German Jews file war crimes charges against Israeli leaders

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin (Hannibal Hanschke - ZUMAPRESS)

Ali Abunimah

The Electronic Intifada  /  September 12, 2022

A Jewish group in Germany has filed criminal charges against Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and defense minister Benny Gantz over the bombardment they ordered in Gaza this summer.

The Israeli surprise attack from 5-8 August left some 50 Palestinians dead, including 17 children. At least 360 people were injured.

“This was a supposed preemptive strike that was carried out without a concrete threat,” Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East said on Sunday.

“In public, this excessive attack was largely portrayed as self-defense against Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who in fact only fired rockets in response to the Israeli bombardment,” the group added. “But even in the opposite case, there would be no justification for such a scale of civilian suffering and destruction.”

“Israel, thanks to international – including German – complicity, has the most modern weapons technology at its disposal and is of course capable of carrying out precise attacks,” Jewish Voice stated.

“When so many civilian casualties are accepted in order to eliminate a few combatants, the end result is deliberate massacres.”

Favored ‘moderate’

By filing charges against Lapid and Gantz at Germany’s Federal Court of Justice, the group is seeking “consequences for the two men who are responsible for this suffering above all others.”

The criminal complaint, a copy of which has been seen by The Electronic Intifada, accuses the two men of crimes against humanity and war crimes for their role in the attack on Gaza.

The charges were timed to coincide with a two-day visit to Germany by Lapid to promote the weapons trade between Berlin and Tel Aviv.

The visit also gave German Chancellor Olaf Scholz an opportunity to effectively endorse Lapid in Israel’s upcoming elections.

Lapid, whose brutal anti-Palestinian policies are indistinguishable from those of opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is nonetheless favored by European leaders and often falsely presented in Western media as “centrist” and “moderate.”

Fugitives from justice

As for Gantz, this is not the first attempt to bring him to justice in a European or international court.

The Israeli defense minister is a likely target of an ongoing International Criminal Court investigation, although that process appears to have slowed to a snail’s pace – if it is advancing at all – on the watch of the new chief prosecutor, Karim Khan.

Khan appears more intent on appeasing the ICC’s Western paymasters, as they attempt to turn the tribunal into a political weapon in their geopolitical war against Russia, rather than a forum for victims who have no other recourse to seek impartial justice.

Since 2018, Ismail Ziada, a Palestinian-Dutch citizen, has been suing Gantz in the Netherlands over a 2014 bombing in Gaza that killed Ziada’s mother, three brothers, a sister-in-law and a 12-year-old nephew, as well as a seventh person visiting the family.

Judges have so far blocked Ziada’s search for justice, on the basis that foreign officials cannot be sued civilly in Dutch courts. That case is under appeal.

Gantz, who was army chief at the time of the 2014 assault, later bragged in an election campaign that he had bombed Gaza back to the “stone ages.”

But even European countries that recognize universal jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity have bent over backwards to shield accused Israeli war criminals.

In 2002, Belgian courts halted an effort to bring Ariel Sharon to justice over the Sabra and Shatila massacres of Palestinian refugees, which he oversaw as defense minister during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon 40 years ago this week.

The following year, just months after the illegal US-led invasion of Iraq, Belgium repealed its universal jurisdiction law under intense American pressure, shielding American, British, Israeli and other Western leaders from efforts to hold them accountable for their crimes.

Other Israeli leaders implicated in war crimes, including General Doron Almog and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, have repeatedly escaped prosecutors with the apparent complicity of European governments.

While regularly evading arrest, Livni was even awarded a “peace prize” in Germany in 2020.

Unfortunately, the prospects that justice will be served in the country whose government murdered millions of Jewish people during World War II, are slim.

Prosecutors in Germany – where former members of Hitler’s Nazi party dominated the justice ministry well into the 1970s – have made it clear that they are fine with Israel killing Palestinians and even German citizens.

In spite of a German law requiring them to do so, federal prosecutors have refused to open an investigation into Israel’s July 2014 killing of Ibrahim Kilani, a German citizen, along with his wife and German-born children.

Germany’s warped and deeply hypocritical political culture views unconditional support for Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people and theft of their land as a form of “atonement” for the Holocaust, as if Israel – which did not exist at the time – and not European Jews, were Hitler’s victims.

For Nazis past and present, lavishing praise and support on Israel is a sort of “get-of-jail-free” card that can be used as a shield against any accusations of anti-Jewish bigotry.

Palestinians are the metaphorical and real sacrificial scapegoats.

State broadcaster Deutsche Welle, for instance, has been conducting a purge of Palestinian and other Arab journalists, although German courts recently reversed two of those firings.

The journalists were forced out of their jobs based on false allegations of anti-Semitism because of criticisms they had made of Israel.

Nonetheless, in keeping with the ideological rigor enforced in Germany, Deutsche Welle this month adopted a new code of conduct making it compulsory for all employees to support Israel’s “right to exist.”

But Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East is determined to challenge this perverse status quo.

“As a Jewish organization, we stand for universal human rights,” the group said. “Like many Jewish organizations worldwide, we insist that Israel neither represents Jews nor speaks on our behalf. Israel must be held accountable for war crimes like any other state.”

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine (Haymarket Books)