Israel Resource Review 21st January, 2005


Israel Allows Palestinians Take Up Arms:
But why?

David Bedein, with staffers Diana Dubrow and Michael Guttman

With Sharon's plan for disengagement drawing nearer, Israeli and international media continue to focus on the eminent problem of transferring Jewish residents of Katif/Gaza, paying with little or no attention to clause five of the plan, adopted by the government of Israel on June 6th, 2004, which calls for training Palestinian security forces. And during the Palestinian elections, the Israeli defense establishment allowed guns to be supplied to Palestinian security forces to keep law and order, despite numerous killings and intimidations.

These past two weeks, we spent many days at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, asking members of of the Knesset about whether and how the Palestinian armed forces were supposed to relinquish their guns after the elections. However, numerous MK's were unaware that Israel allowed the Palestinians to carry guns during the election process, just as much of the public knows nothing of clause five of Sharon's plan.

During the Oslo process, it was questionable whether or not supplying guns to Palestinians would be beneficial to their autonomy or backfire against Israel. Labor party MK and former head of Mossad, Dani Yatom, told us that even before the Palestinian security forces were formed, almost every house and every man was armed.

Since Oslo, it has been clearly evident and proven that guns supplied to the Palestinian security forces were turned against Israel. This week marks the one year to the date of the bombing of bus #19, blown up by a Palestinian police officer in Jerusalem.

Ten Israeli citizens and one Ethopian citizen were murdered in cold blood in that bombing. When asked whether it was a tragic mistake to allow Palestinians more weapons, Yatom gave a surprising response, saying that "I don't think it was a tragic mistake." He reiterated that the Palestinians must have a strong police force and that the EU must make sure that none of these trainees include anyone from terrorist organizations. Yatom would not say how the EU was supposed to monitor the Palestinian security forces from recruiting anyone from Palestinian terrorist organizations.

Indeed, this week, Abu Mazen gave orders to one of the most well know Palestinian terrorist organizations, The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades to merge into the Palestinian security forces. Yatom acknowledgeD that it was unfortunately true that the Palestinian weapons were turned against Israel, but said that it is the duty of Abu Mazen to control those who carry weapons by authorizing exactly one force that demonstrates loyalty to the PA and that only this force should be armed while all others are disarmed. He estimated that there are 40,000 small arms in the territories. Yatom said that he believed the PA has more then enough weapons to cope effectively with terrorists and that there is no need to allow them to import more weapons from Egypt and Jordan into the territories.

According to Yatom, in order for there to be any prospect of peace, the security fence must be completed as a vital life saving apparatus to block suicide bombers. Also, Yatom said, "Israel must leave the door wide open to constantly resume negotiations once the conditions are ripe".

Yatom, who was also the chief of staff during the short term of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), did not have an answer as to the possibility that Abu Mazen might not be willing to reign in terror groups.

An opposition leader, Yisrael Beiteinu MK, Avigdor Lieberman, says that he doesn't believe that Israel should be allowing any weapons to Palestinians, considering the current situation.

"The decision that Sharon took to give them a free hand, and the result I see this morning fourteen Kassam's hit Sderot today," said Lieberman on the day that we interviewed him.

The chairman of the Israel foreign affairs and security committee, Dr. Yuval Shteinitz, also believes that it is not necessary for Israel to give the PA weapons and says, "let them first do what is necessary."

"What the PA is lacking is not capabilities, but willingness" said Dr. Shteinitz.

We asked Ehud Olmert, Israel's deputy Prime Minister, what he feels about clause five of Sharon's plan to train and rely on Palestinian security forces, in light of the possibility that Palestinian forces in Gaza, and that they might turn on Israel

Olmert's response was that "these are all important questions. Do not expect me to answer on the spot, however".

We then faxed a question to Olmert and to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, asking how they could allow the Palestinian security forces to be armed and deployed, given the fact that the PLO remains in a state of war with Israel, since the PLO has never cancelled the PLO covenant which defines the PLO's purpose as the annihilation of the state of Israel, albeit in stages.

O Olmert's office did not respond. Sharon's press secretary did respond, and called us to say that "The Israeli government is not supplying the Palestinian armed forces with weapons", to which we responded that this was not the question. The question was why the Israeli government would protect and facilitate the redeployment of an armed force at war with the State of Israel. No answer was received to that query.

So there you have it. For whatever reason, Israel has facilitated the re-arming of an entity that remains in a state of war with the state of Israel.

Hard to believe.

But then again, the government of the nascent state of Israel thrives on miracles to overcome its own policies.

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Israeli Group Monitoring Palestinian media
Paul Lungen
Correspondent. Canadian Jewish News

The recent Palestinian presidential election campaign, widely applauded for complying with democratic norms, was actually riddled with voter fraud, intimidation and unbalanced pre-election media coverage, says an Israeli observer of Palestinian political life.

Michael Widlanski, a political science and communications lecturer at Hebrew University, said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was aided in his campaign by a compliant Palestinian press that gave short shrift to his opponents.

Widlanski, along with journalist David Bedein and and researcher Arnon Gross, presented his findings at a lecture at the Toronto Zionist Centre last week.

While the media did not ignore other candidates entirely, as they did with former PA president Yasser Arafat's opponent in his 1995 campaign, they sandwiched their comments on interview programs with a flood of ads favouring Fatah, the organization Abbas represents, Widlanski said.

Abbas was also given fawning treatment in Al-Quds newspaper, the most moderate and independent Palestinian paper, which receives a monthly $45,000 (US) stipend from the Palestinian Authority, he said.

Abbas' most serious opponent, Marwan Barghouti, jailed by Israel for murder, withdrew from the campaign after his family was threatened and after Abbas promised that if elected, he would push Israel to release him and other Palestinian prisoners.

On election day, even with the weight of the Palestinian political apparatus behind Abbas, it appeared voters might respond to the anti-corruption campaign of his main opponent, Mustafa Barghouti, a distant relative of the jailed killer.

Gun-toting Fatah operatives burst into election commission headquarters, fired some shots, and demanded that the polls remain open an extra two hours. In that period, "no-one checked to see if anyone voted more than once," Widlanski said.

Despite all his advantages, and after dedicating his campaign to Arafat, Abbas still won only 62 per cent of the vote, he added.

Bedein, Gross and Widlanski are closely monitoring Palestinian media and school textbooks "to bring to people's attention what the other side says to its own people in their own language," Bedein said.

Bedein's Israel Resource News Agency recently launched an "Abu Mazen Watch," a reference to Abbas' nickname.

"The purpose is to expose the reality of Abu Mazen's administration," Bedein said. It will monitor Abbas' actions on four fronts: terrorism, incitement, freedom of speech and dissent, and Palestinian refugees.

During a visit to Canada, Bedein, Widlanski and Gross briefed officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as MP's political aides and members of the Privy Council, on their findings. During a stop in Washington, D.C., they spoke to congressional aides and members of the media, and they are planning similar meetings with members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Widlanski, a native New Yorker who is fluent in Arabic, said 46 members of the Palestinian election commission resigned in protest after the strong-arm tactics on election day.

Abbas, meanwhile, campaigned on a platform that praised Arafat and vilified the United States and Israel, even going so far as to claim that Israel planned to blow up the Al Aqsa mosque, Widlanski said.

As Israelis were targeted by terror attacks in the waning day of the campaign and afterward, Abbas' "TV and radio stations ran items that took credit for the attacks," and his own affiliated organization, the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, claimed joint responsibility for the incidents with Hamas, Widlanski noted.

Widlanski said Abbas differs from Arafat on more than style. "Abbas does not think violence is the answer right now.

"He has a dialectic view of the conflict" that owes much to his education and Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, a KGB educational institution for Third World activists and terrorists, he said.

The Soviet strategy when Abbas attended was not to confront the United States directly, but to support wars of liberation.

"I believe this is Abbas' philosophy," Widlanski said, adding that Abbas is following the old Soviet line that believed the United States would fall apart if the Russians played their cards correctly.

Gross, deputy director of the Voice of Israel's Arabic Service, said his analysis shows that peace, reconciliation and the history and rights of Jews get short shrift in Palestinian school books.

Instead, Jews are described as foreigners to Palestine with no rights there, while Israel is solely described as an occupying power and a source of harm to its neighbours, and Israeli-occupied lands, which include pre-1967 territories, are seen as targets for liberation.

This piece ran in the January 26th 2005 issue of the Canadian Jewish News

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Israel's former Deputy Atty. General, Prof. Nahum Rackover:
One Must Not Obey an "Illegal Order"
Michael Guttman
Staffer, Israel Resource News Agency

Israel's former Deputy Attorney General, Professor Nahum Rackover, now head of the Jewish Legal Heritage Society most recently convened a brain trust of Israeli experts in Jewish and Israeli jurisprudence to discuss the legal ramifications of Prime Minister Sharon's current policies.

Specifically, Prof. Rackover's conference addressed the question what would define "illegal orders", as defined through both Israeli and Jewish law.

Meeting Prof. Rackover at his home in Jerusalem, I asked him about the dimensions of the Israeli law on the topic of what would constitute an "illegal order".

Prof. Rackover pointed to a 1977 law that deals with individual liability despite one's acting on the basis of superior orders.

That statute clearly states that one is in fact normally not responsible for actions committed on the basis of such an order.

However, an important exception is made for those orders that are "obviously illegal."

In such a case, the individual is responsible and liable to any resulting punishment.

According to Prof. Rackover, the individual then has a legal right and obligation to disobey an obviously illegal order.

Prof. Rackover also referred to a section of the Israeli Military Code (no.125, enacted in 1955) which provides similar guidelines on the issue: IDF Soldiers have no obligation to fulfill a command that is obviously illegal. Rackover notes that Israeli military courts have repeatedly placed individual responsibility on soldiers who failed to act accordingly (the 1957 case in which IDF troops were convicted of following an illegal order to fire on a busload of workers from Cfar Kassam during a curfew at the time of the Suez campaign was cited as the most well known example in this regard. Every IDF soldier who participated in the incident was convicted of following what constituted an illegal order).

Regarding the legality or illegality of Sharon's current policies, Rackover introduced the works of Law Professor Eliav Shochetman, and mentioned that Shochetman argues that there exists, based on historical and international agreement and law, a right for the Jewish people to settle the Land of Israel. Any actions devised to prevent or negate this right would therefore be considered illegal.

Shochetman derives this historic right from the decisions and guidelines set forth by the League of Nations and the United Nations, among other sources.

Rackover, drawing from Shochetman's work, has addressed the aspects of Jewish law involved. He cites the views of the former Chief Rabbis Shapira and Eliyahu, and the various positions and decisions of other authorities in Jewish law, to support the position that Sharon's current policies which require expulsion of Jews from their homes in the land of Israel as being an illegal act.

Prof. Rackover referred to sources which explain that the Jewish legal obligation to settle the Land of Israel, in all areas according to the Rambam, as a divine precept from the Torah, and that it would therefore be illegal to withdraw Jews from any areas of the land, and is forbidden for one to participate in such actions.

According to Prof. Rackover, citing Maimonides in "The Laws of Kings" (chapter 3), one in fact has an obligation to disobey a king who issues an illegal order.

Additionally, Rackover briefly dealt with the human rights aspect. He pointed to the basic law of the state of Israel, including a 1994 Knesset law, which accords every individual the right to his or her own body, dignity, and property. Rackover also noted the opinion of the late Deputy President of the Supreme Court, Judge Haim Cohen, that it is worse than killing to force someone out of his/her home.

One question that remains is what makes an order "obviously illegal": Is this to be determined by the individual or society at large? While Rackover personally believes Sharon's plan - which he labeled "undemocratic" - would fall under this category, and therefore necessitate disobedience, he noted that Israeli military courts at the present would not seem to support this view.

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