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Tuesday June 15, 2010 9:41 AM (EST+7)
Israel's impartial international observers?

Read more: Flotilla raid, Israeli investigation, Lord David Trimble, Ken Watkin, Jacob Terkel

RAMALLAH, June 15 (JMCC) - Israel's recent announcement of its internal investigation into the deadly raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla in international waters, has sparked criticism from Turkey and the Palestinians on the impartiality of its panel-members.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also expressed reservations Monday and is pushing for an international investigation into the incident.

The main concern of many critics, outside of Israel's ability to objectively investigate itself, regards the two international observers assigned by the Israeli government to oversee the inquiry.

The first observer is Lord David Trimble, a Nobel-prize laureate from Northern Ireland who now serves in England's Conservative Party.

Concerns over Trimble's participation result from the Friends of Israel Initiative he cofounded and launched the day of the flotilla raid.  The advocacy group is made up of high-profile non-Jewish leaders determined to safeguard Israel's legitimacy in the international community. At the founding of the initaitive, the following statement was released:
This initiative “is promoted by people who are not Jewish and whose motivations are based on the deep conviction that Israel is part of the Western world. In fact, today Israel is a fundamental actor for the future of the West. Although the peace process is important, the members of Friends of Israel Initiative are more concerned about the onslaught of radical Islamism as well as the specter of a nuclear Iran since these are threats affecting not only Israel, but the entire world…The sponsors of this Initiative believe there is no West without Israel.”

Other members of the Friends of Israel Initiative include well-known neoconservatives like former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Michael Bolton. Former Israeli ambassador Dore Gold, supposedly a close friend of Israel Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, has also been involved with the initiative.

The second foreign observer is Ken Watkin, a former military judge advocate for Canada. Watkin was recently implicated in a scandal involving the torture of Afghani prisoners, to which he refused to testify before the Canadian Parliament in a November 2009 hearing. While in his position as Judge Advocate General (JAG), several detainees had gone missing and were subsequently tortured after being transferred to the Afghan Police Forces.

Israel's investigation panel will be headed by Former Israel High Court Judge Jacob Terkel. According to the Jerusalem Post, Terkel served as a Supreme Court justice from 1995 until his retirement in 2005 and during those 10 years often took minority positions that were viewed as sympathetic to the right wing, including his opposition to the conviction of Rabbi Ido Elba, who penned a halakhic ruling that supported the killing of non-Jews. The ruling appeared in a biography of Baruch Goldstein, who perpetrated the Tomb of the Patriarchs massacre in 1994.

Also, in the waning days of the Barak premiership, Terkel issued a ruling stating that the government did not have the right to carry out diplomatic negotiations in the short time remaining. He also issued a minority ruling in the late 90s saying that then-Zo Artzeinu leader Moshe Feiglin’s public protest actions against the
Oslo Accord did not constitute illegal acts.

The composition of Israel's investigative committee raises serious questions about the effectiveness it will have. Israeli newspaper Haaretz called the commission a 'farce' in a recent editorial and demanded that Israeli citizens had the right to know the truth about what actually happened.

Read the Haaretz Editorial...
Read the Jerusalem Post article...






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