Today, University of Johannesburg academic, Professor Farid Esack and Palestine Solidarity Committee members formally laid charges at the Johannesburg Central Police station against war criminal Lieutenant-Colonel David Benjamin.
This follows an application lodged on Monday by the Palestine Solidarity Alliance and others with the assistance of well-known international law professors John Dugard and Max du Plessis. The application calls on the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions to set in motion an investigation into war crimes committed by a number of Israelis linked to the Gaza massacre of December 2008-January 2009. South African-born Lieutenant-Colonel David Benjamin, who obtained his law degree from the University of Cape Town, has worked for the Israeli Occupation Forces for the past 17 years. As a member of the Israeli Army’s Military Advocates Corps, he provided legal advice to the Israeli military during the massacre.
Benjamin has been credited with giving the Israeli army the legal go-ahead for the use of white phosphorous in its attacks against Gaza in December 2008-January 2009. Israel’s use of white phosphorous in Gaza is illegal under international law; the Geneva Convention bars its use against civilian targets.
Benjamin, by his own admission, told Bloomberg News that the Gaza “campaign was a long time in the works, and we [the Military Advocates Corps] were intimately involved in the planning… Approval of targets which can be attacked, methods of warfare – it all has gone through us.”
The charges are supported by overwhelming evidence, including reports from internationally known human rights organisations, and affidavits in excess of 3500 pages (available from the PSC). The massacre followed an 18-month siege and blockade which saw an occupied population experience starvation, deprivation, displacement and ongoing trauma on a horrendous scale that has shocked humanity. This seige continues.
The Gaza onslaught resulted in the deaths of 1400 Palestinians, the majority of whom were civilians. Of these approximately 40 % were women and children. More than 5400 Palestinians were seriously injured, many with the most horrific wounds, burns and amputations and countless others are psychologically, physically and mentally traumatised. This is in comparison to 10 Israeli soldiers killed (four by own fire and 2 Israeli citizens).
These acts of barbarity did not spare the innocent lives of a besieged occupied people. It is common knowledge that Israel attacked and destroyed schools, places of worship, shelters, hospitals and United Nations installations, such as the UNWRA school and relief aid warehouses. Israel’s offensive destroyed about 22,000 buildings and is estimated to have caused 1.9-billion US dollars worth of destruction. The actions are abhorrent and profoundly in breach of international humanitarian law and constitute evidence of international crimes.
The Israeli attack and bombardment of Gaza has been extensively documented and horrific scenes of death, injury and destruction of the civilian population were televised to the world. Evidence collected from eye-witnesses and those injured as well as United Nations and other investigative reports, including the testimony of Israeli combat soldiers and physicians (including South Africans) provide compelling proof that suggests Israelis have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
All credible humanitarian and human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, and the Red Cross, and respected individuals such as the professors of law Richard Falk and our own John Dugard, also condemned these actions as war crimes.
All of these actions are war crimes under international law, and Benjamin is, therefore, a war criminal. South Africans should feel outraged to have such a war criminal visiting our country, with the express purpose, according to the host organisation, Limmud, of providing South African audiences with the Israeli army’s justification for their war crimes.
Issued by the Palestine Solidarity Committee.