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

UN targeted in Gaza | Israel’s use of unconventional weapons

YouTube – UN targeted in Gaza.

Leading Israeli Scholar: Israeli “State Terror” in Gaza Attack | Democracy Now (3 Parts)

The assault on Gaza is entering its 19th day with no end in sight. Israel continues its intense bombardment of the territory as Israeli troops edge closer to the heart of Gaza City.

Nearly 1,000 Palestinians have been killed, more than 4,400 injured, many of them women and children.

Thirteen Israelis have died over the same period, 10 of them soldiers. We speak with Oxford professor Avi Shlaim. He served in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s and is widely regarded as one of the worlds leading authorities on the Israeli-Arab conflict.

YouTube – Leading Israeli Scholar: Israeli “State Terror” in Gaza Attack. Democracy Now 1/14/09 1 of 3.

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.

White Phosphorous: Israel Uses Chemical Weapons | KABOBfest

 

By Emily

 



What did Saddam Hussein use in his Halabja poison gas attack, along with other chemical weapons?

White phosphorous.

The US used this very same chemical weapon in the attack on Falluja in 2004. White phosphorous. The marines called their concoction ‘shake and bake’ as they used the chemical mixed with explosives against Iraqis in Falluja. Italian documentary filmmakers Sigfrido Ranucci and Maurizio Torrealta reported that the US used white phosphorous against civilians in Falluja, and showed images of incinerated bodies; the US denied the allegation. (Click here for a report comparing the injuries seen in Lebanon in 2006 with those seen in Gaza or for further evidence at Information Clearing House.)

White phosphorous is a chemical weapon as soon as it is used directly against humans, a chemical weapon made illegal in 1980 by the Geneva Conventions. It was widely used in the Vietnam war by the US, as pictured here used in a grenade.

White phosphorous melts flesh to the bone, causing fatal burns.

It ignites on contact with oxygen. Particles on a person can be temporarily extinguished with water, but as soon as they are dry they will recombust. Longer-term exposure causes poisoning, which leads to wounds of the mouth and eventual destruction of the whole jawbone.

Exposure to white phosphorus smoke in the air can also cause liver, kidney, heart, lung or bone damage and even death.A former US soldier who served in Iraq says breathing in smoke close to a shell caused the throat and lungs to blister until the victim suffocated, with the phosphorus continuing to burn them from the inside.

White phosphorous is the chemical shown clearly in the many images of Gaza. It is easily recognizable by any veteran, thanks to our country’s long history of war crimes. White phosphorous was used against Lebanese civilians in 2006 in Israel’s war on Lebanon. The Israeli government maintains that it is only using white phosphorous as a smoke screen, but they refuse to release what is actually in the shells they are dropping on Gaza.

When there was a white phosphorous cloud simply hovering somewhere along a highway after an accident at a British plant, it was treated as a risk to public health and families were told to stay inside with windows and doors closed. Clearly, the lungs of Palestinian babies are not as worth protecting as the lungs of British ones.

This stuff is an illegal, incendiary poison. It’s being used right in front of our eyes in the most densely populated place on earth where greater than 50% are children. We probably manufactured it, and at the very least, we paid for it. This picture shows a white phosphorous shell exploding on the ground in Gaza.

The ADC has called for an investigation into the use of white phosphorous in Gaza by the Israeli army. According to this former Major in the British army,

If white phosphorus was deliberately fired at a crowd of people someone would end up in The Hague. White phosphorus is also a terror weapon. The descending blobs of phosphorus will burn when in contact with skin.

The body of a child killed in Lebanon in 2006, when Israel dropped white phosphorous bombs.

WARNING: Not for the faint of heart. Then again, we should not be allowed to remain ignorant of the damage this chemical weapon causes while it is being used in Gaza.

White Phosphorous: Israel Uses Chemical Weapons | KABOBfest.