(photo credit: )
Former chief of General Staff Moshe Ya'alon, visiting New Zealand on behalf of the JNF recently, almost found himself in custody on "war crimes" charges, when Auckland's District Court issued an arrest warrant against him. Only the reluctance of the prosecution to handle this hot potato spared Ya'alon.
This isn't the first such incident. Hounding top Israeli officers abroad has in recent years become a favorite pastime of Arabs and Muslims worldwide, along with their routine retinue of "human rights activists," and - shamefully - Israeli sympathizers.
The list of Israeli military men harassed abroad is growing. Ya'alon had already featured on it, when threatened with prosecution in Britain over his role in the 2002 assassination of Hamas kingpin Saleh Shehadeh, in which 14 Gazans also lost their lives.
Current chief of General Staff Dan Halutz was also threatened over the same episode. Perhaps the most famous incident involved Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, former OC Southern Command, who was forewarned during his flight to London in September 2005 not to leave his plane, lest he be arrested for his role in anti-terror operations. Brig.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi cancelled study plans in Britain following attempts to target him, too.
Ariel Sharon had to avoid Belgium, where moves were afoot to arrest him.
This has been going on even as genuine terrorists, their hands stained with the blood of numerous innocents deliberately and callously massacred, some ostensibly reformed and others openly not, are often feted around the world, welcomed in international institutions, on campuses and even in the White House. Some are recipients of prestigious international awards.
That those like Ya'alon, Almog and the other Israeli officers to whom democracies owe a debt of gratitude for their battle against unbridled terrorism are cynically pursued in the name of justice is a travesty masquerading as righteousness. Exonerating mass murderers from blame, while portraying those who combat terror-overlords as villains who must be apprehended and stopped in their tracks, will not make the world a safer place.
Official Israel unfortunately has not gone out of its way to fight the wholesale branding of IDF personnel - past and present - personae non-grata overseas. Last year Tzipi Livni announced a campaign "against this latest fad in the war against Israel." But so far there's nothing of substance to attest to her resolve. At most there are behind the scenes interventions to extricate individuals from specific dangers of political show trials; the larger overall recurring danger has not been tackled.
Indeed, official Israel has been disturbingly defensive. The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour recently warned Livni that if Israel doesn't investigate Israeli officers, they may be liable to procedures against them in other countries. Instead of protesting against painting Israel's self-defense as a war crime, Livni promised to "persist in the pursuit of truth." An apt substitute for apologetics would have been to distinguish between the inadvertent injury to non-combatants used as human shields and the deliberate slaying of civilians as promoted and practiced by Arab terror. It's high time Israel took the bull by the horns and set out to confront the grotesque double-standard fearlessly and unequivocally. Otherwise, this country will continue to lose in the court of world opinion, rendering its defenders international outlaws.
Likewise, Israel mustn't shrink from going on the offensive and seeing to it that suits are filed abroad against terrorists of all ranks - be they perpetrators or instigators.
Finally, there is the matter of Yesh Gvul ("There is a Limit"), the Israeli organization which cheered the warrant against Ya'alon in Auckland and was instrumental in moving against him, Halutz and Almog in London. Its pretext is its ongoing failure to get the local judiciary to take punitive measures against these officers.
What Yesh Gvul can't manage here, it attempts elsewhere with outside help. The actions of its activists, themselves beneficiaries of IDF efforts to protect all Israelis, are shameful. Speaking of limits, even opponents of IDF actions should desist from taking their campaigns to foreign courts and media. How dismal that there is, evidently, no limit to what such organizations will do to delegitimize their own nation's self-defense, including putting on foreign wanted posters the very IDF commanders within whose protective embrace they live.