Michael Ratner: U.S. President Barack Obama to Seek Additional War Powers from Congress
ICC Says Gaza Still Occupied, Israel May Have Committed War Crimes, but Court Refuses to Hear
Attorney Michael Ratner:
While I was in Berlin, I saw that there was an ICC decision by the prosecutor.
People probably remember the attack on the Gaza flotilla, particularly the Mavi Marmara, one of 8 boats that were sent from Europe and other places to try and break the blockade that Israel had imposed on Gaza.
Israel has been blockading Gaza to one degree or another for a long time but it put up a very serious naval blockade in 2009 and no boats from the Mediterranean could approach within 20 miles of what Israel called its blockade.
The Gaza Flotilla was established in 2010 to try and break the blockade. It had 8 ships; one was named the Rachel Corrie.
They were at least 80 miles away from Gaza, hadn’t even got into the blockaded territory when the Israeli commandos, the IDF made a raid on those boats, particularly on the Mavi Marmara which was a Turkish boat. The fact that the boat was registered in Comoros gave the ICC jurisdiction over the raid.
People may recall the raid. Israeli commandos shimmied down on ropes from helicopters on to the Mavi Marmara and they killed 9 people. A tenth died later.
Ultimately, Comoros made a complaint to the ICC that Israel had attacked this flotilla even outside the 20 mile blockade zone. They committed war crimes. War crimes in that they were attacking civilian boats. War crimes in that they were killing civilians.
Here I am sitting in Berlin thinking about the 76th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the tearing down of that wall, Raji Sourani from Gaza not being able to get in, and this ICC decision comes down.
The ICC prosecutor says there’s a reasonable basis that war crimes were committed by the IDF in their attack on the Gaza Flotilla.
The next sentence said, “as part of that finding Gaza was an occupied territory of Israel.” That’s of great significance because when you’re an occupying force the laws of war apply. If you commit war crimes, if you kill civilians, intentionally targeting them or attack civilian objects, there should be consequences.
The third sentence is, “While we find that there was a reasonable basis that the IDF committed war crimes and that Israel continues to occupy Gaza despite its claim in 2005 that it left Gaza, we are not going to take jurisdiction and further investigate the case, because the crimes were not essentially severe enough, big enough, enough of them…and therefore we’re not going to take this case.”
To look at them in an isolated way and not part of a stream of war crimes Israel has been committing since 1948 is outrageous.
Guest – Law and Disorder Co-host Michael Ratner, President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and president of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), based in Berlin. Ratner and CCR are currently the attorneys in the United States for publishers Julian Assange and Wikileaks. He was co-counsel in representing Guantanamo Bay detainees in the United States Supreme Court, where, in June 2004, the court decided his clients have the right to test the legality of their detentions in court. Ratner is also a past president of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the author of numerous books and articles, including the books The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: A Prosecution by Book, Against War with Iraq and Guantanamo: What the World Should Know, as well as a textbook on international human rights.
U.S. Government Finds 67-Year-Old Palestinian-American Rasmea Odeh Guilty
Earlier this summer we reported on Rasmea Odeh’s case. She’s a 67-year-old Palestinian-American community activist and teacher. In the fall of 2013, she was arrested by the Department of Homeland Security for failing to disclose a 1969 conviction in an Israeli military court and charged with unlawful procurement of naturalization. Odeh, her father and fiancee were brutally tortured in an Israeli prison in 1969, which was related to a bombing in a Jerusalem supermarket. Israelis extracted a confession from Odeh, and she spent 10 years in an Israeli prison where she was tortured and sexually assaulted.
Last week, Rasmea Odeh was found guilty of one count of unlawful procurement of naturalization. For over a year, Rasmea, her supporters, and her legal team have been battling this unjust government prosecution, saying from the start that the immigration charge was nothing but a pretext to attack this icon of the Palestine liberation movement. And although there is real anger and disappointment in the jury’s verdict, it was known as early as October 27th that she would not get a full and fair trial, because Judge Gershwin Drain made it nearly impossible for her defense.
- This case emanates from the FBI and the US Attorney in Chicago investigating the work of the Arab American Action Network and other people who were doing Palestine solidarity work in the Chicago area and throughout the Midwest.
- They were bringing speakers here from Palestine to educate people
- As a result of that work they were targeted by the FBI. Ultimately in September of 2010, the homes 7 activists were invaded. All their political material was taken. There was a Grand Jury that convened and 23 activists were subpoenaed and they also sought the records of the Arab American Action Network.
- The U.S. Attorney in Chicago sent a request to Washington to look into the records of Odeh in Israel.
- After several years, the Israelis came up with documents that showed she was arrested in 1969, put on trial by a military tribunal in the Occupied Territories, found guilty, horrifically tortured, confessed as did her co-defendants, sentenced to life in prison, put in an Israeli prison, tried to escape in 1975, caught in a tunnel, trying to get out.
- As a result of this they looked at her naturalization application and saw that she said no as to whether she had ever been arrested, convicted or in prison and then commenced a criminal investigation and indicted her 9 years after she had gotten her citizenship, months before a statute of limitations would have run on this charge.
- We put forward a multi-level defense. One, we said that anything that was produced by the military court, the military judicial system was illegitimate, illegal – you’re tried by soldiers posing as judges. We said that she had been horrifically tortured and we had someone evaluate her over many days and hours, and this woman who is one of the leading experts on torture said Rasmea still suffers from PTSD.
- That would have caused her when she filled out the application to cognitively block what had happened to her 40 years prior in Israel and therefore she wasn’t intentionally lying.
- The judge refused all our motions, all our defense. He wouldn’t let Rasmea testify about her torture, about her condition, or her innocence. All that was blocked by motions of the government.
- We went to trial basically with our hands tied behind our backs.
- What was a shock to me was the judge locked her up, pending sentencing. Now she sits in a county jail in Port Huron, Michigan for five months before the sentencing and obviously if the judge is not going to give her bail pending sentencing, he’s not going to give her bail pending appeal.
- Judge Gershwin Drain who is African-American, who at first was kind of sympathetic and supportive and initially said we were allowed to put on our PTSD expert and put on a PTSD defense. Then all of a sudden the government put forward a move to reconsider, he changed his mind and basically gutted our trial.
- We know of efforts all over the country to suppress student activity around issues of Israel/Palestine.
- We have to convince the judge to let her out on an appeal bond. Even after all that if she’s sentenced, she’s going to go to prison and then when she’s done with her prison sentence, they’re going to put in her into immigration prison and they’re going to deport her.
Guest – Attorney Michael Deutsch of the People’s Law Office in Chicago. After clerking for United States Court of Appeals Judge Otto Kerner, Mr. Deutsch went into private practice, joining the People’s Law Office in 1970, where he has represented political activists and victims of police and government civil rights violations. His advocacy has taken him all around the world, including to hearings in the United Nations. He has tried many civil and criminal cases in federal and state courts, and has written and argued numerous appeals, including several in the United States Supreme Court.
The documentary film Food Chains opens nationwide in the United States this month. The film brings you into the world of a Florida farmworker-led effort to hold responsible the $4 trillion global supermarket industry. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is doing so through the Fair Food Program. That’s the program which partners growers and retailers to improve working conditions for farm laborers in the United States. Farmworkers often endure abuse, wage theft, and have been beaten and sexually harassed. Food Chains producers include Eva Longoria and Eric Schlosser. Find out about screenings and action to take at www.ciw-online.org.
Saturday November 22 – 1:00pm: Screening of Food Chains & Post-film Panel with CIW–Quad Cinema (34 W. 13th St). Food Chains also playing on Sat. Nov 22 at 7:45pm.
Guest – Gerardo Reyes Chavez has worked in the fields since age 11, first as a farmer in Zacatecas, Mexico, and then in the fields of Florida picking oranges, tomatoes, and watermelons. He joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a Florida-based human rights organization, shortly after his arrival in the United States in 2000, when his fellow farmworker roommates, who had previously escaped a violent slavery operation hidden in the swamp south of Immokalee, Florida, invited him to come to the CIW’s Wednesday evening community meetings.