Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Questions for an Israeli investigation

Today's op-ed article by Aluf Benn in Haaretz outlines some of the myriad questions that need to be asked by an Israeli commission of inquiry into the Gaza war - not that the Israeli government will ever hold one. Some are questions which may have been forgotten as we witnessed the sickening sights, sounds and statistics of what was basically a turkey shoot committed against a downtrodden population with no means of escape.

“I want to know if the decisions (to embark on Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip and to expand it into a ground offensive) were affected by the Israeli election campaign then underway and the change in U.S. presidents,” he says.

Obviously they were. The fuse was lit on the day of the US election, the bombardment started between Christmas and the New Year when most of the Western world’s attention was elsewhere, and the slaughter ended just before Obama’s inauguration. Coincidence? I think not.

“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,” Benn continues.

I'd say, frankly, the political damage caused to Israel is the only positive aspect of the whole blood-soaked enterprise, so let’s leave that one, shall we?

“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.”

You know as well as I do, Aluf, that that was one of the major war aims for Israel. To kill Gazans. Not to wipe them out, which would no doubt have been militarily possible, but to “go a bit mad” to teach them a lesson they wouldn’t forget in a hurry. A death-count ratio of 100-to-one would be about right, and hey presto...

He goes on to say that internal military probes are no substitute for a comprehensive examination of the activities of the political leadership and senior command. Correct. Then more questions, including:

“Before embarking on Cast Lead, were diplomatic alternatives explored for achieving calm in the south? Was Hamas' proposal for renewing calm in exchange for opening crossings seriously considered in Israel?”


“Or did the government only want a military operation?”


“How did the rising popularity of the opposition parties, Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, as reflected in polls at the time, affect Barak and Livni's stances before and during the operation?”

A lot, one assumes.

Then we get a bit more about political infighting and grandstanding, and incitement to kill Palestinian civilians.

“Who decided to bomb the flour mill and sewage treatment center in Gaza, and why?”

Not to mention the mosques, the schools, the civilian homes, the government buildings, the hospitals, etc, that were playing no part in the “battle” – not that the Israeli troops ever risked an actual battle with Hamas in its strongholds like Jabaliya or Gaza City. All these locations should have been protected from the fighting, and it’s no good saying Hamas was using human shields. The only hard evidence of the use of human shields in this conflict was by Israel.

“Where did Olmert disappear to on January 13 when Barak and Livni could not find him in an effort to offer a cease-fire?”

Frankly my dear....

But Benn does have an interesting conclusion – based on the assumption that the political leadership are too worried about their own positions to weaken them with an independent investigation (the only thing that will get Goldstone and the UN off Israel’s back). He calls on the State Comptroller to initiate just an investigation into the political decisions behind the war. Good luck.

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