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Blanket Immunity from War Crimes

When Criticism of Cluster Bombs is "Anti-Semitic"

by STANLEY HELLER

The Israeli paper Ha’aretz reports that the head of Germany’s Jewish community accused a minister in Angela Merkel’s German government of "anti-Semitism" because of the minister’s statement on Israel’s use of cluster bombs. Development Aid Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul had asked for a United Nations probe into Israel’s use of cluster bombs in civilian areas of Lebanon.

Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Central Council of German Jews, complained about what she terms a growing "anti-mood [sic] against Israel and the Jews" in Germany. [Ha,aretz August 30] Merkel, who made absolutely no criticism of Israel during the fighting, immediately met with Knobloch to "soothe Jewish ire" according to Deutche Welle [August 31]

The U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland revealed this week that of the estimated 100,000 unexploded cluster bombs lying in Lebanon almost all of them were fired in the last few days of the fighting when the terms of the ceasefire had already been set. The Guardian (UK) reports Egleand said, "What’s shocking–and I would say to me completely immoral is that ninety per cent of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution," he said.

It was known that in the last days of the war the Israeli army was engaged in a desperate attempt to have some "victory" and rushed troops here and there in an attempt to have a photo shoot near the Litani River. What was not known until now was the blind spite that sowed the ground of South Lebanon with a massive number of bomblets.

Cluster bombs are delivered by a large canister and disperse over a wide area, a sort of lethal piñata. The bomblets come in many sizes. Some are tiny, even smaller than 2 inches in diameter. Kids are constantly trying to kick them or pick them up with the result in the loss an arm or leg or even death. "Every day people are maimed, wounded and are killed by these ordnance," said Egeland. The UN official based his estimate on the reports of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre which has traveled through 85% of Lebanon. The casualty figures as of 29 August from unexploded ordnance rose to 59 people, including 13 killed and 46 injured.

Responding to U.N. reports of cluster bombs being found in Lebanese civilian areas the U.S. government has begun an investigation to determine if cluster bombs have been responsible for civilian casualties. It seems far fetched that the Bush Administration would do anything other than shower Israel with more money, but the Reagan administration did ban export of cluster bombs to Israel for six years for its misuse during its 1982 Lebanese invasion.

The Zionist Ultras have been circling the wagons on this issue, not giving an inch. They hysterical statement by the German Jewish leader was typical of many.

Responding to a report by Human Rights Watch charging Israel with war crimes in its conduct of the war in Lebanon that was written by its director Kenneth Roth, Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudath Israel has called Roth "loathsome." An editorial in the New York Sun accused Roth of "de-legitimization of Judaism" because his group condemned Israel’s strategy as "an eye for an eye." Rabbi Aryeh Spero in Human Events Online referred to Roth as a "human rights impostor," and likened him to "Nazis and Communists." On Sunday, the Jerusalem Post published an op-ed by NGO Monitor’s Gerald Steinberg titled "Ken Roth’s Blood Libel." [quotes from Kathleen Peratis, Washington Post August 30] The fact that Kenneth Roth is Jewish and his father fled Nazi Germany makes no difference to the Ultras. If you are do not support Israel 110% you are a Jew-hater, a renegade, a self-hater, and a holocaust denier. Get it?

In a very competitive field Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League took the prize for the comment showing the most utter stupidly. In attacking Human Rights Watch he said if Hezbollah was not made to pay an "overwhelming price" for rocket attacks "the Holocaust would be in the works". [Peratis, Washington Post]

Jewish Disgust with Israel

In a very encouraging development hundreds of U.S. Jews are calling for strong measures to be taken against the Israeli government including a cut off of U.S. aid and U.N. sanctions. Over 800 have signed the statement calling for "U.S. Jewish Solidarity with Muslim and Arab Peoples of the Middle East". It states "we are outraged by the violence being perpetrated in our name both as Jews and as U.S. citizens. We, the undersigned, represent Jews across the United States who are choosing to stand in solidarity with the peoples of Gaza and Lebanon". It includes the statement, "There is no Jewish safety in a country that rehearses the violence and persecution which Ashkenazi Jews experienced for centuries through the annihilation of the Palestinian people and their homeland." The signers are collecting money for a full page in the New York Times and are just $800 away from their goal. The petition can be found at http://www.jewishsolidarity.info/petition.php

It was after the 1982 invasion of Lebanon that U.S. Jews in significant numbers began open and trenchant criticisms of Israel. Chomsky’s watershed "The Fateful Triangle" was published that year. Hopefully there will be even bigger shows of outrage this time around.

STANLEY HELLER is chairperson of the Middle East Crisis Committee in Connecticut. It’s website is www.TheStruggle.org and he can be reached at mail@TheStruggle.org