Just who will be looking into the Gaza flotilla matter?

Terkel panel will include a controversial Canadian military judge and an Irish politician.

By
June 15, 2010 06:54
retired high court judge, Jacob Turkel, will head

Turkel 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

A five-member investigative committee established by the cabinet on Monday to probe the Gaza flotilla raid will include two foreigners – a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a former head of the Canadian Armed Forces Judge Advocate General.

The committee will be headed by former Supreme Court justice Jacob Terkel, who told Army Radio last week that he does not support investigative committees drawing “personal conclusions” concerning those involved.

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“I am not a fan of personal conclusions,” he said. “What is foremost in my mind is the principle. Whether someone will be removed from his position or whether his promotion will be frozen is secondary in my mind.”

Terkel served as a Supreme Court justice from 1995 until his retirement in 2005 and during those 10 years often took minority positions that were viewed as sympathetic to the right wing, including his opposition to the conviction of Rabbi Ido Elba, who penned a halakhic ruling that supported the killing of non-Jews. The ruling appeared in a biography of Baruch Goldstein, who perpetrated the Tomb of the Patriarchs massacre in 1994.

Also, in the waning days of the Barak premiership, Terkel issued a ruling stating that the government did not have the right to carry out diplomatic negotiations in the short time remaining. He also issued a minority ruling in the late 90s saying that then-Zo Artzeinu leader Moshe Feiglin’s public protest actions against the Oslo Accord did not constitute illegal acts.

The eldest member of the committee is 93-year-old Israel Prize laureate Shabtai Rosen, an expert on international law. Rosen was born in London and served in the Royal Air Force during World War II before moving to British Mandate Palestine, where he worked on the Legal Secretariat of the Situation Committee, helping craft the administrative framework of the nascent state of Israel.

Rosen began working at the Israel Foreign Ministry in 1948, and was made an ambassador in 1960, the same year he won the Israel Prize for jurisprudence. Rosen later served as Israel’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations in New York from 1967 to 1971 and was eventually given the rank of general-ambassador.

After retiring from public life, Rosen became a professor at Bar-Ilan University and a visiting professor at a number of universities in Europe, including Cambridge University and the University of Amsterdam.

In 1994, Rosen was elected to serve as the honorary president of the American Society of International Law, and in 2004 received the Hague Prize for International Law.

The third Israeli on the panel is Amos Horev, an 86-year-old former president of the Technion University and a retired major-general and former head of the IDF Ordnance Corps.

The Jerusalem native joined the Hagana at the age of 14 and left school at 17 to become one of the first members of the Palmah upon the pre-state militia’s founding in 1941. In the Palmah, Horev served in a number of operational ranks and took part in the raid on the Atlit detention facility in 1945 that freed 200 Jewish detainees.

In 1946, Horev was made the deputy commander of the Palmah’s Sixth Battalion and during the War of Independence served in the Harel Brigade under commander Yitzhak Rabin.

After the war, Horev was made the first-ever operational commander of what was to become the Southern Command before he was sent by the IDF to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received a BA in mechanical engineering. Years later he returned to the prestigious institution to earn an MA in the same field.

Horev was a master at adapting foreign-made weaponry and vehicles to Middle East terrain and the IDF’s needs, serving as chief of ordinance and chief of logistics for the IDF throughout the 50s and 60s.

Following his retirement from the IDF in 1973, Horev became the president of Haifa’s Technion University, a position he held until 1982.

The Gaza flotilla investigative committee isn’t the first for Horev, who was appointed in 1974 to head an investigative committee into the Ma'alot tragedy, where PFLP terrorists from Lebanon shot and killed 25 Israelis – including 22 schoolchildren – in a takeover of a school in the Upper Galilee town.

Canadian Brigadier General Kenneth “Ken” Watkin served as Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Forces from 2006 to 2010 and has received numerous commendations from the Government of Canada. He has also written widely published works on issues such as human rights and the laws of armed conflict.


In 1993 Watkin served as the legal advisor to a Canadian military and civilian board of inquiry probing the conduct of Canadian airborne troops in Somalia, and from 1995 to 2005 he was counsel on a number of investigations dealing with the 1994 Rwanda genocide. He has also worked as an advisor to Canadian commanders in Bosnia.

Watkin was the subject of some controversy when he was implicated in the Canadian Afghan detainee issue, which involved the disappearance of several detainees arrested by the Canadian Forces. The detainees are believed to have gone missing or been tortured after Canadian Forces handed them over to the Afghan National Police and National Directorate of Security.

When questioned by Canada’s House of Commons on the issue in November 2009, Watkin refused to answer questions on whether he was ordered or given approval to transfer the detainees to Afghan authorities. Watkin would also not say if he had prior knowledge of Canadian diplomatic reports of detainees suffering torture in Afghan custody.

According to a Toronto Star report, prior to his testimony before the Canadian House of Commons, Watkin had in May 2007 sent a secret internal memo to Canadian military brass stating that it was a crime to ignore allegations of prisoner abuse and they must investigate such allegations or potentially face consequences.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Northern Ireland politician William David Trimble is the second international observer, and brings a considerable record of public service to the investigative commission. Trimble was made a member of the House of Lords in 2006 and in 2007 he left his longtime home in the Ulster Unionist Party to join the Conservative Party.

Trimble had a lengthy career as a Unionist politician, activist and advisor and is seen by many as being crucial to ensuring his party’s support for the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which worked to bring an end to the Northern Ireland conflict. Following the agreement, Trimble and former leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party John Hume were awarded the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize.

Trimble was later elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly and became First Minister of Northern Ireland.

About two weeks ago Trimble, along with former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Anzar, founded the “Friends of Israel Initiative,” a group devoted to Israel’s right to exist. The group’s launch in Paris was addressed by former Israel ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold, widely seen as a close associate of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.


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