(photo credit: Channel 10)
The government-appointed Turkel Commission investigating the flotilla seizure of May 31 called back Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi on Thursday to testify for a second time.
The testimony has been set for October 24. Ashkenazi testified once before, on August 11.
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Commission coordinator Hoshea Gottlieb told Ashkenazi that the members of the panel wanted to ask him more questions after having examined the investigations of the military operation conducted by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, and after having received additional information from a General Staff team placed at its disposal.
In a related matter, the commission scheduled a new date for two Israeli Arabs who had been due to testify on Wednesday but failed to show up without explaining why.
Letters were sent to Sheikh Hamad Abu Dabus from Rahat, a Beduin city in the Negev, and Muhammad Zidan from Kafr Manda, in the Western Galilee, summoning them to a hearing on October 25. They were reminded that if they failed to show up, the commission could order police to bring them.
Meanwhile, Jessica Montell, director-general of B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, wrote to the head of the Turkel Commission, retired Supreme Court justice Yaakov Turkel, charging that comments made by members of the panel during a hearing on Wednesday indicated that they had made up their minds about the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip before she and other human rights activists testified before it.
The other organizations that appeared were Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, and Gisha – The Legal Center for Freedom of Movement.
Montell gave two examples of comments with which she took issue:
Turkel’s remark that “the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip brought [their hardships] on themselves,” and Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Horev’s statement that “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”
Furthermore, wrote Montell, “in the official occasion of providing testimony to the commission, it was inappropriate [for members of the panel] to make other provocative comments like those that accused B’Tselem of lacking intellectual honesty and basic fairness, disseminating stories without first examining them, and more.”
Toward the beginning of Wednesday’s hearing, Turkel told Montell he
doubted the reliability of the information provided by B’Tselem and
asked her on what sources the information was based.
Later, Horev told Gisha’s attorney Tamar Feldman, “You are living in a bubble.”
A third member of the four-man panel, former Foreign Ministry
director-general Reuven Merhav, demanded to know why the human rights
organizations blamed Israel for the situation in the Gaza Strip.
In her letter, Montell replied, “B’Tselem is well aware that there are
other players aside from the government of Israel that are responsible
and influence the situation in the Gaza Strip, including Hamas, the
Palestinian Authority, Egypt, the Arab League, the European Union, the
Quartet, the UN and its agencies and others. But since B’Tselem is an
Israeli organization which was asked to testify before the commission
investigating the government’s action and its consequences [regarding
the seizure of the flotilla on May 31], we focused in our testimony on
the obligations of the Israeli government and the results of its