by Ben Dror Yemini
Tel Aviv, Israel: Look, many in the media say, this is an important revelation. The IDF, they claim, violated High Court of Justice orders, and conducted targeted killings while violating judicial guidelines. The IDF, they continue to assert, committed war crimes, and there is no journalist out there who would have remained silent, were he or she to receive document proof of this. So let us put aside the thousands of documents that have nothing to do with the leaks and which contain military information without any journalistic value. And let us put aside the fact that the IDF was forced to alter its military plans due to the stolen information. And let us also put aside the fact that the possession of such material constitutes a criminal offense, which an Israeli paper is aiding.
Let us deal with the heart of the matter, this time. This is what Ha’aretz is demanding. Are indeed documents, which prove that the IDF violated High Court of Justice orders, being revealed and brought to the public? The headline, at the time, was “The chief-of-staff and IDF leadership authorized killings of wanted and innocent men.” The expression “innocent” appears almost 20 times in the article in which the documents were published. The impression is that the IDF has been committing war crimes. This is the impression Ha’aretz intentionally attempts to create.
Well, we should rise to the challenge, and examine what exactly these documents show. The main argument, which the paper attempted to promote, was that the High Court of Justice ruled that targeted killings were illegal. There is indeed a ruling, but nowhere is there any ruling that forbids targeted killings. The High Court of Justice did not go down this path, and wisely so. It was no other than Aharon Barak who made the determination in 2006: that it is impossible to determine a priori that all targeted killings are forbidden by international law, just as it is impossible to determine a priori that all targeted killings are permissible according to international law. This is very clear statement that is somewhat at odds with the impression received when reading Ha’aretz back then, when the documents appeared in Uri Blau’s article, and certainly today, as the paper attempts to hide behind the guise of exposing the truth.
The documents, it should be noted, deal with the need either to arrest or target an Islamic Jihad cell - clearly terrorists, who have committed acts of murder and planned other attacks. They consistently roamed the land with rifles and bomb belts. Any army of a democratic nation would regard their assassination as something both legitimate and desirable. This would not involve any troubles of conscience. According to Ha’aretz, however, it was appropriate to arrest these righteous cell members rather than harm them. However, the documents seem to indicate that the IDF did rigorously abide by the High Court of Justice’s ruling. Not a trigger-happy hand, but rather an indecisive one, perhaps one that reconsiders too much, that considers and then stops to reconsider again.
The documents themselves reveal four matters. First, that OC Central Command Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh orders an arrest rather than an assassination. Only if these turn out to be the Islamic Jihad members that, as stated earlier, are walking around with bomb belts and rifles, and only if events develop into a situation that both necessitates and allows this - should they be assassinated. Second, it appears that the implementing force received an additional order: if there are women or children in the area, assassination must be avoided and only arrests carried out. Here then, argues the sanctimonious Ha’aretz, is the proof that there was an alternative to assassination and that arrests were possible. Nonsense. This proves one thing only: that when there are innocent civilians on the premises, particularly women and children, IDF troops take on themselves a far greater risk. Third, it shows that the IDF places restrictions on the implementing force, in all things concerning the possible harming of innocent civilians. In the course of the meeting conducted by Gen. Naveh it was decided that only if there were as few as two unidentified men in addition to those that are wanted, could the operation take place. In a second meeting, this time under Gen. Tal Russo, it was decided to restrict this further and allow that only one innocent individual may be accidentally struck. The matter reached the chief-of-staff, and there too, Ashkenazi ordered that the operation against the arch-terrorists from Islamic Jihad take place only “if there is no more than a single unidentified individual” on the scene. Not even two. In other words, if there are women and children - the operation is off. And if there are two unidentified figures - the operation is off. And it should be stressed - there is certainly no order to take out the unidentified figure. However, if there is only one unidentified individual - the operation shall proceed. Does this violate the High Court of Justice’s rulings? Let us examine this. In the ruling, Barak states that “collateral damage in which innocent women and children are harmed shall be legal only if it abides by proportional standards.”
Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that we are talking about the accidental killing of two innocent civilians, compared to the striking of five murderers belonging to a terrorist cell. Is this proportional? Well, the man who was charged with targeted killings in the Pentagon, Marc Garlasco was interviewed on “60 Minutes,” and he told interviewers that when it came to the assassination of a senior Iraqi terrorist, the guidelines were to kill as many as 30 innocent individuals, in order to take the man out. Ha’aretz has failed to explain what it regards as proportional. Nor will it ever explain. This is because its target - the IDF, the State of Israel, has been marked in advance.
The vilified Goldstone argued at the time that he had examined matters and come to the conclusion that the US army conducts itself in strict accordance with international law. This is indeed so, for them it is one to 30 innocent men, and in Israel - permission is only given if there is one unidentified figure on the scene. And no, there is no order take him or them out. There is a huge gulf between Israel and the United States. This Garlasco, incidentally, took responsibility for the killing of some 200 innocent civilians, as part of pursuits after wanted terrorists, all while no terrorist was actually struck. These are the ratios. This is the proportionality. No international arrest warrant was issued against Garlasco. On the contrary, Garlasco himself became a senior member of Human Rights Watch.
Fourthly, it appears that in order authorize every operation against Islamic Jihad members, many deliberations in many different echelons take place. In these deliberations it was determined that innocent civilians shall not be harmed. That arrests should be preferred over assassination. That women and children must be protected. That proportionality must be rigorously defended. And these were not merely debates, the OC Central Command himself could not approve the operation, and the authorization of the chief-of-staff was required. Can this complex process, of wavering, of debate after debate, of orders to safeguard the lives of women, children and innocent civilians, of clear definition of proportionality - be called a war crime, or “murder”? In fact, the entire debate is purely theoretical. In the course of the mission discussed by Ha’aretz, two terrorists were killed, Ziad Tzubahi Mahmad Malaisha and Ibrahim Ahmad Abed-El Latif A'abad. The two, not only according to the IDF, but also according to a statement published by Islamic Jihad, were killed as they attempted to resist arrest, while they were armed with M-16s and conducting a battle with IDF troops. Islamic Jihad regards them as fallen troops. Ha’aretz creates the impression that they were victims of war crimes.
In the very same article Ha’aretz presents the views of mostly three legal experts, Motta Kremnizer, David Kremnizer, and Moshe Hanegbi. They conclude, each in his own way, that the IDF has violated IDF orders, and insinuate war crimes. Based on what? What evidence do they present? Any search will be in vain. Ha’aretz turned to three legal experts whose opinions it knew in advance. They would not have allowed themselves to be bothered by the facts. The aim was to implicate the IDF. The legal experts, all identified with Meretz, and perhaps even left of this, brought home the bacon. However, there was another opinion. Following the report, two attorneys, Michael Shepherd and Avigdor Feldman, approached the attorney general and demanded that the matter be investigated. The attorney general at the time, Meni Mazuz wrote in a reply: “the military sources in the IDF General Staff received constant legal council, were aware of High Court of Justice guidelines, stressed and executed this in every state of planning and approval of the mission.”
However, neither will Ha’aretz allow itself to be bothered by the facts. After all, legal advice is not an exact science. Therefore, the paper chose to approach legal experts who would recite exactly what they sought to hear. These, in turn, certainly did their job. True, there is a contrary decision out there. But this is rendered unworthy in view of the fact that it does not abide by the views of the paper’s commissars.
One could, of course, add that the number of targeted killings in recent years stands at approximately zero. There were targeted killings during the second Intifada, aimed against arch-murderers, and also innocent civilians were killed. However, following the 2006 High Court ruling, the number of assassinations did indeed decline, and the number of innocent civilians killed in the process fell to zero.
And now, in order to justify the view it has long held, Ha’aretz attempts to create the opposite impression, one of mass targeted killings and harming of innocent civilians, contrary to the High Court’s ruling. Anyone reading the paper, and sadly this is a paper that reaches many, may get the impression that the IDF is deeply engaged in the criminal act of assassination. Nothing could be further from the truth. The demonizing, and delegitimising of Israel got some help these past days thanks to Ha’aretz. The paper has the right to hold its views. It has a right to run any story it pleases. However this present affair should be called by its name: a libel manufactured by Ha’aretz.
Ben Dror Yemini, Senior Writer at the Maariv Newspaper in Israek, was born in Tel-Aviv , Israel in 1954, on the eve of Passover. Hence the name, Ben Dror: the son of freedom..
He studied Humanities and History in Tel Aviv University , and later on he studied Law. After his university studies, he was appointed advisor to the Israeli Minister of Immigration Absorption and then became the spokesman of the Ministry.
In 1984, he began his career as a journalist and essayist and published the book "Political Punch" which deals in a critical way with politics and society in Israel. He worked as a lawyer and was a partner in a law firm. Since 2003 he is the opinion-editor of the daily newspaper Maariv and also published many articles and essays in other journals.
In recent years he researched and published "Industry of lies " about publications against the State of Israel and its Jewish character, which he considers false. In this framework, he published a series of research articles about the Israeli-Arab conflict in which he examined the issues of genocide, refugees, Palestinian and Arab capital, the status of Israeli Arabs , Multiculturalism , and the status of women. All these articles included a comparative study about each topic.
According to Yemini, "the modern Anti-Zionism is a politically correct Antisemitism ". He argued that the same way Jews were demonized, Israel is demonized, the same way the right of Jews to exist was denied, the right for Self-determination is denied from Israel, the same way Jews were presented as a menace to the world, Israel is presented as a menace to the world. In his comparative studies, he presents the huge gap between the myths against Israel, from one hand, and the real facts, from the other hand.
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