Tomorrow, Wednesday June 30, at 9am Judges Naor, Meltzer and Dantziger of the Supreme Court in Jerusalem will hear the appeal of the Gush Shalom movement to dismantle the "Tirkel Committee" and replace it with a Judicial Commission of Inquiry, independent of the government and fully empowered to investigate the circumstances of the Israeli Navy takeover of the Gaza Flotilla. The appeal is signed on behalf of Gush Shalom by former Knesset Member Uri Avnery, and the movement's spokesperson Adam Keller. It is represented by lawyers Gaby Laski, Lymor Goldstein and Neri Ramati.
The main argument in the State's answer, presented to the Supreme Court, is that the government has an unlimited power to decide whether or not to investigate a certain event at all, in whose hands to place the investigation and what powers to give the investigators, and that in the past the Supreme Court rejected appeals seeking to impose on the government the creation of a Judicial Commission of Inquiry.
The State also described to the court at great length the negotiations conducted between the government of Israel and the government of the U.S. Initially, the U.S. tended to support an International Commission of Inquiry under auspices of the U.N., but eventually came to endorse the creation of the "Tirkel Committee" in Israel. To underscore this point the State went as far as presenting to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem as an exhibit, the statement issued by the White House spokesperson on this subject, as well as the full text of a TV interview by the American Ambassador to the U.N.
"The State's answer exposes the main purpose for which the Tirkel Commission was formed: not the wish to investigate what really happened on the boat and how nine of its passengers came to be killed, but the intention to appease at the cheapest price the world governments and public opinion, and especially the government of the U.S." says Uri Avnery. "The U.S. government has its own considerations, having to do with worldwide strategic interests and possibly also with internal American considerations of elections due in November.
"We, as Israeli citizens who act to improve the society and the country in which we live, have a supreme interest of our own: to have a thorough and independent investigation into the circumstances of a grave political and military fiasco, which caused preventable bloodshed, which severely hurt Israel's position in the world and whose long-term implications might be felt in many years to come. Only a thorough and truly independent investigation has the chance to prevent similar fiascos from recurring - if not worse ones. With all due respect to the U.S. government, it has no authority to forgo on behalf of the citizens of Israel an investigation which is vital to ensure proper public norms in the State of Israel.
"The respectable people who have been gathered into the Tirkel Committee cannot carry out such a thorough investigation even if they want to, because the government has not given them the needed authority. I in no way share the absolute trust which the State representatives give to the internal investigation by the armed forces of their own deeds, whose results will be given ready-made to the Tirkel Committee without its members having any way of independently checking them. The rule which the State asks the Supreme Court Judges to endorse, that the investigation of soldiers about their acts in the field should be carried out solely through the debriefing carried out by the army itself and that statements made during debriefing should not at all be passed to anyone outside the armed forces, is a dangerous erosion of the principle of civilian control over the armed forces, a cornerstone of any democratic regime.
"In Article 16 of its answer to the court the State claims that only passengers of the Mavi Marmara were hurt by the takeover of the boats by Israeli troops. This assertion is in complete contradiction to many testimonies, published all over the world, about brutal behavior of the troops also to passengers of the other boats, though luckily not coming to the point of fatalities. Moreover, the very fact of the State already presenting factual assertions on a subject in which the Committee is supposed to investigate and present conclusions testifies to the State not taking seriously the investigation which is supposed to be conducted.
"The mandate given to the Tirkel Committee by the government included among other things the task of investigating and reporting on the identity and the activities of the Flotilla organizers and participants. In practice, the Committee is active for more than a week already, and there is no mention of any intention to contact the Flotilla organizers and participants and hear their testimonies. The Committee has not offered to Flotilla participants the option to come and testify in Israel while having immunity from arrest by the police - and indeed the Committee has no authority to offer such immunity. Nor did the Committee announce any intention to go abroad and there hear the testimonies of the Flotilla organizers and participants - and also here the Committee was not at all given the authority to go abroad and collect testimonies outside the boundaries of Israel. All this gives rise to the strong suspicion that the Committee intends to discuss the identity and activity of the Flotilla activists, reach conclusions and publish a report about them - without hearing a single testimony from the people concerned themselves. Such a procedure denies in advance any credibility to a report which the Committee would eventually publish on this subject.
Contact: Uri Avnery +972-50-5396440 Adv. Gaby Lasky +972-54-4418988 Adam Keller +972-54-2340749