Monday, July 13, 2009

War Criminals who are professors at Tel Aviv University

Asa Kasher: Academic Ethics, Censorship, and Assassination – Philosopher of pragmatics and ethics, Kasher is an Israel Prize winner (2000) and the Laura Schwarz-Kipp Chair In Professional Ethics and Philosophy of Practice at Tel Aviv University (TAU).

Kasher combines his work at TAU with instruction at the National Security College and has written the ethical codes for scores of state sectors, including the Police, the National Bank, and for Knesset Members. Notably, he is the author of the military's ethical code: The Spirit of the IDF: Values and Basic Norms (1994). Kasher has developed the rationale and justification for military doctrines including the use of anti-personnel munitions, assassinations, and torture.

From TAU he co-headed the army team which composed Israel's revisionist "Doctrine of Just War" defining "terrorism" as all armed activity 'not on behalf of any state', something 'always morally unjustified'. Kasher thereby produced Israel's "Doctrine of the Just War of Fighting Terror" where 'from the point of view of Military Ethics, a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist', and must be met with overwhelming force. This includes torture, assassination ("preventive killing"), and pre-emptive violence. Kasher is a member of the Military Censorship Committee, has served on the National Security Council, and is Head of the Inter-University Committee on Academic Ethics.

Yitzhak Ben-Israel: Weapons Design & Deployment: Former head of the Israeli air force's R&D program and the military's overall R&D Directorate (MAFAT), and is a double Israel Prize winner for security contributions.

As Chair of the Defense Industry Lobby Ben-Israel is one of the most powerful figures in Israel's arms industry – a status reflected in his additional post as Chair of the Israel-India Parliamentary Friendship League (India is Israel's largest weapons client). A TAU professor since 2002, Ben-Israel is the key figure responsible for bringing together each of the academic, industrial, political, and military components of Israel's arms industry, with TAU providing both venue and resources.

Since mid-2006, Ben-Israel has been linked with the live "testing" of so-called "DIME" (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) munitions (delivered by unmanned aerial vehicles) in Gaza; and since early 2007, Ben-Israel has been advocating a major ground and air assault on the Gaza Strip...With the commencement of the Gaza campaign, Ben-Israel threw his weight behind (Defense Minister) Barak, praising his leadership in the offensive and encouraging greater force: 'If we hit them hard enough, they might come to the conclusion that they shouldn't fire any more rockets.'

Following the ceasefire, Ben-Israel heralded the advent of a 'a milestone that would be etched in the historic memory of the Middle East for many years' –foremost amongst the gains of the conflict he perceived was the shift in the army's approach to targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure: 'the recent operation showed that even mosques [...] are no longer an obstacle in the face of Israel using its military power' he wrote, arguing that the civilian losses meant that for Palestinians 'the path of resistance has failed, big time.'

Commissioning War Crimes: TAU and the Doctrine of Disproportionality

War Crimes and TAU's INSS Dept. - In the wake of the Lebanon War, in which Israel introduced various new weapons technologies as well as doctrinal innovations, high-ranking officers and senior planners set about developing a strategy to remedy the perceived damage done to Israel's 'balance of deterrence.' The "Dahiya Doctrine", named for the Shi'ite residential quarter of Beirut reduced to rubble in the war, was first articulated regarding Lebanese civilian populations.

In late 2008, Giora Eiland, ex-chair of the National Security Council and now INSS senior research fellow, produced a strategic document at TAU's INSS in which he argued the 'impossibility of defeating Hizbullah' meant Israeli forces were henceforth to plan for a war 'between Israel and Lebanon and not between Israel and Hizbollah.'

This, Eiland argued, would 'lead to the elimination of the Lebanese military, the destruction of the national infrastructure, and intense suffering among the population,' ends he justified by arguing 'the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people are consequences that can influence Hizbollah's behavior more than anything else.'Acknowledging that such a doctrine 'may damage Israel's legitimacy, incur international pressure, and even prompt a clear directive from the United States to stop the destruction', Eiland concluded by advocating 'high level professional military dialogue between Israel and [...] military leaders in these countries' in order to foster 'the requisite support.'

Eiland's TAU colleague and head of the INSS's "IDF Force Structure" unit, Gabriel Siboni, expanded on the new doctrine in an October 2008 INSS Insight bulletin entitled "Disproportionate Force:

"Israel's Concept of Response in Light of the Second Lebanon War."In it, he made explicit the need for the military to target civilian over and above military targets: The army, he wrote, must 'refrain from the cat and mouse games of searching for Qassam rocket launchers [... and] not be expected to stop the rocket and missile fire against the Israeli home front through attacks on the launchers themselves.' Instead, Israel was to:

'[...] act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy's actions and the threat it poses. Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes. The strike must be carried out as quickly as possible, and must prioritize damaging assets over seeking out each and every launcher.'

Siboni's paper identified Syria and Lebanon, while noting that the 'approach is applicable to the Gaza Strip as well'; he concluded by positing the army's 'primary goal' as now being to 'leave the enemy floundering in expensive, long term processes of reconstruction.'

This doctrine of disproportionality and civilian infrastructure targeting developed at TAU by its preeminent strategic planners and military officers is clearly in extreme violation of international law, not least Articles 52 and 54 of Protocol 1 of the Geneva Conventions which govern the protection of civilian infrastructure in war. The principle of distinction between civilian and military objects and populations in war is a foundational precept of International Humanitarian Law and failure to abide by this principle constitutes one of the most serious war crimes. To do so as part of an explicitly premeditated strategy is rare in its wilful contempt for international law.

Less than two months after the TAU scholars' documents were made public Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip began. At its end, three weeks later, preliminary assessments confirmed an overwhelming civilian death toll, with 895 of more than 1300 dead classified as civilian and an estimated 43% of all fatalities made up of women and children. Following their preliminary investigations, Amnesty International wrote to outgoing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on January 16th 2009, asking her to impress upon her Israeli counterpart the need for Israel to allow investigations of war crimes. The letter, apparently written without knowledge of the doctrinal debates covered above, observed 'there is growing evidence that Israel has failed to adhere to the principles of distinction and proportionality in its military action'; Amnesty noted that '[e]vidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity is mounting daily'.

The UN's Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Palestine stressed the apparent premeditative character of these crimes when he described the carnage in Gaza as raising 'the spectre of systematic war crimes.' The civilian focus of Israel's offensive was indeed neither accidental nor mysterious; it was – in good part – designed and enabled by generals, scholars, scientists working out of Tel Aviv University.

The same week, Tel Aviv University announced the appointment of the army's Col. Pnina Sharvit-Baruch to teach international law.

Sharvit-Baruch is the army's principal international law counsel and was responsible for green-lighting the decision to target civilian infrastructure and for a 'relaxing of the rules of engagement' regarding civilians on the part of the army's International Law Division. Col Pnina Sharvit-Baruch provided legal cover for war crimes during the Gaza invasion.

Col. Sharvit-Baruch and her staff manipulated standard interpretations of international law to expand the scope of army operations to include civilian targets. Haim Ganz has called Col. Sharvit-Baruch's approach to international law "devious jurisprudence that permits mass killing". According to the Israeli media, she personally approved the first wave of air strikes in Gaza that targeted a police graduation ceremony, killing at least 40 cadets. Although police forces have civilian status in international law, and are therefore protected from military reprisal, Col Sharvit-Baruch is reported to have revised her opinion of the attack's legality during the many months of planning.

In addition, she is said to have "relaxed" the rules of engagement, approved widespread house demolitions and the uprooting of farmland, and sanctioned the use of incendiary weapons such as white phosphorus over the densely populated enclave.

She also offered legal justification for the targeting of buildings in which civilians were known to be located as long as they had been warned first to leave. Schools, mosques and a university were among the many civilian buildings shelled by the Israeli army during the 22-day operation.

Her decisions have been widely criticized by international human rights organisations as well as by international law experts in Israel. Professor Yuval Shany, who teaches public international law at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, stated regarding the strike against the police cadets: "If you follow that line, there is not much that differentiates [the cadets] from [Israeli] reservists or even from 16-year-olds who will be drafted [into the Israeli army] in two years."

Col Sharvit-Baruch's predecessor, Daniel Reisner, noted that her staff had stretched the accepted meanings of international law. The army's operating principle, he added, was: "If you do something for long enough, the world will accept it."

Orna Ben-Naftali, the dean of law at the College of Management in Rishon Letzion, said the army's conduct in Gaza had made international law "bankrupt". "A situation is created in which the majority of the adult men in Gaza and the majority of the buildings can be treated as legitimate targets. The law has actually been stood on its head."

Most academic staff in Israel supported Col. Sharvit-Baruch's appointment, said Daphna Golan, a program director at the Minerva Center for Human Rights at Hebrew University.

Adi Ophir, Jan. 12, 2009: "...In order to save one Jewish child, one is ready to sacrifice the lives of 100,000 of theirs. The number may vary of course; 100,000 is the figure I heard this morning with exactly this formulation from a colleague, a distinguished professor of Hebrew and Yiddish literature (at Tel Aviv University). He was speaking in public, very conscious of and proud in his position...."
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Michael Hoffman for ALL of your work.

Sometimes praise is poison but in times of difficulty one must know that fellow human beings are watching and grateful.

Sometimes money helps too :-) Perhaps one day when I have some I will send but for now will continue to scrape together the money for your books and spread the word.

Regards,

Political Dissident,

Australia