Friday, February 21, 2003

Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch writes that the virtuous Belgians are "increasingly aware of their own abusive history in Africa" and consequently "embraced the opportunity to play a role in the fight against the worst crimes" by invoking the principle of universal jurisdiction to prosecute Ariel Sharon for not preventing the Sabra and Shatila massacres 21 years ago.

It's nice that Brody thinks that the Belgian legislature/judiciary are angels and idealists - but in 1990, citing a 20-year statute of limitations, they declined to prosecute accused Nazi war criminals (living in Belgium) (report).

Brody notes that many countries, including Israel, have made use of universal jurisdiction. Disingenously, Brody ignors that Belgium's move is unique in that they are now trying cases that do not directly involve Belgian plaintiffs (more from Haaretz).

What's worse is Brody's characterization of Sharon's role in the massacres and the subsequent Israeli inquiry. Brody quotes only from the recommendations of the Kahan commission which says that Sharon "bears direct responsibility"; Brody then accuses Israel of not launching a prosecution of what a gov't commission seems to imply is a criminal offense (thus leaving the prosecution to the selfless Belgians). In actual fact, the commission terms Sharon's responsibility was "indirect", and recommends that he dismissed from his position of Defence Minister. What Brody calls "three-day rampage of killing and mutilation while Israeli forces failed to intervene" is more accurately described as 36 hrs. of progressively less murky reports of atrocities and repeated rounds of buck passing.

In a letter to Jpost (scroll down), someone personally familiar with the court proceedings in Belgium says that the prosecutors' motivations are political, but that the Belgian court system is not (but see here)

Here's an entry that I wrote a while back about Elie Hobeika (who personally directed the massacres and then spent many years as a Lebanese cabinet minister) and how Sharon has managed to rehabilitate his reputation in Israel since 1982.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Zeev Schiff offers an analysis of the IDF operations in Nablus and Gaza.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

ABC News says "Israel to split Christ's birthplace with barrier". Actually, the security wall will project into Bethlehem around 500 meters (map here).

The reports on this in Jpost/Haaretz have already disappeared - which is an indication of how in Israel this was not regarded as a major event..

I'm fairly certain that I was once in the area that will be on the Israeli side of the fence. Two friends and I were on our way driving to the Herodian palace. One moment we were in Jerusalem; the next moment we were clearly in an Arab village. After driving about 100 meters or so we reached the IDF checkpoint at the edge of then-autonomous Bethlehem, where a soldier asked us if we were on our way to Rachel's tomb.

The rest of that (Oslo-era) day was also fairly unique: after we u-turned and eventually visited the Herodian palace, we began speaking to a couple who invited the 3 of us to come with them to the Haritun cave adjacent to Tekoa (and later on the site of a terrorist murder). Our new friends had maps as well as a handgun with them and spoke Arabic. The maps were outdated, so we soon were walking into the edge of Arab Tekoa. In a scene reminiscent of intifada footage, a group of 6-7 young men began to approach us. But our friend asked them (in Arabic) for directions to the cave and on we went down a hill. Then we passed a tent made from flour bags at the edge of the village, where an old woman insisted that we come in for tea. So we did.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Together with the flashlights and plastic sheeting, Home Center in Talpiot is selling chemical warfare suits for about $100 each.
Expat Egghead surveys the list of UN resolutions against Israel here.

Meanwhile, the editors of the San Francisco Chronicle and others still think that Resolution 242 requires unconditional Israeli withdrawal from West Bank/Gaza.
Evelyn Gordon notes that after the initial Belgian court ruling that PM Sharon could not be prosecuted, the upper parliament (with the backing of PM Verhofstadt) passed an amendment that would have explicitly permitted the prosecution. Thus the higher court ruling merely promoted the view of the political echelon, and that view is specifically directed at Israelis: the suits against Arafat, Castro etc. have been delayed because they have not enjoyed similiar enthusiasm from Belgian prosecutors.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

The Israeli media (print and radio) has made it sound like Bush has put the Iraq war on hold. The outrage that I expected from the blogosphere is not to be found, so I wonder if the media elsewhere has a different spin (though Google news leads with this). Or maybe it's that only here that the move was so unexpected.
A few points on the Belgian Sharon decision: the Belgian press glowingly approves of the decision, claims it is non-political, and is outraged at Israeli outrage; Likud MK Avraham Hirshson claims that the Belgian courts are dragging their feet on charges against Arafat but rushed through the proceedings against Sharon and other Israelis. (report). Also a hotel in Eilat has said it is refusing Belgian visitors (report).
There was an anti-Iraq war demonstration in Tel Aviv. From this report it sounds like here (as elsewhere) the protesters were a motley group of idiots.

Israeli support for the Iraq war derives foremost, I think, from the belief that preemptive attacks against mad Arab dictators are periodically necessary and usually justified.

Support for the war seems to be shared by a couple of the better writers in Haaretz who offer some muted criticism of the US: Zeev Schiff (not so convincingly) suggests that the Americans have not considered many important aspects of the war; and Yossi Melman, who writes well-informed pieces about intelligence issues, says that Saddam's connection to terrorist groups are less direct than the American portrayal.