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Israel has a very good reason for opposing the setting up of an International Criminal Court. According to the statute of the court, the settlement on land occupied by force is considered a war crime. Israeli Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu and those involved in settlement programmes in the West Bank and Gaza would, thus, be liable to prosecution.

The use of torture on a wide scale would be another source of anxiety for the Israelis. Israel's is the only known regime in the world that legalises the use of torture during interrogation of suspects, a process that has led to the death of scores of Palestinians during questioning.

Furthermore, Israel may be held responsible for the mass banishment of thousands of Palestinians in 1948 and 1967. Its politicians, present and past, may also be prosecuted for legalising the demolition of homes owned by Palestinians, not only those suspected of 'terrorism' or of aiding 'terrorists', but also of their relatives.

Collective punishment, and selective deportation, is another charge that can be made against Israelis who, in addition, frequently resort to closing the occupied territories and to imposing economic sanctions on the Palestinians.

The 1996 massacre of Lebanese refugees at Qana, in South Lebanon, is one other example of the atrocities Israelis have perpetrated in violation of human rights and international law for which cases may be brought against them. This is, of course, not to mention the scores of massacres perpetrated against the Palestinians, the Lebanese and the Egyptians since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. The recently disclosed horrific details of the execution of Egyptian prisoners of war in the Sinai desert in the aftermath of the 1967 war is another war crime several Israeli officials may charged of. In other words, Israel may deservedly be nominated war criminal number one since the end of the Second World War.

A more recently uncovered Israeli war crime has been the transforming of the 1967-occupied territories into waste dumps for the Israeli industry. Some of these waste dumps have created extremely hazardous conditions for the Arab populations living close t o them. One such example is that of the village of Azzun in the West Bank which lies just about 20 km away from a major Israeli industrial complex. Medical reports point to the discovery of no less than 20 toxic materials in the waste dump near Azzun. The rate of cancer cases among villagers has more than doubled during the past 20 years.

Another war crime committed by the Israelis is the creation of the collaborators' phenomenon among the Palestinians. Allegedly prompted by security needs, Israel devised - soon following its occupation of the rest of Palestine in 1967 - a sinister strategy for the recruitment of collaborators. Enticed with financial rewards and other material gains, or blackmailed after having been embroiled in immoral acts (such as sex, drugs or theft), recruited collaborators provide Israeli intelligence agents with information - not always true - about suspects. Son has been turned against father, brother against brother, daughter against mother, cousin against cousin and neighbour against neighbour, all the detriment of Palestinian social edifice and social cohesion. Though always looked down upon by the rest of the population, Israeli military rulers have granted collaborators extraordinary powers to make them indispensable. A permit of any kind, or a transaction of any level, would require the intercession of a col laborator. Only the eruption of the Intifada in 1987 stripped the collaborators of their acquired social status and turned them into a despised class of parasites.

One may, in the same light, consider the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PNA) another Israeli war crime. The principal purpose of the creation of the PNA has been to provide Israel with the security it requires and with the information it greatly needs in order to keep track of its opponents within the Palestinian society.

An extension of the collaborators phenomenon, the PNA would itself be liable for prosecution. In order to fulfil its commitments as stated in the Oslo peace agreement, the PNA has reopened all the prisons vacated by the Israelis upon their re-deployment. At least thirteen Palestinians have died under interrogation in PNA-run detention centres since 1994 and one or the other of no less than eight PNA security bodies has handed over scores of Palestinian activists to the Israelis.

If one were to add to the above the dire economic situation created by the peace settlement between Israel and the PNA, Palestinian politicians and security officers may be as accountable as the Israelis for war crimes against the Palestinian people.

Dr. Azzam Tamimi

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