Israel-Palestine: Correcting Some Faulty Ideas on Both Sides

An edited version of this article originally appeared at LobeLog.

Like many of us, I’ve been very busy on social media since this started. I see a lot of ignorant nonsense there, and it’s not limited to Used to be our housethe pro-Israel side. I also see a lot of shoddy thinking and ignorance of the facts. Since I had to study up on a lot of this for my job as the Director of the US Office of B’Tselem, I thought I might clear a few of those up.

“War crimes”

Various memes make the rounds in discussions of war crimes. One that I found particularly laughable was “Even the UN says Hamas is committing war crimes but they say Israel only might be.” I’ve also seen defenses of Hamas’ firing of missiles at civilian targets at Israel based on Palestinians’ right of self-defense.

Here is the long and short of it: War crimes are defined as “Serious violations of international humanitarian law constitute war crimes.” That’s going to encompass pretty much every violation that might become a public issue in any conflict. Continue reading

Forever Tainted by Cancer

Israel’s new Defense Minister has quietly assumed his post, but considering his history and personality, we should be paying more attention. I examine Moshe “Bogey” Ya’alon this week in Souciant.

Israeli Impunity, US Indulgence, And Rachel Corrie

This article originally appeared at LobeLog.

The expected verdict in the death of Rachel Corrie, killed under the wheels of an Israeli-modified Caterpillar bulldozer in 2003, came down today and the court found no fault with the Israel Defense Forces. That was no surprise. But the deafening silence about it in Washington is nonetheless reprehensible.

I’ve met Cindy and Craig Corrie, Rachel’s parents, on several occasions. I cannot imagine the lives they lead. I cannot imagine the death of my child, much less the death of a child at the hands of a supposed ally of my country with no accountability. I can’t imagine my child being killed by that ally and then seeing my child being blamed for the incident. Yet the Corries have lived through all this, and somehow, while their frustration has grown, it has never morphed into hate. Somehow they always cling to the hope

Cindy and Craig Corrie, Rachel’s parents

that Israel, an ostensible ally and fellow democracy, will at some point do the right thing.

I’m sure, though I haven’t spoken with them in years, that the Corries held out little hope that this verdict would be that point. But what is perhaps most stunning is that there is no clamor in the United States, aside from those whose sympathies would be with Rachel’s cause in trying to protect Palestinians from the ravages of occupation, for some kind of action on behalf of a US citizen who lost her life on foreign soil under, to be kind, questionable circumstances.

Take Cindy Corrie’s words today: “This was a bad day, not only for us, but for human rights, humanity, the rule of law, and the country of Israel.” Someone was missing on that list, but Cindy got to them inanother comment: “The diplomatic process between the United States and Israel failed us.”

I admire Cindy Corrie’s restraint. But the US failure here is much broader than what she is saying. And it’s a long term one.

On March 25, 2003, Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA) introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives calling on the US government to “undertake a full, fair, and expeditious investigation” into Corrie’s death. The bill gathered 77 co-sponsors, which is not a large number, though a larger one than is typical for a bill critical of Israel. But none had the political muscle to counter defenders of Israel in the House, so the bill died in the Committee on International Relations. Its death, like its existence, generated little attention. Continue reading

Christians Conflicted About Israel

In my weekly piece at Souciant, I do a post-mortem on the PC(USA) divestment initiative, which failed by a 333-331 margin with two abstentions. I conclude that the defeat still shows a growing intolerance for Israel’s trampling of Palestinian rights.

No Zionists Here: Demystifying Israel Firsters

I’ll be publishing my weekly Souciant pieces on Friday, at least for a while, instead of Wednesdays, so today there’s a new one up there. I discuss the experience of MJ Rosenberg and his use of the term Israel Firsters to describe so-called “pro-Israel” advocates in the US who place Israeli interests over the US’, as most of them from AIPAC and rightward do. In my view, some of the most powerful of that crew actually are pursuing an agenda which cares about neither Israel or the US. Check it out.

The Perils of Unity: Israel’s New Government

In this week’s article for Souciant, I analyze the new unity government in Israel–why it happened, what it means and how it affects various aspects of Israel’s current situation. Particularly, I look at some potential implications for the Palestinians, a point which seems largely overlooked in analysis of this week’s events.

Israeli Cast Lead Report: Yes, Virginia, There WERE Crimes

I’ve just finished reading the Israeli report updating investigations into alleged war crimes in Operation Cast Lead. The report quite clearly shows there were some serious issues in that war, and that international outrage was not unwarranted, even if Israel would still maintain it was exaggerated.

Many make the case that the report vindicates the Goldstone Report and, in some ways, it does, though I don’t think it

Gaza, during Cast Lead

quite “proves the Goldstone Commission right” as other commentators have said. But what I think is more important is that it shows that if Israel had set up a credible, independent and civilian investigation of Cast Lead as soon as the war was over, and in response to calls from its own civil society, it would be in a much better position than it is today.

The character of such an investigation is important, as is demonstrated within this Israeli report itself, when it says that

“Another challenge is that some Palestinian witnesses have refused to make any statement, even in writing, to IDF investigators. Other Palestinian witnesses have declined to provide testimony in person. While an affidavit can provide investigators with valuable information and serve as the starting point for an investigation, a written affidavit alone is generally inadmissible as evidence at trial. In the Israeli legal system, as in many others, proving a criminal case instead requires that witnesses be willing to appear in court to permit cross-examination on issues such as the witness’s ability to observe the events, whether a witness has any bias, and whether there were other relevant facts not recounted in the written statement. Hence, in some cases, the unwillingness of a complainant to cooperate in criminal investigations may deprive the investigators of the most significant evidence.”

Well, yeah, are we really surprised that the investigative team from the army that just wreaked havoc across your land, and which was previously occupying that land (by even the strictest definition) for almost 40 years would not be trusted by the victims? Continue reading