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War crimes charges for Israel?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to US legislators to help Israel stave off a feared global push to bring Israeli military and political leaders to trial on war crimes charges in the wake of the Gaza offensive, the New York Post reported Aug. 6. Congress members visiting Israel as guests of AIPAC, were urged by Bibi to go to bat for Israeli officials seekng to avoid ending up in the dock at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The delegation included Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), who said: "The prime minister asked us to work together to ensure that this strategy of going to the ICC does not succeed." Netanyahu "wants the US to use all the tools that we have at our disposal to, number one, make sure the world knows that war crimes were not committed by Israel, they were committed by Hamas. And that Israel should not be held to a double standard." (JP)

Palestinian leaders have already filed a complaint with the ICC, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has broached ICC action on Gaza. Now a group of Moroccan attorneys have filed war crimes charges agaisnst Gen. Sami Turgeman, the chief of the IDF's Southern Command and a key architect of Operation Protective Edge—who happens to have been born in Marrakech. They argue that as a dual national, he can be tried in the Moroccan courts. (Le 360, France, Aug. 4)

Akram Abusharar, Palestinian native who lives in California's Orange County, has brought suit against US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel demanding they "cease all military aid to all Israelis and the Israeli government" and declare Israeli military officers "persona non grata," barring them entry to the United States. Abusharar, a licensed attorney in Michigan though he lives and works in Anaheim, filed his suit Aug. 5 in the federal court in Santa Ana. Abusharar says Israeli military forces bombed his family's home in Gaza using "weapons provided" to the Israeli armed forces by Kerry and Hagel.

"Plaintiff and his family have suffered at the hands of the Israeli army over the years," the complaint states. "His brother was killed when he was 16 in 1988 by the Israeli army. His family of over 30 people was nearly killed in the explosion this past week. His father passed away as a result of the siege in Gaza because he could not obtain the proper medical treatment in April 2014. Many other homes in the area have been bombed and destroyed."

Abusharar charges Kerry and Hagel with violating the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, baning military equipment transfers to nations that grossly violate human rights. Court officials in Orange County sent a 60-day summons requesting that Kerry and Hagel reply to the complaint. (OC Weekly, Aug. 6)

Of course, no "double standard" is manifested by these actions. The double standard is that which holds Israel (and the US) above international law. Netanyahu and Moshe Ya'alon and Sami Turgeman should be in The Hague for exactly the same reasons Slobodan Milosevic and Charles Taylor were—and  Bashar Assad will be soon, with any luck. (Of course, we'd be just as happy to see Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld there too, but that is an even longer shot.)

Israeli leaders may be in denial, but this is becoming ever more apparent to the world. The Economist this week notes the case of Henk Zanoli, 91, who as a member of the Dutch resistance during World War II saved the life of a young Jewish boy, escorting him back to his home village where he was hidden by Zanoli's mother. The boy survived to emigrate to Israel. Zanoli's father, Henk Senior, had already been interned for resistance activities, and would die in Mauthausen concentration camp. Three years ago, the Israeli Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem awarded its "Righteous Among the Nations" medal—given to non-Jews who rescued Jews from the Nazis—to Zanoli and (posthumously) his mother.

On Aug. 11, Haaretz reported, Zanoli sent Yad Vashem its medal back. It emerges that Zanoli's great-niece, Angelique Eijpe, is a Dutch diplomat, deputy head of the Netherlands' mission in Oman, and her husband, Ismail Zi'adah, is a Palestinian economist who was born in Gaza's al-Bureij refugee camp. On July 20, the Zi'adah family house in al-Bureij was hit by an Israeli bomb, killing six members of the extended family, including the matriarch, three of her sons, and a 12-year-old grandson. In a letter to Israel's ambassador in The Hague, Zanoli said that he could not in good conscience keep the Israeli medal.

I understand that in your professional role, in which I am addressing you here, you may not be able to express understanding for my decision. However, I am convinced that at both a personal and human level you will have a profound understanding of the fact that for me to hold on to the honor granted by the State of Israel, under these circumstances, will be both an insult to the memory of my courageous mother who risked her life and that of her children fighting against suppression and for the preservation of human life as well as an insult to those in my family, four generations on, who lost no less than six of their relatives in Gaza at the hands of the State of Israel.

Zanoli now joins such voices of towering moral authority as Marek Edelman and Stéphane Hessel in calling out the Israeli state. 

How much longer before the world listens?

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