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Israel is right to be concerned
[Forwarded by the JPLO List] Rami G. Khouri--November 7, 2010

We can learn much from the Israeli government`s decision this week
to suspend a special strategic dialog with the United Kingdom because of
concerns that Israeli officials could be arrested and indicted with
crimes against humanity in the UK, according to a British law that
provides for `universal jurisdiction` in such cases, i.e., a
suspect of any country can be charged, detained and tried in a British
court even if the alleged crimes occurred in a third country and did not
include British citizens among the victims. Israel`s Kadima Party
leader Tzipi Livni recently cancelled a trip to London as did Deputy
Prime Minister Dan Meridor this week, because he was advised that he
risked being arrested.

Palestinians in the UK in recent years have filed charges against
Israeli officials and British courts have issued arrest warrants for
some Israeli officials, though none have actually been taken into
custody. The important dimension of this is the concern among many
Israelis � justified, in my view � that Israel is being
subjected to a `de-legitimization` campaign. This is exactly
what is happening, and it scares Israelis more than anything else in the

The one most-coveted thing that Israel lacks in the eyes of its
Palestinian foes and other Arab and international critics is legitimacy
and acceptance. It`s one thing if Yemen, Algeria or Somalia do not
recognize Israel, but it is another and much more significant thing
entirely if the UK government � the historical midwife of Zionism
and the Israeli state � issues arrest warrants charging Israeli
officials with crimes against humanity. Exactly 93 years ago this week
the British government issued the Balfour Declaration that pledged
support for the creation of `a national home for the Jewish
people.` Now, London joins others in the world who seek to hold
accountable to the international rule of law those Israeli leaders at
the helm of that `Jewish national home` that is the sovereign
state of Israel � sovereign, but still largely unaccepted in its
present configuration.

Israel is not particularly worried about its military security, given
its known conventional and nuclear capabilities. It has been in a
constant state of war with its neighbors for the past 62 years because
it has never been fully and formally acknowledged as legitimate by its
Arab neighbors. Israel is strong militarily, politically, economically,
culturally, and technologically � but it remains vulnerable and
uneasy because it is not accepted in the Middle East as a normal,
legitimate country. This is primarily because it has refused to come to
terms with the national and territorial rights of the Palestinian people
whom it largely dispossessed, ethnically cleansed, displaced and exiled
in the process of creating the Jewish-majority state of Israel.

All the Arab states have formally offered to coexist in peace with
Israel on the basis of the 2002 Arab peace plan which Israel has
steadfastly ignored, so this is not about destroying Israel, as Zionist
zealots and other howlers claim. The de-legitimization campaign aims to
point out that Israeli official actions are often criminal in nature
when Israel uses massive and disproportionate force, siege tactics,
collective punishment, mass incarceration, torture, assassination,
colonization, land theft and other such illegal and criminal behavior in
its routine dealings with Palestinians and other Arabs.

The reason Israel reacted so vehemently and almost irrationally last
year to the Goldstone Commission report on both Israel`s and
Hamas` conduct of the 2008-09 Gaza war was because this represented
a frightening new form of formally sanctioned global criticism of
Israel`s excessive use of violence, and, more importantly, sought
international follow-up to hold Israel and Hamas accountable for their
behavior. It`s one thing if Yemen, Algeria or Somalia accuse Israel
of war crimes, but it is another thing altogether when the organs of the
UN do this through a commission headed by one of the world`s most
respected jurists. Israel has predicated its entire foreign policy since
its inception on being able to use any force it deems necessary to
protect and assert itself. The criticisms it is receiving, and legal
moves such as the Goldstone Commission or the British indictments, are
much more frightening to Israel than any missiles it might face from its
surroundings, because they chip away at the one indispensable element
that Israel has always relied on for its security, wellbeing and Zionist
self-assertion: impunity in military actions across the entire Middle
East, its colonization of Arab lands, and its structural dispossession
and subjugation of the Palestinian people.

This is Israel`s Achilles Heel, which is why this movement to
challenge Israeli impunity is so significant, and will continue to grow
until it achieves a political resolution that is fair to both
Palestinians and Israelis, who can enjoy equal rights in a configuration
of mutually satisfying statehood, and affirms rather than tramples on
the dictates of the global rule of law.

Israel is right to be worried, because its criminal behavior is finally
being subjected to formal global scrutiny.

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