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The Day In Israel: Wednesday Aug 11th, 2010

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki “Banky” moon convened a panel investigating the IDF’s flotilla raid for the first time, with his spokesperson not ruling out the questioning of  IDF soldiers, something to which Israel is firmly opposed.

UN flotilla panel
"Like my angel wings?" (AP photo)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened a panel investigating the IDF raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla Tuesday for the first time since the members were appointed.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky did not rule out that the panel might seek to talk to IDF soldiers or officials from either side to seek information or clarification, though Israel has said it would not cooperate with any probe against its soldiers.

Ban met former prime minister of New Zealand, Geoffrey Palmer, outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Israeli representative Joseph Ciechanover, and Turkish delegate Özdem Sanberk at the UN Headquarters in New York.

In a statement to the press, Ban said the panel was “not designed to determine individual criminal responsibility, but to examine and identify the facts, circumstances and the context of the incident, as well as to recommend ways of avoiding future incidents”.

On Tuesday evening the four panel members are set to hold their first work meeting. Ban stressed that as part of their task, they should “seek the fullest cooperation of the national authorities”.

On Monday Ban denied having made any agreement with Israel stipulating that the panel would refrain from questioning military commanders.

Israel responded firmly to the secretary-general’s denial, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterating that “Israel would not participate in any panel which wants to question IDF soldiers.”

As for me, I am not sure why you need a panel to recommend ways of avoiding future incidents. I would have thought it obvious that refraining from sending a boat full of terrorists past Israel’s navy would be a good place to start.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

6:14PM: Headline of the day: Courtesy of Ynet.

Ynet headlineHere’s the accompanying report:

Lebanon’s defense minister on Wednesday lashed out at a US decision to halt aid to his country’s army in the wake of a deadly border clash with Israel, protesting that aid was being made conditional.

“Whoever sets as a condition that the aid should not be used to protect Lebanon’s land, people and borders from the (Israeli) enemy can keep their money,” Defense Minister Elias Murr told a news conference. “Let them keep their money or give it to Israel. We will confront (Israel) with the capabilities we own.”

“We welcome any unconditional offer of aid to the Lebanese army, and if anyone announces they have decided to halt that aid, they are free to make that choice,” he said.

Murr’s bitter comments were in reaction to a US decision to freeze military aid to Lebanon following last week’s clash between Israeli and Lebanese troops that left four dead.

It also came after Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, said Tehran was ready to help the Lebanese army in a meeting with army chief Jean Kahwaji, according to Iran’s official IRNA agency.

‘We’re counting on our friends’

An advisor to Lebanese President Michel Sleiman has also criticized the US decision but said that support for the army was central to upholding Lebanon’s sovereignty.

“It is time the Lebanese army be adequately armed, and we are counting on the friends of Lebanon to help the army,” Nazem Khoury told AFP.

US Congressman Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Monday he had placed on hold $100 million in aid to Lebanon’s military.

Berman, in a statement, said he could not be sure the Lebanese armed forces were not working with Hezbollah, which Washington lists as a terrorist organization.

5:55PM: Israeli Arab Knesset member Haneen Zoabi – who was on board the infamous Mavi Marmara flotilla ship – claimed that she was not aware that the “activists” were armed.

Israeli Arab Knesset member Haneen Zoabi is a big fat liar.

Video footage proving that MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) knew that IHH activsts aboard the Mavi Marmara were armed with metal pipes was released by Army Radio on Wednesday.

Zoabi, who was aboard the Gaza-bound ship which was part of a flotilla that aimed to break Israel’s blockade of the coastal territory, had previously claimed that she was not aware that the activists were armed. The members of the Turkish organization subsequently clashed violently with IDF naval commandos.

Zoabi can be seen in one of the video clips standing side by side with IHH members armed with metal pipes while IDF soldiers attempt to take command of the ship’s lower deck. She can later be heard arguing with IDF commanders in an attempt to prevent them from evacuating a seriously injured man. She had previously stated that she helped IDF forces evacuate injured from the ship.

Despite the footage, Zoabi insisted in an interview with Army Radio on Wednesday that she was unaware that the IHH activists were armed. She claimed that she believed the metal pipes the men possessed were standard ship equipment and not weapons to be used against soldiers.

After the release of the new video footage, MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima) called on Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Wednesday to open an in-depth investigation into MK Zoabi’s involvement in the violence perpetrated against IDF naval commandos aboard the Mavi Marmara.

Last month the Knesset  plenum voted 34 to 16 to strip Zoabi of some of her parliamentary privileges, following her participation in the Gaza flotilla.

Zoabi reacted to the ruling by stating that the Knesset was acting undemocratically.

“[The Knesset] has no idea of what democracy is. I represent my views, my party’s views, and the views of all the Arab members of the Knesset.”

The Knesset, she complained, “was supposed to defend my right to express my opinions,” and “protect me from racism which targeted me for my views.” Her views, she said, represent a “global consensus” regarding Israel.

2:15PM: The Israel Prison Service is reportedly buying a new “Dazer Laser” system aimed at controlling disturbances with non-violent weapons.

The supplier, Laser Energetics, hopes the pilot program will be a prelude to widespread use of the lasers in the Israeli police and military.

The non-lethal laser gun can temporarily blind people from a distance as far as a mile and a half. The company’s lasers can also be mounted on revolvers or shotguns and be shot continuously, without reloading, until the target is hit.

The international media’s focus on Israel has exposed the Jewish State to criticism for using stun grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas and sometimes live fire to quell riots and subdue terrorists and criminals. The lethal weapons often wound bystanders, who would be immobilized only temporarily if lasers are used. One side effect of the laser gun is that the targets may feel sick for several hours.
“We are very confident that when they complete their pilot program, the results will speak for themselves, and we’ll be able to roll out the Dazer Laser throughout the entire Israeli military, law enforcement, and corrections establishment,” said Robert D. Battis, founder and chief executive officer of Laser Energetics.

The laser weapons already are in use in several police departments in the United States. One police official in suburban Seattle, Washington said that an advantage of the laser gun is that it requires minimal training and is easy to aim.

Terrorists and criminals will not be able to obtain the laser gun very easily. It is sold only to certified customers, and cannot be used without activating a security code. As an extra precaution, the laser system can be programmed to turn itself off if it ends up in the wrong hands.

Here is the Dazer Laser in action.

[Warning: Contains amateur sales pitch from guy who talks too slow, and graphic scenes of overacting]

12:55PM: IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi has appeared before the Turkel Committee, taking responsibility for the raid but defending the IDF’s actions.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on Wednesday morning testified before an internal probe into Israel’s deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid convoy, defending the military from politicians’ accusations it botched the operation.

“The commandos exhibited calm, bravery and morality,” Ashkenazi told the inquiry panel, headed by former chief justice Jacob Turkel. Their actions were “proportionate and correct”, he said.

IDF Chief Gabi Ashkenazi testifies before the Turkel Committee probing Israel’s Gaza flotilla raid, August

Ashkenazi said the outcome of the May 31 raid, which left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead, was impossible to predict.

“From the moment the operation began, it was clear that the circumstances were unprecedented,” he said, adding that as commander he took full responsibility for the troops’ actions.

The IDF chief, who is set to step down in February at the end of a four-year term that has seen him increasingly at odds with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, repeated the army’s version of the raid, saying commandos used live ammunition only after they were attacked.

In testimony on Tuesday, Barak heaped blame on the IDF, telling the inquiry that the failure of the operation did not stem from the decision to carry it out but from its planning and implementation by the military.

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also implied that the IDF, and not politicians, had been responsible for the controversial interception, which drew international condemnation and prompted the United Nations to set up its own inquiry.

In cross-examining Ashkenazi, Turkel asked how it was possible that Israeli intelligence organizations had failed to gain advanced warning of the presence of violent activists from the Turkish Islamist group IHH aboard the ships.

“It seems a little strange, given previous successes in preventing boats reaching Gaza,” Turkel said. “In these situations there were apparently intelligences sources and means of attaining extremely accurate information.”

Askenazi responded: “It’s true, I have already said that we didn’t know enough about the [IHH] organization, and we didn’t investigate it. It was not on our list of priorities like other groups.”

He added: “Turkey is not an enemy state and I hope it never will be. We have military contacts, even despite the current crisis,” referring to the near-collapse of Israel’s diplomatic ties with Ankara following the raid.

10:54AM: Insight into the mind of a “Free Palestine” nut:

But he’s not antisemitic, just anti-Israel.

Meanwhile, here’s our friend’s ruminations on antisemitism and “bankers” ruling the world.

9:52AM: Could anyone please enlighten me as to why this photo is appearing on the wires?

palestinian activist
BETHLEHEM - APRIL 18: A peace activist protesting the Israeli army's military operations in the West Bank marches past Israeli soldiers in the West Bank town of Bethlehem 18 April 2002. Two Palestinians were shot and wounded by Israeli soldiers inside the Church of the Nativity compound witnesses said, as talks were set to begin to try to end the two-week siege. Witnesses near the church said a man was shot as he moved from one courtyard to another inside the compound. The man, who has not been identified, was believed to be seriously wounded. (Photo by Musa AL-SHAER/AFP/Getty Images)

I mean, don’t get me wrong. It definitely will appeal to the AFP’s target audience of Israel haters, those more than willing to believe in any demonization of the Jewish state and those who don’t know any better. I’d just have thought that it was slightly – you know – out of date. I guess in the relative absence of current opportunities for demonization, bring up old news.

Also interesting about this photo is the identify of the woman identified as a “peace activist.” It is none other than ISM founder and Free Gaza chair Huwaida Arraf who is a terrorist supporter, not a peace activist.

Regarding the content of her protest sign, read this.

6:56AM: As has been the case in previous years, IDF soldiers have been asked to respect Ramadan.

IDF soldiers in the West Bank have been asked to refrain from eating, drinking and smoking in public, particularly at the security crossings, during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins Wednesday.

Soldiers have been asked to “demonstrate a high level of respect and understanding,” the IDF said, in a statement it released Tuesday.

In advance of the holy month, “Civil Administration representatives met with Palestinian religious authorities and discussed prayer times and upcoming religious events, in addition to informing the population of the accommodations being made,” the IDF said.

West Bank security forces were also updated on Ramadan timetables and traditions.

For Ramadan and the holiday of Id el-Fitr that follows, the IDF extended until midnight the operating hours of both the Jalama and Rehan crossings to Jenin, the Beit Mishpat crossing to Ramallah and the Rachel crossing to Bethlehem.

Palestinian families can visit relatives in Israel during the month and Israeli Arabs can enter Area A.

Some 200 permits were given to visitors from Arab countries to enter Judea and Samaria for humanitarian reasons.

In Jerusalem, Palestinian men over the age of 50 and women over the age of 45 will be able to freely enter the Temple Mount for prayer. Married men between the ages of 45-50 and married women between the ages of 30-45 may also enter the compound.

The Samaria Citizens’ Committee criticized the IDF preparations for Ramadan, saying it regretted that Israel’s army was paying more consideration to Islam than to Judaism.

These measures come as the IDF and the Border Police are arresting rabbis, destroying synagogues and issuing demolition orders against West Bank yeshivot, the committee said in a statement.

“Is the defense minister’s name, Ehud Barak or Ahmed Barak?” it asked.

6:52AM: I likely posted this advertisement for Israeli satellite TV provider Yes earlier in the year, but since I don’t remember, it’s a good excuse to post it now.

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About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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