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Advocacy Update: Turkel Commission II

Advocacy Update: Turkel Commission Part II Released

15 February 2013


Emily GianIsrael is no stranger to stories that make front-page news around the world. The general formula is that there is an incident, there is much media fury and speculation, and by the time the full story comes out, most journalists have already moved on to the next story.

Such was the case with the flotilla incident in late May of 2010, which was followed by extensive media coverage with a number of those in the international media quick to play the judge and the jury in casting the IDF as the villains. By the time all of the evidence came to light, such as videos and testimonies, the public had moved on. Even further in the background, two independent inquiries were formed, one by the United Nations which produced the Palmer Report (released in September 2011). The other was established by Israel and headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel but it also included two international observers. The result was the Turkel Report.

The first part of the Turkel Report was released in January 2011 and concluded: “the naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip – in view of the security circumstances and Israel’s effort to comply with its humanitarian obligations – was legal pursuant to the rules of international law”. This was based on a thorough inquiry by the eminent judge, quite unlike the verdict delivered by much of the international media.

By The WayLast week we talked about the TV series “The Promise” and its attempt to delegitimise Israel.And on the subject of those who seek to delegitimise Israel and the right of the Jewish people to self-determination, I was interested to read the views a few weeks ago of Professor Stuart Rees, Chair (and former Director) of the Sydney Peace Foundation in a piece entitled “BDS campaign questions academics’ courage”.

Rees, an unabashed supporter of the BDS movement whose founder Omar Barghouti (a student at Tel Aviv University) makes no secret of his movement’s ultimate aim to destroy Israel in any way it can, attacks the Australian Newspaper for demonising supporters of BDS. He suggests that “instead of the attack technique, the journalists could have analysed the BDS campaign and the extent of its support across Europe, North America and Africa”.

Rees should know all about “attack techniques” of the sort described in his opinion article because such techniques were employed a decade ago on the so-called “Jewish Lobby” when criticism was raised of the Sydney Peace Foundation’s decision to award the so-called “Sydney Peace Prize” to Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi. Back then, Ashrawi’s critics who criticised her record of implicit support for Hamas and explicit support for attacking Israeli civilians in the territories, were condemned as attacking and vilifying a supposedly worthy recipient. The campaign of attack successfully deflected the public’s attention from Ashrawi’s own well-documented words which raised doubts about her worthiness for such an award, and focussed discussion elsewhere.

At that time, nearly a decade ago, I had only recently commenced work in Israel advocacy and my first assignment was to research articles and other material written by Ashrawi. In doing so, I came across some disturbing quotes that led me to question her suitability for what I thought at the time was a worthy prize which was supposed to celebrate the cause of peace and harmony in the world. Ashrawi once stated that she did not “consider Hamas and Jihad terrorist organisations”, though we were all aware of their campaigns of suicide bombing and heartless attacks on civilian targets. Both are listed as such on the Australian Government’s listing of terrorist organisations.

I wondered, like many others, why the organisers of the Sydney Peace Prize had not considered recognising a co-recipient from Israel. After all, the concept of peace and harmony was all about partnership and resolving differences rather than promoting division between people. The name Amos Oz came to mind as a possible candidate.

Now that I am more familiar with Rees’ views (he even gives succour to Leunig for his disgusting anti-Semitic cartoon handiwork), it is clear why someone like Oz was never considered. He is an Israeli and is therefore disqualified from being honoured with Rees’ precious “peace prize”.

Then again, Rees’ own words have given away the game. The Sydney Peace Prize is and always was a sham.

The commission looked at evidence which many in the media sought to airbrush out of existence even though a substantial amount of visual evidence existed of IDF soldiers boarding one of the flotilla ships being attacked and beaten by members of the IHH, armed with a wide array of weapons including iron bars, axes, slingshots, knives and other metal objects. Just a few examples:

The United Nations’ Palmer Report, released a few months later, returned similar findings i.e. that the blockade of Gaza was legal, that the IHH was looking for trouble and that IDF commandos rightfully defended themselves against pre-mediated violence.

The second part of the Turkel Commission has now been released and it is in its findings that we can see the openness and transparency of the Israeli justice system. This part of the report was designed to ensure that in the future, Israel takes the correct and proper action in accordance with International Law.

Turkel stated that, “the Committee determined that the examination and investigation mechanisms for complaints and allegations of violations regarding the existing laws of armed conflict in Israel are, generally, in keeping with the obligations of the State of Israel and are in accordance with the rules of international law. However the Commission believes that in certain areas there is room for improvement vis-à-vis the examination and investigation mechanisms. In some areas, there is room for changes in the accepted policy. The view of the Commission is that the implementation of the recommendations will contribute to improved efficiency in the examination and investigation mechanisms as per the norms of enlightened nations.”

Two of the observers on the Commission, Professor Tim McCormack of the University of Melbourne and Lord David Trimble of the UK, both praised the outcomes of the Committee.

Professor McCormack declared, “I know that no other study is [as] comprehensive as this on the international legal obligations relating to investigation on accountability for alleged violation of international humanitarian law. I’ve learned a great deal myself from being involved in the process of the commission and preparation of the report and I think the State of Israel should be very proud of this contribution to the study of a very important area of the law”.

Meanwhile, Lord Trimble stated, “when taken as a whole, looking at the Israeli legal system, it will pass muster with the best in the world. Not to say that there are things that can’t be improved, that’s the case in all systems”.

Lord Trimble has raised an important point. Every country should be able to look internally and work out ways to improve itself and its practices.

Israel exists in a hostile region and is often forced to play out situations that other countries can only imagine as hypothetical. That it can face these outside threats and still successfully comply with international humanitarian law as acknowledged by the Palmer and Turkel Reports, brings credit upon the country’s democratic processes.

Israeli Navy Addresses a Ship in the Flotilla and Offers it to Dock in the Ashdod Port