The Israeli prime minister is angry. He has called for an urgent press conference to complain about the latest action by the multinational observer force in Palestine and Israel. The Israeli complaint is focused on the fact that these forces did not allow Prime Minster Ariel Sharon to leave Jerusalem for Tel Aviv even though Sharon had arrested his chief of staff Shaul Mofaz. Mofaz was wanted by the International Court of Justice for war crimes that took place in 2000 and 2001.
Francesco Partaloni, the Italian head of the observer force, says that he doesn’t trust Sharon’s statement that he has in fact arrested Mofaz. “We are used to this charade,” he said. “The Israelis are known for their revolving door policy. They arrest them, try them and the next week they are pardoned by the president. We want Mofaz handed over to the international court which has been set up in Nicosia, Cyprus.”
In addition to Mofaz, Israeli airforce commander Moshe Cohen and a number of pilots of US-made Apache helicopters are also wanted by the international court. They are accused of war crimes stemming from the extra judicial killing of nearly 100 Palestinians, among them Mustafa Abu Ali, the secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
A number of tank commanders, including the chief of the tank units in Rafah, Shimon Moshe, are also wanted for war crimes for their involvement in collective punishment against the Palestinian people. Their crimes range from destroying houses to preventing injured people to travel and uprooting trees in Palestinian towns during Al Aqsa Intifada.
A French official, member of the observer force, John Paul Renee, has said that instead of travelling around the world, Sharon must stay put and deal with the many problems that have arisen from his government’s policies. The international community has been accusing the Israeli leader of trying to avoid dealing with the requests for arrest and extradition, by the international war crime court, of Israeli soldiers and settlers accused of war crimes.
Before the press conference, a tired and angry Sharon arrived at the Israeli government press office in Beit Agron and was met with Israeli demonstrators from both the right and the left. The left-wing Israelis are demanding Sharon’s immediate resignation, while the right-wing demonstrators are calling on Sharon to shell the international observer force at the UN building, in Jabal Al Mukaber, Jerusalem.
Israel’s Labour Party had been meeting all night, deciding on yet another candidate to lead it after the resignation of Haim Ramon in protest over internal bickering in the now fractured Labour Party.
The morning newspapers had came up with a small front page news story about the capture, by international observers, of a Panamanian ship in international waters, suspected to be an illegal American shipment of spare parts for F-15 and F-16 fighters. The Americans and the Israelis are said to have conspired to circumvent the UN arms blockade by hiding the spare parts alongside a shipment of computer parts headed for the port of Haifa. Israeli and American officials have denied involvement in any blockade breaking activities.
Sharon’s press conference was not without controversy. He dismissed reports about the insincerity of the arrest of his chief of staff. “Look, he is held in the Maskoubia prison, and you are welcome to see him if you don’t believe me.” Sharon was angry when a journalist from Al Quds newspaper showed him a picture taken of Mofaz enjoying the sun on the beach in Netanya. “This isn’t Mofaz, maybe it is someone that looks like him,” Sharon said.
Before ending his press conference, the Israeli leader appealed to the European Union President Ule van Curt to intervene in what he considered an issue of religious freedoms. The reference was to the dispute over the rights of Jews from the areas outside of Jerusalem to reach the Western Wall in time for evening prayers. “The international checkpoints are delaying traffic to such a degree that Jewish worshippers are spending over an hour while waiting in line,” he complained. The Israeli leader refused to accept any comparison with what his soldiers were doing to prevent Palestinians from reaching their places of worship during the days of occupation of the Palestinian areas.
“Our future was in jeopardy then and we were under attack; now the situation is much different and there is no need for these security checks that infringe on peoples’ lives.”
I am sure that, by now, you have realised this is a fictitious article.
Daoud Kuttab is a journalist who covered both intifadas and Director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University in Jerusalem.