Wednesday, October 28, 2009

UK protestors want all Israelis charged with war crimes

On a recent trip to England attempts were made to have Defence Minister Ehud Barak arrested on war crimes. The petition came to the courts, as British law allows a private individuals to bring war crime and genocide charges against anybody irrelevant of normal jurisdictional considerations. The courts had an easy out. They ruled that Barak was a guest of the British government and was entitled to full diplomatic immunity.

While the ruling may have worked for Barak, the same cannot be said about lower ranking politicians and senior military officials, who fear being arrested abroad. The Foreign Ministry has been working closely to make sure they are not arrested on trumped up charges. The Goldstone report gives credability to these charges, even though Judge Goldstone has admitted that his report did not meet the burden of proof for criminal charges. The Palestinian Authority has also admitted that they lack proof outside of the report in order to get indictments from the International Criminal Court.

This week Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon visited the UK. There were protests and calls for his arrest on War Crime charges. There is one huge difference between Ayalon and others who now fear a trip to England. Ayalon was elected to the Government after Operation Cast Lead. He had no more control over the logistics of the war than any other Israeli on the street. Plus it has been years since he has had to do his army service.

Condemning Israel with alleagations that contradict facts on the ground is a common problem. Normally such tactics would reflect negativly on those making the allegations. Normal rules of reason and logic don't apply to Israel.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Guilty until proven guilty

The world stood by silently as Israel was constantly bombarded with rocket attacks from Gaza. The citizens of Southern Israel were tired of consantly running to their bomb shelters. They were tired of the children's playgrounds with built in bomb shelter, so kids could reach saftey in the 15 seconds they had before impact. The rest of the country sympathized. Israel took military action to stop the attacks.

The world could no longer be silent. The UNHRC held an emergency session to condemn Israeli aggression. They also set the mandate to find evidence of war crimes that Israel had committed. The wording of the mandate was clear that Israel was guilty and it was up to the panel to find evidence. Such a panel could never objectivly determine if the evidence lead to the conclusion they were supposed to find. Canada was the only country brave enough to vote against the resolution.

Judge Richard Goldstone was choosen to head up the panel. Aside from his experience prosecuting war criminals, he had the bonus of being South African and Jewish. Being Jewish was supposed to protect him from criticism of being anti-Israel. Being South African would give him credibility in falsly accusing Israel as an apartheid state. He insisted that he would not take the job until he was certain that he would have the ability to blame Hamas for their war crimes. His comittee composed of others who had publicly expressed Israel's guilt.

The final report was a harsh condemnation of Israeli with a footnotes worth of attention to the pain and frustration that lead Israel to take military operation. The mandate, methodology and analysis of the report were flawed. There has been a ton of analysis done to demonstarte it's flaws.

At the request of the Palesitinians, the UNHRC decided to delay consideration of passage of the Goldstone report until next sessions in March allowing time to come up with a resolution that would allow the added weight of unanimous approval. Jews visiting the Temple mount under a policy that has been in place for years was an excuse for Arab rioting. Israel banned Arabs under the age of 50 and all Jews from the Temple mount. This was the excuse to call an emergency session of the UNHRC to pass the Goldstone report.

The resolution easily passed on Friday. The text of the resolution should eliminate any doubts that the intention of the resolution was political and had nothing to do with human rights. The resolution only passed the recommendations in sections A,B and C leaving out all references to Hamas aggression of rocket fire at civilian populations or the plight of Gilad Shalit. Israel was condemned for not protecting and providing access to Muslim and Chirstian holy sights and the Judaizationing of Jerusalem. Have the Christians ever complained about the administration of their sights in Israeli control? The Arabs have a horrible track record of protecting and providing access to Jewish holy sights. The UNHRC also condemned the non-existant excavation of in and around Jerusalem that posed a threat to Al Asqa Mosque.

The next step is for the report to be handled in UN offices in New York. It should easily be passed by the automatic majority in the General Assembly leading to prosectuion by the ICJ (International Court of Justice). A guilty verdict should be easy to obtain but as an advisory court they don't hold much power. It is unclear if it will be passed by the UNSC leading to prosecution by the ICC (International Criminal Court). This court has some power to enforce their judgements. A guilty verdict here could open the door to prosecution of British, Pakistan, American, Canadian troops for their invovlement in Afghanistan, Iraq and attempts to fighting terrorism. PA officials have asked for patients, as they are not prepared to follow through with the ICC. They have no evidence on their own, outside the Goldstone report. They have no actually gotten around to reading the Goldstone report.

Canada saw the mess that was going to come out of this biased investigation. The UNHRC has once again show they care about attacking Israel and little else. This report and the UNHRC needs to be buried, not because of the problems they pose for Israel but because of the damage it can cause to countries that concern themselves with Human Rights.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How did Obama beat the competition to win the Nobel Prize?

In a surprising move the 2009 Nobel Prize for Peace has been awarded to Barak Obama. Setting aside the fact that he had only been the President for 11 days when nominations closed, there are many world leaders that have made headline news for their efforts to advance peace in the world.

Obama is not getting enough credit for what he has accomplished to date. He was able to get the government to give away billions of dollars in the stimulus package. He has made some great speaches about improving the broken health care system. He told the Arab world the United States would stop meddling in their affairs and told Israel to stop settlement construction. To appease Israel, he would get the Arab world to take steps towards normalization. He has also politely asked Iran and North Korea to stop their nuclear weapons program.

The Nobel comitee may have thought this was enough to make him a Nobel Prize Laureate. The worthiness comes into question when considering the results. The health care bill becoming so watered down that by the time it passes, it will make little difference in fixing the system. The Palestinians have used the Cairo speech to make new demands on that must be met before entering negotiations with Israel. Israel has continued to operate in her best interests, despite American demands. The Arab world has laughed at the idea of normalization with Israel. Iran and North Korea continue to develop their nuclear programs.

What about the other world leaders who have promoted peace in 2009.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - Iran - Re-elected as President in a landslide victory, he was able to get voter turnout of over 100% in some districts. Protesters against the clear democratic victory were arrested and tortured. This week death sentences were issued for 3 protestors. More are sure to follow. Ahmadinejad was the keynote speaker at the Durban II Anti-Racism conference. Despite world pressure Iran has continued their 'peaceful' nuclear weapons program while promissing wipe Israel off the map.

Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi - Libya - After Obama his speech at the recent meeting of the United Nations General Assembly was the most covered in the meeting. He was introduced as the King of Kings before delivering his 95 minute speech. The fact he was allowed to go over his 15 minute time limit shows how important his message is. He had much criticism for how the West treats the 3rd world, suggesting changes to make the United Nations more fair to all nations. He arranged a hero's welcome from the Lockerbie bomber upon his return to Libya under humanitarian grounds.

Mahinda Rajapaksa - Sri Lanka - The Sri Lanka military was succesful this year ending their 25 year civil war with the Tamil Tigers. Lack of access by NGOs and media sparked fears that there was truth to the rumours that genocide was being commited against the Tamil population on top of what was necessary to end the civil war. The UNHRC (UN Human Rights Council) stepped in to deal with these issues by having Sri Lanka write the resolution to state what a great job they were doing in bringing life back to normal.

Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir - Sudan - Genocide in Darfur has been a minor distraction for the UNHRC. Since being indited he has found support among the Arab world including freedom to travel without being arrested. Sudan has secured the nomination to take a seat on the UNHRC.

Bill Clinton - United States - He was overlooked for his involvement in the Oslo accords, where all of the other major players won the award. He has been involved in a ton of charity work since leaving office. He took a trip behind enemy lines to secure the release of two reporters being held in North Korea.

Obama has brought hope to many Americans. This hope and the fact that he is not George W. Bush help land him this lucrative award. Instead of being an award for achievement it is an attempt to put more weight behind his lofty goals. Just as his empty words have not been heeded with the lucrative prize they will not be heeded with it. The Nobel committee should have been patient and waited to award it when Obama has proven to be deserving. In the meantime there are plenty of other candidates who were worthy in 2009.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Poll puts Conservatives in majority territory. Is it time for a coalition?

The latest poll by Strategic Counsel put the Conservatives in majority territory.
  • Conservatives: 41 per cent (+6)
  • Liberals, 28 per cent (-2)
  • NDP: 14 per cent (none)
  • Green Party: 9 per cent (none)
  • Bloc Quebecois: 9 per cent (-3)
Someone in on Canadian politics community suggested that the Liberals and NDP should run in the next election with the intent of forming a coalition. Their logic was a Liberal/NDP government would be better than what there is now and 41% Conservatives is one point less than 42% support for Liberals + NDP. Below is my response.

Without getting into the merits of a coalition government the reality of FPTP make this a poor decision for the Liberal and NDP.

First of all it would require an efficient ABC campaign where every vote in every riding is dedicated to a candidate that would beat the Conservatives.

It would require Iggy to campaign on the fact he can't beat Harper. This is a sign of weak leadership that would be unappetizing to voters.

A major problem in countries with pure PR and guaranteed coalitions government, is that voters never know what they are voting for. The issues that draw a person to a party may be the ones that get bartered away in the quest for power. While this is the current state of the Liberal platform, the differences between the parties should become cleared during an election. Voting for the ABC candidate takes away the ability for a voter to express their preference for differences Liberal or NDP policy.

The right side of the political spectrum were unable to defeat the Liberals due to vote splitting. Their merger helped put them on equal footing with the Liberals. A formal Liberal/NDP merger or the collapse of the BQ are the only realistic way to win an election on the basis of "We don't like the Conservatives" How important are the differences between the two parties? That is a strategic decision for the parties to make.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Gilad Shalit Pre-Trade

From time to time, in minor league sports a player will be trade for a bag of balls, hockey pucks or other sporting equipment. Often these trades have more to do with contract technicalities than skill. From time to time the player can even go on to have a successful professional career. Israel has been staring down the prospect of an unattractive trade. Gilad Shalit was kidnapped 1199 days ago.

On Friday Israel traded a video of Shalit in exchange for 20 female prisoners. Assuming this was a pre-trade to bring about Shalit's freedom the price was relatively minor. In a world where perception is more important than facts, the drawbacks of this deal could have far reaching damaging results.

The positive results for Israel are clear. Providing the general public proof that Shalit is alive helps avert fear of a repeat of the Goldwasser and Regev trade. Israel did not know in advance if the soldiers they traded for were not alive. It adds to the burden of Hamas to protect Shalit. A number of times Hamas has taunted Israel claiming they didn't know if he was alive or dead. He is now beyond a shadow of a doubt their responsibility. The video can easily be spread to help put pressure on the world to help pressure Hamas to release him. It can also bring comfort to the Shalit family. He has been denied communication with his family and visitation by the International Red Cross as required by International law by the Geneva convention.

In practical terms Israel did not sacrifice a lot for the video. Most of the prisoners had already served 2/3 of their sentences and were due to be released soon. In Canada they would have been eligible for parole. Others had not been convicted and were still awaiting trial.

Unfortunately, Hamas gains are Israel's loss. The details of the prisoners are unimportant. All that will be remembered is 2o prisoners is worth a video tape. How much more will Israel have to sacrifice in order to get Shalit home. Any deal provides incentives for more kidnappings. PA elections are supposed to be coming next year. The West Bank under Fatah has prospered. Israel has been lifting economic restrictions and road blocks as the threat of terrorist attack have decreased. Hamas has brought nothing but suffering by engaging in attacks against civilians in Southern Israel. A tangible reward for their terrorist efforts could help their quest to stay in power.

The leaders of Israel have some very important decisions to make. I am no where need qualified to even begin to suggest what the correct decisions are. Gilad Shalit needs to come home and the saftey of all Israeli citizens needs to be protected. The Government has demonstrated that they are working hard towards these goals. It is possible that a final resolution may be close at hand. We can only hope and pray they will make the right decision.