Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Law Enforcement CHUTZPAH

I see that 2009 was a good year for Chutzpah of the Week awards emerging both from and against those who have overtly challenged Israeli policy in the interest of more peaceful relations between Israel and its neighbors. Nevertheless, "official Israel" has persisted in its intransigence in a series of acts that were never in the running for an award, simply because, as I previously put it, "chutzpah is so much a regular part of their [Israeli] culture in both its negative and positive connotations." Unfortunately, 2010 got off to a roaring start with an assassination that was clearly motivated by international relations in the Middle East, since the victim was a Hamas commander. If there was any good news to this story, it was that Dubai, where the assassination took place, has decided to deal with the situation as a case of murder that requires investigation, hopefully leading to arrest, trial, and punishment. In terms of our own ideals of governance, this is far preferable to becoming yet another state to get bogged down in the meaningless rhetoric of a "war on terror." This murder was a criminal act and should be dealt with by the appropriate institutions of law and order. (How do you say "In the criminal justice system …" in Arabic?)

The investigation has now proceeded to a point where the police are almost ready to issue their first arrest warrants. This is where chutzpah enters the picture, as was reported last night on the Al Jazeera English Web site:

The head of the Dubai police is planning to seek the arrest of the prime minister of Israel and the head of the country's secret service, Mossad, over the killing of a Hamas leader.

Dhahi Khalfan Tamim told Al Jazeera he would ask the Dubai prosecutor to issue arrest warrants for Binyamin Netanyahu and Meir Dagan this week.

Tamim said he was "almost certain" Israeli agents were involved in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a Hamas commander, at a Dubai hotel in January.

My guess is that, if we are to use Law & Order as a guideline (not always the best of moves), the prosecutor is going to have to ask for something better than "almost certain." What is more than "almost" certain is that "official Israel" will refuse to honor any such arrest warrant, should it be issued. Under such circumstances the Dubai authorities may be able to do little more than escalate their findings to a more international venue, meaning that the case will be transplanted from the arena of criminal justice to that of diplomacy. Regardless of where things ultimately lead, however, it appears that the Dubai police have been following perfectly acceptable ground rules of investigation, including cooperation from Britain, Ireland, Australia, and Germany, the countries whose passports appear to have been used by the alleged assassins. That cooperation has helped establish that the passports were forgeries, thus prompting new paths for investigation. This raises the hypothesis that an institution like Mossad has both means and motive for forging passports, not to mention motive for the assassination itself.

Consequently, in this criminal justice system we may find ourselves in the midst of a David-and-Goliath story. However, the Goliath in this narrative will be the institutional might of the Israeli government; and David will be the Dubai police force just trying to investigate a murder. Since the original David was one of the earliest models for "chutzpah culture," it seems appropriate to present a Chutzpah of the Week award to the Dubai police force as they doggedly try to move forward with their investigation.

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