Home > Diplomacy, Direct Action, IDF, Impunity > European pro-Israel group moves in support of universal jurisdiction; files Belgian suit based on Goldstone report [!]

European pro-Israel group moves in support of universal jurisdiction; files Belgian suit based on Goldstone report [!]

As Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders act to remove Israel from the international criminal justice system, some Israelis and their supporters in Europe are fighting back. From this morning’s (December 24 2009) Yediot (more after the cut)

Yesterday the pro-Israel lobby, the European Initiative, submitted in Belgium a lawsuit of a kind never filed before. The prospective defendants are the entire Hamas leadership; the plaintiffs are people with Belgian citizenship who live in the Gaza periphery communities and who have been targeted by dozens of rockets in the past number of years.

In the aftermath of the wave of lawsuits that were filed by pro-Palestinian organizations in the past number of years in Europe to have top Israeli officials arrested, yesterday a legal counter-assault was staged. Following six months of preparatory work, yesterday the pro-Israel lobby lodged an itemized legal complaint to the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office with the demand that the top Hamas leadership in Gaza and Damascus be prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The suit, incidentally, is based on the Goldstone Report, as well as on reports by B’Tselem and Amnesty International.

Not only does the suit explicitly accept the principle of international jurisdiction over criminal offenses committed in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is based on reporting by NGOs whose integrity is frequently attacked by the Government of Israel. The most surprising component of this development is, however, the endorsement of the validity of the Goldstone Report.

This blog will follow the case closely and publicly defend the group against any attacks from Gerald Steinberg and NGO Monitor because of its engagement in NGO “lawfare.”

The foreign passports legion

Yehuda Shohat, Yediot, December 24 2009

Thousands of Israelis have applied for citizenship in European Union member countries in the time that has passed since the EU was formed. Some people criticized them, saying that they had sought foreign citizenship in order to flee Israel, and accused them of wanting for patriotism. Now each and every one of those foreign passport holders has an opportunity to prove their detractors wrong, and to turn their passport into a diplomatic weapon. Yesterday the pro-Israel lobby, the European Initiative, submitted in Belgium a lawsuit of a kind never filed before. The prospective defendants are the entire Hamas leadership; the plaintiffs are people with Belgian citizenship who live in the Gaza periphery communities and who have been targeted by dozens of rockets in the past number of years.

In the aftermath of the wave of lawsuits that were filed by pro-Palestinian organizations in the past number of years in Europe to have top Israeli officials arrested, yesterday a legal counter-assault was staged. Following six months of preparatory work, yesterday the pro-Israel lobby lodged an itemized legal complaint to the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office with the demand that the top Hamas leadership in Gaza and Damascus be prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The suit, incidentally, is based on the Goldstone Report, as well as on reports by B’Tselem and Amnesty International.

The list of men cited by the suit includes all of Hamas’s most prominent leaders: Khaled Mashal, Ismail Haniya, Mahmoud a-Zahar, Ahmed Jaabari, Mohammed Deif, Nizar Awadallah, Marwan Issa, Moussa Abu Marzuk, Mohammed Nasser and Ayman Taha. Initially, the members of the European Initiative had intended to have the suit extend to an additional 72 Hamas members, MPs from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, but in the wake of a reexamination of the material a decision was made to abandon that objective lest the MPs be exempted due to their parliamentary immunity.

“It became evident in a comprehensive examination that we conducted that a Member of Parliament who does not play an active role in the leadership is likely to enjoy immunity in Belgium,” explained Attorney Roel Covaliers, who filed the suit along with his father, Hugo, and the Israeli lawyers, Mordechai and Nehama Tzibin. “Since the issue at hand is a legal action and not a political manifesto, we intend to be very specific and to remain true to the evidence and to the elements that we are going to be able to stand behind in court.”

[…]

As opposed to the United States, where the powerful AIPAC operates, there is no similar organization in Europe that is capable of lobbying for legislative steps and of doing public relations work on Israel’s behalf. While BICOM works very efficiently in the UK, there aren’t any pro-Israel groups or lobbies in the other European countries that have any public influence. The European Initiative was founded in order to meet that need. Among its sponsors are Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, the former chief of staff, Shlomo Ben-Ami, the former foreign minister, as well as European lawyers and academics. The new lobby intends to enter the vacuum and to become the central organization that operates on Israel’s behalf in Europe.

“The legal assault stems from need and from the sense that the tide is against top Israeli officials,” said Attorney Nehama Tzibin. “That is something that we want to even out by means of lawsuits, so that European public opinion realizes who the real terrorists are here. It is inconceivable that Israelis should be wanted for prosecution in Europe while no one does anything to deal with Hamas.”

Attorney Mordechai Tzibin, an international law expert, said that the European Initiative is run entirely on donations. The organization currently has lawyers working in five countries in addition to Belgium, and its goal is to raise funds that will allow it to maintain offices in most EU countries so as to facilitate the examination of possibly filing lawsuits against Hamas leaders. “In the past number of years the pro-Palestinian organizations have been waging a legal Intifada against senior Israeli officials in Europe. the time has arrived to balance that picture and to move the fighting into enemy territory. Hundreds of hours of work by the legal team in Antwerp and Tel Aviv were invested in this case,” said Tzibin.

Tzibin adds that a great deal of work was invested in finding and persuading Israelis with Belgian citizenship who live in southern Israel to sign on as plaintiffs. “All of the activists in Israel and overseas  went over the lists and located the complainants who could be defined as victims of terrorism, according to Belgian law. The complainants needn’t be victims of terrorism in every country, and the more people with European passports who register with us at the lobby offices, the greater the possibilities will be for prosecuting terrorists in additional countries.”

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  1. December 28, 2009 at 09:11

    23 Jewish People from Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Israel, had launched an Appeal to the Israeli Government. You will find it on the following Website:

    http://www.humanrights-in-israel.ch

    Till the end of February 2012, which means during three years, we are looking for other Jews, who agree with our Appeal.
    Till now we’ve 1’301 signatures (see the list on our Website).

    If you agree as an individual, you can sign it and send the Website to other open minded Jews you know.

    Best Regards and good Wishes for 2010,

    Jochi Weil-Goldstein, Initiator, Zurich

    (Since many years I’m working as Responsible for Medical Projects in Palestine and between Israel and Palestine at medico international schweiz, formerly Centrale Sanitaire Suisse CSS Zürich, http://www.medicointernational.ch (in German language). Also I’m active in the Olive Oil Campaign, http://www.olivenoel-palaestina.ch (also in English language).

    Up to now more than 1’000 Jews from different countries have signed the Appeal on the Website
    http://www.humanrights-in-israel.ch. Among them is Yael Dayan (Chairperson of the City Council Tel Aviv Yaffo, Israel); Brian Klug (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford, UK); Peter Lilienthal (Film-Director, Germany); Ari Rath (Commentator of Politics and Current Affairs, former Editor of the Jerusalem Post, Israel); Alice Shalvi (Winner of the Israel Prize 2007, Israel) Jack Steinberger (Physicist, Nobel Prize-Winner, Switzerland); and Ralph Weill (Former Member of the Executive Federation of Jewish Communities in Switzerland SIG) and many others. We are pleased about the wide range of people from all walks of life coming from different places in the world. Every single signature is important! You can find the names in an alphabetic order on the Website. There is also a list of people put together with respect to their countries (see the attachment).
    In the face of the disastrous situation in the Middle East it is vital that we can collect more signatures in order for the appeal to be more significant. We therefore would be most grateful if you could draw the attention of your Jewish friends to the Website so that they may sign.

    With best Wishes,

    Shelley Berlowitz Philippe Lévy Jochi Weil

  1. December 28, 2009 at 11:54
  2. December 30, 2009 at 12:41
  3. January 5, 2010 at 09:25

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