By Khalid Amayreh in Occupied Jerusalem
The Israeli government has been quietly pressing (and pressuring) Spain to reconsider issuing warrants for the arrest of high-ranking Israeli army officers accused of committing war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Earlier this year, a lawsuit was filed at the National court of Spain with the aim of issuing an arrest warrant against seven Israeli military officials.
The seven included former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, former Defense Minister Benyamin Benalizer, former Shin Beth Chief Avi Dichter, former Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon, former Air Force Commander Dan Halutz, Operation Branch Commander Giora Eiland and Southern Command Chief Doron Almog.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), which filed the lawsuit, urged the Spanish Judicial authorities to issue an international arrest warrant against the seven in connection with their role in the bombing of an apartment building in Gaza on 22 July, 2002, in which a Hamas chief was killed along with his family and 15 other civilians, including 11 children.
The National Court of Spain has accepted the case for further examination, the first step towards launching a formal prosecution.
If the case is successful, those charged would be arrested upon entering Spanish territory and stripped of the diplomatic immunity some of them currently enjoy.
According to Israeli media sources, Tzipi Livni, now acting Foreign Minister who is also slated to become Prime Minister, has asked Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos to use his influence to deactivate legal considerations that would enable the Spanish Justice system to “hound” visiting Israeli officials accused of committing war crimes.
Well, Spain is well-advised to refuse to succumb to Israeli pressure in this regard. The reasons for that are many:
First, this is not a political issue; it is first and foremost a legal and moral issue involving the premeditated murder of innocent people. We are talking about hundreds, even thousands, of innocent men, women and children killed knowingly and deliberately by the Israeli army which acted on direct instructions and orders from the likes of Ya’alon, Halutz and Benalizer. Comprehensive records containing full details of these crimes are readily available as they have been meticulously documented by human rights groups operating in Palestine.
The helpless, unwept victims owe it to the conscience of humanity to make the accused stand trial for their crimes. If they are found not guilty, they will be set free; but if they are found guilty, they should be made to pay for their crimes.
Hence, Spain must uphold the moral authority of its justice system and see to it that alleged Israeli war criminals setting foot on Spanish soil are treated no better and no worse than any other criminals.
Criminals are criminals regardless of their ethnic background or religious affiliation. And it shouldn’t matter if the suspects are citizens of a powerful or a powerless state.
Second, there is a large mass of evidence that would indict these alleged war criminals.
Ariel Sharon is undoubtedly a certified war criminal. He lived all his life as a war criminal. He was a war criminal as a soldier, as Platoon commander, as a Defense Minister and as a Prime Minister. Sharon had ordered the mass murder of hundreds of Egyptian Prisoners of War. However, his role in the genocidal massacres of Sabra and Shatilla near Beirut in September, 1982, accorded him the status of a war criminal par excellance. But he doesn’t have to stand trial now, if only because he, now in a vegetative stage for the third consecutive year, is being punished sufficiently by God.
As to Benalizer, this man too is a war criminal for ordering murderous operations that caused the death of numerous innocent people including children. In 2001, Benalizer boasted about killing so many Palestinians without drawing negative reactions from the world community.
“The world is now preoccupied with the events in America (9/11). This means that we can behave as we see fit with the Palestinians,” he said gleefully.
In addition, Benalizer okayed the bombing of an apartment building at Hay-al-Daraj in downtown Gaza more than six years ago. Then an Israeli warplane dropped a 2000 ib. bomb on the house of Sheikh Salah Shehadeh, a commander of Hamas military wing. The bombing killed fifteen civilians, along with Shehadeh, the majority of them young children.
Israeli officials involved in that monstrous crime also included Ya’alon, then chief of staff of the Israeli army, who knew that Shehadeh’s wife and daughters were close to him during the bombing.”
This is the same Ya’alon who several months later called Israel’s Palestinian victims “ a cancer,” saying that “now I will be content with chemotherapy” and implying that “if the chemotherapy didn’t work,” then He would have to adopt the Hitlerian therapy.
As to Halutz, the Israeli air-force commander in 2002, he too boasted about the Hay-al-Daraj carnage. A reporter asked him what he felt when he dropped the bomb, Halutz retorted that he felt a small movement under his seat when the bomb fell. In a separate interview, he said he had no compunctions or guilty feelings knowing that innocent children were killed.
“I sleep well at night, I have a clear conscience.”
In their hearts, Israeli officials and Israelis in general realize that most of their actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and also in Lebanon can be classified as war crimes.
Some Israeli spokespersons try to prevaricate and create confusion by claiming that Israeli soldiers kill innocent Palestinians knowingly but not deliberately. Well, what is the difference between killing knowingly and killing deliberately. Even the Nazis didn’t have the Chutzpah to make such a claim.
Besides, when the number of innocent victims is so vast, as in Gaza, even intent becomes irrelevant.
It is for these reasons that the Spanish authorities must not allow the integrity of the Spanish justice system to be compromised by diplomatic pressure exerted by Israel’s supremacist leaders who harbor the racist belief that what applies to the rest of humanity doesn’t apply to Jews.
To be sure, no one is suggesting that Spain play the role of world judge or world policeman.
However, Spain is a sovereign state and has the right to bar suspected war criminals from entering its territory.
This is the least civilized countries can do to discourage and prevent the recurrence of more war crimes and crimes against humanity.