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IDF Finally to Engage Goldstone, Day Late and Dollar Short

Ethan Bronner writes a N.Y. Times report on a new propaganda offensive by the IDF against the Goldstone Report.  It seems Israel has finally decided to engage with the document’s claims that Israel may have committed war crimes during last year’s Gaza war.  Of course, it could’ve done so by testifying to the UN investigative body so that Israel’s perspective could’ve been incorporated into the finished document.  At the time, Israel evidently judged it could filibuster and disparage this effort, as they have so many previous international attempts to hold Israel accountable for its actions concerning the Palestinians.  But for some reason, Goldstone has developed much more staying power than other similar past efforts.

Bronner highlights several particular findings of the UN report with which the IDF takes issue.  But in each of the two cases it appears to me that Israel is doing precisely what it did during the war–saying events did not happen as the victims claim but without providing any convincing evidence:

One concerned the destruction of Gaza’s sole flour mill. The Goldstone report asserts that the Bader flour mill “was hit by an airstrike, possibly by an F-16.” The Israeli investigators say they have photographic proof that this is false, that the mill was accidentally hit by artillery in the course of a firefight with Hamas militiamen.

The dispute is significant since the United Nations report asserts that “the destruction of the mill was carried out for the purpose of denying sustenance to the civilian population,” an explicit war crime.

A second finding concerned the destruction of a wastewater plant, leading to an enormous outflow of raw sewage. The Goldstone report contended that it was hit by a powerful Israeli missile in a strike that was “deliberate and premeditated.” The Israelis say they had nothing to do with that plant’s collapse and suggest that it may have been the result of Hamas explosives.

One of the things I find discouraging about Bronner’s reporting is his credulousness in the face of Israeli claims.  Note Israeli investigators SAY they have photographs to prove their point.  And in the second case Israel doesn’t even claim to have evidence but states bald-facedly that it had nothing to do with the sewage plant’s destruction.  It doesn’t provide any evidence of its suggestion that Hamas MAY have been the cause.

We’ll await the actual Israeli report to see if it is any more persuasive than the jaundiced peek that Bronner provides.  It’s doubtful, given Israeli denials of culpability beginning during the war itself and persisting to the present day.  I also note Bronner didn’t mention other even more dramatic incidents in which Goldstone accused Israel of the killings of large groups of civilians in multiple incidents.

Bronner also notes the IDF rebuttal will include the tired old argument that international standards of war need to be revised to incorporate new types of asymmetric warfare in which nation states are at a disadvantage when they strike at insurgents who fight from within a civilian population.  This is a non-starter.  It doesn’t resonate with any serious analyst of the laws of war I’ve heard discuss the issue.  It’s merely yet another Israeli attempt to throw arguments against the wall to see if any will stick.  In the process, it hopes that merely by paying attention to its arguments the world may be that much more distracted from the real crimes committed.

There is one passage from Bronner that really brought me up short.  It is a flagrantly overstated distortion of real Israeli opinion about the Gaza war and must be rebutted by Israeli NGOs and peace activists:

Virtually no one in Israel, including the leaders of Breaking the Silence and the human rights group B’Tselem, thinks that the Goldstone accusation of an assault on civilians is correct.

U.S. Congress members visit ruins of American-funded International School destroyed by Israeli bombs (AP)

In all the critiques I’ve written about Ethan Bronner’s compromised reporting from Israel, this is one of his most glaring distortions.  Let’s just take this passage summarizing a statement from seven Israeli human rights NGOs presented to the Goldstone team during their investigation:

The report presents the Goldstone Committee with detailed findings concerning violations of the laws of war that the Israel military allegedly committed during its attack on the Gaza Strip…referring mainly to policies of collective punishment used against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. The report details Israeli military offensives that failed to discriminate between combatants and civilians, damage to civilian government buildings for political objectives, attacks on medical rescue teams, damage to public infrastructure, holding detainees in conditions that violate Israeli and international law, and collective punishment.

And I haven’t even gotten into the full report which you may read here. And the Israeli Committee Against Torture released its own report critiquing the IDF’s war strategy in Gaza as a violation of the laws of war BECAUSE it inordinately targeted civilians:

The Israeli government’s claims that the IDF made every effort to avoid harm to Palestinian civilians, and that the damage caused was reasonable given the circumstances, are at odds with the actual operation and its results. Not only do the events in the field attest to this, but so do the very statements made at the time by the same Israeli authorities who today proclaim their innocence.

Bronner here risks making himself and the Times a laughingstock of willful hasbarism.  I’m not claiming that Bronner is doing this intentionally.  But it doesn’t matter whether he’s aware of the ideological assumptions of his reporting or not.  The fact is that as one of the world’s most prominent Israel correspondents, he is carrying water for the IDF and government, and distorting the real picture of Israeli opposition to the Gaza war.

I can deal with this when it comes from an avowed Israel advocate like Dershowitz.  At least you know what you’re getting.  But Bronner and the Times have the imprimatur of journalistic gravitas and don’t deserve it in this case.

On a final note, I was also astonished that B’Tselem allowed itself to become part of Bronner’s case that Israelis universally condemn Goldstone’s claim of a deliberate Israeli plan to destroy civilian infrastructure:

“I do not accept the Goldstone conclusion of a systematic attack on civilian infrastructure,” said Yael Stein, research director of B’Tselem. “It is not convincing.

This is too much to bear.  Anyone who has visited Gaza or lives there can see with their own eyes that this is simply wrong.  The schools, mosques, parliament, civilian ministries, factories, UNWRA food warehouse, everything it takes to make a society–virtually all of it was systematically destroyed.  And Israeli generals during the war essentially conceded this point by claiming that every Gazan was presumed either a combatant or supporter of Hamas, and therefore a likely combatant.  Israel soldiers themselves reported Gaza was a virtual free fire zone in which anything that moved whether civilian or not was considered a target.  1,100 of the 1,400 Gazans killed by the IDF were civilians, which further underscores either a willful campaign to target civilians or a strategy that accepted the decimation of the civilian population as a corollary of the approach.

I generally admire B’Tselem’s human rights work.  But in this they have fallen down hard and deserve criticism.

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  • Donald January 24, 2010, 6:06 AM

    Yeah, the B’Tselem comment makes no sense. We even have Israeli officials stating before the war that they intended to hit civilians and the blockade itself is an attack on the entire civilian population. It seems like you need nothing short of sworn testimony by Olmert and top IDF officials that yes, they targeted civilians to convince some people. Westerners don’t do that.

    As for the specific incidents, if Israel does have any evidence that exonerates them on a couple of incidents you can bet that the NYT and the rest of the MSM will focus all of its attention on those incidents.

    • Donald January 24, 2010, 6:16 AM

      It was also appalling the way Bronner allowed an Israeli official to make a big distinction between the Goldstone report and the human rights organizations like HRW and Amnesty International. That’s a subtle sort of trick. In reality, all the human rights groups agree on the immorality of the Gaza blockade (clearly aimed at civilians) and on the brutality and indiscriminate nature of the firepower used in Gaza. There’s no debate regarding the overall picture of Israel thuggishness, but by focusing on Goldstone, claiming that it was uniquely harsh and by claiming to discredit that report by singling out a couple of incidents and supposedly disproving them, Israel is trying to make the rest of the evidence and all the other reports irrelevant. Or that’s how it will work if the press allows them to get away with it.

  • mary January 24, 2010, 7:39 AM

    In light of the recent efforts by Israel to silence NGO’s receiving international donations, I’m not terribly surprised at Yael Stein’s statement. I’m terribly disappointed, but not surprised.

    I think Bronner has gone from water-carrier to full blown hasbarist with this article. I wonder how much money he’s making from it, and how he can look himself in the eye.

    I’m fervently hoping at least Breaking the Silence issues a rebuttal to Bronner’s outrageous and fallacious statement.

  • Tony Greenstein January 24, 2010, 12:07 PM

    There has always been some do ubt about the political neutrality of B’Tselem. See e.g. Mark Elf’s blog Jewssansfrontieres http://jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.com/2009/09/btselem-zionist-human-rights-group.html

    Human rights is also a political issue and B’tselem Research Director Yael Stein has clearly reached the view that some areas of human rights are seen as anti-Zionist and challenging the fundamentals of the State. It is a liberal group after all.

    I don’t think we should get into trying to do a second Goldstone. The evidence is there and it is damning, although he too attempted to minimise the political fall-out by equating Hamas’s rockets with Israel’s attack and invasion.

    The clear points should be made, as Richard does make them, that x amount of schools, hospitals, clinics, homes, buildings in built up areas etc. were attacked and destroyed, including of course the University, to be under no doubt that civilians and their institutions were indeed the target. This is no longer an evidential matter, the proof is there. It is a political issue.

    The use of fleschettes, white phosphorous etc. merely illuminates the original sin. And when one couples that with the orders of military rabbis that all non-Jews in Gaza were to be treated as hostile and in effect the Amalekites, there really is an unanswerable case that Israel deliberately targetted civilians.

    If Ms Stein, for reasons of political convenience and quite frankly utter cowardice, can’t see that then so be it.

  • mary January 24, 2010, 1:16 PM

    “We face three major strategic challenges,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said recently. “The Iranian nuclear program, rockets aimed at our civilians and Goldstone.”

    This paranoid, diseased thinking is what is powering the Israeli government.

  • Gene Schulman January 24, 2010, 9:41 PM

    Well, yes. Does anyone really expect the Israelis to admit that they committed war crimes, or crimes against humanity? I expect Dershowitz will be pleading the case for the defense.

    Why bother with all this blather? Just boycott them, period. And the United States while we’re at it.

    • mary January 24, 2010, 10:25 PM

      It works for me, Gene.

      I’m sure this IDF self-investigation is going to be every bit as phony as the one they claimed they did in the first weeks after Cast Lead ended. They’ll never look at themselves objectively; they would have to end their perpetual denial and come out of the fantasy they’ve been living in.

  • Jerry Slater January 25, 2010, 6:05 AM

    Richard is right on target. As an academic who writes about these same issues, I can say that this is an impressively researched, eloquent, and tightly argued argument–like so many other of Richard’s writings.

    I will add one piece of information. I also don’t understand what B’tselem is up to. The statement by Stein is not new: in the past year Jessica Montell herself (head of B’tselem) has said–at least twice–the same sort of thing. I wrote to her on both occasions, even quoting earlier public statements she had made, prior to last year’s attack, on the deliberate Israeli policy of collective punishment of the Gazan people.

    She did not reply.

  • mary January 25, 2010, 8:15 AM

    Hello Jerry, it is a pleasure to see you here. I not only live practically on your doorstep, but I know you by reputation and am very pleased that you will be joining the world of blogging. We need more academic voices speaking truth to power.

    Do we dare to think that B’tselem may possibly have either a financial or political stake in this rather duplicitous behavior? It really does make no sense that the organization would be effectively functioning as a human rights watchdog in the OPT’s while simultaneously denying what they see. They report on settler violence, IDF misconduct, and initially they were very outspoken in their condemnation of the types of destruction and the extent of the violence resulting from Operation Cast Lead. They explicitly condemned the IDF for the use of phosphorus in civilian areas, among other things.

    Are they deliberately misquoting Montell, and she is not speaking up about it? Very, very puzzling.

    • Donald January 25, 2010, 9:02 AM

      Phil Weiss has a theory passed on from Norman Finkelstein about this–basically, he thinks they’re under a lot of pressure.

      link

    • Dana January 25, 2010, 10:00 AM

      I agree with Phil’s theory, Donald. Some of my activist acquaintancies in Israel mentioned that there’s considerable escalation in pressure brought to bear on all “leftist” groups over there. And when the authorities pressure in Israel, they don’t do it with a light foot. Why would they? have they behaved anyway other than a bull in a china shop lately? B’tselem, in particular, has been the subject of a campaign by the powers-that-be to get it to soften it’s message, and I wouldn’t doubt that there’s enormous arm twisting going on. Virtually every computer and every message is subject to search – and seizure – and knowing the Israelis, this does not stop with the activist or leader but extends to their direct families and to any other issue they may care about.

      Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and the ill wind blowing in Israel will, unfortunately, bend many wills. Not that we should all avoid critique where it’s due, but we should take into account that the leaders and spokespeople of leftist groups in Israel are effectively hostages to that country’s machine of colonialist perpetuation, and Israelis do not take “losing” lightly – whether it’s on the killing fields of lead and bullets or the media field of paper, keyboard and microphone. Remember the case of muhammad-al-Dura?

      I tend to treat statements by heads of organizations, like stein, as uttered under duress. Much as hostages are shown claiming they are treated well. maybe they are, maybe not, no? The problem is that this hasbara-on-steroids campaign out of israel is likely to get much much worse in the coming days and months. And we should all be well advised to be forewarned – wherever we are. personally, since I have some clue of what’s coming (not because I know something specific but because I am familiar with the underlying psychology) I kind of dread to see it all unfold. Just imagine what it means to a human mind be able to put compassion aside for a select group of people (Palestinians in Gaza for example). Then the next step is kind of clear, no matter how hard it is to process.

    • Jerry Slater January 25, 2010, 10:02 AM

      Hello, Mary:

      I have no idea what’s going on with B’tselem, especially in light of Jessica Montell’s well-deserved reputation as a fearless human rights critic of the Israeli government. No, she is not being misquoted; if so, she would surely have corrected the record. B’tselem surely has no financial interest, but perhaps they are trying to protect themselves against being marginalized (even more) in Israel, as being “leftists.”

      It may be that the best explanation, in a general sense, can be found in today’s Jerry Haber’s Magnes Zionist blog–on the decline of “the Zionist left.”

  • Mooser January 25, 2010, 9:26 AM

    This place just reeks of anti-Semanticism! Let me ask you this: If Israel was doing a concerted publicity campaign to discredit Goldstone, the Haitian hasbara helpers would not be leaving this week, they would stay in Haiti as long as it took to discredit Goldstone!
    Case closed!

    • mary January 25, 2010, 11:00 AM

      Anti-Semanticism? What is that, can you explain?

      Mooser, the Israeli PR crew could stay in Haiti until the world ends, and they would still not be able to discredit Goldstone.

      Jerry, I think Dana makes some excellent points, one of which is most important – we must be leery of public statements and try to understand why they’re being made. I am aware of the tremendous pressure Israel is exerting on NGO’s, and of course also the pressure on the news media (read: Jared Malsin).

      I’m having a hard time understanding just what the Zionist Left is, what it does and why. They appear to me to be unsure of that themselves. I don’t focus on internal Israeli politics very often because it does not concern me. I am concerned with the Palestinians and what this deplorable Israeli government is doing as it concerns the Palestinians. The marginalization of the Left concerns me only in its final outcome but the bigger issue is that of a government calling itself a democracy yet aggressively silencing dissent while maintaining a brutal and illegal occupation.

      • Donald January 25, 2010, 1:15 PM

        Mooser is on your side, Mary–he’s got an odd sense of humor is all. He’s an anti-Zionist. He’s a regular at Phil’s blog and people here who aren’t familiar with him don’t realize he was being sarcastic.

        Not that I blame them–there’s no argument too silly that you won’t find someone making it for real when it comes to this subject.

        • mary January 25, 2010, 1:58 PM

          Bless his heart, then! Mooser, my apologies. Unfortunately, I do not get to read Phil Weiss as often as I would like these days. I get his drift now – that PR stunt in Haiti should take care of that pesky Goldstone and all of those “lies” in the Goldstone Report.

  • Tony Greenstein January 25, 2010, 11:12 AM

    I think the simple answer to Mooser’s argument is simply that Israel has milked what it can in 2 weeks and any further gains PR wise will be minimal. It’s all a question of cost- benefit analysis and having shown the flag and had lots of nice photos taken with children why stay?

    The Btselem thing is different. There is an old saying in Britain: ‘”YOU CANNOT THINK TO BRIBE OR TWIST, THANK GOD THE BRITISH JOURNALIST / FOR SEEING WHAT THE MAN WILL DO UNBRIBED, THERE’S NO OCCASION TO”

    In short you don’t need to bribe or censor the average British journalist. He does everything himself for no money or coercion.

    So it probably is with Btselem. It is a liberal human rights group but it operates within the norms of a Zionist society where certain things are taken for granted e.g. the whole metaphysical nonsense about Israel’s ‘right to exist’. These people are not anti-Zionists and therefore, when particular issues of human rights come up against the notion of Israel’s right to self-defence (& therefore the right to exist) they back off.

    So Btselem can be good over particular incidents like white phosphorous etc. but when it comes to generalising from the specific to the particular (& politics is nothing if not generalising and making assessments of the overall contours of phenomenon and the like) they are then reluctant. That is ‘political’ etc.

    So despite the fact that to most people, the accumulation of what Israel did points without a doubt to a deliberate and concerted attack on civilians, for Btselem and similar groups it is different. They see things on an isolated basis because they don’t wish to see them in perspective.

    • Dana January 25, 2010, 1:14 PM

      Tony, to underline your point – and perhaps put my original one above in some context – let’s not forget that B’Tselem’s people do not have six degrees of separation from what the IDF does. Individuals may be serving in reserve, or have family members, including sons and daughters who do active duty. Some may have even been in Gaza. To endorse the goldstone report in israel is to repudiate those closest to you. Is it any wonder that people there just cannot bring themselves to believe that what was done in gaza was a deliberate act of civilian destruction. If they would believe that, their entire world view would come collapsing as a house of cards. And that is the cognitive dissonance that the powers-that-be in israel are all too keen – and willing – to exploit. That’s partly what I meant by suggesting that we think of individual NGO leaders in israel as hostages. Ones we who are outside the collective there cannot rescue. Some, over time, will hopefully be able to rescue themselves. Obviously, that’s what jerry haber and bernard avishai are hoping for.

    • Richard Silverstein January 25, 2010, 1:57 PM

      No, I think you’re missing something & yr analysis is entirely too pat. B’Tselem has taken the right position on the Gaza war in the past. This new statement, if it isn’t contradicted, is in conflict with what’s come before. That’s why I’m confused.

      Unfortunately, you need to make this an ideological war between Zionism & anti-Zionism and anyone on the wrong side is hopelessly compromised. I reject that as I reject anyone who would say Israel has no right to exist as you seem to.

      Calling B’Tselem a liberal ZIonist organization & lumping it together with the Labor party, Meretz and liberal intellectuals shows you have blinders on when it comes to understanding what is going on within Israeli society. It is a much more nuanced situation than you seem capable of understanding.

      • Tony Greenstein January 25, 2010, 3:30 PM

        I confess to not having paid a great deal of attention to Btselem other than as an Israeli source to quote, but I know some people have been very unhappy with their conclusions on Gaza.

        They operate, like any similar group, within the heart of the beast. Just as South African liberal groups made their compromises with apartheid, if only over anti-communism, so too it would appear is Btselem.

        There always has been an ideological war between Zionism and its opponents. At the beginning this was a largely intra-Jewish affair but today the locus has changed. Given the existing political situation of racism, dispossession and expulsion of course there will be a conflict between Zionism and its opponents – politically and ideologically.

        The ‘right to exist’ is another symptom of how people imbibe without really understanding this kind of politics. Israel exists, as a racist state and ideology/movement, but it exists. What does it mean by ‘right to exist’ other than to gain acceptance for the rightfulness of its racist character in all its many forms. I am comforted in this analysis by the way the ‘right to exist’ changed recently to the demand that Abbas and the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish State, i.e. that Palestinians are there on sufferenace.

        I am well aware of the nuances you speak of but I also know that these nuances count for very little unless there is a break with Zionism or a challenge to its fundamental belief that only an ethnically pure or overwhelmingly majority Jewish state can guarantee Jewish existence and safety. The record of Mapam, which seems to have colonised Meretz, is too well known. A leftist group which, when given the choice, always chose the road of Zionist chauvinism.

        Btselem has done much good work but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. I am very well aware of what is going on in Israeli society. Just as in similar settler societies the left is getting smaller and the chauvinists more confident and sure of themselves. Do you disagree?

        • Richard Silverstein January 25, 2010, 6:06 PM

          I agree with most of what you wrote. But B’Tselem is as good as you’re going to get I’m afraid as far as an Israeli human rights NGO. Yes, it is flawed. But until now, I saw it as deeply principled & fearless. It seems there must be a huge level of blackmail going on & I believe the gov’t must’ve laid down the law w. the NGOs threatening to wipe them out if they cross a red line. That’s the only way I can explain it’s current timorousness.

          As far as your analysis of the Israeli left, yes it is on life support (except for Hadash which seems to be doing fairly well). And yes, the Israeli right is growing more bellicose. I agree w. you on this.

          Articulations like Israel’s “right to exist” make me nervous because I don’t see any outcome that is feasible unless the ethnic rights of all groups are guaranteed in a constitutional framework. Denying Israel’s right to exist seems to negate the right of Israel’s Jews to exist in any national form even within a state in which Arabs & Christians have full rights.

          • Tony Greenstein January 25, 2010, 7:44 PM

            surprisingly I agree with you. I don’t doubt Btselem has come under the pressure you mention. But it is because of their ties with more mainstream Zionist thought that they are susceptible to such pressure since the obvious path is to publicise any and every threat. And Btselem’s reputation is such they even the Israeli government would think twice so that is why I say it is not only pressure.

            I personally don’t use such formulations as denying the ‘right to exist’. States exist. Nazi Germany existed. Did anyone deny that fact? The altogether different question is whether Israel should exist IN THE FORM IT IS TODAY, I.E. A RACIST AND EXCLUSIVIST STATE. That to me is an entirely different question. And yes, a unitary state must incorporate guarantees for any minorities, language etc.

          • Richard Silverstein January 25, 2010, 9:01 PM

            whether Israel should exist IN THE FORM IT IS TODAY

            I think we’re in some agreement though when you say unitary I assume you mean the Occupied Territories should become one state with Israel. I don’t go that far. But I DO agree that Israel should be a state guanranteeing full & equal rights to every citizen & guaranteeing those rights constitutionally & that Israel should no longer be a Jewish supremacist state.

          • edwin January 26, 2010, 9:49 AM

            And yes, a unitary state must incorporate guarantees for any minorities, language etc.

            Druze, Roma, Christians, Baha’i…

            Sounds like a good reason to be rather wary of the 2 state solution – in either of the proposed 2 states.

            Besides, which Israel has a “right to exist” anyway? Greater Israel, Israel that includes Lebanon up to the Latini river, Israel as defined by the apartheid wall, Israel up to the green line, the 1948 borders without or with the 750,000 refugees now grown to is it as high as 7 million?

            Israel must change in a way that makes it unrecognizable to what it is today. Saying Israel has a right to exist is to deny equality – both for Jews and for everyone else.

  • DICKERSON3870 January 25, 2010, 12:02 PM

    RE: “…a new propaganda offensive by the IDF against the Goldstone Report…” – R.S.
    ASLO SEE: Minister Edelstein: Goldstone Report anti-Semitic, By Roni Sofer, YNET News, 01/25/10
    Peres in Berlin, Netanyahu in Auschwitz, Lieberman in Budapest and Edelstein at UN headquarters in New York all plan attack UN report into Gaza war on International Holocaust Day. ‘It’s not an easy connection, but we must learn the lessons from what happened,’ information minister tells Ynet
    (EXCERPT) Israel’s political echelon plans to slam then distortions in the Goldstone Report on International Holocaust Day of all days, in order to point to an anti-Semitic trend which blames the victims of Palestinian rockets.
    The information minister is expected to tell the UN chief that the report “must not be an expression of the new anti-Semitism, which is directed at Israel’s soldiers.”
    Israel is scheduled to release its version of the incidents in which it was accused of committing war crimes during Operation Cast Lead on January 29…
    ENTIRETY – http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3839044,00.html

  • Rod Such January 25, 2010, 1:11 PM

    People should write to the public editor, Clark Hoyt, at the New York Times. Don’t dismiss the importance of doing this. It’s time that the “newspaper of record” is held to account for its distortions and omissions. I’m still reeling from their coverage of the protest at Bi’lin and the failure to note the number of people who have been killed at these protests. Anyway, here’s the text of my letter to Hoyt:

    Dear Mr. Hoyt,
    In his Jan. 24, 2010 report on “Israel Poised to Challenge a U.N. Report on Gaza,” Times correspondent Ethan Bronner makes the extraordinary claim, “Still, virtually no one in Israel, including the leaders of Breaking the Silence and the human rights group B’Tselem, thinks that the Goldstone accusation of an assault on civilians is correct.”

    Do the Times and Mr. Bronner therefore think that the following seven Israeli human rights organizations are virtually no one? The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Gisha, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, HaMoked: The Center for the Defence of the Individual, Yesh Din, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel–submitted these findings to the UN Fact Finding Mission on Gaza headed by Richard Goldstone
    (Note that these were their own findings. Are we somehow to believe that they no longer concur with their own findings?):

    C.1. Lack of protection for civilians and attacks on protected areas
    A significant part of Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip included air strikes into the heart of or near civilian populations. Strikes were directed toward mosques, schools and residential buildings on the grounds that they were being used for munitions storage or that shooting originated from or near them. Striking at targets in the heart of or near densely populated areas jeopardizes the lives of civilians. These protected sites cannot be attacked on the basis of a general suspicion, but only on well founded information, and even then, the risk to civilian lives must be taken into account during both the planning and execution of the action.

    From time to time, using various methods (scattering leaflets, recorded telephone messages, and sometimes even by “roof knocking” bombs to warn of an upcoming strike), the army announced to the civilian population that it must evacuate residential areas; an escape route, however, was not provided nor were protected areas defined in advance, forcing many to remain in the combat zones without protection.

    As a result of the military operation, around 1,500 Palestinians were killed and more than 5,000 were injured, while most of the dead and wounded were civilians.

    A large number of Palestinians who survived with amputated limbs or left maimed were among those injured in the Gaza assault (12-15% of all injuries), most because of the use of antipersonnel munitions: disk bombs, white phosphorus, and some not yet identified.

    The conducting of strikes into or very near densely populated civilian areas, the accumulating data about the large number of civilians killed and injured, and the
    severity of the injuries all raise serious concerns about grave violations of international humanitarian law by Israel.

    C.2. Shelling of civilian structures and institutions
    The Hamas movement, which has ruled Gaza since June 2007, functions as an alternative government to the Palestinian Authority, and employs individuals in
    various civil service positions in governmental institutions. Israel deliberately and knowingly shelled civilian institutions in Gaza including the Police Headquarters,
    Parliament, and the Ministries of Education, Interior Affairs, and Transportation. Sixty-eight government buildings were entirely destroyed or partially damaged during the military strikes.4 These buildings, even if they serve the Hamas government and constitute symbols of authority, are civilian structures that must not be targeted for military attack.5 The harm to these structures was deliberate and systematic. On 1January 2009, the IDF Spokesperson announced, “The Air Force attacked tonight (Thursday) the buildings housing the Legislative Assembly and the Ministry of Justice situated in the city of Gaza. Attack on strategic government targets that constitute partof the Hamas regime is in direct response to the ongoing shooting of the Hamas terror organization on the towns of southern Israel.” Furthermore, Maj. Avital Leibovich, IDF Spokesperson for the international media, was quoted in the foreign press as saying, “Anything affiliated with Hamas is a legitimate target”.6 These statements support the above claim that Israel deviated from the principle that allows harm only to military objectives, and carried out strikes against civilian sites in an effort to achieve political ends. Clearly this position is illegal, contravening the provisions of international law. Not just that these structures are civilian unless illegal
    use is made of them that would revoke their protected status, but civilians are working in these civilian government institutions, as noted.

    Also under attack were dozens of UN installations, schools and universities, factories, workshops and commercial firms. In addition, over 4,000 residential structures were entirely destroyed and some 17,000 were partially destroyed by the military strikes in the Gaza Strip, leaving tens of thousands homeless.

    • Donald January 25, 2010, 1:17 PM

      Very good letter, Rod. I second your suggestion and in fact I sent my own letter to Mr. Hoyt on Sunday. (Mine wasn’t as good as yours, but I was polite and made the point that Bronner didn’t seem to seek out the opinions of anyone who thought the evidence showed Israel had targeted civilians.)

    • mary January 25, 2010, 1:19 PM

      Well done, Rod, thanks for writing and sending such an important letter. I hope it is published, but I would not be surprised if it is not. I will join you and send a letter as well. It must be pointed out the NY Times should remember its obligation to print “all the news that is fit to print.”

  • Tony Greenstein January 25, 2010, 1:30 PM

    Dana

    I agree with you entirely about cognitive dissonance and the pressure on B’tselem leaders. That was what I was trying to say in my clumsy way. It is not a question of a one-off abuse or even one in a series but a view which sees the human rights violations as a consequence of dehumanisation and the deep racism that is an inherent part of Zionist colonisation.

    This is something no B’tselemer can accept without becoming a full anti-Zionist and thus cutting themselves off from the mainstream of Israeli society, including its radical chic, peace and left, element.

  • Jerry Slater January 25, 2010, 2:27 PM

    Writing to Hoyt is a terrific idea, but it will be amazing if he even acknowledges that there is a problem, let alone that the Times actually changes its dishonest and irresponsible coverage and commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    In the Fall, 2007 the Harvard/MIT international politics journal, International Security, published a long and highly detailed article of mine, in which I compared the news coverage, oped commentary, and editorials of the New York Times with that of Haaretz; the conclusions I drew will be obvious to readers of Richard’s blog. As well, Richard, Phil Weiss, Steve Walt and many others have continued to reveal the depths of the Times’ obfuscations, ineptness, and sometimes even outright falsifications.

    Needless to say, nothing has changed. During the Holocaust, the Times deliberately and shamefully played down the news of what was happening; there were a number of reports on what Nazi Germany was doing to the Jews, and the Times either didn’t print them or relegated them to a paragraph or two on the inside of the paper.

    In recent years the Times has acknowledged and apologized for its Holocaust year failures. Maybe fifty years from now it will also find it safe to apologize for its abject failures of honesty and responsibility today–with just as much effect.

    Still, every effort must be made, not so much to inform the Times of what it is doing–I have no doubt that it fully knows that–but at least to shame them into honest reporting and commentary.

    • Dana January 25, 2010, 3:03 PM

      Jerry, would you perchance happen to have a link for that harvard/MIT article? is it available online? Thanks, and good to see you here.

  • ktula January 25, 2010, 3:16 PM

    There is yet another report on Ethan Bronner’s son serving in the IDF. This one appears to be quite credible. Here is the response of Susan Chira, the foreign editor of The New York Times, to the question on whether Ethan Bronner’s son was inducted into the IDF recently:

    “Ethan Bronner referred your query to me, the foreign editor. Here is my comment: Mr. Bronner’s son is a young adult who makes his own decisions. At The Times, we have found Mr. Bronner’s coverage to be scrupulously fair and we are confident that will continue to be the case.”

    http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11031.shtml

    • Richard Silverstein January 25, 2010, 5:59 PM

      Amazing. You know, I read this rumor months ago & published it here. Then Phil Weiss asked me to confirm where I heard it & I couldn’t find the source. But now this confirms it. It’s still a rumor or tip as far as I’m concerned. But the fact that the Times refused to deny the rumor lends it more credence. It’s despicable as far as I’m concerned that the Times is essentially daring the blog world to ferret out the information itself. It’s truly a hostile act instead of the responsiveness they should show.

  • Tony Greenstein January 26, 2010, 4:01 AM

    Yes, I can see no other future for Palestine other than as a unitary state. I know people never learn from the lessons of history, but Partition in Ireland and India/Pakistan should be a salutary lesson. A new political wall to complement the Apartheid Wall would merely intensify the antagonisms, not least within each proto-state. Without a doubt Israeli Arabs would be transferred and it would also be an additional shot in the arm to the Orthodox Right in Israel.

    2 States would be the worst neo-colonial solution of all. Palestine has now been formed as a historical entity as a result of the British Mandate and the Israeli state. And I would add what has also been created is one Palestinian people, part Arab and part Israeli/Jewish. That is the South African model where White and Black now constitute part of the South African people. The benefits of a unitary state there are for all to see.

    As long as Israel is a ‘Jewish’ State then it cannot be ot her than a Jewish supremacist state. There is no other meaning other than the search for a racially pure state coupled with its own untermenschen. To be a Jewish state in the Zionist sense, as the ingathering point for the ‘exiles’ is itself to place the priority on Jews rather than non-Jews. And inside Israel being Jewish means being priviliged, both economically and politically. States don’t daven or worship or put on tallith. They are instruments of political and physical coercion when stripped bare. Unless the Jewishness of the state is purely decorative and nominal, like Britain being a Christian state, then it is meaningless.

    today we have one state, it’s just that nearly half the population has no political or civil rights. The primary task now is for that situation to change to one of equality.

    But given states aren’t simply creations on a drawing board but living entities with movements that defy boardroom plans, then what also has to be faced up to is that the solution in Palestine will not be as simple as South Africa. Israel’s Jewish population is demographically virtually the same as the Palestinians inside what was the British mandate. Hence its immense usefulness to the West as a stable pro-western state (not it’s not the Jewish vote stupid!). Its role is quite clear and that is as a counter-revolutionary base within an immensely important strategic area. It is only when the Arab masses themselves make war on their own regimes and overthrow them, and with that the West’s control of the oil, that Israel’s own role will be seriously threatened.

    And this will also create the conditions for the creation of Jewish/Israeli-Arab unity along class lines.

    • Richard Silverstein January 27, 2010, 12:48 AM

      A new political wall to complement the Apartheid Wall would merely intensify the antagonisms

      And you think a unitary state won’t “intensify antagonisms” bet. Jews & Arabs esp. on the Jewish side? This whole thing is a crap shoot. You’re willing to say to the Jews: suck it up & deal w. being a vulnerable minority since you’ve screwed the Palestinians over for so many yrs. in precisely the same way you’re gonna be screwed now. I don’t think that’s an optimal situation.

      Without a doubt Israeli Arabs would be transferred

      I don’t see how you can say “without a doubt.” The type of solution I’m talking about would have international guarantees and a constitution to ensure minority & majority rights & nothing like that could occur.

      That is the South African model

      Not the same. You had apartheid fr 1948 till it ended. But before 1948 S. Africa wasn’t the white supremist state it became after. So at least you had some history that wasn’t based on that model. In Israel you have absolutely no period when Jews & Arabs ever co-existed peacefully unless you want to travel back to the 19th century & before when there were hardly any Jews in Israel. Plus proportionally there are many more Jews in Israel than whites in S. Africa.

      As long as Israel is a ‘Jewish’ State

      I don’t see Israel as a Jewish state, but rather as a state that is a Jewish and Arab homeland respectively. It would be an egalitarian state like Switzerland or Canada or whatever Ireland becomes if N. Ireland is ever incorporated into it.

      the creation of Jewish/Israeli-Arab unity along class lines

      You’ll have to permit me to be a bit skeptical of that.

      • edwin January 27, 2010, 8:46 AM

        Always in this type of argument there is the hidden discrimination against Jews themselves.

        I don’t see Israel as a Jewish state, but rather as a state that is a Jewish and Arab homeland respectively.

        Arab in this context is a racist term. Palestinian is the correct term to use. Otherwise we might as well as talk about all the countries “white” people control, and ask the question of isn’t 3 continents enough? Why do white people need Israel as well?

        Interestingly, Jewish is also a racist term. I am not sure racism is quite the right word, but it will do. Ultimately what is being demanded is that people be loyal to the state. If the state is a Jewish homeland/Arab Homeland that demands that its citizens fit themselves into the square hole and the round hole. Individuality is ok so long as you fit into the correct hole.

        Such a system denies freedom of religion to its citizens, and it denies the freedom to marry whom one chooses. It dictates life choices thorough out ones life. If this is what you support, then deal with the reality that you are proposing to create.

        Now I believe that Noam Chompsky manages to support a similar situation without stepping into racism, so it can be done.

        I would share your dislike of the socialist fantasy that Tony Greenstein promotes. Never the less, I am not going to accept the Jewish post utopia that you are proposing. A Jewish state provides about as much long term protection for Jews as – say Christian Europe did for Christians.

        This is the ugly inside apartheid Israel style.

        http://jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.com/2010/01/hitler-was-right-so-say-two-angry.html

        Oh – and that document on when is it ok to kill non Jewish babies.

        This is what a Jewish homeland perpetuates. Hitler would have been happy to put a star of david on me and ship me off to Auschwitz. Israel is not my homeland. I can’t tell you how upset it makes me to find that others, like Hitler, believe that they can define me as a Jew and completely ignore me as a person.

        Palestine is the physical place where ancestors, and a large number of a people we call Palestinians live. It is not their homeland. A Palestinian who moves to the US and becomes a US citizen has every right to declare that the US is their home, and Palestine is not. Their children have no right to declare that Palestine is their home. I do not have the right to declare that Latvia is my home, even though there is a Village there – or was before Hitler – with my last name on it.

        Homeland is a racist term. Surely at least that should be an obvious lesson from apartheid South Africa.

        • mary January 27, 2010, 11:46 AM

          Thanks, Edwin, for recognizing and speaking so eloquently for the humanity of everyone. Excellent comment.

        • Richard Silverstein January 27, 2010, 9:25 PM

          Palestinian is the correct term to use

          You know I get tired of being corrected by pedants. I didn’t use Palestinian because I don’t want to confuse Palestinians inside Israel with those in Palestine. So I used a term that was far too broad & which was an error of shorthand, but everyone but you knew what I meant or at least didn’t disapprove. Perhaps others objected too, sue me.

          Jewish is also a racist term

          Gimme a break. You’re loopy.

          Such a system denies freedom of religion to its citizens, and it denies the freedom to marry whom one chooses.

          More loopiness. Where do you get this from? IT would do nothing of the sort. There is no rule in such a state that a Jew can’t marry a Palestinian Israeli or vice versa or that a Jew can’t be an atheist or convert to Islam or whatever they wish. Again, you’re making things up out of whole cloth.

          Noam Chompsky [sic]

          I believe you’re think of Noam Chimpsky…or is this the Chomsky who chomps on a cigar?

          that document on when is it ok to kill non Jewish babies.

          This is what a Jewish homeland perpetuates.

          Nonsense. Pure stuff & nonsense. The book you’re referring to was written by a settler rabbi who would want nothing to do w. the state I’m proposing because it wouldn’t be an exclusivist or supremacist Jewish state. You’re confusing the current Israel w. what I’m proposing which is ENTIRELY diff.

          Israel is not my homeland.

          I didn’t say Israel was THE Jewish homeland. I said it was A Jewish homeland. No one says you have to see in Israel YOUR Jewish homeland. Frankly, I don’t care how you define yrself as a Jew or even IF you do. Nor would Israeli Jews living in the state I’m suggesting. But for 6 million Israeli Jews it IS their homeland & contrary to you I believe this should be honored as long as it doesn’t prevent the 1 million Israeli Palestinians fr. making this place their homeland as well.

          It is not their homeland

          This is so completely divorced fr anything that actual Palestinians believe as to be simply ludicrous. A people is connected to a land. That is their homeland. Do you think that those expelled in 1948 & now living in Jordan, Lebanon or God knows where believe that Palestine however you define it is NOT their homeland? Of course it is. And if we take yr nonsense to its extreme then you’re denying not only the Law of Return but the Right of Return. Are you sure that’s the way you want to go?

  • Tony Greenstein January 27, 2010, 6:24 AM

    Richard

    the difference between us is that I’m a Marxist and therefore a socialist. All the international guarantees in the world matter not a jot. International law means nothing if there is no means of enforcement, which there isn’t. We prosecute war criminals when they’re our enemy (Sudanese President, Karavic, Milosevic etc. but not Olmert, Livni, Pinochet etc.).

    You know as well as I that law is a means of protecting the powerful and entrenched not the poor and dispossessed. So all the international guarantees in the world aren’t worth a candle. When I see Blair in the dock with Bush, when they are standing on the scaffold ready to follow Chemical Ali, then I’ll believe you.

    No a unitary state won’t intensify antagonisms because structures aren’t being put in place to cement already existing antagonisms but lay the basis to eliminate them over time. Of course without economic liberation then that won’t happen overnight. Whites in South Africa still have contempt for Blacks and it is diffused through economic overlordship but the basis of unity is now there.

    Yes in logical terms one might indeed say you’ve fucked us over so we’ll do the same to you but in fact it doesn’t work out that way. So in Ireland, despite the horrendous treatment the Catholics have received, they have always been the ones to advocate unity and non-discrimination. Protestants in the South of Ireland have never experienced the bitter and racist discrimination against Catholics in the North. That is why the Loyalists in Northern Ireland look to Israel as a good example!

    The reason it doesn’t work as you suggest is that once you remove the impediments to unity people no longer think on ethnic lines alone. Class and social considerations start to make an impact whereas at the moment everything in Israel is divided on Jewish/non-Jewish lines. Look at Israel’s abstract economic statistics. There are even Jewish and non-Jewish tomatoes!

    I can’t accept these intricate plans for constitutional guarantees

    Nor do I accept that Jews will be a vulnerable minority. In fact they will have rought demographic parity and there is no reason at all to suspect that the vast majority of Palestinians will feel like that, despite the best attempts of israel to create fundamentalist groups among the Palestinians and to encourage sectarian and ethnic conflict.

    I have no doubt whatever that if ever a 2 state solution was actually adopted – in practice 1 state and a few Reservations, then Israel’s Arabs would be transferred. That is what they are talking about at the moment – and I’m sure you remember Tsipi Livni saying this or words to this effect at the last election.

    Again I disagree about a tradition of co-existence. In fact until the end of the 1st world war Jews of the Old Yishuv and Arabs got along without problems, so there is that history as many Palestinians have pointed out to me.

    Secondly, South Africa had even less of such a history. I’m sorry but South Africa had a colour bar and apartheid structures well before 1948 under Jan Smuts and Herzog. It wasn’t codified in a State, that was Malan and Verwoerd’s achievement but it was certainly their in the Native Land Act of 1913 (just 4 years after being granted Dominion Status i.e. home rule & semi independence ) and the equivalent 1931 Land Apportionment Act in southern Rhodesia.

    When you consider the massacre of Zulus at Blood River and the driving of Africans from their land by force then you realise that there really was no ‘golden period’ of Black/White relations in Southern Africa – quite the contrary.

    It matters not how you define a Jewish state it is those who do it whose opinion matters! Britain is a nominally christian state but the only act of discrimination consequent upon this is that a Catholic can’t become king or queen! I’m not certain about whether I’m able to do so but I can assure you that I haven’t suffered a great deal under this disability. In all other respects Jews are equal to Protestants in this country.

    If that were all that mattered in Israel then I’d agree, but it isn’t. Being Jewish entitles you to rights and privileges over and above non-Jews and that is the crux of the problem

    • Richard Silverstein January 27, 2010, 9:37 PM

      structures aren’t being put in place to cement already existing antagonisms but lay the basis to eliminate them over time.

      Whether or not a unitary state intensifies antagonisms there will be tremendous antagonisms. I respect & appreciate that you wish to see “structures’ (whatever that means) that will eliminate hostility “over time.” That’s great. But what do you do until then when you have ethnic riots of the sort that plagued Palestine from the 1920 till 1948? Because that will happen in this unitary state. I’m not saying I want this to happen or that it will be a good thing or anything of the sort. But it will happen because the pecking order of ethnic/democratic power will not yet be sorted out. How does one deal with this?

      once you remove the impediments to unity people no longer think on ethnic lines alone.

      That sounds lovely, it really does & I mean that. But I’m not a utopian nor do I trust someone who says things will be swell because of something that appears to me almost as a magical formula. I just don’t see things quite as you do. But it would nice if you could be right.

      That is what they are talking about at the moment

      Political talk is cheap in Israel. Everybody talks. All politicians mouth platitudes, blather & hot air. They’ve been talking about transfer for decades. Does the talk worry me? You bet. Does it mean that transfer of anything like it will definitely happen? Not at all.

      until the end of the 1st world war Jews of the Old Yishuv and Arabs got along without problems

      Well, yes. But what happened after that? And before WWI there were relatively few Jews in Palestine. The more Jews came the more hostility there was.

  • Tony Greenstein January 27, 2010, 7:41 PM

    Edwin,

    every term can be racist depending on who uses it and the context in which it is used.

    Arab is a reference to linguistic and cultural and possibly national term not a racial one so the comparison with whites is not like with like.

    Similarly Jewish can be used in a racist manner but there is nothing inherently racist in it. Why do u say that?

    a homeland is where one makes one’s home! Again there is nothing racist about it per se, but when it is used politically to suggest that a whole group of people, who are scattered across the globe, have a home other than where they live then yes, that is racist. And that is why the Zionists, who allied with some of the worst anti-Semites like AJ Balfour, were in effect both proponents and reflectors of anti-Semitism. They didn’t accept that Jews belonged anywhere other than in a British colony.

    As for socialism being a fantasy it might be in the world main imperialist power, the USA but it is a dire necessity in the rest of the world. Surely global warming and the banking crisis have told us that capitalism is incapable of behaving in a rational manner as it is by its very nature anarchic and unplanned.

    But no doubt it is a fantasy to imagine a world where no one starves whilst others face the problem of obesity or where the wealth of the world is spent on the needs of humanity rather than weapons of mass destruction.

    And if you have something to say on the subject then explain, don’t just throw out a few phrases that say nothing.

    • Richard Silverstein January 27, 2010, 9:44 PM

      when it is used politically to suggest that a whole group of people, who are scattered across the globe, have a home other than where they live then yes, that is racist.

      So you are saying that the 6 million Jews of Israel cannot consider this place their homeland though they’ve lived there for four generations (some more)? Where do they go? Back to their shtetls in eastern Europe? After all Israel is the place “where they live” as you say.

      I have no problem ending or severely curtailing the Law of Return. But there are some Jews outside Israel who will always see in Israel a place that is either their spiritual homeland, & if not their homeland, at least a deeply spiritual field of dreams for them. You may dislike that this bond exists but it does & simply waving it away will not do.

      • Tony Greenstein January 27, 2010, 11:56 PM

        No, I thought I made it clear. I support the creation of a democratic, secular state in Palestine. I was in any case referring to world Jewry. If someone says that a Jew in France or Argentina doesn’t belong their, that their home is in Israel, they are either an anti-Semite or a Zionist.

        Yes for most Israeli Jews, Israel/Palestine is their home. Many of the settlers will go back to Brooklyn or wherever and that will be no great loss but the majority of Israeli Jews will stay because it, as you say, their home. But there are different types of home!