January 13, 2009
Things one sees from The Hague
01.12.2009 | Haaretz
By Gideon Levy
When the cannons eventually fall silent, the time for questions and investigations will be upon us. The mushroom clouds of smoke and dust will dissipate in the pitch-black sky; the fervor, desensitization and en masse jump on the bandwagon will be forever forgotten and perhaps we will view a clear picture of Gaza in all its grimness. Then we will see the scope of the killing and destruction, the crammed cemeteries and overflowing hospitals, the thousands of wounded and physically disabled, the destroyed houses that remain after this war.
The questions that will beg to be asked, as cautiously as possible, are who is guilty and who is responsible. The world’s exaggerated willingness to forgive Israel is liable to crack this time. The pilots and gunners, the tank crewmen and infantry soldiers, the generals and thousands who embarked on this war with their fair share of zeal will learn the extent of the evil and indiscriminate nature of their military strikes. They perhaps will not pay any price. They went to battle, but others sent them.
The public, moral and judicial test will be applied to the three Israeli statesmen who sent the Israel Defense Forces to war against a helpless population, one that did not even have a place to take refuge, in maybe the only war in history against a strip of land enclosed by a fence. Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni will stand at the forefront of the guilty. Two of them are candidates for prime minister, the third is a candidate for criminal indictment.
It is inconceivable that they not be held to account for the bloodshed. Olmert is the only Israeli prime minister who sent his army to two wars of choice, all during one of the briefest terms in office. The man who made a number of courageous statements about peace late in his tenure has orchestrated no fewer than two wars. Talking peace and making war, the “moderate” and “enlightened” prime minister has been revealed as one of our greatest fomenters of war. That is how history will remember him. The “cash envelopes” crimes and “Rishon Tours” transgressions will make him look as pure as snow by comparison.
Barak, the leader of the party of the left, will bear the cost of the IDF’s misdeeds under his tutelage. His account will be burdened by the bombing and shelling of population centers, the hundreds of dead and wounded women and children, the numerous targetings of medical crews, the firing of phosphorus shells at civilian areas, the shelling of a UN-run school that served as a shelter for residents who bled to death over days as the IDF prevented their evacuation by shooting and shelling. Even our siege of Gaza for a year and a half, whose ramifications are frighteningly coming into focus in this war, will accrue to him. Blow after blow, all of these count in the world of war crimes.
Livni, the foreign minister and leader of the centrist party, will be remembered as the one who pushed for, legitimized and sat silent through all these events. The woman who promised “a different kind of politics” was a full partner. This must not be forgotten.
In contrast to the claims being made otherwise, we are permitted to believe that these three leaders did not embark on war for electoral considerations. Anytime is good for war in Israel. We set out for the previous war three months after the elections, not two months before. Will Israel judge them harshly in light of the images emanating from Gaza? Highly doubtful. Barak and Livni are actually rising in the polls instead of dipping. The test awaiting these individuals will not be a local test. It is true that some international statesmen cynically applauded the blows Israel dealt. It is true America kept silent, Europe stuttered and Egypt supported, but other voices will rise out of the crackle of combat.
The first echoes can already be heard. This past weekend, the UN and the Human Rights Commission in Geneva have demanded an investigation into war crimes allegedly perpetrated by Israel. In a world in which Bosnian leaders and their counterparts from Rwanda have already been put on trial, a similar demand is likely to arise for the fomenters of this war. Israeli basketball players will not be the only ones who have to shamefully take cover in sports arenas, and senior officers who conducted this war will not be the only ones forced to hide in El Al planes lest they be arrested. This time, our most senior statesmen, the members of the war kitchen cabinet, are liable to pay a personal and national price.
I don’t write these words with joy, but with sorrow and deep shame. Despite all the slack the world has cut us since as long as we can remember, despite the leniency shown toward Israel, the world might say otherwise this time. If we continue like this, maybe one day a new, special court will be established in The Hague.