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Duke students protest Tzipi Livni, former Israeli foreign minister accused of war crimes 

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Students at Duke University in North Carolina repeatedly interrupted an event last Wednesday featuring Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister who was subject to an arrest warrant issued by the UK and criminal complaints in two more European countries for her alleged role in war crimes committed during the 2008-09 Cast Lead invasion of Gaza.

The Duke Chronicle reports around two dozen protesters interrupted Livni at the event, with one student standing and shouting that Cast Lead “was a massacre” before the ex-minister could answer her first question. As soon as the first protester paused, more students stood and shouted at Livni. Some of them read names and held photos of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. A few minutes later, the protesters began to leave the auditorium while chanting “shame” and “you don’t belong here” to Livni. 

“You know what’s a shame? It’s a shame that we cannot have this discussion,” Livni countered, dismissing the demonstrators as “not willing to listen to the truth.” 

Cast Lead horror

As foreign minister, Livni was a key member of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s security cabinet during Israel’s three-week Cast Lead assault on Gaza. The invasion and bombing campaign killed more than 1,400 Palestinians. Of these, over 900 were civilians, including more than 300 children. Whole Palestinian families were wiped out, both by aerial bombardment and, in the case of the Samouni family, by being ordered into a building that was then shelled. Invading Israeli troops shot dead Palestinians ranging in age from children to octogenarians, some of whom were waving white flags of surrender. Israel troops also routinely used Palestinians — often children — as human shields

Additionally, Israel blocked the United Nations from delivering life-saving food and medical care to desperate and besieged Gazans. Shockingly, Israeli forces attacked and killed humanitarian aid workers in a convoy clearly flying the UN flag, leading to a suspension of aid. Two UN schools harboring hundreds of shell-shocked refugees were bombed by Israel, killing dozens of civilians and horrifically wounding others with white phosphorus, a chemical and incendiary weapon banned for use against civilians that burns flesh through to the bone and cannot be extinguished with water. In the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City, emaciated children too weak to stand on their own huddled beside the rotting corpses of their mothers. 

“Israel is a country that when you fire on its citizens it responds by going wild,” Livni explained as the offensive raged, “and that is a good thing.”

Wanted for war crimes

After 22 days of hellish attack from air, land and sea, Israeli troops withdrew into Israel, singing and dancing as they left behind an utterly devastated Gaza. They could afford to sing and dance — the war had cost the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) only 10 lives, four of them the result of “friendly” fire. Three Israeli civilians also died. The ratio of Palestinian to Israeli dead was more than 100:1. 

As newly-inaugurated US President Barack Obama remained silent following the slaughter, Livni, who had spearheaded an aggressive public relations offensive in an attempt to counter growing global condemnation of Israel’s actions, stoked international outrage by defending her — and her country’s — conduct in the war. However, her attempted justifications sometimes sounded more like admissions of guilt, for instance when she said that “Israel demonstrated real hooliganism during the course of the recent operation, which I demanded.” 

In 2009 a British court issued an arrest warrant for Livni days before she was due to speak at a London event, forcing her to cancel the trip. Livni’s office responded to the warrant by asserting she was “proud” of all her decisions during the war. The warrant was subsequently withdrawn; however, in January 2017 the Belgian Justice Ministry announced Livni would be detained and interrogated in connection with Gaza war crimes ahead of a scheduled visit to the country. Livni again canceled a trip to avert capture. Later that year, a war crimes lawsuit was filed in Switzerland over Livni’s role in Cast Lead. In 2019, former prime minister Ehud Olmert also had to cancel a scheduled visit to Switzerland after he was notified that he faced arrest there over alleged Cast Lead war crimes. 

JVP: Duke ‘complicit’ in Israeli crimes

Students spoke out for and against Livni ahead of her appearance at Duke, whose student newspaper, the Duke Chronicle, published dueling opinion pieces in the days leading up to the visit. While Ezra Loeb and Max Cherman of the Duke Israel Public Affairs Committee (DIPAC) denied that Israeli forces committed war crimes and hailed Livni as a “peacemaker,” Lama Hantash of Students for Justice in Palestine blasted her as “an unapologetic war criminal with blood on her hands.” 

“Hosting [Livni] for a lecture minimizes the lives and deaths of her victims while encouraging future reproductions of her crimes,” wrote Hantash. Beth Bruch, Gabriel Baldasare and Mark Sfeir of the local chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which advocates the non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, wrote that by hosting Livni, Duke “becomes complicit in Israel’s ongoing project of ethnic cleansing” in Palestine.

Brett Wilkins

Brett Wilkins is a San Francisco-based independent journalist whose work, which focuses on issues of war and peace and human rights, is archived at BrettWilkins.com.

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5 Responses

  1. just on October 30, 2019, 10:18 am

    The US hasn’t investigated *cough* this war criminal. She did it with the blessing of the US and I’m only surprised she hasn’t been given a bright, shiny medal in a WH/Congressional ceremony.

    Nora Barrows- Friedman published this on 10/22/2019 in EI, fyi:

    …” Hundreds of students are calling on Duke University to cancel an event with an Israeli war crimes suspect.

    Tzipi Livni, the former foreign minister who helped orchestrate the 2008-2009 massacre of Palestinians in Gaza, is expected to speak at the prestigious university on Wednesday.

    The event is sponsored by the Duke Israel Public Affairs Committee, an advocacy group on campus, as well as Duke’s departments of political science and public policy.

    It is also supported by the Middle Eastern Studies Center and Duke’s American Grand Strategy program, which primes students for national security policymaking.

    Students for Justice in Palestine at Duke has been assembling a coalition of individuals working to cancel the event. …”

    https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora-barrows-friedman/duke-students-protest-invite-israeli-war-crimes-suspect-tzipi-livni

  2. Jon66 on October 30, 2019, 11:38 am

    “”OSI grossly mishandled this disciplinary process, and the sanctions resulting from it are a clear example of unconstitutional repression of political speech,” YDSA GT co-chair Katherine Rolison told Mondoweiss, “This is just one example of a nation-wide pattern of universities privileging the established narrative around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and silencing students who speak in the defense of Palestinian human rights.” “

    https://mondoweiss.net/2019/10/georgia-tech-student-activists-found-guilty-of-discrimination-for-preventing-pro-israel-staffer-from-disrupting-meeting/

  3. Misterioso on October 31, 2019, 9:39 am

    As the article clearly demonstrates, “Israel’s” image in America and the world as a whole is headed for the dumpster. With ever increasing numbers of Jews and others, especially youth, seeing it for the racist, expansionist, brutal monster it most certainly is, it’s only a matter of time.

  4. James Canning on October 31, 2019, 12:18 pm

    Under the tentative peace deal between Syria and Israel, reached in 2008 prior to the Israeli assault on Gaza, Israel would have withdrawn from the Golan Heights. Was the attack on Gaza, which wrecked the peace deal with Syria, part of a plan to make possible Israel’s retention of the Golan Heights (if the Syrian government was overthrown)?

  5. Vera Gottlieb on November 3, 2019, 12:27 pm

    The plague keeps spreading…

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