Cutting through the bullshit.

Saturday 30 December 2006

What ever happened to Nuremberg?

If you’re wondering where I’ve been, well, for one thing, I got caught up in some discussion on Lenin’s tomb. And I’ve been away. I had to get away from the internet for a few days to read Ilan Pappe’s The ethnic cleansing of Palestine and Ali Abunimah’s One country, which I intend to write something about pretty soon. Actually, I hope at least to review Abunimah before we head off again early Monday.

I’ve always thought everybody knew about the Nuremberg Principles. Even people who had no idea where Nurenberg is were at least aware of the fourth principle:

The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him [sic] from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him [sic].

Anyway, yesterday I followed a link to this remarkable article in the Forward. It transpires that former Israeli army chief of staff, Moshe Ya’alon, while on a fellowship at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington

was sued by a group of Lebanese citizens who either lost family members or were injured in the April 1996 shelling of the United Nations compound in the Southern Lebanese town of Qana. In the incident, an errant Israeli artillery shell killed 100 civilians and United Nations workers who were in the compound. Israel later apologized.

Errant? Yeah, right! Somehow I had formed the impression that the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity were subject to ‘universal jurisdiction’. Probably something I picked up when the Spanish were trying to extradite Pinochet from the UK a few years ago. Well, that turns out to be wrong. Universal jurisdiction is quite the controversial principle and only a few countries actually think they can prosecute anybody who commits crimes against humanity. It goes without saying that the US is not among them. After all, the US doesn’t even recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC.

Well, that’s not all, because a couple of weeks ago, on 14 December, Judge Paul Friedman ruled

“If General Ya’alon’s actions were taken in an official capacity, he therefore was acting as an agency or instrumentality of the foreign state, and is immune from suit,” Friedman wrote in his opinion, citing the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, which prevents lawsuits against individuals who were acting as part of their official duty.

So what about the Nuremberg Principles?

Is it really possible that the Pulitzer Prize winning ex NY Times journo, Chris Hedges, thinks he’s saying something new? Granted, it’s only today that I got his 18 December article from Jewish Voice for Peace, but it was pretty old stuff even then. His central point appears to be that what the Palestinians are facing is, in the words of his title, ‘Worse than apartheid’. But it was two years earlier, on 15 December 2004, when JVP sent around Moshe Machover’s article, from which I take the liberty of quoting,

To be sure, the two have many features in common. Both are perniciously racist; both impose a degree of separation between ethnic groups. And this is no accident: both are instances of the genus colonial settler state…

But the point is that they belong to two distinct species of the genus. All colonial settlers' societies built themselves up on exploiting the resources of the country that they colonized: primarily its land, which they wrested from the indigenous people, who became dispossessed. The decisive difference between the two species was what was to become of the dispossessed natives.

In one model of colonization, their labor power became one of the indigenous resources - indeed, the main resource - to be exploited by the settlers. The ethnic conflict between the two groups thus assumed the nature of a kind of class struggle. This model is represented, in almost pure form, by apartheid South Africa.

In the other model, the native population was to be eliminated; exterminated or expelled rather than exploited. Israel is an active instance of this model. If you wish to find an instructive parallel, look not at South Africa. Rather, read Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West.

Hedges is also concerned about the prospect of transfer. He correctly points out that the fundamental point of Israeli policy in the occupied territories – the closures, the lockdowns, the invasions, the roadblocks, the missile strikes, the ‘targeted assassinations’, etc. – is precisely to make life for the Palestinians so unbearable that they will pack up and leave. But this is nothing new, either.

Israel…has been given the moral license by the Bush administration to carry out what is euphemistically in Israel called "transfer" and what in other parts of the world is called ethnic cleansing. …the architects of transfer, who once held the equivalent status in Israeli society of the Ku Klux Klan, have wormed their way into positions of power in the Israeli government.

But ethnic cleansing is one of the founding principles of Zionism. Everyone knows the passage from Herzl’s diary in 1895 where he is quite explicit that ‘the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly’. And it has played a central role in Zionist thought ever since. But much more importantly, the state of Israel is founded upon a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing actually carried out over the 1947-1949 period, as conclusively documented in Ilan Pappe’s new book, The ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

The principal difference between Lieberman – of the KKK – and Olmert is that Lieberman is more honest about his intentions. The whole Zionist establishment is obsessed with the ‘demographic time bomb’ and are determined to shed as much of the non Jewish population as they can by whatever means necessary. Every ‘peace plan’ since UN Security Council Resolution 242 has incorporated the concept of ‘the principle of equal exchange of territory’. So what’s that all about? The whole idea is to incorporate areas of the West Bank with high concentrations of Jewish settlers into the Jewish state and to turn over the areas of ‘Israel proper’ with high concentrations of ‘Israeli Arabs’ over to ‘the Palestinian state’ to defer the day when the non Jewish population becomes the majority as long as possible. Exactly what Lieberman says explicitly.

If it’s only now that this is all coming to light for Hedges, maybe he’s right to think, ‘The stark reality of Gaza, however, has failed to penetrate the consciousness of most Americans’.

Meanwhile, over at the NY Times, the editorialists are at it again. I suppose they’ve been partying hard in honour of the festive season. In their editorial sagely concluding

Toppling Saddam Hussein did not automatically create a new and better Iraq. Executing him won’t either.

they write

What might have been a watershed now seems another lost opportunity. After nearly four years of war and thousands of American and Iraqi deaths, it is ever harder to be sure whether anything fundamental has changed for the better in Iraq.

A lost opportunity for what? To ‘bring democracy to the Middle East’? (In this connection, I highly recommend allocating 46 minutes to checking out Robert Newman’s History of oil.) Anyway, it’s nice of them to acknowledge that Iraqis have had to give their lives in the service of ‘our’ great civilizing mission, even though ‘we’ never asked them whether it was what they wanted, much less whether they wanted to sacrifice their lives and their relatives’ lives for it. Obbviously the poll results aren’t reaching the editorial room, because the Iraqis are pretty damn sure that things have gone from bad to worse. Life was better even under the genocidal sanctions, that ‘we’ imposed in their interests for all those years.

About 90 percent of Iraqis feel the situation in the country was better before the U.S.-led invasion than it is today, according to a new ICRSS [Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies] poll.

The editorial continues,

A carefully conducted, scrupulously fair trial could have helped undo some of the damage inflicted by his rule. It could have set a precedent for the rule of law in a country scarred by decades of arbitrary vindictiveness.

You might not be surprised to learn that the scarred country is not the US, but Iraq. But wait, wouldn’t a scrupulously fair trial have brought to light the involvement of the US government in bringing Saddam to power in the first place? And providing him with all kinds of armaments and all the fixin’s for WMD? No telling who he might implicate. Better hang him quick! [PS – A few minutes ago, the Washington Post announced that they’d already done the dirty deed.]

According to Ha’aretz, two Belgian UN peacekeepers became the latest victims of Israel’s fabled ‘purity of arms’ when one of them stepped on one of the estimated 1 million unexploded cluster bomblets the retreating invaders left behind in August. As they both survived, they will not contribute to the toll of 28 killed so far from Israel’s little surprises.

In his latest article in defense of Carter, Norman Finkelstein appears to have really gone a bit over the top. What he seems to be trying to do is to justify Carter’s refusal to debate the abominable Alan Dershowitz at Brandeis University. Carter has been widely quoted, "I don't want to have a conversation even indirectly with Dershowitz, There is no need for me to debate somebody who, in my opinion, knows nothing about the situation in Palestine."

It’s true that ex presidents often speak at public events without the requirement that they debate someone who has slandered them. I think it may also be true that universities don’t always provide a platform for authors promoting their books. Brandeis appears to sport a wide range of academics specializing in the Middle East in general and Israel in particular. Given the wealth of in house expertise at Brandeis, why truck in this torture justifying hoodlum from Harvard Law School? But Dershowitz, to be fair, is probably no more ignorant of the issues than Carter himself. And if he’s really so ignorant as Carter makes out, why not just clobber him. It’s not as if Dershowitz doesn’t deserve the humiliation.

Anyhow, then Finkelstein goes on at quite some length rehearsing the story of Dershowitz’s well documented (by Finkelstein himself) plagiarism of a widely acknowledged hoax – Joan Peters’s 1984 best seller From time immemorial, his attempts to prevent publication of Finkelstein’s Beyond Chutzpah, in which he documents the plagiarism and the hoax, and his refusal to debate Finkelstein. He seems quite justifiably peeved that the plagiarized crap Dershowitz churns out, or perhaps has his students and assistants churn out, receives accolades in the mainstream press while he can’t get his own work reviewed anywhere in the US, were it was published. But what does that have to do with Carter? If Carter had articulated the view that Dershowitz was a charlatan and a plagiarist and an apologist for ethnic cleansing and torture and that he wasn’t about to provide him with yet another platform, or the credibility that would come from debating a recognized expert like himself, that would probably be defensible. But I reckon he’s just being a wimp. I think he’s scared that Dershowitz is more articulate than he is, when he comes out with stuff like, ‘I’ve never and would imply that Israel is guilty of any form of apartheid in their own country’, quite apart from the dodgy substance. Anyway, by endorsing a two state ‘solution’, he implicitly accepts Israel’s ‘right to exist as a Jewish state’, which ultimately makes him an apologist for ethnic cleansing, too.

On a lighter note, check this out – a victory for freedom of expression in Britain!

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