Monday, October 5, 2009


Last week I gave the Chutzpah of the Week award to those Palestinian families who attempted to have Ehud Barak arrested and prosecuted in Britain on a war crimes charge. According to the wire feeds to Al Jazeera English, the request by these families was ultimately denied on the grounds that Barak had diplomatic immunity. Nevertheless, according to the same Al Jazeera English report, the action still seems to have had an unanticipated consequence:

Israel's vice-prime minister has cancelled a planned trip to London over fears that he could be arrested for alleged war crimes, his spokesman has said.

Moshe Yaalon called off the trip fearing that pro-Palestinian groups in London might seek his trial for his role in the 2002 deaths of 15 people, including a Hamas leader and eight children.

Yaalon was the military chief-of-staff when an Israeli fighter jet dropped a one-tonne bomb in Gaza City, killing Salah Shehadeh, the head of the armed wing of Hamas, along with his wife.

Israel's foreign ministry advised against the planned trip after it emerged that Yaalon, who is also strategic affairs minister, had been invited to attend a fund-raising dinner hosted by the British branch of the Jewish National Fund.

Thus, while Barak could dismiss the Palestinian effort as "absurd" (but only by hiding behind diplomatic immunity), those Palestinian families may yet get their satisfaction by dropping down one level in the chain of command. At the very least the Israeli Ministry of Defence has tacitly acknowledged that the claim made by these families is not entirely "absurd." Could this be a sign that they cannot hide from the accusations in Richard Goldstone's report to the UN Human Rights Commission? The debate over that report has thus far generated far more heat than light, primarily because of the aggressive resistance of the Israeli government. If that government is willing to turn to dialog instead of denial, this might provide a point of departure for more meaningful conversations over the future of the Middle East. That would not be a bad consequence from a seemingly futile gesture (with far less immediate impact and visibility than a terrorist bombing) by a few Palestinian families, not to mention a lesson that chutzpah can be rewarded in unexpected ways!

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