December 2009

The biggest effect for Israel’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens of its assault on Gaza last winter has been to smash any remaining illusions that there is a future for the minority in a Jewish state, the community’s leaders have agreed. They say that minority voters have almost completely abandoned Zionist parties, even left-wing ones, believing that none is really interested in a peaceful solution to the country’s conflict with the Palestinians.

The debate reverberating in the human rights community one year after Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip is not about whether Israel committed war crimes during its attack last winter, but whether and how its political and military leaders can ever be brought to book. The problems were highlighted this month when an arrest warrant was issued in Britain for Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister during the war, after it was mistakenly believed she was visiting.

The fatal shooting by Israeli soldiers of an Israeli man earlier this week as he tried to scale a fence into the Gaza Strip was reportedly part of a drastic procedure the army was supposed to have phased out several years ago. The Israeli media reported that Yakir Ben-Melech, 34, had bled to death after he was shot under the “Hannibal procedure”, designed to prevent Israelis from being taken captive alive by enemy forces. One critic defined the procedure as meaning: “Liberate the soldier by killing him”.

About 35,000 Bedouin residents of Israel’s southern Negev have been denied the right to hold their first local council election after the Israeli parliament passed a law at the last minute to cancel this month’s ballot. The new law gives the government the power to postpone elections to the regional council, known as Abu Basma, until the interior ministry deems the local Bedouin ready to run their own affairs. Legal and human rights groups say the move is an unprecedented violation of Israel’s constitutional principles.