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War crimes: Setting the Record Straight on Gaza and Mark LeVine


In an article published in Al Jazeera, Professor Mark LeVine makes the following most alarming, but false, assertion:

Additionally, numerous flippant remarks by senior Israeli politicians and generals, including Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister, refusing to make a distinction between civilian people and institutions and fighters - "Hamas doesn't ... and neither should we" is how Livni puts it - are rightly being seen as admissions of war crimes.


The attributed remarks are a fabrication. In a long series of e-mails, LeVine first poured out large quantities of irrelevant generalizations about imaginary Zionist history and tried to avoid the issue. When pressed, he admitted at length that his fantasy was based on a Ynet article that noted: "Foreign Minister Livni: Hamas doesn't distinguish between Jews and Arabs, and neither should we." (Emphasis added). Livni's remarks and the context are given at greater length below.*

Here is the article. A Hamas rocket had killed an Israeli Arab, and Hamas claimed that he was a "Zionist." Livni's remarks were in defense of equal rights for Israeli Arabs. She used the incident to say that Hamas doesn't distinguish between Jewish and Arab civilians. You can read the whole article and judge for yourself. This is how history is being reinvented every day. Nobody in the Israeli government admitted to war crimes, contrary to LeVine's assertion - Nobody. LeVine's assertion is libelous. That is the sort of "evidence" that is used to indict people for "war crimes" in Al Jazeera, and that is the sort of "history" that LeVine teaches. LeVine's assertion already appears in over 100 Web pages in Google. It is now an established "fact" which LeVine created de nihilo, that Israeli government leaders admitted to war crimes. It will probably be impossible to get rid of this new fictitious "Zionist quote" that joins the fake Ariel Sharon interview that was supposedly done by Amos Oz, the fake Ben Gurion quote about expelling the Arabs and many others.

LeVine also has a ferocious quote from General Eisenkot. But General Eisenkot was talking about Lebanon and not Gaza. He is in charge of the Northern Command, not Gaza, which is in the south. Eisenkot said that the government of Lebanon would be held responsible for future Hezbollah actions and that Israel would respond accordingly. Nothing to do with Gaza. And Eisenkot is a member of the Israeli military who is not supposed to make policy pronouncements and is not authorized to do so.

LeVine is a professor of history. He evidently has no respect for historical truth and accuracy. Professors of history are supposed to teach about what happened in history. They are not supposed to invent new history by fabricating quotes.

The cause of peace in the Middle East is not served by fabricating incitement.

Ami Isseroff

*Thanks to Michael Brenner who alerted us to this issue. Following is the context of Livni's remarks, which LeVine claimed are an admission that Israeli doesn't distinguish civilians from combatants and are an admission of culpability for war crimes:

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said during the meeting, "On my way here I heard that Hamas declared the man killed by a rocket in Ashkelon 'one of the Zionists' despite being an Israeli Arab. They don't make a distinction, and neither should we."

"The leadership has the power and responsibility to do what is right even if the public opinion is different, and this time is a time of examination as to what is right," Livni noted, stressing that the diplomatic process must continue alongside an all-out-war on Hamas and the terror organizations.

"And this is also an examination for the Arab leadership in the State of Israel. You are leading the Arab public on a thin rope. You cannot cross the line between right and wrong, between legitimate and illegitimate, between what is right and what is misleading. This is not a choice between being Arabs and supporting the Jews."

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Replies: 4 comments

There isn't any excuse for consciously misrepresenting a quote. I believe it is an act of Antisemitism when one with professorial status does so.

Posted by Howard Wolf @ 01/13/2009 04:26 AM CST

the only war crimes are those by Hamas who shoot crude but lethal rockets into Israeli civilian housing blocks (Sderot,Ashdod .Ashkelon etc.)and then dive into the nearest building/house where they can grab hostages.The Hamas hierarchy is sitting in a command centre under the main hospital in Gaza while it,s so called fighters use civilian hostages where and when they like with impunity.Using U.N. buildings to fire at Israeli troops is a war crime, so is smuggling military uniforms on humanitarian aid trucks , shooting mortars under atree at the entrance to a school in Gaza ,at Israeli troops ,rigging mannequins with explosives ,planting bombs etc. at the zoo in Gaza

Posted by Samuel @ 01/19/2009 02:58 PM CST

Shame in all of this warring, nobody spares a thought for us Palestinean Jews, Christians and Palestinean Arabs who are not supporters of Hamas. Our mothers, fathers and children are dying so that Israel can satisfy its war mongering propensities and Hamas can recruit more and more extremist. When am I as a palestinean Jew going to live in peace in my beloved Palestine.
I have no sympathy for Hamas nor for the warring Israeli. Yet my family and families of my friends are caught in the middle of your ever thirsty need for each other's blood.
Since when has it ever been acceptable for a nation armed to its teeth as Israel is, to move into another country and annihilate its people with such ferocity? With all of Israel's technical know-how, the amount of dead civilians can never be justified in any context. It cannot be justified by simply saying it was war and in war people die as many representatives of Israel have been saying in the media. When we get to the point when we can justify the death of thousands of innocent people so flippantly, we start to loose our sight on humanity and show our selves to be inhumane.
In the first instance, this was not a war. This was genocide disguised and packaged with political spinnery. My reason for this assertion is thus - war in this context is fought between two nations. Hamas is a Political party and does not and in no way will it ever be representative of all Palestinean. So waging a war in the way Israel did against Palestine is genocidal by every defintion.
So Israel is not guilty of war crime because it did not go to war. However, they are guilty of crime against humanity for the calous unrelenting destruction of the lives and livelihood of women, children and the civilian populace of Gaza. Hamas on the same token is just as guilty because the blood of a Israeli is just as valuable and indispensable as the blood of a Palestinean. However, they were elected in a political process which was transparent to the whole world. So it is an afront to the people of Palestine who voted for Hamas to say that their voices do not deserve to be heard. What brand of democracy is that then when you can refer to an elected party of another country as a terrorist organisation.
I am not and cannot possibly begin to justify Hamas' philophy. However, fathom the idea of a whole nation of people being made into refugees for the benefit of another nation and then you begin to think maybe their actions are understandable. Hence Hamas' popularity. Some might say this is history and we should live with the reality of things as they are today. Well tell that to the people who find themselves as refugees while in their pockets they carry keys to their homes, homes that are now occupied by Israeli settlers.
How easy is it to forget that you had to be forcibly removed from your home so that some guy can move his family in from somewhere in Europe or America. How easy is it to be civil and reconcile with the idea that what you once knew as your home, the only home you have ever known, is now being settled in by people from far flung areas of the world while you get dispersed by the threat of violence. This is ethnic cleansing and genocide of the highest rank and lets not tarnish this struggle for survival by labelling it as a war crime. Lets call it what it really is, ethnic cleansing, genocide, deprivation of basic human right, humiliation and complete attempt at degradation of the human spirit.

Posted by I-palestineanJew - No war crime? @ 01/21/2009 04:08 AM CST

Only in the Arab world can a terrorist organization get elected as a legitimate party. I think I would have to side with Nonie Darwish, and place a lot of blame on a lot of Arab nations, especially Egypt pre-1967, for forcing a Palestinian identity upon these poor people, and sponsoring terror attacks against the nascent Jewish state. It hasn't stopped since then. The Arab world should give citizenship to these people in their various places of refuge, and not wait for President Obama to have to offer assylum to tens of thousands of refugees in the United States.
Throughout what many people are calling the "seige of Gaza," it seems like everyone forgot that Gaza also has a border with Egypt. Egypt refused to open the border to all but a trickle of medical aid, and ignored the Arab world's gateway to aiding the Palestinian territories in their time of crisis.

Why should Israel be held solely responsible for a refugee problem created by a war whose goal was its total destruction?

Refer back to Israel's Declaration of Independence, in which they call for Arabs living in Palestine and other Arab nations to live in peace with the Jewish state.

Posted by Edward L. Goldfarb @ 03/28/2009 07:25 PM CST

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