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August 09, 2001
How Denmark is handling Gillon

By Rasmus Sonderriis


How Denmark is handling Gillon
By Rasmus Sonderriis
Reporting From Denmark

When Carmi Gillon, a former Israeli intelligence chief was appointed by his close friend and foreign minister, Mr. Peres, as ambassador to Denmark, his officially-stated background as a torturer - and his continuing defence of that policy - provoked immediate protests to the Danish foreign ministry: "refuse this posting or arrest him upon arrival in compliance with the UN Convention against Torture," demanded the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, the Danish Centre for Rehabilitation of Torture Victims and some Danish politicians, using the Pinochet case as a precedent for denying him diplomatic immunity.

After much speculation in the Danish press whether our queen could shake hands with a known torturer, the Danish foreign minister, Mr. Mogens Lykketoft finally spoke. He condemned torture, but then stressed that Gillon was Israel's supreme choice and said:

"He (Gillon) is an extremely authentic and genuine representative of the country and the foreign minister (Mr. Peres) who are sending him"

Mr. Lykketoft then clarified that any criticism of Gillon is besides the point, as this is not just a personal issue, but one between states. Israeli policies should be the target of criticism. In this way, he was echoing - like a boomerang - Sharon's anger that "any attack against Gillon is an attack against Israel." Mr. Lykketoft went on to point specific blame against the two Nobel Peace Prize winners Rabin and Peres, who clearly accepted, even authorised Gillon's torture. He asked if anyone really imagined Denmark could arrest Peres (answering: no, of course not, - leaving others to think: though strictly speaking, we ought to). Finally, he criticised the settlements, the occupation, the killings etc.

The Middle East policy of the social democratic Mr. Lykketoft has recently been criticised by the Danish right for being "too pro-Palestinian". Jews were nearly all saved by the native Danes during the holocaust, and Israel has traditionally been a very close ally. Meanwhile, the left has claimed that his ministry's rubber-stamping of Gillon's appointment is "besmirching Denmark's reputation as a nation in the forefront of the combat against torture."

Manoeuvring between these attacks, Mr. Lykketoft's hidden point is this: the longer Gillon stays in Denmark, the greater the political opportunities to focus on Israeli disregard for international law. This is why the foreign minister is essentially saying to all this press furore over Gillon: "If he really wants to, just let him come!"