Sharon threatens Israeli peace activists

In an attempt to intimidate opposition to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asked Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein to investigate whether activists of the Israeli peace organization, Gush Shalom, have broken any laws by monitoring the actions of Israeli army officers in the occupied territories.

A statement issued by Gush Shalom points out that its leadership is fully supporting the group of its activists who have collected material and affidavits from army personnel, as well as from Israeli and Palestinian civilians, about possible war crimes and violations of human rights by Israeli officers and men in the occupied territories.

The statement outlines their objectives, saying, “The only reason for this is our profound worry about the image of our Israeli state and its armed forces in the international arena and what is done in the occupied territories allegedly on behalf of us and our country.”

According to press reports, Sharon said in an Aug. 4 cabinet meeting, that it was “inconceivable” that a political organization is trying to deter army personnel from carrying out their duties by threatening them with legal actions at an international court of justice.

According to the Israeli media, Gush Shalom has sent letters to several high-ranking commanding officers of division and regimental level serving in the occupied territories, among them some colonels, lieutenant generals and at least one brigadier general.

In these letters, Gush Shalom warns that by some of their actions as commanding officers they may find themselves in violation of principles of international law and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention about the treatment of a population of a militarily occupied country. The letters warn that they may be indicted in the future in a criminal court for war crimes.

The Gush statement stresses that, if and when such cases would be tried, they might come before an Israeli Court of Justice. However, if that is not possible, it may be brought before an international court or war crime tribunal.

The Gush Shalom statement also replies to the false reports, handed out to the media by official government spokespersons, alleging that the Gush was about to hand over incriminating material against Israeli army officers and possible war crimes to an international court. They want to present evidence of violations of international law and human rights, and about war crimes to the Israeli authorities and juridical courts.

Gush Shalom stresses, if, however, the Israeli justice authorities do not respond, the matter would be taken to an international court.

Currently, Gush Shalom activists and Yesh-Gvul, the movement of reserve officers and men who refuse to serve in the occupied territories, distribute leaflets and brochures to soldiers. The materials explain laws and legal orders, which guarantee impunity for not executing orders received by their superior, which contradict Israeli or international law, or are violating human rights and dignity.

Hans Lebrecht lives in Israel and cqan be reached at pww@pww.org