Flotilla Committee 311.
(photo credit: Moshe Milner)
The Terkel Committee set up by the Israeli government to probe the Gaza flotilla
raid would not have been established were it not for heavy international
pressure. The government had already authorized other panels to probe the
failures and learn the vital lessons of the affair. So the committee’s primary
purpose is to somehow help Israel counteract the concerted campaign of
demonization being waged against it globally – a campaign for which the flotilla
fiasco has provided a new impetus.
Unsurprisingly, the committee is
drawing heavy fire from Israel’s international critics, who were, and still are,
hoping to empower another Goldstone-style commission. More surprisingly, the
committee is drawing fire at home – especially via unprecedented attacks against
its chairman, retired Supreme Court Justice Jacob Terkel.
It’s fair to
judge that in his 38 years on the bench, Terkel never attracted such
TERKEL, 75, and his fellow panel members have criticized by
Yediot Aharonot and Maariv for being too old (though Eliyahu Winograd
the mammoth task of investigating the Second Lebanon War at age 80).
the chairman has been attacked both for his perceived political
ostensible professional unsuitability.
Terkel may not be identified with
the Supreme Court’s liberal inclination, yet it’s disingenuous to accuse
right-wing bias. In 2004 he was the justice who ruled against
Kisufim Junction building from which terrorists later murdered Tali
her four daughters. And he is renowned as a defender of free speech,
him to argue for the exoneration of the late Binyamin Kahane from
charges and also of the journalist Muhammad Jabarin, who was tried for
supporting terrorist organizations.
Nevertheless, in a recent editorial,
rushed to slam Terkel
as “part of the whitewash” and urge him to “return
his mandate to the prime minister and demand that Netanyahu establish a
government committee of inquiry with real powers.”
University Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer lambasted Terkel on the Knesset
“lacking experience in international law, which is the relevant
lacks the international standing of former justices Meir Shamgar or
Barak. He was also appointed by the government.”
Kremnitzer, who said he
preferred “a state judicial inquiry commission whose members are picked
Supreme Court’s chief justice,” noted Terkel’s own advocacy (before his
appointment) for a state inquiry.
The loudest anti-Terkel outcry followed
his remarks last week on Army Radio in which he stated that he is “not a
personal conclusions. Foremost, to my mind, is the heart of the matter –
preventing failures and shortcomings from reoccurring in future. Whether
person is removed from office or whether someone’s promotion is halted
secondary, in my view.”
These comments, taken out of context, were
subsequently misrepresented as indications of an undesirable
which should disqualify Terkel from conducting any probe. The head of
watchdog organization, Aryeh Avneri, argued that with the above words
essentially already formulated his rulings, before any investigation had
gotten under way. Numerous anonymous “legal sources” were quoted both in
print and broadcast media as castigating Terkel.
But Terkel did not, in
fact, rule out “personal conclusions,” even though his committee was not
to sack, censure or demote the powers-thatbe.
Rather than being regarded
as a sign of prejudice, Terkel’s lack of lust for political blood might
Those impatient to see heads roll would
obviously be unhappy with any impartial candidate helming the probe and
members. The issue here is plainly not Terkel. He is the pretext.
primarily about the prevention of future failings is not an unacceptable
premise. Indeed, it is an admirable imperative.
Moreover, given Terkel’s
record, there can be little doubt that if he discovers gross
anyone’s part, he will expose it.
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