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The documented record still stands: Israel intentionally targets civilians and civilian infrastructure

Apr 03, 2011

Alex Kane

Judge Richard Goldstone’s mea culpa in the Washington Posttoday is indeed “confusing and potentially damaging,” as Adam Horowitz writes.

Key findings in the U.N. report–that “Israeli armed forces had carried out direct intentional strikes against civilians” in eleven incidents examined in detail and that Israel destroyed civilian infrastructure like the Sawafeary chicken farm in a systematic and deliberate fashion–is muddied up by Goldstone’s claim that “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”

Even granting the claim that the incidents his team investigated, now with the circumstances “explained” through Israeli military investigations, do not indicate that civilians were targeted, there is a documented history of Israel doing just that. And it wasn’t just during the Gaza assault.

The so-called “Dahiya doctrine” was used during the 2006 war on Lebanon. In a February 2009 report, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel explained:

In the beginning of October 2008, the Commanding Officer of the IDF’s Northern Command, Maj. General Gadi Eisenkott, gave an interview to Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, in which he unveiled what he called the “Dahiye Doctrine”: ‘What happened in the Dahiye Quarter of Beirut in 2006, will happen in every village from which shots are fired on Israel. We will use disproportionate force against it and we will cause immense damage and destruction. From our point of view these are not civilian villages but military bases.

This is not a recommendation, this is the plan, and it has already been authorized.’

According the Dahiye Doctrine, Israel will achieve deterrence not by attacking individual rocket launchers, but rather by using disproportionate force which will influence the behaviour of its opponents…

According to the doctrine, massive destruction is a necessary element for creating deterrence. The damage must be done not only to military installations, or explained by concrete military necessity, but must include civilian infrastructure so that reconstruction will be expensive and time consuming

This deliberate doctrine leads to the deaths of civilians and civilian infrastructure. The Lebanon war “resulted in at least 1,109 Lebanese deaths, the vast majority of whom were civilians, 4,399 injured, and an estimated 1 million displaced,” according to aHuman Rights Watch report. Various other reports–this Human Rights Watch reporttestimonies from Breaking the Silence and many others–document Israel’s policy of targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.

In the Gaza Strip, civilians are routinely shot at and sometimes killed if they step into the so-called “buffer zone,” which constitutes some 35 percent of the Strip’s arable land. An October 2010 report by Defense of Children International states:

Between 26 March and 14 October 2010, DCI-Palestine documented 14 cases of children shot whilst collecting building gravel near the border fence between Gaza Strip and Israel. Due to a severe lack of job opportunities and a shortage of construction material entering Gaza from Israel, hundreds of men and boys scavenge for building gravel amongst the destroyed buildings close to the border fence. The gravel is collected into sacks, loaded onto donkey drawn carts and sold to builders for use in concrete. Children can earn up to 50 shekels (US $13) per day which is used to help support their families. Reports indicate that Israeli soldiers on duty in the observation towers which line the border between Gaza and Israel frequently fire warning shots to scare workers away from the border region. Reports also indicate that these soldiers sometimes shoot and kill the donkeys used by the workers, and also target the workers, usually, but not always, shooting at their legs. In the cases documented by DCI-Palestine, the children report being shot whilst working between 50 to 800 metres from the border fence.

separate U.N. study on the “buffer zone” reports:

Since the end of the “Cast Lead” offensive in January 2009, the Israeli army has also killed a total of 22 civilians and injured another 146 in these circumstances.

The examples are endless, but what they make clear is that the Israeli persecution of Palestinians documented in the Goldstone report and numerous other sources was not confined to “Operation Cast Lead.” Goldstone’s “reconsideration” in the Post today doesn’t change the documented history.

Alex Kane, a freelance journalist and blogger, writes on Israel/Palestine and Islamophobia in the U.S. atalexbkane.wordpress.comwhere this post originally appeared.  Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

PEN debates cultural boycott

Apr 03, 2011

Eleanor K

This week at the ‘Free the Word! Festival‘ in London, the new president of English PEN, South African writer Gillian Slovo, will debate with PEN International President John Ralston Saul the “increasingly blurry boundary in writers’ lives between politics and aesthetics,” and whether writers should boycott festivals in countries with poor records on free speech and human rights. Vice President of International PEN, Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood, rejected the Palestinian call to boycott Israel in May last year, accepting the Dan David Prize for literature at Tel Aviv University in the presence of the Israeli President Shimon Peres. Atwood implied that her opposition to cultural boycotts, as “a form of censorship,” was shared by PEN, telling an interviewer before the ceremony that turning down the prize would be tantamount to “throwing overboard the thousands of writers around the world who are in prison, censored, exiled and murdered for what they have published.” In 2007, PEN American Center had released a statement of principle opposing academic and cultural boycotts as threatening the internationally guaranteed right to freedom of expression.

English PEN fields one of International PEN’s largest Writers in Prison committees, working on behalf of persecuted writers around the world. Its president, Gillian Slovo is also a founder member of the Independent Jewish Voices steering group. Today, an article by Slovo was published in the Guardian newspaper that appears to endorse the Palestinian call to boycott Israel, criticising Ian McEwan for “accepting a prize from Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, who has presided over the evictions, demolitions and compulsory purchases that McEwan condemned” in his acceptance speech, thereby risking normalising these policies. While her piece is open to interpretation – she does not explicitly back the Israel boycott – it is perhaps the clearest endorsement we can hope for at this stage from a writer in her position. The clue is in the final paragraph; she cautions that cultural boycotts do not happen in a vacuum, using South Africa as an example: “It was called for by the African National Congress, which represented the majority of South Africans, and it ran alongside a United Nations condemnation of apartheid, a worldwide protest movement and economic sanctions. That, it seems to me, is the way to go.” The Palestinian call fulfills all these criteria, as Slovo knows: in her account on the Jewish Voices website, Lessons from South Africa, the author invokes the tradition of Judaism in which she was brought up: “It says that you must not close your eyes to the pain of others just because they do not have the same colour of skin, or the same religion, or the same ethnic background as you. It says that to point out the injustice of Palestinians being walled into enclaves, or the way the circumstances of your birth can dictate which roads (literally) can be travelled and which passes carried, is reminiscent of apartheid – that to say any of this is not knee jerk anti-Semitism (or self hating). Rather it is the responsibility we all have to make an effort to ensure equality and justice for everybody.”

What the Goldstone op-ed doesn’t say

Apr 02, 2011

Yaniv Reich

Israel is “vindicated”, claims FM Lieberman about Richard Goldstone’s latest op-ed in the Washington Post, adding that “we knew the truth and we had no doubt it would eventually come out.”  Netanyahu has gone so far as to demand the Goldstone report be retracted from the UN.  Among all the celebrations and self-congratulatory pats on the back, it is worth pausing for a moment to ask: what exactly does Goldstone’s latest essay vindicate?

The answer seems much less clear than Israel’s unconditional supporters want to argue.  The most charitable portions of his piece (to Israel) suggest that “if I [Goldstone] had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”  This statement is so patently obvious as to be meaningless, particularly given Israel’s steadfast non-cooperation at the time of the investigation, but let’s assume Goldstone means this in a substantive way.  He did publish this piece under a headline of “reconsidering the Goldstone report” after all.

What else is there in this op-ed that suggests a change from the original Goldstone report?  The op-ed focuses on a very select group of three themes.  The first point relates to the ongoing investigations into allegations of war crimes.  Goldstone refers to the UN committee of independent experts’ report to support this argument, and he quotes that report to the effect 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.”  The second key claim in Goldstone’s op-ed is confusing, but suggests that the ongoing investigations have proven that Israel did not attack civilians as a matter of intentional policy.  How these conclusions have been reached before the investigations, which the Goldstone report called for as its primary recommendation, have been concluded is unclear.  The third theme is that Hamas has not done any of the good things Israel has done: Hamas did deliberately target civilians, Hamas didn’t investigate anything, Hamas continues to be guilty of war crimes by firing rockets into civilian areas, and Goldstone admits he was maybe “unrealistic” and “mistaken” to believe Hamas would investigate itself.

I want to first highlight several general observations about what this op-ed does and doesn’t say.  Then I will address these three themes in detail.

What the Goldstone Op-Ed Doesn’t Say

Limited to one of seven categories of possible war crimes

The Goldstone commission’s findings on deliberate attacks on civilians is one of at least seven broad findings (which comprise hundreds of specific incidents) that raise issues about Israel’s conduct.  These other key findings include: (1) Israel’s illegal siege on Gaza, which constitutes a form of collective punishment and so violates the Fourth Geneva Conventions; (2) The political institutions and buildings of Gaza cannot be lawfully considered part of the “Hamas terrorist infrastructure” and so Israel’s attacks on them are unlawful; (3) Israel taking insufficient measures to protect the Palestinian civilian population; (4) “indiscriminate” attacks (as distinct from “deliberate” attacks) killed many civilians without any credible military rationale for those actions; (5) Israeli use of weapons, such as white phosphorous and flechette missiles, which, although not banned under current international law, were used in ways that do violate the laws of war; and (6) Israel’s deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure, including industrial plants, food production facilities, sewage treatment plants, and water installations; this destruction has no military justification (for example, Israel’s “wanton destruction” of Mr. Sameh Sawafeary’s chicken coops, killing all 31,000 chickens inside despite there being no military activity in the area) and could constitute a crime against humanity.

Goldstone’s op-ed pointedly excludes discussion of all of these very serious charges of possible war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, so it’s odd that FM Lieberman and his hasbara “excreta” (his word, not mine) think Israel is somehow absolved of all responsibility.  One cannot avoid the impression that Israel’s unconditional supporters stillhaven’t actually read the report.

Overlooks key impacts of the report

One of the strangest omissions in the op-ed was the recognition that, assuming Israel is conducting investigations in good faith (again, more on that terrible assumption below), it was the Goldstone report that caused Israel to conduct these investigations.  The best evidence this is the case was Israel’s absolute refusal to investigate anything except the credit card theft case, until, that is, it got worried that Israeli leaders might end up in the International Criminal Court.  More evidence to support this argument can be found in Israel’s response to a conflict without a Goldstone kick in the rear: the 2006 Lebanon war.  In that case, Israel constituted the whitewashing Winograd Commission, which didn’t even pretend to investigate the “the government policies and military strategies that failed to discriminate between the Lebanese civilian population and Hizbullah combatants and between civilian property and infrastructure and military targets”, as Amnesty International and other human rights organizations observed.  Thus, without the Goldstone report, there is absolutely no reason to believe Israel would be conducting the investigations for which Goldstone is largely praising now.

Another important impact, which was a direct result of the report’s recommendations, was the policy changes, such as “new Israel Defense Forces procedures for protecting civilians in cases of urban warfare and limiting the use of white phosphorus in civilian areas.”  I have argued elsewhere that these policy changes acknowledge implicitly that Israel had not been minimizing civilian casualties, as it argues so vociferously, or else there wouldn’t be any possible policy changes that could further minimize civilian harm.  Either civilian casualties were being minimized before, in which case the policy changes are meaningless, or are minimized now (hypothetically, of course), in which case Israel wasn’t doing its utmost to protect civilians from harm before.  It certainly can’t be both.  Either way, these policy changes are directly related to the report, a point Goldstone’s op-ed also makes.

Validity of Specific Claims Made in Goldstone’s Op-Ed

The credibility of Israel’s investigations

Goldstone’s op-ed gives the strong impression that, despite the length of Israel’s military investigations being “frustrating”, Israel has “appropriate processes” in place.  It is difficult to understand where this belief comes from, because it certainly does not appear in this form in McGowan Davis report he cites (McGowan Davis chairs the UN committee of independent experts monitoring implementation of the Goldstone report recommendations).  That report paints are far less appealing picture of Israeli’s military investigations, noting, for example, that:

  1. “That Israel’s military justice system provides for mechanisms to ensure its independence”, but “the Committee further noted that notwithstanding the built-in structural guarantees to ensure the MAG’s [Military Advocate General’s] independence, his dual responsibilities as legal advisor to the Chief of Staff and other military authorities, and his role as supervisor of criminal investigations within the military, raise concerns in the present context given allegations in the FFM report that those who designed, planned, ordered, and oversaw the operation in Gaza were complicit in international humanitarian law and international human rights law violations.”

  2. “The Committee does not have sufficient information to establish the current status of the on-going criminal investigations into the killings of Ateya and Ahmad Samouni, the attack on the Wa’el al-Samouni house and the shooting of Iyad Samouni.. . . As of 24 October 2010, according to media reports, no decision had been made as to whether or not the officer would stand trial.”  This case is of course cited directly by Goldstone, yet his arguments are incompatible with the actual McGowan Davis report.

  3. “The Committee has discovered no information relating to four incidents referred to in the FFM [Goldstone] report: incident AD/02, incident AD/06, the attack on the Al-Quds hospital, and the attack on the Al-Wafa hospital.  Nor has the Committee uncovered updated information concerning the status of the criminal investigations into the death of Mohammed Hajji and the shooting of Shahd Hajji and Ola Masood Arafat, and the shooting of Ibrahim Juha. Accordingly, the Committee remains unable to determine whether any investigation has been carried out in relation to those incidents.”

  4. “It is notable that the MAG himself, in his testimony to the Turkel Commission, pointed out that the military investigations system he heads is not a viable mechanism to investigate and assess high-level policy decisions. When questioned by commission members about his “dual hat” and whether his position at the apex of legal advisory and prosecutorial power can present a conflict of interest under certain circumstances, he stated that “the mechanism is calibrated for the inspection of individual incidents, complaints of war crimes in individual incidents (…). This is not a mechanism for policy. True, it is not suitable for this.” “

  5. “The Committee expressed strong reservations as to whether Israel’s investigations into allegations of misconduct were sufficiently prompt. In particular, the Committee expressed concern about the fact that unnecessary delays in carrying out such investigations may have resulted in evidence being lost or compromised, or have led to the type of conflicting testimony that characterizes the investigations into the killings of Majda and Raayya Hajaj, and the inconclusive findings reported with respect to the tragic deaths of Souad and Amal Abd Rabbo and the grave wounding of Samar Abd Rabbo and their grandmother Souad.”

  6. “The promptness of an investigation is closely linked to the notion of effectiveness. An effective investigation is one in which all the relevant evidence is identified and collected, is analyzed, and leads to conclusions establishing the cause of the alleged violation and identifying those responsible. In that respect, 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 – may seriously impair their effectiveness and, therefore, the prospects of achieving accountability and justice.”

These conclusions of the McGowan Davis report give a very different impression of mechanisms for accountability in Israel’s military justice system than one would understand from a casual reading of Goldstone’s latest op-ed.  For additional, excellent analysis of these points, Adam Horowitz’s piece at Mondoweiss is a must-read.

Was it a deliberate policy of targeting Palestinian civilians?

If this op-ed “vindicates” anything, it seems to be about Israel deliberately targeting civilians as a matter of policy.  The Goldstone report investigated 11 specific cases, which were concerning because civilians were killed “under circumstances in which the Israeli forces were in control of the area and had previously entered into contact with or at least observed the persons they subsequently attacked, so that they must have been aware of their civilian status.”  After reviewing the details of these cases, which included not only the attack on the Samouni family (discussed in the op-ed) but also attacks on a mosque at prayer time and the shootings of civilians waving white flags, the report concludes:

“From the facts ascertained in the above cases, the Mission finds that the conduct of the Israeli armed forces constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of willful killings and willfully causing great suffering to protected persons and as such give rise to individual criminal responsibility.” (Goldstone report, pp. 16)

This finding, of course, is precisely why the report recommends that Israel launch credible investigations into possible wrongdoing, which Goldstone claims Israel is now doing (more on this later).  In that sense, Israel’s investigations confirm many of the key findings of the Goldstone report, a point I’ve raised previously.

The conclusion above, which is easily the strongest charge in the entire Goldstone report, has very little to do with Goldstone’s latest statement that “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”  The Goldstone commission and other human rights investigations have never said the IDF maintains a policy of deliberately targeting civilians.  This is a red-herring; nobody seriously believes there is a high-level policy to murder civilians.  The actual issue is that “these incidents indicate that the instructions given to the Israeli forces moving into Gaza provided for a low threshold for the use of lethal fire against the civilian population” (Goldstone report, pp. 16).  This low threshold was an intentional policy, as has been confirmed by dozens of soldiers’ and officers’ statements.  For example, many people have commented before about how the IDF “rewrote the rules of war for Gaza”, in particular by getting rid of “the longstanding principle of military conduct known as ‘means and intentions’—whereby a targeted suspect must have a weapon and show signs of intending to use it before being fired upon—as being applicable before calling in fire from drones and helicopters in Gaza last winter.”  The intentional, deliberate policy was one of “literally zero risk to the soldiers”, an order that is inescapably related to the high civilian casualties among the Palestinians.  For these reasons the main argument in Goldstone’s latest op-ed, which FM Lieberman erroneously believes “vindicates” Israel, is entirely besides the point.

Condemning Hamas

Hamas certainly, and unlawfully, does deliberately target civilians.  This is not only grotesque but illegal, and Hamas military leaders should be referred to the International Criminal Court for this since Hamas’ political leadership has refused to investigate the matter themselves and hold those responsible for war crimes to account.  But, of course, this was already well known by anybody who read the Goldstone report, which wrote:

“The Mission has further determined that these [8000 rocket] attacks [since 2001] constitute indiscriminate attacks upon the civilian population of southern Israel and that where there is no intended military target and the rockets and mortars are launched into a civilian population, they constitute a deliberate attack against a civilian population.  These acts would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.”

One could have also reached the same level of awareness by reading any of Amnesty InternationalHuman Rights Watch or other human rights organizations‘ press releases and  reports.  In this sense, there is absolutely nothing new about Hamas in Goldstone’s latest op-ed, yet some Israelis and Jewish groups seem surprised (see, e.g., AIPAC’s one of many tweets on the matter).

A Sad, Integrity-Damaging Turn

The first time I saw Judge Goldstone speak in person he was striking in his equanimity and unshakeable commitment to international law.  Even in the face of hate-filled attacks by Jews in the audience, who compared his report to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, he handled himself with a level of firm principle that I imagined to be unmovable.  The second time I saw him speak in public a year later, he seemed tired and worn down by the relentless attacks against him by those who chose to attack the messenger instead of deal with the message.  It was nothing concrete that he said, but there was a withered tone in his voice and a sort of quiet resignation that his best intentions had been so vehemently manipulated—and misunderstood.

Goldstone’s latest op-ed is something else altogether.  It does not challenge a single concrete finding in the entire report, and he has not conceded absolutely anything to his critics in that way.  In fact, his findings under severe constraints have held up remarkably well with time.  But the tone and timing of this current piece suggest that somehow the report should be “reconsidered”, that it was somehow wrong.  Moreover, his comments seem to intentionally mislead about the content of the UN independent committee’s findings on due process in Israel.  This is nothing more than a bone to Israel’s apologists, which is deeply misleading for all the reasons discussed here.  I am afraid this is a sad, integrity-damaging turn for a man who had singlehandedly done so much to protect people from war crimes in Israel, Palestine, and elsewhere.

And he should have known better, that is, he should have known that this craven gesture to Israel would not allow his enemies to forgive him and welcome him back to the broader Jewish community.  Already the enemies, sensing weakness, attack for the final kill attempt.  Jeffrey Goldberg, with the tone of the intellectual gatekeeper he fashions for himself, makes it clear this doesn’t change the “blood libel.”  The editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, David Horovitz, tells Goldstone “an apology is not good enough“.  We can expect much, much more of such attacks.

Goldstone has done neither international law and accountability for war crimes—nor himself—any favors with this latest, depressing op-ed.

This post originally appeard on Yaniv Reich’s blog Hybrid States.

Goldstone op-ed praises Israeli investigation of Gaza war crimes, but UN committee paints a different picture

Apr 02, 2011

Adam Horowitz

Judge Richard Goldstone has a confusing and potentially damaging op-ed in today’s Washington Post titled “Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes.” Confusing, in that it directly contradicts Goldstone’s own work and that of the UN Human Rights Council, and damaging in that it undercuts some of the most important claims of the UN mission that he led to investigate the Israeli attack on Gaza in the winter of 2008-09.

Goldstone’s main point seems to be that the UN report that commonly bears his name would have looked different if Israel had given him access to information during the fact-finding mission, and now that Israel has conducted some of its own investigations it appears vindicated to a certain degree. In his article he refers to the U.N. committee of independent experts (led by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis) which was charged with following the Israeli and Palestinian investigations following the Goldstone report. The committee of independent experts recently issued a report on its findings and Goldstone says “McGowan Davis has found that Israel has [investigated itself] to a significant degree; Hamas has done nothing.” While it is clear that Hamas has not followed the recommendations of the Goldstone Report in establishing a credible investigation, a closer reading of the March 18, 2011 committee of independent experts’ report (PDF) shows that Israel has also neglected to do the same.

Goldstone uses the Israeli investigation into the attack on the al-Samouni family (which killed 24 people) as an example of Israel’s thourough investigatory and legal process in examining his report’s claims. He writes:

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.

This endorsement of the Israeli investigation is directly contradicted by the expert’s report he appears to be referencing. Here is the relevant passage from the experts’ report:

The Committee does not have sufficient information to establish the current status of the on-going criminal investigations into the killings of Ateya and Ahmad Samouni, the attack on the Wa’el al-Samouni house and the shooting of Iyad Samouni. This is of considerable concern: reportedly 24 civilians were killed and 19 were injured in the related incidents on 4 and 5 January 2009. Furthermore, the events may relate both to the actions and decisions of soldiers on the ground and of senior officers located in a war room, as well as to broader issues implicating the rules of engagement and the use of drones. There are also reports indicating that the MAG’s decision to investigate was opposed by the then Head of the IDF Southern Command. Media reports further inform that a senior officer, who was questioned “under caution” and had his promotion put on hold, told investigators that he was not warned that civilians were at the location. However, some of those civilians had been ordered there by IDF soldiers from that same officer’s’ unit and air force officers reportedly informed him of the possible presence of civilians. Despite allegedly being made aware of this information, the officer apparently approved air strikes that killed 21 people and injured 19 gathered in the al-Samouni house. Media sources also report that the incident has been described as a legitimate interpretation of drone photographs portrayed on a screen and that the special command investigation, initiated ten months after the incidents, did not conclude that there had been anything out of the ordinary in the strike. As of 24 October 2010, according to media reports, no decision had been made as to whether or not the officer would stand trial. The same officer who assertedly called in the strike reportedly insisted that ambulances not enter the sector under his control, fearing attempts to kidnap soldiers.

Despite Goldstone’s insinuation, it appears that the officer responsible for bombing the Samouni house is not being legally investigated for the incident.

That being said, there have been Israeli investigations into cases of possible war crimes in the fighting in Gaza. But, this is a separate issue from whether these investigations are credible. One such investigation was the case of Majid Rabah, a 11 year old, boy who was used as a human shield by the Israeli military (a case that was not specifically mentioned in the Goldstone Report). IDF soldiers were accused of using Rabah and a younger child as human shields and where found guilty. For their crime the soldiers were simply demoted and given a suspended sentence. Here is the experts’ report take on the Israeli investigation:

According to media reports, two soldiers forced a boy to search bags suspected of being booby trapped and were convicted of offenses including inappropriate behavior and overstepping authority. Both soldiers were demoted and received suspended sentences of three months each.

It should be noted that while some media reports described the conviction as a credit to the IDF, a former IDF deputy chief of staff reportedly said that the soldiers’ criminal records should be cleared and that such events should be probed inside the units and not in interrogation rooms.The boy’s mother apparently indicated her disappointment over the decision to suspend the prison terms and expressed concern at the message that such a lenient sentence would send to IDF soldiers. Reportedly, in the ruling, the actions of the soldiers were condemned by the judges, but they also gave weight to issues such as the contribution of the soldiers to Israel’s security and their personal circumstances, as well as to their fatigue at the time, the unprecedented nature of the case, and that the soldiers did not seek to degrade or humiliate the boy. Evidently the court also indicated that any future such incidents would be dealt with more severely.

The Committee does not have sufficient information to comment definitively on this judgment, although it is hard to square the apparent finding that the soldiers “did not seek to degrade or humiliate the boy” with evidence that they intended to put him directly in harm’s way at grave risk to his life. The Committee is likewise mindful of other judicial decisions, such as the case of the soldier who was sentenced to a prison term of seven and a half months for stealing a credit card during the operation in Gaza, where a harsher penalty was imposed for acts that did not entail danger to the life or physical integrity of a civilian, much less to a nine year old child.

Is this the kind of Israeli investigation that Goldstone wants to hold up?

Finally, Goldstone makes perhaps his most damning point, “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.”

This claim is directly contradicted by the experts’ report. In fact, they point to Israel’s unwillingness, and in fact inability, to investigate the policies of the Israeli military as the greatest fault of the Israeli investigation to this point. The report specifically says, “The Committee reiterates the conclusion of its previous report that there is no indication that Israel has opened investigations into the actions of those who designed, planned, ordered and oversaw Operation Cast Lead.” This implies the entire question of policy has been left unaddressed. This is really disappointing from Judge Goldstone, and will most likely be used to attack the one of the Goldstone Report’s most important charges that Israel executed an intentional strategy to attack Gaza’s civilian infrastructure.

The experts’ report also addresses the structural reason the Israeli investigation has failed to look into military policy. Evidently the Israeli office responsible for investigating the question of crimes committed in Gaza is the same office that would be responsible for providing legal counsel to the Israeli military’s Chief of Staff and other military authorities. So basically, office that would accusing the military of committing crimes is the same one that would be defending them from the same charges. The experts’ report explains:

The Committee further noted that notwithstanding the built-in structural guarantees to ensure the MAG’s independence, his dual responsibilities as legal advisor to the Chief of Staff and other military authorities, and his role as supervisor of criminal investigations within the military, raise concerns in the present context given allegations in the FFM report that those who designed, planned, ordered, and oversaw the operation in Gaza were complicit in international humanitarian law and international human rights law violations. It is notable that the MAG himself, in his testimony to the Turkel Commission, pointed out that the military investigations system he heads is not a viable mechanism to investigate and assess high-level policy decisions. When questioned by commission members about his “dual hat” and whether his position at the apex of legal advisory and prosecutorial power can present a conflict of interest under certain circumstances, he stated that “the mechanism is calibrated for the inspection of individual incidents, complaints of war crimes in individual incidents (…). This is not a mechanism for policy. True, it is not suitable for this.” Therefore, the Committee remains of the view that an independent public commission – and not the MAG’s office – is the appropriate mechanism for carrying out an independent and impartial analysis, as called for in the FFM report, into allegations that high-level decision-making related to the Gaza conflict violated international law.

The original Goldstone Report itself pointed to these structural contradictions as reasons for why Israel will not be able to conduct a thorough investigation into the issues raised in the report. Why Judge Goldstone is now ignoring this issue is unclear.

In the Post article Goldstone defends his initial report in a manner he has for some time claiming that it wasn’t meant as a thorough legal investigation, it was an initial fact-finding mission. He says:

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.

Goldstone is absolutely correct, and the inconsistencies and contradictions of his op-ed only demonstrate the need for a thorough legal proceeding has never been greater. Over two years since the fighting in Gaza has ended it is clear that neither Israel nor Hamas is going to conduct credible investigations into the charges leveled against them by the UN fact finding mission. The experts’ report summarized:

The Committee heard the respective parties’ claims that their systems have established mechanisms to ensure accountability and justice. Yet, after listening to victims, witnesses and human rights organizations, it is clear that the needs of victims are not being adequately addressed.

For this reason, it is obvious that it is now time to follow-up on the recommendation of the Goldstone Report and refer the case to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to conduct a proper legal investigation.

‘US Boat to Gaza’ organizers respond to Netanyahu charges against flotilla

Apr 02, 2011

Jane Hirschmann and Richard Levy

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to ask for UN assistance to stop the planned flotilla scheduled to break the Gaza blockade in late May, 2011.
He argued to the UN Secretary General that the flotilla is a conglomerate of “extreme Islamists that are interested only in provocation” and hell bent on the destruction of Israel. Nothing could be further from the truth. We, who are actively engaged in the U.S. Boat to Gaza, named The Audacity of Hope, are appalled by this flagrant misrepresentation, so typical of right-wing Israeli propaganda. The organizers and passengers of the U.S. Boat, a committed, non-violent, human rights mission sailing as part of the International Flotilla, are people from all walks of life—lawyers, social workers, artists, fire fighters, midwives, writers, doctors, film makers, retired US army personnel, veterans, women’s rights organizers, teachers, nurses, etc.–all of whom share one common commitment: ending the insupportable oppression of the Palestinian people both in the West Bank and Gaza. In the West Bank we see one of the last colonial occupations left in the Middle East since the French, British and Italians withdrew a half century ago. The lives of all Palestinians are confined by this brutal occupation which constrains movement, impoverishes lives, disrupts education and is aimed at destroying their land, their dignity, their personhood, and in essence Palestine.

Gaza, the largest open air prison in the world, has deprived 1.5 million civilians of the basic necessities of life—building materials, food, housing, clothing, employment and free travel in and out. The siege of Gaza results in a gross denial of human rights which the world can no longer ignore. The U.S. flagged ship –and all the ships in the Flotilla– that sails to Gaza in May – will sail in peace and with a single nonviolent message—“The people of Gaza are entitled to the same life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that are the right of every human being.”
Ban Ki-moon should remind Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, siege of Gaza, expansion of settlements, destruction of homes, usurpation of water and air rights, walls of confinement , brutal military presence, and daily sniper attacks on innocent civilians constitute the paramount violence and terrorism in the Mideast, conduct that we all abhor. The 2nd International Freedom Flotilla comprised of 22 countries and many boats, heading toward Gaza, including The Audacity of Hope, is not the problem. Israel’s conduct in Palestine is the problem and should be condemned by the UN, the U.S. and all people who care about freedom and justice.

Jane Hirschmann and Richard Levy are volunteers with the US Boat To Gaza.

Netanyahu to UN: Retract the Goldstone Report

Apr 02, 2011


And more news from Today in Palestine:

Land, property, resources theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlers
Israel plans to seize a million sq meters of Negev land
THE NEGEV, (PIC) 2 Apr — Israel has planned to confiscate a million square meters of Palestinian and Arab land in the Negev desert, occupied in 1948, on the anniversary of Land Day which fell two days ago, the president of the council of regional villages of the Negev, Ibrahim al-Waqili warned. The plan falls under the recommendations made by the Israeli Goldberg committee which was formed in 2008 headed by retired judge Eliezer Goldberg … He added that Israeli occupation authorities have sights set to settle 300,000 Jews in the Negev within the next ten years and wants to accelerate the implementation of the said recommendations.
What is the Jewish National Fund?
[photos] Canada: Cancel the JNF Charitable Tax Status — The JNF advertises itself as an Israeli forestry, park and land charity. But what is it really? The Jewish National Fund was created in 1901 at the Fifth Zionist Congress in Switzerland.  Its purpose is to ‘acquire’ land to establish the Zionist state of Israel in historic Palestine, specifically “for the purpose of settling Jews on such land”.  Crucially, this land could never again be sold or leased to non-Jews.  Today the JNF enjoys charitable status in over 50 countries worldwide, including Canada … Today the JNF is complicit in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and of the Syrian Golan Heights.
World Bank approves $3 million for Palestinian water sector
WASHINGTON, 31 Mar — A $3 million grant to the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) will fund the know-how needed to design and implement a sustainable water resources management strategy. The amount, approved by the World Bank Board of Directors today, will also be used to train Palestinians to effectively execute and monitor reforms of the management of this key resource. The scarce water resources available in the West Bank and Gaza are further constrained by limitations on access to natural resources imposed by the closure regime.
Jewish settlers damage Palestinian crops
AL-KHALIL, (PIC) 2 Apr — Tens of Jewish settlers assaulted Palestinian citizens and damaged land and crops to the east of Yatta village, in Al-Khalil, local sources reported on Saturday. Coordinator of the popular anti wall and settlements committee Azmi Al-Shiyukhi said in a press release that Israeli occupation soldiers escorted the settlers during the attack. He said that the settlers opened the way for a large number of their sheep into the Palestinian farmers’ land, which caused big damage to the trees and crops.
Activists: Settlers burn storefront in Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 1 Apr — Israeli settlers burned a store in the center of the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday, activists said. Protesters assembling ahead of a demonstration said settler tossed flammable materials that burned a storefront on Shalala Street. Palestinian firefighters put out the blaze that caused damage to the stores and prevented it from spreading, onlookers said.
Israeli forces erect more checkpoints in Nablus
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 2 Apr — Israeli forces on Saturday erected several military checkpoints on the road to Wadi Qana south of Nablus in the northern West Bank, denying local farmers access to their fields in the area. Meanwhile, 13 busloads of Israeli settlers from the nearby Alfe Menashe and Qarne Shomron settlements were escorted to the Wadi Qana valley by heavy police and military forces.
Attacks by Israeli forces
Medics: 3 killed in Israeli airstrike on southern Gaza
[photo] GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 2 Apr — Israeli war planes struck the southern Gaza Strip overnight Friday killing three Palestinians and seriously injuring a fourth, medics said. Gaza medical services spokesman Adham Abu Salmiya said the deceased were transferred to the Al-Aqsa Hospital in Khan Younis, adding that their bodies were charred from the intensity of the strike. A fourth man was seriously wounded in the attack and taken to the same hospital, Abu Salmiya said. Witnesses said Israeli drones fired a missile at a white Toyota traveling on Salah Ad-Din road between Khan Younis and Deir Al-Baleh. They said the car was totally destroyed, and that the explosion shook the city of Khan Younis. An Israeli military spokeswoman said the Israeli air force and army carried out a joint operation in the Khan Younis area targeting Hamas fighters. Forces confirmed a hit, she said. The spokeswoman said the group was planning to carry out kidnapping attacks in Israel and in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula during the Jewish holiday of Passover in late April.
Al-Qassam Brigades: Israel will pay dearly for killing three of our fighters
GAZA, (PIC) 2 Apr — Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, held the Israeli occupation fully responsible for all consequences of its assassination of three Qassam commanders at dawn Saturday, stressing what what happened was serious escalation … Regarding Israeli claims that the fighters were planning to carry out an operation against Israeli targets, the spokesman said the occupation made such claims to justify its crime.
Brigades: Gaza ceasefire over after Israeli airstrike kills 3
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 2 Apr — The National Resistance Brigades announced Saturday morning that the ceasefire was over in the Gaza Strip, following an overnight Israeli airstrike which killed three leaders of Hamas’ armed wing. The brigades, the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said they would retaliate to the killings and that Israel “would have to bear the repercussions of this crime,” in a statement.
IOF kidnap shepherd, take his cattle in Tubas
WEST BANK, (PIC) 2 Apr — The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) kidnapped a Palestinian shepherd from Tamun village in the West Bank district of Tubas and confiscated his cattle. Local sources said the IOF kidnapped a shepherd called Ghazi Bisharat, 19, at the pretext he was herding his cattle near an Israeli settlement in Tubas … The IOF also kidnapped on Friday morning a Palestinian villager who was protecting his land from Jewish settlers. The Hebrew radio did not mention that the villager was defending his land, but claimed that he used a shovel to attack a settler from Netzer outpost in Gush Ezion settlement area
Palestinian youth attacked while planting olive trees
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 2 Apr — A group of Palestinian youth said they were attacked by Israeli soldiers while planting olive trees on Wednesday. Around 30 young men and women from a group “Ihna Gheir” (We are different) planted around 100 olive trees in ‘Abud village northwest of Ramallah to commemorate Land Day. One of the participants told Ma‘an that Israeli military jeeps raided the area and threatened the group. The soldiers were followed by a group of settlers, who uprooted the trees, and two Palestinians were injured in ensuing clashes. The Palestinian youth said they moved to another area to continue planting the trees.
War crimes
Goldstone rethinks controversial report
Ynet 2 Apr — Head of UN probe into alleged war crimes carried out by Israel, Hamas during 2008 Gaza conflict laments his criticism of Israel in article published by Washington Post; claims Goldstone Report would have been a different document ‘if I had known then what I know now’,7340,L-4050990,00.html
Goldstone: Hamas failed to investigate UN allegations
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 2 Apr — Hamas has not conducted any investigations into rocket and mortar attacks detailed in a UN inquiry into Israel’s 2008-2009 assault on the Gaza Strip, South African jurist Richard Goldstone says. In an op-ed Saturday in The Washington Post, Goldstone noted that while Israel has investigated his report’s allegations to a significant degree, “Hamas has done nothing.”
Netanyahu to UN: Retract Gaza War report in wake of Goldstone’s comments
Haaretz 2 Apr — Following Richard Goldstone’s op-ed in which he expressed regret regarding his report on alleged Israeli war crimes in the Gaza war, PM says ‘everything we said proved to be true’ and urges the UN to scrap the report.
Lieberman lauds new Goldstone conclusions about Gaza war
Haaretz 2 Apr — FM says ‘we had no doubt the truth would eventually come out’ after Richard Goldstone writes in op-ed that his allegations of Israeli war crimes would have been different if he knew then what he knows now.
Arrest warrant plans make a mockery of universal jurisdiction / Daniel Machover
Guardian 30 Mar — The rationale behind universal jurisdiction is that certain crimes – piracy, war crimes, genocide, torture, crimes against humanity and hostage taking – are so harmful to international interests that states are entitled, and in some cases even obliged, to bring proceedings, regardless of the location of the crime and the nationality of the perpetrator or the victim … The coalition government claims that it is in favour of applying universal jurisdiction here [UK]. But it has brought forward proposals to change the law … If the law is changed, suspects from a list of “protected countries” that includes Israel, America, China, Saudi Arabia and potentially others, such as Bahrain, will visit our shores with impunity, making us a safe haven for some war criminals and torturers. This outcome would be a sick parody of true universal jurisdiction.
Palestinian refugee camps: ‘Perpetual hell’ / Stuart Littlewood
1 Apr — A delegation of parliamentarians has returned from a tour of the refugee camps in Lebanon and made its report … The delegation’s purpose was to assess the humanitarian situation faced by Palestinians living in Lebanon’s refugee camps, and it was able to raise issues at the highest level with the Lebanese in a series of meetings. The UN Refugee Agency describes the plight of Palestinian refugees as “by far the most protracted and largest of all refugee problems in the world today”. Three-quarters of the 11 million Palestinians are refugees. Their plight is at the core of the 63-year struggle against Israel. All other issues, political and humanitarian, arose as a consequence of Israel’s denial of the right of refugees to return to their land.
Video: Egypt stops building materials into Gaza
PressTV 1 Apr — A week has passed since the 15-member Egyptian delegation touched down from Cairo to the Rafah border hoping to take through 10 tons of cement into Gaza. But after a series of delays and no definitive answer from the Egyptian authorities, the Egyptian military decided to confiscate the cement and urge the members to pack up and go. The cement did not go through. Observers say this is perhaps a clear indication that Mubarak’s strict and cruel policies towards Palestine is still present within the Egyptian authorities.
Army kidnaps a Hamas leader in Ramallah
IMEMC 1 Apr — Israeli soldiers kidnapped on Thursday evening, Mohammad Ahmad Rayyan, a political leader of the Hamas movement in the central West Bank city of Ramallah. Rayyan’s arrest comes a few days after her was release from a detention facility run by the Palestinian Security Forces loyal to President, Mahmoud Abbas, in the West Bank … His release came after he spent two months in Palestinian detention facilities and was sent to court several times without any convictions.
Palestinian female prisoners threaten protest against violations
MEMO 1 Apr — A report released by the Palestinian Ministry for Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners has stated that the Israeli Occupation authorities have renewed the administrative detention of Hanaa Yahia Saber El Shalabi, a female prisoner from Jenin, for the fourth consecutive time. The ministry’s lawyer, Sherin Eraqi, who has visited the prisoner, said the Israeli intelligence had issued an order to renew Shalabi’s detention, despite no charges being brought against her and without any legal justification. The intelligence services allege the existence of a secret dossier on the prisoner. Hanaa El Shalabi was administratively detained on September 14th 2009 … Female prisoners in the Sharon and Damun prisons have stated that they will take steps throughout the coming month to protest against the violation of their rights and human dignity by the prisons’ administration.
Gaza families demand to be allowed to see sons imprisoned in Israel
RAMALLAH, (WAFA) 2 Apr — Families of Gaza detainees held in Israeli jails complained Saturday that they have been banned from visiting their sons and daughters for four consecutive years. They said this was a violation of  international laws and the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Palestinian human rights groups called upon the national and Islamic forces, the International Red Cross and all human rights organizations to compel Israel to allow visitation rights and for the families to be allowed to send the prisoners basic needs such as clothes, foods and books.

Palestinian detainees held in Egypt to be released Sunday
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 1 Apr — Egypt’s Supreme Military Council says it will release 14 Palestinians from prisons on Sunday, a rights group said. The UK-based Arab Organization for Human Rights said the council decided to release the Palestinian detainees after lobbying efforts by prisoners’ relatives and lawyers … The detainees set to be released were identified as:

Activism / Solidarity / Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions
Video: Bil‘in weekly demo
1 Apr – Two citizens were wounded today with various injuries and there were dozens of cases of choking on poison gas. Many also suffered after being hit by the colored chemical water stench that the Israeli occupying forces launch towards the demonstrators.
IDF arrests leftist protesters
Ynet 2 Apr — The IDF detained for questioning Saturday 17 left-wing activists from the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement who protested at the West Bank village of Beit Ommar. Four of the activists remain in custody.,7340,L-4051026,00.html
Reality vs. propaganda: the An Nabi Saleh protests / Kim Bullimore
Pal Chronicle 29 Mar — On 26 March, a piece of Israeli Occupation Forces propaganda masquerading as journalism was published by YNet, an Israeli news website, which publishes in both Hebrew and English. The YNet article, headlined “Secrets of Nabi Saleh protests” purported to offer a “behind-scenes look at [the] most violent protests around” [1]. However, the article by Yair Altman did nothing of the sort. Instead it gave carte blanche coverage, with little questioning, to the preposterous and often ridiculous assertions by Israeli Occupation officials against the recently arrested non-violent Palestinian leaders from An Nabi Saleh’s Popular Committee against the Occupation.
Global actions mark Palestine’s Land Day
EI 2 Apr — Direct actions, rallies and protests took place across Palestine and in numerous cities across the world on 30 March to commemorate the 35th annual Land Day, an important day of remembrance for six Palestinians with Israeli citizenship gunned down by Israeli forces in 1976 during a general strike in protest of expanded land confiscation inside the state … Many events incorporated boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) strategies and direct actions, as the ongoing Palestinian-led call for BDS grows in worldwide response to Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing practices. According to the BDS movement website, more than 60 cities across the globe commemorated Land Day by engaging in BDS actions.
Video: Land Day gift from Argentina: BDS reaches Buenos Aires
Volunteer in Gaza with the ISM
ISM 1 Apr — The International Solidarity Movement is appealing for activists to join our team in the besieged Gaza Strip. In recent months numerous people have managed to cross into Gaza through Egypt, so at present, there is a small window of opportunity to enter. ISM Gaza was reinstated in August 2008, when volunteers traveled aboard the historic, siege-breaking voyage of the first FreeGaza Movement boat. ISM has maintained a constant presence in Gaza since that time, for over two years of Israel’s crippling siege.
Are any of you willing to protect the unarmed humanitarians sailing with tlatest Gaza freedom flotilla? / Stuart Littlewood
30 Mar — Campaign organisers say that Israel has responded by threatening to once again use deadly force to stop the flotilla, including snipers and attack dogs. (LONDON) – The European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG) has issued a press release to remind everyone of that what promises to be the largest flotilla yet, comprising 15 ships carrying passengers from 12 European states as well as Latin America, Africa, Asia, Canada and the United States, is due to sail for Gaza in late May.
Human rights
Human Rights Watch: New laws marginalize Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel
1 Apr — Two new Israeli laws affecting Israel’s Palestinian Arab residents would promote discrimination and stifle free expression, Human Rights Watch said today. One would authorize rural, Jewish-majority communities to reject Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel and other “unsuitable” applicants for residency, and the other would chill expression regarding a key moment in the history of Palestinian citizens, Human Rights Watch said.
Politics / Diplomacy
Sha‘ath: Palestinian leaders mulling one-state solution
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) — Fatah Central Committee member Nabil Sha‘ath said Thursday that a bi-national state was one of “many ideas” being formulated by the Palestinian leadership. Palestinian leaders plan to declare an independent state in September, and to seek UN recognition of that state … However, if a Palestinian state is not established, several alternatives are being discussed by Palestinian leaders, Sha‘ath said. The senior Fatah official told Ma‘an that one option to end the occupation was to form one state across all of historic Palestine, in which Palestinians would demand citizenship and equal civil rights. He said leaders were also considering dissolving the Palestinian Authority and ending all Palestinian commitments to Tel Aviv, leaving Israel fully responsible for its occupation. Placing Palestine under the mandate of the UN General Assembly was also being considered, Sha‘ath said.
Abu Obeida: Abbas must release detainees for unity
GAZA (Ma‘an) 2 Apr — Hamas’ armed wing said Friday that President Mahmoud Abbas must release the party’s affiliates detained in the West Bank to achieve national unity. Al-Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Obeida issued a statement in response to Abbas’ initiative to visit Gaza for unity talks.
Ban stresses concern over stalled peace talks in phone call with Israeli premier
UN NS 1 Apr — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed his concern over the current difficulties in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians during a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Both leaders discussed the recent violence affecting Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, with Mr. Ban saying that he hoped that the Mr. Netanyahu “would act with wisdom and restraint,” according to a statement issued by the spokesperson of the Secretary-General.
Hamas: German mediator failed to make Shalit deal
LONDON (Ma‘an) 2 Apr — German mediator Gerhard Conrad failed to secure an agreement between Israel and the captors of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in Gaza, deputy Hamas politburo chief Mousa Abu Marzouq told the London-based Al-Hayat daily newspaper on Saturday. “The German mediator has failed and there is no way back. He has not succeeded in securing the prisoner exchange deal, and now a breakthrough is no longer possible,” Abu Marzouq told the newspaper
Other news
Video: Gazans mark Orphans Day
Press TV 1 Apr — To draw the smile on orphan faces who were deprived from love and sympathy a series of entertainment activities were organized for them … According to the latest statistics on orphans in Gaza, there were about 53,000 orphans in Gaza; children who have lost both, one of their parents prior to the 22 day war.  An estimated 1,900 Gazan children lost parents in the Israeli 22 day assault as well.
Facebook sued over Intifada page
AFP 2 Apr — ‘American citizen of Jewish origin’ sues Zuckerberg for $1 billion for not removing page fast enough,7340,L-4051019,00.html
Israeli lawmakers to study US Jewish community
AP 2 Apr —  Six Israeli lawmakers are headed to the United States this weekend for an intense study of American Jewish life amid concerns about a growing gap between American and Israeli Jews.
Analysis / Opinion / Human interest
Interview with Stuart Littlewood: The Zionists wield their influence by winning the ongoing propaganda war
30 Mar – (TEHRAN) by Kourosh Ziabari — Stuart Littlewood is a British writer and photographer. He is the co-author of the book “Radio Free Palestine” in which he has elaborately described the plight of the Palestinian nation under the Israeli occupation … Stuart joined me in an in-depth interview to discuss the ongoing anguish of the people of Palestine, the situation of Gaza Strip and West Bank, the influence of Israeli lobby over the mass media in the West and the international isolation of Iran due to its unconditional support for the Palestinian people.
The impoverishment of Palestinian Arabs in Israel / Shazia Arshad
MEMO 31 Mar — 61.3 per cent of Palestinian families live below the poverty line compared to 29 per cent of Jewish families. Of the Israeli Civil Service employees, just 5% are Palestinian Israelis. The Israeli government spends $1,100 per year on each Jewish Israeli student and $192 per year on each Palestinian Israeli student. In the 2008 – 09 budget the Israeli government apportioned just $11 million out of $188 million to the Palestinian infrastructure within Israel.
Signs of the times: two indications of the future of Israel/Palestine? / Yousef Munayyer
Two news stories caught my eye today which I think speak to the future of Israeli politics and policy and, perhaps more importantly, to the implications for Palestinians which are the subjects and often targets of those policies … The second story is also very troubling. It seems the Israeli government is entertaining a plan to build an island off the coast of Gaza where an air and sea port would be located to “encourage tourism” and “relieve Israel of the obligation to be the transit point for goods into the enclave.”  … The fact that such ideas are even entertained speaks to Israeli strategic thinking about Gaza. The plan “would cost up to $10bn (£6.2bn), create 100,000 jobs and take up to 10 years to complete.” This suggests that as far as the Israelis are concerned, the policy of siege is a long-term strategic framework at the foundation of their thinking and not on the surface of it. Simply speaking, the siege of Gaza is the new normal, so much so in fact that it’s leading the Israelis to come up with all kinds of abnormal, bend-over-backwards plans to keep it in place.
Is the settlement boycott misdirected? / Joseph Dana
2 Apr — …I see two problematic issues. The major issue is that the settlement boycott has nothing to do with the actual Palestinian BDS call which is designed to isolate Israel until it abides by international law in the occupied Palestinian territories. By co-opting the BDS movement and changing it to fit the narrow needs of the progressive Jewish community in the diaspora, more harm than good is done for the aspirations of Palestinians living under occupation. The second problematic issue is that a settlement boycott creates a division between the settlements and Israeli society. The settlements (and Occupation) are part and parcel of Israeli society.
Israel’s new military ally / Lia Tarachansky
Why Canada has made itself Israel’s new friend on the block — JNews 30 Mar — It used to be that when you counted Israel’s top allies, the obvious names came to mind: Germany, the UK and, of course, the US. These days, Canada seems determined to soar to the top of that list, confirming the judgment of Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Foreign Minister. While visiting Canada in 2009 he said, “Canada is so friendly that there was no need to convince or explain anything to anyone… We need allies like this in the international arena.”
Mute until age four, Palestinian girl speaks like a scholar
Osama Awad – PNN/Exclusive 31 Mar — She’s a little girl in the flower of her youth, but she didn’t say a word until she was four years old. Then one day, Jihan Abu Aliya started speaking unlike any other child her age — in the language of the Qur’an. Standard Arabic, known as fusha, is the official language of Palestine and the language of Islam and Arab literature. But like in other Arab countries, it is used sparingly in Palestine, where local dialects take prominence.
Friday: 5 Iraqis killed, 59 wounded
At least five Iraqis were killed and nine were wounded in new attacks, while another 50 were injured during demonstrations in Iraqi Kurdistan. About 50 people were injured during protests in Suleimaniya. A large number of the injured belonged to security forces. Demonstrations calling for reform within the Kurdish Autonomous government have occurred there for about six weeks….

Goldstone’s Backtrack: Some points to remember

Apr 02, 2011

Tom Pessah

Justice Goldstone, author of the famous report on the 2009 attack on Gaza, published an op-ed today in which he seemed to be retracting some of his claims. He wrote that “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”

This claim was immediately picked up by Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, who sees it as making it “clear that IDF is a moral army.”

It is important to respond to these claims for several reasons: because they are false and misleading, and because they serve to buttress many Israelis’ self-image of being morally superior to Palestinians, since all Israeli violence towards civilians is supposedly accidental. Portraying such attacks as accidental is also linked to seeing them as inevitable, and therefore justified – which means they can happen again.

Mondoweiss’ Adam Horowitz has already responded to this, but here are some more points to keep in mind in regard to the 2009 Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

1. They were very well documented by a variety of sources.Human Rights Watch wrote that “First, the repeated use of air-burst white phosphorus in populated areas until the last days of the operation reveals a pattern or policy of conduct rather than incidental or accidental usage. Second, the IDF was well aware of the effects of white phosphorus and the dangers it poses to civilians. Third, the IDF failed to use safer available alternatives for smokescreens.”

Breaking the Silence testimonies show that “Fire power was insane. We went in and the booms were just mad. The minute we got to our starting line, we simply began to fire at suspect places. You see a house, a window, shoot at the window. You don’t see a terrorist there? Fire at the window. In urban warfare, anyone is your enemy. No innocents.”

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and others, collected many testimonies of attacks on civilians. For example:

The al-Helu family had been told to evacuate their house in Zaytoun, eastern Gaza, but while they were attempting to flee, Israeli soldiers opened fire on them. Farah was shot in the stomach and bled to death two hours later

2. As Adam wrote:

The U.N. committee of independent experts (led by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis) which was charged with following the Israeli and Palestinian investigations following the Goldstone report […] point to Israel’s unwillingness, and in fact inability, to investigate the policies of the Israeli military as the greatest fault of the Israeli investigation to this point… The experts’ report also addresses the structural reason the Israeli investigation has failed to look into military policy. Evidently the Israeli office responsible for investigating the question of crimes committed in Gaza is the same office that would be responsible for providing legal counsel to the Israeli military’s Chief of Staff and other military authorities. So basically, office that would accusing the military of committing crimes is the same one that would be defending them from the same charges.

As a result, few officers have been charged in relation to crimes committed.  An internal IDF investigation found two officers responsible for dropping phosphorus bombs on civilians, and all they got was a little reprimand in their personal files.

On the other hand, an anti-war activist was given three months in jail for riding his bicycle too slowly at a protest.

3. The claim that there was no policy behind this stems from a poor understanding of civilian-military relations in Israel. The details of policy are often not set by the government, but they give army officers leeway to set these policies, and then don’t take any significant steps to punish them for causing human rights violations. For example, the 1982 invasion of Lebanon was supposed to end, according to the government’s decision, 40 kilometers north of the border. The army initiated a full invasion, and no one was ever reprimanded for this discrepancy. In 2000, some government ministers wanted to limit the use of force against Palestinian protestors at the beginning of the second Intifada, while the army shot an estimated million bullets (as can be seen in the excellent Israeli documentary “a Million Bullets in October,” available on Youtube). In 2006 the Chief of Staff asked the government for permission to attack Lebanese infrastructure and was refused (see Shelah’s and Limor’s book on that war)- but infrastructure was attacked nonetheless. And so it was in Gaza: as I mentioned an internal IDF investigation found two officers responsible for dropping phosphorus bombs on civilians, and all they got was a little reprimand in their personal files.

The background for such actions was ongoing incitement to attack civilians –  Deputy Defense secretary Vilnai’s threat to bring a “Shoah” on Gaza or the hate leaflets distributed to soldiersentering the Strip – and many more examples.

4. It is true that the army is taking criticism of its actions more seriously than after the attack on Lebanon in 2006. This can only be explained as a direct result of international pressure, which hopefully could prevent some loss of civilian life in the future. In other words, instead of praising the army’s liberality, Goldstone should be praising the international community of activists for successfully putting pressure on the army to investigate its own actions..

5. Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t believe the hype. Don’t believe the hype.

Tom Pessah is a graduate sociology student at UC Berkeley.


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