Goldstoned, Matt Seaton joins the fray

The evidence is clear: over at CiF, there is an intense competition for our attention.
CiF-editor Matt Seaton is apparently jealous that we’ve focused so much on Brian Whitaker – and now Seaton has made a bold move to stake his claim to CiF Watch fame. He did so in the form of a longish and presumably well-thought out comment that he posted in response to a piece with the sanctimonious title Israel must now heal itself.
The piece was yet another commentary on the Goldstone report that condemned Israel for exercising its right to self-defense – at least that’s how the vast majority of Israelis have taken the report. But you can count on CiF to spare no effort to show those Israelis just how wrong they are, and so CiF commissioned the multi-tasking think-tanker Daniel Levy (who is also on the advisory board of J-Street) to pontificate about the right way (no pun intended) to respond to Goldstone’s opus: “for the vast majority of non-or only mildly partisan individuals with a capacity for cognitive reflection, the Goldstone report should be treated seriously and even perhaps as a wake-up call.”
Well, who wouldn’t want to be counted among those “with a capacity for cognitive reflection”? CiF-editor Matt Seaton heeded the “wake-up call” and joined the fray by responding to a comment posted by “RufusT”.
So here is first the comment by “RufusT”, and then the response by Matt Seaton:
RufusT

18 Sep 09, 11:23am
If, as seems probable, Israel has committed serious war crimes then of course the country and its leaders should appear in the International Criminal Court, as should those of any country responsible for such crimes, with Bush and Blair first in the dock (and yes, Hamas and others to follow). There is no historical evidence that an Israeli enquiry would be credible or, even if it were, that its findings would lead to appropriate prosecutions. It should also be pointed out that several of Israel’s current and former leaders have been subject to criminal investigation for their personal behaviour (including rape and serious fraud, ongoing in the case of Lieberman) so to imagine that such individuals could initiate any meaningful judicial proceedings is naive to say the least. As the author says, occupation corrupts and the profound corruption of Israeli society since and politics since 1967 is way too far gone to be healed internally.

mattseaton

18 Sep 09, 11:52am
Staff
@ RufusT:
Good comments. You raise a crucial point about the ICC and any prosecution for war crimes. It seems more or less inevitable that, given the realpolitik of the situation, the Goldstone report’s call for a referral to the ICC is largely symbolic and merely lays down a marker, as Levy says. In practice, the ICC is a relatively new institution, still cutting its teeth on prosecutions of minor (if nefarious) former African dictators.
Given the controversy over Moreno Ocampo’s issuing of an indictment against al-Bashir of Sudan, it is fairly clear that the ICC, as yet, lacks the credibility and international consensus to bring a case against a regional superpower like Israel. Sadly, perhaps, for the foreseeable future Hamas leaders and Israeli politicians and generals alike can rest easy knowing that no indictment is likely to emerge from this quarter any time soon. The diplomatic pressure on the ICC not throw any spanner in the works of Middle East diplomacy, with Sen George Mitchell only now really getting engaged, would surely make ICC action unthinkable.
In the meantime, I share your scepticism about whether there will be any furher inquiry by Israel, as Levy suggests there should be – more in moral hop, than hardheaded expectation, one imagines.

Since Matt Seaton chose to frame his own comment as a response to RufusT – whose comment he praises as “good” – it’s worthwhile to examine what exactly it is that RufusT says:
1) RufusT thinks it “seems probable, [that] Israel has committed serious war crimes”. Well, it may seem “probable” to RufusT (and Matt Seaton, apparently), but there are a few people who know a thing or two about the subject and don’t share this assessment.
2) Since RufusT believes that it is “probable that Israel has committed serious war crimes”, he thinks “the country and its leaders should appear in the International Criminal Court”; RufusT adds that this should also be the case for “those of any country responsible for such crimes, with Bush and Blair first in the dock (and yes, Hamas and others to follow)”. Did RufusT (and Matt Seaton) note that Goldstone somehow hasn’t yet gotten around to investigating Bush and Blair, and that indeed nobody at the UN has asked him to do so? And isn’t it interesting that RufusT thinks that in Israel’s case it wouldn’t be quite enough to bring “those responsible” for war crimes to trial, but also “the country”? Well, just a small glitch here, no need to make a fuss…
3) Then RufusT opines: “There is no historical evidence that an Israeli enquiry would be credible” – wow, what competence, no wonder Matt Seaton is impressed!!! Clearly, RufusT must be a historian and knows a whole lot more about the issue than this ignoramus Harvard Law professor who wrote:

“The lowest blow and the worst canard contained in this lie-laden report is that the Israeli judicial system is incapable of conducting investigations and bringing about compliance with international law. It claims that the Israeli judicial system ‘has major structural flaws that make the system inconsistent with international standards,’ and that ‘there is little potential for accountability for serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law through domestic institutions in Israel.’ This is a direct attack on the Israeli Supreme Court by a lawyer who knows full well that there is no country in the world that has a judicial system that demands more accountability than the Israeli system does. There is no judicial system in the world-not in the United States, not in Great Britain, not in South Africa, not in France-that takes more seriously its responsibility to bring its military into compliance with international law.”

4) RufusT then comes up with yet another reason to doubt prima facie the validity of any Israeli investigation; he argues: “several of Israel’s current and former leaders have been subject to criminal investigation for their personal behaviour (including rape and serious fraud, ongoing in the case of Lieberman) so to imagine that such individuals could initiate any meaningful judicial proceedings is naive to say the least.” Mhm, so RufusT (and Matt Seaton) somehow worry that it would be up to former President Moshe Katsav – who has been out of office for more than two years and is currently standing trial – to launch an investigation??? That’s a most bizarre notion, but perhaps they are a bit confused because they are simply so shocked, shocked!!! by the various corruption allegations against a number of Israeli politicians – after all, such behavior is unheard of in jolly good old England. Don’t we all know that Westminster is squeaky clean?!? Yeah, there was this major expense scandal that dominated the British media for weeks just a short while ago, in early summer, and lots of MPs resigned or were sacked or sent into early retirement, but so what, the issue here is Israel!!!
5) OK, back to RufusT, who concludes his post by echoing Daniel Levy: “occupation corrupts and the profound corruption of Israeli society […] and politics since 1967 is way too far gone to be healed internally.” Well, yes, if Daniel Levy says that the Jewish state is sick, severely sick, then who is RufusT (or Matt Seaton) to disagree?
Time now to look at what Matt Seaton has to add to this post that he praises so warmly.
Seaton homes in on the “crucial point about the ICC and any prosecution for war crimes” that he thinks RufusT made. He elaborates:

“It seems more or less inevitable that, given the realpolitik of the situation, the Goldstone report’s call for a referral to the ICC is largely symbolic … In practice, the ICC is a relatively new institution, still cutting its teeth on prosecutions of minor (if nefarious) former African dictators. Given the controversy over Moreno Ocampo’s issuing of an indictment against al-Bashir of Sudan, it is fairly clear that the ICC, as yet, lacks the credibility and international consensus to bring a case against a regional superpower like Israel. Sadly, perhaps, for the foreseeable future Hamas leaders and Israeli politicians and generals alike can rest easy knowing that no indictment is likely to emerge from this quarter any time soon. The diplomatic pressure on the ICC not throw any spanner in the works of Middle East diplomacy, with Sen George Mitchell only now really getting engaged, would surely make ICC action unthinkable.”

So Seaton thinks that if the ICC can’t even go after “minor” figures like Sudan’s president, there is – unfortunately – no chance that it will be able “to bring a case against a regional superpower like Israel”.
One wonders if Seaton knows what exactly led to the indictment of al-Bashir – he could even have read about it in The Guardian:

“The ICC spokeswoman, Laurence Blairon, said the indictment, drawn up by three judges, included five counts of crimes against humanity: murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape. The two counts of war crimes were for directing attacks on the civilian population and pillaging. Blairon said Bashir was criminally responsible as the head of state and commander of the Sudanese armed forces for the offences during a five-year counter-insurgency campaign against three armed groups in Darfur.”

The Guardian article on Bashir’s indictment also explains:

“Few independent observers doubt Bashir’s large share of responsibility for the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur. After the uprising in February 2003 by mainly non-Arab rebels, who complained of marginalisation and neglect, his government armed, trained and financed bands of Arab nomads to attack villages across Darfur, killing, raping and looting as they went. The army provided air and ground support. Moreno-Ocampo says the strategy caused 35,000 violent deaths, and alleges that Bashir wanted to eliminate the Fur, Marsalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups, whom he deemed supportive of the rebels. ‘More than 30 witnesses will [testify] how he [Bashir] managed to control everything, and we have strong evidence of his intention,’ Moreno-Ocampo said yesterday.”

It’s quite remarkable that Seaton wouldn’t hesitate to post a comment that suggests that it would be a much greater accomplishment for the ICC to prosecute Israel’s alleged war crimes.
It’s also quite remarkable that Seaton then continues to say:

“Sadly, perhaps, for the foreseeable future Hamas leaders and Israeli politicians and generals alike can rest easy knowing that no indictment is likely to emerge from this quarter any time soon.”

Whatever could be wrong with talking about “Hamas leaders and Israeli politicians and generals alike”? It’s an obvious “alikeness” in the world of CiF – particularly given the fact that Hamas leaders lead a party whose Charter says:

“Ye are the best nation that hath been raised up unto mankind: ye command that which is just, and ye forbid that which is unjust, and ye believe in Allah. … ‘Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it’ … This Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS), clarifies its picture, reveals its identity, outlines its stand, explains its aims, speaks about its hopes, and calls for its support, adoption and joining its ranks. Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. … The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders. It goes back to 1939, to the emergence of the martyr Izz al-Din al Kissam and his brethren the fighters, members of Moslem Brotherhood … the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: ‘The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”

It may be debatable if any of the individual points made by RufusT and Matt Seaton can be described as antisemitic, but when you add it all up, the standard “it’s just criticism of Israel”-excuse looks rather flimsy.

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