Friday, April 24, 2009

Finally, some action against the perpetrators of the Gaza War: Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak charged with War Crimes.

On Wednesday April 22, 2009, a group of six Norwegian lawyers petitioned Norway’s Chief Prosecutor to charge Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and former Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni, and Defence Minister Ehud Barak, and seven senior Israeli army officers with War Crimes, for having committed “massive terrorist attacks” in the Gaza strip during the Gaza War. The lawyers have also asked for the arrest and extradition to Norway, of the 10 accused.

The lawyers, lead by Kjell Brygfjeld and Harald Stabell, have charged the Israelis of the crimes of “killing civilians, illegally using weapons against civilian targets and deliberately attacking hospitals and medical staff.”

Norway's public prosecutors said they would study the complaint filed by the lawyers accusing Israeli leaders of war crimes over Israel’s assault on Gaza.

The lawyers filed the complaint using a recently passed law, under which foreigners can be charged in Norway with war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, even if the alleged acts were carried out elsewhere.

Siri Frigaard, chief prosecutor at Norway's National Authority for Prosecution of Organized and Other Serious Crimes said, “We received the complaint today. We will follow normal procedure, which means we will look through the complaint to determine whether or not to send it to the police to carry out a formal investigation.”More than 1400 Palestinians were killed, and at least 5300 Palestinians were wounded by Israel’s military in Gaza in the war. There is incontrovertible evidence that Israel used phosphorus bombs on civilians. Under the laws of war, it is a crime to use white phosphorus bombs in densely populated areas. Several Palestinian children burned to death by phosphorus bombs in the assault on civilians by the IDF (Israel’s Defence Forces).

Some twenty Palestinian families living in Norway have lost either loved ones or property in Gaza, lawyer Kjell Brygfjeld said.

Under Norwegian Penal Codes, Norwegian courts may hear cases involving war crimes and other major violations of human rights. Countries such as Spain also permit their prosecutors to charge foreign leaders with war crimes.

A few weeks ago, the United Nations Human Rights Council began investigating allegations of human rights violations by both Israel and the Hamas in the Gaza War. The investigation is lead by South African Judge Richard Goldstone, an eminent jurist of unquestionable integrity.

A few other countries are also expected to follow Norway’s lead and charge the 10 Israeli Political and military leaders in the near future.

It is high time that the people who planned and perpetrated the assault on the Gaza civilians are held accountable for their nefarious deeds.

Yesh Prabhu, Plainsboro, NJ

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The rapidly vanishing world-wide sympathy for Israel: The tide is turning

The unthinkable has happened, at last. What was unthinkable only four months ago, is now a universally acknowledged fact. Within a week after Israel ended the war in Gaza, it noticed that behind the fortress like wall that it built on the Palestinian ancestral land, which it had encroached, it was now standing alone without its coterie of friends – European leaders and national heads of many governments around the world.

The Gaza War – code named Operation Cast Lead – has backfired. World leaders such as Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the UK, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, et al, who, before the Gaza War, routinely sang in chorus praises of the “lone democracy in the Middle East”, were now suddenly critical of Israel’s assault on the Palestinians. They boldly said that several of IDF’s (Israel’s Defense Forces’) actions amounted to war crimes and they demanded that IDF’s use of phosphorus bombs on Palestinians, and eye witness accounts of the shooting of unarmed, white flag-waving women and children, the bombing of schools, and the burning of UN warehouses, and attacks on police stations and hospitals must be thoroughly investigated by the United Nations.

If the effect of the Gaza war on the Palestinians has been tragic, its effect on Israel’s image abroad has been devastating. Many of Israel’s ardent defenders around the world were shell shocked at the wanton killing of Palestinian women and children, and the destruction of Palestinians’ properties. In the live coverage of the war on Aljazeera, the world witnessed the horrors inflicted on the unarmed civilians. And the heart rending images people saw on the BBC have prompted many world leaders to condemn IDF’s atrocities.

And now Israel stands almost alone.

The Gaza War did not accomplish any of Israel’s stated goals; but it did accomplish a startling, completely unexpected thing: it gave a devastating blow to Israel’s image in the world as a moral, civil society. The war has left Israel’s image totally tarnished for ever.

In response to the calls from Amnesty International and many world leaders, leaders such as Nobel Laureates President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein, former President of Ireland Ms. Mary Robinson, US Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Mr. Ralph Zacklin of United Kingdom (United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs (1998-2005), and dozens of other eminent people, the United Nations has finally set up an enquiry into alleged abuses of International Laws by Israel in Gaza, and has appointed Judge Richard Goldstone of South Africa, an eminent jurist and a man of unquestionable integrity, to head the investigation.

Several human rights organizations in Israel, organizations such as B’Tselem, have been gathering evidence of Israel’s war crimes in Gaza.

This is indeed a major development regarding the unending Israel-Palestine conflict. The pro-Israel tide has turned. The result of the UN investigation will have major consequences not only for Israel but also for its ally, the USA.

Yesh Prabhu, Plainsboro, NJ

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

President Obama addresses the Muslim world from Turkey

From the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, President Obama spoke to the Muslim world about his determination to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict, and to bring peace to the entire Middle East region.

President Obama said that his administration would seek the creation of Palestinian state, pointedly stressing that Israel and the Palestinians agreed on that goal under the Saudi sponsored peace plan, which has been endorsed by the US. “Let me be clear: The United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security,” He said. “That is a goal shared by Palestinians, Israelis, and people of good will around the world. That is a goal that the parties agreed to in the road map and at Annapolis. And that is a goal that I will actively pursue as president.”

With pressure building on Mr. Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, from Mr. Gordon Brown of the UK, and Mr. Nicholas Sarkozy of France, and Mr. Mirek Topolanek of the Czech Republic, the current President of the European Union, to accept the “Two States Solution” at the center of the Saudi sponsored peace proposal, and now even more pressure from President Obama himself speaking from Ankora, Mr. Netanyahu quickly issued a brief statement: “Israel appreciates President Obama's commitment to Israel's security and to the pursuit of peace,” declared Mr. Netanyahu. “The government of Israel is committed to both of these goals and will formulate its policies in the near future so as to work closely with the United States.”

President Obama also addressed the perception of Muslims around the world that the US government is pursuing an as yet undeclared war against Islam. “The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam,” he said, to huge applause.

Turkey is a secular Muslim democracy. “The United States strongly supports Turkey’s bid to become a member of the European Union,” President Obama said. “We speak not as members of the E.U., but as close friends of Turkey and Europe.”

With this important address in Ankara, I hope President Obama has signaled his administration’s decision to implement an even handed, a more balanced, approach for resolving the unending Israel-Palestine conflict. And I also hope that his declarations in Ankara signal the dawn of a new chapter, a bright new beginning, for his administration as an unbiased and sincere arbiter for real peace in the Middle East.

The world will soon find out how sincere President Obama is in resolving the conflict. Mr. George Mitchell, US special envoy to Middle East, is due to arrive in Israel again, on April 13. After meeting with Mr. Netanyahu what he will say would be very instructive. Will he describe the Israeli settlements merely as “unhelpful”, the way Secretary of State Mrs. Clinton remarked about the settlements? Will he courageously and emphatically state that those settlements contravene International Laws, and so they must be dismantled?

Mr. Obama seems to regain his clear voice when he lands on foreign shores. But when he is in Washington, every phrase he utters regarding Israel seems to be carefully calibrated so as not to grate upon the Jewish Lobby’s (AIPAC’s) ears. Even his silence on certain topics, for example, his refusal to criticize Israel’s use of white phosphorus bombs on Palestinian civilians, and other equally atrocious actions of IDF (Israel Defense Forces) during the Gaza War, and also his refusal at his first news conference at the White House to name Israel as the only state in the Middle East that possesses nuclear weapons, is deliberate and intentional, so as not to offend Israeli sensibilities.

Let us wait and see whether there will be real change in the US policy regarding the Palestinians.

Let there be peace on earth.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The thrill of reading the very first reader's comment

When I checked my e-mail today, I was surprised and very happy, to read a brief but pleasant comment about my Blog. A lady named Tara Marinello wrote:

I came across your blog at It is very well written and interesting. I like how you have explored the topic.

Positive and encouraging comments and feedbacks such as this will inspire me to write more columns, and help me to write even better columns in the future. Readers’ comments are always welcome. Even negative comments and criticisms I shall read carefully.
My thanks to Ms. Tara Marinello.

Yesh Prabhu, Plainsboro, NJ
April 2, 2009