TEL-AVIV – The Gush Shalom peace bloc held a forum here Jan. 9 about the war crimes perpetrated by the Israeli occupation army and security services against the Palestinian people. The speakers, including law professors and civil rights leaders, cited many facts and articles of international law and conventions, and all agreed that the army is involved in war crimes.

Some of the speakers pointed out that, according to Israeli law, any soldier has the right to refuse to execute orders that violate international laws and conventions relating to the civilian population of an occupied country. They warned that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Army Chief of Staff Mofas, War Minister Ben-Eliezer and even any officer or soldier who is involved in such crimes and violations of international law might find themselves defendants before the International War Crimes Tribunal.

The most impressive appearance at the forum was Shulamit Aloni, a well-known lawyer, leading civil rights activist and former education minister. She said that by branding any criticism of the occupation atrocities as being anti-Semitism, the Israeli government is perpetrating a very sophisticated emotional blackmail, manipulating feelings of guilt about the Holocaust.

“We have to tell the Americans, the Europeans, the whole world, that opposing brutal military occupation by all means is in no way anti-Semitism,” Aloni said. “It is not anti-Semitism to cry out against the demolitions of houses and the destruction of fields and orchards, or the tight closures and sieges, which turn every Palestinian village and town into a prison camp and ghetto. We have to say and cry out loud that the government of Israel and its army is committing war crimes and the time has come to start compiling dossiers on the war criminals.”

Dr. Eyal Gross, a member of the Tel-Aviv University Law faculty, pointed out that the Israeli Supreme Court clearly asserted 40 years ago that any state has the right, and even the duty, to punish crimes against humanity and their executioners.

Only a few hours after the forum ended, a new, most abominable war crime was perpetrated by the Israeli occupation army.

Residents of a neighborhood of the Palestinian refugee camp in Rafah, a town near the Egyptian border, woke up to the enormous noise of approaching tanks and earthmoving equipment, accompanied by loudspeaker announcements ordering people to immediately leave their homes.

Within less than two hours, 58 buildings and shacks, homes of about 120 families, were demolished, leaving almost 700 people homeless.

This latest violation of law, condemned by the Israeli peace camp and even by some important media outlets, was defended by Sharon, Mofas and Ben-Eliezer. It was called a necessary move for Israel’s security and the fight against terrorism.