The following articles are from Jewish Voice for Peace News. A summary execution is one that dispenses with any preliminary hearings or trial, the dead include women, children or whoever gets in the way. (It would be called “murder” if you or I did it). Israel it appears can do what it likes. I suppose that it is because we as Christians were bought up to believe that the people of the Book held the moral highground. The reality is somewhat different:
The three pieces below report on some of the still continuing ramifications of Israel’s policy of what is known in human rights law as ‘summary executions’, the execution of suspects without trial or due process. Though Israel has been secretly performing summary executions for decades, the term ‘targeted assassinations’ was introduced in the early 2000s to (barely) whitewash the practice, when it was openly declared a systematic state policy.
One instance of summary execution by Israel which received extensive attention and coverage was the killing, in Gaza, of Salah Shehadeh of Hamas. As Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy reiterates in his opinion piece, Shehadeh’s assassination – carried out when a fighter jet dropped a one ton bomb on an apartment building – was an assassination of fifteen people including several children.
Human rights, peace and justice organizations, led in the Shehadeh case by the longtime refusers’ group, “Yesh Gvul” (see the petition).
This cumulative, unrelenting action is making a mark on Israeli consciousness. It has repeatedly forced high ranking Israeli officers and officials to confront the fact that their actions are or may be classified by some authorities as war crimes and that they are accordingly suspected war criminals. Several such figures have had to deal with serious threats of litigation against them, as demonstrated for instance in the item below by Haaretz reporter Barak Ravid.
Another, complementary, change of consciousness, driven by the policy of assassinations, is outlined by ex-pilot Yiftah Spector in his interview with Neri Livneh, in Haaretz weekend magazine. Spector, one of the air force pilots who declared his refusal to follow such orders, describes his background and part of the process he experienced up to and following his declaration. Spector’s interview was published along with a new book he has written on these topics.
No anti-militarist, Spector still balks at the term ‘refuser’, but says that “the whole country, myself included, ‘slid’ into war crimes by going along with illegal acts that have been going on for years.”
Both these developments represent a process of significant change in perceptions of, and attitudes towards, the military in Israel. The erosion of its former impunity is visible and ongoing. While public resistance to summary executions is still voiced by a minority, awareness of their criminality is considerably broader and looks like it is here to stay.
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Last update – 09:57 09/12/2007
London’s burning for Dichter
By Gideon Levy
Avi Dichter will not be going to London. The Israeli dream of taking in year-end sales, the new production of Othello or the sights of Oxford Street vanished before the public security minister’s very eyes. The Foreign Ministry advised Dichter not to participate in a conference there, because he could be arrested for involvement in the assassination of Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh, when he was Shin Bet security service head. The one-ton bomb used to target Shehadeh in 2002 left 15 people dead.
The day after the horrible assassination, in late July 2002, I visited the homes that were destroyed in the Al-Darj neighborhood in the Gaza Strip. The Israel Defense Forces tried at the time to claim they were “huts,” to explain why it was unaware that people lived there. But they were apartment buildings housing dozens of families. The person who dropped a one-ton bomb on them in the dark of night knew it would kill many innocent people.
Among the ruins, I met Mohammed Matar, a Palestinian laborer who had worked in Israel for 30 years, lying in the rubble of his home, his arm and eye bandaged. In the “targeted killing” planned by Dichter’s Shin Bet, Matar lost his daughter, his daughter-in-law and four toddler grandchildren. The pictures of the horror from the Gazan neighborhood have haunted me ever since. Someone, I thought, must pay for this. Could it be that no one is to blame or responsible for such an act?
Shehadeh’s assassination became a seminal event for Israel’s critics the world over. It was not different from many other liquidation operations the Shin Bet had planned for the IDF. In July 2006, for example, Israel assassinated nearly all of the Abu Salmiyeh family – Dr. Nabil Abu Salmiyeh, a lecturer in mathematics, his wife and seven of their children – because wanted man Mohammed Def was visiting their home at the time. In the past seven years, 368 Palestinians were killed in liquidation operations of which Dichter was the founding father.
However, the dimensions of the bomb dropped on Shehadeh and the scope of killing it sowed turned it into an icon of the struggle against Israel’s brutal methods of warfare. A damages lawsuit was submitted in a New York district court against Dichter on behalf of the families of those who were killed. Major General (Res.) Doron Almog was forced to remain on a plane when he arrived in Britain in September 2005 and Brigadier General Aviv Kokhavi, a former commander of the Gaza Division, canceled his plan to study in England.
These people and others were marked as war crimes suspects. Unfortunately, this occurred only overseas. Here, they remain ministers and aristocrats, their career and public status untainted, their foreheads unbranded by the mark of Cain. For years, the High Court of Justice deferred discussing petitions against the liquidations, until it finally gave its stamp of approval in December 2006. Another year passed before the state prosecution informed the High Court that it did not oppose forming an investigative committee to study the Shehadeh assassination, five years after the fact – a scandalous delay. In this state of affairs, those who were horrified by these operations could only hope legal authorities abroad would take action to fix what our authorities have chosen to ignore.
Yes, some in Israel believe that dropping a one-ton bomb on a residential neighborhood merits a criminal investigation. They are Israeli patriots no less than those who believe everything is permissible for us in the war against terror. They are not the ones who besmirch Israel’s name – Israel’s actions are responsible for this; these people seek to put an end to Israel’s actions. They would prefer judicial proceedings be held in Israel, but our legal system is blocked before them. Therefore, their eyes are directed abroad.
The Foreign Ministry already has begun to act against the complaints overseas in various channels. It is a shame that this is Israel’s only response. It would have been better to clarify here, among ourselves, the responsibility of these people for such grave actions as the bombing of Shehadeh’s neighborhood. Meanwhile those who believe that the liquidations have brought us to the verge of a moral abyss must look toward London. Thanks to legal authorities there, people like Dichter are finally feeling “a slight bump on the wing.”
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Last update – 02:17 06/12/2007
Dichter nixes U.K. trip; fears arrest for ‘war crimes’
By Barak Ravid
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter canceled a trip to Britain over concerns he would be arrested due to his involvement in the decision to assassinate the head of Hamas’ military wing in July 2002.
Fifteen people were killed in the bombing of Salah Shehade’s house in Gaza, among them his wife and three children, when Dichter was head of the Shin Bet security service. He is the first minister to have to deal with a possible arrest.
Dichter was invited to take part in a conference by a British research institute on “the day after” Annapolis. He was supposed to give an address on the diplomatic process.
Dichter contacted the Foreign Ministry and sought an opinion on the matter, among other reasons because of previous cases in which complaints were filed in Britain and arrest warrants were issued on suspicion of war crimes by senior officers who served during the second intifada.
The Foreign Ministry wrote Dichter that it did not recommend he visit Britain because of a high probability that an extreme leftist organization there would file a complaint, which might lead to an arrest warrant. The ministry also wrote that because Dichter was not an official guest of the British government, he did not have immunity from arrest.
Dichter’s bureau said in response that the minister does not intend to go to Britain on any type of official or unofficial visit until the matter of the arrest warrant is resolved.
Dichter was already charged in a civil suit in the United States in 2005 for his part in the decision to assassinate Shehade. But in this U.S., this is not a cause for arrest.
British law, however, states that a private individual can file a complaint against another person for offenses such as war crimes. According to the law, such a complaint might lead to the court issuing an arrest warrant, or a summons to criminal investigation or clarification of the complaint by the police, or even the opening of criminal proceedings.
Dichter is the first minister to face this problem, which has mainly affected senior officers in the Israel Defense Forces. Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, formerly chief of staff, encountered a similar problem when he traveled to Britain in 2002 before becoming defense minister. Other officers in a similar predicament included former chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon and former GOC Southern Command Doron Almog.
In September 2005, Almog flew to London and found that a British police officer was waiting in the terminal with an arrest warrant. Almog remained on the plane and returned to Israel to avoid an embarrassing incident.
Israel has brought up the subject over the past few weeks with the British government. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni demanded in separate meetings with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband that the British government work seriously to change the law that harms former IDF officers. Miliband said his government was working on the matter but did not promise anything.
After the incident in which Almog was almost arrested, a joint foreign ministry-justice ministry team worked to hire a major law firm in London to represent Israeli officers if they were arrested.
Senior officials met with a number of the most prominent London firms, some of which offered to provide the service pro bono. But none of the firms were hired, and the idea was set aside.
Web reference: Haaretz
Last update – 10:24 08/12/2007