Goldstone’s Backtrack: Some points to remember

by Tom Pessah on April 2, 2011 | Mondoweiss

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 soldiers entering 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.

Source

 

Related

Advertisements

Israel air strikes injure 2 Palestinians [ CONTINUOUS UPDATES ]

PressTV – Mon Jan 10, 2011 6:29AM

Israeli warplanes have launched twin air strikes on the Gaza Strip, leaving two Palestinians injured, Press TV has learned.

The Israeli army said in a statement that the attack has been a response to a mortar attack by Palestinian fighters that lightly wounded two men on Sunday.

The attack came after Hamas called on its armed groups to abide by an unofficial ceasefire and stop firing rockets and mortars at Israel, Jerusalem Post reported Monday.

Ayman Taha, a Hamas official, said that the movement avoids providing Israel with an excuse to “wage a new war against the Gaza Strip.”

The official, however, said Hamas reserved the right to “respond to Israeli crimes, but only within the frame of national consensus.”

Israel launched a devastating war on the Gaza Strip in December 2008, leaving 1,400 Palestinians dead and thousands of others displaced.

The Israeli military, however, launch attacks on the Palestinian territories on a regular basis. There has been a surge of violence along the Gaza border during this month.

SB/HRF

BBC: Former Israeli soldier admits Israeli war crimes

YouTube – BBC: Former Israeli soldier admits Israeli war crimes.

Gaza: Two Years after the Horror

14:56 12/24/2010


Gaza 2009, like the Sharpeville 1960 massacre, cannot be ignored.

By Haidar Eid

This week marks the second anniversary of the horror inflicted on the people of the Gaza Strip. Nothing has changed! Gaza has returned to its pre-invasion state of siege, confronted with the usual international indifference. Two years after the Israeli assault that lasted 22 long days and dark nights, during which its brave people were left alone to face one of the strongest armies in the world, Gaza no longer makes the news. Its people die slowly, its children are malnourished, its water contaminated, and yet it is deprived even of a word of sympathy from the President the United States and the leaders of Europe.

The dehumanization of the Palestinians of Gaza continues unabated. But now the urgent question is how to hold Israel accountable to international law and basic principles of human rights in order to forestall further escalation.

One way to begin holding Israel accountable is through direct witness and citizen solidarity. For example, on December 27, an Asian aid convoy comprising of politicians and activists from 18 countries will arrive in Gaza in an attempt to break Israel’s four year siege and to remind the world of the cruel consequences of the siege and the massacre.  It is one f the remarkable undertakings by international Civil Society organizations that have decided to take action into their own hand after the miserable failure of the “International Community.” Some of those activists experienced first hand what it means to show true solidarity with the Palestinians of Gaza when nine Turkish activist were brutally murdered in broad-day light on Mavi Marmara.

While in Gaza, the convoy’s activists will undoubtedly hear stories that will curdle the blood. During the massacre, one Israeli soldier commented, “That’s what is so nice, supposedly, about Gaza: You see a person on a road, walking along a path. He doesn’t have to be with a weapon, you don’t have to identify him with anything and you can just shoot him.”

Israel could not have carried out its brutal assault, preceded and followed by a punishing siege, without a green light from leading world powers. When Israel attacked Gaza in February/March 2008, Matan Vilnai, then-deputy minister of defense (a misnomer for an aggressive, occupying power), threatened a “greater Shoah” (Holocaust). Some 102 Palestinians, including 21 children, were killed.

The reaction of the international community? Absolutely nothing substantive. On the contrary, the EU decided to reward the aggressor by upgrading its trade agreements with Israel. This upgrade in early December 2008 gave the go-ahead for the larger Gaza massacre of 2009 in which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed: the majority of them civilians. But now, in spite of Israeli war crimes, both the US and the EU continue to strengthen ties with Israel.

The resemblance of Israel’s violent campaign of domination to that of the apartheid South African regime has recently been articulated by the anti-Apartheid freedom fighter and former South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils: “[It] is not difficult for anyone acquainted with colonial history to understand the way in which deliberately cultivated race hate inculcates a justification for the most atrocious and inhumane actions against even defenseless civilians – women, children, the elderly amongst them.”

The South African apartheid regime came under repeated pressure as the United Nations Security Council passed one resolution after another condemning its inhumane treatment of blacks. This gave much-needed succor to the oppressed, while we Palestinians, today, are bereft of even this tiny comfort because the United States continues to use its veto to ensure that Israel escapes censure.

Today, there is a growing grassroots struggle inside Palestine, much as there was inside apartheid South Africa. An intensified international solidarity movement with a common agenda can make the struggle for Palestine resonate in every country in the world. Our goal now, as civil society organizations, is to lift the siege against Gaza. To accomplish this, many activists, Palestinian and international, have launched a boycott campaign modeled on the global South African anti-apartheid campaign. This campaign is a democratic movement based on the struggle for human rights and the implementation of international law. Our struggle is not religious, ethnic, nor racial, but rather universalist; it is a struggle that guarantees the humanization of our people in the face of a dreadful Israeli war machine.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, a staunch supporter of Palestinian rights, has said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” While the Israeli armed forces were bombing my neighborhood, the UN, EU, Arab League and the international community remained silent in the face of atrocities. Hundreds of corpses of children and women failed to convince them to intervene.

Gaza 2009, like the Sharpeville 1960 massacre, cannot be ignored. It demands a response from all who believe in a common humanity. Nelson Mandela pointed the way to this shared humanity when years ago he stated, “But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

Now is the time to boycott the Apartheid Israeli state, to divest from its economy and to impose sanctions against it. This is the only way to ensure the creation of a secular, democratic state for all its inhabitants in historic Palestine regardless of race, creed, or ethnicity.

– Haidar Eid is Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University and a policy advisor with Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. (This article was first published in ZNet.)

Gaza: Two Years after the Horror.