International Arrest Warrants Awaiting
Scores of Top-Ranking Israeli Officials
By Richard Walker
International laws are making it increasingly difficult for Israeli diplomats, intelligence officers, generals and even former top military officers to travel the globe without being arrested on international warrants. Judging by the sheer number of outstanding warrants, any Israelis deemed to have committed crimes against Palestinian civilians are now at a higher risk than ever of being seized at airports and handed over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The problem facing Israel has been highlighted by Interpol issuing arrest warrants for 27 Mossad agents directly involved in the recent planning and assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai. That murder came on the heels of a UN report accusing Israel of war crimes during its siege and invasion of the Gaza Strip, making it even more likely that senior military and political figures involved in that operation could someday be arrested if they visit one of the many nations that are signatories to the international court.
Israel’s problem in respect to warrants is compounded by the fact that scores of retired military and intelligence figures earn a big money representing arms dealers and security companies. Others act in an advisory capacity to armies and militia groups worldwide. Those jobs involve considerable travel. Nowadays, with increased security at ports of entry in many nations, it is difficult for anyone to get on a plane, boat or train without leaving a trace of his or her identity.
That level of security poses a risk to all those deemed to have committed crimes against humanity. For wanted Israelis, those crimes include the following: the shelling of civilian areas of Gaza; the bulldozing of Palestinian homes; unlawful arrest, interrogation, detention and torture of suspects; the political and military authorizing of phosphorus munitions against civilian neighborhoods; the wanton use of cluster bombs to contaminate farmland as happened in Lebanon and the destruction of civilian infrastructure in order to punish the population by denying people water, electricity, food, proper medical care and sewerage facilities.
Rights groups and their lawyers say there is more than sufficient evidence to show that Israel has a case to answer for in all those criminal categories.
Hidden in lawyers’ desks throughout Europe are large numbers of warrants that have been drawn up at the request of human rights’ organizations. The warrants are targeted at a wide range of Israeli figures, including serving and former Cabinet ministers, intelligence chiefs, generals and military officers down to brigade level. The danger for all of those named is that, if it is learned they are visiting relatives or attending conferences outside Israel, the warrants will be dusted off.
Unfortunately, a country where no such warrant can be served is the United States because of political influence
over “our” FBI. Nevertheless, Israel is well aware of the risks posed by international warrants. In the past warrants were issued in Colombia for three Israelis alleged to have trained paramilitaries who ran death squads. Colombia accused the three of having been at one time on the payroll of drug lord Pablo Escobar. Those warrants have not yet been served, just like the many warrants issued by the Russian authorities for Russian Jewish billionaires, who used their joint Israeli-Russian citizenship to find sanctuary in Israel after robbing Russia.
It is well known that Israel has an unstated policy of refusing to hand over any of its citizens. That has encouraged Jews from many countries to hide out in Israel when faced with arrest or imprisonment.
An indication of the risks facing Israel is that it almost lost one of its generals, Doron Almog, to a warrant on Sept. 10, 2005. He was on a flight to London’s Heathrow Airport when the Israeli embassy in London got a tip-off that lawyers were waiting at the airport to serve him with a warrant from the International Court, alleging he had committed war crimes by bulldozing over 50 homes in Gaza. The embassy was also told that Scotland Yard had officers standing by to arrest him. The moment Almog’s plane touched down in London, a diplomat from the embassy went on board and advised him not to leave, saying he had immunity because the plane was deemed to be Israeli territory.
Almog did as he was told and returned to Israel on the same plane less than 24 hours later. Reliable security sources accused the British authorities of tipping off the Israelis to avoid an international incident.
Rights groups and their lawyers angrily pointed out that the plane was not sovereign Israeli territory, and police officers should have taken the general from the plane by force. [No one tried a “planes are sovereign territory” argument when Australian historian Frederick Toeben was arrested at Heathrow en route to Dubai— Ed.] There was such an outcry over the issue that it is believed an arrest will be made should a similar case happen again in London.
In December 2009, an arrest warrant was issued in Britain for Tzipi Livni, who was the Israeli foreign secretary during the war in Lebanon and the invasion of Gaza. On hearing about the warrant, she canceled a planned trip to London.
Weeks earlier, one of the Israeli prime minister’s closest advisors also pulled out of a UK trip aimed at fundraising within the Jewish community.
The most worrying issue for Israel is that the UN report accusing it of war crimes in Gaza has been closely scrutinized by rights groups, who have meticulously drawn up warrants for a long list of Israeli figures.
The Iranians claim to have their own list of over 100 Israelis they say committed war crimes in Gaza. That list is believed to match one in the hands of many rights groups across Europe and in other parts of the world.
Richard Walker is the pen name of a former N.Y. news producer.
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