“Israeli racism, whose natural “hothouse” is the colonialist project in the territories, has long since spilled over into Israeli society and has been legitimized in the series of laws recently passed in the Knesset. Only people who avoid looking at the broad historical context of such a process are still able to believe it is possible to stop the emergence of an Israeli apartheid state without getting rid of the colonialist-racist grip on the territories.” [Heading towards an apartheid state, item 5 below]
“Military sources say that there is no magic formula to use to deal with ships that try to enter Israel’s waters forcibly.” [final paragraph of item 4—The problems with this statement are that the Mavi Marmara fleet (a) was attacked not in Israel’s waters but in international waters, (b) did not use force to make its way to Gaza, and (c) if Israel has ‘left’ Gaza as it says it has, what right then has it to blockade Gaza from air, land, and sea?]
Below are 8 items. I don’t know whether item 1, 6, or 7 can be called the saddest of the lot. But each in its own way is.
But before I run through the items, glance at the above comments. A few points need to be made regarding the attitude in the first of these. To begin with, Israel’s colonial project did not begin in 1967. It began with the so-called War of Independence (1948-9). The country was not an empty waste land prior to the Jews winning the war that dispossessed the Palestinians and produced Israel. True, the UN partitioned Palestine. But it did not say nor intend that Palestinians be expelled, their lands taken, their villages demolished, and the refugees not be allowed to return. Israel has been colonizing since its inception. And if it is not stopped, the fate of the West Bank will be that of the present State of Israel, which will swallow up the WB whole, divide it permanently from Gaza, and become the Greater Israel. Furthermore, Israel is already an apartheid state, not only in the West Bank, but also in Israel. Palestinians with Israeli citizenship do not have the same rights as do Jews, beginning with the Jews ‘law of return’ (return from where?) and the exclusion of the Palestinian refugees right of return (to their villages and cities). I have mentioned other inequalities in the past and won’t repeat now. I just want to say here that given these qualifications, the article nevertheless does make some important points, as, e.g., comparing it to other apartheid states as Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa.
As for the 2nd paragraph above, my comments are in brackets, the main point being that Israel attacked the Mavi Marmara in International Waters, not in Israeli ones!
The first item relates the suffering of one village, and shows how easy it is for Israel to steal land and make life impossible for people. We have to work on bds more to pressure Israel’s governments to stop doing these horrible things, which are not an iota better than the pogroms that Jews suffered in Eastern Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The means of the pogroms were different from the ones that Israel uses, but the effect is equally despicable.
Item 2 reports the fate of the Palestinian who was kidnapped in the Ukraine
and is now being charged for a crime that he claims to not have committed. And if he did indeed commit it and is as important to Hamas as Israel claims, is it possible that he was kidnapped less for what he did than to try to pressure Hamas into releasing Gilad Shalit in exchange for this one person rather than for the 1000 (of some 10,000) prisoners in Israeli jails.
In item 3 El Baradei says that as president of Egypt (if elected) he will open Rafa’s gates to allow Palestinians to escape should Israel attack again. Why wait? Why not open them now? Of course he has not yet been elected, but even so, why open them only on the condition that Israel attacks?
Item 4 reports that Israel is trying to diplomatically prevent freedom flotilla 2 from sailing. Whether or not Israel will be successful, and to what degree depends of course on the countries that it contacts and the UN. Time will tell. I guess even if none of the countries nor the UN agree to stop the flotilla, Israel will be able to try to justify its violence by claiming that it had forewarned everyone. Let’s hope that Israel fails to convince the countries it contacts for the purpose, and lets hope also that in event that the flotilla will float, that there will be no violence and no lives lost. And even more, let us hope that Israel will of its own volition or by external pressure stop the siege on Gaza.
Item 5 I have commented on above.
Item 6 is about plans to build nearly 1000 more structures beyond the green line, a line that in practice Israel’s government ignores.
Item 7 came as a shock! While reading the international newspapers on line, I found the Guardian informing me that Julian Mer Khamis had been killed in Jenin. Apart from founding the Freedom Theatre and being an actor, he directed one of the best films on the situation in Jenin, and typical of many West Bank communities, that I have ever seen: Arna’s children. You can watch it on line http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6EXrA3UFwM If you would prefer to have a review of it, a rather good one is available at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article2255.shtml If you wish to know more about the beginnings of the Freedom Theatre and about Zakaria Zubedei you can find a fairly thorough background piece within the depiction of the opening of the Freedom Theatre at http://www.thefreedomtheatre.org/articles.php?id=41
In brief, Zakaria Zubedie’s home was where Arna’s theater began. During the IOF’s horrible destructive offensive in April 2002, Zubedi’s mother and brother were killed, and, if I recall correctly, his home—his parent’s home—the place where Arna had worked with the children in Jenin—was partially or entirely destroyed. Julian Mer Khamis, Zubedi says, was the only person of all the Israeli left that had visited his home prior to Israel’s invasion, to show that he cared about what was happening or had happened. Sad, now, that Khamis was killed, and in Jenin.
Goldstone’s retraction (if that is what it was) is in all the newspapers. Interestingly, while I was reading some of the articles on it, one informed me that he had wanted to publish it in the New York Times, which rejected it, without explanation! Perhaps the Times saw through it in the same way that Noura Erekat does in item 8. When I read the retraction itself the first time (I have since gone over it several more times), my main impression was that Goldstone was angry with Israel for not having cooperated with the investigation so that he could say wholeheartedly that Israel had committed no war crimes. Well, it’s not likely that we will ever know his motives, albeit there are some who think that they do. Whatever you personally think, I believe that you, too, will find the critique raises important questions.
All the best, and tonight, as last night, I hope that tomorrow will be a better day than was today.
Nora Barrows-Friedman, The Electronic Intifada, 31 March 2011
Palestine, (Pal Telegraph) – Since 24 March, Israeli forces have sealed the southern occupied West Bank village of Beit Ommar for an indefinite amount of time as soldiers continue to arrest young Palestinian residents and hold them in Israeli detention centers.
In a move akin to the four-year-long economic blockade against the occupied Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers have closed the six entrances to the village of 17,000 inhabitants and have imposed a widespread prohibition policy against all major imports and exports from the village — including gasoline, produce, raw industrial materials and basic supplies. Ambulances have also been prevented from entering or exiting the village.
The closures and arrests followed a brazen attack by an Israeli settler on a funeral procession on 21 March.
The settler stopped his car on Route 60 (the highway linking Jerusalem with Hebron-area settlements) as the crowd of mourners moved towards the village cemetery, and started firing indiscriminately with live ammunition, injuring two Palestinian men, the Beit Ommar-based Palestine Solidarity Project (PSP) reported.
“The settler who shot the two men was not arrested,” PSP stated (“Two Palestinians Injured as Settler Opens Fire on Funeral Procession in Beit Ommar,” 21 March 2011).
“Israeli forces arrived on the scene and used sound bombs and tear gas to disperse the gathered crowd as medical teams evacuated the wounded,” the report added.
The attack came amidst a widespread spate of settler violence against Palestinians throughout the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem.
Settler attacks have continued this week. The Palestine News Network reported that Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians in Ramallah, Jenin and Hebron on 30 and 31 March (“Daily Roundup: Settler Attacks in Ramallah, Jenin; Three-year-old Hit by Settler Car; Four Arrested,” 31 March 2011).
Following the settler attack against the funeral procession, Israeli forces closed the main entrance to Beit Ommar, as special forces invaded the village and shot tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets before arresting three Palestinian residents, PSP reported on 25 March (“Three Beit Ommar Residents Arrested As Israeli Forces Close Village Streets”).
The next day, all six entrances to the village were shut, and continue to remain closed. Beit Ommar residents and international solidarity activists engaged in protests against the closures and collective punishment on 26 March.
On the evening of 27 March, fifteen young Palestinians were arrested and remain in detention at the military base in nearby Gush Etzion settlement. Of those fifteen, seven are under 18 years old. The military gave no reason for their arrests and detentions, PSP stated.
Hours later, PSP reported, Israeli soldiers “fired tear gas and rubber bullets at villagers attempting to pass the road blocks on foot to board the taxis and buses waiting below. The soldiers refused to let anyone exit Beit Ommar until after their departure roughly an hour and a half later” (“15 Beit Ommar Residents Arrested as Closures, Army Harassment, Continue,” 28 March 2011).
Yousef Abu Maria, coordinator of the Center for Freedom and Justice in Beit Ommar (CFJ), told The Electronic Intifada that the indefinite closures imposed on the village have already created an economic crisis for Beit Ommar’s 17,000 residents during the last week.
“The industrial factories in Beit Ommar are effectively closed,” Abu Maria said. “There haven’t been any imported raw materials from the outside. And the gas station will close soon, because there isn’t enough gas. Essential products are hard to obtain right now in the village.”
Ahmed Oudeh of the PSP and the CFJ told The Electronic Intifada that farmers in the village who depend on exporting their produce to nearby cities and towns are facing a dire financial situation if the closure remains in place. Additionally, pregnant women and people needing medical attention are not able to reach the hospital, as the policy affects ambulance access to and from the village.
The Electronic Intifada witnessed a Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulance being turned away at the front gate of Beit Ommar, forced by Israeli soldiers to find a rural route out of the village. Oudeh said that it could take up to an hour and a half to get back to the hospital in Hebron.
It is against international law — as outlined in the Fourth Geneva Convention — for the Israeli military to prevent ambulances from accessing or transporting persons needing medical attention.
Abu Maria further explained that schoolteachers working in the village are having difficulties getting to and from Beit Ommar, since the roads are sealed and public buses and taxis are being turned away by the soldiers at the gates.
“Laborers who work in Hebron or nearby in Saffa village are also being directly affected,” Abu Maria added. “They can’t drive their cars out of the village or back inside, and many don’t have enough money to pay for taxi services to and from work. [These policies are] a collective punishment for the people in Beit Ommar.”
Meanwhile, a new section of the Efrat settlement colony on the other side of Route 60 is being built, according to a new map issued by the Israeli military and obtained by the CFJ. Beit Ommar is surrounded by several illegal settlements, parts of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc in the southern West Bank.
Abu Maria said that the Israeli military is planning to erect a fence around the village, and will move the main entrance gate deeper inside Beit Ommar to protect settlers on the road. But the main purpose of the current closures and the fence is to “take more land and expand the settlements,” he said.
Beit Ommar resident Naama Hassan Sleibi, 65, told The Electronic Intifada that she and her husband have been farmers their whole lives but continue to lose their land as the nearby Karmei Tsur settlement expands. “We have empty land with no produce,” she said. “[The expansion of the settlements] is a huge loss for farmers.”
For years, Beit Ommar’s residents have been engaged in unwavering actions of civil disobedience against the encroaching settlements and land confiscation policies. Abu Maria explained that part of Israel’s intention to impose the closures and control movement of the villagers is to break the steadfast resistance inside Beit Ommar.
“In [the nearby village of] Saffa, next to the Bat Ayn settlement, we are planting olive trees,” he said. “The Israeli military said we can’t plant there, but we’re going to keep doing it anyway. They won’t succeed in stopping us.”
As the closures continue to paralyze people’s lives across a broad spectrum, Sleibi said that she’s most worried most about the youth of Beit Ommar. “[The Israeli soldiers] come and arrest young people all the time,” she said.
Sleibi needed to go to the hospital in Hebron several days ago for routine medical needs but was turned back by Israeli soldiers. “We can’t do anything,” she said. “The settler attacked the funeral, but the people of Beit Ommar pay the price.”
Nora Barrows-Friedman is an award-winning independent journalist, writing for The Electronic Intifada, Inter Press Service, Al-Jazeera, Truthout and other outlets. She regularly reports from Palestine.
Source: The Electronic Intifada
2. Washington Post,
April 04, 2011
Seized Gaza engineer charged with rocket development
JERUSALEM — A Palestinian engineer from Gaza, held by Israel after he vanished mysteriously from a train in Ukraine, was charged Monday in an Israeli court with developing rockets for the Islamic militant group Hamas.
Dirar Abu Sisi, 42, operations manager at Gaza’s only power plant, went missing Feb. 19 and resurfaced a few days later in an Israeli jail. His Ukrainian-born wife accused Israel’s overseas intelligence service, Mossad, of abducting him, and he later told court reporters he had been “kidnapped.”
On Monday, Abu Sisi was formally charged with developing rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel, increasing their range and ability to penetrate Israeli armored vehicles, according to a summary of the indictment released by the Israeli Justice Ministry.
The indictment alleged that Abu Sisi had acquired extensive knowledge of rocket technology at a military engineering academy in Ukraine. He was also charged with establishing a military academy in Gaza to train Hamas commanders.
In a brief courtroom appearance, Abu Sisi said he had been seized to gain information about Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held by Hamas, and that the charges against him were fabricated when his interrogation showed he had nothing to do with the captive soldier.
A Hamas spokesman in Gaza denied any links between Abu Sisi and the group, calling the Israeli charges false.
Former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who had previously announced his intetions to run for the presidency of Egypt, said Monday that “if Israel attacked Gaza we would declare war against the Zionist regime.”
In an interview with the Al-Watan newspaper he said: “In case of any future Israeli attack on Gaza – as the next president of Egypt – I will open the Rafah border crossing and will consider different ways to implement the joint Arab defense agreement.”
He also stated that “Israel controls Palestinian soil” adding that that “there has been no tangible breakthrough in reconciliation process because of the imbalance of power in the region – a situation that creates a kind of one way peace.”
Discussing his agenda for Egypt, ElBaradei said that distribution of income between the different classes in Egypt would be his most important priority if he were to win the upcoming elections.
ELBaradei’s main competition is Arab League Secretary General and former Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa. Last month he discussed Egypt’s relationship with Israel. “During my term in office the foreign ministry was subject to unfavorable policies from Israel with regards to the peace agreement,” Said Moussa who served as foreign minister 1991-2001,” he said.
“We thought the peace process was like a waterwheel – endlessly turning around and around without reaching a defined point. My opinion was that we needed to be honest with the Israelis, taking determined measures within the framework of the foreign ministry’s operations. Maybe this led to a lack of agreement on all Israel related issues.”
April 04, 2011
Israel pressing UN to halt new Gaza aid flotilla
More than 1,000 leftists and pro-Palestinian activists are expected to take part in the flotilla, which sources say will include more than 20 vessels of various sizes.
Security officials and the Foreign Ministry have started preparing feverishly for the expected arrival of another Gaza flotilla in late May. More than 1,000 leftists and pro-Palestinian activists are expected to take part in the flotilla, which sources say will include more than 20 vessels of various sizes.
Drawing lessons from the controversy over the raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship last May, and from the recommendations made after the investigation of the incident by the Turkel commission, Israeli officials are preparing in advance for another such protest at sea.
In recent weeks, Jerusalem has engaged in a large-scale diplomatic effort aimed at pressuring heads of states in countries from which ships are expected to sail, to discourage their citizens from taking part. The hope is that such an effort will head off a large-scale “sequel” to last year’s flotilla. Furthermore, in the event that another military raid is called for, this time Israel wants to be able to claim that every possible effort was made to stop the ships peaceably.
Among other officials, senior Israeli diplomats have initiated discussions with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, to persuade him to take steps to prevent the departure of the flotilla.
At the same time, security officials are discussing a possible relaxation of the siege on the Gaza Strip. The main advocate of such a move is Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, coordinator of government activities in the territories. He believes that loosening restrictions on the entry of goods would be an effective response to allegations that Israel is infringing the basic rights of Gaza residents, and would defuse many of the claims made by the flotilla organizers.
Until now, top officials in the security establishment have held a few coordinating meetings in anticipation of the maritime protest in May, together with Foreign Ministry officials.
Concurrently, the navy is completing preparations for a scenario in which its men would have to use force in another raid on a ship. As happened with the Marmara, responsibility for such a raid would devolve upon the naval commando unit; members of this unit have been training for several different eventualities.
The Turkish organization IHH, which was involved in last year’s flotilla, is also taking part in planning the new one. The Marmara has apparently been pressed into service for another trip to the Gaza coast. Some activists are talking about a flotilla of up to 50 ships, although other sources indicate that the number will be much smaller. It remains unclear whether organizers will obtain insurance for the ships and various other types of authorization needed to set sail.
The event is planned for May 31, the one-year anniversary of the death of nine Turkish activists during the Israel Defense Forces’ raid on the Marmara. The objective of this this flotilla would be both to commemorate those killed as well as to demand that the siege on Gaza be lifted.
Military sources say that there is no magic formula to use to deal with ships that try to enter Israel’s waters forcibly. They warn that circumstances this time may be similar to those during the Marmara episode.
April 04, 2011
Heading toward an Israeli apartheid state
Israeli racism, whose natural ‘hothouse’ is the colonialist project in the territories, has long since spilled over into Israeli society and has been legitimized in the series of laws recently passed in the Knesset.
It has been 60 years since the apartheid state was established in South Africa. In March 1951, a few years after the racist National Party came to power, racial segregation was anchored in law. As was common in other countries that adopted racist laws in the 20th century, those in South Africa were accompanied by “laundered” explanations.
Hitler declared after the Nuremberg Race Laws were passed in 1935 that they would create a suitable basis for a separate but worthy existence for Jews in Germany alongside German society. The race laws in South Africa established that people of different colors cannot exist when mixed with each other – only in separate, protected spaces.
The tsunami of racist laws passed by the Knesset in recent months is also being explained by reasoned and worthy arguments: the right of small communities to preserve their own character (the Acceptance Committees Law ); the state’s right to prevent hostile use of the funds it allocates to education and culture (the Nakba Law ); and the right to deny citizenship to persons convicted of espionage or treason (the Citizenship Law ). But I believe that as in other historical instances, the aim of this legislation is the gradual establishment of an apartheid state in Israel, and the future separation on a racial basis of Jews and non-Jews.
An apartheid state is not created in the blink of an eye. What was created in Germany in 1935 was the outcome of a long and sometimes violent debate, which had been ongoing since the middle of the 19th century, about the place of Jews in modern Germany and Europe. Indeed, the desire to isolate and distance the Jews from society – legally and socially – was part of the belief system of anti-Semites in Europe for decades before Hitler came into power.
In this respect the Nazi regime, along with other regimes that passed racial separation laws (among them those in Romania, Hungary, Italy and Vichy France in 1940 ), only anchored in legislation a reality that had already been enthusiastically received by the populace. Of course, when such laws were enacted, the regimes involved did not support or imagine that at the end of the road, a “final solution” was waiting in its Nazi format. However, once the seeds were sown, no one was able to figure out what fruit they would bear.
The historical background of the Israeli apartheid state-in-the-making that is emerging before our eyes should be sought in 1967. It is part of a process that has been going on for about 44 years: What started as rule over another people has gradually ripened – especially since the latter part of the 1970s – into a colonialism that is nurturing a regime of oppression and discrimination with regard to the Palestinian population. It is robbing that population of its land and of its basic civil rights, and is encouraging a minority group (the settlers ) to develop a crude, violent attitude toward the Arabs in the territories. This was exactly the reality that, after many years, led to the establishment of the apartheid state in South Africa.
In her book “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” Hannah Arendt draws a sharp picture of the process of the development of the society of racial segregation in South Africa, from the start of the Dutch Boer colonialist settlement there. Assumption of racial superiority – the subordination of the black population – was the only way the “whites” could adjust to life in the midst of that race. The nurturance of feelings of racial supremacy, to which were added the belief in cultural superiority and the justification for economic exploitation – these are what, in a decades-long process, gave rise to the need to anchor this situation in proper legislation.
Thus, the dehumanization of the blacks, who at the start of the colonization period were perceived as no more than enhanced work animals, led to the establishment of a regime of racial separation 60 years ago in South Africa, which for decades left tens of millions of black people mired in a situation of harsh poverty, exploitation and atrophy.
It is not hard to identify this sort of worldview developing – with respect to Arabs – among widening circles of settlers in the territories and among their supporters within the (pre-Six Day War ) Green Line. It also has quite a number of supporters in the Knesset, even if they will not admit this outright.
Israeli racism, whose natural “hothouse” is the colonialist project in the territories, has long since spilled over into Israeli society and has been legitimized in the series of laws recently passed in the Knesset. Only people who avoid looking at the broad historical context of such a process are still able to believe it is possible to stop the emergence of an Israeli apartheid state without getting rid of the colonialist-racist grip on the territories.
Prof. Blatman is a Holocaust researcher and head of the Institute for Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
April 04, 2011
Jerusalem committee to debate building nearly 1,000 homes beyond Green Line
Plan sees the Gilo neighborhood expanding southwest, onto land currently owned by the Jewish National Fund and private individuals.
The Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee will discuss Monday construction of 942 housing units in the Gilo neighborhood in the south of the city, beyond the Green Line. The plan has been already been approved at the district level. If it is confirmed by the local committee, the public will be invited to voice objections to it.
The plan sees the Gilo neighborhood expanding southwest, onto land currently owned by the Jewish National Fund and private individuals. In addition to the residential units, commercial and public buildings, roads and more are slated for the area. The construction is expected to be followed by further expansion of Gilo in a northwest direction, with another 850 housing units.
After the plan was confirmed by the district planning committee in November 2009, the American administration publicly criticized Israel. Then-White House spokesman Robert Gibbs declared that such an act makes it even more difficult to renew negotiations with the Palestinians.
The United Kingdom also voiced opposition to the plan.
In addition, Jerusalem councilman Yosef Pepe Alalu (Meretz ) attacked it yesterday, saying that the municipality thinks it can ignore existing agreements while the Middle East burns and Jewish neighborhoods expand beyond the Green Line. “Such expansions damage negotiations and in fact damage the future of the neighborhoods themselves,” he said.
The Jerusalem municipality said in response that construction on private land is permissible under law, the city is promoting construction for Jews and Arabs alike, and the local committee will consider plans based on purely professional criteria only.
While the Prime Minister’s Office had pledged to monitor the work of planning committees directly, fearing they may approve politically sensitive building plans – i.e., over the Green Line – at inopportune moments, the fact that this plan is moving on to the local level may indicate that that policy is being relaxed.
The district planning committee is supposed to discuss 1,608 housing units in neighborhoods beyond the Green Line next week.
7. 7. The Guardian,
4 April 2011 18.38 BST
Israeli peace activist Juliano Mer Khamis shot dead in Jenin
Witnesses say actor – who ran a drama project in a Palestinian refugee camp – was shot five times by masked men
Mer Khamis had received death threats for his work in Jenin. Photograph: Saif Dahlah/AFP/Getty Images
An Israeli actor and peace activist who ran a drama project in a Palestinian refugee camp has been shot dead by masked men, metres from the theatre he founded.
Juliano Mer Khamis, 52, had received threats for his work in Jenin in the northern West Bank but continued to divide his time between Jenin and Haifa in the north of Israel. Witnesses said he was shot five times.
Mer Khamis appeared in a number of Israeli films after his first film role in the 1984 production of the John Le Carre novel The Little Drummer Girl, about Mossad’s hunt for a PLO bomber.
He was born to a Jewish mother and an Arab Christian father. His mother, Arna, was renowned for setting up a theatre group in Jenin during the first Intifada which started in 1987. Mer Khamis directed the film Arna’s Children, which celebrated her work, which he continued after her death in 1994. His wife, Jenny, a Finn, is pregnant with twins. She heard of his death from Israeli radio.
Mer Khamis’s body was transported to an Israeli checkpoint, from where it was taken to Tel Aviv for a postmortem examination.
While his work was widely appreciated by Palestinians, his bringing together of young men and women angered conservative Muslim elements in Jenin. In addition to threats, fire bombs were thrown at the theatre. However the project was supported by local militants. Zakaria Zubeidi, a leader of the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, frequented the theatre as a child.
Kadura Musa, governor of Jenin, said: “He was a Palestinian citizen of Israeli origin. An actor and an artist but most of all a true human being. We don’t know why this happened, but all the people of the camp condemn the death of this son of ours whose mother also did so much for the people of Jenin.”
Alaa Eddin Saadi lives next to the theatre, and said that Mer Khamis was shot while in a car also carrying his one-year old son and his nanny, who was wounded in the hand. “I don’t think he was killed because he was Jewish. Some people were angry with the liberal values he was promoting at the theatre, but to me he was a very nice guy who worked hard for the people here.”
8. Al Jazeera Last Modified: 04 Apr 2011 15:04
Goldstone: An act of negligence
Downplay of Israeli aggression towards civilians during the Gaza War, causes scholars to question Richard Goldstone.
More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the war on Gaza, while the Israeli death toll totalled 13 [GALLO/GETTY]
In the wake of a monumental victory in the human rights community to move the Goldstone Report out of the Human Rights Council (HRC) to the General Assembly where it can be underpinned by actionable follow up, Justice Richard Goldstone’s recent editorial makes some human rights practitioners wish it had been left to languish in the HRC.
Goldstone sought to do two things in his op-ed: to amend the record by stating that Israel’s attacks may not have been deliberate and second, to emphasise Hamas’s culpability under the laws of war. In the best case scenario, Goldstone’s intervention is a problematic attempt to cajole Israel to participate in the international process for accountability.
However, even in that case, the editorial is counterproductive, short-sighted, and casts Goldstone’s attempts as no less than curious.
Just last week, I had the chance to speak to Goldstone at Stanford Law School where I participated in a debate on the report featuring him as a discussant.
Goldstone seemed struck by recent revelations made in Israel’s investigation of itself that its murder of 29 civilians in the Sammouni home, where approximately 120 civilians had taken refuge, was the result of negligence and not a deliberate attack.
He emphasised that had Israel participated in the investigatory process rather than boycott it, it would have been able to contest the mission’s findings before the report’s release thereby correcting its alleged bias.
He echoes this sentiment in his op-ed where he writes:
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.
Goldstone should have known better: on the one hand, he accepts Israel’s investigatory findings at face value notwithstanding the Independent Committee of Experts’ conclusions that they are structurally flawed and unlikely to yield effective measures of accountability and justice.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, Goldstone takes for granted that Israel preemptively rejected the report precisely because the mission treated Hamas evenhandedly rather than dismiss it as a terrorist organisation whose annihilation is justified by any means necessary.
That is why it should come as no surprise that rather than respond to his proclamations with a renewed faith in international legal mechanisms, Israel’s staunchest allies are opportunistically characterising Goldstone’s editorial as an attitudinal shift towards Israel in the West while its prime minister has called on the UN to retract the report all together.
The Goldstone Report documents eleven incidents where the Israeli military directly targeted civilians. Four other fact-finding missions underscore these findings: Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and the National Lawyers Guild.
‘No humanitarian consideration’
In a report conducted by Israeli war veterans, 26 Israeli soldiers who participated in the Operation confirm that there were no clear rules of engagement.
One soldier laments:
There was a clear feeling that no humanitarian consideration played any role in the army at present. The goal was to carry out an operation with the least possible casualties for the army, without its even asking itself what the price would be for the other side.
Together, the four investigations and the soldiers’ testimonies, demonstrates an Israeli policy of targeting of civilians and/or negligent behaviour that amounts to the direct targeting of civilians according to Article 51 of the First Additional Protocol.
This comports with a policy adopted by Israel since 2006, known as the Dahiyeh Doctrine. As captured by the Goldstone Report itself, according to Major General Gadi Eiskenot:
What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our perspective, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.
Israel’s perspective however is not what matters – according to the twin linchpins of humanitarian law, namely the principles of distinction and proportionality, civilian villages are not to be targeted, are to be protected, and are to be spared excessive loss unless they directly partake in the hostilities.
Arguably therefore, no mission could have written a report to Israel’s liking unless it accepted this perversion of humanitarian law casting villages as bases.
In fact, after the report’s dissemination, Prime Minister Netanyahu requested “the facilitating of an international initiative to change the laws of war in keeping with the spread of terrorism throughout the world”.
Accordingly, Goldstone’s painstaking efforts to highlight Hamas’s culpability, which he already makes plain in paragraph 108 of the report, are futile because the controversy has not been over the report’s inequitable application of the law but rather over Israel’s insistence that it should be freed from the laws’ restraints in order to have its way with its “terrorist” adversaries.
Goldstone also miscalculates the value of Israel’s domestic investigations.
To date, the Independent Committee of Experts, chaired by New York Judge Mary McGowan Davis, has reviewed the domestic investigations process twice, and both times it found Israel’s investigations to be inadequate.
Whereas Goldstone applauds Israel for “dedicating significant resources to investigating 400 incidents of operational misconduct”, he does not mention the rest of the committee’s findings.
‘No’ Israeli investigatory initiative
In particular, it took issue with the fact that “there is no indication that Israel has opened investigations into the actions of those who designed, planned, ordered and oversaw Operation Cast Lead”.
The committee goes onto note that “more than one-third of the 36 incidents in Gaza are still unresolved or unclear. [And] Finally, the Committee is concerned about the fact that the duration of the ongoing investigations into the allegations contained in the FFM report – over two years since the end of the Gaza operation – could seriously impair their effectiveness and, therefore, the prospects of ultimately achieving accountability and justice”.
In light of these conclusions, it is perplexing that Goldstone would accept Israel’s assertion that its attack on the Sammouni home was a regrettable act of negligence by those commanders “making difficult battlefield decisions”. Consider also that this is the home where emaciated children were rescued four days after the attack because Israel prevented access to the Red Cross.
What kind of remorseful military commander negligently orders an air strike on a home full of civilians and then prevents humanitarian relief to its victims for four days? At most, Israel’s conflicting investigatory findings should have buttressed the report’s recommendation for an international judicial enquiry.
Perhaps Goldstone sincerely believes that Israel’s boycott of the mission was a function of remedial short-sightedness. Arguably then, his willingness to overlook a compelling record is an effort to lure Israel to the table of multilateral reconciliation.
In fact, his endorsement of “applying international law to protracted and deadly conflicts” for the sake of making warfare more humane indicates his enduring faith in the mission’s mandate as well as the need for accountability, rather than a disavowal of the report and the exoneration of Israel for its alleged crimes.
If this is indeed the case, the Justice exercised excessive good faith and poor judgement to believe that Israel would accept his gesture as an opportunity to reconcile with the UN-investigatory process, rather than cast the final blow against the report and the HRC.
Regardless of what may have been his best intentions, Goldstone has negligently, one hopes not deliberately, undermined the laws of armed conflict and emboldened those states, like Israel, who believe that it is a surmountable nuisance.
Noura Erekat is a Palestinian human rights attorney and activist. She is currently an adjunct professor at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies in Georgetown University. She is also a co-editor of Jadaliyya.com.