Michael Ratner says a recent release by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange shows brutal depths of Israeli policy towards Gaza
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of The Ratner Report.
Now joining us is Michael Ratner. He’s the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and he’s a regular contributor to The Real News.
Thanks for joining us, Michael.
MICHAEL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: Good to be with you today, Jessica.
DESVARIEUX: So, Michael, what are you working on this week?
RATNER: You know, this week, of course, I think a lot of us are concerned by many issues, from the Middle East to Ferguson. And I’ve been focusing mostly on Gaza and the Israeli assault. And I wanted to bring to the viewers’ attention a doctrine and an Israeli practice that probably a lot of people are not familiar with. I’d like to call this segment Gaza, the Dahiya doctrine, WikiLeaks, and Julian Assange. And they’re all related.
Most of us probably have never heard of what Israeli generals call the Dahiya doctrine–that’s D-A-H-I-Y-A. I only know it because WikiLeaks exposed it in the cable, a United States State Department cable from 2008, that summarized an Israeli general’s statement on approved war plans, the plans that were used in Lebanon in 2006 in the Israeli war against Lebanon and are to be used in the future. Dahiya, which is the name of the doctrine, refers to a civilian neighborhood of Beirut that was leveled, utterly destroyed by Israel in the Second Lebanon War in 2006. In Israel’s war planning, the Dahiya doctrine refers to Israel’s intentional and massive killing of civilians and destruction of civilian villages, the intentional disproportionate use of force constituting collective punishment of a population. Dahiya plan leaves no doubt, none, that it involves the knowing and intentional commission in carrying out of war crimes. The killing of civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure, whether in Lebanon then or Gaza today, is no mistake. It’s on purpose, a purpose that is flagrantly illegal under the Geneva Conventions. Israeli soldiers, Israeli leaders, and Israeli generals could be tried for the crimes that the Germans were tried for in Nuremberg, for carrying out the intentional killing of civilians, destruction of civilian infrastructure.
When you look at the continued war and devastation in Gaza today, we’re seeing the manifestation of the Dahiya doctrine. It’s carried out to its barbaric extreme. Israel attacks Gaza from the air, the sea, and the ground with a force that is meant to obliterate civilians and destroy Gaza. It’s carrying out the Dahiya plan. The figures are astoundingly awful. These are from the Palestine Committee on Human Rights in Gaza. Two thousand eighty-six Palestinians killed as of August to 21, three-quarters (75 percent) civilians–that’s 1,602 out of those 2,000 killed were civilians, one out of every thousand people in Gaza. Almost 25 percent of them were children, almost 500, 494. People should be screaming about this. Ten thousand wounded, mostly civilians, one out of every 200 people in Gaza. And this just today from United Nations: 350,000 people displaced out of their homes, homeless in what was already an outdoor refugee camp. UN spokesperson Pernille Ironside said that it was going to take 18 years to rebuild the housing in Gaza. Think about that–18 years. And that’s if they ever get the materials to rebuild it, which the Israelis don’t allow in. It was dire before this recent onslaught for children. Half of Gaza’s population our children, half of the 1.8 million people. They’ve grown up with trauma of war, devastation, killing of their families and relatives.
The purpose, of course, of what Israel is doing is to try and end resistance to the occupation. You can see by the fact they’ve had to go to war every few years against the people of Gaza and other occupied territories that the resistance will not stop. What they’re doing makes the resistance even stronger. But perhaps the hopes of Israel are to make Gaza uninhabitable over the years to drive the Gazans out.
I want to read some of the key parts of the WikiLeaks-released cable about the Dahiya doctrine, because it really fits exactly with what Israel is doing in Gaza, an open and notorious admission by Israel of a plan to commit war crimes. I don’t want there to be any doubt about it. That was the plan, and that’s what is happening. It’s a cable from Israel, the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. And it’s not like the U.S. wasn’t put on notice. This is in 2008. Joint Chiefs of Staff got the cable, National Security Council, secretary of defense, and secretary of state. All our officials know about this Dahiya doctrine plan to commit war crimes. Here is the quote from an Israeli general discussing the Dahiya doctrine. His name is General Eizenkot. He labeled an Israeli response to resumed conflict the Dahiya doctrine in reference to the leveled Dahiya quarter in Beirut during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Eisenkot, the general, made very clear this is not a recommendation of what Israel should do, but an already approved plan to use disproportionate force. From the Israeli perspective, he says, these are not civilian villages; they are military bases. But of course that’s a complete falsification. They’re civilian villages, and the plan is completely and utterly illegal. It’s an admission of a clear war crime, disproportionate. That is the plan, and that is the plan carried out as we speak, as we speak now, by Israel in Gaza.
The question is: how can the world stand by, how can the U.S. and our Congress continue to fund a government that openly admits it will commit war crimes and is committing some and is committing them? By doing so, there’s no doubt the U.S. is aiding and abetting war crimes. The U.S. Congress, by continuing to fund that war and to fund Israel, is itself aiding and abetting war crimes. It’s not hidden. We can’t say we did not know.
Finally, what of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, who gave us this incredible and valuable information? If you want to understand why the U.S. is going after Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, it’s because of exposures of government criminality like this. Julian Assange remains in the Ecuador embassy in London two years since grant of asylum by Ecuador. Why? Why? Because the U.S. is still the bear in the room. The U.S. is still openly investigating Julian Assange and WikiLeaks under its Criminal Division and its National Security Division. They have said so in legal papers filed with courts.
The other day, Julian Assange in an interview at the embassy said he would be leaving soon. Some people called me and said, Michael, is he just walking out? The answer is no. The U.S. still says that Julian Assange is subject to arrest if he leaves the embassy. But there have been positive changes that make us hopeful that he can get to Ecuador soon in the exercise of his right to asylum.
First there was a change in the U.K. law on extradition. No longer would Julian Assange be ordered extradited to Sweden if he were to appear before an English court today. But the British refuse to apply that new law to Julian Assange. What they look to me is like utterly vindictive. Why aren’t they applying the new law to Julian Assange? No one else would be extradited under the circumstances Julian Assange was, allegations, not charges. But for some reason they remain adamant about extraditing Julian Assange to Sweden, which we believe, I believe is a one-way ticket to prosecution and a prison in the United States.
In Sweden, Julian Assange’s lawyers filed a lawsuit on the failure to question Julian Assange after four years. Fifty-nine legal organizations have filed complaints against the Swedish judicial system in the UN calling, really, that system almost medieval in its so-called justice system.
So we are hopeful. And if there is justice–and I think there is if we fight for it–Julian will be free and Israeli generals carrying out the Dahiya doctrine, those officials will be in the dock, not Julian Assange.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Michael Ratner, thank you so much for joining us.
RATNER: Thank you for having me on The Real News.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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