Posts Tagged ‘Goldstone Report’
In Israel-related news, the media today had to make a decision over what was more relevant. Do we report on Hillary Clinton’s furious back-pedalling over her statements regarding the fairly irrelevant, and existent in name only, peace process? Or do we instead report on US Congress predictably landslide-voting to bury the Goldstone Report, the irrelevance of which seems to be growing by the day? Predictably, the media felt that a foreign policy gaffe by the Secretary of State was an opportunity too good to pass up, and happily plumped for the former. And why not? Didn’t anyone else think that Clinton falling all over herself to appease AIPAC was amusing? As in, depressingly amusing, but hey this is Israel-Palestine we’re talking about, it’s always going to be somewhat morbid amusement.
So Clinton says to Al-Jazeera in Morocco:
“I think, as you know, President [Barack] Obama clearly said he wanted to see an end to settlement activity,”
“That had never been requested prior to any negotiation entered into by any representative of either the Palestinians or the Israelis.”
After her trip to Morocco, Clinton flew to Cairo to deal with the aftermath of her gaffe committed in previous days, to talk to “Egyptian leaders” as the Star Tribune reports. VOA reports that she’s meeting Uncle Hosni.
The NZ Herald has the following to say:
Clinton’s comments in Jerusalem appeared to reflect a realisation within the Obama Administration that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Government will not accept a full-scale settlement freeze and that a partial halt may be the best lesser option. Her appeal seemed designed to make the Israeli position more palatable to the Palestinians and Arab states.
But the ever-present question begs. If the settlements are illegal, and if the Obama administration ‘unequivocally’ opposes them, then why can’t the Obama Administration put more pressure on the Netanyahu Government to halt them entirely. There has been precious little evidence of any real pressure on Netanyahu, in fact Bibi, and other pro-settlement folk, have been glowing with pride over his constant ‘victories’ over Obama. So why bother saying that you’re against something ‘unequivocally’ but do nothing tangible to actually stop it? Ah yes, well, that’s called empty rhetoric, ladies and gentlemen, and Obama’s Administration seems to be very good at it… until now when the rhetoric spills over into weird fawning, as Clinton’s statements the other day indicate. What Clinton terms ‘positive reinforcement’ to the rest of us looks like diplomatic genuflection.
As per the words of the Hillary, “We need to work together in a constructive spirit toward this shared goal of a comprehensive peace.” Indeed, the Netanyahu Government’s spirit has been very constructive – constructive of settlements in the Occupied West Bank, not sure how ‘comprehensive’ the peace is going to be though, unless the Palestinian residents of the West Bank are simply built over with cement.
Oh and about that Goldstone report? Yeah Congress voted 344-36 to bury that baby, something that Mondoweiss called “Pyongyang-style”. That linked post also contains a list of the “Nays” in case you’re American and want to write a letter to your local congressman congratulating him or her for possessing some modicum of cojones. I believe Gregg from The Majlis, who live-blogged the debate from Congress, pretty much sums up how the rest of us feel about this vote.
But it’s not all bad news, folks. Mondoweiss:
My sources tell me that the total of 36 No’s and 22 voting Present is actually a giant improvement over, say, the Lebanon votes that typically were in the 400 range, Yes-wise.
You would have been under a rock if you hadn’t noticed the veritable storm of controversy surrounding the Goldstone Report since its release. Justice Goldstone himself has not been under said rock, and he’s also noticed the fairly rhetorical manner in which his report is being attacked. His first and foremost challenge to critics: read the bloody thing! The man has a point, the Obama administration has denounced the report in strong words, and assisted Israel with its diplomatic offensive to have the report ignored. Most are assuming that the US will use its veto on the Security Council to make sure the report is not accepted (if Russia or China, both of which have come out in opposition to the report, don’t get there first, though admittedly Russia did back it in the UNHRC).
Lebanon’s Daily Star has a good round-up of the choice quotes from the al-Jazeera interview Justice Goldstone gave:
“I have yet to hear from the [Barack] Obama administration what the flaws in the report that they have identified are,” South African former international war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone told Al-Jazeera television.
“I would be happy to respond to them, if and when I know what they are,” added the jurist…
“I’ve no doubt, many of the critics – the overwhelming majority of critics – have not read the report,” he said, adding that the criticism had become personal. [Daily Star]
You can view the full interview here.
One other thing that struck me about the interview was Goldstone’s continued preambles of “As a Jew…”, it strikes me because it gives an idea of how deeply personal the attacks have been. I’m sure Justice Goldstone and his family have suffered a great deal in these past few weeks, what with their commitment to Israel and Jewishness questioned, as well as their very humanity and ethnic identity denied. I think the criticism from some members of the Zionist lobby has been a fairly nasty piece of work indeed.
Goldstone also wrote a piece that appeared in Jerusalem Post and Guardian’s comment-is-free, in it we have the same entreatments to read the report rather than go into personal attacks, also an interesting bit of rebuttal from him regarding the dismissal of the UNHRC’s recommendation to have the report looked at on the basis that its members have questionable human rights records themselves:
Israel and its courts have always recognised that they are bound by norms of international law that it has formally ratified or that have become binding as customary international law upon all nations. The fact that the United Nations and too many members of the international community have unfairly singled out Israel for condemnation and failed to investigate horrible human rights violations in other countries cannot make Israel immune from the very standards it has accepted as binding upon it.
Indeed, the Human Rights record of its members should not be used to mask the question at hand, if Israel committed war crimes in Gaza then it should be properly investigated and brought to justice for doing so. Questioning the human rights records of members such as Angola, Nigeria and Egypt as a reason to have the Council’s recommendation ignored does more to harm Israel’s reputation. Israel, claiming to be a bastion of democracy and law, should be striving to exceed such expectations, not compare itself to countries with Human Rights records severely blighted already.
All-in-all I find Goldstone’s defense to be adequate, well-reasoned and somewhat alarming. It is not too much to ask that if the report be criticised, then it should be properly read and the sections of the report with which issue is taken to be pointed out. Stonewalling it without even addressing it is not a constructive thing to do.
The resolution passed 25-6, with mostly developing countries in favor and the United States and five European countries opposing. Eleven mostly European and African countries abstained, while Britain, France and three other members of the 47-nation body declined to vote. [JPost]
The resolution agreed in Geneva simply calls for the U.N. General Assembly to consider the Goldstone report and for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report back to the Human Rights Council on Israel’s adherence to it.
The report calls for the UN Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court if the Israelis or Palestinians fail to investigate the alleged abuses themselves. [Haaretz] (For full breakdown of votes for/against/abstentions click the Haaretz link
Against: The U.S., Italy, Holland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Ukraine.
For: China, Russia, Egypt, India, Jordan, Pakistan, South Africa, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ghana, Indonesia, Djibouti, Liberia, Qatar, Senegal, Brazil, Mauritius, Nicaragua and Nigeria.
Abstain: Bosnia, Burkina-Faso, Cameron, Gabon, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Belgium, South Korea, Slovenia and Uruguay.
Refused to Vote: Britain, France
Not Present: Madagascar and Kyrgyzstan were not present during the vote.
We’ll update you on new stuff that comes out of this as soon as we can. In the meantime… here’s your daily dose of crazy.
The Guardian pretty much sums up the repercussions of this:
Hamas looks unlikely to investigate its actions during the war and Netanyahu has already insisted he will not allow any Israelis to face war crimes trials. The US would almost certainly veto any decision critical of Israel if the issue reached a vote in the security council.
It’s good to see that this vote has been passed, it’s interesting to see that Bibi’s shuttle diplomacy during the meeting only succeeded in bringing around the US & some Europeans. This could be a further indicator that the first to abandon Israel’s side completely will be the developing world. However, despite a good deal of discussion in the UK about this, it’s disappointing that they chose not to vote for it in the end and decided instead to not participate due to lack of time. The old stalling ploy. Nice one, Gordon.
Sometimes I wonder why Haaretz continues to put this kind of crap into print, maybe the anti-Goldstone lobby simply has no real reasonable ammunition left so they just have to make do with intermittently sounding either like a bunch of petulant children or old men shaking their fists at clouds, and maybe Haaretz just prints it in order to sound “fair and balanced”.
This here article by one Yoel Marcus is so chock-full of ridiculousness that I just can’t help myself, let me sum it up for you:
Firstly, Turkey is clearly on its way to becoming a member of the Axis of Evil since the grave error of supporting the Goldstone Report sin of not allowing Israel to use their airspace for military exercises was committed. But don’t worry, this doesn’t matter, the Turks don’t matter, WE DONT NEED THE TURKS (despite them being the biggest economy in the region & Israel’s only friend in it). Also, apparently the Turks no longer have any right to criticise anyone since what they did to the Armenians and the Kurds, nope, no right at all. Never mind that, you know, of course this in no way refutes the fact that Israel killed children in Gaza, as the Turks rightfully pointed out… it’s just that the Turks can’t say anything cos they were bad too! Tattle-tales! While poor Israel has “become the world’s doormat” despite having the unquestioned support of the world’s only superpower.
Furthermore, Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denying means he is in no way allowed to consider nuclear weapons, for shame for even suggesting it, while Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons arsenal or ‘the thing we do not speak of’ is… cool. The article also credits Netanyahu for his grand-peacemaking plan: “Two states for two peoples”, all credit to Bibi, perhaps he should get the next Nobel Peace Prize? Oh and bloody Abbas, he’s been such a terrible man, despite initially helping Israel whitewash the Report, Hosni Mubarak on the other hand “turns out to be the most level-headed leader in the region”. Amazing!
There is also this bizarre little gem explaining why we should not talk to Iran:
Dialogue? Go for it. The Iranians are known for their salesmanship – when someone asks the owner of a carpet store the time, he will end up buying three rugs before getting an answer.
I never wanted those bloody rugs in the first place but I have to say, they are rather pretty…
Anyway there’s more crazy in there but my rant was long enough. See it & behold for yourselves!
- Saba Imtiaz
Al Jazeera’s live stream crashed on me so I couldn’t view the endorsement of the Goldstone Report for myself. That personal boo-hoo aside, should one be fairly optimistic or fairly cynical of this? If the Goldstone Report has been decried so much already, will an endorsement make any difference?
I’m going to lean towards yes, despite the signals of a third intifada in the making. In terms of its symbolic value, the endorsement – as has the Report – have been discussed worldwide now. While the countries that voted for the endorsement are pretty much the ones expected to, it is an important sign that the Report wasn’t just reduced to piles of paper. Israel and Hamas (though the level of their war crimes are by no means equally proportional) need to be held accountable for what happened during Operation Cast Lead, but more importantly Israel needs to realize what a major blunder they have caused in the aftermath of the invasion.
This is also an important sign to the Obama administration. They need to read (seriously, the amount of ill-informed opinions there are floating out there!) the Goldstone Report and realize that neither does their approval of the Israeli government’s actions help nor do their half-hearted squawks of disapproval hurt whenever the Israel government allows building settlements. If President Obama’s ill-thought out Nobel Peace Prize win was a “call to action” to him, then the time is now to act.
And if you’re looking for more optimism, Marc Lynch has a fairly good idea of why this could help move the peace process along.
First, the vote shows that Israel is paying a price for its short-sighted diplomatic strategy of confrontation with the Obama administration.
Second, the passage of the report may slightly increase the odds of a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement under Egyptian auspices.
Third, the U.S. will almost certainly veto any move in the Security Council to act on the report. But given how much importance the Israeli government has given to the Goldstone Report, this veto might actually be used as a form of leverage.
Well the NY Summit has been and gone and, lo and behold, nothing sensational or earth-shattering has hit the press this morning. What a surprise. Abdelbari Atwan called it “a capitulation” and “a defeat” for Obama in his editorial for al Quds al Arabi.
The Majlis has a full transcript of Obama’s comments after his individual meetings with Bibi & Abu Mazen and before the tri-partite summit itself, but there’s nothing earth-shattering in it. I’d say that all in all Obama sounds kinda frustrated:
America’s frustration showed when Obama told reporters the two sides had to stop stalling. “Permanent status negotiations must begin and begin soon. It is past time to talk about starting negotiations. It is time to move forward,” he said.
Jonathan Freedland’s comments for the Guardian’s comment is free confirm what I’ve suspected of late, Bibi and, to a lesser extent, Abu Mazen, are warm and comfy in their local politics:
How had it come about that, in the words of the Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea, the Americans had “discovered that they want an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement more than the Israelis and the Palestinians want it”? The narrow answer is the usual one, that the local politics on both sides of the conflict has made inaction a safer bet than action. Netanyahu sits atop a coalition that is perfectly stable – just so long as he doesn’t do anything. Were he so much as to hint at taking any of the steps necessary for a peace deal, coalition partners would start breaking off like aeroplane wings in an ice storm. As for Abbas, he has finally acquired some political strength, removing potential rivals from within his own Fatah faction while all trace of Hamas has been eradicated from the West Bank. As one Fatah insider puts it: “Abbas is now at the peak of his powers.” All that could damage him are the accusations of treachery that would instantly follow any compromise with Israel.
Freedland is forthright in his criticism of Obama’s recent failures in the arena of Middle Eastern politics, a criticism echoed by many on both sides of the arena. It is true, Obama has failed so far to gain any real concessions from either side, to get the peace process moving with truly wilful engagement form both sides. Arabs are asking for deeds not words, Israelis are lauding their Prime Minister for his strength, but Freedland advises us to not give up hope:
Above all, those panicking that Obama has not yet bagged a clutch of foreign policy triumphs in the Middle East and elsewhere may be forgetting both the mess that he inherited and his leadership style. He plays the long, slow game, advancing gradually. So, yes, there was no overnight fix in New York, but that was never on the cards. Besides, Obama believes he has time on his side. Unlike most US presidents keen to play Middle East peacemaker, he has not tackled this in his last year, but in his first.
In addition to the summit, Bibi also embarked on a few interviews as part of the PR campaign to woo the US public. His wooing was largely successful, old Bibi is a pretty canny media operator. Some exerts from his interview with Wolf Blitzer, and some pertinent thoughts, to be found at The Majlis:
When Blitzer brought up the Goldstone report, a U.N. investigation into the clash between Israel and Palestinian forces in Gaza in 2006 that Israel has renounced, Netanyahu said the report essentially gives a free hand to terrorists who wish to attack democracies.
Hamas fighters “get a free bill out of this bias,” Netanyahu said. “American pilots, NATO pilots … are gonna be on the dock … that’s not something that any country fighting terrorism can accept, and I don’t think you can accept it too.”
Blitzer didn’t challenge Netanyahu on that point, which is unfortunate, since on its face Netanyahu’s premise makes me, as an American, pause. After all, the U.S. has killed many civilians in the course of its war in Afghanistan, shouldn’t we now be afraid that the United Nations will come after us? But upon closer inspection, there are holes in Netanyahu’s fear-mongering. The reason Israel is under investigation is the method by which it attacked Hamas in Gaza. Critics of the Goldstone report aren’t questioning its conclusions – such as Israeli use of white phosphorous, killings of police officers and bombings of sewage treatment facilities. Instead, they question the premise and bias of the Goldstone Report itself.
The other interview I came across is with ABC’s Charlie Gibson (full transcript). In this interview, Bibi describes the recent summit in New York as “frank”, “productive” and “very good”. Gibson is a little tougher on Netanyahu than Blitzer on the issue of settlements, Bibi stonewalled him on it numerous times essentially stating that he rejects the Palestinian position of putting settlement growth ending as a pre-condition to peace talks: ”The issue of the settlements has to be resolved. It should be resolved at the end of negotiations, not before the negotiations.” When pressed further, Bibi uses the old ‘natural growth’ defence and also mentions that a settlement freeze was not discussed during the NY Summit, contrary to previous reports. Gibson also asked Bibi about Iran but, isappointingly did not bring up the Goldstone Report.
On topic of the Goldstone Report, Israel has now urged the EU to reject it:
Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal on Tuesday convened 26 European Union ambassadors in Jerusalem for a diplomatic briefing.
The Foreign Ministry director-general also called on EU countries to clearly express their reservations over the report in any possible way. The report, he said, is not legal but rather “a one-dimensional, political propaganda poster biased against Israel.”
Here is the obligatory hand-shake photo, I enjoy how paternalistic Obama looks in this one.
In yet another expected move, the United States government has criticized the Goldstone report. According to a spokesperson for the Obama administration:
“Although the report addresses all sides of the conflict, its overwhelming focus is on the actions of Israel,” spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters.
“While the report makes overly sweeping conclusions of fact and law with respect to Israel, its conclusions regarding Hamas’ deplorable conduct and its failure to comply with international humanitarian law during the conflict are more general and tentative,” he added.
While one wouldn’t have expected, as I wrote earlier, for the report to have any consequences or any repercussions for the State of Israel, the administration’s response is truly ridiculous.
The ‘overly sweeping conclusions’ are drawn from evidence – the interviews, the investigation, the testimony (including that of IDF soldiers). The Israeli government did not even cooperate for the report! And while sure, Hamas firing rockets into Israel is deplorable, just look at the count of people who were killed. From the report:
Based on extensive field research, non-governmental organizations place the overall number of persons killed between 1,387 and 1,417. The Gaza authorities report 1,444 fatal casualties. The Government of Israel provides a figure of 1,166.
According to the Government of Israel, during the military operations there were 4 Israeli fatal casualties in southern Israel, of whom 3 were civilians and one soldier, killed by rockets and mortars attacks by Palestinian armed groups. In addition, 9 Israeli soldiers were killed during the fighting inside the Gaza strip, 4 of whom as a result of friendly fire.
So 1,444 v/s 13? Atleast based on this reaction, the Obama administration – like George W. Bush’s government – doesn’t seem to care a bit for what the United Nations (which does have a lot of problems) says or thinks or recommends. This statement will really not help the US if they’re looking to broker a peace deal in the region, nor will it build any trust in the Obama administration.
The Karachi Electric Supply Company has played havoc with my plan to read the Goldstone report in one night. In any case, I’m halfway through and while Alex has already posted some of the major analysis and findings, here go some of the key things I’ve read so far:
As Alex has posted, the report is quite strongly worded. Even if you discount the fact that the UN has lost its influence on global politics and preventing war, the report is a damning one for the State of Israel. It not only finds the country guilty of violating almost every rule in the book – including treaties it has ratified – but also provides an insight into the tactics the IDF employed during the Gaza invasion. Chickens, flour mills, water treatment plants, hospitals, mosques, a UN building, houses and most importantly: innocent human beings. All slaughtered, lobbed missiles and phosphorus shells at, fired at and discriminated against, and for what, you may ask. Those of us who followed the invasion of Gaza through hourly reports know most of the incidents mentioned and investigated in the Goldstone report, but as is the case with any heinous crime, one wonders how exactly this happened in the first place, and how the Israel government went scot-free for the destruction and devastation of an innocent community.
(Apologies for the length of the extracts, but the Mission’s language – as cold and detached as it often is – describes it with a far stronger impact than any analysis)
“The chicken farms of Mr. Sameh Sawafeary in the Zeitoun neighbourhood south of Gaza City reportedly supplied over 10 per cent of the Gaza egg market. Armoured bulldozers of theIsraeli forces systematically flattened the chicken coops, killing all 31,000 chickens inside, and destroyed the plant and material necessary for the business. The Mission concludes that this was a deliberate act of wanton destruction not justified by any military necessity.”
Not just chickens and human beings: cutting off industrial development as well
The attacks on industrial facilities, food production and water infrastructure investigated by the Mission are part of a broader pattern of destruction, which includes the destruction of the only cement packaging plant in Gaza (the Atta Abu Jubbah plant), the Abu Eida factories for ready-mix concrete, further chicken farms and the Al Wadia Group’s foods and drinks factories. The facts ascertained by the Mission indicate that there was a deliberate and systematic policy on the part of the Israeli armed forces to target industrial sites and water installations.”
If you can’t break their spirits and their lives, breaking any signs of hope for the area to even develop fits the bill.
..and kill Hamas off, while IDF’s at it
The deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Dan Harel, reportedly told a meeting with heads of local authorities in southern Israel that “….After this operation there will not be one Hamas building left standing in Gaza, and
we plan to change the rules of the game..”
The use of Palestinian civilians as human shields
The Mission investigated four incidents in which Israeli forces coerced Palestinian civilian men at gun point to take part in house searches during the military operations. The Palestinian men were blindfolded and handcuffed as they were forced to enter houses ahead of the Israeli soldiers. In one of the incidents, Israeli forces repeatedly forced a man to enter a house in which Palestinian combatants were hiding. Published testimonies of Israeli soldiers who took part in the military operations confirm the continued use of this practice, in spite of clear orders from Israel’s High Court to the armed forces to put an end to it and repeated public assurances from the armed forces that the practice had been discontinued. The Mission concludes that this practice amounts to the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields and is therefore prohibited by international humanitarian law. It puts the right to life of the civilians at risk in an arbitrary and unlawful manner and constitutes cruel and inhuman treatment. The use of human shields also is a war crime. The Palestinian men used as human shields were questioned under threat of death or injury to extract information about Hamas, Palestinian combatants and tunnels. This constitutes a further violation of international humanitarian law.
In the Al Atatra area in north-western Gaza Israeli troops had dug out sand pits in which Palestinian men, women and children were detained. Israeli tanks and artillery positions were located inside the sand pits and around them and fired from next to the detainees.
This has been described early on in the report, and I felt this was one of the most horrendous incidents, until I read ahead to the Mission’s investigations into specific families targeted and killed. It reminded me of the CIA torture report, and the example of the mock-killing that was carried out outside one of the cells to intimidate a detainee into talking.
Hamas v/s Fatah:
The Mission gathered first-hand information on five cases of Fatah affiliates detained, killed or subject to physical abuse by members of security forces or armed groups in Gaza. In most cases those abducted from their homes or otherwise detained were reportedly not accused of offences related to specific incidents, but rather targeted because of their political affiliation.
The Mission finds that such actions constitute serious violations of human rights and are not consistent with either the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Palestinian Basic Law.
Hamas hasn’t been entirely absolved of blame in the Goldstone report – but Israel’s crimes are so many, varied and clearcut that they overshadow any actions taken by Hamas.
Meanwhile, the Goldstone report also describes the incidents of the treatment by Palestinian Authority members to Hamas during the Gaza war.
The Mission has received allegations of violations relevant to its mandate committed by the Palestinian Authority in the period under inquiry. These include violations related to the treatment of (suspected) Hamas affiliates by the security services, including unlawful arrest and detention. Several Palestinian human rights organizations have reported that practices used by the Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank amount to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment. There have been a number of cases of death in detention where it is suspected that torture and other ill treatment may have contributed to, or caused, the death of the detainee.
The West Bank wasn’t free either
With reference to sniper fire on Palestinians in the West Bank:
Several witnesses told the Mission that during the operation in Gaza, the sense in the West Bank was one of a “free for all”, where anything was permitted.
Burnt alive: the use of white phosphorus shells
The Goldstone report investigates innocent killings of scores of family members. Houses shelled, allegations of being Hamas members, denying family members the right to assist each other and to medical facilities. One incident is cited below:
In the afternoon, after hearing that a shell had hit the adjacent house of Sabah Abu Halima’s brother-in-law, most of the family moved from the bedroom into a hallway in the middle of the upper floor, where they thought they would be better protected. At around 4.30 p.m., a white phosphorous shell came through the ceiling into the room where they were sheltering.
According to family members who survived, there was intense fire and white smoke in the room, the walls of which were glowing red. Five members of the family died immediately or within a short period: Muhammad Sa’ad Abu Halima (aged 45) and four of his children, sons Abd al-Rahim Sa’ad (aged 14), Zaid (aged 12) and Hamza (aged 8), and daughter Shahid (aged 18 months). Muhammad Sa’ad and Abd al-Rahim Sa’ad were decapitated, the others burnt to death. Five members of the family escaped and suffered various degrees of burns: Sabah Abu Halima, her sons Youssef (aged 16) and Ali (aged 4), daughter-in-law Ghada (aged 21), and Ghada’s daughter Farah (aged 2).
Family members tried to call an ambulance, but the Israeli armed forces had declared the area a closed military zone and ambulances were not permitted to enter. Two cousins put Sabah Abu Halima in the back of a tractor trailer and drove her to Kamal Idwan hospital in Beit Lahia. The driver reported that he reached the hospital despite coming under fire from Israeli soldiers posted inside the Omar Bin Khattab school for girls on the road to al-Atatra. One cousin remained with Sabah Abu Halima, while the other returned to help the rest of the family.
The remaining survivors and the injured were placed on a second tractor trailer to take them to Kamal Idwan hospital. The remains of Shahid Abu Halima were also taken. The tractor was driven by a cousin, Muhammad Hekmat Abu Halima (aged 16). Another cousin, Matar Abu Halima (aged 17), his brother Ali (aged 11) and his mother, Nabila, accompanied them.
When they reached the crossroads next to the Omar Bin Khattab school in al-Atatra, Israeli soldiers positioned on the roof of a nearby house, some ten metres away, ordered them to stop. Muhammad Hekmat, Matar, Ali, Nabila and Matar got down and stood beside the tractor. One or more soldiers opened fire, hitting Muhammad Hekmat Abu Halima in the chest and Matar Abu Halima in the abdomen. Both died as a result of their injuries. Ali, Omar and Nabila Abu Halima fled. Omar was shot in the arm, but they eventually reached Kamal Idwan hospital.
The remaining family members were ordered to abandon the tractors and walk. They were not permitted to take the bodies of the two dead boys, or the remains of Shahid Abu Halima, which were recovered four days later, on 8 January. Ghada Abu Halima, who had burns on 45 per cent of her body, had great difficulty walking. After some 500 metres, a vehicle picked up several members of the family, including Ghada and Farah, and took them to al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.
Dr. Nafiz Abu Shaban, Chief of Plastic Surgery at al-Shifa hospital, confirmed that Sabah, Ghada and Farah Abu Halima were admitted there with serious burns and were transferred to Egypt for treatment. The doctor believed that the burns were caused by contact with white phosphorous.
“Better hit an innocent than hesitate to target the enemy”
The Goldstone report is replete with these incidents, and the Mission corroborates the reports with testimony given by Israeli soldiers.
The Mission found in the above (investigated) incidents that the Israeli armed forces repeatedly opened fire on civilians who were not taking part in the hostilities and who posed no threat to them. These incidents indicate that the instructions given to the Israeli armed forces moving into Gaza provided for a low threshold for the use of lethal fire against the civilian population
The first policy could be summarized, in the words of one of the soldiers: “if we see something suspect and shoot, better hit an innocent than hesitate to target an enemy.”
Another soldier attributed the following instructions to his battalion commander: “If you are not sure – shoot. If there is doubt then there is no doubt.”
The first soldier summarized the briefing from the battalion commander as follows “the enemy was hiding behind civilian population. […] if we suspect someone, we should not give him the benefit of the doubt. Eventually, this could be an enemy, even if it’s some old woman approaching the house. It could be an old woman carrying an explosive charge.”
A third soldier explained “you don’t only shoot when threatened. The assumption is that you constantly feel threatened, so anything there threatens you, and you shoot. No one actually said ‘shoot regardless’ or ‘shoot anything that moves.’ But we were not ordered to open fire only if there was a real threat.”
Free Gilad, or Gaza gets it
The Mission is concerned by declarations made by various Israeli officials, who have indicated the intention of maintaining the blockade of the Gaza Strip until the release of Gilad Shalit. The Mission is of the opinion that this would constitute collective punishment of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.
This has been one of the most debated facts of the Gaza invasion as well as the stalemate in negotiations. I agree that Shalit’s imprisonment is wrong. But punishing the population because of one prisoner? It makes no rational sense, unless one can somehow prove that the entire Gazan population was involved in his capture, which is also as irrational a thought.
Five hundred and seventy five pages of evidence, tests, reports, fact finding missions on the ground, interviews, phone logs, testimony: every page of the Goldstone report leaves one reeling. Had this report been issued about any army, anywhere in the world, it would have called for multiple invasions of that country and boycotts.
And while that will never happen to Israel, one hopes that the governments of countries that are involved in Israel-Palestine peace negotiations read this report in its entirety, before they look at the impact of rockets being fired into Israeli territory v/s death and destruction on this scale. This ‘broader pattern of destruction’ is not something the world should tolerate, yet it remains to be shocking (even to someone as cynical as I am) how it not only continues to tolerate it, but also sympathizes with Israel.
Previous posts by Alex on the Goldstone report
My esteemed colleague Saba is employing her renowned speed-reading abilities and has taken up the task of actually reading the entire 574 page report (full text linked in this previous post plus more background about the report), I myself unfortunately do not have such reading abilities and do not have time to read the entire report. However, I have seen a few little bits & pieces pointed out by various other people that are of interest.
Both Saba and Mondoweiss call attention to the chicken farms story:
There is the case of the chicken farms that were “systematically flattened” by armored bulldozers, killing 31,000 chickens, 10 percent of the egg production for Gaza.
What possible purpose could there be to “systematically flatten” chicken farms? Wait don’t tell me the chickens were actually laying Qassem rockets? Or perhaps there were some militants concealed among the bales of hay?
The Hamada Brothers flour mill story is even more horrible, basically it was struck by several missiles and then by helicopters, the primary machinery used for grain production was destroyed and the mill is still not operational some 9 months later. Mondoweiss has more:
The Goldstone mission found the Hamada brothers entirely credible. It asked Israel what was the purpose of the destroying the one mill that could produce the most basic staple of the Palestinian diet. The Israelis refused to respond. The commission concluded that the “wanton” destruction of the mill had only one purpose, to “put an end to production of flour in the Gaza Strip.”
And here’s a nice little sum up paragraph from the Report:
Finally, the Mission considered whether the series of acts that deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of sustenance, employment, housing, and water, that deny their freedom of movement and right to enter and leave their country, that limit their access [to] a court of law and an effective remedy, could be considered persecution, a crime against humanity.
Clearly this report is quite damning but only confirms what we have already known up to this point. Israel is engaged in systematic persecution and oppression in Gaza (not to mention the Occupied West Bank which the report doesn’t deal with, that’d be another 1000 pages). The fact that “persecution” and “crime against humanity” are the words used is significant. This is a major, and totally impartial, report to a UN Human Rights council after a thorough fact-finding mission. These words are now entering the mainstream political discourse when it comes to Israel and can no longer be brushed off as words used by zealots and anti-Semites. This is precisely why the Knesset is all in a tizzy about it.
The report is still only a few days old and we still need more time to see what the flow-on effects will be. Bibi will be delivering a speech to a possibly hostile UN General Assembly, he is likely to try to divert attention to Iran’s nuclear program but that may prove difficult (in light of the horrific things brought to light by the report). Mondoweiss seems to think that the US is going to help Israel stonewall the report internationally, and that is likely to be the case, I am looking forward to an interesting statement from the administration (more interesting than the “its concerning” and “we’re still reading” that I see now.)
At the dawn of this New Year, let us rededicate ourselves to that work. Let us reject the impulse to harden ourselves to others’ suffering, and instead make a habit of empathy – of recognizing ourselves in each other and extending our compassion to those in need.
Let us resist prejudice, intolerance, and indifference in whatever forms they may take — let us stand up strongly to the scourge of anti-Semitism, which is still prevalent in far too many corners of our world.
Speaks for itself really.