Sunday, May 17, 2015

Hersch, Killing Bin Laden, and the Media



Illustration:  You know who.  It is amazing how few illustrations of him seem to be available on the Web.

            By now, all the controversy over Seymour Hersch's article on Bin Laden has died down.  There was at first a flurry of activity denouncing it, then some sort of agreement, explicit or not, to simply ignore it.  Most of those involved did not read the report and those that did flocked to the major networks and corporations in order to suppress it.  Now it is time to take a look at it and find out what is actually there.

            One issue not mentioned anywhere, and still ignored, is the information we were given during the Bush II years that Bin Laden was on dialysis.  These were times that he supposedly was hiding out in the mountains.  It was always puzzling to us as to how he managed to run a dialysis machine up in the mountains.  Those things are big, require a great deal of power, and are not easily concealed.  Still, this evil mastermind operated, sending out video tapes that today look like lectures and discussions.    
            So consider what one of those machines looks like:


Now imagine someone carrying it on his back up a steep mountain in winter, barefoot.  If you were able to do that, your imagination is better than mine.

            So, can we believe it?  Can we believe that we simply chopped up bin Laden's body into pieces, we had the Pakistani authorities helping us, we ... and so on?  Well, look at it this was: last week was the commemoration of the "Disaster," the day that Israel was created and imposed on the Palestinians.  We did not hear a word of it on our media in the U.S.  On the other hand, we heard hours of condemnation of Seymour Hersch.   So yes, we can believe it.

            One other thing: we created Bin Laden and did it because we wanted to hurt the Soviet Union (they were atheists and we were blievers so that went over big in the Middle East).  Al-Qaeda means "foundation," or "Base," and that is where Daesh (or ISIS) started.  Al-Qaeda kicked them out as being idiotic, but the fact remains that we supported them, called them "Rebels" for a long time.

            Anyway, here is the reported himself:

TUESDAY, MAY 12, 2015

Seymour Hersh Details Explosive Story on Bin Laden Killing & Responds to White House, Media Backlash

Four years after U.S. forces assassinated Osama bin Laden, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh has published an explosive piece claiming much of what the Obama administration said about the attack was wrong. Hersh claims at the time of the U.S. raid bin Laden had been held as a prisoner by Pakistani intelligence since 2006. Top Pakistani military leaders knew about the operation and provided key assistance. Contrary to U.S. claims that it located bin Laden by tracking his courier, a former Pakistani intelligence officer identified bin Laden’s whereabouts in return for the bulk of a $25 million U.S. bounty. Questions are also raised about whether bin Laden was actually buried at sea, as the U.S. claimed. Hersh says instead the Navy SEALs threw parts of bin Laden’s body into the Hindu Kush mountains from their helicopter. The White House claims the piece is "riddled with inaccuracies." Hersh joins us to lay out his findings and respond to criticism from government officials and media colleagues.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AARON MATÉ: Four years ago this month, President Obama announced U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden in a raid on his hideout in Pakistan.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: At my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.
AARON MATÉ: But now a new investigation says the official story is a lie. In an explosive report, the veteran journalist Seymour Hersh alleges a vast deception on everything from how bin Laden was found to how he was killed. According to Hersh, Pakistan detained bin Laden in 2006 and kept him prisoner with the backing of Saudi Arabia. In 2010, a Pakistani intelligence officer disclosed bin Laden’s location to theCIA. Hersh says the U.S. and Pakistan then struck a deal: The U.S. would raid bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, but make it look as if Pakistan was unaware. In fact, Hersh says, top Pakistani military leaders provided key help.
AMY GOODMAN: The report also challenges the initial U.S. account of how bin Laden was killed. Hersh says there was never a firefight inside the compound and that bin Laden himself was not armed. Questions are also raised about whether bin Laden was actually buried at sea as the U.S. claimed. Hersh says, instead, the Navy SEALs threw parts of bin Laden’s body into the Hindu Kush mountains from their helicopter. The White House has rejected Hersh’s account of the bin Laden raid. Press Secretary Josh Earnest spoke to reporters on Monday.
PRESS SECRETARY JOSH EARNEST: I can tell you that the Obama White House is not the only one to observe that the story is riddled with inaccuracies and outright falsehoods. The former deputy director of the CIA, Mike Morell, has said that every sentence was wrong. And, Jim, I actually thought one of your colleagues at CNN put it best: Peter Bergen, a security analyst for CNN, described the story as being about 10,000 words in length, and he said, based on reading it, that what’s true in the story isn’t new, and what’s new in the story isn’t true. So I thought that was a pretty good way of describing why no one here is particularly concerned about it.
AMY GOODMAN: In a statement, White House national security spokesperson Ned Price said, quote, "There are too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions in this piece ... to fact check each one. ... [T]he notion that the operation that killed Usama Bin Ladin was anything but a unilateral U.S. mission is patently false," he said. But despite the White House denials, none of its statements have addressed Hersh’s specific allegations.
Meanwhile, other reporting is beginning to corroborate some key elements. According to NBC News, three intelligence sources have backed Hersh’s claim that the U.S. heard about bin Laden’s location when a Pakistani officer told the CIA. The U.S. has said it helped find bin Laden by tracking his personal courier, which Hersh says is a ruse. The NBC sources also backed Hersh’s contention that the Pakistani government knew all along where bin Laden was hiding.
Well, for more, we go directly to Seymour Hersh, whose 10,000-word article, "The Killing of Osama bin Laden," appears online at the London Review of Books. It’s Hersh’s latest major investigation in a body of work spanning decades. He won the Pulitzer Prize for exposing the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam, when U.S. forces killed hundreds of civilians. In 2004, Seymour Hersh broke the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.
Seymour Hersh, welcome to Democracy Now! Why don’t you, in your own words, describe what it is that you found?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, you guys did a pretty good job. Basically, you covered the tracks. Basically, I think you can say, simply, that the president, as he said on television when he announced the raid, did order the raid, and the SEAL Team Six, the most elite unit we have in our special forces group, they did conduct a mission. They did kill bin Laden. They did take the body. That’s all true. And the rest of it is sort of hooey.
AARON MATÉ: Can we talk about what seems to be the most shocking claim: Pakistan finding bin Laden in 2006 and the U.S. not finding out until 2010, when you allege a Pakistani officer told the U.S., and meanwhile, Saudi Arabia backing and paying for bin Laden’s imprisonment. This seems very improbable, involving hundreds, thousands of officials in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and then the U.S.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Where do you get the notion of hundred or thousand officials? We’re talking about a closed society. The White House has a lot of control over the information. The senior Pakistani officials have control over the information. We are talking about a country that went, a dozen or 10 years ago, through a WMD sort of cover-up. The notion that there’s some major conspiracy I’m alleging is just sort of—that’s over the top. There’s no major conspiracy here. It’s very easy to control news. We all saw that when—the whole thing about Saddam Hussein and the alleged nuclear weapons. I should think that would be a model for why you might just not be so skeptical of the possibility of holding things. And let me also say, in the piece, it’s not so much that I’m saying what happened. I’m quoting sources. And of course they’re unnamed. You just announced what happened to Jeffrey Sterling today. I mean, what reporter would want to name a source in this administration. You know, bam! He’d be gone. So, there you are.
What simply happened is, at a certain critical point, we had a walk-in. We were very angry about it, the United States. Pakistan is our ally. And underneath all of this, you have to understand something, which I’m sure you do. Just to tell the audience, Pakistan has, what, one, 200, maybe more—they’re still making, producing enriched uranium, etc., etc. And they have a great deal of nuclear weapons. I mean, I would guess they’re up to 200 now. It was 100 a half a decade ago. And so, we have to have comity between the ranking American generals and the ranking Pakistani generals. This is something very important to us. The Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, helps train the people who guard the weapons. We work with Pakistan very closely to watch out—literally, with them—to monitor the people who are in control of the weapons, to make sure nobody is a secret nationalist or a secret jihadist who might grab a weapon and do something crazy with it. That’s a serious, big issue that’s sort of under—that’s behind the whole relationship. We give Pakistan a lot of money through Congress over the table, and we give a lot of money to the leadership under the table. So we have a great deal of—and we also understand Pakistan has its own agenda.
And so, '06, they did grab bin Laden; ’010, we learn about it. We're angry. We don’t tell the Paks we know right away. We begin looking at Abbottabad, where he’s located. We start observing him. This has been reported. We set up a team in a nearby house, mostly foreign nationals and Pakistanis who work with us, to monitor the house. We go to the president. The community goes—intelligence community goes to the president with the information about the walk-in. Any guy that wants to sell information for money is automatically suspect, so you have to be careful. The president is appropriately very cautious, very cautious. He’s not going to make a move. He doesn’t want to end up like Jimmy Carter in the desert, you know, 1980, you know, that failed attempt to rescue the American hostages, which hurt him politically terribly. It’s a year before an election. He’s not very popular in America. Not much is going right. He’s in a constant fight with Congress, etc., etc., etc.
So, we determine the only way we can be sure that we’ve got the right guy and that this will work is we have to go to the Pakistanis. So we go to the leadership—General Kayani, who’s the head of the army, and General Pasha, who’s the head of the internal—what they call the ISI, Inter-Services Intelligence unit, the counterpart to the CIA. We go to those people. We lay out our case. We make it clear that a lot of goodies are going to be cut off. There’s F-16s that are in the pipeline. We’re going to slow it down. We’re going to slow down congressional money, etc., etc. They have very little option. OK, they start working with us. We set up a four-man team in a place called Tarbela Ghazi.
These are all details that—this is a 10,000-word article. I mean, this is a lot of information in this article. We set up a team—none of which the White House is responding to; instead are just saying—they keep on saying, "It’s so many falsehoods, we can’t correct it." And, by the way, the last time I—quoting Peter Bergen—I don’t know the guy. I’m sure he believes what he believes. But the last time the White House actually quoted a reporter in the way they did would have been Dick Cheney quoting a story by Judy Miller and Mike Gordon in The New York Times at the height of the WMD crisis about the tubes that allegedly could be used for making—delivering nuclear weapons, a story that they had planted in The New York Times and then Cheney on 60 Minutes goes and uses that story as a—to buttress the argument. We know that. That seems to me to really—just get on with it, White House. Just start denying specifics.
Four-man team in Ghazi, Ghazi Tarbela, a very important base in Pakistan. A lot of black operations are run with us and the Pakistanis out of it. It’s not that well known. There’s an airbase there, but there’s also a covert unit. The Pakistanis also train most of the guards who monitor and watch over the nuclear weapons there. So it’s a—we’re there. We’re getting—our team is collecting data on the place in Abbottabad, where bin Laden—you can call him a prisoner, under the supervision. There were steel doors leading to his apartment that were locked. He was on the third floor of this complex there. There were a number of buildings in the compound. And we have great detail. We’re learning how thick the steel is, how much dynamite you need to blow it, how many steps are going, who else is there. This is all being passed by the Pakistanis to us.
The whole game, and the whole crux of the story I’m writing, is that nothing was supposed to be made public after the raid. The SEALs were supposed to go in—and you have to understand, we’re talking about two Black Hawks full of SEALs, packed to the brim. SEALs basically are better off with eight to 10 people, and they had 12 in each of them. They were—the plane was stripped down. They were coming in heavy. And 24 SEALs going into a compound where, presumably, if it was a secret raid, there would be somebody with arms. Certainly, if Pakistan itself wasn’t guarding it with armed people, bin Laden would have armed guards, because he’s a man that a lot of people want to get to. They’re going in—just repelling down was the plan, you know, perfect targets for anybody with a BB gun. And they’re going to go in like that without any air cover? It’s a story that it is—and bin Laden, the most hunted man in the world at that time, since 2001, he was number one international terrorist. He’s going to hide out in a compound—Abbottabad is sort of a resort town—in a resort town 40 miles or so outside of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, within a mile or two of Pakistan’s West Point, where they train young officers, the army does, and a couple of miles from a regimental headquarters full of army troops. He’s going to hide out there? I mean, as I wrote in the article, it’s a Lewis Carroll story. It just doesn’t—it doesn’t sustain any credibility, if you look at it objectively.
And so, the deal was it was not to be announced. We were going to go kill the guy. That was, of course, the mission. That’s why the president had to talk about a firefight. There was no firefight. They’ve actually acknowledged that within a few days of the raid, the White House did. Bin Laden did not have an AK and wasn’t being—cowering behind some woman, as was initially said. There was—the point being that, as I write very carefully in this article, seven to 10 days after the body—the killing was done and the body was taken away, we were going to announce, the White House—the president, himself, was going to announce that a drone raid somewhere in the Hindu Kush mountain area—you know, Waziristan, it’s not clear, it was going to be vague as to whether it was—that’s the area that divides Pakistan and Afghanistan, mountain area. It was going to be vague as to which country this took place in. Somewhere in that border area, a drone raid hit a building. We sent in a team to look at it. There was a tall guy that looked like bin Laden. We took some pictures, some DNA. My god, we got him. That was the announcement. That protects everybody. Pasha and Kayani are working with us, and nobody has to know it.
Why are they worried about being told? At one point in the last six or seven years, 8 percent—that’s the popularity of America in Pakistan, was 8 percent. Bin Laden was hugely popular. If it was known to the public that Pasha and Kayani, the two leading generals, had worked with us to kill the guy, they would be in real trouble. They’d have to move to Dubai or have armed guards.
So, once the president did it—this was done without notice. And I’m—of course, as the—you quoted some officer saying it was unilateral. It was all American. Yes, Pakistanis were not involved in a raid. Our SEALs were. And so, I wish—as you said in the intro, Amy, the denials are all sort of non-denials.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, before we get to the denials, with your sequence of events, you say they killed him, Obama didn’t plan to announce it right away. What happened? And what happened to Osama bin Laden’s body, according to your account?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Yes. You have to understand this is caveated in my article. What I said was that the SEALs initially reported that—first, they put a lot more bullets in it than has been publicly said, not in the head, but in the body. There were six SEALs. SEALs work—SEALs are funny. They work in teams of six because that’s how many fit into a dinghy, although, God knows, since this war began, the war on terror, the American SEALs don’t go near the water very much, which is a source of great annoyance to them. They’re no longer water people; they’re just regular ground guys. The initial account—and I do have access to people who had access to it. I’m sorry I have these sources. I just do. And I’m sorry other reporters don’t, but I just do, and that’s just the way it is. And they did talk about throwing out parts of the body over the Hindu Kush mountains from the chopper, because it was shot up pretty badly. The head was intact.
Anyway—and, by the way, if you think about the sequence I’m telling you, that you’re going to find another bin Laden somewhere, you don’t need the body. The only reason they took the body, they needed to take the body, is because the Pakistanis wanted it out of there. They didn’t want anybody to know anything about this. And we just followed their orders. And so, what happened is, that night—you know, it’s funny, I remember this vividly. Around 9:00, I think it was, CNN or somebody began to report it on the night that the raid was announced. The night of the raid, after its success, there was reports that something had happened to bin Laden, something was coming very quickly. Two-and-a-half-hour debate, two and a half hours of—as I understand, the debate was simply with a lot of people around Obama saying you cannot trust this story to be kept for seven to 10 days. Among other things, the secretary of defense, Bob Gates, who had been very critical of the plan, very, very critical, as he wrote in his memoir, very upset about what happened, they just—he might start talking, somebody might start talking, they’d start blabbing, and you lose the edge, Mr. President. This is re-election time, and presidents do strange things before re-elections—often strange things. We know that.
And so, Obama delivered a speech that was written by his political people and not cleared by the national security team. It was a speech with—I can’t begin to tell you Obama’s state of mind. As far as I know, he got a speech, he believed everything he read. He was—you know, he’s getting briefings. He believed what he was read. I’m not accusing him of lying. But what happened, what was said was a lie. And in the speech, he laid down the foundation for an enormous scramble over the next weeks, that the next days and weeks they had to recreate a new story. He said, as you said in the introduction, there was a firefight, and Obama was—and bin Laden was killed in it. That’s to cover the idea that it was an out-and-out murder. And he said also, in the fight, that—he also said that a treasure trove of material was recovered. We have yet to see it, and I raise a lot of questions about what was covered, what was collected. At one point, the SEALs were said to have taken 15 computers out of there. But if you read everything that was written, it also was written and said many times there was no Internet connection in Abbottabad. There was no sign of any operational capability of bin Laden at all. And one of the problems with the—protecting the walk-in, when you—you had to protect the walk-in. One of the reasons you didn’t want to talk about a walk-in was you don’t do that. And so, we had to protect that—
AMY GOODMAN: You mean the guy who revealed to the U.S., walking into the U.S. Embassy.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Yeah. Yeah, they call him a walk-in. And the president actually said in his speech, we had a lead in—he said we had a lead in August of 2010, which, really, for a lot of people in the intelligence community, that was too close to the mark. A lead means something specific happened then, and that’s when the walk-in went to see a guy named Jonathan Banks, the station chief, a very competent guy from everything I hear; the station chief for the CIA in Islamabad. And we had to call in—lie detector people from Washington had to fly in to debrief the guy and conclude he was telling the truth. It was a big piece of evidence. Anyway, but you have to get around that story, so you create the courier story, that the CIA, with brilliant work—and initially they wanted to say through enhanced interrogation—found out about a courier who led them to bin Laden. That is such a—that is really an outrageous story, and they sold it to a movie called No Easy—what was it?
AMY GOODMAN: Zero Dark Thirty?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Zero DarkZero Dark—that was the thesis of the movie. It also included the torture element. Absolutely not so. What happened is we had a guy walk in. NBC—NBC last night about 6:00 put out that story saying it, and you hardly saw it today. There was a piece I read in The New York Times this morning that didn’t deign to mention that an independent network had confirmed one of the major elements, not only a walk-in, but it raises questions about the couriers that they talk so much about. And so, it’s not—
AMY GOODMAN: Sy—go ahead.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Let me just say this. Here’s my theory about this. You know, there’s been a—in Europe and the rest of the world, they’re more open-minded, more willing to say, "Oh, terrible things happen." In America, I think, one of the problems with the press—and this is just a heuristic thinking, there’s nothing empirical about what I’m saying—I think one of the things that’s got them so agitated—people were writing stories accusing me of plagiarism in the press in the last two days. You know,Politico, which does great stuff, has a blog in which they said this sort of wacky stuff. A 10,000-word article that’s plagiarized? Anyway, I think there’s a sense that everybody bought into the story. Everybody bought into the story after 9/11. The White House had it going. They had the press begging for more information. Briefings were given. The stories initially had—if you remember the initial stories, they had bin Laden ready with an AK, and they were shooting in the doorway, etc. The only firing that came across in the first wave of after-action reports was a stray bullet apparently hit a woman in the leg who was screaming, either before or after the bullet hit her, I don’t know. But there was no murder in the—you know, there was no killing of people in the courtyard. If there had been a gun in the courtyard, if anybody had had a gun in the courtyard, it was cleared by the—Pakistani intelligence cleared all of the guards out before the SEALs landed. If anybody had a gun in the courtyard, the SEALs wouldn’t have gone near the courtyard the way it did, just flying in, you know, like in a World War II movie. And—
AMY GOODMAN: Sy, we have to break, but we’re going to come back to this discussion.
AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist. His latest piece in the London Review of Books is headlined "The Killing of Osama bin Laden." It tells a very different story than the one we were told in the United States by President Obama. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Aaron Maté. Our guest is Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who just published a piece in theLondon Review of Books called "The Killing of Osama bin Laden." It tells a very different story than President Obama told the United States after Obama—after Osama bin Laden was killed.
AARON MATÉ: This morning on CNN, Philip Mudd, CNN’s counterterrorism analyst, discussed Sy Hersh’s reporting.
PHILIP MUDD: The assertion is not that somebody down the chain in the Pakistani military or security services might have known something. The assertion is that senior Pakistani generals, including the head of the security service, knew for years. So while that security service was losing officers in the fight against al-Qaeda, they were also at the same time secretly sheltering the head of al-Qaeda. I mean, let me break some news for you this morning: Aliens abducted President Obama 15 minutes ago, and Darth Vader is in the Oval Office making decisions for the United States. I have a secret source who told me that. Why don’t we publish? This is nonsense. This is just ridiculous.
AARON MATÉ: That’s Philip Mudd of CNN. Sy Hersh, do you want to respond to that? Darth Vader in the White House.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Oh, of course not. I don’t care.
AARON MATÉ: OK, well, then, let me—
SEYMOUR HERSH: I mean, that’s—I mean, look, that’s childish. The reality is, the Pakistanis told—there were meetings between the head of the Pakistani intelligence service, General Pasha, and Leon Panetta, that I write about. And I write about them based on—well, you have to read the article to find out. I write about them very carefully. One of the questions always asked is: Why did you do this to us? And particularly, why bring in the Saudis? What happened is, the Pakistanis, as some of you may know, are very close to Saudi Arabia. There’s always been a chronic fear that the great Islamic bomb—at some point, Pakistan might even give the Saudis a bomb. That’s been written about constantly. That’s a great concern. We really have a serious concern about maintaining great relations with—they’re very good right now with us and the Pakistani military, anyway.
And so, the answer that was given, I’ll just tell you exactly what it was. The way they explained it is, first of all, the—they went to—they told the Saudis, and the Saudis immediately said, "Do not tell the Americans about him." Why? And I can only give you the obvious reason that was given, because the last thing Saudi Arabia wants is the United States to begin interrogating Osama bin Laden and discover who might have been giving him money—which sheikh, where—in Saudi Arabia in '01 and ’02, and before or even after. That's not completely illogical.
The second reason, of course, is, once the Pakistanis have bin Laden, they have leverage. They can let both the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan know that they have him. They can let the jihadists in both countries also know that they have him. And they get leverage. They can make it clear to both those groups: You have to talk to us more than you do. We want to know more about what’s going on, or we’ll string this guy up. That’s all—that was the explanation given. Nobody liked it, but there was an understanding that Pakistan has its own point of view about the world, and it isn’t always the same as ours. So we accepted it. We had not much choice. We wanted their help. But so, it’s not a question of Darth Vader and sort of silly talk like that. This is serious stuff I’m talking about. This is the president of the United States, if not knowing the wrong information was given, certainly countenancing it, in fact sending it—triggering a whole sequence of lies that had to be—a whole story had to be recreated.
And nobody is talking about what I wrote about this poor Dr. Afridi, the one that’s now in jail on charges—he was convicted of treason, reviewed and now in jail on charges of murder for 33 years or something like that. This is the guy that was going around in—providing vaccinations for various kinds of illnesses, hepatitis, I think, among them. I don’t think it was polio, but he was providing that kind of service to the community. A physician, and he was also an asset of the CIA, and we were so worried, in America, that the story about—we got DNA via the Pakistanis before the end of—before 2010. You needed DNA. You needed the Pakistanis to get into Abbottabad to get into and take some DNA from bin Laden—we had other samples from his family—and make sure—the president wanted to know that was really bin Laden. And so, a doctor, a Pakistani doctor, had—was assigned to—his name was [Aziz]. Amir [Aziz] was assigned to move next door to the house in Abbottabad. In fact, journalists, after the raid, found his name in Urdu on a doorplate in one of the houses next to it. They had to protect Aziz, and so they created a story, the CIA in their wisdom, that Afridi was the one that went in and tried to get into the compound to take—unsuccessfully, to take—to get a DNA sample from bin Laden, which of course led to a huge outcry against the idea that the Western intelligence, media, the CIA and the Brits, also often criticized for the same way, are behind some of the vaccination programs. This is a belief that’s certainly prevalent in Africa. And we had tremendously adverse consequences for the health of—
AMY GOODMAN: Sy, we have 10 seconds.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, the implications for the health and well-being of a lot of people are pretty negative from this, a very dumb move by the CIA. These are all things to be considered. It’s not a Darth Vader moment, I’m sorry to say.
AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh, we want to thank you for being with us, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist in Washington, D.C.
AMY GOODMAN: We’ll link to your piece in the London Review of Books called "The Killing of Osama bin Laden."

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Monday, May 11, 2015


We are number two, German slips to fifth yesterday in visits to the Absurd Times:


United States
United Kingdom

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Gaza, IDF, Israel, Criminal Court


Illustration:  This is the woman, in caricature since she feels so much in favor of cartoons, who was behind the absurdity in Texas.  She not only generated a great deal of publicity for herself in the process, got two people dead, probably obtained more money in donations, but also provided ISIS with a great deal of publicity and provided a great boost to its recruitment efforts (which had been floundering).  It also generated a great deal of free air-time for cable news and thus sponsorship.  A great day for Capitalism all around.
       We should recall the farce that erupted when some Ayatollah in Iran put a hit on Salmun Rushdie.  Now, overnight, he went from a very obscure elitist novelist to the top of nearly every bestseller list in the world, generating millions for himself and his publisher.   It also took Iran about 15 years to live that one down.  Now, Iran is very respected in most of the world and the wackos of ISIS were starting to loose face until she came around.  

On to more important things:
           Every so often, events and situations repeat themselves to where they are no longer of interest.  However, to neglect them simply allows them to accumulate and the situations becomes a compound of all the previous actions.

            For example, not a day goes by without some documentation of another Israeli atrocity.  Sometimes only one child is mangled or tortured, sometimes a small village, but nothing so large as to engage wide attention such as did the slaughter of civilians in Gaza.  While the U.S. was justifiably outraged at police in the Freddie Grey case (or, indeed whatever case it happened to be on that day or during that week), an unprovoked Israeli cop beat a black man, and another cop joined him to assist.  The fact that the black man was an Ethiopian Jew (a "schwarzer") far outweighed the fact that he was also an Israeli soldier. 

            Since the Gaza War, we could not imagine a more Nazi-like administration in Israel.  Well, they had another election and managed to bring even that off.  Here is a link: that show there is no limit to how vile people can become.  Nitwityahoo attempted to ban Arabs from Parliament altogether, but the new rules caused Arabs to unite and thus gained more representation, which show that there are no limits to ... [oh, just pick something].

            Anyway, remember the Gaza slaughter?  Here was the deal:  we drop a pamphlet telling you to get out of your neighborhood.  You think, "Oh, thank you," and leave.  Otherwise you are an enemy.  This would not go down anywhere I can imagine, but that is what we are expected to think was OK in GAZA.

            Now Palestine is in the World Court.  The following is a discussion of the entire issue:


"Kill Anything": Israeli Soldiers Say Gaza Atrocities Came from Orders for Indiscriminate Fire

A new report based on testimonies of Israeli soldiers concludes the massive civilian death toll from last summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza resulted from a policy of indiscriminate fire. The Israeli veterans group Breaking the Silence released testimonies of more than 60 Israeli officers and soldiers which it says illustrate a "broad ethical failure" that "comes from the top of the chain of command." More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed in the assault, the vast majority civilians. On Israel’s side, 73 people were killed, all but six of them soldiers. During the 50-day operation, more than 20,000 Palestinian homes were destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of people are still displaced. We hear candid video testimonies from the soldiers and speak to former Israeli paratrooper Avner Gvaryahu, director of public outreach at Breaking the Silence.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show with a new report based on testimonies of Israeli soldiers that concludes the massive civilian death toll from last summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza resulted from a "policy of indiscriminate fire." The Israeli veterans group Breaking the Silence released testimonies of more than 60 Israeli officers and soldiers, which it says illustrate a, quote, "broad ethical failure" that "comes from the top of the chain of command." More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed in the assault, the vast majority of them civilians. On Israel’s side, 73 people were killed, all but six of them soldiers. During the 50-day operation, more than 20,000 Palestinian homes were destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of people are still displaced.
AMY GOODMAN: In a video made by Breaking the Silence, a first sergeant in the Israeli military, his voice distorted, describes how a commander told him, "There are no innocent civilians," and to assume anyone within 200 or 400 meters of the Israeli Defense Forces was an enemy. ’
IDF FIRST SERGEANT: [translated] The commander announced, "Folks, tomorrow we enter. I want you to be determined, task-oriented and confident. The entire nation is behind you"—the usual speeches. And then he spoke about the rules of engagement. And I quote: "The rules of engagement are: Any person at a distance that could put you at risk, you kill him with no need for clearance." Meaning, anyone at a distance of 200, 300, 400 meters from us, isn’t an ordinary civilian. According to IDF logic, he must be there for a reason, because an ordinary civilian would flee the area, and so, we must kill him with no need for clearance. For me, it was just spine-tingling. I said to him, "Let me get this straight. Any person I see in the neighborhood where we’re headed, I spot him and kill him?" He said, "Yes. Any sane person who sees a tank battalion in his neighborhood will run away. If he sticks around, then he’s up to something. And if he’s up to something, it’s against you. So shoot him." So I tried to dig a little deeper and asked, "What if it’s an innocent civilian?" He said, "There are no innocent civilians. Your presumption should be that anyone within the area of battle, 200, 300, 400 meters from you, is your enemy."
AMY GOODMAN: That was an Israeli Defense Force, IDF, soldier who served during last summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza, known as Operation Protective Edge. His testimony is part of a new report just released by the veterans group Breaking the Silence.
For more, we go to Tel Aviv, Israel, where we’re joined by Avner Gvaryahu, director of public outreach at Breaking the Silence. He’s a former IDF solder who served from 2004 to ’07 as a sergeant in a special operations unit around Nablus and Jenin.
We welcome you, Avner, to Democracy Now! Talk about the number of people who are speaking out and why you have done this now.
AVNER GVARYAHU: So, hi, Amy. We’re a group, Breaking the Silence, as an organization, a group of former IDF soldiers, and actually some of us are still currentIDF soldiers. Throughout the years, we’ve met more than a thousand soldiers. And this time around, this summer, when the summer ended, and we realized—we saw the amount of damage, we realized that something went terribly wrong. And we actually started getting phone calls, emails from soldiers who were themselves in this operation. And then we, ourselves, also started reaching out to people. So we’re talking about, as you said, more than 60 soldiers. A third of them are officers, which is a very high number for us. And we’re talking about people that all served during the summer in different positions, in different units. We’re not talking about soldiers from only one specific place, but throughout the entire Strip in different positions. And I think reading these testimonies, it definitely did this to me and to us in the organization, but I think it’s very, very clear that something went terribly, terribly wrong. And the bare minimum we can do is listen to the same soldiers we sent to fight in our name.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Avner, what penalties are the—in all of these clips, the soldiers are anonymous, their identities are not revealed. What penalties do they face for speaking out? And how did you manage to get so many people to get together to testify in one video?
AVNER GVARYAHU: Well, it’s actually—it’s not an easy task. It’s not trivial to speak out in Israel today. It’s definitely something that is difficult. And I have to say that the soldiers, who are anonymous—and all the testimonies that are given are given to us, you know, one on one, so we know each and every one of the testifiers, but for various reasons we have decided to make sure all our testifiers will be anonymous. But they’re not scared of the penalties. They’re not scared of legal repercussions. They’re actually scared of the reaction of their society and the fact that they will be seen as the scapegoat. And I think one of the points that we’ve always tried to make is that the soldiers coming and speaking out are not the problem. The soldiers coming and speaking out, in my eyes, are maybe a way for solution. They’re really managing to pinpoint or to put a spotlight on the orders they got from up high. And that’s where we’re going to try to push the debate, to a larger public debate about the way we fight our wars, the way we fight in Gaza, and maybe try to make sure next time around will—won’t be that close or maybe won’t happen at all.
AMY GOODMAN: In this clip, a first sergeant describes his commander’s order to randomly fire on a neighborhood in the Gaza Strip during the assault last summer.
IDF FIRST SERGEANT: [translated] So he gave an order: "Guys, park the tanks in a row. Assume position facing the neighborhood of Al-Bureij and prepare for contact." Contact means we all shoot at once, after a countdown—three, two, one, shoot. I remember all the tanks stood in a row, and I personally asked my commander, "Where do we shoot?" He said, "Wherever you like." Later on, I also heard from the other guys that everyone just chose a target. And he said on the radio, "Good morning, Al-Bureij. Guys, we’re going to do a 'Good morning, Al-Bureij.'" This meant waking up the neighborhood to show them that theIDF is here and to deter them. I remember how the tanks stood in a row. So did ours. And I, the gunman, looked at some house, a very tall house, in the center of that neighborhood some 2,000 meters away, which is about two kilometers. And I asked my commander, "Where in the house do I aim?" He said, "Aim a little to the right, a little to the left, at that window, at that floor. Three, two, one, shoot." And we all shot shells sporadically, of course. At no point was anyone shooting at us, though.
AMY GOODMAN: Again, that soldier, his face is blurred, and his voice is disguised. Our guest is Avner Gvaryahu. He’s a first sergeant in the IDF, the person we just heard. So you interviewed, or Breaking the Silence interviewed some, what, 70 officers, soldiers? You have this all on videotape?
AVNER GVARYAHU: So, a little bit less than 70 soldiers, many of them officers, were interviewed. Not all are on video. A small number of them was willing to be filmed on video, because of the things I mentioned earlier. I mean, we’re talking about a real fear, which I can definitely relate to. But still, they found in them the urge and the need to come and speak out.
This specific clip or testimony was really, as you mentioned, from a soldier who served that was a gunner in the Armored Corps. I think the interesting thing about this testimony is that it’s actually not that unique. We hear very similar stories, incidences, from various soldiers in different places. And the stories that keep coming up are the fact that, basically, soldiers were told to, first of all, almost constantly shoot, which is something that is not the procedure. Just in comparison, during the Second Intifada around the year 2000 in the Gaza Strip, in order to shoot—in order for a tanker or for a gunner to shoot a tank shell, he actually needed permission from his battalion officer. We’re talking in this time around, in this round, soldiers that were very, very young soldiers, sometimes enough—as the tank commander gave these orders. So, basically, soldiers were told almost constantly, "Shoot." And this is something, as we just heard, many times in areas that they were not shot at from, many times to areas they had no idea what they were actually shooting at.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Avner, one soldier said his unit tried to shoot all of its machine gun ammunition just before getting resupplied, even if their targets had not been identified. Let’s listen to this one.
IDF SOLDIER: [translated] I remember that one time our post was overlooking a valley, and we decided—we knew we were about to have our ammunition reloaded, so we didn’t really care how much we use up on the way. We felt that we were supposed to waste as much ammo as possible. So we just started firing the machine gun’s entire magazine, which is thousands of bullets’ worth of ammo. And we just kept shooting and shooting, almost nonstop, until the barrel was overheated. When it does, it’s called a "barrel melt." It changes shape, and it’s no longer usable. But we didn’t really care, because we knew that no one would ask questions.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: So, Avner Gvaryahu, what did the soldiers say about the rules of engagement that they were told by their officers to utilize in this conflict?
AVNER GVARYAHU: Well, you know, I think that’s one of the most interesting points: rules of engagement. I mean, as you mentioned, I, myself, was a paratrooper. And I was also a sergeant, a commander of soldiers. And I knew what my rules of engagement were, but they keep them very brief. Basically, one of the things I was taught was, if you have a doubt, then there is no doubt. What does that mean when I was a soldier? What does that mean when I was serving in the West Bank? Basically, think not twice, but at least three or four times, before you shoot, because if there’s a little bit of a doubt, then better you do not make a mistake, and basically, don’t shoot if there’s a doubt.
What we see in the Gaza Strip is basically the army’s attempt to eliminate the idea of doubt. Soldiers were told—and this is really throughout the Strip, throughout the board—soldiers were told that the areas that they’re entering are areas that there are no civilians. Now, the IDF does warn civilians in the areas soldiers were supposed to enter. Pamphlets were dropped from the air, sometimes phone calls. But the moment that those warnings were given, in the mindset of the military, anyone staying in that area turns into someone that is an enemy. Now, the moment after we throw those pamphlets and make a few phone calls, not to each and every one of the houses, theIDF starts bombing artillery shells all over these areas. So soldiers are basically entering an area that they were told—basically, from our perspective, they were lied to—that there are no civilians there.
Now, why am I saying in such certainty they were lied to? Because from our testimonies, we hear over and over again that there were still Palestinians in these neighborhoods. Now, I don’t know why they were there. Some stayed because maybe Hamas members forced them. Maybe that was the case. But in other cases, we know of people that were there because they just couldn’t leave—elderly people, people that were handicapped; people that for reasons we don’t know—maybe they didn’t want to leave their property—stayed. One of the testimonies talks about a soldier entering a house, and there are between 30 and 40 people in it. Right? So when we’re talking about the mindset of a soldier, and the testimony we just heard, soldiers were under the false assumption—the false assumption—that they’re entering an area that no civilians are in.
AVNER GVARYAHU: And one of the powerful testimonies—yeah?
AMY GOODMAN: I just wanted to play another clip from an IDF soldier describing how they would shoot freely at houses during the assault on Gaza last summer in order to, quote, "make their presence felt."
IDF FIRST SERGEANT: [translated] When we had some time to kill, meaning that we didn’t need to cover for an infantry unit or raid a house, when there was really nothing to do, that from time to time a tank must adopt a position—meaning, to drive up to where we can see the area ahead and "make our presence felt," so to speak—to shoot a shell or fire a machine gun to remind the Gazans that we’re there and that they must behave. There were many times where we sat in that boiling hot tank, sweating bullets, half-asleep and half-bored, and we’d get a sudden radio call: "Tank 1A, assume the position and fire a shell." Tank 1A would then drive up on some ramp that the bulldozer had created. Then we’d look around and think, "Which house do we want to take down? Let’s go with this one." "Can we shoot it?" "Yes." Boom. The person to say yes wasn’t a company commander or a battalion commander, not even an officer. It was a tank commander, a sergeant. So that’s what we’d do to kill time. We would even take turns with our tanks and just drive up there to shoot.
There’s one amusing story that I clearly remember. I drove up on the ramp at around 9:00 a.m. or 10:00 a.m., but I didn’t really want to shoot at a house, because it was my first day, and it still felt wrong. I still had a moral problem with it. So my commander told me, "Go ahead. Shoot. Where do you feel like shooting?" I aimed at—I was the gunman, so I’d aim and shoot. So I aimed at a metal sign with some Arabic writing on it, like "Private farmland, do not enter." And we just shot at that. So we destroyed half of that grove, destroyed his sign and the olive trees, just because we didn’t have anything to do. There was also this time when I drove up, saw a house, decided that it bothered me that it was a purple house. So I asked, "Can I shoot it?" "Sure, go ahead." And boom. There was no supervision. Nobody cared. And that’s that. Those were our rules of engagement during Operation Protective Edge.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s an IDF soldier describing what happened last summer, the Israeli assault on Gaza, his role in it, what is known as Operation Protective Edge. Avner, respond to this. Also, I cut you off when you were talking about another testimony.
AVNER GVARYAHU: Yeah, so, I just wanted to—you know, we have these specific incidences, but one of the things we hear from many, many soldiers is the mindset that they were in. And one of the guys describes it, I think, very well. He says, "After three weeks in the Gaza Strip, that you shoot at everything that moves—and things that don’t move. In a crazy amount of gun power, the good and the bad sort of mix up together, and morality sort of disappears." And then he says, "It sort of becomes like a video game, and it’s like really, really cool and real." The truth of the matter is this is something that, I mean, I can resonate to. I didn’t serve in the Gaza Strip; I served in the West Bank. But these are things that we hear from soldiers throughout, you know, the decade we’ve been gathering testimonies.
I think what happened in the Gaza Strip this time around, because of the unbelievable amount of gunfire, then we really see soldiers using this—you know, this ability really indiscriminately. And I have to say, I don’t think that it was—I think there is a difference between shooting indiscriminately and shooting intentionally. Maybe the outcome is the same, but there is a difference. I mean, there wasn’t an intentional harm to kill innocent Palestinians, but when we talk about the orders they got, when we’re talking about the way we used force in Gaza, that’s where the problem starts, because soldiers were really told there are no innocent civilians. And this is why we hear and see these testimonies.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, in this other testimony, an Israeli soldier described how he was instructed to treat anyone seen looking towards his position as a scout for Hamas or other militant groups to be fired on.
IDF SOLDIER: [translated] But when we spotted someone, we couldn’t tell if he was a lookout or just someone we saw near a window, because he lifted his head or was out smoking a cigarette. And sometimes he’s far away. You can see him two kilometers away through your sights, but he doesn’t even know you’re there, so he doesn’t hide. You just see him near a window, and he could be a lookout, but you never really know. And our orders were: "You see anyone standing near a window, you shoot."
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And this is an Israeli soldier describing his feelings at the end of the assault on Gaza.
IDF FIRST SERGEANT: [translated] My feeling after Operation Protective Edge wasn’t so good. I had also lost a friend there, and some friends were wounded, but I mostly felt bad morally speaking. I felt that we shot at houses just because, without even knowing if anyone’s there. We shot at cars, at ambulances, doing things I was raised not to do—not to kill the innocent, not to shoot at an ambulance. It’s like the Wild West out there, and it was all approved by the commanders. I felt there was something morally rotten in this army if we were authorized to do this, because our first rule is not to kill without reason, and here I was formally told, "Kill anything in your proximity." And I took part in that. I did it, and I regret it. I killed people, most of whom didn’t do anything to me—people standing on rooftops, people driving in cars, people in ambulances, people at home. I don’t even know where their homes are on the map. And we just did it because. "Why not? Let’s fire a shell for fun." It’s a really lousy feeling.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in this final clip, an IDF soldier describes how a battalion commander tried to raise morale by telling the soldiers in his company that Shejaiya had been completely destroyed.
IDF SOLDIER: [translated] I don’t remember when exactly, but one day the battalion commander gathered the entire battalion. I guess he wanted to give a speech to raise our morale. He knew that many of our friends from the other battalion were in Shejaiya, and so he said, "You don’t need to worry anymore. There is no Shejaiya. Shejaiya is gone," like it was wiped off the face of the map. Those were his exact words: "There is no Shejaiya."
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Avner Gvaryahu, what are you hoping to accomplish with these video testimonies now?
AVNER GVARYAHU: Well, first and foremost, what we want to hope for is to create debate. We want people to know how we’re fighting in Gaza. I think that it’s very clear this is, you know, the third round. Everyone knows there’s going to be another one. So let’s make sure that’s what we can hope for, is that before the next cycle starts, let’s at least know what we’re demanding from our soldiers to do. Now, we’re—of course, we could hope for much more. One of the points that we are calling for is an Israeli investigation, but external to the military. We believe that it’s crucial and possible for our society to look itself in the mirror and ask itself what they’re actually asking their soldier or military to do. And in that matter, it’s—like I said earlier, it’s not about finding a scapegoat. It’s not about a specific commander. It’s about, you know, the picture, the whole picture. And I think it’s definitely about time that we have a real chance to take responsibility and say that we, as a society, cannot accept the fact that this is the way we’re going to continue to live. And I, as an Israeli—I, by the way, see myself as an Israeli patriot. I am not willing to accept the fact that because our enemies act in immoral ways, it’s OK for us to not ask ourselves any questions.
AMY GOODMAN: Avner Gvaryahu, in our next segment we’re going to look at Palestine joining the ICC. Will Breaking the Silence bring these soldiers’ testimonies to the International Criminal Court?
AVNER GVARYAHU: Well, the answer is no. We have never called for or handed information to external courts or, therefore, to Israeli courts. We’re an organization just trying to create awareness. I think—just specifically speaking, I think that there are more relevant places to bring the report. And that’s, of course, to the Israeli eye. I think that what we are trying to do is create this report. But the information is out there. It is public. We actually—last time around, around the Goldstone Report, we did not meet with the committee, but the committee did decide to use our information. So the information is out there, but what we call is what I said earlier, and this is really something that we find very important: an Israeli investigation that’s external to the military. We believe this is possible and crucial to our society.
AMY GOODMAN: Avner Gvaryahu, I want to thank you for being with us, director of public outreach at Breaking the Silence, a former IDF soldier who served from 2004 to ’07 as a sergeant in a special operations unit around Nablus and Jenin. This isDemocracy Now! When we come back, we go to The Hague, where the International Criminal Court has a new member—Palestine. Stay with us.

After Palestine Overcomes U.S.-Israeli Pressure and Joins ICC, Will Gaza’s Victims See Justice?

A new report from the Israeli group Breaking the Silence on Israel’s policy of indiscriminate fire during the 2014 Gaza assault comes just a week after a United Nations probe confirmed Israeli forces conducted direct attacks on its facilities in Gaza during last summer’s offensive. The attacks took place despite repeated notifications with the GPS coordinates of U.N. sites to Israeli forces. Palestinians have vowed to bring the findings to the International Criminal Court, which it officially joined last month. We discuss the implications of Palestine’s accession to the ICC with two guests: Ambassador Nabil Abuznaid, head of the Palestinian Mission to the Netherlands, and John Dugard, former U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories and emeritus professor of international law at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The Breaking the Silence report on Israel’s "policy of indiscriminate fire" during the 2014 Gaza assault is being published just a week after a United Nations probe confirmed Israeli forces conducted direct attacks on United Nations facilities in Gaza, killing at least 44 Palestinians sheltering at those sites during last summer’s offensive. The attacks took place despite repeated notifications to Israeli forces of the GPS coordinates of U.N. sites.
AMY GOODMAN: Palestinians have vowed to bring the findings to the International Criminal Court, which it officially joined last month. Last week, while we were at The Hague, I spoke to two guests about the implications of Palestine’s accession to the International Criminal Court. Ambassador Nabil Abuznaid is the head of the Palestinian Mission to the Netherlands. And John Dugard is the former U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, now emeritus professor of international law at University of Leiden in the Netherlands. He was born in South Africa. I started by asking Ambassador Abuznaid about the significance of Palestine becoming the newest member of the International Criminal Court.
NABIL ABUZNAID: Well, first, I think the international community should encourage Palestine and congratulate Palestine for joining the international court, because we accepted to live under international law. We are a peace-abiding nation. And we really tried politically to end the occupation. We tried by all means to end it. But, unfortunate, we were forced to seek justice through the international court, which hopefully could stop the Israeli aggressions against our people, against our lands, so we can live free and in dignity in our homeland.
AMY GOODMAN: What kind of pressure did you come under? Israel and the United States were opposed to you making this bid to be a member.
NABIL ABUZNAID: Well, they can oppose as much as they want. They can stop the money from going to the ICC. They can shut a building. But they cannot stop justice. I think justice, in the end, will prevail.
AMY GOODMAN: John Dugard, in terms of international law, what’s the significance of Palestine becoming a member of the International Criminal Court?
JOHN DUGARD: In the first place, it does give credibility to Palestine’s statehood. Palestine is now a fully fledged member of the International Criminal Court. And even those states in the court system that do not recognize Palestine have to accept that it is a state at least for the purposes of the International Criminal Court. The other important factor is that it does now provide an avenue for the pursuit of international criminal justice.
AMY GOODMAN: What, Ambassador, do you want the International Criminal Court to investigate? What is before the court?
NABIL ABUZNAID: Well, I think Palestinians, for more than 60 years, they did not have one day of justice. And what is the daily going under the occupation, it is clearly violations of international law—in moving people from their land, in stopping people from their freedom in movement, in attacks on Gaza and killing thousands of people. I am sure Israel violated every international law in the book in its long occupation in Palestine.
AMY GOODMAN: What is the particular case before the court right now, John Dugard?
JOHN DUGARD: I think there are three major crimes that the court will be required to investigate. First of all, there is the question of settlements. There are today over 700,000 illegal Israeli settlers in Palestinian territory, and that is an international crime in terms of the Rome Statute and general international law. So that’s the first crime. The second crime, and probably the most important, concerns the recent Gaza conflict, Operation Protective Edge, where Israel was responsible for killing 2,200 people and failing to distinguish between civilians and combatants. So, that clearly is at least a war crime, probably a crime against humanity, as well. And there’s also the failure of Israel to treat political prisoners as prisoners of war, which I know is an issue that is important to the Palestinian Authority.
AMY GOODMAN: Just to clarify, John Dugard, there’s no particular case that’s been brought up right now with the newest membership of Palestine.
JOHN DUGARD: The prosecutor of the court has decided to conduct a preliminary examination into the issue. And in order to decide whether or not to conduct a full-scale investigation into the allegations of international crimes, she will have to be satisfied, first of all, that an international crime was committed; secondly, that there is no investigation, proper investigation, that is being conducted in the responding state, which in this case will be Israel; and, thirdly, that the crime is sufficiently serious, that it meets what’s called the gravity test.
AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador Abuznaid, are you concerned that Palestinians, Palestinian organizations will be indicted, as well?
NABIL ABUZNAID: Well, when we accepted the Rome Statutes, we are not immune. We will cooperate with the court. If we need to be investigated, we are willing to do that. We accepted to live under international law. And if we are violating international law, we would be responsible for our acts equally. And I hope the Israelis would see the same as we do.
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking to a congressional panel in 2014, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power said the U.S. will continue to block Palestinian efforts in forums like the United Nations.
SAMANTHA POWER: There are no shortcuts to statehood, and we’ve made that clear. Efforts that attempt to circumvent the peace process, the hard slog of the peace process, are only going to be counterproductive to the peace process itself and to the ultimate objective of securing statehood, the objective that the Palestinian Authority, of course, has. So, we have contested every effort, even prior to the restart of negotiations spearheaded by Secretary Kerry. Every time the Palestinians have sought to make a move on a U.N. agency, a treaty, etc., we have opposed it.
AMY GOODMAN: John Dugard, your response to the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power?
JOHN DUGARD: Well, I think the strategy of Israel and also of the United States is simply to allow talks to go on forever and ever, while Israel annexes more land and takes over Palestinian territory. The purpose of the International Criminal Court, as I see it, is to circumvent this strategy on the part of Israel and the United States and to make Israel and the United States see and face the issues very clearly—namely, that Israel has committed very, very serious international crimes. And I might add that I’m a South African who lived through apartheid. I have no hesitation in saying that Israel’s crimes are infinitely worse than those committed by the apartheid regime of South Africa.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you’re saying. You’re the former U.N. special rapporteur on human rights, as well.
JOHN DUGARD: For seven years, I visited the Palestinian territory twice a year. I also conducted a fact-finding mission after the Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008, 2009. So I am familiar with the situation, and I am familiar with the apartheid situation. I was a human rights lawyer in apartheid South Africa. And I, like virtually every South African who visits the occupied territory, has a terrible sense of déjà vu. We’ve seen it all before, except that it is infinitely worse. And what has happened in the West Bank is that the creation of a settlement enterprise has resulted in a situation that closely resembles that of apartheid, in which the settlers are the equivalent of white South Africans. They enjoy superior rights over Palestinians, and they do oppress Palestinians. So, one does have a system of apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territory. And I might mention that apartheid is also a crime within the competence of the International Criminal Court.
AMY GOODMAN: You say, John Dugard, that the situation in the Palestinian territories is worse than apartheid. What would an apartheid case brought to the International Criminal Court look like? Again, you were the special rapporteur, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, as well as being a South African and an international rights lawyer.
JOHN DUGARD: Well, of course, I think it’s important to stress that the whole international environment has changed since the end of apartheid, because the apartheid regime, fortunately for itself, did not have to face a legal action either before an international criminal court or before a national court, whereas Israel today does face action before an international court. Of course, the crimes are substantially the same: discrimination, repression, targeted assassinations, house demolitions. I think, in one respect, Israel’s crimes are much worse, and that is in respect of its military action against Gaza, where it has not hesitated to kill civilians indiscriminately.
AMY GOODMAN: The U.N. has confirmed that Israeli forces conducted direct attacks on United Nations facilities in Gaza, killing at least 44 Palestinians sheltering at the sites during last summer’s assault, the attacks taking place despite repeated notifications with the GPScoordinates of U.N. sites given to Israeli forces. Ambassador Abuznaid, your response to what the U.N. found? And what does this mean? I mean, Palestinians have been alleging this for quite some time now.
NABIL ABUZNAID: Well, I think this is not just the Palestinians saying it. This is Mr. Ban Ki-moon and the investigation saying that the Israelis killed, deliberately, innocent Palestinian civilians who have taken shelters in some of the U.N. buildings. And this is a violation of international law. But one comment I would like to say, as a Palestinian, regardless to the suffering of the Palestinian people, to our people through, you know, all this century, and now what happened in Syria, even in the Netherlands—we got 15,000 arrived here on boats, hundreds were drowned in the waters—we are not seeking revenge. Only we want justice for our people, who did not see one single day of justice. Hopefully, that justice would prevail soon.
AMY GOODMAN: Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court.
AMY GOODMAN: The United States is not a member of the International Criminal Court.
JOHN DUGARD: That is correct.
AMY GOODMAN: So, the significance of this, why they are not members?
JOHN DUGARD: Well the United States has given a number of reasons for failing to become a full member of the International Criminal Court. And one must remember that neither China nor the Russian Federation are members of the International Criminal Court. There are general reasons given by the United States. In the case of Israel, Israel has not become a party, because it has something to hide. It clearly does not wish to see its own military leaders and its political leaders targeted.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us. Ambassador Nabil Abuznaid is head of the Palestinian Mission to the Netherlands. John Dugard former U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, now a professor emeritus at the University of Leiden here in the Netherlands. We’re broadcasting from The Hague in the Netherlands. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, When we come back, the NSA can turn your phone conversations into text, then search it? Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: "Everything is Everything" by Lauryn Hill. Lauryn Hill just canceled a concert in Israel, saying she had wanted to do one in both Israel and the Occupied Territories, and the one in the territories just wasn’t being able to happen. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.