Italy releases classified documents related to Nazi war crimes


The Italian government has released thousands of previously classified documents related to fascist and Nazi war crimes committed in Italy during World War II.

On Tuesday, the historical archives of the Chamber of Deputies put an index of some 13,000 pages of material on its website. The documents concerned specifics of crimes ranging from anti-Jewish persecution to massacres of civilians that in total resulted in 15,000 deaths.

Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, called the move a “historic breakthrough.”

The documents were declassified by a parliamentary commission after it investigated the concealing of files related to the crimes. Specifically, the commission had dealt with what was dubbed the “cabinet of shame” – a wooden cabinet discovered in 1994 in a storeroom of the military prosecutor’s headquarters in which 695 files on war crimes had been hidden for decades. Original documents were hidden in the cabinet.

Users can consult the online index and request digital copies of specific documents.

Opening the cabinet of shame to the public, Gattegna said, “fills a serious gap and announces the start of a new season of awareness about the crimes and responsibilities of fascism and Nazism in Italy.”

Voices of Six-Day War haunt us decades later


The focus of the Israeli film “Censored Voices” is an aged, rapidly spinning, reel-to-reel tape recorder.

From the recorder emerge the voices of young Israelis just returned home to their kibbutzim after fighting and miraculously triumphing in the Six-Day War of 1967.

But their talk is not of battles won and heroic deeds by comrades, nor of a glorious homecoming, cheered by their fellow countrymen and by an admiring world after overwhelming the armed forces of five Arab countries.

The disembodied and often halting voices speak of watching Palestinians as their homes and farms are destroyed, of endless lines of wandering refugees, of humiliated Arab civilians stripped down to their underwear.

“We won,” declared one voice, “so the next war will be much crueler and deadlier.” Another voice expresses the fear that “a constant state of war can also destroy a nation.”

When the movie’s camera pans from the tape recorder and sweeps across the room, we see a group of elderly men listening intently, sometimes rubbing their eyes, other times staring as if to identify the voices emerging from the machine.

The voices the elderly men hear are their own, recorded nearly 50 years earlier, a few days to a couple of weeks after they returned from the Six-Day War.

With them is writer Amos Oz, who had originally convened the recording sessions, taking the tape recorder from kibbutz to kibbutz, whose young men traditionally served as the elite spearhead troops in Israel’s wars. Traveling with Oz was Avraham Shapira, who edited the tapes and excerpted them for a book.

During the days and weeks before June 5, when the war started, Israel was filled with a sense of foreboding and occasionally the sound of air raid sirens. Then came the call-up of reserves, under such code names as “Love of Zion” and “People of Labor,” and a grim feeling that “the country would be annihilated,” one soldier recalled.

With the destruction of the enemy’s air forces in the opening hours of the Six-Day War, followed by quick battle victories and entry into Jerusalem’s Old City, the country’s mood changed drastically.

The movie shows newsreels and archival footage of delirious dancing, songs praising the Lord of Israel, and less pious soldiers’ songs, such as “We’ll F— You Up.”

Both the initial fear of annihilation and the subsequent euphoria of victory evaporated for Israeli soldiers who actually experienced combat.

“My company lost 45 men; I kept hearing the cry of, ‘Medic, medic,’ over and over again. I was in despair,” recalled the voice of one veteran.

But, surprisingly, the worst memories of the Israeli soldiers were not of what the enemy was doing to them, but of what they themselves did to the enemy.

Different voices emerge from the tape recorder:

“We asked our commander for orders, and he said, ‘Kill as many as possible. Show no mercy.’ … I was outraged, but I didn’t protest.”

“We were shooting at some Egyptian soldiers. … They were not ducking, just falling down. … It was like some game at an amusement park or at a summer camp. … In war, we all became murderers.”

“The Egyptian prisoners of war came up with their water canteens filled with urine. We gave them some water and they kissed our feet.”

“When the enemy becomes your prisoner, you feel this power. You shove them roughly, all restraint disappears.”

“The Temple Mount is not holy, that’s not Judaism. It’s people that count. They blew the shofar at the Western Wall; it sounded like a pig’s squeal.”

When the tapes were initially transcribed and edited by Shapira into book form as “A Conversation With Soldiers” (in the English edition, “The Seventh Day”), Israeli authorities censored about 70 percent of the text.

That’s hardly surprising. What is amazing is that the book became an instant best-seller in Israel, and the nearly uncensored film version this year won the Israeli equivalent of the Oscar as the country’s best documentary.

The voice tapes themselves were locked away for decades, despite pleas by journalists and filmmakers, until a young Israeli film school graduate, Mor Loushy, persuaded Shapira to let her use them for a film.

It is difficult to conceive of another country, including the United States, that would give subsidies from government funds to make a film critical of its own soldiers in their most triumphant war, or whose film academy would award the film its top prize.

In a phone interview, however, director Loushy was not surprised her film had screened all across Israel without incident and little criticism.

The 33-year-old filmmaker is the mother of a 3-year-old boy and currently is almost eight months pregnant. Her forebears on her father’s side came from Persia to the Holy Land 10 generations ago; her mother was born in Poland.

She has faced no personal criticism in Israel. “After all,” she said, “it’s not my voice in the film but the voices of the soldiers who fought in the war.” She blames the current shootings and knife stabbings in Israel directly on the occupation after the 1967 war and sees little chance that Israelis and Palestinians will sit down for real peace negotiations.

Nevertheless, she refuses to give up, especially because of her children. “If I don’t have hope for the future, why stay here? I really have no choice,” she said.

Still, “Censored Voices” raises some critical questions. For one, how representative the soldiers heard in the film are of all the men who served in the Six-Day War, the Journal asked, to which Loushy gave no specific answer.

In another attempt to answer this question, this reporter’s wife has two relatives who served in the 1967 war, one on the left and one on the right, politically. Neither saw heavy combat, but both said they believed Israel’s survival was at stake and they had no regrets about serving in the war.

All that said, a legitimate concern has been raised by Yossi Klein Halevi, an American-born Israeli journalist and author, who has written extensively about the Six-Day War, and has worked for the reconciliation of Jews, Muslims and Christians in Israel.

“People abroad who don’t remember the way we do the circumstances of the Six-Day War will turn [this movie] into an indictment of Israel,” Halevi said. “If there were isolated acts of abuse by our soldiers, that should not become the narrative [of] what the Six-Day War was about. Many of us here [in Israel] are, frankly, sick and tired of the blame-Israel-first narrative.”

The Israel Film Festival will screen “Censored Voices” at 7:15 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Laemmle’s Town Center in Encino, and at 5 p.m. Nov. 15 at the NoHo 7 in North Hollywood. After that, the film will open Nov. 27 for one-week runs at the Royal Theatre in West Los Angeles and at the Town Center in Encino.  

100,000 sign petition calling for arrest of Netanyahu in Britain


A petition calling for the arrest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits Britain this week has reached more than 100,000 signatures and must be considered for debate in Parliament.

The online petition was uploaded on Aug. 7 to the United Kingdom Parliament’s official website.

“Under international law he should be arrested for war crimes upon arrival in the U.K. for the massacre of over 2000 civilians in 2014,” the petition says, citing Netanyahu’s visit scheduled for Thursday.

The petition had nearly 107,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning. It passed the 100,000 mark over the weekend.

Responding to the petition, the British government said that under U.K. and international law, the visiting heads of foreign governments, like Netanyahu, have immunity from the legal process, and cannot be arrested or detained.

“We recognize that the conflict in Gaza last year took a terrible toll,” the government said. “As the Prime Minister said, we were all deeply saddened by the violence and the U.K. has been at the forefront of international reconstruction efforts. However, the Prime Minister was clear on the U.K.’s recognition of Israel’s right to take proportionate action to defend itself, within the boundaries of international humanitarian law.”

The House of Commons has not set a date for a parliamentary debate on the petition.

On Monday, a group of union leaders, three British lawmakers and prominent activists published a letter in the The Guardian newspaper denouncing Netanyahu’s visit.

“Our prime minister should not be welcoming the man who presides over Israel’s occupation and its siege of Gaza,” the letter said, in part. “We call on him to instead impose immediate sanctions and an arms embargo on Israel until it complies with international law and ends the blockade and the occupation.”

Demonstrations and protests against Netanyahu are planned for London in advance of the visit, according to the Guardian.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews called for supporters to gather outside the Prime Minister’s Office at 10 Downing St. at 11 a.m. Wednesday to show support for Netanyahu and for the relationship between Britain and Israel.

Palestinians submit first case material against Israel to Hague court


The Palestinian Authority made its first submission of evidence of alleged Israeli war crimes to the International Criminal Court on Thursday, trying to speed up an ICC inquiry into abuses committed during last year's Gaza conflict.

The move may leave Israel in a quandary since it must decide whether to cooperate with the ICC investigation or find itself isolated as one of a very few countries that have declined to work with its prosecutors.

Israel denies allegations of war crimes by its forces during the 2014 Gaza war and accuses Islamist militants who control the Gaza Strip of atrocities in firing thousands of rockets at Israeli population centers.

Standing outside the ICC after meeting the court's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said he had submitted dossiers on the Gaza conflict, Israeli settlements on land where Palestinians seek a state, and treatment of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

“Palestine is a test for the credibility of international mechanisms … a test the world cannot afford to fail. Palestine has decided to seek justice, not vengeance,” Maliki said.

A ceasefire in August ended 50 days of fighting between Gaza militants and Israel in which health officials said more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.

U.N. investigators said on Monday that Israel and Palestinian militant groups committed grave abuses of international humanitarian law during the conflict that may amount to war crimes.

The Hague-based ICC, with no police force or enforcement powers of its own, is looking into alleged crimes by both sides of the conflict but cannot compel Israel to give it information.

PRELIMINARY ICC INQUIRY UNDER WAY

The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank, joined the court in April and Bensouda has opened a preliminary investigation related to Gaza.

But Israel has substantial leverage over the course of ICC inquiries since court officials can only access sites of alleged atrocities in Gaza and Israeli settlements in the West Bank via Israel's airports.

Maliki said he had agreed with prosecutors on a date for them to visit Palestinian territories, but did not say when. “It depends on their ability to enter Palestinian territory without problems,” he said. ICC prosecutors told Reuters earlier they aimed to make field trips to both the Palestinian and Israeli sides but had not yet sought formal Israeli permission.

Israel disputed the U.N. report on possible war crimes, saying its forces had upheld the “highest international standards”. Gaza's dominant Hamas group ignored the accusations against it and called for prosecutions of Israeli leaders.

As a non-member of the ICC, Israel is under no obligation to cooperate, regardless of international pressure to do so. But a boycott of prosecutors could put Israel in awkward company.

Even Russia, a foe of the ICC, has met court prosecutors related to their inquiry into alleged crimes in Russia's 2008 war with Georgia and over the events leading up to the 2014 overthrow of Ukraine's pro-Russian president.

Israel has been an outspoken critic of the ICC, saying the Palestinian Authority is not a state and should never have been admitted as an ICC member.

Israel also argues that the ICC inquiry will make it harder to reach a peace settlement with the Palestinians. Talks on a Palestinian state in territory Israel captured in the 1967 war collapsed last year and there is no prospect of reviving them.

U.N. report: Israel, Palestinians may have committed war crimes in Gaza


U.N. investigators said on Monday that Israel and Palestinian militant groups committed grave abuses of international humanitarian law during the 2014 Gaza conflict that may amount to war crimes.

They called on all sides to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has opened a separate preliminary investigation. The Palestinian Authority is expected to make its first formal submission to the Hague-based court this week.

“The most that we can hope for out of this long and arduous process of inquiry is that we will push the ball of justice a little further down the field,” Mary McGowan Davis, chairwoman of the U.N. commission of inquiry, told a news conference.

A ceasefire last August ended 50 days of fighting between Gaza militants and Israel in which health officials said more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.

Israeli air strikes and shelling hammered the densely-populated Gaza Strip dominated by the Islamist Hamas movement, causing widespread destruction of homes and schools.

Hamas and other militant groups launched thousands of rockets and mortar bombs out of the enclave into Israel.

“The (U.N.) commission was able to gather substantial information pointing to serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by Israel and by Palestinian armed groups. In some cases, these violations may amount to war crimes,” the independent investigators said in a report issued on Monday following a year-long inquiry.

The investigators called on Israel to carry out credible domestic investigations of senior political and military officials, if crimes were substantiated.

They called on Israel to explain its “targeting decisions” to allow independent assessment of its attacks on Gaza Strip which they said had killed 1,462 civilians.

“The commission is concerned that impunity prevails across the board for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law allegedly committed by Israeli forces…” it said.

The report said Israel should break with its “recent lamentable track record in holding wrongdoers responsible”.

ISRAEL DISPUTES ACCUSATIONS, HAMAS IGNORES THEM

Israel disputed the findings, saying its forces acted “according to the highest international standards”. The Foreign Ministry said the report regrettably failed to “recognize the profound difference between Israel's moral behavior … and the terror organizations it confronted” in the war.

Israel previously dismissed the inquiry as inherently biased against it and a waste of time.

The independent investigators also condemned what they said had been executions of 21 alleged Palestinian “collaborators” with Israel by militants in Gaza, saying these killings appeared to constitute war crimes.

The report further said Palestinian armed groups had fired nearly 5,000 rockets and 1,750 mortar bombs, many toward major Israeli cities and towns. It cited “the inherently indiscriminate nature of most of the projectiles launched into Israel and (of) the targeting of civilians, which violate international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime”.

The investigators were denied access to Gaza and Israel but based their report on more than 280 interviews with victims and witnesses, as well as 500 written submissions.

The report said Israeli political and military leaders did not alter their actions in the war despite much evidence of lethal devastation in built-up Gaza neighborhoods and this raised questions about potential war crimes.

Hamas, in a statement posted on its website, called for prosecuting Israeli leaders but ignored accusations against it.

“Hamas welcomes the condemnation of the Zionist occupation stated in the U.N. report because of its (Israel's) aggression against Gaza and Israel's commission of war crimes. This requires bringing leaders of the occupation before the International Criminal Court. The world must put an end to the occupation's crimes against our people and against Gaza.”

Hamas previously denied wrongdoing, saying it fought Israel to protect the Palestinian people in Gaza. The enclave has been under Israeli blockade for years and the two sides have waged two other wars since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

Initial ICC probe opened into ‘war crimes’ in Palestinian territories


Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court will open a preliminary inquiry into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories, the court said.

The move, announced by a spokesperson of the court on Friday and reported by Reuters, is the first formal step that could lead to charges against Palestinian or Israeli officials.

Prosecutors from the ICC, a United Nations tribunal which is based in The Hague, will determine whether preliminary findings merit a full investigation into alleged atrocities which could result in charges against individuals on either the Israeli or Palestinian side.

The move follows the signing last month by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of a treaty that may allow the investigation of Israel for war crimes at the International Criminal Court, but which may expose Palesitnian officials to countersuits.

Israel has threatened to go after the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which Israel says may both be complicit in war crimes.

The United States has condemned Abbas’ decision to join the treaty that extends ICC jurisdiction to the Palestinian territories.

“We are deeply troubled by today’s Palestinian action regarding the ICC. It is an escalatory step that will not achieve any of the outcomes most Palestinians have long hoped to see for their people,” Jeff Rathke, a State Department spokesman, said last month.

 

Palestinians set to apply to International Criminal Court: Say they are losing hope in a diplomatic


A day after the United Nations Security Council voted against a resolution to set a date for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, Palestinian officials say they will take “immediate” steps to join international conventions, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), a move long opposed by Israel and the US. It will enable Palestinians to charge Israeli military and diplomatic officials with war crimes at the ICC Court in the Hague.

“Joining the ICC is another unnecessary and unhelpful step by the Palestinian leadership which will take us further from the track of negotiations,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon told The Media Line. “The Palestinians should not forget that if they join the ICC they will also be liable for terror and hatred promoted by the Palestinian Authority.”

Palestinians are angry that the Security Council voted down their resolution, even though the US had said that it would veto the proposal if it passed the Security Council. They said that Nigeria, which had been expected to vote in favor, voted against the resolution after heavy pressure from the US and Israel.

“The Americans should be asked if they advanced the cause of peace by putting pressure on certain countries not to vote in favor,” Xavier Abu Eid, a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) told the Media Line. “The Americans should be asked if using their veto 41 times against the rights of the Palestinian people has changed anything for the better. I think the US attitude is helping to close off any chance of a political horizon and strengthens those who believe in violence.”

There had been some speculation that the US will now try to re-launch Israeli-Palestinian bilateral peace talks, as they did at the beginning of the year. But most Israeli analysts say that little is expected to happen until after the Israeli elections on March 17.

Last month, a series of attacks swept through Jerusalem, including the horrific attack on worshippers in a synagogue. Tensions on both sides continue to run high. Palestinians say a laborer was crushed to death at an Israeli checkpoint near the West Bank city of Tulkarem as he was crossing into Israel for a construction job. Israeli troops have killed two Palestinian youths this month, after they allegedly threw rocks at troops.

There is some concern that angry Palestinians will react to the no vote in the Security Council with a new wave of attacks on Israel. At the same time, even if the Security Council had voted to discuss the resolution, the US would have used its veto.

Palestinian officials say their population is losing hope that diplomacy will achieve any gains for them.

“Palestinians lost hope a long time ago,” Abu Eid said. “We are trying to open a political horizon for them. When people see what happens in the Security Council with a resolution that does not contradict by a single comma US and European policy, they believe their legitimate aspirations won’t come true.”

At the same time, Palestinian officials say they will keep pushing the international community to recognize a Palestinian state, and say Israel should expect a hard time in the ICC.

This piece was originally published on The Media Line.

U.N. watchdog urges Israel to probe possible Gaza war crimes


Israel should investigate all alleged violations committed by its forces during three recent wars in Gaza and ensure military commanders are brought to justice for any crimes, a U.N. human rights watchdog said on Thursday.

A panel of independent experts urged Israel to halt construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, stop confiscating land for their expansion, prevent violence against Palestinians and take measures to withdraw all settlers.

Punitive demolitions of Palestinian and Bedouin homes in the West Bank and Israeli Negev desert, and forced evictions and transfers of these populations should be halted, they said.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee, chaired by British expert Sir Nigel Rodley, issued its conclusions and recommendations after examining Israel's compliance with an international treaty on civil and political rights.

Israel's latest land and aerial attacks on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in July-August caused a “disproportionate number of casualties among civilians, including children”, the panel said.

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in the 51-day conflict, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel.

Israel launched the offensive with the stated aim of halting repeated militant rocket attack out of Gaza and to destroy tunnels built underneath the border area, which Hamas Islamist fighters used to stage attacks.

It was the third major conflagration in just seven years.

“(Israel) should ensure that all human rights violations committed during its military operations in the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014 are thoroughly, effectively, independently and impartially investigated, that perpetrators, including, in particular, persons in positions of command are prosecuted and sanctioned…,” the committee of 18 experts said.

SETTLEMENTS

Israel says its army regularly investigates accusations of wrong-doing leveled against its troops. It also accuses Hamas of committing repeated war crimes. However, there was no immediate comment by Israel on the U.N. panel's 10-page findings, submitted to the government hours before.

The U.N. experts reiterated that Israel's obligations to uphold the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also applied to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, in line with a ruling by the International Court of Justice.

Israel disagrees and in its written report to the panel did not respond to its questions on the Palestinian territories.

The U.N. panel said settlement construction had “more than doubled” since 2010 and said this had to stop.

Successive Israeli governments have said major settlement blocs, deemed illegal under international law, will remain part of Israel in any negotiated deal with the Palestinians and have shrugged off repeated, widespread criticism of their expansion.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Monday to fast-track plans for 1,000 new settler homes in Israel-annexed East Jerusalem, which Palestinians seek as the capital of a future state which would include the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The U.N. panel also called for an end to Israel's practice of holding Palestinians in administrative detention — or detention without trial — and voiced concern at the “fact that in many cases the detention order is based on secret evidence”.

Israeli authorities say administrative detention is used in security-related cases and helps to protect confidential sources from exposure in court.

Netanyahu: No chance for peace deal if Israel sued for war crimes


A Palestinian push to try Israeli officials for war crimes at a United Nations tribunal would end any chance of reaching a peace deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu spoke to Army Radio on Friday, a day after the Palestinian Authority’s envoy to the United Nations said his government would join the International Criminal Court if the U.N. Security Council refuses to set a deadline for Israel to withdraw from all Palestinian territories.

“We may end up there,” Netanyahu said of the prospect of war crimes charges being brought against Israel at the Hague-based U.N. tribunal. “If Abu Mazen attempts it, this will have dire consequences,” he added, using another name for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. “He could bring the Hague to do it, bringing us to the destruction of any chance of a sane peace deal.”

On Thursday, Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Authority’s U.N. envoy, told the Associated Press that his government has turned to the Security Council “to force Israel to negotiate in good faith the end of the occupation within a time frame.”

The Palestinian Authority hopes the council will adopt a draft resolution setting November 2016 as the deadline for an Israeli pullout from the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza.

“But if this additional door of peace is closed before us, then we will not only join the ICC to seek accountability,” Mansour said. “We will join other treaties and agencies” to build evidence “that we exist as a nation, we exist as a state, although the land of our state is under occupation.”

 

Lawsuit accusing Israel of genocide to be filed in Argentina


An Argentine lawyer said he will file a lawsuit in federal court in Buenos Aires accusing Israel of crimes against humanity and genocide.

Carlos Slepoy told Pagina/12, a Buenos Aires newspaper, in an interview published Tuesday that the suit will be filed in the coming days in response to Israel’s 50-day operation in Gaza this summer. The suit is in conjunction with the American Association of Jurists.

The suit singles out specific Israeli leaders as being responsible both directly and non-directly for the alleged crimes, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz  and Likud lawmaker Moshe Feiglin, according to Pagina/12.

“The disproportionate number of forces and the large number of [Palestinian] victims reveals the huge crime; we will provide to the court a list with names and ages of the Palestinian kids murdered“ said Slepoy, who successfully opened in Argentina a trial about crimes committed in Spain during the government of Francisco Franco, who was the dictator of Spain from 1939 to his death in 1975.

Slepoy said he hoped that Gaza victims and human rights groups representing Gazans would join the suit.

In July, the American Association of Jurists issued a statement “strongly condemning the criminal aggression of Israel against Gaza and the occupation of Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem.”

On Hague court visit, Palestinian FM accuses Israel of war crimes


Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki accused Israel of war crimes following his visit to the International Criminal Court, which he said the P.A. would try to join this year.

Malki’s visit to the Hague-based court Tuesday came amid growing criticism of Israel from European leaders, including Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, because of civilian deaths in Gaza.

“In last 28 days, there is clear evidence of war crimes committed by Israel amounting to crimes against humanity,” Malki told reporters after meetings, including with prosecutors, at the ICC. He said Israel “must be held accountable.”

Malki said “the State of Palestine” hopes to be a member of the ICC before 2015, the RTL broadcaster reported.

“Israel left us no choice after its war crimes in Gaza,” he said.

If accepted to the ICC, the Palestinian Authority would be able to sue Israel for war crimes, but may in turn be exposed to similar lawsuits itself if Israel also seeks membership.

Israel is not a member of the court, which was created originally to probe individuals for war crimes and is considered a court of “last resort,” when all the other options are unavailable.

Legal action by the court against Israel could be started pending the unlikely passing of a resolution by the United Nations Security Council authorizing it to act, or if the Palestinian Authority is accepted as a member. In 2009, the P.A.’s bid to join following many civilian deaths during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead was rejected.

But in 2012, the U.N. General Assembly accorded the Palestinians Non-Member Observer State status. Legal experts are divided in their assessments on whether Ramallah would be accepted if it re-applied now.

The court can only intervene when a country is found to be unwilling or unable to carry out its own investigation.

Also Tuesday, the NRC daily published an Op-Ed by Timmermans in which he called Israel’s actions “unacceptable,” but also condemned Hamas’ diversion of financial resources away from humanitarian needs for the construction of tunnels to attack Israel.

At about noon, police detained several protesters who held a sit-down protest in front of the Israeli Embassy in The Hague after vowing on Facebook to block access to it. Police declared the area temporarily off limits for demonstrators.

ICC prosecutor: No probe on Gaza war crimes because Palestine not a state


The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague said the court cannot open an investigation into cases related to the 2008-09 Gaza war because Palestine is not a state.

Jose Luis Moreno Ocampo said on April 3 in a statement that it is up to the United Nations or the states that make up the court to determine whether the Palestinian Authority (PA) can be a signatory to the 1998 Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty. According to the statute, only internationally recognized states can join the international court.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that while Israel welcomes the decision on the lack of ICC jurisdiction, “It has reservations regarding some of the legal pronouncements and assumptions in the Prosecutor’s statement.”

The ICC’s decision came in response to a January 2009 request by the PA that the court direct its war crimes tribunal to investigate war crimes cases against Israeli officials stemming from the month-long Gaza war that began in late December 2008. The request was in the form of a letter filed with the court in which the PA unilaterally accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction.

NGO Monitor had filed a legal brief on the case arguing that the court does not have jurisdiction over the PA because it is not a state.

John Demjanjuk, convicted of war crimes in Germany, dies stateless and in limbo


Though the death last weekend of John Demjanjuk brought a close to the seemingly never-ending quest for justice in the case of a man long accused of being a Nazi war criminal, it also brought a premature end to the legal battle over his legacy.

Though Demjanjuk, 91, was convicted by a German court of being an accessory to the murder of 27,900 Jews in the Sobibor concentration camp, he was living freely in a German nursing home pending appeal. His son said Demjanjuk’s death before the legal process was exhausted meant he had died an innocent man. But the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Jewish leaders said he should be remembered as being guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Demjanjuk died Saturday at an old-age home in southern Germany, where he was free while he appealed his conviction last year for his role as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in Poland.

“My father fell asleep with the Lord today as both a victim and survivor of Soviet and German brutality from childhood till death,” Demjanjuk’s son, John Demjanjuk Jr., said in a statement from his home in Seven Hills, a Cleveland suburb.

The elder Demjanjuk, who was born and raised in Ukraine, moved to suburban Cleveland after immigrating to the United States following World War II. In 1952, living in the U.S., he changed his first name to John from Ivan. He died stateless, in the process of trying to regain his U.S. citizenship.

“Ivan Demjanjuk died guilty of his service in the Sobibor death camp and that is how he should be remembered, not as a person falsely accused, but as an individual who volunteered to serve in the SS, and who at the height of his physical powers spent months helping to mass murder innocent Jews deported to that death camp,” said Efraim Zuroff, the Jerusalem-based chief Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in a statement following the announcement of Demjanjuk’s death.

“Justice was unfortunately delayed in this case, and hindered by complicating factors, but was ultimately achieved to the credit of the prosecutors in the U.S. and Germany who handled the case.”

Following Demjanjuk’s conviction by a German court in May 2010, Zuroff reopened “Operation Last Chance,” a last-ditch effort to track down Nazi war criminals.

“Previously the German prosecutors only brought cases in which they could find evidence of a specific crime with a specific victim, but in the wake of the Demjanjuk conviction, that no longer had to be the case,” Zuroff told JTA last October.

Many have called Demjanjuk’s German trial the last big Nazi trial.

Demjanjuk was convicted on May 12, 2011and later sentenced by a Munich court to five years in prison, but was released to a nursing home pending his appeal.
Munich state prosecutors appealed the court’s decision to free Demjanjuk and also sought a longer sentence, saying the five years was too lenient.

Demjanjuk in the 1970s had been identified as “Ivan the Terrible,” a notoriously sadistic guard at the Treblinka death camp. Holocaust survivors had identified his photo during a photo spread as part of the investigation of Treblinka concentration camp guard Feodor Fedorenko.

The U.S. Justice Department in 1977 requested that Demjanjuk’s citizenship be revoked since he lied about his Nazi service on his application to enter the country.
In 1986, U.S. authorities deported Demjanjuk to Israel to stand trial on charges of being Treblinka’s “Ivan.”

A special Israeli court sentenced Demjanjuk to death, but the Israeli Supreme Court in 1993 in a 400-page decision overturned the verdict, saying there was reasonable doubt that Demjanjuk actually was “Ivan the Terrible.” However, substantial evidence did emerge during the trial identifying Demjanjuk as a guard at Sobibor.

Demjanjuk returned to the Cleveland area in 1993, where he was greeted by protests outside his home by Holocaust survivors and activists, some wearing striped prison garb, led by activist Rabbi Avi Weiss of Riverdale, N.Y.

Demjanjuk’s citizenship was restored by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Matia in 1998.

One year later, the Justice Department again filed a request to strip Demjanjuk of his citizenship, citing his service in Sobibor. Matia ruled in 2002 that Demjanjuk’s citizenship should be stripped. His attorneys appealed the case up to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the lower court rulings.

Demjanjuk was deported from the U.S. in 2009 and flown to Germany, which had requested his extradition.

Judge Dalia Dorner, who sat on the Jerusalem District Court panel that convicted John Demjanjuk of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 1988—the ruling that was overturned—remains convinced that the verdict was just.

“I believe without a shadow of a doubt that he was ‘Ivan the Terrible,’ ” Dorner told Ynet following his death. “But I still support the Supreme Court verdict that ruled he could not be convicted due to reasonable doubt.

“The most important thing is that these terrible times are on the public agenda again and they must be remembered, so such things never happen to us again.”

Conference calls on Romania to acknowlege WWII war crimes


A conference focusing on Romania’s Holocaust-era war crimes in Ukraine and Moldova called on Romania to acknowledge and apologize for the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews.

The conference, which ended Wednesday, on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, was convened to bring the full scope of World War II Romania’s fascist state-sponsored genocide to light. The conference examined Romania’s role in the Holocaust in Ukraine and other countries of the former Soviet Union, particularly Moldova.

Convened by Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksandr Feldman and the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, which Feldman serves as president, the conference brought together some 70 participants from Ukraine and Moldova comprising a mix of Holocaust survivors, scholars and public figures.

The Romanian ambassador to Kiev initially accepted the conference’s invitation but at the last moment declined to attend. There was, however, official representation by the embassies of Austria, Azerbaijan and Israel, as well as lawmakers from Ukraine and Moldova.

“We are not demanding financial compensation from Romania,” Feldman said. “They cannot bring their victims back to life. Even though the Romanian ambassador did not attend the conference, we are pushing forward with this process until justice is achieved.”

The conference adopted a series of three resolutions that Feldman called “a small first step of a long journey before us.”

The resolutions call on Romania to recognize publicly and officially its role in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews from the territories of present-day Ukraine and Moldova; to issue a formal apology to the Jewish communities of Ukraine and Moldova; and to play an active role in cooperating with Ukrainian and Moldovan governmental and nongovernmental organizations in programs designed for memorializing Holocaust victims of Romania-occupied territories. 

Next to the Nazis, Romania was responsible for the deaths of more Jews during the Holocaust than any other German-allied country. During World War II, the Nazi-allied Romanian government was complicit in the murder of approximately 400,000 Jews, both on Romanian soil and in villages and forests throughout Ukraine and Moldova.

Livni visits Britain after prosecution law amended


Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni has visited Britain for the first time since a law that allows for the prosecution of foreign officials for alleged war crimes was amended.

Livni arrived in London Thursday for the first time since a warrant for her arrest was issued in 2009 for her role in the Gaza war. Livni was Israel’s foreign minister during the month-long war in 2008-2009. She was forced to cancel the 2009 visit due to fears that she would be detained.

The law had caused strained relations between Israel and Britain after several Israeli officials either canceled or shortened visits to the country over fears of being arrested for their roles in the Second Lebanon and Gaza wars.

Under the new law, Britain’s director of public prosecutions must agree to issue an arrest warrant in universal jurisdiction cases in which the alleged crimes were committed outside of Britain. This means political considerations also will be taken into account. Previously, anyone in Britain could apply to a judge for an arrest warrant. The new law took effect Sept. 15.

Livni met with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, reportedly at his invitation, and praised Britain for amending the law. “This is not a personal issue, but something which has darkened relations between the two countries for years, and Britain has done a good thing by putting an end to the matter,” Livni said, according to Haaretz.

Fears of arrest gone, Tzipi Livni to visit Britain


Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni will visit Britain this week now that a war crimes law that clouded Israeli-British relations and kept her away for fear of arrest has been changed.

Livni’s centrist Kadima party said she would travel to London at the invitation of British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who telephoned her last week, and would hold talks with him.

Neither Kadima, nor the British Foreign Office, which confirmed the visit, gave an arrival date for Livni. Israeli media reported the visit would begin on Thursday.

“As leader of the Israeli opposition she will have a number of meetings, including with the foreign secretary, to discuss UK-Israel relations and recent events in the region,” a Foreign Office spokesman said in London on Tuesday.

In a statement, Kadima said an arrest warrant had been issued in Britain in 2009 against Livni, foreign minister during the three-week war Israel launched in the Gaza Strip in late 2008.

Under a British law amended three weeks ago, private individuals could start criminal prosecutions, including for international war crimes, by applying to a magistrate for an arrest warrant.

Israel urged Britain to change the law in late 2009 after reports that Livni would have risked arrest on war crimes charges stemming from the Gaza war had she not canceled a visit to London.

Last year, Israel said it had stopped sending delegations to Britain for routine strategic talks out of fear pro-Palestinian activists would seek their arrest.

The new law requires the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions before an arrest warrant can be issued in “universal jurisdiction” cases, where a case involves alleged crimes committed outside Britain.

Last May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s military adviser, a former commander of the air force, did not accompany him on a visit to Britain. Israeli media reports said the decision stemmed from fears of arrest.

In February, the chief spokesman of Israel’s armed forces at the time said he had visited Britain incognito.

Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Additional reporting by Adrian Croft in London; Editing by Angus MacSwan

John Demjanjuk found guilty of war crimes


A Munich court has found John Demjanjuk guilty of war crimes, and sentenced the 91-year-old former autoworker to five years in prison.

Thursday’s verdict came after 93 court days, including deeply affecting testimony from Dutch survivors and their kin, and monologues by Demjanjuk’s chief attorney, Ulrich Busch, who claimed his client was just as much a victim of Germany as any Jew.

Reacting to the early news, Jewish leaders expressed gratitude to the court.

“The most important thing is that he was tried and judged and for the last days of his life is confirmed as a perpetrator,” Stefan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told JTA in a telephone interview. “How long he is going to serve is secondary.”

“Even if there is going to be another appeal, as his attorney has warned, this court ruling now is a very important step in the direction of justice after more than 65 years of injustice,”  he added.

Demjanjuk, born in Ukraine, was charged with being an accessory to the murder of 27,900 Jews in Sobibor. He was present at nearly every court date, always in a wheelchair or hospital bed. He wore sunglasses, and said virtually nothing for the duration of the trial. In April 2010, Busch read aloud a statement in which Demjanjuk called the trial “torture,” relieved only by his care attendants.

Survivor Thomas Blatt, one of the rare escapees from Sobibor, told JTA during the trial that “All the guards [at Sobibor] were murderers… it is enough to prove he was there.”

Demjanjuk immigrated to the United States after World War II. He lived in suburban Cleveland from 1952.  His later years were spent fighting accusations of involvement in wartime crimes against humanity: he was accused in the early 1980s of being a guard at the Treblinka death camp, but was released from jail in Israel after seven years when another Ukrainian was identified as the guard in question.

The U.S. Justice Department later reported that Demjanjuk was suspected of having been a guard at Sobibor and was liable for deportation because his U.S. citizenship had been granted based on false information. His citizenship was revoked in 2002 and deportation was approved in 2005. He was deported in March 2009.

Efraim Zuroff, who heads the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told JTA he was pleased with the verdict against Demjanjuk,  but disappointed that a German court in Ingolstadt decided Wednesday not to extradite another accused war criminal to Holland.

A spokesperson for the court said that 88-year-old Klaas Carel Faber, convicted more than 60 years ago by a Dutch court of complicity in 22 wartime murders, would not be extradited because Faber’s consent as a German citizen was required, and he refused, according to the Associated Press.

“This decision is absolutely outrageous,” Zuroff said in an interview from Jerusalem. “It makes my blood boil.”

Kramer noted that, of 150,000 war crimes investigations in post-war West Germany, only 6,500 resulted in trials.

Israel canceled residency status of thousands of Palestinians


Israel canceled the residency status of 140,000 Palestinians, allegedly without warning, the daily Haaretz reported.

A document obtained by Haaretz, following a request filed under the Freedom of Information Law by a human rights organization, shows that the residency status of 140,000 West Bank Palestinians were canceled between 1967 and 1994, shortly after the signing of the Oslo Accords.

Palestinians who left the West Bank via the Allenby Bridge to Jordan were required to leave their ID cards at the border crossing and were issued a travel document good for three years. If they did not return within those three years, they became registered as “no longer residents,” Haaretz reported Wednesday.

The procedure also affected Palestinians who left to attend universities abroad.

Palestinians who left the West Bank after the Palestinian Authority was set up retain their residency rights indefinitely.

The regulation constitutes a war crime and represents an Israeli attempt to affect the demographic composition of the West Bank, Palestinian official Saeb Erekat told Haaretz in a statement.

“This policy should not only be seen as a war crime as it is under international law; it also has a humanitarian dimension: we are talking about people who left Palestine to study or work temporarily but who could not return to resume their lives in their country with their families,” Erekat said.

Erekat used the Haaretz report as another reason to call on the international community to recognize a unilaterally declared Palestinian state.

“Our right to self determination must not be subject to negotiations, including the right of our families to live in their homeland. It is time to put an end to the pain and humiliation caused by the continuation of the Israeli occupation,” he said in the statement.

The regulation’s existence was discovered by the Center for the Defense of the Individual when it looked into the case of a West Bank resident imprisoned in Israel who lost his residency status.

Dear Mr. Goldstone: Six months until Kol Nidre


Dear Mr. Goldstone:

You really screwed up. You screwed up so badly that Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic says you contributed, more than any other individual, to the delegitimization and demonization of the Jewish state.

The deliberate killing of innocent civilians is the equivalent of murder. As far as accusations go, that’s about as low as you can go. Your report accused Israel of a lot of things, but that accusation was the most lethal: targeting innocent civilians.

Now you write that you were wrong. Israel is not the war criminal she was made out to be. It was Hamas that targeted innocent civilians, not Israel. Well, like Goldberg says, “It is somewhat difficult to retract a blood libel, once it has been broadcast across the world.”

Remember, this was no ordinary blood libel. This was an official indictment bearing the stamp of approval of the closest thing we have to a global legislative body — the United Nations. Thanks to this stamp of approval, Israel’s enemies have feasted on Israel’s good name like vultures on a carcass.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the global campaign to delegitimize Israel, as well as the flourishing BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement that is turning Israel into a pariah state. Sadly, much of the ammunition for these movements has come from the Goldstone report — the same report you now have repudiated with a phrase that might go down in Jewish infamy: “Civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”

I wonder what went through your mind as you wrote those words: “Why did I rush to judgment? Should I have paid more attention to the hundreds of thousands of Israeli leaflets and phone calls that warned civilians, and to the preliminary Israel Defense Forces reports and other publicly available information that contradicted our conclusions? Should I have put Israel’s behavior in the proper context of defending its people after years of Hamas rockets? Should I have been more skeptical of sources I knew were unreliable?”

A friend told me over Shabbat that I should cut you some slack because you had the courage to eat your words in public after getting “new information.” That’s fine, but another friend told me a parable that made him somewhat less forgiving.

It’s the story of a man who goes to his rabbi to ask for forgiveness because he spread false rumors about him. The rabbi instructs him to take a feathered pillow and a knife, go to a nearby forest and slice open the pillow. When the man returned, the rabbi said to him, “Now go try to retrieve all those feathers.”

Now go try, Mr. Goldstone, to “retrieve” all the damage your report inflicted on Israel. Go to every television and radio station, to every newspaper and magazine, to every Web site and blogger, to every Jew and non-Jew on the planet who inhaled your dark accusations against Israel, and try to take those accusations back. Try telling them you didn’t mean it.

Surely you must have known that so many past accusations of Israeli “massacres” have been proved false (see Jenin). And as an international jurist who is familiar with the phenomenon of anti-Israel bias, surely you must have anticipated the vermin that would rain on the Jewish state if a Zionist jurist formally accused it of targeting innocent civilians.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve had more than a few sleepless nights since then. Why? Because I do believe there is a piece of your heart that loves Israel, that believes in Israel and that now cries for Israel because of the damage you have inflicted upon her.

While you can never undo that damage, there is still something you can undo: the report itself. Given your deep knowledge of international law, with all its arcane rules and procedures, if anyone can formally retract the report or officially amend it, it is you.

It won’t be easy. You will be going up against the many enemies of Israel, those who dream of turning the Jewish state into an illegal enterprise, those for whom the Goldstone report is the gift that keeps on giving — their little gold mine rich with never-ending ammunition against the hated Zionist entity. They won’t let you take away their gold mine that easily.

But I have confidence you can do it. I have seen how you can be dogged and relentless in front of intense opposition. I have seen how when you put your mind to something, nothing can stop you, not even your own people. I have seen you go the distance.

Now go the distance on this one, Mr. Goldstone. Make this your cause. Put the Goldstone report where it belongs, in the delete button of history. You can replace it, amend it, retract it or do whatever you feel will correct it. You will not undo the damage, but you might at least stanch some of the bleeding — not just in Israel’s name, but perhaps in yours, as well.

Kol Nidre is still six months away, but you don’t have to wait that long.

Seattle county does not have to run Israel ‘war crimes’ ad, judge rules


A federal judge in Seattle ruled that King County, Wash., did not violate the First Amendment rights of a pro-Palestinian group when it refused to run an Israel ‘War Crimes’ ad campaign.

Judge Richard Jones on Feb. 18 denied a request to force the Metro Transit system to run the ads.

“Because King County’s policy and practice indicates that it consistently applied content restrictions on advertising to further its purpose of using its property to provide orderly and safe public transportation, the forum at issue is a limited public forum,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

Because it is a limited public forum, the acceptance of ads by the Metro Transit system is not subject to First Amendment protections, according to the ruling.

The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle in January charging that King County violated the campaign’s First Amendment rights. The suit asked the court to order the county to place the ad for four weeks on the sides of 12 buses, as the Metro Transit system and its ad agency originally agreed to do.

The Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign had paid $1,794 to place the advertisements on 12 buses beginning last Dec. 27—the second anniversary of the day Israel entered Gaza to stop rocket attacks on its southern communities. The ads feature a group of children looking at a demolished building under the heading “Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work.”

Three days before the ad was supposed to start running, King County Executive Dow Constantine ordered the Metro Transit system to reject the ad as well as any other new noncommercial advertising.

The acceptance of the ad had generated thousands of responses by phone, fax and e-mail, many from out of the county and state, according to reports.

S. African group seeking Livni’s arrest on ‘war crimes’


A South African organization dedicated to dispelling stereotypes about Muslims is seeking an arrest warrant for Israeli lawmaker Tzipi Livni for her role in the Gaza war.

Livni, Israel’s opposition leader and head of the Kadima Party, is set to visit South Africa at the end of the month as a guest of the Jewish Board of Deputies, according to the South African Press Association. She is scheduled to give several speeches and hold meetings in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Igbal Jassat, chairman of the the Media Review Network, told the South African Press Association that his organization has instructed its attorneys to secure the arrest warrant in accordance with the Rome statutes, to which South Africa is a signatory, “which obligates all member states to honor their responsibility in the prosecution of war criminals.”

A 3,000-page report on the war compiled by the Media Review Network and the Palestinian Solidarity Alliance calls Livni one of the “key architects” of the Gaza war, known as Operation Cast Lead, which lasted for one month beginning in late December 2008. Livni was serving as Israel’s foreign minister at the time.

It is not the first time that foreign organizations have tried to secure warrants for Livni’s arrest for her actions during the Gaza war. A British court issued an arrest warrant for Livni in December 2009, forcing Livni to cancel her visit.

Jewish Board of Deputies spokesman Zev Krengel said that Livni’s visit will go forward as scheduled.

Journalist stole IDF documents to expose alleged war crimes


The former IDF soldier currently indicted for espionage told an Israeli court that she took classified documents to expose war crimes, Haaretz reported.

Anat Kam, an Israeli journalist and former soldier, passed off classified documents she had access to during her military service in the office of the GOC Central Command, to Haaretz reporter Uri Blau.

The documents, she claims, reveal that the Israel Defense Forces committed war crimes in the West Bank by assassinating Palestinian militants, allegedly violating Israeli Supreme Court rulings.
Kam stated that she will relinquish her journalistic immunity as Blau’s source and is calling on him to return to Israel from London with all of the documents she provided him.

“I think that he did not reveal the documents because he wants to protect her. Now she gave up her immunity as a source, and I am asking that he return, and his return, as far as I understand, will minimize the affair,” said Kam’s attorney Avigdor Feldman.

Kam will be prosecuted on the most serious espionage charge: passing on classified information with intent of harming state security. A guilty conviction carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. She also faces a lesser charge of gathering and possessing classified materials with intent to harm state security, which carries a 15-year maximum sentence.

“I didn’t have the chance to change some of the things that I found it important to change during my military service, and I thought that by exposing these [materials] I would make a change,” said Kam as a means of justifying her actions. “It was important for me to bring the IDF’s policy to public knowledge.”

Iran gets away with murder


Radovan Karadzic’s arrest last month in a Belgrade hideout was more than just a finishing point to 12 years of a fugitive’s life. Renowned as the face of “ethnic cleansing” in the Balkans, Karadzic was especially sought for having ordered the execution of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica.

His arrest can only increase international awareness of what is known as crimes against humanity. The feeling that criminals cannot go around unpunished is a sacred feeling anywhere in the world. Even when those criminals at large are no longer a threat to public security, they should be sought and brought to justice. They might no longer be a public threat, but they certainly remain a threat and a challenge to human dignity.

Nazi criminals who were justly pursued and brought to justice years after the horrible crimes they committed against the Jewish people more than deserved that. So long as such criminals are at large, the human conscience is oppressed, ignored, humiliated. There should be no impunity for such gross human rights violations, regardless of when and where they were committed. Unfortunately Karadzic’s record is not an isolated one.

Last week, Amnesty International issued a public statement on the 20th anniversary of the 1988 “prison massacre” in Iran. Twenty years after the Iranian regime began a wave of largely secret, summary and mass executions in September 1988, Amnesty International renewed its call for those responsible for the “prison massacre” to be held accountable. The call was launched a long time ago by the Iranian opposition and various circles of the Iranian diaspora.

In the summer of 1988, Iran put thousands of political prisoners to death after a desperate cease-fire agreement was reached to end the 1980-1988 war with Iraq. During those killing months, a three-judge panel retried thousands of inmates already serving sentences. The hearings lasted a few minutes for each prisoner. Those inmates who stood by their opposition to the regime were ordered immediately hanged. Amnesty International puts the number of the executed between 4,500 and 5,000, including women. In a letter to Imam Khomeini, then Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, then the latter’s heir apparent, quoted the number to be either 2,800 or 3,800. Opposition counts go as high as 30,000, of which a list of 3,208 names has so far been produced. Montazeri stressed that the victims, members of the Moudjahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) organization, were not “individuals,” but “represented a sort of thought.” In other words, those massacred were all prisoners of conscience.

But that is not the worst part. The worst is that those responsible for the carnage were never blamed, and not the least sign of regret was ever expressed by anyone in the regime. On the contrary, many of the perpetrators of that massacre are still very much in circulation.

Jaafar Nayyeri, chairman of the three-judge panel, is currently deputy chief justice of the Iranian Supreme Court. A second influential judge, Ebrahim Raissi, is the head of the State Inspectorate Office. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, head of the executive at the time, is currently the supreme ruler.

The fact that Serbian criminals were out of business at the moment of arrest, and that those of Iran are still in power, does not give the latter any legitimacy to continue. On the contrary, because they think they are safe from punishment, the case is more urgent. Political power, often kept with utmost repression, should no longer be criteria for safe haven.

Last July 25, in a single day, 29 prisoners were executed in Iran. The act provoked much international condemnations. However, the ruling clerics paid no heed and in the following days executed 10 more people. Last year, around 400 people were “officially” executed in Iran, often in public. It might still not be a massacre, but certainly the mentality of the perpetrators remains the same.

The international community has rightly brought Karadzic to justice, and the International Criminal Court has done well to indict Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir for alleged crimes against humanity in Darfur. The same should be done in regard to Iran.

Nooredin Abedian taught in Iranian higher-education institutions before settling in France as a political refugee in 1981. He writes for a variety of publications on Iranian politics and issues concerning human rights.

Briefs: West Bank withdrawals coming, Peres says; Israel wants U.S. to stay the course on P.A.


West Bank withdrawals coming, Peres says

Israel plans to remove some West Bank settlements according to Shimon Peres.

The Israeli vice premier said Saturday that, while Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan to “realign” the West Bank deployment was shelved after last year’s Lebanon war, settlement evacuations are still on the agenda.

“Yes, settlements will be removed — not all the settlements, and I’m not even sure most of the settlements,” he told Israel’s Channel 2 television, adding that the number of communities evacuated could be in the dozens. “I think that a serious effort will be made to do that which we undertook to do, which is removing settlements.” Peres said the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority could affect the scale and pace of the withdrawals by accepting peace talks with Israel.

Israel wants U.S. to stay the course on P.A.

Israel is trying to shore up U.S. objections to the planned Palestinian Authority coalition government. Top aides of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert traveled Sunday to Washington, where they will urge Bush administration officials not to yield to European calls to engage the Hamas-Fatah unity government when it is formed.

The Palestinian Authority power-sharing pact, which was signed in Saudi Arabia last month, contains a vague reference to “respecting” past peace deals with Israel, falling short of Western demands that the Hamas-led government recognize the Jewish state and renounce terrorism. But Israel believes that some European nations are wavering for fear that the Palestinian Authority’s continued isolation will harm its president, Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader and a perceived moderate.

Separately, U.S. Under Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Levey was in Israel on Sunday for talks with local officials on the effect of the Western aid embargo on the Palestinian Authority, and whether such measures could also be applied against Iran’s nuclear program.

Jordan’s King Abdullah wants more U.S. involvement

Jordan’s King Abdullah said the United States was not balanced in its handling of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

“It is our duty to push this great nation, and others, to take balanced positions and support the peace process,” Abdullah told Jordanian television in a weekend interview ahead of a trip to the United States. He said Washington should use its influence on Israel “to prove its transparency to the peoples of the region, and that it is not biased.”

Abdullah, whose pro-Western country is considered an important regional broker, suggested that Israel was not displaying sincerity in its efforts to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

“The main responsibility lies with Israel, which must choose either to remain a prisoner of the mentality of ‘Israel the fortress’ or to live in peace and stability with its neighbors,” he said.

Hungarian political unrest spurs anti-Semitism

Hungary’s leader warned of rising anti-Semitism. Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said in an interview published over the weekend that the hatred of Jews in Hungary has reached new heights since a wave of anti-government protests last year.

“I have to say that there have never been so many anti-Semitic remarks as now,” Gyurcsany told Britain’s Times newspaper.

Hungary’s left-leaning government was disgraced in September after it was revealed to have lied about the economy in order to win the previous election. Gyurcsany said that during the resulting demonstrations, protesters tried to blame Jewish politicians, apparently with the encouragement of right-wing opposition members.

“There is something horrible happening,” said Gyurcsany, whose wife is of Jewish descent.

Hadassah receives $75 million for Jerusalem hospital

Hadassah received a $75 million contribution for a new inpatient tower at its Jerusalem hospital. William and Karen Davidson gave the gift on behalf of Guardian Industries Corp. of Auburn Hills, Mich., of which William Davidson is president. Hadassah will name the new facility at the Hadassah Medical Center the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower in memory of William Davidson’s mother, who was a founder of the organization’s Detroit chapter.

“The power of family is truly a binding one, and I feel privileged to be the third generation to support Hadassah’s goals and achievements,” Davidson said in a statement.

Davidson, who owns several sports teams, including the Detroit Pistons, said he was impressed by the way Hadassah treats patients of all religions and backgrounds. The $210 million inpatient tower will be a 14-story structure with 500 beds, 20 state-of-the-art operating rooms and 50 intensive-care beds. The tower is expected to boost Hadassah’s capabilities in many fields, such as cardiology, telemedicine and laparoscopic surgery, and will facilitate the use of advanced robotics and computers.

Minister denies war crimes allegations

An Israeli Cabinet minister denied Egyptian accusations that he was involved in the killing of Egyptian prisoners of war.

Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, a retired army general, said Sunday that his record during the 1967 war with Egypt was spotless. His comments came after some of his former subordinates said in an Israeli documentary that they had killed Egyptian prisoners, a claim that was picked up by the official Cairo newspaper Al-Ahram and prompted calls in the Egyptian Parliament for Ben-Eliezer to be tried for war crimes.

“The commandos under me did not kill Egyptian soldiers,” Ben-Eliezer, who is due to visit Egypt later this week, told Yediot Achronot.

“When the commandos encountered POWs from an Egyptian battalion, they gave them food and water.”

RJC launches anti-Reform Iraq resolution

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) launched an effort opposing the Reform movement’s call for withdrawal from Iraq.

“If you or someone you know is a member of the Reform movement, you should know that the movement’s leadership is pushing the Executive Committee of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Board of Trustees to adopt a dangerous and wrongheaded resolution opposing the U.S. efforts in Iraq,” the RJC said in an action alert sent out this week.

It urged RJC members who belong to Reform synagogues to register their protests locally and nationally. “RJC will continue to speak out on this and make it clear that the Union for Reform Judaism does not speak for all Reform Jews or all Jews in general,” the RJC said.

Israel should probe accusations of war crimes


The recent charge by three human rights organizations that Israel committed war crimes in Lebanon seems at first like just another reflexive anti-Israel (or, at worst,
anti-Semitic) condemnation.
 
The truth, though, is more complex. Those who are making the accusations appear to be acting with good motives. The real problem is the inherently vague nature of the law under which they have made their accusations.

 
The accusations are serious: They claim that Israel’s soldiers committed acts that merit criminal prosecution and jail time. Louise Arbour, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, stated that she believed that Israeli bombings that killed civilians constituted war crimes for which Israeli military personnel could be held individually, criminally liable. Human Rights Watch concluded that Israel’s “indiscriminate attacks against civilians” constitute war crimes. Most recently, an Amnesty International report opined that Israel committed war crimes such as “attacking civilian objects and carrying out indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks.”
 
There is no reason to think that these accusations are motivated by anti-Semitism. These human rights organizations are devoted to protecting the rights of civilians — a laudable goal — and can be expected aggressively to take the side of civilians in any military conflict, whether the conflict involves Israel or anyone else. Nor did the United Nations or Human Rights Watch refrain from criticizing Hezbollah in the most severe terms. In the words of Human Rights Watch, Hezbollah’s missile attacks intended to kill Israeli civilians are “without doubt a war crime.” (Amnesty International’s report criticizing Israel, by contrast, makes only the cryptic statement that Hezbollah’s actions are “being addressed elsewhere.”)

 
The basic problem with the charges, however, is the vague and subjective nature of the law that Israel stands accused of violating. Contrary to popular imagination, the term “war crime” covers not only atrocities like genocide and other clear-cut misdeeds. Instead, the term also applies to nuanced and highly debatable issues concerning whether a particular military campaign was properly conducted.
 
The accusations against Israel involve the more subjective provisions of international law relating to civilians in wartime. The 1949 provisions of the Geneva Convention require that armies “shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.” Much more vaguely — and importantly for present purposes — the treaty also prohibits attacks against a military target “which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life … which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.”

 
This sliding-scale provision, forbidding not all civilian casualties but only excessive losses in light of the military objective, is at the heart of the current round of accusations. As Human Rights Watch senior emergencies researcher Peter N. Boukaert has explained, his organization’s charges “don’t accuse the Israeli army of deliberately trying to kill civilians.” Rather, they claim that Israel did not take enough care to distinguish between military and civilian targets, and that the damage Israel caused was excessive in connection with the military advantage it sought — standards that are far less easy to quantify. Under the same analysis, it is quite clear that the United States’ World War II firebombing of Dresden and dropping of atomic bombs on Japan would have qualified as war crimes, too.
 
So subjective is the relevant standard that a war crimes accusation is almost inevitable when an army fights a militia like Hezbollah, entrenched deep within the civilian population. Strikes against Hezbollah will tragically and inevitably lead to civilian deaths.

 
There will then be grounds for debating whether or not the civilian damage caused by any particular strike was “excessive” or specifically enough tied to a particular military objective. The laws in the Geneva Convention were designed with much clearer army-to-army conflicts in mind, not the case of a guerilla army operating and hiding among civilians.
 
Because of the issue’s inherent subjectivity, a critical question becomes: Who decides? The idea of letting the Zionism-is-racism gang at the United Nations adjudicate the propriety of Israel’s military operations would make anyone vaguely sympathetic to Israel shudder. The newly functioning International Criminal Court in The Hague, which both the United States and Israel find controversial, reflects the United Nations’ makeup; neither Israel nor Lebanon are members of the court, which therefore lacks jurisdiction. And humanitarian groups like Human Rights Watch are “biased” in the sense that their agenda is the broadest possible application of these legal rules.
 
As a practical matter, there is unlikely to be any real-world prosecution of anyone from Israel (or Hezbollah) arising out of the Lebanon War.
 
In truth, Israel itself should decide. It should analyze the facts to make sure that it is complying with the rules governing the protections of civilians.
 
Rather than dismiss these charges out of hand, Israel and those who care about it should look at them carefully for the sake of determining the right course of conduct in future battles. For example, Israel should make sure that the losses to Lebanese civilians were truly incidental to military objectives and as limited as possible, rather than (as Amnesty International claims) a means of punishing Lebanese civilians for supporting Hezbollah, conduct that would be unlawful.
 
The accusations are an occasion for careful self-reflection about how Israel can fight for its existence while minimizing civilian casualties as required by international law.

 
Joseph M. Lipner is a Los Angeles attorney.

Slave Laborers Get Final Claims Check


Frieda Moldavan had to wait 60 years, but last week she was finally "compensated" for digging German anti-tank trenches outside Budapest in the bitter winter of 1944.

Moldavan received a check for slightly more than $3,000 — the same amount paid to the other 4,325 former Jewish slave laborers living in California — thus closing one more chapter in the long and contentious history of post-Holocaust reparations.

The check came from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, part of a $1.3 billion fund established by the German government and some 6,000 German businesses.

A similar amount was paid to the former slave laborers about four years ago, and the current payment represents the second and final installment, said Mark Rothman, Holocaust services advocate at Bet Tzedek legal services.

However, Moldavan said the current check was the only payment she had ever received.

The 77-year-old Studio City resident was born in a small town in what was Czechoslovakia and now is part of Ukraine. She was 17 when she and 150 other women were given their shovels and, to this day, Moldavan remembers the cold, the hunger, the exhaustion and the dead, and the exact dimensions of the trenches.

"Each day, each of us had to dig a trench 10 feet long and 3 feet deep," she said.

Her husband, Max, was also a slave laborer. He was born in Sighet, Romania, living on the same street as Elie Wiesel and his family, until the area was incorporated into Hungary in 1940.

In 1943, he was sent to a Hungarian labor camp to build an airport, and the following year he was shipped to the Polish border to construct bunkhouses for the German army.

He has mixed feelings about his $3,000 check from the Claims Commission, which will go mainly to buy medications.

"If I weren’t sick and old, I wouldn’t accept it," Max Moldavan said. "Five years ago, the Hungarians sent me $50 to pay for the death of my mother in Auschwitz and I sent it back."

Rose Niederman was 15 years old in 1942 and celebrating the first seder night with her family, when soldiers broke into her house and told them to pack up what they could in 10 minutes.

The home was in a small Czech town, but Niederman had a hard time keeping track of her nationality.

"Every other month we were part of another country — first Czechoslovakia, then Hungary, Romania, Russia and now Ukraine," she said.

Most of the family was killed in Auschwitz-Birkenau, but Niederman was sent to Germany to work in a factory manufacturing bullets for the Wehrmacht.

"We worked seven days a week, but don’t ask the hours, we didn’t know whether it was day or night," she remembered.

The food? "Don’t even ask," she advised, her voice frequently overcome with emotion.

Now 76 years old and living in West Hollywood, Niederman can use every penny of the payment. Her monthly income consists of a $700 Social Security check, a $100 welfare check, and $60 in food stamps.

She hopes that the $3,000 will stretch to repair her windows, pay for arthritis medication, visit her sister who is in an Alzheimer’s institution in Israel and maybe buy a little outfit for her grandchild in Florida.

The money is certainly welcome but, she said, "They can’t pay for what I went through. They can’t pay for my dead family."

Si Frumkin was born in Kovno, Lithuania. When he was 10, he and his parents were rounded up and sent to the Kovno ghetto, and at age 13, he was shipped to a Dachau satellite camp and assigned to a German construction company building an underground aircraft factory for future jet planes.

He worked at heavy labor 12 hours a day, seven days a week, alongside his father, who died three weeks before liberation by American troops.

The place was run by the Phillipp Holzmann company, now the biggest construction firm in Germany, and Frumkin has good reason to remember the name.

"I was shocked to hear some time ago that an American subsidiary of the same company had gotten the contract to build the U.S. World War II Memorial in Washington," he said. "I fired off letters of protest, but nobody cared."

Frumkin came to the United States in 1949, became a Studio City businessman and one of the earliest leaders of the Soviet Jewry movement.

He once figured out that if he had been paid the prevailing minimum wage for his labors by Holzmann, plus accumulated interest, he would be owed $85,000.

So while he accepted the $3,000 check, "I’m not jumping up and down with joy," said Frumkin, now 73.

At an earlier point in his life, he said, "I didn’t want any German money. But now I feel that at least they have apologized for their crimes. Holland and France have never apologized for collaborating with the Nazis. Japan has never apologized for its war crimes."

Saddam Should Face Iraq ‘Nuremberg’ Trial


Smoked out of his rat hole by the U.S. Army, there was the
Iraqi dictator, not spewing propaganda but having his heavily bearded
mouth probed by a latex-gloved medic. The doctor may not
only have been extracting a DNA sample but searching for a cyanide capsule —
the type used by Nazi henchmen Heinrich Himmler and Herman Goering to escape
final justice.

So what to do with the father of all contemporary tyrants?
Saddam Hussein was barely in custody a day when a politically correct drumbeat
began against any suggestion that the U.S.-led coalition and the Iraqi people
try him for genocide and “crimes against humanity.” Critics warn such a trial
would be a “victors’ justice” — a la Nuremberg — not really serving justice,
but vengeance camouflaged behind juridical gloss. Wrong.

In fact, a multilateral court in Baghdad — similar to the
international tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany, that tried Nazi leaders for war
crimes — is exactly the right move.

Remember that Saddam committed war crimes against the
Iranians and Kuwaitis and lobbed Scud missiles at Saudi Arabia and Israel
during the first Gulf War. He plotted to assassinate former President George H.
W. Bush and may have been involved in the 1993 World Trade Center attack. In
addition, he was the proud paymaster for Palestinian terrorism, subsidizing the
family of every homicide bomber with a $25,000 bonus.

Everyone victimized by Saddam has the legal and moral right
to confront their tormentor.

Still, it is against the Iraqi people that Saddam committed
his greatest crimes. In March 1988, Saddam’s forces gassed the Kurdish citizens
of Halabja. At least 5,000 townspeople died, 3,200 of whom were buried in a
mass grave.

Halabja had the misfortune to be located in a zone of over
1,000 Kurdish villages that the Iraqi regime targeted for total eradication.
The Iraqi offensive was named “Anfal,” after a Quranic verse allegedly
justifying the killing of infidels.

Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal was one of the few world
figures to urge the civilized world to act immediately. “The world’s silence
will only encourage this tyrant,” he warned. It was only in 1991 that the U.N.
Security Council moved to protect the Iraqi Kurds, way too late for the many
victims of Anfal.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi dictator correctly read the world’s
meekness as a green light for his audacious criminality. Any European
tsk-tsking was drowned out by the mad rush to bid for Iraqi oil, weapons and
technology contracts. Frankly, before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the
United States did much the same. Perhaps all this explains why virtually
nobody acted during the 1990s to save the Iraqis from the continuing
depredations of their people-devouring tyrant.

But now, with Saddam under lock and key, the world must heed
the silent cries of the Kurds and the 300,000 other anonymous victims
discovered in mass graves by coalition forces.

A trial of Saddam on Iraqi soil, before a reconstituted
Iraqi justice system, would empower the Iraqi people and give voice to Saddam’s
victims. The coalition should do everything possible to speed the day when
Iraqi judges, sitting jointly with international observers and representatives
of other aggrieved countries, can mete out justice to this unrepentant mass
murderer.

Although not perfect, the Nuremberg tribunal is the proper
model, compared to the Europe’s current experience with dilatory, convoluted
trials of international criminals like the Libyan intelligence agent who blew
up TWA Flight 880 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and who is serving his “sentence”
in a facility with a private suite, cell phones and other amenities.

Nuremberg was the first venue to recognize what might be
called international “victims’ rights.” It was there where Hitler’s Jewish
victims, two years before the establishment of Israel, had their voices heard
and their unspeakable suffering confirmed by the international community.
Iraqis, who do have a state, cannot be denied sovereign jurisdiction on the
specious grounds that they’re motivated by vengeance.

Serbian tyrant Slobodan Milosevic committed his crimes in
Europe, and that is where he is being tried. The place to try Saddam is Iraq,
the homeland of Saladdin, medieval Islam’s knightly example of wisdom and
honor.

Today’s Arab and Muslim world needs an unvarnished trial,
free of apologetic Al Jazeera spin, showing how Saddam basely dishonored
Saladdin’s tradition. Mass murderer of his own people, Saddam should be viewed
as the ultimate negative role model. However, to ensure that legacy, a trial is
needed that presents this truth to Arabs and Muslims everywhere.

Wiesenthal insisted that trials of Nazi war criminals, more than
their sentences, were critical: “Each trial is an antidote to hate and a
warning to potential mass murderers yet unborn that justice will prevail.”

Ultimately, if this is can be achieved with Saddam, then the
punishment inflicted — whether the hangman’s noose or a life sentence in a rat’s
hole — really won’t matter.


Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Dr. Harold Brackman, a historian, is a consultant to the Wiesenthal Center.

World Court Poses U.S., Israel Threat


The new International Criminal Court sounds like such a good idea, why would either the United States or Israel oppose it?

The court came into existence on July 1, when 60 countries ratified the treaty establishing it. The court’s mission is to punish genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes — a noble and uncontroversial goal.

Yet both the United States and Israel have announced that they will not sign the treaty or participate in the court. The U.S., in particular, has worked to undermine the new tribunal, passing legislation that protects American troops from an International Criminal Court prosecution and pressuring allies to agree not to extradite Americans to the court.

Shunning an institution that fights genocide and war crimes may seem sinister, and human rights activists have protested the United States’ and Israel’s stance. For Jews, who were victims of genocide during the Holocaust, opposing such a court is far from comfortable.

But opposition to the court is justified. Far from having power to prosecute only heinous offenses that all civilized nations condemn, the International Criminal Court, or ICC, will be applying a complicated series of new rules set forth in the Rome Statute (adopted at a U.N. conference in Rome) governing the court. The list of "crimes" in the Rome Statute goes on for 12 pages. The description of the elements of those crimes runs nearly 50.

The result is a legislative act of extraordinary complexity that authorizes the ICC to impose criminal punishment in cases where international law is far from clear.

Consider one of the crimes that the ICC will interpret and prosecute: "Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilian objects … which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated."

One of the horrors of war is that it often causes the death of innocent civilians. How would the allied bombing of Dresden in World War II — not to mention the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — have fared under this indeterminate standard? Or recent bombing campaigns in Afghanistan or the Gaza Strip that caused civilian deaths?

The question of whether such bombing is appropriate — or whether it is a war crime — will be left to the sole discretion of ICC judges.

Another crime that was included in the Rome Statute — at the request of the Egyptian delegation, and over Israel’s bitter protests — is "the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the occupying power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." The crime is an adaptation of language in the post-WWII Hague Convention that forms the basis for the charge that Israel’s settlements are illegal under international law.

The definition of this crime is limited only by a footnote that says that the term "transfer" needs to be "interpreted in accordance with the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law," without providing any further guidance

While much is unclear about the International Criminal Court’s future, the following is certain: Israel’s opponents will make every effort to have Israelis tried for the crime of building settlements.

Rejection of the treaty does not automatically exempt Americans or Israelis from the court’s self-defined authority. The Rome Statute allows the ICC to assert jurisdiction not only over citizens of countries that have ratified the treaty but also whenever the alleged crime occurs on the territory of a ratifying country.

So if the United States undertakes a peace-keeping mission in the Congo, which has ratified the treaty, the court could hold a trial and imprison U.S. troops who act inconsistently with the regulations of the Rome Statute. If Syria ratifies the treaty, it could argue that the ICC should assert jurisdiction over settlement building on the Golan, since this alleged crime is taking place on Syrian territory.

The court’s supposed procedural safeguards offer little comfort. The ICC is supposed to assert jurisdiction only if the national court, like the U.S. or Israeli court system, is "unable or unwilling" to prosecute the accused war criminal. But this provides no protection where the court and the country disagree in principle on what conduct constitutes a crime.

For example, if an Israeli court were to determine that settlement activity does not constitute a "war crime," it is unlikely that such a decision would deter the ICC from proceeding with its own prosecution. Under the Rome Statute, the ICC itself investigates, decides its own jurisdiction, acts as judge and jury and doles out punishments.

This poses far too much risk for both the U.S., which undertakes sometimes unpopular military action in its role as the world’s sole remaining superpower, and for Israel, which suffers persistent international browbeating at the hands of the United Nations.

The specter of politically motivated prosecutions of Americans or Israelis cannot be ignored, because the Rome Statute is broad enough to allow them to go forward unchecked.


Joseph M. Lipner is a Los Angeles attorney.

World Briefs


Israel: U.S. Didn’t Help

Israel denied a newspaper report that the CIA helped Israel track down a smuggled arms shipment. “This operation was purely blue and white,” said a spokeswoman for the Israeli military, referring to the colors of Israel’s flag. Citing unnamed U.S. intelligence officials, The Washington Times newspaper reported Tuesday that Israel asked the CIA to locate the ship carrying the arms. The report said U.S. officials, using high-tech intelligence-gathering equipment, were able to identify the ship.

Israel Declines to Join War Crimes Court

Israel will not join a planned international war crimes court because the treaty establishing the court defines the settlements as a war crime, Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit said Monday. The Barak government signed the treaty but did not ratify it, and the current government will keep to this decision due to the court’s “political” nature, Sheetrit said.

Assassin’s Brother Barred

Israel’s Defense Ministry barred the brother of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin from serving in a special combat unit for fervently Orthodox Jews. Sagiv Amir, 19, has appealed the decision, saying it punishes him for his brother’s crime and effectively bars him from military service because his religious practices make it impossible for him to enlist in a regular unit. Amir was 13 when his brother, Yigal, shot Rabin dead at a 1995 peace rally in Tel Aviv.

Israel, China Discuss Deal

Israeli officials arrived in Beijing for talks on the canceled sale of an airborne radar system to China. Beijing is seeking compensation for Israel’s cancellation of a deal, worth $250 million, to purchase planes equipped with the Phalcon system. Israel canceled the arms sale in July 2000, following objections from U.S. officials, who feared the sale would enhance China’s threatening position against Taiwan and could be used to track U.S. aircraft in the case of a military conflict there.

U.S. Seeks Deportation

The U.S. Justice Department is seeking to deport an Illinois man for allegedly participating in the persecution and murder of Jews during World War II. According to a complaint filed Monday, Peter John Bernes, alias Petras Bernotavicius, was a deputy to Werner Loew, a Nazi-appointed mayor and police commander assigned to Kupiskis, Lithuania. Bernes helped remove condemned prisoners from jail so they could be taken to nearby killing sites, the Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting Office of Special Investigations charged. During the summer of 1941, more than 1,000 Jewish men, women and children — about one-fourth of Kupiski’s population — were murdered by men allegedly under Loew’s command.

Schools Linked to Terrorism

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) claims some charter schools in California have links to terrorist organizations. The ADL wrote to the California State Superintendent of Education urging the state to suspend its funding and investigate the activities of Gateway Academy charter schools because of alleged links to the Muslims of the Americas, which the ADL calls a virulently anti-Semitic and homophobic group. Muslims of the Americas has been accused of serving as a corporate front for Al-Fuqra, a militant Islamic group. ADL also charges the school has violated the First Amendment by teaching religion in the state-funded school.

Member of ‘Iran 10’ Freed

An Iranian Jew convicted of spying for Israel was freed from jail after serving his three-year sentence, according to an Iranian official. Faramarz Kashi, a Hebrew teacher, is the second of 10 Iranian Jews convicted of the spying charges in July 2000 to be released, the official added Wednesday. Ramin Nemati Zadeh, released in March of last year, was the first to be freed, the official said. Thirteen Iranian Jews were arrested in 1999 and accused of spying for Israel. Following a closed-door trial that began in April 2000, three were acquitted and 10 others found guilty.

AJCongress to Be Sued

A former regional director of the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) plans to file an age- and gender-discrimination lawsuit against the group. Sheila Decter, 63, was fired in November from her position as the group’s New England regional director. Decter already has filed a complaint on the issue with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, according to the Forward newspaper. Jack Rosen, the president of the AJCongress, told the Forward there is “no basis” for Decter’s complaint.

Religious Freedom Day

President Bush recalled George Washington´s promise to the Jewish community to protect religious freedom. Proclaiming that Wednesday will be Religious Freedom Day 2002, Bush noted that the first U.S. president promised the Jewish community at Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I., that the new country would protect the rights of people of all faiths. Bush called on Americans to use the day, set aside annually, to celebrate America´s commitment to freedom of religion.

Reconstructionists’ New Pres

Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz has been chosen to head the Reconstructionist movement’s seminary. Ehrenkrantz, the immediate past president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the spiritual leader of Bnai Keshet in Montclair, N.J., will start this summer. He replaces Rabbi David Teutsch, who has been the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College’s (RRC) president since 1993. Ehrenkrantz will be the first RRC president who is a graduate of the school. The movement, which was founded in the 1930s, is based in Philadelphia and has 100 synagogues in North America.

Senators: Extend Deadline

Two U.S. senators called for an extension for survivors to file for Holocaust-era insurance restitution. Sens. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) say Holocaust survivors are having trouble documenting their claims or have given up on the restitution process because they believe insurers deny or stall payments of claims. The senators requested the deadline extension in a letter sent Jan. 9 to Lawrence Eagleburger, chairman of the International Commission on Holocaust-Era Insurance Claims.

Orthodox Students for Israel

A group of American Jewish students is being trained to promote travel to Israel. In a program called Operation Torah Shield II, 200 students from Yeshiva University in New York are in Israel this week touring the country and participating in training sessions led by the Ministry of Tourism. Upon their return to the United States, the students will take additional courses sponsored by the ministry.