out as part of a plan or policy. The court, which announced last year it would open a preliminary investigation into the matter, did not take a legal position on the events that happened. The complaint was originally filed by Comoros, as the Mavi Marmara was a Comoros flagged ship, and lawyers for the African nation have stated they will not give up on the case.

From Jurist, Nov. 6. used with permission.