By Aisha Mouneimne
(source: VOCfm Online)
An application recently launched by the amongst others the Media Review Network (MRN) calling on the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to investigate South African Jews who served in the Israeli Defence Force (IFD) during Israel’s 22 day bombardment on the Gaza Strip at the end of last year has unsettled some Jewish Facebookers, particularly after the story went global via the Al Jazeera news channel. However, many of them still remain staunch in their perceived duty to serve in the IDF.
"The Gaza investigation by South African lawyers is pathetic, and I don’t find it a shock that they are all Muslim lawyers. What gives them the right to question Israel’s defence to a bombardment of rockets on their civilians? In my opinion it is every Jewish man’s duty to serve in the IDF no matter where they were born. Never in my life have I been more ashamed to be South African. Much respect to all the IDF troops who fought in Gaza," said one 21 year old Johannesburg based IDF Paratrooper.
When asked by one of his concerned South African friends currently serving in Israel whether a list of suspected South African IDF soldiers existed and whether he should be worried about coming back home, another on-liner Matthew O'Reilly said, "I certainly think keeping it hushed up where you were wouldn't hurt. I know a few people here who served and they don't brag about it for this reason."
Meanwhile, a team of lawyers together with other Palestinian lobbyists continue to gather information for the Gaza Docket. This initiative seeks to both prosecute South African IDF soldiers who served in Operation Cast Lead in particular or any other offensive by Israel, as well as to charge Israel for the crime of apartheid.
"What makes the Gaza Docket different from any other report compiled on the human rights violations committed by Israel, is that the Gaza Docket includes locals being investigated for serving in a foreign army and also it also accuses Israel of being an apartheid state," lawyer Feroze Boda said. In explaining the reason behind the Gaza Docket's allegations that Israel should be investigated for the crime of apartheid, Boda said it was important to first understand what the crime of apartheid meant.
"It means the inhumane acts of conduct of a character committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime."
He added that in order to sustain a prosecution for the crime of apartheid, there are essentially three requirements."The commission of inhumane acts of conduct, demonstration that the commission of the acts or conduct perpetuated or occurred in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and that such acts were committed with the intention of maintaining that regime."
According to Boda, the application had another two categories, the first being for all Israeli Defence Force (IDF) members who took place in Operation Cast Lead both locally and abroad and the second was for South Africans in general who are currently enlisted in the IDF, whether they took part in Operation Cast Lead or not.
"If it is established that they did not serve in Operation Cast Lead they are still bridging the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act, which states that no person may serve in a foreign army without first obtaining their own country's permission."
At the time that the application launched, Colonel David Benjamin, a member of the IDF's Military Assistance Core was in the country and so a specific application was made for his immediate arrest. "Benjamin falls into both categories as he is a South African citizen who received his tertiary education at University of Cape Town and also served in the Military Assistants Core."
Boda said while the team of lawyers did not succeed in having Benjamin arrested during his visit to South Africa, a meeting held with the Director of Public Prosecutions resulted in the decision being made to launch the investigation. "Since then Lawyers have met with police officials who have appointed a team of investigators to conduct the investigation into the suspects."
The evidence collected during the ongoing investigation includes eyewitness testimonies by medical officials who tended to the wounded in Gaza who gave chilling accounts of the effects of some of inhumane weapons used during the offensive. "I was told of how a woman had burnt to death by the White Phosphorus to the point where only her skull was left exposed…"Boda said various concerned citizens have also come forward over the past few months giving direct evidence of individuals who they are aware of are serving in the IDF. "Social networking tools such as Facebook also played a role in gathering evidence," he said. Evidence from the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and the Arab League Report as well as Amnesty International has also been added to the Gaza Docket and send to the International Criminal Court.
"During Ramadan, the team also took the Gaza Docket to the Chief of Prosecution at the ICC, so now they are sitting with the docket and the word is out in the international community." Boda said while cases of this nature are generally lengthy, he was confident that justice would ultimately prevail.
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