by Adam Keller
"This is a cover-up commission, toothless and powerless. Even had it wanted to, it can't probe the real issues. International friends of Dore Gold won’t bite"
The Gush Shalom movement intends to petition the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, challenging the validity of the Netanyahu Government's decision to establish the Tirkel Commission which is supposed to probe the lethal raid on the Gaza Flottila two weeks ago. The commission's terms of reference exclude in advance all the main points which should be investigated.
It is no coincidence that the government refrained from taking the judicial highway which Israeli law makes available for exactly such cases: appointing a truly independent Commission of Inquiry whose members are appointed by the President of the Supreme Court and which is free of governmental interference. Such a commission may have uncovered facts, or come to conclusions, which would have proven uncomfortable to the government. Such a danger does not exist with the tame commission with which Netanyahu and his ministers came up.
The Tirkel Commission's terms of reference do not include looking into the decision-making process which led to bloodshed on the high seas, to the killing of nine people whose purpose had been to reach Gaza rather than clash with Israeli soldiers, to blackening Israel's image throughout the world and to the complete shattering of the alliance with Turkey which had been a cornerstone of Israeli foreign policy since the days of Ben Gurion. It is guaranteed in advance that those responsible for all this will not be touched, since the commission is not at all empowered to look into their doings.
Nor will the commission be able to look seriously into what actually happened on board the boats during these fateful moments. The commission is specifically and explicitly excluded from calling any soldier or officer to testify. It must place a blind trust in the army's own investigation of its own doings, which is carried on secretly and whose pre-selected results will be presented to the commission. And it is highly unlikely that the commission would hear and seriously consider the eye-witness testimonies of the boat's Turkish, European and American passengers, whom the State of Israel already branded as "terrorists".
It is clear in advance that the Tirkel Commission would not conduct the investigation which needs to be undertaken. The commission was established primarily as a desperate attempt to placate international public opinion, but it is very difficult to believe that this goal would be achieved, or that a report clearing the government of Israel from all blame and fault would gain much credibility in the world.
To get a semblance of international respectability, two international observers were attached to the commission. It should be noted that one of them - David Trimble, Protestant Unionist leader from North Ireland – expressed his allegiance just two weeks ago by joining a "Friends of Israel" group established by Netanyahu loyalist Dore Gold. In addition, Trimble is a veteran member of the
Henry Jackson Society, an international organization linked with the American "neo conservative" circles and which advocates the "spreading of democracy" by way of military incursions and invasions. At Trimble's side, this society's membership includes such people as Richard Perle, who under the Bush Administration was among the main initiators of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, as well as William Kristol who is the main neo-conservative ideologue.
The other international observer on the commission is Ken Watkin, retired Canadian Army general and until recently Judge Advocate General. Watkin's name is associated with a sensational affair in Canada, regarding cases of Canadian forces in Afghanistan transferring dozens of prisoners to the custody of the Afghan government's security service – where they were tortured and some extrajudicially executed. Watkin refused to testify to the Canadian Parliament regarding the advice he had given to the military commanders on this issue, arguing that there existed between him and the Canadian government a privileged attorney–client relathionship. This behavior does not bode well for Watkin 's willingness or ability to participate in exposing facts which might prove embarassing to the Government of Israel.
In short, it is unlikely that the "kosher certificate" provided by these "international observers" to the commission would greatly enhance the credibility given to its conclusions.
Contact: Uri Avnery 0505-306440 or Adam Keller 054-2340749