An affidavit by an Egyptian doctor* who worked in Gaza at the time of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, launched on Palestinians as a form of collective punishment – banned under international law – between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009 makes chilling reading: “I personally witnessed a body of a 2 year old girl, photo no 6, who was burnt to death with white phosphorus. The charring of the skin and the burning of the flesh down to bone left no doubt in my mind that the child had been burnt with white phosphorus.” During this operation, 1,300 Palestinians were killed by the Israelis and approximately 5,400 were wounded, many of them women and children.
The affidavit is one of a series accompanying graphic photographs and video evidence which forms the basis of a docket for the arrest of ex-Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres when he visits Johannesburg on 28 February as a guest of a South African Zionist organisation. A group of Egyptian doctors, an NGO worker from South Africa and a Palestinian child testify in the docket to the use by Israel of illegal weapons of war, from chemical weapons to drones that sever bodies and amputate limbs: “I refer to slide No 6 which I took,” says another doctor, also stationed in Gaza at the time. “This is evidence that the Israeli army were using remote controlled drones targeting civilians. The drones were carrying artillery which is designed to injure and kill human beings rather than to destroy infrastructure. The weapons are designed to amputate legs and cut bodies in half in the way depicted by slide no 6.”
This evidence of horrific weapons and more – including the targeting of schools, UN shelters, ambulances and humanitarian relief food stores – forms the basis of the crucial docket compiled by the Muslim Lawyers Association (MLA). It will be submitted this week to the South African Police Service, the National Police Commissioner, the Minister of Safety and Security, the National Director of Public Prosecutions and the Head of the Directorate of the Priority Crimes Unit.
Not only did Peres assist apartheid South Africa in procuring weapons when it was under an international embargo, but he also served as Israel’s president during Operation Cast Lead. He was also prime minister and de facto commander-in-chief of the armed forces during Operation Grapes of Wrath (1996), when the UN ruled that Israel had deliberately targeted the Kafr Qana refugee camp in Lebanon, killing 102 civilians, including UN workers, in what is now known as the “Kafr Qana massacre”.
It is on the basis of his leadership at these two crucial events – which saw flagrant violations of the international laws of armed conflict – that the MLA is launching the docket for Peres’s arrest and trial for war crimes. South Africa, in terms of customary international law and the Domestic International Criminal Court Act, has full jurisdiction to arrest Peres and bring him to court.
South Africa is currently spearheading the move to withdraw the African Union from the International Criminal Court based on the argument that the ICC only targets African leaders. However, when it comes to war criminals, the ICC legislation gives each national signatory full power to enforce international law domestically. Arresting Peres is a chance for the government to implement the legislation against a non-African leader and thereby increase its muscle.
The case against Peres is compelling. It deserves broad-based support from the South African public — indeed, from people around the world — as well as recognition and prompt action from the South African government.
“I refer to photographs of X Rays numbered DSC00419 to 428 evidencing the use of nail bombs by the Israeli army,” testifies a third doctor. “I took these photographs. The victims were children who I treated in Gaza. The nail bombs are used by the Israeli army to penetrate the human body and evoke the maximum damage possible to the body in the course of the penetrating nails. Sometimes the nails remain in the body and sometimes they exit after the damage has been caused.”
Peres, during his one-day sojourn within South African borders, will be raising funds for the Israel United Appeal, whose constituents include the Jewish National Fund, which funds the development of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, illegal under international law. Peres is being hosted by the United Communal Fund, a Sandton-based organisation committed to “supporting a secure State of Israel” and linked to the hard-line South African Zionist Federation.
True to Zionism’s creed of deception – both of its own followers and the broader public – the Zionist groups behind Peres’s trip have marketed him as a “Man of Peace”. Absurdly, the graphic on the poster depicts a pristine, white dove.
*The doctors are named in the docket but their names have been removed here for fear of reprisals in Egypt.
Karen Jayes is an author and freelance journalist. Her book ‘For the Mercy of Water’ won a 2013 Sunday Times Literary Award. She is also the co-ordinator of CAGE Africa.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.