Israel Prepares to Rebut Goldstone

Posted: January 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

Israel Prepares to Rebut Goldstone

As Israel prepares to publish its official response to the UN’s Goldstone Report, we highlight some more recent analyses and commentaries.

As reported by the New York Times, Israel is preparing to release its own rebuttal to the Goldstone Report, some of the contents of which were released to the newspaper:

One concerned the destruction of Gaza’s sole flour mill. The Goldstone report asserts that the Bader flour mill “was hit by an airstrike, possibly by an F-16.” The Israeli investigators say they have photographic proof that this is false, that the mill was accidentally hit by artillery in the course of a firefight with Hamas militiamen.

The dispute is significant since the United Nations report asserts that “the destruction of the mill was carried out for the purpose of denying sustenance to the civilian population,” an explicit war crime.

A second finding concerned the destruction of a wastewater plant, leading to an enormous outflow of raw sewage. The Goldstone report contended that it was hit by a powerful Israeli missile in a strike that was “deliberate and premeditated.” The Israelis say they had nothing to do with that plant’s collapse and suggest that it may have been the result of Hamas explosives.

The two cases, along with the destruction of chicken coops, water wells, a cement plant and some 4,000 homes, are crucial building blocks in the Goldstone case that Israel set out to eliminate infrastructure so as to cause intense civilian suffering.

BBC’s Newsnight filmed a report by British Gulf War veteran Colonel Tim Collins who visited Gaza one year after the end of Operation Cast Lead. The Goldstone Report, amongst other charges, claims that Israel indiscriminately attacked places of worship. Yet, unlike Goldstone, Tim Collins visits one such mosque and concludes that the evidence of secondary explosions could only have been the result of weapons stored inside the mosque itself.

Even a BBC report sees what Goldstone failed to acknowledge – click on the image below to view the entire report.


While we await Israel’s full response to Goldstone, which is to be handed imminently to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, others have also been further analyzing the Goldstone Report’s contents with a fine toothcomb.

Alan Dershowitz focuses on the two central conclusions reached in the report:

The first is that the real purpose of Operation Cast Lead was not to protect Israeli civilians from Hamas rockets, over eight thousand of which had struck Israel over a nine year period. According to the report, Israel used the rocket attacks on its citizens as a pretext, an excuse, a cover for the real purpose of the operation, which was to target innocent Palestinian civilians – children, women, the elderly – for death. This criminal objective was explicitly decided upon by the highest levels of the Israeli government and military and constitutes a deliberate and willful war crime. The report found these serious charges “to be firmly based in fact” and had “no doubt” of their truth.

In contrast, the Mission decided that Hamas was not guilty of deliberately and willfully using the civilian population as human shields.  It found “no evidence” that Hamas fighters “engaged in combat in civilian dress,” “no evidence” that “Palestinian combatants mingled with the civilian population with the intention of shielding themselves from attack,” and no support for the claim that mosques were used to store weapons.

As we will see, the report is demonstrably wrong about both of these critical conclusions.  The hard evidence conclusively proves that the exact opposite is true, namely that:

  • Israel did not have a policy of targeting innocent civilians for death.  Indeed the IDF went to unprecedented lengths to minimize civilian casualties; and
  • That Hamas did have a deliberate policy of having its combatants dress in civilian clothing, fire their rockets from densely populated areas, use civilians as human shields, and store weapons in mosques.

Read Alan Dershowitz’s full essay here at the Understanding the Goldstone Report website.

Also offering an analysis of the Goldstone Report is Professor Richard Landes in a two part piece in the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA), which includes an examination of the media’s role in the Gaza conflict:

The role of the media in generating the first draft of the Goldstone Report entered a new stage once the fighting was over. Journalists were then able to enter the area and report a second round of alleged atrocities without noting how, in some cases, these contradicted earlier Palestinian reporting. While some unearthed evidence of Hamas’ brutality, explained off-camera with the most extreme of lethal narratives.

The most incendiary case concerned the January 6, 2009, death of three girls belonging to the Abd Rabbo family. Ma’an News Agency had reported the following day that they died as the result of air strikes. Yet a fortnight later, the story changed into an elaborate tale of gratuitous, cold-blooded murder, in which an Israeli soldier popped out of a tank while his mates munched on oranges and chocolate, and shot the three girls and their grandmother, then the soldiers crushed the ambulance that came to evacuate them, so they bled to death.

This story became headline news around the world, most notably in Tim McGirk’s articles for Time Magazine. Those who argue that coverage might have been more responsible had the Western press been there from the start should note how the work of Bowen, McGirk, and others calls into question that idea.

Read Parts 1 and 2 of this article here.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Goldberg interviews Elliot Abrams, the key Middle East policymaker on President Bush’s National Security Council:

JG: You say that Goldstone treats Israeli self-defense as a war crime. But looking back, do you think Israel made any mistakes in its incursion into Gaza, and do you think that some of Israel’s actions could, in fact, constitute war crimes?

EA: The issue is not whether Israel made any mistakes of policy, strategy, or implementation, nor whether any Israeli soldier violated his instructions.  As to the latter, I assume that happens in all armies, and all decent armies, like ours and the IDF, investigate and punish misconduct.  But only Israel gets a UN Human Rights Council “report” whose biases and errors should be a source of shame to that Council (though even at its young age it is obviously beyond shame).   As to errors of policy regarding Gaza, they absorbed 8,000 rockets and mortars aimed at civilians before they went back in, all the while devoting enormous energy to developing their defenses from such weapons (the “Iron Dome” system) so that they would not need to go in again.  Name the country that would take 8,000 attacks against civilians without responding before criticizing Israel for doing so.  The question that presents itself, I think, is whether a tougher response earlier on, shortly after leaving Gaza in 2005, would have taught Hamas the lesson it has now apparently learned and led it to stop the attacks on Israel from Gaza.

HonestReporting will be there to provide full coverage of Israel’s official response to the Goldstone Report as soon as it is released.

Also a year before as you can see former honorable justice minister of Canada Irwin Cotler was asked at the National Post a simple question with a complex situation.

The Israeli-Hamas conflict, with its evocative images of human suffering, has engaged the hearts and minds of people the world over. Indeed, the death of any innocent — Israeli or Palestinian — is a tragedy, and no one can fail to be moved by the human suffering and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

But the immediate cessation of violence that was declared over the weekend — and that has so far held — may not endure. If we want to prevent further tragedies, it is important to go beyond the “fog of war” — to go behind the daily headlines that cloud understanding and the cliches (the “cycle of violence”) that corrupt it — and ask some fundamental questions about the root causes of this war and the basis for its resolution.

1.  Do you agree that Israel, like any other state, has the right to live in peace and security, free from any threats or acts of force?

2.  Are you aware that Hamas has launched over 8,000 missiles, rockets and mortars from behind civilian areas, deliberately targeting and terrorizing the Israeli civilian population these last three years, constituting an armed attack prohibited by the UN Charter? Are you aware that despite a six-month truce, Hamas launched close to 3,000 armed attacks in 2008 alone?

3.  Do you agree that Israel — like any other state — has an obligation to protect its citizens, and a right to self-defence against armed attack as set forth in Article 51 of the UN Charter?
As then-U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice put it to the UN Security Council, echoing the words of both U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “The situation before the current events in Gaza was clearly not sustainable. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis lived under the daily threat of rocket attack, and frankly, no country, none of our countries, would have been willing to tolerate such a circumstance.”

4.  Do you agree that Israel’s exercise of self-defence must comport with the principles of international humanitarian law, including the principle of proportionality and the prohibition against the infliction of unnecessary suffering?

5.  Do you agree that Palestinians in Gaza have the same right as Israelis to live in peace and security? Are you aware of the domestic repression by Hamas of Palestinian rights in Gaza, including converting the civilian infrastructure to a weapons depot and exploiting the civilian population as human shields, as is now being observed even in the Arab press?

6.  Do you agree that the ceasefire must be durable and sustaining to protect the peace and security of both Israelis and Palestinians?
If so, then let us look deeper at what this conflict is truly about.

7.  Are you aware that the border crossings — between Egypt and Gaza, and between Gaza and Israel — have been used to smuggle terrorists, weapons, munitions and contraband, when they should be open instead for the movement of people and trade, as set forth in the 2005 Israeli-Palestinian Agreement on Movement and Access?

8.  Are you aware that Hamas is designated a terrorist entity by Canada, the United States and the European Union, and that UN Security Council resolutions require Palestinian governing authorities to deny safe havens to terrorists?

9.  Are you aware that the Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews wherever they might be?

10.  Are you aware that this genocidal ideology is shared not only by Hamas but also by Iran and its proxy immediately north of Israel, Hezbollah. Did you know that Iran is training, financing, supplying and instigating terrorist action by Hamas and Hezbollah to carry out this existential threat to Israel?

11.  Are you aware that Hamas — not only during the present hostilities, but before them, too — has propagated a state-sanctioned culture of hate, in the mosques, in the schools, in the broadcasting system and in the summer camps and training camps, which teaches that Jews are inherently evil, a cancer, responsible for all the evils of the world, the sons of apes and pigs and the defilers of Islam?

12.  Do you agree that such statements promote hatred and contempt for Jews, and constitute an obstacle to peace?
The next generation of Palestinians must be one that is capable of keeping the peace with Israel. It is in the interests of neither Israelis nor Palestinians themselves to perpetuate this false “conflict of civilizations” — and yet perpetual conflict is exactly what Hamas, by its own acknowledgment, wants, until Israel’s demise.
So then, a final question:

13.  Do you agree that a comprehensive and enduring ceasefire must include: the reaffirmation — as a bottom-line commitment, as President Obama has put it — of Israel’s right to live in peace; the cessation of all acts of terror and violence against Israeli civilians, the casus belli of these hostilities; the withdrawal of Israel from Gaza; the establishment of an international protection and stabilization force to enforce the ceasefire and protect against smuggling and the manufacture of weapons; the deployment of a massive humanitarian undertaking to ensure assistance reaches those in need; the opening of border crossings; the initiation of a comprehensive program for the reconstruction of Gaza and the rehabilitation of its citizens; and the freeing of Palestinian society from the cynical and oppressive culture of hate and incitement fuelled by Hamas?

I close on a personal note. I write not only as a law professor and MP, but as one who has family in Israel and friends in Palestine, and who has lived and worked in the region and been engaged in the struggle for peace for more than 35 years.
The overriding truth of these past 35 years for me has always been clear and remains the same. I will stand with those who support the right of peoples in the Middle East — Israelis and Palestinians alike — to live in peace and security, free from any threats or acts of force, a cornerstone of UN principle and Canadian foreign policy; and I will oppose all those, like Hamas and its patron Iran, who seek the destruction of any people or state in violation of the UN Charter and all civilized norms.
National Post

Irwin Cotler is professor of law (on leave) at McGill University, the Opposition Critic for Human Rights and the MP for Mount Royal. He has written extensively on the Middle East.
And my answer was:


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