While we’ve all got on our eyes on Ehud Olmert’s alleged sticky fingers, Prof. David Kretzmer has called for an investigation of whether one of Olmert’s would-be successors has committed crimes of an entirely different order.
Kretzmer is emeritus professor of international law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – a dry understated title for a learned and passionate defender of human rights. As The Independent reports, he has asked Israel’s Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to investigate whether Shaul Mofaz committed war crimes while serving as military chief of staff at the beginning of the second Intifada.
The letter to… Mazuz refers to a book by two Israeli journalists, Raviv Drucker and Ofer Shelah, which says that Mr Mofaz, after ensuring he was not being officially recorded, called for a Palestinian death toll of 70 per day.
The demand for killing by quota allegedly took place during a briefing to officers in May 2001.
Professor Kretzmer tells Mr Mazuz that one lesson of the corruption inquiry into Mr Olmert is that it is best to investigate candidates for high office before they reach it. “Otherwise the public is liable to be exposed once more to the disgrace of having police officers arrive at the Prime Minister’s official residence in order to interrogate him.”…
The Shelah/Drucker book, Boomerang: The Failure Of Leadership In The Second Intifada, says that while Mr Mofaz’s alleged instruction caused disquiet among some senior officers, a Hebron district commander said that the subsequent fatal shooting of a Palestinian policeman was in accordance with the briefing…
The letter cites reports in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in 2001 and 2002 which, he says, raise suspicions that Mr Mofaz ordered officers to shoot at every armed Palestinian regardless of the threat posed to Israeli forces.
It points out that at the start of hostilities in 2000, Palestinian police in particular were armed by agreement with the Israeli government, that the military had insisted the conflict was with armed groups and not against the Palestinian Authority or people, and that the Geneva Conventions prohibited killing people not taking part in hostilities.
Noting that countries are obliged to investigate grave breaches of the conventions, he warns that if the Israeli authorities do not do so, “there is a fear that it may be carried out by the authorities of another country”.
The allegations against Mofaz certainly don’t relieve Mazuz of the responsibility of dealing with Olmert’s alleged offenses. But let’s face it, charging the PM with journeyman corruption is easy. Investigating whether the former chief of staff committed crimes against humanity will require greater courage from the attorney general. But if the suspicions against Mofaz have substance, they represent a much greater stain on the state, which Mazuz can remove only by pursuing the case. Perhaps it was for this moment, Mr. Mazuz, that you reached your position.