Chavez urges trial of Israeli leaders

"Israel criticizes Hitler But they have done something similar or, perhaps worse, who knows, than what the Nazis did," Chavez said.

BEIJING/OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (25 August 2006) - VENEZUELAN President Hugo Chavez called for trying Israeli leaders for committing genocide in Lebanon during the month-long Israeli onslaught as calls have mounted up for the Israeli leaders to resign their posts.

"I believe that genocide has occurred (in Lebanon) and that those in Israel who are responsible should be taken to international tribunals for this genocide," Chavez said on Friday, August 25, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

"Nobody should stay muted," he added during a six-day visit to China.

Up to 1,287 Lebanese civilians were killed, a third of whom were children, and thousands wounded when Israel launched a wide-scale offensive in Lebanon on July 12.

The 34-day Israeli offensive also displaced one million people and left the hard-won Lebanon's infrastructure in tatters.

Chavez likened the Israeli practices in Lebanon to the war crimes committed by Germany's Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

"Israel criticizes Hitler a lot and we do too. But they have done something similar or, perhaps worse, who knows, than what the Nazis did ... This is fascism."

Chavez on August 3 withdrew the Venezuelan ambassador in Israel in protest at the Israeli onslaughts in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

He also described the Israeli practices in Lebanon as a "new Holocaust".

Amnesty International on Wednesday, August 23, accused Israel of committing war crimes during its offensive on Lebanon and deliberately destroying its hard-won infrastructure

It followed accusations by Human Rights Watch that Israel committed war crimes in Lebanon and deliberately targeting Lebanese civilians.


Calls have mounted up for the Israeli prime minister, defense minister and army chief to resign over the mounting discontent on the Israeli failures during the Lebanon war.

A poll by Israel's largest circulation Yediot Ahronot showed that 63 percent of Israelis believe Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should step down.

Some 74 per cent also believe that Defense Minister Amir Peretz should resign while 54 per cent want Israeli army chief of staff ousted over the Lebanon war.

The poll showed that three-quarters of the Israelis -- 74 per cent -- are dissatisfied with his leadership and only 11 per cent feel he is the most suitable prime minister today.

Showing a strong swing to the right, the poll also showed that opposition parties could win a snap election less than four months after being defeated, with Likud leader and former premier Benjamin Netanyahu was favorite to be premier at 22 per cent.

Even far-right leader Avigdor Lieberman and octogenarian Shimon Peres, who has never won a nationwide election in his life, would make for more suitable premiers at the moment, the poll found.


The recent scandals of the Israeli political leaders have also given a cause for the mounting calls for the Israeli leaders to step down.

"The crisis is so serious that the government seems doomed in the long-term," political science professor Shlomo Avineri told AFP.

"It is not just a bad show for the military campaign, but a lack of confidence in the entire political class accumulating in the scandals," the former director of the foreign ministry said.

A police investigation has been ordered by the Israeli attorney general into accusation that President Moshe Katsav sexually harassed a woman employee.

Justice Minister Haim Ramon was also accused of kissing a woman soldier against her will, sparking fresh sex allegations and ultimately forcing his resignation this week.

"It's time to say goodbye," screamed a headline in the tabloid-style Maariv newspaper while urging Olmert, Katsav and Halutz to go.

"Halutz should take the initiative and resign before he is forced out, Olmert should widen his government immediately otherwise his Kadima party will collapse and Katsav would do better to leave without delay," it said.


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