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.

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Over 360 killed, 1,400 wounded in Gaza bloodshed

YouTube – Over 360 killed, 1,400 wounded in Gaza bloodshed.

White Phosphorus Shells

Related News:
Photo shows ‘Willie Pete’ went to Gaza
Source: Press TV

Sat, 10 Jan 2009 14:47:52 GMT

Despite Israeli denial, newly found photographic evidence proves that Israel has used controversial white phosphorus shells on Gazans.

While the use of the solid, waxy synthetic chemical — also known by the military as WP or Willie Pete — against civilians is prohibited under international law, there is evidence that Palestinian civilians have been subjected to the chemical weapon.

The Times says it has identified stockpiles of M825A1, an American-made WP munition, from high-resolution pictures taken from Israeli artillery units on the Gaza border.

White phosphorus is used in munitions, to mark enemy targets and to produce smoke for concealing troop movement.

It can also be used as an incendiary device to firebomb enemy positions.

If particles of ignited white phosphorus land on a person’s skin, they burn right through flesh to the bone. Toxic phosphoric acid can also be released into wounds, risking phosphorus poisoning.

Exposure to white phosphorus smoke in the air can also cause liver, kidney, heart, lung and bone damage and can even lead to death.

There has been evidence that Palestinian civilians have been injured by the incendiary bombs. A doctor at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City Hassan Khalass told The Times that he had been treating patients who he believed had been burnt by white phosphorus.

According to Muhammad Azayzeh, 28, an emergency medical technician in Gaza City “The burns are very unusual. They don’t look like burns we have normally seen. They are third-level burns that we can’t seem to control.”

Following earlier reports that Israeli troops had fired WP shells to screen their assault on the heavily populated Gaza Strip, an IDF spokesman denied using phosphorus, adding that Israel was only using weapons that were allowed under international law.

After the emergence of the recent evidence, an IDF spokeswoman claimed that the M825A1 shell was not of a WP type. “This is what we call a quiet shell – it is empty, it has no explosives and no white phosphorus. There is nothing inside it,” she said.

However, Neil Gibson, a technical adviser to Jane’s Missiles and Rockets, is of a different opinion and insists that the M825A1 is a WP round.

“The M825A1 is an improved model. The WP does not fill the shell but is impregnated into 116 felt wedges which, once dispersed [by a high-explosive charge], start to burn within four to five seconds. They then burn for five to ten minutes. The smoke screen produced is extremely effective,” Gibson said.

Tel Aviv had previously admitted to using white phosphorus during the 2006 war with Lebanon.

The International Red Cross has urged a complete ban on phosphorus being used against humans and the third protocol of the Geneva Convention on Conventional Weapons restricts the use of “incendiary weapons” — phosphorus is considered one such weapon.

Israel and the United States are not signatories to the Third Protocol.

Earlier last week, Dr. Mads Gilbert, a member of a Norwegian triage medical team in Gaza, told Press TV that medics had found depleted uranium in some Gaza residents.

As the Palestinian death toll topped 820 on the fifteenth day of the Israeli offensive against Gaza, the tell-tale shells could spark yet more controversy over Israel’s incursion into the impoverished strip.

YouTube – white Phosphorus shells.

Cluster bombs, Depleted Uranium and White Phosphorus being used in Gaza

Laila El-Haddad | 04.01.2009 22:16 | Anti-militarism | Palestine | Repression | World

 

Residents in Gaza have been talking about an unprecedented amount of force being unleashed against them by the Israeli army- but they have also spoken about new kinds of weaponry. It comes as no surprise-Gaza has always been Israel’s “testing ground” – from nerve agents used in Khan Younis in 2003 to Sonic Boom “phantom air raids”. Now, there is talk of cluster bombs, depleted uranium, and white phosphorus. And these are only the ones people can identify.

Gaza invasion - photo 1
Gaza invasion – photo 1

Gaza invasion - photo 2
Gaza invasion – photo 2

Gaza invasion - photo 3
Gaza invasion – photo 3


Jan 4, 2008

Residents in Gaza have been talking about an unprecedented amount of force being unleashed against them by the Israeli army- but they have also spoken about new kinds of weaponry. It comes as no surprise-Gaza has always been Israel’s “testing ground” – from nerve agents used in Khan Younis in 2003 to Sonic Boom “phantom air raids”. Now, there is talk of cluster bombs, depleted uranium, and white phosphorus. And these are only the ones people can identify. CNN corespondents stationed near the borders have also been talking about new kinds of explosions.

Norwegian medics say that some of the victims who have been wounded since Israel began its attacks on the Gaza Strip on December 27 have traces of depleted uranium in their bodies, according to Press TV.

There are also reports that the Israeli Army is using both cluster bombs in the northern part of the Strip, as well as White Phosphorus, an incendiary weapon used by the United States in Iraq (which would explain the large flare-like explosions unseen before in Gaza).

Laila El-Haddad
- Homepage: http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m50368&hd=&size=1&l=e

UK Indymedia – Cluster bombs, Depleted Uranium and White Phosphorus being used in Gaza.