Dr. Hatem Kanaaneh reports on closing session of Rachel Corrie trial in Haifa

Dr. Hatem Kanaaneh, a retired doctor in the Galilee who blogs brilliantly here, covered this week the closing session in the year-long trial of the suit for wrongful death brought by the parents of Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death while trying to stop an Israeli military D-9 bulldozer from razing Palestinian houses in Gaza in 2003.

Kanaaneh wrote that the trial’s final session heard the testimony of Colonel Pinhas Zuaretz, “better known by his nickname, Pinky, [who] was the commanding officer of the Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade at the time”.

Here is an extended excerpt of Kanaaneh’s report:

Col. Zuaretz’s “body language and his automatic assumption of priority in communicating with the judge [Judge Gershon], whose ruddy complexion suggested another longish repose on some tropical seaside, did little to reassure me. But [Corrie family lawyer] Husain Abu-Husain proceeded right away to tangle with the man and to try to cut him down to size … Would he commit to the principle of protecting human life? To this last one Colonel Pinky acquiesced begrudgingly after stressing his first allegiance to protecting the life of his soldiers. And was he still convinced of his conclusion after his rushed investigation of the case of the late Rachel Corrie only hours after his soldiers’ D-9R Caterpillars had crushed her to death that their conduct was flawless? To this he responded in the positive stating that Rachel had died through her own carelessness and willful interference on the side of the terrorists who had sent her to disrupt the soldiers’ orderly carrying out of their duty of leveling an area … In Colonel Pinky’s logic there seemed to be no place for doubt: things were either white or black. What he repeatedly asserted was that the whole area was a war zone and anyone present in it was as good as dead, “ben mavit — mortal” by definition. Rachel was on the side of the enemy and her death should have been a forgone conclusion. How could someone miss such simple logic? Pinky shook his head repeatedly in exasperation at the unbelievable stupidity of his doubters. And his soldiers were performing their duties in a war zone. That included the killing of enemy combatants or of their supporters and messengers, he seemed to imply. And yet his soldiers acted in a humane manner. They tried to give first aid to the accidentally injured woman. Pinky emphasized this ‘humane gesture’ that his soldiers extended to another victim whom they had shot dead as well … Indeed this was beyond the call of duty …”

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Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard tells Turkel Commission that Israel must establish extra-military mechanism to investigate observance of international law

Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard (Yesh Din) told the Turkel Commission at a hearing in Jerusalem today that “conducting an investigation is not tantamount to punishment”.

The Turkel Commission is investigating the “maritime incident” of 31 May 2010, when Israeli Naval commandos intercepted Freedom Flotilla heading to the Gaza Strip and boarded the largest ship in the flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, killing eight men (one a 19-year-old Turkish-American high school student) in the process.

Sfard, who is among other things the legal adviser for Yesh Din, advised the Turkel Commission that Israel must establish an extra-military mechanism to verify if the IDF + its advisers follow international law.

It was the second time, in months of intermittant hearings, that Israeli human rights organizations have addressed the panel.

The Turkel Commission was expected to conclude its work in November 2010, but it only issued the first part of its report on 23 January, which can be read online here.

Arguments made in Sfard’s testimony to the Turkel Commission, according to an English-language summary, state that:
“Since the Al-Aqsa Intifada, a Military Police Criminal Investigation Division (MPCID) investigation is not opened in every case in which a Palestinian civilian is injured during military operations in the occupied territories, but rather is permitted to conduct a ‘command inquiry’ after which a decision will be made regarding whether to open an investigation.

Yesh Din’s Position is that:
1. A command inquiry, as the name suggests, is intended to draw operational lessons and is not a tool designed to collect evidence or to establish personal responsibility. Those who conduct the inquiry are not investigators but rather commanders and they do not possess appropriate training; what is said in the course of the inquiry is not admissible in court; the inquiry is confidential; and
for the most part accounts by those other than soldiers and officers are not heard.

2. The inquiry presents a significant and grave obstacle to the ability to conduct effective criminal investigations of shooting incidents in which Palestinian civilians have been injured. This is a violation of the obligation to investigate”.

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D-9 bulldozers and the 2002 IDF "incursion" into Jenin Refugee Camp

From a link in a post on Angry Arab’s blog here dated 6 July 2008, I found this appalling item on Uri Avnery’s Gush Shalom website, a translation of an article from Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper of an interview with someone without any experience who drove a D-9 bulldozer in Jenin (Palestinian) Refugee Camp while on reserve duty during the IDF incursion in 2002.

The article is entitled “I made them a stadium in the middle of the camp“.

It shows what can happen if you care only for your own people, for your own side … and feel almost nothing for the others.

And it may explain what happened in Gaza in the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead — maybe an unmanned bulldozer was considered more merciful, more accurate, and more obedient of orders than this, which happened in the confines of the Jenin Refugee Camp in 2002.

But, let’s start first with the Gush Shalom comments, which are posted on its website here, following their translation of the interview:
“This is the incredible, self-told Story of Moshe Nissim, a fanatic football fan and a permanent troublemaker, who begged his commanders in the reserves unit for a chance to take part in ‘the action’. By ‘action’ he was referring to the wide scale destruction carried out by the Israeli army in many Palestinian locations, especially in the Jenin Refugee camp. He was sent into Jenin, riding a 60 ton demolition bulldozer – and equipped with 16 years of pent-up personal frustration, plenty of whisky and only two hours of training on that armored tool. ‘Enough training to drive forwards and make a flat surface’, as he himself testifies in the interview … Of course, it is unconceivable, that the British army would send a drunken and frustrated Manchester fan into Belfast riding a D-9 bulldozer. Therefore, the really troubling questions must be directed at the system that sent him into Jenin on this mission of destruction. This system is the Israeli army.
1. What kind of army puts a 60 ton, multi-million dollar demolishing bulldozer in the hands of such a person, who has not operated one before?
2. How could his rampage go on, without being stopped by any of the officers, at any rank?
3. How can such an army insist it is the ‘most moral army in the world’?
4. Does this interview shed more light on Israel’s refusal to have its actions in Jenin investigated?
5. What did happen in Jenin?”

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