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November 6, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 06, 2009 PAGE 15A "~ . By Leslie Susser JERUSALEM (JTA)-- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing one of the most acute dilemmas since his return to power last March: How to respond to the U.N.-sponsored Goldstone re- port's charges that Israel may have committed war crimes in the Gaza war last January. Pressure is mounting to establish an independent Is- raeli commission of inquiry. Key international players including the United States. Britain and France even Richard Goldstone. the au- have intimated that if Israel sets up a credible civilian inquiry, in Goldstone's own words, it "would be the end of the matter." Ending the Goldstone process would constitute a considerable diplomatic gain for Israel. and several members of the Israeli gov- ernment, including Foreign MinisterAvigdor Lieberman. are advising Netanyahu to go that route. But Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the Israel Defense Forces are strongly against By Jo-Ann Mort NEW YORK (JTA) On my first trip to Israel 29 years ago, I was Waiting for a friend at the entrance to Beit Hatfutsot, a museum on the Tel Aviv Uni- versity campus. It was during a conference convened for Holocaust survivors, and as I watched older survivors flow out of the building, I glanced at the occasional uncovered arm to see the tattooed num- bers there, remnants of their Holocaust experience. It was a powerful vision for a first- time visitor to Israel. one that underscored triumph over adversity and the human will to survive along with the need for the country as a safe haven for the Jews. But now. as a regular visi- tor to Israel, I see a different country, especially in Tel Aviv, a city that has pioneered a free- flowing hedonistic lifestyle that promotes free expression in art and fashion. The campus of Tel Aviv University offers a parade of inked bodies. Which is partly why, though I'm not an Israeli. l decided to join Israel's tattooed ranks during a visit this sum- mer. But unlike the bulk of Tel Aviv's inked masses, I'd recently survived a harrowing ordeal. and a tattoo seemed as good a way as any to mark it. The Jewish taboo against tattooing is culled from averse in Leviticus: "You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead. or incise any marks on yourselves: I am the Lord." There is a great deal of addi- tional rabbinical commentary supporting this prohibition, including the notion that the human body is created in the image of God and. thus, to tamper with it is a kind of blasphemy. In recent times, the taboo has become more rooted in contemporaryhistory than in biblical injunctionlinked as it is to memory of the Holo- ca t. The sight of survivors' such an inquiry. They argue that a civilian-led investiga- tion could cause chaos in the army, with senior officers looking for lawyers instead of focusing on military plan- ning and training. On Oct. 25. after convening a meeting of his top advisers, senior ministers and thetop IDF brass. Netanyahu made some initial decisions. He promised the army that whatever commission was fi- nally decided on. no officers or soldiers would be called upon to testify. He also ordered a team of professionals under Justice Minister Yaacov Nee- man to come up with a set of proposed legal, diplomatic and public relations counterpoints to the Goldstone report as soon as possible. On the commission of inquiry, Netanyahu seems to be leaning toward a com- promise proposal by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. To keep the IDF happy, Ma- zuz has proposed relying on its internal probes into the allegations of war crimes. but adding credibility by establishing a committee of jurists and ex-generals to scrutinize the IDF's work to Audrey Thweatt Jo-Ann Mort says her rose tattoo, in black, seemed as good a way as any to mark her survival from a harrowing ordeal: radiation treatments for breast cancer. tattoos traumatized a nation and a people, as it should have. A friend of mine whose grand- parents perished in Auschwitz nearly threw his oldest son out of the house on their kibbutz when the son came home with. a tattoo. After making an appoint- ment at Kipod on King George and Allenby streets. I had to choose a design. Until I entered the tattoo studio. I had little sense of the final marking. But I knew where I wanted it to be (my upper right shoulder), and I knew that I wanted something that had a somewhat generic elegance to it. since it and I would grow old together. I came equipped with pic- tures of lotuses and roses, dif- ferent shapes and colors, but it wasn't until I sat down in the studio and looked through the picture books that I decided on a final design: a rose with a senseofmovement that makes it look like it is budding right on my back. And I chose the color black. TelAvivwomen may not dress in black from head to toe, but me and my fellow New Yorkers are persistently robed in it. and so it seemed to make sense to me to have my tattoo match the rest of my wardrobe. make sure nothingwas swept under the carpet. committee then would translate the findings into legal language to build a case against the Goldstone report in the international arena. Of the 36 specific allegations of possible war crimes by Israel outlined in the report, the IDF already has investigated 26. Mazuz also proposes that cases in which the mili- tary police launch criminal investigations against in- dividuals now come under the purview of the Attorney General's office. In other words, Mazuz wants to take the IDF's work and civilianize it through overarching civil- ian scrutiny but without the civilian authority being able to subpoena witnesses or interrogate soldiers. Israel, Mazuz argues, needs a credible legal mecha- nism as acounterweight to Goldstone. Not all members of the gov- ernment are convinced his model will be well received on the international stage. Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan of the Likud Party and Avis- hai Braverman and Yitzhak The operative word in the previous sentence, though, is "chose." As it turns out, my new rose is the third tattoo on my body but the only one I asked for. Sixteen years ago I was diagnosed with treatable breast cancer, and I had to go throughasix-month radiation treatment. Prior to this treat- ment, the doctors outlined the area to be radiated with two tiny tattoos. Some women get these removed after their treat- ment, though it's advisable to keep them in case you have a recurrence so that a doctor will see "these telltale signs when considering further treatment. Sometimes I stare in the mirror and try to smudge away the unsmudgeable these navy blue dots that appear intermixed with my natural body markings. These tattoos were not by choice; they mark an attack on my body and on my life by a deadly disease. As fixtures on my chest, they are reminders of the disease and of my triumph over it. Either way, they are reminders of a time in my life when I was out of control. My new tattoo is something I did for me. It has no political or religious significance for me. nor does it show disrespect for my body. as the Leviticus pas- sage implies. Rather it is a sign of respect for my body--and for me to create aunique design on my skin that is not harmful. It doesn't connote something dark or destructive. It's about my own personal choice, mak- ing a decision for which I was fully in control. It's playful and distinctive, like the citywhere I had it done, born from the past but not wedded to it. influenced by its own people's history but not fated to relive it. Jo-Ann Mort writes fre- quently about Israel for a vari- ety of publications. Reprinted from, a new read on Jewish life. Rahim Khatib/Flash90/JTA Richard Goldstone (1), shown meeting June I with Ghazi Hamad of llamas at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, echoes many by saying Israel can end the international inquiry into his report on the Gaza war by establishing an independent commission. Herzog of Labor argue that an independent commission with a much wider mandate is necessary. Otherwise it will look as though Israel has something to hide. They argue that no one will take seriously an investiga- tion carried out primarily by the IDF--the very body facing charges. An indepen- dent commission with a wide mandate would be far more credible and convincing than one restricted to an evalua- tion of IDF findings. Moreover. in the context of a wide-ranging, open civilian investigation, the IDF still would be able to present video footage and other evidence it has to refute the charges in the Goidstone report, and to do so on a far more appropriate stage. There is one other argu- ment for a civilian rather than IDF-dominated probe. A prestigious Israeli committee headed by a former justice not only would be able to close the international file on Goldstone, it would be able to present the international community with proposals for a revision of the laws of war when fighting militia groups are embedded in civilian population centers. This could make it much clearer what armies like the IDF in Gaza, or the Americans in Afghani- stan or Iraq, can or cannot do against enemies using human shields in urban areas. It also would highlight the key question ignored by the Goldstone committee: How is a modern state supposed to defend its civilians against rockets fired from inside heav- ily populated urban areas? Herzog maintains that Goidstone's most serious al- legation was not aimed at the IDF but at the government of Israel: that the government actually ordered the destruc- tion of the civilian infrastruc- ture in Gaza in a deliberate campaign to target the people of Gaza. IDF probes cannot possibly touch on the allega- tion, thus Herzog argues that a much wider investigation is needed to refute it. Interior Minister Eli Yishai says all that would be neces- sary to show how wrong- headed Goldstone's claim is would be to make public the logs of the Cabinet meetings during the war. Herzog agrees that it won't take much to discredit Gold- stone on this point. "If the claim is investi- gated," he said. "it will be shown to be absurd." , FIRST WE LISTEN... THEN WE DELIVER! 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