Israeli war criminal visits European Parliament

Yoav Mordechai (Wikimedia Commons)

A top-level Israeli military officer who took part in attacks against Gaza will visit the European Parliament tomorrow.

Yoav Mordechai served as a battalion commander with the Golani Brigade, an elite division in the Israeli army, during Operation Cast Lead, the 23-day bombardment of Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.

More than 1,400 Palestinians, 83 percent of whom were civilians, were killed during that offensive. Because Cast Lead was an unprovoked act of aggression against a people who had already been subject to a medieval siege, all those responsible for its planning and execution can be considered criminals.

Yet there are also reasons to suspect that Mordechai authorized particularly heinous crimes.

Reports in the Israeli press indicate that soldiers under his command took part in an assault on the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City on 15 January 2009.

Attack on hospital

Al-Quds Hospital was among the buildings hit by the Israeli military in that neighborhood, resulting in the death of an eight-year-old girl. A report by a United Nations fact-finding mission concluded that no warning of the attack was issued beforehand. Failure to issue a warning violated the Fourth Geneva Convention, according to that report.

Amnesty International has gathered evidence that white phosphorous, a weapon that causes deep burns, was fired on the hospital, part of which was set ablaze. The use of white phosphorous against medical facilities is illegal under international law.

The attack on Tel al-Hawa was led by the Givati Brigade, another infantry division in the Israeli military. Yet reports in the Israeli media suggest that it was assisted by the Golani Brigade.

Mordechai took charge of the Golani Brigade’s Thirteenth Battalion after it had invaded Gaza in 2009. He replaced Oren Cohen who had been accidentally wounded by his fellow Israeli troops.

Mockery

Following Operation Cast Lead, the European Parliament passed a resolution stating that Israel should be held accountable for its war crimes. Welcoming a participant in those crimes to the assembly’s headquarters makes a mockery of that stance.

Holding the title of major-general, Mordechai plays a key role in overseeing Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Since January 2014, he has headed the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). Part of the Israeli defense ministry, COGAT is responsible for the upkeep of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The construction of Israeli settlements is a war crime. According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying power is forbidden from transferring its civilian population into the territory that it occupies.

Previously head of the misleadingly titled “civil administration” — a military body enforcing the occupation — Mordechai was responsible for the checkpoints, which severely restrict Palestinians’ freedom of movement in their own homeland. In 2010, the mass circulation newspaper Israel Hayom reported that he proposed to the Israeli defense ministry that Palestinian land in the West Bank be confiscated in order to build a high-speed rail link between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Mordechai has been invited to an address a meeting called by the European Parliament’s delegation to Israel.

A note sent to some members of the parliament by the delegation’s chairperson, Italian politician Fulvio Martusciello, says that Mordechai’s visit presents an “excellent opportunity to carry an open dialogue, as well as [to] raise issues of mutual interest.”

That choice of words is puzzling. The European Union regards the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank as unlawful. How is it in the “interest” of the EU’s elected representatives — or more importantly, their voters — to enter into an “open dialogue” with someone who coordinates criminal activities?

As part of his long history in the Israeli military, Mordechai has also worked as its chief spokesperson. Like many other propagandists, he has not hesitated to tell lies.

In May 2011, Israel killed at least thirteen Palestinian refugees who had marched towards Israel’s boundaries with Syria and Lebanon. The refugees were commemorating the Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe), the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Without producing a shred of evidence, Mordechai claimed that the protests were an “Iranian provocation.”

By welcoming a suspected war criminal, the European Parliament is helping to perpetuate the impunity that Israel enjoys.

Update: Yoav Mordechai failed to show up for his meeting in the European Parliament this morning (Tuesday, 3 February).

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Comments

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Well, then, someone should arrest this man and prosecute him for his war crimes. He's not fit to be in the company of decent people and until the world actively shuns those responsible for the reprehensible slaughter of innocent civilians in Gaza their will be no relief from the brutality of this Israeli occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people on their own land. Jeer him and arrest him.

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Outrageous, disgusting that this guy is invited to the EU. It's on a par with Netanyahu visit to US congress. The EU should not be engaging in a discussion with a representative of a most heinous, cruel govt who occupies Palestine, breaks endless international laws and carries out human rights violations on a daily basis, with impunity.Their regime is racist, despicable and should have been punished years ago. I cannot express enough my repulsion at this proposal. It is time the EU recognise Palestine as a state and demand the borders be defined as in 1967. What are they afraid of! US peace talks are over, they will never work because US backs Israel. The EU should be supporting Palestine to end the blockade, end the siege, end the occupation and aid them in developing their air and sea ports. Palestine can be a self sufficient state with oil and gas reserves and healthy export of products, fruit, olives etc. Hamas was created because of Israeli killing and murdering of innocent civilians, if you take away the injustice that Israel inflicts then why would Hamas have cause to resist! They have no problem with Judaism it's the evil of their treatment that causes the problem.
Stop the settlement building, apply stringent sanctions and call for an end to the decades of war and death suffered by predominantly Palestinians and Israelis. Apartheid and cruelty in South Africa was ended so why not in Palestine. There is a surge of Palestinian support after last summer's slaughter and the EU has a responsibility to support human rights, protect innocent civilians. It is unbelievable that this situation has been allowed to continue for so long. The suffering in Palestine is beyond what any human being should ever have to endure. Building materials are not being allowed in to Gaza so rebuilding has stopped. Israel control water, electricity, everything!!! Illegal occupiers. Time to stand up and stop the terrorism of Israel

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I believe that a petition should have been organised in time to urge the EU to rescind the invitation. Please provide a direct email contact for the EU official responsible for issuing such an invitation.

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It is odd. This article appears right next to an article objecting to Steve Salaita having his venue changed. I think you may want to consider a more consistent approach to free speech issues. Either you believe people should speak or you believe that only those morally qualified by you should be allowed to speak. If the later you are consistent with this article and consistent with Salaita's critics who see offering him a venue insulting to the Frank family.

Ali Abunimah's picture

Where is the inconsistency? The objections are not to Mr. Mordechai’s opinions but to his acts as a member of an occupation army that has murdered thousands of people. Last time I checked, Mr. Salaita was not involved in any mass killings, or any killings whatsoever.

David Cronin

David Cronin's picture

David Cronin is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada. His latest book is Corporate Europe: How Big Business Sets Policies on Food, Climate and War (Pluto, 2013). His earlier book is Europe’s Alliance With Israel: Aiding the Occupation (Pluto, 2011).