Israel’s incoming defense minister evaded war crimes arrest, called Palestinians “cancer”

Moshe Yaalon poses for a photo with notorious racist blogger Pamela Geller.


This is Moshe Ya’alon, the Likud parliamentarian set to become minister of “defense” in Israel’s new hard-right coalition government due to be sworn in early next week.

In a 2002 interview with Israeli paper Haaretz, when he was Chief of Staff of the Israeli army, Ya’alon said the “Palestinian threat” was “like cancer” and an “existential threat.” He explained that his solution was “applying chemotherapy.”

The “chemotherapy,” was the massive destruction his forces visited on Palestinian society during the second intifada. Israeli forces infamously fired over a million bullets at Palestinian demonstrators within the first few days of that popular uprising.

Under pressure, Ya’alon later back-pedaled, saying his statements were “inopportune,” but that he had been “taken out of context” reported financial publication Globes in Hebrew.

War crimes

In 2005, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit against Ya’alon, charging him with war crimes for his role in the Israeli army’s 1996 attack on a United Nations compound in Qana, Lebanon that killed more than 100 Lebanese civilians who had taken shelter there, injuring many more.

At the time of the lawsuit, Ya’alon was a fellow at the AIPAC-founded Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington, DC.

In 2006 a federal judge dismissed the case on the grounds that Ya’alon enjoyed immunity under the Foreign Sovereigns Immunities Act. But Ya’alon’s legal problems did not end there.

He was invited to a 2009 fund-raising event for Israeli soldiers in London, but had to cancel the trip for fear of arrest on suspicion of war crimes.

The charges to have been brought against him related to the infamous 2002 Israeli bombing of an apartment block in Gaza, which killed 14 civilians, including children. Hamas military leader Salah Shehadeh was also killed in the attack.

This is the same incident for which the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights brought a case against Ya’alon and Israeli air force commander Dan Halutz in the Spanish National Court in 2008. An appeal against a lower court decision to close the case was pending before Spain’s constitutional court as of 2011.

Ya’alon had been invited to London in 2009 by the Jewish National Fund. According to The Guardian, one of the lawyers who advised Ya’alon not to travel was Daniel Taub, now the Israeli ambassador in London.

Notorious Islamophobe

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ya’alon is vaunted by Pamela Geller, a notorious Muslim-hater and leading demagogue among racist bloggers.

Geller once described him as “Israel’s best shot for the right leadership” and boasts of having interviewed him alongside other Zionist bloggers.

In that interview, Ya’alon seemed to concur with some of Geller’s disturbing ideology, agreeing with Geller that:

Yes, this is the main challenge… to create what I call an awakening in the West. The West is sleeping. In many terms it reminds of the situation before World War II. It’s very clear, the threat [of Islamic jihad] is very clear.

Geller was one of the key inspirations for the Muslim-hating, pro-Israel, convicted terrorist Anders Breivik, so it is grimly fitting she would take inspiration from killers like Ya’alon.

With thanks to Ali Abunimah for his contribution, and Dena Shunra for translation from Hebrew, research and analysis.


Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and co-host of our podcast.

He is author of the bestselling book Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn (OR Books, 2023).