The news that an Israeli soldier was charged with manslaughter for the killing of a Palestinian woman during the 2008-09 Israeli assault gives even greater legitimacy to the Goldstone report and other human rights reports on Israeli war crimes committed during the invasion.
But not in Israel, apparently. At the same time that Israel is going after a low-level soldier, Haaretz reports that “the [military] advocate general also decided to close the proceedings on all the other incidents that were mentioned in the Goldstone Report.” So, some soldiers are charged with violating the law, corroborating what the Goldstone report said, but Israel is closing all of the other cases mentioned in the report?
It looks like Israel is throwing some IDF soldiers to the dogs to say, “look, we take accusations of war crimes seriously, so get off our back.”
But while a case can be made to prosecute individual soldiers who violated the laws of war, there’s also more than enough evidence to prosecute policymakers and military higher-ups who ordered the assault and publicly stated that any concern for civilians in Gaza should be thrown to the wind. In February 2009, a month after the end of “Operation Cast Lead,” Deputy Minister Eli Yishai said, “we have to determine a price tag for every rocket fired into Israel,” and recommended that “even if they fire at an open area or into the sea, we must damage their infrastructures and destroy 100 houses.” And a report published by Breaking the Silence, a group of IDF veterans who served in the occupied territories, states that during the Israeli assault, “soldiers were not given directives stating the goal of the operation and, as one soldier testifies, ‘there was not much said about the issue of innocent civilians.'”
In other words, testimonies from soldiers who participated in “Cast Lead,” and comments from Israeli officials, affirm that Israel wantonly flattened Gaza with no regard for the civilian population there, and committed war crimes.
Israel appears to be taking cues from the U.S. response to the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. Although officials in the Bush administration sanctioned the illegal use of torture, only low-level grunts were prosecuted.
I think the problem with the announcement, though, and it’s a significant problem, is that he has indicated that anybody who complied with the OLC torture memos, the memos that essentially gave permission to the CIA to engage in what was obviously torture, and who did so in good faith will receive immunity from investigations and prosecutions. And what that, I think, is intended to do, and what it almost certainly will accomplish, is to mean that the high-level political officials who actually implemented the torture regime—the Bush officials in the White House, the high-level CIA officials—will never be held to account. And at most what will happen is some low-level sadist in the CIA who went beyond the torture permission slips given by the Justice Department might be held accountable, in the same way that in Abu Ghraib low-level grunts were held accountable for what was clearly the policy of high-level policymakers. And I think that’s quite problematic.