On Friday night I had the privilege of being at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem to listen to Melanie Phillips address a group of visiting Americans from Kehillath Jeshurun.
The American group come regularly from Manhattan led by Rabbi Lookstein. They are strong supporters of Israel.
Melanie Phillips had been invited to speak to them after dinner, a difficult task in a hall where the acoustics were poor and Ms Phillips had to speak without electronic aids as it was Shabbat.
Nevertheless, Phillips’ message was loud and clear.
She quickly gave the history of her experiences in the UK and her gradual move through various stages of pariahdom in the UK, mostly due to her stand on Israel and her belief that Israel is the true victim of the conflict although the received wisdom, the default position in the UK media and in Europe is that it is Israel who is the aggressor.
Politicians in the UK, Europe and even the US have for years treated the conflict as if it were a mere border dispute.
According to Phillips – and I have always been in complete agreement on this point – the dispute, which has now raged since the State of Israel was declared, is ALL about Arab rejectionism. A true peace partner would continue to negotiate, they would not declare their intent to destroy the State and, in the case of Hamas and Hizbollah in particular, to kill Jews as a religious imperative.
What lies at the heart of the conflict, therefore, is Islamic Jew-hatred and a virulent anti-Semitism.
The Arab rejectionist narrative and the inversion of victim and aggressor has, according to Phillips, become the narrative of the UK, the US and Europe. They have adopted a false narrative which places the entire onus for progress and concession on Israel whilst the Palestinians have not only failed to make a single concession, but meet every Israeli concession with violence.
The West is rewarding the Palestinians for this aggression and rejectionism, and grants them a free pass.
Phillips bemoaned Israel’s failure to address this false narrative and, in some respects, adopts it itself. Israel always has to be explaining and defending its actions which are put under a microscope, whether it be Operation Cast Lead or the Mavi Marmara incident.
As a result of always having to explain its actions to a cynical world which has internalised as axiomatic that Israel is always to blame, Israel is always on the back foot.
This defensive position has been put forward not just to the UN but also to NGO’s foreign governments and international Human Rights organisations.
So what must be done to put Israel on the front foot?
Phillips offered some suggestions which were to delegitimise the delegitimisers. For example, as a counter to Israel Apartheid Week, why not hold Muslim Women’s Rights Week.
Israel must emphasise that the true story of Israel did not begin in 1967 or 1948 but much earlier. There is an educational problem and not just in the wider world but within the Jewish community worldwide and in Israel itself.
Israel’s claims to the Land are moral and legal and these rights must be trumpeted at all possible opportunities.
Although it may be politic for Israel to concede the West Bank as the basis for a Palestinian state, nevertheless, there is no legal imperative to do so and settlements are NOT illegal.
When Phillips puts these points to Israeli politicians they say that questions of legality of settlements are a legal minefield and that even to address questions about the legitimacy of the State is an admission that there is a question to be answered. No-one questions the legitimacy of New Zealand or Nigeria or Costa Rica (my examples)
Reactions from a conservative American audience were largely supportive and in some cases VERY supportive. A couple of speakers questioned this approach and said it had all been done before and that Israel’s case was constantly being put in the US by AIPAC, for example.
Phillips maintained that this was Jews speaking to Jews. The message requires to be heard outside the community of ‘believers’.
One speaker said that Christian Zionists were fully on message when it came to Israeli legitimacy. This is all very well, but even more needs to be done to reach a sceptical audience of neutrals.
This was, perhaps the crux. Is it really possible for a front-foot strategy to succeed? The walls of ignorance and prejudice are very hard to breach. The enemy is well-organised and has been winning the battle for hearts and minds for decades. To shift the narrative requires Israel to win battles in the UN, the media and in NGO’s.
The idea of countering the delegitimisers of Israel Apartheid Week with an attack on the Islamic world’s appalling record on women’s rights and human rights generally is attractive, but in the UK, for example, the pro-Israel support is so marginalised and small in comparison with the anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian side that the result could be extremely unpleasant and violent.
However, the idea of exposing Muslim and left-wing hypocrisy, beginning at the grass roots level on campus is an attractive one, albeit for the strong-willed and the thick-skinned. I am not sure if such a response could be organised in the UK where most Jewish students are far less radical than their Muslim counterparts and less willing to stir the pot. The diaspora fear of backlash is strongly engrained in the galut psyche.
The big question remains: do the Israelis really believe that such an approach is necessary?
A typical response is that of Asa Kasher who was an author of the IDF Code of Conduct
We as Jews ….. are acutely sensitive to every attack on us. Not only when it’s anti-Semitism or anti-Israel. Even when someone attacks us for this or that government’s politics. The lights go on. “They’re attacking us.” It seems to us to be absolutely terrible. I understand that feeling. We don’t have a history of being loved by everyone. Quite the reverse. But some perspective is required. Obviously we have to be active on all fronts. The international media is a front. So you have the IDF Spokesman. You have the Ministry of Public Diplomacy. Everyone must do what they can to improve this situation. But it’s not that important.
Look what happened after Operation Cast Lead. European leaders and the US president came here. That was a sign of solidarity with Israel. So I don’t think there’s a danger of us becoming [a pariah state] like South Africa. (my emphasis)
So if someone like Kasher is so sanguine about the outside world’s view of Israel, you have to wonder whether Phillips and all other pro-Israel journalists and writers and bloggers like myself serve any useful purpose as far as the Israeli government is concerned.
As they might say over here ‘Mah haBayah’ – What’s the problem?
Yesterday, near the Kotel/Western Wall in Jerusalem I was shocked to see several hundred Ethiopian Jews openly celebrating an ancient Passover ritual.
The entire plaza near the Davidson Center was thronged with very well-behaved and very polite African Israelis.
I took several photos which I hope to post when I return home.
How appalling that the Israeli authorities seemed to be totally sanguine to see all these black people mingling with the dominant ‘white’ Israelis in a clear breach of the Apartheid laws.
Even more appalling was the complete mingling of all races and creeds in the Old City on a day when thousands of Jews had arrived to take part in the Blessing of the Priests (Bircat HaCohanim) at the Kotel/Western Wall.
What is Israeli society coming to when such mingling of the races is openly tolerated?
If anyone knows more about the ceremony I witnessed, please let me know.
You may not have noticed that vandals broke into the synagogue on the Greek island of Corfu and burned the most holy items in Judaism, scrolls of the law – Sifrei Torah. This happened at the beginning of the Passover holiday as reported by the Guardian.
In Judaism these hand-written parchment scrolls of the five books of Moses are the focus of synagogue services on the Sabbath and also festivals and twice during the week.
They are the physical manifestation and, therefore, the direct descendants of the Law revealed by G-d to Moses on Mount Sinai. They are Judaism’s most holy ritual objects.
How interesting is it, then, that the renowned World Jewish Conspiracy did not act to enflame the passions of the world Jewish community to demonstrate, to scream bloody murder and to commit acts of unspeakable violence against innocents.
No doubt this act of desecration was as a result of the 100 strong Corfu Jewish community’s support for the ‘Occupation’.
Or maybe 100 Jews is 100 too many to the good people of Corfu.
According to yNetnews the Greek police have arrested 2 suspects with possible links to terror and a similar attack in Crete.
Israelis are being advised that they are potential targets if they visit Greece on cruises, for example, and that the entire Mediterranean basin is potentially hostile to Jews Israelis.
The government in the West Bank is largely ready to govern a Palestinian state, the United Nations has said.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has successfully built some institutions and public services required for a future state, the UN said in a report.
But it warned that the PA’s efforts could only go so far without resolving its conflict with Israel and the division with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
The report comes a day ahead of a meeting of Western donors in Brussels.
“In six areas where the UN is most engaged, governmental functions are now sufficient for a functioning government of a state,” said the report released by Robert Serry, the UN special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process (Unsco).
For a good analysis of the UN report and its lack of balance the Elder of Ziyon is worth a read here.
Israel will do its very best to stop this from happening. It can also take its own unilateral actions as a form of reprisal, and the Elder and the BBC describe some of these possibilities.
However, as far as I know, no-one has seen the obvious flaw in the Palestinians declaring a state, presumably within the so-called 1967 borders.
By declaring a state within whatever territorial borders they and their backers deem to be the correct ones, this amounts to a de facto acceptance of Israel within the 1967 borders. Let’s forget about the issue of settlements for a minute.
What will happen is that Israel will not recognise the state but a majority in the UN probably will, as there is a built in anti-Israel majority at the UN.
So we will have a putative Palestine, with Gaza hanging like a severed limb and only nominally part of this state.
We will have hundreds of thousands of Israelis who will be living inside this state and whose fate and property will immediately cause a conflagration.
But most importantly, and here is the crux, we will have the right-of-returners, several million Palestinians, who will STILL claim their home is in Israel even though they now have a state of their own.
The whole idea of the Palestinian Right of Return, which does not actually exist in law, was to undermine Israel by flooding it with Palestinians, changing the demographic balance and then joining with the West Bank and Gaza to create the River-to-the-Sea version of Palestine which has always been the aim of the PLO, Fatah, Hamas and just about everyone else in the region.
So what will then be the status of these so-called refugees? Suddenly they are Palestinian citizens. They will no longer have an excuse for remaining in camps. Or will we have the bizarre situation where a Palestinian state refuses to grant citizenship to Palestinians?
Declaring a de facto state which is not the result of an agreement between the two parties is an interesting move. The question to ask is, if you can do it now, why not in 1947 or 1949? Why not accept Ehud Barak’s or Ehud Olmert’s offers made since 2000? why wage bloody war for more than 60 years? Why did so many have to die?
If the Palestinians, in a coup de théâtre, tear up UN resolutions, shred peace accords and fold their arms, Israel will be off the hook. Two can play at that game. Israel might annex all the settlements along the Green Line or even the entire West Bank.
Far from being an enforced peace, it’s a recipe for war.
If it does happen, it’s a game changer. All bets are off. Any action by Israel is possible. It alters the status of the Territories and those living within it.
So why are so many countries prepared to recognise Palestine.
The answer is that they do not recognise or care for the rights of Israelis. It would be an act of international bullying.
And I am absolutely certain that there will be no end to the call for a Right of Return, which the UN should once and for all repudiate. There will be no end to Hamas. There will be no end to Hizbollah. No terrorist or Islamist will suddenly recognise Israel.
Will the Arab League call it quits and declare the conflict over and final borders decided? Will Iran accept Israel?l
It’s ironic that the UN which gave the Arabs a chance of an independent state in 1947 and then stood by whilst Israel was attacked again and again in order to destroy it utterly, can now, with a straight face, say that Palestine is almost ready for statehood.
The UN did say, however, that the conflict must be resolved first.
So, in the end, will it be a Black September, or merely another ploy to delegitimise Israel which gains some purchase but is just a loss leader for the Palestinians?
In this post the Elder examines two conflicting reports; one from the Lancet, the venerable British medical journal, the other is from the World Bank.
The Lancet would be the last place to find anti-Israel bias, right? Apparently not.
The Elder tells us that the BBC reported in 2009:
The Lancet medical journal report highlights how 10% of Palestinian children now have stunted growth.
This was criticised within Israel as political propaganda and Israel’s record on treating Palestinians in Israeli hospitals was defended.
The Lancet report continued:
Mortality rates among infants and under-fives haven’t declined much. This is unusual when compared with other Arab countries that used to have similar rates but have managed to bring them down.
The trend for stunting among children is increasing, and the concern is about the long-term effects. It is caused by chronic malnutrition, and affects cognitive development and physical health.
There are pockets in northern Gaza where the level of stunted growth reaches 30%.
We are told how a Harvard researcher slammed the Israelis reaction and insisted the figures were accurate and, therefore, the Israelis were to blame for this terrible situation in Gaza.
But, as the Elder tells us, using the same statistics, the World Bank spun this the completely opposite way.
In terms of indicators of early childhood nutrition, WB&G is an outstanding performer. Among children under the age of 5, only 11.5 percent suffer from stunting (low height for age) and a mere 1.4 percent from wasting (low weight for height). In the average middle income country, 3 out of 10 children are stunted, i.e. more than three times the figure for WB&G. Performance in terms of wasting incidence is even more compelling: one in 10 children in a middle income country suffers from wasting, i.e. the rate is 7 times lower in WB&G. Thus, judged by anthropometric outcomes, WB&G performs better than most other countries in the world, irrespective of income. …It is important to note that the pool of countries in the sample includes a variety of middle income countries from the region, such as Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, and Morocco — and WB&G fares better than these in terms of early childhood nutrition indicators. In addition, overall incidence rates of stunting and wasting have been relatively stable over time.
So which is it?
It depends on what propaganda goal you have in what you are writing. When you want to demonize Israel, you cherry pick numbers to make it the health situation look bad; when you want to make the PA look good and ready for a state you do the exact opposite. That “objective data” mentioned in the NYT is now seen to have been presented in the most subjective manner possible – by not comparing it to similar territories worldwide.
Quite right, Elder.
The most telling point is that nutrition actually improved during the so-called blockade. This is the polar opposite of what everyone, including politicians who should know better, are saying. It is the alleged motivation behind flotillas who want to bring ‘aid’ to the starving Gazans.
In other words, it’s all one big propaganda stunt to accuse Israel of causing a ‘humanitarian disaster’. Well I have news for you, the real humanitarian disasters are in Africa and currently in North West Japan.
It is interesting that in my blog last month about the author Michael Morpurgo’s visit to Gaza I wrote the following:
Morpurgo tells us that levels of poverty and malnutrition are appalling. The doctors at the hospital he visits report on these levels of malnutrition. It is a hospital to specifically treat this problem.
This is the crux of the issue. So what is the truth. Well, it probably lies between ‘everyone is fit and healthy’ and ‘everyone is starving’. So quite a wide gap into which to insert this assertion: it’s a pretty normal Middle Eastern state. In fact, it’s better than ‘normal’.
A caveat is that these statistics were for a combination of the West Bank and Gaza and it is entirely possible that Gaza is worse than the West Bank. But if it were as bad as painted, then these figures would not be possible.
What is clear is that statistics can be used to almost any purpose and political bias if you do not give context. The Lancet failed to provide context because it wanted to embarrass Israel; the World Bank did give context because it wanted to show that the Palestinians were ready for statehood.
Inadvertently, the World Bank highlighted the Lancet bias.
There is a view held by the wishful thinkers, the ideologues, politicians seeking their place in history and the downright malign Israel- and Jew-haters that somehow, if Israel were to withdraw from Judea and Samaria/the West Bank a Palestinian state would be possible, based on the 1949 cease fire lines, the so-called 1967 borders.
ynetnews reports that a recent poll reveals that no less than 32% of those Palestinians questioned believe that the murder of 5 family members in Itamar last month, including a baby and two children, was justified.
I have been told that we should be stressing that 63% did not support these murders and that to emphasise the minority that did is unworthy.
I beg to differ.
Here are the highlights of the report:
A team of Israeli and Palestinian pollsters says a third of Palestinians surveyed said they supported an attack last month that saw five members of the Fogel family stabbed to death in their home in the West Bank settlement of Itamar.
The poll found 63 percent opposed the attack and 32 percent backed it. Pollsters from Hebrew University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research surveyed 1,270 Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.
The poll was published Wednesday.
Is it a negative spinning of these results to highlight that 1 in 3 questioned actually supported cold-blooded murder?
What if 1 in 3 ‘settlers’ interviewed said that they agreed that it was OK to murder Palestinian children to liberate Judea and Samaria?
Would the Arab world spin this as 63% of settlers do not believe it is right to murder innocents, including children? Oh, Ok, those Jews aren’t that bad after all.
Or would they already be demonstrating on the streets of every capital in the Islamic world, in Europe, on US campuses?
Would they not be falling over themselves in the UN General Assembly to censure the Zionist entity for its bloodthirsty immorality?
Would not Ahmadinejad be orchestrating Jew-hatred on the streets of Teheran?
And of course, if it were the case that 63% of ‘settlers’ believed this, they’d be right, for a change, to so demonstrate and to condemn.
So what is it about Palestinians that renders them immune from such worldwide censure?
Where are the demos in Tel Aviv and Haifa?
Why aren’t the Jews of Europe on the march in Oslo and Rome?
Where is Ban Ki Moon? Or has he his dark side turned to the Palestinians whilst he bathes the Israelis in the bright lunacy which makes the English rendering of his name so apt?
Senior Fatah Central Committee member Nabil Shaath on Sunday said that Judge Richard Goldstone apparently succumbed to pressure because he could not longer bear the terror directed against him, apparently referring to the way Goldstone was ostracized by his native South African and other world Jewish communities.
Fatah has an interesting and surprisingly broad view of the definition of ‘terror’ considering its unending blood libels, antisemitic smears and glorification of terrorist ‘martyrs’ (read murderers).
Surely Goldstone would have made the world aware of the ‘terror’ against him. What a pathetic response by Shaath.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a PLO Executive, said (same article):
“There was a war crime,” he said, adding that Goldstone has no right to retract a report based on documents that were examined by the parties and subject to specific criteria, not on a personal whim.
In other words, Goldstone’s clear realisation that two years of Israeli investigation and evidence as opposed to complete silence from Hamas amounts to ‘whim’. Who are ‘the parties’ and what are the ‘criteria’ of which he speaks? Goldstone has every right to redress a wrong which he has previously signed up to. Just by stating he has no right doesn’t make it so unless you live in the Looking-Glass world of Palestinian politics.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri on Saturday dismissed Judge Richard Goldstone’s “regrets,” saying that “his retreat does not change the fact war crimes had been committed against 1.5 million people in Gaza,” and claimed that the group cooperated fully with the fact finding mission.
So the 1400 has now become 1.5 million. Hamas’ inflated language and posturing is in the face of Goldstone’s prior and continuing claims of war crimes by Hamas against, shall we say, 7 million Israelis. Their lack of a credible response to the original report’s findings are completely ignored in favour of the usual sloganising.
So it seems that the original findings are the ones that the Palestinians and all the other Israel-haters will accept because it is rather inconvenient to accept any retraction. The ‘war crimes’ stand, even though the person who made the claim has now retracted his conclusions.
I don’t see how they can maintain this stance if the UNHRC now throws out the report. But as the UNHRC is loaded with countries who are somewhat antipathetic towards Israel, there could be an interesting few months ahead.
The PCHR is also at it, as reported by walla.co.il (translation)
Raji Sourani, chairman of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, said this morning (Sunday) the regret expressed by Judge Richard Goldstone on the report written about the recent war in Gaza is, “an expression of personal opinion and will not affect the dialog”.
He claims that Goldstone was in the past two years “faced a psychological war waged by Jewish and Israeli organizations to press him to change his position.” He added that Goldstone should not retract his report because it “would ruin his reputation”.
So it’s those pesky Zionists again. No-one, it appears, is big enough to accept Goldstone’s retraction if they hate Israel.
“If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
The pro-Israel Twittersphere, Facebook, blogosphere and the Israeli Prime Minister have been ablaze today with news of, and reactions to, a Washington Post op-ed by Judge Richard Goldstone, the eponymous author of the UN report into Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip in December 2008.
You may recall that this report was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, and, as Goldstone says himself, its purpose was: “…to ensure accountability for improper actions, not to second-guess, with the benefit of hindsight, commanders making difficult battlefield decisions.”
Yet, the report, completed in just a few weeks, whose job was to find “facts”, miserably failed to do so to an extent which meant that its recommendations found that Israel and Hamas may have committed war crimes.
The most libellous conclusion of the report was that Israel had deliberately targetted civilians. Hamas’ actions were given a few paragraphs whilst several incidents were used to show that Israel had acted illegally or potentially illegally.
The report has since been used by every Israel and Jew-hater, every left-wing Hamas groupie, the governments of both friendly and hostile nations and the worldwide media to back up their claims that Israel is a rogue criminal state that targets civilians, uses munitions illegally, uses civilians as human shields.
Very few people have read the report but thousands uses it as an accusatory instrument with which to bash Israel.
Indeed, in the UK, the position of visiting Israeli politicians and soldiers has been precarious because the law of Universal Jurisdiction, currently under review, was being wielded with the comfort of knowing that alleged Israeli war crimes were imminent because of this report.
It is a great source of succour and smugness to the BDS organisations who would Boycott, Sanction and Disinvest from Israel.
In other words, the report whose findings were rejected by Israel and its supporters, had become a weapon of Israel’s enemies who could quote the fact that the UN itself regarded Israel as a war criminal.
The Goldstone Report had become, therefore, a form of modern Blood Libel used by people who had never read it to accuse Israelis of crimes.
Let’s now dissect Goldstone’s supposed retraction and see what he actually said rather than what Israel supporters (and I include myself in that group) would wish that he said or favourably interpret what he said to match their own views, opinions and bias. In doing so let’s try to avoid too much bombast or self-righteous cooing.
So it begins.
We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.
Goldstone’s opening statement is already disingenuous. Of course we know more. This is because instead of the rush to judgement commissioned by the UNHRC, a body dominated by an anti-Israel block, Israel has painstakingly investigated the plethora of incidents reported by Goldstone and by Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.
We don’t know more because the truth has come to light by some miracle, it has come to light because Israel took time and proper juridical care to investigate, to recommend, to prosecute and, indeed, to rebut.
Israel would have investigated anyway. It was not coerced or shamed into it.
Hamas, on the other hand, did nothing except flatly deny any and every accusation against it.
This is supported by the next paragraph in the article:
The final report by the U.N. committee of independent experts — chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis — that followed up on the recommendations of the Goldstone Report has found that “Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza”while “the de facto authorities (i.e., Hamas) have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.”
Our report found evidence of potential war crimes and “possibly crimes against humanity” by both Israel and Hamas. That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying — its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.
Yet Hamas never really figured in the aftermath of the Report, all focus was on Israel. Why? Because “it goes without saying” that Hamas are criminals, according to Goldstone. We all know they are terrorists so there’s not much point going after them. So put Israel under the microscope and see what dirt you can dig up.
But it is precisely the behaviour of Hamas that the Commission should have emphasised and pursued in the international courts.
Surely any commission with a brief from what is supposed to be the word’s premier Human Rights watchdog should be persecuting the self-evident criminals. It should be challenging those countries that support it. It should purge its committees and councils of those that fund and support these criminals.
Instead, all we get is a shrug of the shoulders and a “what do you expect”.
But from Israel they expect a whole lot more and are prepared to pursue Israel, if necessary, in the world court, to damage its reputation, to assist the delegitimisers and effectively to connive with Hamas and other groups whose whole raison d’etre is the destruction of Israel.
The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.
So let’s read this statement from a world renowned Judge and Human Rights prosecutor.
His commission “had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion”. In other words guilty until proven innocent.
This is part of the basis of this commissions findings; because they could not prove the accused was innocent, he must be guilty. What court in the world operates on this principle? This from one of the world’s top practitioners of international jurisprudence. Here he is actually writing that he agreed to go along with his team of predisposed Israel-bashers and find that Israel was guilty until proven innocent. This is beyond belief.
Now he gives us an example of why he and his commission would come to such a piece of legal claptrap.
For example, the most serious attack the Goldstone Report focused on was the killing of some 29 members of the al-Simouni family in their home. The shelling of the home was apparently the consequence of an Israeli commander’s erroneous interpretation of a drone image, and an Israeli officer is under investigation for having ordered the attack. While the length of this investigation is frustrating, it appears that an appropriate process is underway, and I am confident that if the officer is found to have been negligent, Israel will respond accordingly. The purpose of these investigations, as I have always said, is to ensure accountability for improper actions, not to second-guess, with the benefit of hindsight, commanders making difficult battlefield decisions.
But the sentence I have highlighted above is exactly what the commission did not do. It jumped to the conclusion that this and many other actions merited little investigation because it was so patent that Israel had acted criminally.
All the commission needed to say, (since there was a commission, however much I deplore the fact) in this case and all others where evidence was sparse or lacking was something like this:
“The Fact Finding commission recommends that Israel explains Action X and reports back to the the UN in order to mitigate accusations of war crimes.”
I’m no international lawyer, but it does seem to me that if you and your cronies have a predisposition of antipathy to Israel you are going to assume that the incident cited above was a deliberate act and not a tragic accident of war.
So the very actions and conclusions of this supposedly objective and non-partisan commission lead to the patently biased nature of its findings. If it had been the USA or NATO who bombed the al-Simouni house in Afghanistan or Libya no-one would accuse them of war crimes and the immediate conclusion would be that this is an accident of war.
It is instructive to note two stories running this weekend on the BBC News website. The first is entitled Libya air raid ‘killed civilians’. The second ‘Libya: Coalition air strike near Brega kills rebels’.
Seven civilians died and 25 were hurt in a coalition air strike on a pro-Gaddafi convoy in eastern Libya, a doctor there has told the BBC.
Nato officials told the BBC they were making inquiries “down our operations chain to find out if indeed there is any information on the operation side that would support this claim”.
At least 10 Libyan rebels are reported to have been killed when a coalition plane enforcing the no-fly zone fired on their convoy between Brega and Ajdabiya late on Friday night.
And the Libyan government was quick to try to use some UN medicine on the Coalition:
Spokesman Moussa Ibrahim … condemned recent coalition air strikes as “a crime against humanity” and said there had been civilian casualties in one attack on Thursday.
Of course, no-one would take seriously the accusations of the Libyan government, right? After all, they are now an outlaw regime who kill civilians indiscriminately, fire at ambulances and rape dissidents.
So why should Goldstone have put so much weight behind the statements of Hamas, the Gaza government who kill civilians indiscriminately, use ambulances to convey combatants to and from the battlefield and use human shields?
The tragic deaths reported above came about because of the fog of war. No-one will prosecute anyone after the Coalition investigates these incidents. The UN General Assembly will not have an emergency session where hysterical Arab states condemn the US and the UK.
Goldstone is critical that Israel has taken so long. Does the Judge not know how long criminal cases take to investigate? And let us remember that Goldstone himself says here that Israel is investigating 400 incidents. 400! No wonder it takes a long time to conclude.
Goldstone’s little shindig was concluded in the blink of an eye in comparison.
Now here’s a biggy:
I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.
This is legal speak for saying that the conclusions were wrong. Not just al-Simouni but the whole shebang.
Once again, Goldstone is saying, “if only we had waited for the Israeli investigations’ conclusions instead of the rush to judgement and condemnation in the UN’s kangaroo court system specially reserved for one state, Israel’s actions would have been vindicated’.
Just a second; that’s not what he said exactly. He does not say Israel has been vindicated, he just wished he had had the Israeli evidence. In fact, some of the incidents in the Report have led to criminal prosecutions in Israel, proving that Israel is as capable of investigating itself as any democracy. Yet, it is the only democracy that is treated by the UN as if it were a criminal entity, not to be trusted or given any credence whatsoever.
Israel’s lack of cooperation with our investigation meant that we were not able to corroborate how many Gazans killed were civilians and how many were combatants. The Israeli military’s numbers have turned out to be similar to those recently furnished by Hamas (although Hamas may have reason to inflate the number of its combatants).
Now Goldstone is really having a laugh, as we say in the UK. Since he later admits that the UNHRC is ‘skewed’ in its bias against Israel, and, given the fact that anyone in his or her right mind can see that the UN and especially the UNHRC is obsessed with bashing Israel at every opportunity, and making up a few opportunities of its own (remember Durban I and II?), then how can he expect Israel to have agreed to co-operate with a body that is so biased?
This is like asking the defence lawyer to co-operate with the prosecutor to find a guilty verdict against the accused. In effect, Israel took ‘the 5th'; it refused to speak in what it saw as an enterprise predisposed to find it guilty.
Goldstone is actually crticising Israel for not co-operating with his commission, a tool of the very UNHRC that he is himself condemning!
Goldstone now tries to protect his own reputation:
The purpose of the Goldstone Report was never to prove a foregone conclusion against Israel. I insisted on changing the original mandate adopted by the Human Rights Council, which was skewed against Israel.
So if he knew it was biased, why did he not decry it to high heaven rather than accept his role in some misguided belief that ‘as a Jew’ and a ‘Zionist’ he could mitigate the level of attack he appears to have anticipated.
Surely, his job should have been to expose the UNHRC for what it was, accuse it of bias, produce evidence and prove that any commission investigating Israel was either going to have already made up its mind, and in at least one case of a commission member, already published their antipathy to Israel. Thus demonstrating that such a commission was invalid and its conclusion illegitimate.
Goldstone did not do this.
I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.
Disingenuous once again. Who’s he kidding. if I knew that this was not going to happen, surely, the venerable Goldstone would know.
Some have charged that the process we followed did not live up to judicial standards. To be clear: Our mission was in no way a judicial or even quasi-judicial proceeding. We did not investigate criminal conduct on the part of any individual in Israel, Gaza or the West Bank. We made our recommendations based on the record before us, which unfortunately did not include any evidence provided by the Israeli government.
Even if Israel had co-operated, it would self-evidently not have had time to prepare a proper defence of its actions. This is so patently true, given the unwarranted haste with which the commission was formed, that Goldstone must know that what he is writing is utter BS.
The commission’s ‘recommendations’ were so strongly worded, so accusatory and so reliant on flawed evidence taken from a people who are unreliable witnesses, given the nature of the regime under which they live, that to say they were just ‘recommendations’ is disingenuous in the extreme.
Goldstone knew full well how his ‘recommendations’ would be received. He knew full well that Israel would be condemned before the ink was dry and that he was adding to the avalanche of delegitimisation of a state fighting a callous and immoral enemy.
The Goldstone Report, in effect, portrayed Israel as being at least as criminal as Hamas. The result was that Israel’s public and international reputation, such as it was after years of similar tactics against it, was brought to a level whereby a democracy with an army dedicated to following and observing international law in the most difficult and dangerous of circumstances, was further criminalised and delegitimised by what amounted to a malicious prosecution by the UN, a body supposedly dedicated to protecting Human Rights and promulgating democracy.
Now we have Goldstone in Cloud-Cuckoo-Land:
Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case.
Well you don’t say.
But what is the true crime here is that the UN has actually encouraged Hamas as a result of this report because it can clearly see that by provoking Israel to defend itself and thereby increasing the chances that some errant Israeli soldier will commit a crime, it can act with impunity and get the whole weight of world opinion against Israel and orchestrated by the UN.
Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.
If you are so concerned about this, Judge Goldstone, why don’t you get off your judicial butt and do something about this? Op-ed’s in worthy newspapers will not change anything. Recanting and telling the truth about Israel will.
I continue to believe in the cause of establishing and applying international law to protracted and deadly conflicts. Our report has led to numerous “lessons learned” and policy changes, including the adoption of new Israel Defense Forces procedures for protecting civilians in cases of urban warfare and limiting the use of white phosphorus in civilian areas.
There is some truth in this. But this is surely the point; had the commission questioned Israel’s actions with regard to WP and highlighted incidents worthy of investigation rather than draw the unwarranted conclusions that it did, the Report would have been tolerable.
At first, I did not believe the WP stories. After closely reading reports I concluded that Israel’s use was always legal but perhaps, in some cases, unwise or even cavalier. In other words, it did not always use WP as a last resort.
However, I was not a soldier in Gaza risking my life against an embedded enemy. Battlefield decisions that have adverse consequences on civilians must be investigated and procedures tightened up if necessary. Given the recent deaths caused by Coalition bombing in Libya, maybe NATO will be forced to revise its procedures.
Regrettably, there has been no effort by Hamas in Gaza to investigate the allegations of its war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.
Simply put, the laws of armed conflict apply no less to non-state actors such as Hamas than they do to national armies. Ensuring that non-state actors respect these principles, and are investigated when they fail to do so, is one of the most significant challenges facing the law of armed conflict.
So what is the UN doing about it? Why is there not a UN force to Gaza to stop rockets? Could it be due to the Arab and Muslim block in the UNGA, the UNHRC and just about every other body, commission or group which falls under the UN auspices?
Only if all parties to armed conflicts are held to these standards will we be able to protect civilians who, through no choice of their own, are caught up in war.
So who’s holding Hamas to them?
In conclusion, did he recant? Well, you know what, I think he came about as close as he could. I see no claims in this article that he believes the Israeli government or any of its ministers or any army commander committed a war crime in Gaza.
If the author of the Goldstone Report goes public and says it is flawed, that he trusts Israeli investigations and their conclusions, that he is satisfied that criminal cases are being investigated and prosecuted according to Israeli and international law, then clearly, Israel has no case to answer, never did have a case to answer and the Report should be condemned to the waste basket of history.
I am sure that slowly emerging from the woodwork will be a lot of Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, NGO’s, far-lefties, journalists etc. who will claim that Goldstone has recanted because:
1. He is a Jew and has reverted to type or
2. He has been got at by Mossad or
3. He is suffering from a mental illness or
4. What do you expect from a Jew or
5. He has been bribed by a wealthy Jew or AIPAC or AJC or UJIA
Others will simply say that there are other members of the team who have not recanted, the Report stands.
Others will just ignore it. Last time I looked, Al Jazeera were keeping stum.