Smoke and Mirrors – On the Hardships of Self-Inquiry
By Tali Shapiro at Oct 28, 2009
Looking in the mirror is no easy task. Especially when your eyes are smoked by Zionism. Now that impunity is slowly diminishing, Israel finds itself stuck between the Goldstone and a hard place. How does the spoiled brat of the Middle East deal with the fact that years of stealing cookies from the cookie jar have left his face covered in damning chocolate?
Common Sense Solutions to Self-Inquiry
For weeks now, the Goldstone report has gained its rightful place in the Israeli mainstream media- the front page. At first, articles were all about the “one-sidedness” and the “antesemitism” of the report. Now, what we’re seeing is a consistent media push for self-inquiry. Not because we have some ethical ‘splaining to do, mind you, but because Israel’s public image is in jeopardy. Ha’aretz’s diplomatic correspondent (and a fellow at the Israeli Institute For National Security Studies), Aluf Benn- a shining example of this “practical strategic thinking”- finally remembers to ask some tough questions:
I want to know how and why it was decided to embark on Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip and to expand it into a ground offensive. I want to know if the decisions were affected by the Israeli election campaign then underway and the change in U.S. presidents. I want to know if the leaders who launched the operation correctly judged the political damage it would cause Israel and what they did to minimize it. I want to know if those who gave orders to the Israel Defense Forces assumed that hundreds of Palestinian civilians would be killed, and how they tried to prevent this. These questions should be at the center of an investigation into Operation Cast Lead. An investigation is necessary because of the political complexities that resulted from the operation, the serious harm to Palestinian civilians, the Goldstone report and its claims of war crimes, and the limits that will be imposed on the IDF's freedom of operation in the future.
Not how I would put it, but I’m just a treacherous minority anyway. Unsurprisingly, the government is less determined to inquire. If I were to initiate an inquiry that would implicate me in crimes against humanity, maybe I would think twice, too. Ehud Barak, the architect of Cast Lead, has been at the forefront of the motion to suppress the Goldstone report, exercising a flipped version of an old Muslim proverb: If Mohammed won’t go to the Mountain, the mountain will come to Mohammed:
We will launch an internal discussion in order to amend the rules of warfare, in order to deal efficiently with terror coming out of crowded areas and constructed areas.
Suitably to a military man, Barak’s focus is, of course, military. It’s hard to tell who’s cuddly brainchild this is, as Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is also one of the jackasses leading the band wagon for changing the laws of war, in favor of attacking civilians. Netanyahu’s take, however, is more politically oriented:
the laws of war should be contingent on the type of warfare… Our struggle is to delegitimize the continuing attempt to delegitimize the state of Israel. The most important arena to operate in is that of public opinion, which is the deciding factor in the democratic world...
It’s a disjointed argument, typical of the Zionist rational. But really, more important than making sense, is to repeat it enough, so it may come to be known as “common sense”.
On the Confusion of Heroics and War Criminals Another factor weighing heavy, on the generals of Israel, are constant issuing of warrants for their arrest, in other countries. Many are baffled by these warrants, asking what jurisdiction does one country have over another country’s state officials. Luckily for us cosmopolitan human rights activist, there’s something called Universal Jurisdiction:
Universal jurisdiction or universality principle is a principle in international law whereby states claim criminal jurisdiction over persons whose alleged crimes were committed outside the boundaries of the prosecuting state, regardless of nationality, country of residence, or any other relation with the prosecuting country. The state backs its claim on the grounds that the crime committed is considered a crime against all, which any state is authorized to punish, as it is too serious to tolerate jurisdictional arbitrage. The concept of universal jurisdiction is therefore closely linked to the idea that certain international norms are erga omnes, or owed to the entire world community, as well as the concept of jus cogens - that certain international law obligations are binding on all states and cannot be modified by treaty.
The majority of Israel is against Universal Jurisdiction, under the logic that the majority of Israelis were soldiers, at one time or another. Misunderstanding the basic idea which is to prosecute for crimes of such a shocking magnitude that no corporal could be seriously held responsible for, could probably be blamed on the media, that never tries to clarify these issues. Corporals (a.k.a. “our boys”) that committed offenses such as not refusing immoral and illegal orders are, of course, to be tried within Israel, as the Goldstone report recommended. Ehud Barak is also to blame for this misunderstanding of international law and basic human rights, as he keeps on making confusing statements:
(Israel) sent the troops on this mission and they are entitled to our full backup. Israel will continue fighting this report and will also pursue ways to amend international laws to fight against terrorists operating amid civilian population.
It’s not because Barak misunderstands Universal Jurisdiction. On the contrary; Knowing full well that he will be held accountable, and not the soldiers in the field, Barak constantly makes statements that intertwine an outside inquiry (which would hold him accountable for war crimes) with an inside inquiry (which would hold the most minor of soldiers accountable for murder of civilians). Barak frames himself as the ever-loyal captain and commander, willing to go down with his ship. This self-imagined heroism is part of they Zionist mythos. Another general to sacrifice himself on the alter that is “the greater good of the nation” is the “Boogie” man, himself:
Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Wednesday said he is “willing to forgo visits to European capitals and to allow the Israel Defense Forces the freedom to act.”
Of course Ha’aretz is more than happy to frame our self-less hero as such. A look at the title, of the article which this quote is taken from, shows that the differences are slight, but nevertheless, very effective:
Ya'alon: I'll forgo Europe trips to allow IDF freedom
Unlike Barak, who only pretends to go down with the ship, this committed, fearless leader has forgone the basic human right of freedom of movement, in order for the IDF to go on murdering children in cold blood. Ya’alon’s “sacrifice” brings me to examine one more motive why the Israeli public is so reluctant to self-scrutinize. As denial is a deeply important component of Zionism, an inside inquiry may be disastrous to more than the individual soldier. It may pull the vail off of Zionism, as a whole, and the occupation which it upholds. The results of such an inquiry may find that each and every soldier is guilty and that each and every commander- across all ranks- facilitated this behavior. Such findings would show that the Israeli Defense Force is, in fact, an offense force, and a cruel and brutal one at that. Such a conclusion could only lead us to look at ourselves.