An objective investigation has to find out whether the decision to start the war was justified, or if there existed another way of stopping the launching of rockets against Israeli territory. Without doubt, no country can or should tolerate the bombing of its towns and villages from beyond the border. But could this be prevented by talking with the Gaza authorities? Was our governments decision to boycott Hamas, the winner of the democratic Palestinian elections, the real cause of this war? Did the imposition of the blockade on a million and a half Gaza Strip inhabitants contribute to the launching of the Qassams? In brief: were the alternatives considered before it was decided to start a deadly war?
The war plan included a massive attack on the civilian population of the Strip. The real aims of a war can be understood less from the official declarations of its initiators, than from their actions. If in this war some 1300 men, women and children were killed, the great majority of whom were not fighters; if about 5000 people were injured, most of them children; if some 2500 homes were partly or wholly destroyed; if the infrastructure of life was totally demolished all this clearly could not have happened accidentally. It must have been a part of the war plan.
The things said during the war by politicians and officers make it clear that the plan had at least two aims, which might be considered war crimes: (1) To cause widespread killing and destruction, in order to fix a price tag. to burn into their consciousness, to reinforce deterrence, and most of all to get the population to rise up against Hamas and overthrow their government. Clearly this affects mainly the civilian population. (2) To avoid casualties to our army at (literally) any price by destroying any building and killing any human being in the area into which our troops were about to move, including destroying homes over the heads of their inhabitants, preventing medical teams from reaching the victims, killing people indiscriminately. In certain cases, inhabitants were warned that they must flee, but this was mainly an alibi-action: there was nowhere to flee to, and often fire was opened on people trying to escape.
An independent court will have to decide whether such a war-plan is in accordance with national and international law, or whether it was ab initio a crime against humanity and a war-crime…
This was a war of a regular army with huge capabilities against a guerrilla force. In such a war, too, not everything is permissible. Arguments like The Hamas terrorists were hiding within the civilian population and They used the population as human shields may be effective as propaganda but are irrelevant: that is true for every guerrilla war. It must be taken into account when a decision to start such a war is being considered.
In a democratic state, the military takes its orders from the political establishment. Good. But that does not include manifestly illegal orders, over which the black flag of illegality is waving. Since the Nuremberg trials, there is no more room for the excuse that I was only obeying orders.
Therefore, the personal responsibility of all involved – from the Chief of Staff, the Front Commander and the Division Commander right down to the last soldier – must be examined. From the statements of soldiers one must deduce that many believed that their job was to kill as many Arabs as possible. Meaning: no distinction between fighters and non-fighters. That is a completely illegal order, whether given explicitly or by a wink and a nudge. The soldiers understood this to be the spirit of the commander.
Among tose suspected of war crimes, the rabbis have a place of honor.
Those who incite to war crimes and call upon soldiers, directly or indirectly, to commit war crimes may be guilty of a war crime themselves…
The rabbis openly called upon the soldiers to be cruel and merciless towards the Arabs. To treat them mercifully, they stated, is a terrible, awful immorality. When such material is distributed to religious soldiers going into war, it is easy to see why things happened the way they did…
WE MUST pursue all the legal processes in Israel and call for an independent investigation and the indictment of suspected perpetrators. We must demand this even if the chances of it happening are slim indeed.
If these efforts fail, nobody will be able to object to trials abroad, either in an international court or in the courts of those nations that respect human rights and international law.
Until then, the black flag will still be waving.
..Upon his return from a visit to Gaza after the massacre, the U.N. Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs stated, The destruction I saw was devastatingboth in human and material terms.(22) But according to Cordesman, the problem was not what Israel perpetrated in Gaza but that it did not properly manage the war of perceptions: it did little to explain the steps it was taking to minimize civilian casualties and collateral damage on the world stage; it certainly couldand shouldhave done far more to show its level of military restraint and make it credible. In fact Israel began its hasbara (propaganda) preparations six months before the massacre and a centralized body in the Prime Ministers Office, the National Information Directorate, was specifically tasked with coordinating Israeli hasbara. (23)
If the carefully orchestrated p.r. blitz ultimately did not convince, the problem was perhaps not that the whole world misperceived what happened or that Israel failed to convey adequately its humanitarian mission but rather that the scope of the massacre was so appalling that no amount of propaganda could disguise it, especially after the massacre was over and foreign reporters could no longer be barred on spurious pretexts. Alas, this preposterous, barely literate analysis Cordesman cobbled together after his junket is unlikely to fool anyone, although in fairness to camp follower Cordesman it must be said that he plainly did his best to please and the American Jewish Committee plainly got its moneys worth from him.
..NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, the record is fairly clear. You can find it on the Israeli website, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. Mr. Indyk is correct that Hamas had adhered to the ceasefire from June 17th until November 4th. On November 4th, here Mr. Indyk, I think, goes awry. The record is clear: Israel broke the ceasefire by going into the Gaza and killing six or seven Palestinian militants. At that pointand now Im quoting the official Israeli websiteHamas retaliated or, in retaliation for the Israeli attack, then launched the missiles.
Now, as to the reason why, the record is fairly clear as well. According to Haaretz, Defense Minister Barak began plans for this invasion before the ceasefire even began. In fact, according to yesterdays Haaretz, the plans for the invasion began in March. And the main reasons for the invasion, I think, are twofold. Number one, as Mr. Indyk I think correctly points out, to enhance what Israel calls its deterrence capacity, which in laymans language basically means Israels capacity to terrorize the region into submission. After their defeat in July 2006 in Lebanon, they felt it important to transmit the message that Israel is still a fighting force, still capable of terrorizing those who dare defy its word.
And the second main reason for the attack is because Hamas was signaling that it wanted a diplomatic settlement of the conflict along the June 1967 border. That is to say, Hamas was signaling they had joined the international consensus, they had joined most of the international community, overwhelmingly the international community, in seeking a diplomatic settlement. And at that point, Israel was faced with what Israelis call a Palestinian peace offensive. And in order to defeat the peace offensive, they sought to dismantle Hamas…