They called him a traitor, a collaborator, a space cadet and a hallucinating lefty. They said that his Israeli citizenship should be annulled and he should be indicted. Daniel Machover is the person with dual Israeli-British citizenship who is behind the arrest warrant issued against General Doron Almog when he arrived in an El-Al flight to Heathrow airport on September 11.
The floor is hereby given to Attorney Machover:
At first sight, the Law firm of ‘Hickman and Rose’ doesn’t look like a law firm’s office. At most it looks like a small accountant’s office. In the entrance room, several secretaries and lawyers are working feverishly. Mountains of document boxes and ringing telephones. Someone pushes his way to the water dispenser, someone else is sending a fax, and the receptionist informs attorney Machover on the intercom that we have arrived. Behind her faxes are pouring out of the machine, a messenger enters and leaves behind another pile of boxes. The congestion allows only for a narrow passage leading to the maze inside. A typical picture of idealists office, not a posh lawyers office. No investment in interior design.
Machover, a partner in the firm and his colleague, Kate Maynard, represent the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which has been documenting for a long time now, international law violations in the Territories. They are trying to obtain compensation for the victims, and are also trying to bring those responsible for the violations to justice.
Machover: “After countless attempts to obtain justice in the Israeli legal system, including petitions to the Supreme Court, the Center approached me in order to intercede, on the side of justice, in Britain according to international law that permits such a move. General Doron Almog gave an order to destroy 59 houses during the Intifada in Rafah, in the Gaza strip – in violation of the Geneva Convention. When we heard that Almog was arriving in Britain we approached a judge so that he would issue an arrest warrant against him. That is not altogether a simple legal procedure, it is so easy to say that they are Anti-Semites, but this was not just another judge but rather the most senior judge in London. He looked at our evidence and decided that there were grounds for an arrest”.
The exact details were not completely clear, but in all likelihood the existence of the arrest warrant was leaked to the Israeli Embassy. The rumors suggest that the Military Attache or El Al’s security Officer or Ambassador Zvi Hefetz himself boarded the Plane and warned Almog. He remained on the plane and returned with it to Israel.
What is your reaction to what happened at Heathrow?
“This is a serious violation of the role of a diplomat – to actively help his country’s citizen avoid arrest. In my humble opinion this rests outside the definition of the role of a diplomat. The shameless manner in which they felt victorious because they helped a person avoid a British arrest warrant only makes things worse.”
“If a diplomat does not know how to behave, then he should either be subjected to criminal proceedings or he should be asked politely to leave and people who understand British law and the role of the diplomat better than he can replace him, regardless whether this is the ambassador, the Military Attache or anybody else who doesn’t know where the boundaries lie. This incident crossed this boundary and they didn’t even pay attention. This is what shocked me so much together with the fact that it was reported that Sharon was angry at Blair. Well, I happen to think that Blair is the one who should have been angry rather than apologize”.
Why Israel specifically?
“I am first and foremost a lawyer who deals with human rights and I did a lot of work in the field of human rights even before this case. However, as a person and a lawyer I act first of all in places where there is occupation. The reason for that is primarily the asymmetry in the power relationship. When there is a war between two countries, there is cultural pressure on both sides because each side knows that they might have serious problems if they start abusing prisoners of war. When we deal with occupation, the lack of balance between the sides is dangerous. What happens when the occupying force begins to violate the Conventions and when the local legal system does not fulfill its duty? That is the point at which the international community should intervene”.
The entire reason for international conventions like the Geneva Convention is that they are a lesson from the Nazi occupation era during the Second World War when the world realized that when there is an occupier and an occupied it must intervene in order to help the occupied. From this stems the concept of universal jurisprudence. For me, all this is much sadder and much more focused because of my own background that Israel, which came into being largely as a result of the atrocities of WWII is now disregarding some of the lessons of the war. Let me clarify – I am not comparing between the two except in terms of the legal basis. I am comparing the point that they, as occupiers, lost their moral compass in my eyes. Now, this is sad but Israel is not unique in this respect. Indonesia conquered East Timor, Iraq conquered Kuwait and Britain conquered Iraq. Practically speaking, it does not matter whether the occupation is legal or not. Should the world stand by and be silent? The power of the occupation sometimes neutralizes the conscience of the occupier because he is so strong, and the only way to call people to order is via the international legal system”.
That’s it? Doesn’t your Israeli background form a special part of this preoccupation?
“I will not say no, my Israeli background is not irrelevant to this story, and to a certain degree it is clear that it contributed to the fact that I wanted to deal with this. Yes, it was more personal for me because of my life’s experience and it was more challenging because I had to cope with that part of my identity. It may be different for someone who lives in Israel and did the army. It is obvious that someone like that has a different perspective that I don’t share. But I have part of this and I do see the Israeli point of view because my family lives there and it poses a challenge because the family wants to know why I help the Palestinians. They ask me difficult questions to which, I believe, I have good answers. However, this is only part of what brings me to this story”.
What are your conclusions, at this stage, about what happened?
“What worries me about talking about myself is that the focus is distanced from the issues themselves, the suffering, the daily experience with the occupation and from the fifty-nine demolished houses. That is the issue! It is not about me and Raji Surani, the Chair of the organization that I represent. It is about the people who lived in those houses. I wouldn’t be here today if Almog had not issued an order, and he openly admitted it – the argument was only about the number of houses – to destroy the houses. These were houses belonging to people like you and me, flesh and blood. They were civilians, not soldiers and not armed Hamas, just poor ordinary citizens whose houses were demolished. That was a punishment for something they did not do and that no one claimed they did. So why did it happen? This is the question that I hope Israelis are asking themselves today, and not why Doron Almog was forced to change his travel plans to England. I hope that this procedure will not prevent the Generals from flying but rather that it will induce commanders in the field to think twice if what they carry out is proper?