Less than a week after the IDF’s final retreat from Gaza, Israel’s senior military brass found itself warding off attacks on two fronts.
In Gaza, now empty of all Jewish presence, the Palestinians lost no time in taking charge of events in their own special way. First came the firebombing of the synagogues. We were asked indignantly by such paragons of virtue as PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, “Well, what did you expect to happen?” As if it should go without saying that the Palestinians will exploit any opportunity to show us their contempt for all things Jewish.
After the firebombing came the looting of the destroyed Jewish communities. Then came the looting of the hothouses which had been bought for the Palestinians by wealthy Jews in the US who decided to buy them so that the Palestinians could reap what their expelled Israeli brethren had sown.
Sometime between destroying the abandoned synagogues, looting the destroyed Jewish villages, tearing apart the hothouses, throwing grenades at IDF patrols guarding Moshav Netiv Ha’asara and shooting mortars at Sderot, the Palestinians discovered Egypt. At the direction of Hamas, and with the help of PA militias and Egyptian soldiers, thousands of Palestinians crossed the wall separating Palestinian Rafah from Egyptian Rafah. Among the merrymakers, unknown numbers of terrorists crossed back and forth shuttling arms and reinforcements into Gaza in unknown quantities. IDF commanders looked on, and impotently stated that there is a high probability that al-Qaida operatives are among the newcomers. Oh well.
For his part, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz fecklessly railed against the Palestinians and Egyptians for doing nothing to seal the border. The beautiful agreement he negotiated with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman fell apart in 30 seconds and suddenly Mofaz was faced with the meaning of retreat: When you retreat, others take over and you have no ability to stop them because you are not there. Oh well.
The Palestinians minced no words about their goals for the future. Hamas wants to liquidate all of Israel. Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar said on Tuesday, “We know our nation is expecting us to continue the liberation journey until the flag of Islam is raised over Jerusalem. This land should not have any Zionists on it.” That is, Zahar called for genocide. Oh well.
As the IDF was attempting to make sense of the new security insanity forced upon it by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Sharon himself was ignoring the reality he created back home as he basked in the glory bestowed upon him in New York by US President George W. Bush for his “courageous” surrender to Palestinian terrorism.
Yet, before our generals had a chance to catch their breath, they received a gut punch from an unforeseen direction.
On Tuesday, Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog tried to go to London. But once his El Al plane landed he was alerted by the Israeli embassy that if he alighted at Heathrow he would likely be arrested. An anti-Zionist British-Israeli “human rights” lawyer by the name of Daniel Machover, in cooperation with the Israeli group Yesh Gvul, filed a lawsuit against Almog charging him with war crimes in a British court. So alerted, Almog stayed on the plane and went home.
Triumphant, Yesh Gvul’s spokesmen in Israel announced that in addition to Almog, they were in the midst of filing complaints for war crimes with British courts against eight other senior IDF commanders. Among them are former chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon and current Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz. Hearing this, Ya’alon cancelled his plan to fly to London next week.
According to Yediot Aharonot, the Israeli defense establishment is in a state of hysteria over the attacks on its senior officers. Left-wing commentators and Ha’aretz‘s editorial board are ecstatic. Like Yesh Gvul, these extreme leftist media gurus have been arguing – without legal merit – since the late 1980s that Israel has no right to defend itself in Judea, Samaria or Gaza. Adopting the baseless Palestinian claims, these legalistic deviants say that somehow the fact that the Fourth Geneva Convention states that Israel must protect the rights of non-combatants in these areas means that Israel cannot take military action to secure its nationals and its national interests beyond the 1949 armistice lines. The fact that a simple reading of the texts shows this to be untrue makes no difference to these political radicals masked as bleeding- heart liberals.
In recent years, these anti-Zionist Israelis have received aid and comfort from such organizations as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN in their quest to demonize their country and criminalize its right to self-defense. Fabricating the laws of war from whole cloth to advance their political agendas, these organizations have given the weight of law to legally meaningless UN General Assembly resolutions and human rights reports. Assigning legal power to these political groups, the extreme Left in Israel has created a fiction which many American jurists refer to today as “lawfare” or the exploitation of the rhetoric of international law to prosecute a political war against a state to politically deny it of its legal right to defend itself.
Yesh Gvul is arguably a criminal organization. For years it has been running public campaigns to convince soldiers to refuse to serve in the IDF. This is a criminal offense. And yet, the State Prosecutor’s Office has refused to open any investigation against its members.
This is not surprising because for years now, the state prosecution has been led by men and women – many of whom are now Supreme Court justices – who sympathize with the views of those waging “lawfare” against Israel. Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz’s latest statements, where he criticized the government for deciding Sunday not to destroy the synagogues in Gaza are a case in point. Where is the legal question here? There is none. But in a legal world where law is just a means to advance a political agenda, no one questions his right to weigh in on such issues.
Then there is the Supreme Court’s latest outrage. Thursday, in an opinion written by President Aharon Barak, the court determined that the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion last summer on the legality of the security fence should be given legal weight. The fact that there is no basis whatsoever in Israeli law for giving legal weight to an advisory opinion from that politicized court of anti-Israel justices is completely unimportant. The fact that the opinion itself claimed that Israel has no right to self-defense is also irrelevant. Barak claimed that the problem was just that the ICJ hadn’t received the evidential basis for Israel’s security needs and as a result judged as it did last July.
Within this poisonous legalistic morass, Israel’s generals now find themselves under fire. What can be done? The first thing that must be firmly understood is that the battle being launched against them in the British courts has nothing to do with law. It is simply part of the political campaign against Israel that these anti-Zionists wage as adjunct and a complement to the Palestinian terrorists on the ground. As the Palestinians use bomb belts and rockets, these extremists use politicized courtrooms to launch their campaign against Israel.
The immediate political response to this offensive was made by Dr. Yuval Steinitz, the chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. This week he submitted a bill to criminalize filing legal claims in foreign courts against members of Israel’s security forces for missions they undertook in defense of the country.
This is a welcome initiative, but it misses the larger point. For the past 12 years, Israel has abandoned the offense in the political war being waged against it. Steinitz’s bill is reflective of this trend in two ways. First, without a serious reform of the State Prosecutor’s Office and the manner in which justices are chosen, (today they largely select themselves), there is little chance that laws on the books will be enforced against anti-Zionist political activists who seek to destroy Israel’s reputation and weaken Israel’s social cohesion.
Aside from this, the initiative is defensive in nature. Perhaps these people will be prosecuted, but so what? They will still be setting the political agenda with their wild legal fantasies. Against their onslaught, the time is long past for Israel to go on the offensive. And the laws of war, as they stand are a good place to start.
Zahar’s statement, and hundreds like it made by Hamas commanders over that past dozen years, proves unequivocally that the terror group is engaged in a campaign of genocide. According to the International Convention on Genocide, every state signatory must arrest and try any member of Hamas or anyone providing direct or indirect assistance to Hamas that is present on its territory. The PA, for instance, in refusing to take action against Hamas and in paying salaries to Hamas terrorists imprisoned in Israeli jails, is guilty of assisting Hamas in its genocidal campaign against Israel. As a result, any PA functionary found on the territory of any state signatory to the Genocide Convention should be arrested.
If instead of simply collecting photo-opportunities for his campaign for Likud leadership, Sharon had argued this point at the UN, his presence in New York – as Gaza is transformed into Taliban Afghanistan – would have made sense. But the fact that Sharon continues to doggedly refuse to do anything that would actually advance Israel’s national interest doesn’t mean that others shouldn’t take on the task with as much enthusiasm as Yesh Gvul and its British bedfellows work to undermine Israel’s right to exist. It isn’t that in the current anti-Israel international climate such arguments – regardless of their legal merit – will make an immediate difference. But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be made – loudly, at every opportunity.
Israel’s military options for dealing with Gaza’s rapid transformation into a base for international terrorism are limited in the wake of its self-inflicted defeat. What Yesh Gvul did this week was to point out the path for widening Israel’s room for military maneuvering. That path is the path of political warfare.
As the shadow of Gaza grows and expands to Judea and Samaria and the rest of the country, Israel is faced with an increasingly dangerous situation. Without a concerted international and domestic campaign to defend its rights, Israel will find itself without the means to justify its right to survive.