For the past few days I’ve had the delightful task of hanging around the Yitzhak Rabin Guest House in West Jerusalem. I was covering the latest round of questioning by (Israeli) judges, appointed by the (Israeli) government to examine the legality of their deadly raid on the Gaza-bound aid ship last May. The inquiry is called the Turkel Commission, named after retired Justice Turkel – the big chief.
Now, I could tell you how, at various points, I saw every member of the panel fall asleep during the testimonies.
Or, I could describe the humiliating and condescending way in which the panelists spoke to the Arab-Israeli passengers who came to testify (compared to the respect they showed whilst interviewing Opposition leader Tzipi Livni and military chief Gabi Ashkenazi).
I could even explain how for 45 minutes I watched the panelists argue with the Arab passenger about how being that “he seemed like a reasonable man” he could breach Israeli law (as an Israeli citizen) and decide to get on a ship to Gaza. Indeed – a Palestinian going to a Palestinian territory seemed more absurd to these judges than the actual policy that stops him getting there (and by extension anyone getting out).
Every step of the way it was obvious that this commission, which was tasked with determining whether Israel is in breach of international law in blockading Gaza, had made up their minds long before they stepped into the Rabin Guest House.
But put all that aside, here are five simple reasons why this Commission is a sham.
1) The average age of the five original panelists is 84. They have all spent their careers defending the state of Israel and between them have very little expertise in international law…
2) …Except for one of the panelists – Proff Rosenne – but sadly he died a few weeks ago. He was 93-years-old and he was not replaced, so the panel has now gone down to four.
3) The panelists were all hand picked by Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Ehud Barak, the defence minister. The two token international observers on the panel are also widely known as sympathetic to Israel.
4) The coverage of the Turkel Commission in the Israeli papers is virtually non existent. Apart from a local TV channel, Al Jazeera English was the only channel broadcasting from outside the proceedings the last two days.
5) Turkel said two weeks ago, during proceedings, that “the people of Gaza have brought this hardship on themselves”. Another panelist stated, despite the mass of data provided to the Commission by Israeli human rights groups on the situation in Gaza, “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza”.