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Israeli Military To Investigate Gaza Allegations. Then What?

By March 20, 2009

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By Thursday evening the Israeli military had ordered an investigation into the allegations of misconduct of Israeli soldiers in Gaza during the January war, promising to take the matter seriously.

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That's fine, so far as it goes, if a bit late: Palestinian civilians, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Haaretz itself all called for an investigation of Israeli atrocities against civilians that have been alleged even while the fighting was still going on. The Israeli military and government ignored all those calls.

Palestinians are never taken seriously in Israel when they accuse Israelis of brutality, though they suffer them systematically. Israel has stepped up its contempt for the world community following the Gaza war, leading to what The Times called "a crisis of isolation."

Now that Israeli soldiers who took part in the Gaza war are leveling the accusations, against themselves, essentially, the Israeli military can't ignore the calls anymore. So there'll be an investigation. There may even be a commission, the way there was after the 1982 Sabra-Shatila massacre in Beirut, the way there was after the 2006 Lebanon war, both times resulting in biting criticism of those in charge.

But so what? First off, the investigation the military is promising is to be internal. No independent investigation is being proposed. If it's not for outside organizations "meddling" in Israeli affairs, perhaps the Israeli government should listen to its own people: no less than 11 Israeli human rights organizations on Friday called for the Israeli attorney general to reconsider his refusal to launch an independent inquiry. The groups, as one of them, B'Tselem, notes, remind the attorney general of the "inadequacy of internal military investigations," an inadequacy underlined by the military's response to the week's revelations:

The Military Advocate General only ordered the opening of an investigation by the Military Criminal Investigation Division following the publication of the Haaretz story, three weeks after the relevant materials reached the Chief of the General Staff. This tardiness follows a pattern of failures to investigate suspicions of serious crimes and illegitimate officer orders. Such partial investigation represents only a fraction of the necessary attention into this matter and raises suspicions that the norms of whitewashing serious crimes have spread across all ranks of the army.
The Israeli human rights groups include the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Bimkom, B'tselem, Gisha, Hamoked, The Public Committee Against Torture, Yesh Din, Physicians for Human Rights, Rabbis for Human Rights, Adalah, and Itach Ė Women Lawyers for Social Justice.

Second, even assuming an independent investigation were to take place, the official soul-searching puts a nice sheen of accountability on the atrocities, but the exercise isn't not stopping anything. The Gaza war, its disproportionate cruelty, its enormous death toll (I've said it before but will say it again, because it bears repeating at every turn: As many Palestinians were killed in 22 days in the Gaza assault as Israelis killed in 22 years of Palestinian uprisings--in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) carries the stink of an additional, implied atrocity: familiarity. We've seen all this before. We've seen it in Lebanon, several times.

That Israel agonized over what it owned up to there made no difference. We're seeing it again. And it's embittering to have to say it, but inevitable, so long as nothing changes: we'll see it again sooner or later. If not in Gaza then in Lebanon. If not in Lebanon then in the West Bank. If not in the West Bank, then in Gaza yet again.

This isnít stalemate. It's willful folly. And it continues.

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March 20, 2009 at 10:19 pm
(1) William says:

This isn’t willful folly. It is willful, premeditated, state-sponsored genocide, done in our name, with taxpayer purchased weapons. Is there any further reason to wonder why the US is so intensely disliked in the region? I’m inclined to doubt it.

March 24, 2009 at 11:25 am
(2) Craig J. Bolton says:

Usual generally good observations, Pierre, with the exception of the absurd body count point. [Undoubtedly usual blind prejudice, William.]

But I missed the “punch line.” Yes this is “willful folly.” So? Just what will result in a resolution? Here’s what’s not going to happen.

(1) The Palestinian Arabs are not going to give up their thousand year crusade to regain the nation they never had to start with. The Arab states were successful in creating a UN Agency the purpose of which is to keep Palestinians as permanent refugees who are in a perpetual state of fervor over their “cause.” The Arab states want to do nothing and will do nothing about resolving this refugee situation. They don’t even pay for the UN Agency they created. Presumably they will, however, ultimately pay the same price that they are already paying for allowing and encouraging fundamentalist movements in their own countries. Good, serves them right.

(2) Israel is not going away. If U.S. aid ended tomorrow Israeli Jews would beg borrow or steal enough to continue to exist. And U.S. aid is not going to end unless the U.S. has a revolution in its ideology where it ceases to “set things right” over which it has no real control and generally tries to run the rest of the world.

(3) The U.S. is not going to intervene militarily, at least not for 20 years. Enough of that for this decade and the next.

So, Pierre, win yourself a Nobel Peace Prize and tell us “how will the madness end?”

Personally, I expect to see it get a lot worse. With a new, less morally driven and more comfort driven, generation of Jewish Israelis and an increasingly rabid and unsupportive population of Arab Israelis, I suspect that the Arab population of Israel is likely to join their fellows outside the boundaries of the nation in the next decade – you know, like what happened to the Jews in every Arab nation in the 50s of the last century. Then perhaps William will have additional reason to pronounce his righteous verdict on those depraved Jews, as he sits in his comfortable chair 5,000 miles away?

March 24, 2009 at 11:44 am
(3) Pierre says:

Craig, I agree with you in the main, except for a couple of points.

Why is the body count matter so absurd? It seems to me to be the least absurd, most tangible of the atrocities–indisputable in brutality and contrast.

Second, you have the thousand-year crusade reversed. Palestinians have been at it since 1948. Biblical Jews have been at it since a time slightly closer to Methuselah.

Yes, it likely will get worse, as Ehud Olmert pointed out yesterday, what with the dogmatic scoundrel about to take over Israel’s government. But as for my solution to this problem, which is, believe me, eminently solvable, it’s right here. I welcome your ideas.

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