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Feb 10, 2009

Israeli University Welcomes “War Crimes” Colonel: Counterpunch

JONATHAN COOK

The Israeli government has moved quickly to quash protests over the appointment of the army’s senior adviser on international law to a teaching post at Tel Aviv University. Col Pnina Sharvit-Baruch is thought to have provided legal cover for war crimes during the recent Gaza offensive.
Government officials fear that recent media revelations relating to Col Sharvit-Baruch’s role in the Gaza operation may assist human rights groups seeking to bring Israeli soldiers to trial abroad. A Spanish judge began investigating Israeli war crimes in Gaza under the country’s “universal jurisdiction” laws this month, and a prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague is considering a Palestinian group’s petition to indict Israeli commanders. Meanwhile, the furore — by highlighting the close ties between the army and Israeli universities — is adding weight to a growing campaign in Europe and the US to impose an academic boycott on Israel, say activists. Tel Aviv University’s decision to hire Col Sharvit-Baruch to teach international law prompted protests from staff after the local media published details of the military planning for the Gaza offensive.
More than 1,300 Palestinians were killed during the operation, the majority of them civilians, and thousands were injured. According to critics quoted by the Haaretz newspaper, Col Sharvit-Baruch and her staff manipulated standard interpretations of international law to expand the scope of army operations to include civilian targets. Leading the protest is Haim Ganz, a law professor who has called the colonel’s approach to international law “devious jurisprudence that permits mass killing”. In a letter to the university, Prof Ganz said he was lodging “a moral protest against a state of affairs where somebody who authorized these actions is teaching the law of war”.

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