Saturday, November 07, 2009

Israel: UN 'detached from reality' for adopting Goldstone report
By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies

Israel on Friday rejected a United Nations General Assembly resolution urging an investigation into a report saying war crimes were committed in Gaza, and condemned the world body vote as "completely detached from realities".

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said in response to Thursday's vote that Israel "maintains the right to self-defense", and would "continue to act to protect the lives of its citizens from the threat of international terrorism". The resolution, endorsing a report on the Gaza war commissioned by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, was nonbinding and seen as unlikely to force either Israel or Islamist Hamas rulers in Gaza to investigate the findings.

But Israel has responded with outrage to the findings issued in September by a panel led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, seeing the document as an Arab bid to undermine the reputations of its military and political leaders.

"Israel rejects the resolution of the U.N. General Assembly, which is completely detached from realities on the ground that Israel must face," the Foreign Ministry statement issued by spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

Palmor also maintained that Israel had "demonstrated higher military and moral standards than each and every one of this resolution's instigators", during the war in December in which more than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

The 192-member General Assembly adopted the resolution Thursday by a vote of 114-18, with others absent or abstaining. The resolution calls on the Security Council to act if either side fails to launch credible investigations within three months.

The report on the Gaza war was drafted by an expert UN panel chaired by South African Judge Richard Goldstone, and concluded that both Israel and Palestinian militants committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

The harshly worded UN draft resolution, composed by Arab member states, has not been softened despite U.S. and European efforts.

Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, told Haaretz before the vote that she did not plan to take part. "I won't lend a hand to a debate whose conclusions are predetermined. It was a predictable Arab game."

However, Israel and the United States were among those voting against the resolution. A total of 44 countries abstained.

The resolution enjoyed wide support among the Non-Aligned Movement bloc and the Arab bloc. These states comprise an automatic majority of 120 votes.

The draft resolution includes a demand for the Israeli government to carry out an "independent and credible" internal investigation of its own conduct during Israel's 3-week offensive in Gaza, which left over 1,000 Palestinians dead.

Hamas is not mentioned by name in the UN draft resolution. Instead, it calls on the "Palestinian side" to carry out an investigation into the Goldstone report findings that relate to Palestinians.

The draft resolution also includes a recommendation to convene the signatories of the fourth Geneva Convention treaty for an emergency session to discuss Israel's violations of the treaty.

Apart from Israel and the United States, a number of European countries including Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic voted against the resolution. But the European Union was split, with others including Britain and France abstaining. Most developing countries voted in favor.

There is no veto in UN General Assembly votes, but the assembly's resolutions are non-binding. However, resolutions adopted by the General Assembly grant legitimacy to Security Council initiatives. But the five permanent members of the Security Council have the power to veto any resolution put up for a vote. Thus, any Arab initiative for an extreme resolution against Israel, such as the submission of the Goldstone report to the International Criminal Court, will likely be torpedoed by the veto-wielding U.S.

If the matter is put up for a Security Council vote, there is also the possibility that the U.S. and its allies - Britain or France, will block an official resolution, and instead issue a presidential statement or a press release.

An Israel delegate denounced the adoption of the resolution as a "mockery of reality" after Israel seized a vessel packed with weapons believed to have been sent by Iran to Hezbollah.

Israel's Deputy Ambassador Daniel Carmon told the assembly the resolution "endorses and legitimizes a deeply flawed, one-sided and prejudiced report of the discredited Human Rights Council and its politicized work that bends both fact and law."

U.S. Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said the resolution was flawed in several respects, including its failure to name the Hamas militant movement that rules Gaza. He also said a demand for international supervision of any Israeli and Palestinian investigations was "unhelpful."

Turkey ready to further Syria-Israel dialogue

During joint press conference with French counterpart in Paris, FM Davutoglu says, 'All countries that seek peace are our strategic allies, including Israel of course'


Turkey is ready to oversee a new stage of secret peace talks between Israel and Syria, resuming a role it had played until last year, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in Paris on Friday. Historically Israel's only friend in the Middle East, Ankara has in recent years served as a conduit for diplomatic exchanges between the Jewish state and its arch foe Damascus about improving relations.

But Turkey was angered by Israel's behavior in the January 2008 conflict in Gaza and ties have become strained. Last month Israel was excluded from annual joint military exercises and the back channel to Syria has gone quiet.

Turkey -- a candidate for membership of the European Union -- is keen to prove its usefulness as a peace broker in the region, and Davutoglu said it was ready to resume its "honest broker" role if asked by Israel and Syria.

"It's for the two sides to decide that. Turkey would like the talks to restart where they left off, or else within a framework decided upon by the parties," he told reporters during an official visit to Paris.

"We think that it will happen according to a calendar decided by the two sides," he said, sitting alongside his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner.

Davutoglu personally took charge of five previous rounds of talks, acting as chairman of telephone conference calls between former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad.

The talks were stalled over "one or two words", Davutoglu said, refusing to go into detail over these obstacles.

The talks were suspended because of Israeli attacks on Palestinian targets in Gaza and since then, Olmert has been succeeded by his rival Benjamin Netanyahu, a right-winger who is seen as more hardline.

"Turkey showed the whole world that it was sincere, honest and determined in its role as Middle East mediator. All the countries that seek peace are our strategic allies, including Israel of course," the minister said.

"As soon as the path to peace opens again I'm sure that relations between Turkey and Israel will return at the same good level."

Comment: This is only a political move by Turkey. They are choosing to move away from the West and toward the East. This is part of their overall plan to pressure the West and especially Israel. More fabrications by Turkey-we were not a few words away from moving the peace process forward-this sounds nice, plays well in Left Wing circles especially in Washington DC. The on the ground realities are quite different. More on this political ploy in antother post.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Goldstone Illusion

Moshe Halbertal
November 6, 2009


In 2000, I was asked by the Israel Defense Forces to join a group of philosophers, lawyers, and generals for the purpose of drafting the army’s ethics code. Since then, I have been deeply involved in the analysis of the moral issues that Israel faces in its war on terrorism. I have spent many hours in discussions with soldiers and officers in order to better grasp the dilemmas that they tackle in the field, and in an attempt to help facilitate the internalization of the code of ethics in war. It was no wonder that, when the Goldstone Report on the Gaza war was published, I was keen to read it, with some hope of getting a perspective on Israeli successes or failures in this effort to comprehend war, and to fight it, morally. Unlike many who responded to the report, in praise or in blame, I gave this immensely long document a careful reading.

Let us begin with a sense of the moral stakes. Since the early 1990s, the nature of the military conflict facing Israel has been dramatically shifting. What was mainly a clash between states and armies has turned into a clash between a state and paramilitary terror organizations, Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north. This new form of struggle is now called “asymmetrical war.” It is defined by an attempt on the part of those groups to erase two basic features of war: the front and the uniform. Hamas militants fight without military uniforms, in ordinary and undistinguishing civilian garb, taking shelter among their own civilian population; and they attack Israeli civilians wherever they are, intentionally and indiscriminately. During the Gaza operation, for example, some Hamas militants embedded in the civilian population did not carry weapons while moving from one position to another. Arms and ammunition had been pre-positioned for them and stored in different houses.

In addressing this vexing issue, the Goldstone Report uses a rather strange formulation: “While reports reviewed by the Mission credibly indicate that members of the Palestinian armed groups were not always dressed in a way that distinguished them from the civilians, the Mission found no evidence that Palestinian combatants mingled with the civilian population with the intention of shielding themselves from the attack.” The reader of such a sentence might well wonder what its author means. Did Hamas militants not wear their uniforms because they were inconveniently at the laundry? What other reasons for wearing civilian clothes could they have had, if not for deliberately sheltering themselves among the civilians?

As for the new “front” in asymmetrical warfare, we read in another passage, which is typical of the report’s overall biased tone, that, “On the basis of the information it gathered, the Mission finds that there are indications that Palestinian armed groups launched rockets from urban areas. The Mission has not been able to obtain any direct evidence that this was done with the specific intent of shielding the rocket launchers from counterstrikes by the Israeli armed forces.” What reason could there possibly be for launching rockets from urban centers, if not shielding those rockets from counterattack? And what is the moral distinction that is purportedly being established here?

By disguising themselves as civilians and by attacking civilians with no uniforms and with no front, these paramilitary terrorist organizations attempt nothing less than to erase the distinction between combatants and noncombatants on both sides of the struggle. Suicide bombers exploded themselves on buses and in restaurants in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Dimona, Eilat, and many other places. Qassam rockets and Katyushas were fired randomly at various Israeli civilian centers, as far as their range allowed. So the war had no defined place and was waged by unidentified murderers. It justifiably felt like a change in the very nature of warfare. The goal of this momentous transformation was to create a war of all against all and everywhere. It aimed at shifting the Israeli population from a healthy sense of cautious fear attached to a particular place-a border, a security zone--to a generalized panic that has no location. Everywhere and everyone is now regarded as dangerous. This is not paranoia. It has a basis in a new reality, and is the outcome of a new strategic paradigm.

Faced with this unprecedented and deeply perplexing situation, two extreme positions have emerged in Israel. The radical left claims that, since such a struggle necessarily involves the killing of innocent civilians, there is no justifiable way of fighting it. Soldiers ought to refuse to engage in such a war, and the government has only one option, which is to end the occupation. This view is wrong, since Israel has the right and the obligation to protect its citizens, and without providing real security, it will fail also to achieve peace and to put an end to the occupation. The radical right claims that, since Hamas and Hezbollah initiated the targeting of Israeli civilians, and since they take refuge among their own civilians, the responsibility for harming Palestinian civilians during Israel’s attempt to defend itself falls upon the Palestinians exclusively. This approach is also wrong. The killing of our civilians does not justify the killing of their civilians. Civilians do not lose their right to life when they are used as shields by Hamas and Hezbollah. In fighting the militants, Israel must do as much as it possibly can do to avoid and minimize harm to civilian life and property.

The aim of the IDF ethics code is to strike a coherent and morally plausible position that provides Israel with the effective tools to protect its citizens and win the war while also setting the proper moral limits that have to be met while legitimately securing its citizens. In debating the code, I heard many times that it imposes constraints upon Israeli action that would limit the capacity of the army to win the battle and to provide security. In fact, the moral constraints and the strategic goals are mutually reinforcing. Radical groups such as Hamas start their struggle with little support from their population, which tends to be more moderate. They increase their base of support cynically, by murdering Israeli civilians and thereby goading Israel into an overreaction (this is not to deny, of course, that Israel can choose not to overreact) in a way that ends up causing suffering to the Palestinian civilians among whom the militants take shelter. The death and the suffering of the civilian Palestinian population, in the short run, is a part of the Hamas strategy, since it increases the sympathy of the population with the movement’s aims. An Israeli overreaction also leads to the shattering of Israel’s moral legitimacy in its own struggle. In a democratic society with a citizen’s army, any erosion of the ethical foundation of its soldiers and its citizens is of immense political and strategic consequence.

And so, Israel’s goal in its struggle with Hamas and Hezbollah is to reverse their attempt to strengthen themselves politically by means of their morally bankrupt strategy. Rather than being drawn into a war of all against all and everywhere, Israel has sought to isolate the militants from their environment: to mark them and “clothe” them with a uniform, and to force them to a definite front. The moral restraints in this case are of great strategic value. I am convinced, for this reason, that targeted killing, especially of the militants’ leadership, is an effective and legitimate endeavor. It is for this same reason that I believe that Israel’s siege of Gaza, and its harsh effect upon general civilian life, is morally problematic and strategically counterproductive.


In accordance with the just war tradition in Western history and philosophy, three principles are articulated in the IDF code concerning moral behavior in war. The first is the principle of necessity. It requires that force be used solely for the purposes of accomplishing the mission. If, for example, a soldier has to break down the door of a home in order to search for a suspected terrorist, he has no right to smash the TV set on his way in: Such gratuitous use of force has no relation to the mission. This is a straightforward principle, professionally and morally, though its implementation might be complicated if the mission is not well-articulated or if there are serious arguments about what kind of force is necessary to accomplish a given mission. In ordinary war, the collapse of the enemy’s army is a more or less clear event; but in an asymmetrical war, victory is never final--the mission seems not so much to end as to shift; and so it may be difficult to apply the necessity principle.

The second principle articulated in the code is the principle of distinction. It is an absolute prohibition on the intentional targeting of noncombatants. The intentional killing of innocent civilians is prohibited even in cases where such a policy might be effective in stopping terrorism. At the height of the violence in 2002, some suggested that the only deterrence against suicide bombers who wish to die anyway is the killing of their families. But such a policy is blatantly murderous, and it is prohibited. An Israeli soldier is prohibited from intentionally targeting noncombatants, and, in the event that he is given such an order, he must refuse it. He is obligated to engage in fighting only those who threaten his fellow soldiers and civilians.

The implementation of the principle of distinction is also very difficult in an asymmetrical war. Since the enemy does not appear in uniform and there is no specified zone that can be described as the battlefield, the question of who is a combatant becomes crucial. In the process of identifying combatants, a whole causal chain must be established and marked as a legitimate target. This “food chain” of terrorism is made up of people whose intentional actions, one after the other, will end up threatening Israeli civilians or soldiers. This chain includes the one who plans the attack, the one who recruits the bomber, the one who prepares the bomb, the driver of the car that transports the bomber to his or her target, and so on. It is clear that such an attempt gives rise to difficult cases, and even the most scrupulous effort will leave some room for doubt. What about the financer of the bombing, for example?

It is also clear that applying the international law of war to this new battlefield is fraught with problems. Consider a painful issue that comes up in the Goldstone Report--the matter of the Gaza police force. In the first minutes of the war, Israel targeted Hamas police, killing dozens. There is no question that, in an ordinary war, a police force that is dedicated to keeping the civilian peace is not a military target. The report therefore blames Israel for an intentional targeting of noncombatants. But such a charge is only valid concerning a war against a state with a clear and defined military institution, one that therefore practices a clear division of labor between the police and the army. What happens in semi-states that do not have an institutionalized army, whose armed forces are a militia loyal to the movement or party that seized power? In such situations, the police force might be just a way of putting combatants on the payroll of the state, while basically assigning them clear military roles. Israeli intelligence claims that it has clear proof that this was the case in Gaza. This is certainly something that Israel will have to clarify. But it is clear to me that Goldstone’s accusation that targeting of the police forces automatically constitutes an attack on noncombatants represents a gross misunderstanding of the nature of such a conflict.

The third principle,the most difficult of all, is the principle of proportionality, or the principle of avoidance. Its subject is the situation in which, while targeting combatants, it is foreseeable that noncombatants will be killed collaterally. In such a case, a proportionality test has to be enacted, according to which the foreseeable collateral death of civilians will be proportionate to the military advantage that will be achieved by eliminating the target. If an enemy sniper is situated on a roof, and 60 civilians live under the roof, and the only way to kill the sniper is to bomb the roof, which is to say, bomb the house, such bombing is prohibited. The military advantage in eliminating the sniper is disproportionate to the probable cost of civilian life.

In discussing the proportionality constraint, there emerges a natural pressure to provide an exact criterion for measuring the proper ratio between collateral deaths and military advantage. I must admit that I do not know the formula for such a precise calculation, and I do not believe that a clear-cut numerical rule can be established. Different people have different intuitions about strategic value and moral cost. And yet, the Israeli army has traditions and precedents that can be relied upon. In 2002, for example, Israel bombed the Gazan home of Salah Shehadeh, who was one of the main Hamas operatives responsible for the deaths of many Israeli civilians. Fourteen innocent people were killed along with Shehadeh. The Israeli chief of staff, Moshe Yaalon, claimed that the collateral deaths were not only unintentional, they were not even foreseeable. The innocent people who were killed lived in shacks in the backyard of the building, which, in aerial photographs, looked like storage units. Yaalon claimed that, had Israel known about this collateral harm, it would not have bombed Shehadeh’s hiding place. It had already aborted such an operation a few times because of concern with foreseeable civilian death. I believe that such care is right. It is better to err on the side of over-cautiousness concerning collateral damage.

Besides the difficulties that are raised by the proportionality test, there is a far greater and more momentous issue at stake in the principle of avoidance. The IDF code states that soldiers have to do their utmost to avoid the harming of civilians. This principle states that it is not enough not to intend to kill civilians while attacking legitimate targets. A deliberate effort has to be made not to harm them. If such an active, positive effort to avoid civilian harm is not taken, in what serious way can the claim be made that the foreseeable death was unintended? After all, the death occurred, and could have been expected to occur. So the proper ammunition has to be chosen to minimize innocent deaths; and, if another opportunity is expected to arise for eliminating the target, the operation must be aborted or delayed. Civilians have to be warned ahead of time to move from the area of operation if this is possible, and units have to be well aware that they must operate with caution, even after warning has been given, since not all civilians are quick to move. A leaflet dropped from the sky warning of an attack does not matter to the people--the sick, the old, the poor--who are not immediately mobile.

In line with such principles, the Israeli Air Force developed the following tactic. Since Hamas hides its headquarters and ammunition storage facilities inside civilian residential areas, the Israeli army calls the residents’ telephones or cell phones, asking them to move immediately out of the house because an attack is imminent. But Hamas, in reaction to such calls, brings the innocent residents up to the roof, so as to protect the target from an attack, knowing that, as a rule, the Israeli army films the target with an unmanned drone and will avoid attacking the civilians on the roof. In response to this tactic, Israel developed a missile that hits the roof without causing any actual harm in order to show the seriousness of its intention. The procedure, called “roof-knocking,” causes the civilians to move away before the deadly attack.

It is rather a strange point in the Goldstone Report that this practice, which goes a long way to protect civilians, is actually criticized. Concerning such a practice, the report states that, “if this was meant as a warning shot, it has to be deemed reckless in the extreme.” The truth is that this is an admirable and costly effort to avoid civilian collateral harm. As is true with many of its criticisms, the report does not state what the alternative should be. What should Israel do in such a case? Attack the house without calling on its residents to move, or attack it while they are gathered on the roof? Or maybe avoid attacks altogether, allowing the enemy to take effective shelter among civilians?

In the deliberations about the Israeli army’s code of military conduct, a crucial question emerged in connection with the requirement that efforts be made to avoid harming civilians. For such efforts surely must include the expectation that soldiers assume some risk to their own lives in order to avoid causing the deaths of civilians. As far as I know, such an expectation is not demanded in international law--but it is demanded in Israel’s military code, and this has always been its tradition. In Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, for example, Israeli army units faced a tough battle in the Jenin refugee camp. The army refused to opt for the easy military solution--aerial bombardment of the camp--because it would have resulted in many civilian deaths, and it elected instead to engage in house-to-house combat, losing 23 soldiers in the battle. This norm of taking risks with soldiers’ lives in order to avoid civilian deaths came under criticism in Israel, but I believe that it is right. Innocent civilian lives are important enough to obligate such risks. And, if commanders are told that they do not have to assume such risk, then they will shoot at any suspicious person, which will result in widespread killing.

Yet the application of such norms in battle raises difficult moral quandaries. One of them comes up in the Goldstone Report. When the operation started, Hamas militants mostly avoided face-to-face battles with Israeli soldiers. They withdrew into the civilian heartland and fired mortar rockets from within their own population, targeting Israeli units. Mortar locations can be detected by radar, but the crew can move the mortar to a new location in a few minutes, and then fire from there. It is therefore impossible to target these mortars and their crews with a helicopter or in any other way that would provide a direct visual of the target and use accurate ammunition: Such means simply take too much time to deploy. The only option is to fire back with mortars that can be quickly and accurately directed at the coordinates of the mortars on the other side.

The problem with such a tactic is that such mortars are of 120 millimeter caliber and the radius of their hit is 50 meters. This means that collateral damage to civilians might occur while hitting the legitimate target. Of course, the commanding officer can choose not to fire back and put his soldiers at risk from the next rounds of mortar shots. It is important also to note that, when returning fire, the commanding officer cannot know whether there are civilians in that radius and how many of them are there. In “fog of war” conditions, and under pressure to react, such information is not available.

The Goldstone Report claims that the shooting of mortars caused disproportionate collateral harm, which is, of course, an empirical matter; but it is important to understand that this can be known only after the fact. So what to do? My own view is that, if the fire that the unit is taking is not accurate, and if the commander can move his own unit to another location, he should do so rather then fire back and endanger civilians. But this is a very difficult choice, and sometimes this choice might not be available. It is wrong to give the commanding officer a blank check to shoot anytime his soldiers are at probable risk--but he must be given the means of protecting them as well. The Goldstone Report is very critical about the firing of the Israeli mortars, but it does not take seriously into account the problems that such a situation imposes.

It is my impression that the Israeli army in Gaza did not provide clear guidance on the matter of whether soldiers have to assume risk. Some units took risks in the Gaza in order to avoid the collateral killing of civilians, while some units accepted the policy of no risk to soldiers. This does not amount to a war crime, but it is a wrong policy. It also might be a cause of unnecessary civilian deaths: It could inspire a reason for a misguided order to shoot whoever crosses a certain line on the map in proximity to an Israeli unit. Given the fact that anyone in the battle zone could be a militant, and that warnings were given, such an order might make sense--and yet, the order should refer to someone who seems to pose a threat rather than to anyone who crosses the line, since fear and confusion might cause innocent civilians to move too close to the line and even to cross it.

These are not simple issues. They are also not political issues. They are the occasions of deep moral struggle, because they are matters of life and death. If you are looking for an understanding of these issues, or for guidance about them, in the Goldstone Report, you will not find it.


In discussing the code of ethical conduct with Israeli officers, many times I encounter the following complaint: “Do you want to say that, before I open fire, I have to go through all these moral dilemmas and calculations? It will be completely paralyzing. Nobody can fight a war in such a straitjacket!” My answer to them is that the whole point of training is about performing well under pressure without succumbing to paralysis. This is the case with battlefields that have nothing to do with moral concerns. Do I attack from the right or from the left? How do I respond to this new tactic, or to that? And so on. This is why moral considerations have to be an essential part of military training. If there is no time for moral reflection in battle, then moral reflection must be accomplished before battle, and drilled into the soldiers who will have to answer for their actions after battle.

Besides the great difficulty of adjusting the norms of warfare--the principles of necessity, distinction, proportionality, and avoidance--to a non-traditional battlefield without uniforms and without a front, there is still another pedagogical challenge. In a traditional war, the difficult moral choices are made by the political elites and the high command, such as whether to bomb Dresden or to destroy Hiroshima. But in this new kind of micro-war, every soldier is a kind of commanding officer, a full moral and strategic agent. Every soldier must decide whether the individual standing before him in jeans and sneakers is a combatant or not. What sorts of risks must a soldier assume in order to avoid killing civilians while targeting a seeming combatant? The challenge is to make these rules part of the inner world of each soldier, and this takes more than just formulating the norms and the rules properly. It is for this reason that I looked to the Goldstone Report to learn whether these norms were in fact applied, and in what way Israeli soldiers did or did not succeed in internalizing and acting upon them.

The commission that wrote the report could have performed a great service if it had concentrated on gathering the testimonies from Gaza and assessing them critically, while acknowledging (as it failed to do) that they are partial and incomplete. This would have forced Israel to investigate various matters, provide answers, and take appropriate measures. (I do not imagine Hamas engaging in such an investigation of its own crimes. This is yet another asymmetry.) But instead the commission opted to add to its findings three unnecessary elements: the context of the history that led to the war; its assessment of Israel’s strategic goals; and long sections on Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Why should a committee with a mandate to inquire into the operation in Gaza deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at large?

The honest reader of these sections cannot avoid the impression that their objective is to prepare a general indictment of Israel as a predatory state that is geared toward violating human rights all the time. It will naturally follow from such a premise that the Gaza operation was yet another instance of Israel’s general wicked behavior. These long sections are the weakest, the most biased, and the most outrageous in this long document. They are nothing if not political. In Goldstone’s account of the history that led to the war, for example, Hamas is basically described as a legitimate party that had the bad luck to clash with Israel. The bloody history of the movement--which, since the beginning of the Oslo accords, was determined to do everything in its power, including the massacre of civilians, to defeat the peace process--is not mentioned.

The Israeli reader who actually experienced the events at the time remembers vividly that Hamas terrorists murdered Israeli men, women, and children all over Israel while a peace process was underway. Hamas was doing all this in accordance with its religious ideology, which is committed to the destruction of Israel and is fueled by Iranian military and financial support. In the supposed context that the report analyzes, there is no mention of Hamas’s role and its ideology as reflected in its extraordinary charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel and the genocidal killing of Jews. In its attempt to stop Hamas’s vicious attacks on Israel’s citizens, Israel built a long fence--an obstacle to prevent a suicide bomber in Kalkilya from rolling out of bed and driving to the heart of Kfar Saba and Netanya in five or ten minutes. (The distances between life and death are really that short.) The Goldstone Report mentions the fence, of course--but as a great violation of human rights, as motivated sheerly by predatory desires.

Hamas was responsible in many ways for torpedoing the next opportunity for ending Israel’s occupation. After the collapse of the Oslo agreement, Ariel Sharon, then the prime minister, decided to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza, in the belief that there was no reliable partner on the Palestinian side and that Israel had to start putting an end to its control of the Palestinian population. Ehud Olmert, Sharon’s successor, was elected on a platform that committed him to unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank. But the implementation of this policy of continued Israeli withdrawal was cut short by the unrelenting shelling of Israeli cities and villages from recently vacated Gaza. Such ongoing attacks made Israelis rightly concerned that an evacuation of the West Bank would expose Israel’s population centers to such attacks, and the possibility of unilateral evacuation from the West Bank collapsed.

In the last ten years, Israel has withdrawn unilaterally from south Lebanon and Gaza. In both cases, the vacuum was filled by militant Islamic movements religiously committed to the destruction of Israel. Anyone who supports a peaceful two-state solution must ponder the role of Hamas in destroying such a prospect--and yet, quite astonishingly, nothing of this is mentioned in the Goldstone Report. It also avoids mentioning the legitimate concern of Israel about the ongoing rearmament of Hamas in Gaza, which supplies them with more lethal long-range missiles to wreak destruction on Israeli population centers. The commission should not have dealt with the context leading to the war; it should have concentrated on its mandate, which concerned only the Gaza operation. By setting its findings about the Gaza war in a greatly distorted description of the larger historical context, it makes it difficult for Israelis--even of the left, where I include myself--to take its findings seriously.

Then there is the report’s conclusion concerning Israel’s larger aims in the Gaza war. It claims that Israel’s objective in Gaza was a direct and intentional attack on civilian infrastructure and lives: “In reviewing the above incidents the mission found in every case that the Israeli armed forces had carried out direct intentional strikes against civilians.” In another statement, intentional destruction of property and attacks against civilians are lumped together: “Statements by political and military leaders prior to and during the military operations in Gaza leave little doubt that disproportionate destruction and violence against civilians were part of a deliberate policy.” Now, there is a huge moral difference between the accusation that Israel did not do enough to minimize collateral civilian death and the claim that Israel targeted civilians intentionally. It might well be that Israel should have done more than it did to minimize collateral deaths--it is a harsh enough claim, and it deserves a thorough examination. But the claim that Israel intentionally targeted civilians as a policy of war is false and slanderous.

There are different accounts of the numbers of civilian deaths in Gaza, and of the ratio between civilian and militant deaths. B’Tselem, the reliable Israeli human rights organization, carefully examined names and lists of people who were killed and came up with the following ratio: Out of the 1,387 people killed in Gaza, for every militant that was killed, three civilians were killed. This ratio--1:3--holds if you include the police force among the civilians; but if you consider the police force as combatants, the ratio comes out to 2:3. There are 1.5 million people in Gaza and around 10,000 Hamas militants, so the ratio of militants to civilians is 1:150. If Israel targeted civilians intentionally, how on earth did it reduce such a ratio to 1:3 or 2:3?

The commission never asks that question, or an even more obvious one. In operating under such conditions--Gaza is an extremely densely populated area--is such a ratio a sign of reckless shooting and targeting? One way to think about this is to compare it with what other civilized armies achieve in the same sort of warfare. I do not have the exact numbers of the ratio of civilian to militant deaths in NATO’s war in Afghanistan, but I doubt that it has achieved such a ratio. Is it ten civilians to one combatant, or maybe 20 civilians to one combatant? From various accounts in the press, it certainly seems worse. The number of collateral deaths that are reported concerning the campaign to kill Baitullah Mehsud, one of the main Pakistani militant operatives, is also alarming: In 16 missile strikes in the various failed attempts at killing him, and in the one that eventually killed him (at his father-in-law’s house, in the company of his family), between 207 and 321 people were killed. If such were the numbers in Israel in a case of targeted killing, its press and even its public opinion would have been in an uproar.

Besides the 500 civilians who were killed in the bombing of Serbia, how many militants were killed? The inaccurate high-altitude bombings in Serbia, carried out in a manner so as to protect NATO pilots, caused mainly civilian deaths. What would have been the ratio of deaths if NATO forces were fighting not in faraway Afghanistan, but while protecting European citizens from ongoing shelling next to its borders? And there are still more chilling comparisons. If accurate numbers were available from the wars by Russia in Chechnya, the ratio would have been far more devastating to the civilian population. Needless to say, the behavior of the Russian army in Chechnya should hardly serve as a standard for moral scrupulousness--but I cannot avoid adducing this example after reading that Russia voted in the United Nations for the adoption of the U.N. report on Gaza. (The other human rights luminaries who voted for the Goldstone Report include China and Pakistan.) So what would be a justified proportionality? The Goldstone Report never says. But we may safely conclude that, if the legal and moral standard is current European and American behavior in war, then Israel has done pretty well.


So a good deal of the outrage that has greeted the Goldstone Report is perfectly justified. And yet its sections devoted to the Gaza war do make claims and cite testimonies that no honest Israeli can ignore. They demand a thorough investigation, and I will enumerate them in their order of severity.

The worst testimonies are of civilian deaths, some of which sound like cold-blooded murders. In the report, such cases amount to a few individual incidents, and they call for criminal investigation of particular soldiers. Was there indeed a killing at close range of a mother and her three daughters carrying white flags? Then there are a few cases of alleged civilian deaths that are the result of the reckless use of firepower. The most disturbing of them is the testimony about the Al Samouni neighborhood in Gaza City, in which 21 members of a family were killed in an attack on a house. The place and the names are given in the report, and Israel will have to provide answers. Was it a mistake? Were some of the family members Hamas fighters? Did someone shoot at the soldiers from the house? Or was this an act of unjustified homicide?

The testimonies in the Goldstone Report are Palestinian testimonies. They were collected in Gaza, where the watchful eye of Hamas authorities always looms, rendering them vulnerable and partial. Israel chose not to cooperate with the commission, and so the Israeli version of events is not here. It was a mistake on Israel’s part not to participate in the inquiry--though, after reading the report, I am more sympathetic to Israel’s reluctance. This commission that describes its mission as fact-finding treats the missing Israeli testimonies as if they are Israel’s problem, rather than a methodological and empirical shortcoming in the report itself. Whatever one thinks about Israel’s refusal to cooperate, the Goldstone Report is still only 452 pages of mostly Palestinian testimony, and this grave limitation must be acknowledged.

Yet the allegations have now been made, and Israeli answers must be given. The next issue that Israel will have to deal with is the use of what the report calls “human shields,” which seems to have been an Israeli practice on some occasions. In justifying such a practice, Israeli commanders claim that they forced Palestinian civilians to go to certain homes to warn other civilians before attacking the houses. This might be justified, but the testimonies sound different. They sound as if Israeli soldiers were using civilians to gather information. After attacking a certain building, a civilian was allegedly forced to go and check whether the Hamas militants were dead or not. This is a troubling testimony. Was this done, or not? If it was done, then it is in violation of Israel’s own Supreme Court ruling on the matter of human shields.

Other testimonies pertain to the destruction of civilian property. One of the most disturbing is the report of the flattening with bulldozers of the chicken farm at Zeytoun, in which 31,000 chickens were killed. Such destruction, like other reported destructions of agricultural and industrial facilities, does not seem to serve any purpose. The accusation concerning the destruction of civilian property pertains as well to the large-scale destruction of homes. According to the commission, aerial photographs show that, of the total number of homes that were destroyed in two of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, about half were destroyed in the last three days of the operation. If so, then such destruction cannot be justified as in the heat of the battle. It was done to leave a brutal scar as proof of the Israeli presence, as immoral and illegal instruments of deterrence. If this were the case, then reparations should be made to the families whose homes were destroyed.

Next in order of severity comes the bombing of civilian infrastructure. According to the report, the Israeli Air Force bombed the flour mill, the water wells, and the sewage pipes in Gaza. It is possible that the flour mill was strategically located and was used as a perch for snipers or as a launching facility for Qassam rockets fired in the war. This would be the only justification for such a bombing. Israel should now provide its version of these events. If indeed these facilities were attacked as part of a premeditated policy, then this was wrong, and Israel should say so.

I do not see much substance in the complaint against Israel’s bombing of the Hamas parliament and other offices while they were empty. A persuasive case can be made that an organization such as Hamas does not have a division of labor between its military and civilian functions. The report’s long section on the attack on the prison in Gaza also seems to me a mistaken accusation. The commission notes that only one guard was killed in the bombing, but it blames Israel for endangering the prisoners in attacking a target that has no military use. It did not occur to the commission that Israel attacked the prison to allow Fatah prisoners to escape harsh treatment at the hands of Hamas. (The commission is well-aware that this was the population of the prison.) Some of them did escape, and some were subsequently shot by Hamas militants.

The Goldstone Report as a whole is a terrible document. It is biased and unfair. It offers no help in sorting out the real issues. What methods can Israel--and other countries in similar situations--legitimately apply in the defense of their citizens? To create standards of morality in war that leave a state without the means of legitimate self-protection is politically foolish and morally problematic; but real answers to these real problems cannot be found in the Goldstone Report. What should Israel do when Hezbollah’s more lethal and accurate missiles strike the center of Tel Aviv, causing hundreds of civilian deaths? It is a well-known fact that these missiles are in Hezbollah’s possession, and, when they are fired, it will be from populated villages in Lebanon.

It is important, for this reason, that Israel respond to the U.N. report by clarifying the principles that it operated upon in Gaza, thus exposing the limits and the prejudices of the report. A mere denunciation of the report will not suffice. Israel must establish an independent investigation into the concrete allegations that the report makes. By clearing up these issues, by refuting what can be refuted, and by admitting wrongs when wrongs were done, Israel can establish the legitimacy of its self-defense in the next round, as well as honestly deal with its own failures.

Moshe Halbertal is a professor of philosophy at the Hebrew University and the Gruss Professor at New York University School of Law.

Source URL:

A Glimmer of Hope from the Past –The Bulgarians and their Jews

A great many Jews know the story of how the Danes rescued 8,000 Jews from the Nazi's by smuggling them to Sweden in fishing boats. Very few Jews, know the story of how all 50,000 Bulgarian Jews were saved. Not a single Bulgarian Jew was deported to the death camps, due to the heroism of many Bulgarians of every walk of life, up to and including the King and the Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. In 1999, Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti Defamation League flew with a delegation to Sophia to meet the Bulgarian Prime Minister. He gave the Prime Minister the first Bulgarian language copy of a remarkable book, "Beyond Hitler's Grasp," written in 1998, by Michael Bar Oar, a professor at Emory University. (A Bulgarian Jew who had migrated to Israel and then to the USA). This book documents the rescue effort in detail. The ADL paid for and shipped 30,000 copies to Bulgaria, so that the population could partake in the joy of learning about this heroic facet of their history.

This story is clearly the last great secret of the Holocaust era. The story was buried by the Bulgarian Communists, until their downfall in 1991. All records were sealed, since they didn't wish to glorify the King, or the Church, or the non Communist parliamentarians, who at great personal risk, stood up to the Germans. Meanwhile, the Bulgarian Jewish Community, 45,000 of whom went to Israel after the War, were busy building new lives and somehow the story remained untold.

Bulgaria is a small country and at the outset of the War, they had 8 million people. They aligned themselves with the Nazi's in hopes of recapturing Macedonia from Yugoslavia and Thrace from Greece. Both provinces were stripped from them after W.W.I. In late 1942, the Jews of Selonica were shipped north through Bulgaria, on the way to the death camps, in sealed box cars. The news of this inhumanity was a hot topic of conversation.

Then, at the beginning of 1943, the pro Nazi Bulgarian government was informed that all 50,000 Bulgarian Jews would be deported in March. The Jews had been made to wear yellow stars and were highly visible. As the date for the deportation got closer, the agitation got greater. Forty-three ruling party members of Parliament walked out in protest. Newspapers denounced what was about to happen. In addition, the Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Krill, threatened to lie down on the railroad tracks. Finally, King Boris III forbade the deportation. Since Bulgaria was an ally of Germany, and the Germans were stretched militarily, they had to wrestle with the problem of how much pressure they could afford to apply. They decided to pass.

Several points are noteworthy. The Bulgarian Jews were relatively unreligious and did not stand apart from the local populace by virtue of garb, or rites. They were relatively poor by comparison to Jews in other countries, and they lived in integrated neighborhoods. Additionally, the Bulgarians had many minorities, Armenians, Turks, Greeks and Gypsies, in addition to Jews. There was no concept of racism in that culture. The bottom line here is that Bulgarians saw Bulgarian-Jews as Bulgarians, and not as Jews. In addition, being a small country, like Denmark, there was a closeness of community often missing in larger countries. Thankfully, here was a bright spot that we can point to as example of what should have been. The most famous of those saved was a young graduate of the Bulgarian Military Academy. When he arrived in Israel, he changed his name to Moshe Dayan.
Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 05:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Who can replace Abbas?

Ali Waked

In the wake of Mahmoud Abbas' inclination not to run for-reelection as Palestinian Authority president, the rumor mill is working overtime in respect to possible replacements. Should Abbas follow through on his announcement, we may have to prepare for a new face near the negotiating table: Will it be the honorable President Mohammad Dahlan? Or perhaps Chairman Nasser al-Kudwa? And maybe even President-Prisoner Marwan Barghouti?Despite estimates that Abbas will not deliver on his threat and will eventually seek reelection, several names have been mentioned in connection to a possible successor. The most high-flying candidate mentioned is Mohammad Dahlan, who in the wake of the Fatah convention is seen as the most prominent figure in the Fatah movement's central committee.

Dahlan enjoys growing support from extensive public sectors and also among the veteran leadership, which at this time is out of the decision-making loop. He is perceived as the most charismatic and worthy figure for leading Fatah.

However, Dahlan's problem is the personal campaign managed against him by Hamas and media outlets associated with it. By engaging in an intensive character assassination effort, they turned him into a highly controversial figure. This fact may concern many within Fatah who will be wondering whether such contentious figure, despite his abilities, is worthy of becoming the movement's candidate in the presidential elections.

The 'old man'

Another name brought up is Abu Maher Ghneim, the movement's number two man, and one of its veterans in Tunisia. Ghneim, who recently returned to the Palestinian territories after many years in exile, is the natural candidate for the job, since he is Abbas' deputy. However, Ghneim does not have any other advantages over the remaining candidates that give him higher chances of being elected.

PA sources say that Ghneim is not a political person, and certainly not someone who can run the Authority politically. "He was never involved in peace talks and political affairs," a source said Thursday evening.

"He was also detached from the reconciliation talks, and besides that, he is a very old man," the source added. Even Ghneim's closest associates said he does not view himself as a candidate for the job.

Another candidate whose name was brought up is former PLO ambassador to the UN and retired Foreign Minister Nasser al-Qudwa. Al-Qudwa's political skills, as well as the international recognition of them, serve as an advantage to the former ambassador.

Al-Qudwa does not have a large group of supporters in Fatah, but he has not been working on building such a camp. The fact that he is the nephew of former President Yasser Arafat will also work to his advantage.

But the fact that he lacks any organizational foundation and his affiliation with the movement's hawkish camp will harm his chances of election.

Popular, but imprisoned

The final name on the list of possible candidates is the former Tanzim leader and Fatah Parliament Member Marwan Barghouti, who is currently held in an Israeli prison. The most reliable polls carried out in the PA recently show Barghouti's high public support, which equals that of Abbas at 16.7%. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh received 16.1% of the public's support in the same polls.

Despite a decline in Barghouti's popularity following his prolonged incarceration, he is still considered very popular among almost all echelons of Fatah's leadership and its operatives.

Barghouti is considered the candidate with the highest chances of beating Hamas, as one who presents an incorruptible, capable alternative premised on principles.

But one thing stands in the way of Barghouti's path to presidency in Ramallah – the lock and key he is kept behind in Israel, which increases the chances that his candidacy will seem irrelevant, and bring with it much objection within the Fatah movement.

The UN's "Bagdad Bob"

IAEA: Iran Qom site 'nothing to worry about'

UN inspectors find no problematic evidence in first tour of Iranian nuke site, atomic agency says


UN inspectors found "nothing to be worried about" in a first look at a previously secret uranium enrichment site in Iran last month, the International Atomic Energy chief said in remarks published on Thursday. Mohamed ElBaradei also told the New York Times that he was examining possible compromises to unblock a draft nuclear cooperation deal between Iran and three major powers that has foundered over Iranian objections.

The nuclear site, which Iran revealed in September three years after diplomats said Western spies first detected it, added to Western fears of covert Iranian efforts to develop atom bombs. Iran says it is enriching uranium only for electricity.

ElBaradei was quoted in a New York Times interview as saying his inspectors' initial findings at the fortified site beneath a desert mountain near the Shi'ite holy city of Qom were "nothing to be worried about".

"The idea was to use it as a bunker under the mountain to protect things," ElBaradei, alluding to Tehran's references to the site as a fallback for its nuclear program in case its larger Natanz enrichment plant were bombed by a foe like Israel.

"It's a hole in a mountain," he said.

The IAEA has declined to comment on whether the inspectors came across anything surprising or were able to obtain all the documentation and on-site access they had wanted at the remote spot about 160 km (100 miles) south of Tehran.

Details are expected to be included in the next IAEA report on Iran's disputed nuclear activity due in mid-November.

The inspectors' goal was to compare engineering designs to be provided by Iran with the actual look of the facility, interview scientists and other employees, and take soil samples to check for any traces of activity oriented to making bombs.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Status of IDF investigations of Gaza incidents

A total of 128 incidents have been/are being examined. These include incidents identified as being of concern by the IDF itself, or brought to its attention by individuals or by human rights reports. The current status (as of 5 November 2009) of investigations into allegations arising from the Gaza Operation is as follows:

1. A total of 128 incidents have been/are being examined. These include incidents identified as being of concern by the IDF itself, or brought to its attention by individuals or by human rights reports.

2. Of this total number, 25 incidents were examined in the course of five General Staff command investigations, which were opened following the operation. The results of the examination of these incidents are currently being examined by the Military Advocate General to decide whether additional examination or further proceedings, including military police investigations, are warranted. The decision of the Military Advocate General on these issues will also be presented to Israel's civilian Attorney General for his review and examination. Both the decision of the Military Advocate General and the Attorney General are subject to review by Israel's Supreme Court which can be petitioned by Israeli and Palestinians alike.

3. Of the remaining 103 incidents, in relation to 48, after examination it was found that there was no basis for suspecting any violation of the law and accordingly these cases were closed.

4. Of the remaining 55 incidents, 28 are currently under process of examination.

5. In relation to the remaining 27 incidents, criminal investigations have been opened (14 almost immediately upon the close of the operation - one of which has already led to prosecution and conviction - and 13 opened at a later stage.) In addition to investigating the soldiers and officers involved, these criminal investigations include the taking of evidence from Palestinian complainants and witnesses. To date seventy Palestinian witnesses and complainants have given evidence to the investigating authorities.

Status of specific incidents referred to in the Goldstone Report:

The Goldstone Report states that it examined 36 incidents, however it is hard to determine precisely how this number is arrived at in relation to the events described. Nonetheless, all the incidents cited in the Report have been or are being examined (12 incidents had not been reported to Israel prior to publication of the Report, and upon hearing of them, investigations were initiated by the IDF). According to Israel's best understanding of the breakdown of incidents in the Report, the current status of these incidents is as follows:

* 5 incidents were addressed in the framework of the General Staff Command investigations and are currently being examined by the Military Attorney General (para. 2 above).
* 5 incidents were examined and found not to present any basis for suspecting that laws had been violated (para. 3 above).
* 16 incidents are currently under process of examination (para. 4 above).
* 10 are the subject of criminal investigations (para.5 above).

Erekat: Palestinian state may have to be abandoned

Erekat: Palestinian state may have to be abandoned

Chief Palestinian negotiator expresses concern over continued expansion of Jewish settlements, says goal of independent state will not be fulfilled if US does not interfere


Palestinians may have to abandon the goal of an independent state if Israel continues to expand Jewish settlements and the United States does not stop it, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Wednesday. It may be time for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to "tell his people the truth, that with the continuation of settlement activities, the two-state solution is no longer an option," Erekat told a news conference.

Israel has rejected the idea of a de facto annexation of the occupied West Bank, incorporating the Palestinians as citizens, as "demographic timebomb" that would make Jews the minority.

Citing a 2003 peace "road map", Abbas has made a cessation of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank a precondition for resuming statehood talks with Israel.

The road map also required that Palestinians dismantle armed groups like Islamist Hamas, which opposes peace talks. That did not happen, and Hamas now controls the Gaza Strip – half the Palestinian polity – a running challenge to Abbas's mandate.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who met Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Saturday, unsuccessfully urged Abbas to negotiate with Israel and resolve the settlement issue within the framework of the talks.

Erekat said Clinton, who praised as unprecedented Netanyahu's offer to temporarily limit construction in West Bank settlements to 3,000 additional housing units, was only opening the door to more settlements in the next two years.

The alternative left for Palestinians is to "refocus their attention on the one-state solution where Muslims, Christians and Jews can live as equals", Erekat said. "It is very serious. This is the moment of truth for us."

Dictation vs. negotiations

Erekat said Netanyahu's concept of a separate Palestinian state alongside Israel with limited powers of sovereignty and his uncompromising position on the future of Jerusalem were tantamount to dictating the terms of peace negotiations.

Netanyahu, Erekat said, told Abbas "that Jerusalem will be the eternal and united capital of Israel, that refugees won't be discussed, that our state will be demilitarized, that we have to recognize the Jewish state, that it's not going to be the 1967 borders, that the skies will be under his control."

"This is dictation and not negotiations," he said.

Netanyahu and Abbas last met in New York in September in a handshake meeting arranged by US President Barack Obama.

Palestinians seek to establish their future state on all of the West Bank and Gaza, lands captured from Jordan and Egypt in a 1967 war, with East Jerusalem as its capital. "Anything short of that is a non-option for us," Erekat said.

"If the Israelis believe they want to partition the West Bank with us, this is a no-go. This is a non-starter," Erekat said, in reference to Israeli control of West Bank settlements, adjacent land, and the territory's eastern Jordan Valley border.

Clinton reaffirmed in Cairo on Wednesday that Washington does not accept the legitimacy of the Israeli settlements.

But she added, in another nudge to Palestinians to talk with Israel: "Getting into final status negotiations will allow us to bring an end to settlement activity."

Erekat said Palestinians "made a mistake" in the past by agreeing to negotiate with Israel without insisting on a settlement halt, and they were not about to repeat that error.

In a statement, Netanyahu said Israel's aim remained the quick resumption of peace talks. But he also deplored the split between Hamas and Abbas's secular Fatah faction, which has widened over the president's disputed call for a Jan. 24 ballot.

"The possibility that Palestinian election might be held soon is causing a polarization of Palestinian Authority positions regarding Israel and is hindering the opening of negotiations," Netanyahu's office quoted him as saying.

Comment: This statement is out of their playbook-it is used because we have an American Administration that totally misunderstands the mindset in the ME. The term "settlements" resonates with Obama et al in the West-prior to this administration please note that the "settlements" as an issue did not stop Olmert et al from negotiating with the arab Palestinians. The term"settlement" also is used to divide the Israeli people on the right to land in the disputed territories. The arab palestinians know this and thus use the term as frequently as possible. This blog and Docstalk have repeatedly called for a change in such language-until we do, the enemy will use the terms frequently. As said many times, Israeli citizens live in towns and cities in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria. You want accuracy in the media, then tell the truth and use the correct terms. The psychological ploy of retaining the "settlers" term serves our enemies' interest. This is not different than the bully calling his/her age mates names that resonate with them-the control over their behavior continued until they invalidated the name calling. It is not different in Judea and Samaria, just a bit more sophisticated and played out by adults with an agenda.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Israel, US reach 'silent understanding' on Goldstone veto

Jerusalem gearing for UN meeting on Gaza war report as it may lead to Security Council hearing. Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon says Washington agreed to exercise right to nix decision

Roni Sofer

Jerusalem expects Washington to exercise its right of veto in the UN should the international body's Arab bloc be able to get it to vote on deferring the Goldstone Report to the Security Council. The United Nations' General Assembly is scheduled to debate the controversial report, which concluded Israel committed war crimes during January's military campaign in Gaza Strip, on Wednesday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon confirmed Tuesday that Israel and the US have come to a "silent understanding" that that the latter will veto a decision to have the matter heard by Security Council.

Jerusalem sources said that the General Assembly is likely to defer the matter to the Security Council nonetheless and despite considerable effort to thwart the move.

The Goldstone Report has been widely disputed and a Security Council resolution may be the Arab nations' only chance of seeing the matter reach the International Crimes Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Nevertheless, Israel expects the "moral bloc" in the UN – i.e. Western nations that understand its need to relentlessly fight terror – to form a united front against any condemning resolution.

The Palestinian Authority's bid to have the report reviewed by the Security Council, however, may cause several Western nations and Russia to abstain.

"Russia has to deal with the situation in Georgia and Chechnya. It can't afford to deal with a UN resolution making any fire into populated areas a war crime," a senior Jerusalem source told Ynet.

Ayalon ordered Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal to convene all foreign ambassadors Tuesday and demand their respective countries vote against a UN resolution to that effect.

Israel also pursued other diplomatic avenues in an effort to avoid any further embossment during the UN meeting, enlisting the support of the US, France, the UK and dozens of other countries in order to foil an unfavorable resolution.

While the American veto is a viable option, Jerusalem knows chances of preventing the Security Council from reviewing the Goldstone Report are slim.

Representing Israel at the General Assembly will be UN Ambassador Prof. Gabriela Shalev. Foreign Ministry sources told Ynet that at this point, there are no plans to involve higher ranking official, so as not to inflame the debate surrounding the controversial report any further.

Merkel: Iranian threat to Israel threatens us all

German chancellor addresses US Congress, says 'nuclear weapon at the hands of an Iranian president who denies the Holocaust, threatens Israel and negates its right to exist is simply unacceptable'

Yitzhak Benhorin

WASHINGTON – German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke before the US Congress on Tuesday and said that the Iranian threat to Israel was "a threat to the free world. Anyone threatening Israel threatens us all. The safety of the State of Israel is nonnegotiable. It never was and it never will be." In a speech marking the 20th anniversary to the fall of the Berlin Wall, Merkel said that Iran must understand that the West is not willing to compromise on its atom program: "We must show zero tolerance to the possibility of Iran getting hold of nuclear weapons. It threatens us all," she said, to roaring applause.

Addressing Iran's stalled response to the West's and the International Atomic Energy Agency's draft proposal, meant to regulate its nuclear program, Merkel said that "Iran knows the specifics of our proposal and it should also know where we will draw our red line.

"A nuclear weapon at the hands of an Iranian president who denies the Holocaust, threatens Israel and negates its right to exist is simply unacceptable."

Prior to addressing the congress, Merkel met with US President Barack Obama. The two reportedly discussed Iran, the war in Afghanistan and various climate issues.

Merkel also spoke of the need to formulate an international treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol – the United Nations' framework to battle global warming.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

New Poll Shows Americans Reject UN Report Accusing Israel of War Crimes

House to Vote on Resolution Condemning Goldstone Report; Organization of Islamic Conference Was “Initiator” of Report

A resolution (H. Res. 867) condemning a UN report as “irredeemably biased” against Israel is likely to pass the House of Representatives easily Tuesday (Nov. 3),[1] a day before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) convenes to debate the report’s findings. Meanwhile, the secretary-general of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Conference said his group was the “initiator” of the report and helped push it through the UN Human Rights Council.[2] The so-called Goldstone report accuses Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during the December-January conflict in Gaza. But a new bi-partisan poll shows that Americans believe Israeli military action in Gaza was indeed a defensive war and many reject the UN report accusing Israel of war crimes.

The poll, conducted in October by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR) and commissioned by The Israel Project (TIP) shows Americans have significant doubts about the findings of the report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council accusing Israel of war crimes. The UNGA meeting is being held at the urging of the United Nations’ Arab representatives.[3]

Most Americans (88 percent) are unaware of the report, led by Justice Richard Goldstone of South Africa. But those familiar with it disagree with it by a 50 to 29 percent margin. A plurality (30 to 19 percent) of those unfamiliar with it reaches the same conclusion when told that the report accuses Israel and Hamas of war crimes, with the more serious accusations leveled against Israel.

Even Justice Goldstone himself, the author of the report, has cast doubts about the fairness[4] of the 575-page report[5] and said it wouldn’t stand up to legal scrutiny.[6]

“We couldn’t use that report as evidence at all,” Goldstone said. “But it was a useful roadmap for our investigators, for me as chief prosecutor, to decide where we should investigate. And that’s the purpose of this sort of report.”[7] He added, “We had to do the best we could with the material we had. If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.”[8]

The justice also criticized the draft resolution on the report as one-sided. “The draft resolution saddens me as it includes only allegations against Israel. There is not a single phrase condemning Hamas as we have done in the report.”[9]

U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell echoed Goldstone’s comments, calling the report “one-sided and deeply flawed.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top officials also have expressed “grave concerns” about the fact-finding mission.[10]

Criticism of the Goldstone report is driven by sentiment that Israel’s Gaza operation was largely a defensive war. By a 50 to 27 percent margin, Americans believe Israel fought a defensive war and that Hamas has primary responsibility for civilian deaths rather than that Israel used excessive force and has primary responsibility for the civilian deaths.

Said TIP Founder and President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, “The saddest thing of all is not this report – it is that the UN Human Rights community did nothing serious to stop Hamas from shooting rockets at Israel’s South before Israel’s defensive war, and has not acted to stop Hezbollah from re-arming on Israel’s Northern Border. Just last week Israel was hit by a rocket from inside Lebanon – but the human rights organizations were silent.”

Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, Ph.D. of GQRR said, “Americans understand why Israel felt the need to go into Gaza and protect its own citizens, and they believe the Goldstone report gave insufficient weight to Hamas’ conscious attacks on civilians and use of civilians in Gaza.”

The survey was conducted jointly by Public Opinion Strategies (POS) and GQRR Oct. 12-14, 2009 with 807 registered voters (margin of error: +/-3.45 percent). Historical trend data is from surveys conducted by both POS and GQRR, and includes interviews of adults, registered voters, likely voters and opinion elites.


[1] Kessler, Glenn, “Congress to weigh in on U.N.'s Gaza report,” The Washington Post, Oct. 31, 2009,

[2] “'OIC initiated Goldstone inquiry,'” Al Jazeera English, Oct. 28, 2009,

[3] "UN assembly to debate Goldstone Report on Gaza war," Reuters via YnetNews, Oct. 27, 2009,,7340,L-3796520,00.html

[4] Dershowitz, Alan, “Goldstone Criticizes UN Council on Human Rights,” The Huffington Post, 22/10/09

[5] Mitnick, Joshua, “UN vote to endorse Goldstone report increases pressure on Israel,” The Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 16, 2009,

[6] Dershowitz, Alan, “Goldstone Criticizes UN Council on Human Rights,” The Huffington Post, Oct. 22, 2009,

[7] Beckerman, Gal, “Goldstone: If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven,” The Jewish Daily Forward, Oct. 7, 2009,

[8] Beckerman, Gal, “Goldstone: If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven,” The Jewish Daily Forward, Oct. 7, 2009

[9] Dershowitz, Alan, “Goldstone Criticizes UN Council on Human Rights,” The Huffington Post, Oct. 22, 2009,

[10] Fingerhut, Eric, “NJDC praises administration on Goldstone,” JTA, Oct. 29, 2009,

Monday, November 02, 2009

Swedish reporter booed at Dimona conference

Journalist responsible for report claiming IDF harvests Palestinians' organs arrives in Dimona for communications conference, where he is met with shouts and boos from crowd. Swede explains: Allegations must be investigated. Yair Lapid to reporter: You're an anti-Semite and don't know it

Ilana Curiel

The hoopla from Sweden spreads to Dimona. Swedish reporter Donald Bostrom, who published a report in the Aftonbladet newspaper accusing the Israel Defense Forces of stealing and trafficking in Palestinians' organs, was received Monday with boos and shouts during a panel he partook in at a media conference held in Dimona. The Swedish reporter said that he understands the anger and explained that his infamous article only claimed that the Palestinian families' allegations need to be investigated. He also said that there was much misunderstanding surrounding the article. "The fact is that the families said what they said. That's a normal article," he said.

Interviewer Yair Lapid said, "It is a well-known phenomenon that some of the Palestinian propaganda is lies. It is the weapon of the weak."

Lapid claimed that he was not at all certain that the Swedish reporter had any basis for the article.

Bostrom responded, "If you are as journalist, you always interview, ask questions, and get answers. Organ trafficking is a global problem." He said that before h wrote the article, he invested a lot of time researching and spending time in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where he said he interviewed many families off of list given to him. Bostrom said that he chose to publish the story of one of the families, whom he says he interviewed for quite some time and received pictures of their son's corpse.

Lapid shot back, "To say this without a shred of evidence, that Israel possibly harvested organs from Palestinians who disappeared, in other words, whom we kidnapped, killed, and robbed their organs, is a degrading and monstrous idea."

In response, Bostrom said that he understands why people are angry, saying that everyone lies while at war. He said that it is difficult for reporters to distinguish between what is correct and what is a lie. "If it were just one family, fine. But there were many families. Mothers have a right to know what happened to their sons," claimed Bostrom

Bostrom said that everyone would benefit from an investigation into the issue, saying no one had anything to lose. "If it is possible to give an answer to a Palestinian mother that nothing happened to her son, this must be done," Bostrom asserted.

Bostrom claimed that he never said that the IDF track down Palestinians with the express purpose of harvesting organs. "This is a terrible lie," he said.

'Crossing the line'

Lapid concluded, "You are an anti-Semite because you are prepared to believe that there is a possibility that the government and the authorities would take part in such a monstrous thing. The only thing I can say in your favor is that you don't know you're an anti-Semite."

Bostrom said in response, "If we walk in the streets of Stockholm and ask passersby about Israel, the vast majority will respond that they support its right to exist in peace. However, we also have a tradition of criticism, and we will criticize Israel though we support your country."

Some of the people sitting in the audience did not accept the Swede's explanations. They called the Swedish reporter a "liar," and waved banners with "Israel is stronger than anti-Semitism" written on them.

Nor did Bostrom receive a warm welcome when he arrived the night between Saturday and Sunday at Ben Gurion Airport. Dozens of protesters from the Beitar youth movement met him there with shouts.

Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom cited Bostrom's participation in the conference as the reason for cancelling his plans to attend the conference that were announced on Saturday. Shalom also withdrew his ministry's financial contribution to the event.

"I am not willing to be a partner in a conference that gives a platform to an enemy of Israel such as Bostrom," explained Minister Shalom. "I will not let the State of Israel fund a conference that provides a platform for such a person."

Minister Shalom emphasized further that he would not contribute to a conference attended by "a person who wove a blood libel against the State of Israel and its soldiers. This is crossing a line."


(Article by Dr. David Zangen, Ma'ariv, 27.10.09, p. 2)

"Dear Judge Goldstone,

My name is Dr. David Zangen. I am a consultant in Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem. Over 50% of my patient population is Palestinian from Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. I speak Arabic and initiated the first training program for Palestinian physicians in the field of Pediatric Endocrinology. The trained physicians were fully respected and were included as first authors on our studies that we published in the world's leading professional journals. But, at the same time, I happened to be the Chief Medical Officer of my brigade during Operation Defensive Shield , in Jenin, 2002. I was responsible for the medical treatment of our soldiers, but also for enabling the hospital in Jenin to provide full medical services to the civilian population, and I was personally involved in numerous medical treatments that Palestinians (including fighters) received from Israeli physicians.

During and after the operation the director of Jenin Hospital was a source for what has been falsely called the "massacre in Jenin in which 5,000 people were slaughtered." This same person, Dr. Abu Rali, has also claimed that one part of the Jenin hospital was destroyed by Israeli tank missiles: "12 tank rockets were shot at the hospital."

You should know, honorable Judge, that these statements have been proven and documented as outright lies, not only by Israeli sources, but also by the Human Rights Watch and UN organizations, which counted only 52 dead on the Palestinian side and 23 on the Israeli side. These organizations, and photographs of Jenin Hospital following the operation, showed no evidence of any destruction at the hospital buildings.

This Dr. Abu Rali, a hospital director and physician, lies and incites in the service of the Shahids. It is hard to believe that a director of a hospital can give such an obviously false testimony. I cannot understand it. And you cannot understand it. But, unfortunately, this is what has happened. Even people who would normally be considered reliable sources become advocates of blatant lies. Tragically, moral misbehavior of doctors in the Palestinian Authority is not new. The pediatrician, George Habash , sent his terrorists to kill children in Israeli schools, as did Hamas' leader and pediatrician, Dr. Abd al-Aziz Rantisi , as well as pediatrician, Dr Mahmud Zaher, who continues to encourage the launching of rockets from Gaza against innocent Israeli schools.

Please Judge Goldstone, you should really be careful when such blatant liars serve as the basis for your report. I am sure that you mean well, but being an eyewitness, both to the events in Jenin and to the subsequent media, and initially false, UN reporting, I do understand what happened to you, how a person of such stature and integrity could become associated with such a faulty report.

Look, Judge Goldstone, at your report on the Al Fakhura incident on January 5-6th 2009 (paragraphs 651-688). You do report how Israel was accused for directly bombing the UNRWA school. It took two weeks for this accusation to be withdrawn. But you, honored Judge, went back to get your testimony only from the same people who spread the blood libel of the school bombing. Moreover, when analyzing the scene you claim that you could not verify the numbers of 24 dead and 40 wounded, but these numbers are not considered exaggerated. Finally, in the 'Factual Findings' section, you already determine that 24 people were killed and 40 injured!

Did you, by any chance, try to validate any of these invented and inciting details? Did you look at the Al Jazeera or BBC reports from the same very day of the event? Did you try to validate your 'Factual Findings' conclusions by at least getting emergency room charts on the people admitted to their trauma department on this very day? Did you go over the ID's of the "dead" and the place or cemetery where they were supposedly buried?

No, you didn't!

As a judge I am sure that you did not mean to hurt Israel. I try to believe that you came to Gaza without prejudice. But a judge is expected to look, at least, for some evidence and verification (media, emergency room registration, burial places, etc.) of the testimonies and not accept impossible "facts". You have allowed yourself to be misled by fabrications made either by terrorists or doctors such as Dr. Abu Rali from Jenin.

I, and my colleagues in Israel, are proud of the medical service that is given equally to every human being regardless of origin; we are also proud to belong to a nation that is identified as having higher moral standards than others.

I call on you, Judge Goldstone. Take this Al Fakhura incident, look at the media coverage from the very same day. See the events in their context. Try to live one day with the responsibility for the existence of this small nation of six million Jews threatened constantly by 300 million Muslims. I call on you to try and not draw conclusions from such lies and misleading witnesses, even if they come from so-called professionals. In the modern world, propaganda and lies are definitely a part of the war. And as a judge, you should not serve as a tool for augmenting hatred and conflicts.

We desire peace. We love peace. And we try our utmost to fight for our right to exist while maintaining the highest possible moral standards, even at the cost of our lives.

Norwegian university considers boycotting Israel

Board of directors of Norwegian University of Science and Technology to decide on November 12 whether or not to declare academic boycott against Israel. Chairwoman says opposes move

Daniel Edelson

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), the second largest in the Scandinavian country, is expected to decide next Thursday whether or not to declare an academic boycott against Israel. The university's board will meet on November 12 to decide on the matter.

In 2007 the British Association of University Teachers considered boycotting Bar-Ilan and Haifa universities.

The decision to ban the two universities, which was eventually reversed, was premised on the claim that Haifa University limits academic freedom when it comes to research that criticizes Israeli policies, while Bar-Ilan was slammed for operating an affiliated college in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

Merit Ernstad, who chairs the board of directors, told Ynet that despite her opposition to the move, she would not work to cancel the meeting, adding that those who called for the boycott could not be defined as pro-Palestinian or left-wing.

Rector Torbjørn Digernes stressed that the university's management did not initiate the debate on a possible boycott.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Court to Gov't: Why Destroy Beit El Buildings?

Hillel Fendel
A7 News

A three-judge Supreme Court panel has ordered the State to explain within 30 days why it wants to destroy ten buildings in Beit El that the government itself helped pay for The buildings – five permanent buildings with several apartments each and five other mobile structures – were built or placed by the Kiryat HaYeshiva Beit El company. Attorney Yaron Kustlitz presented documentation showing that the land on which the buildings stand was duly purchased from its original Arab owner.

The buildings are located in Beit El, on the lower heights of Pisgat Yaakov, also known as Jabal (Mt.) Artis, which overlooks the rest of Beit El to the south and west.

Attorney Kustlitz accused the State of speaking out of two sides of its mouth, a “legally problematic position.” He said that on the one hand, the Housing Ministry began infrastructure work for the buildings in 2000, and the buildings were completed and populated in 2005 – and then the government turned around and asked for demolition orders.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, who heads the judicial panel, agreed with Kustlitz that the government may not take both sides. “This must be taken care of,” she said.

Jacob's Dream

Mt. Artis is the spot on which the Patriarch Jacob dreamt his famous dream of angels ascending and descending the ladder to Heaven – at least according to the late Land of Israel expert and researcher Prof. Ze’ev Vilnai. Vilnai based his conclusion on the sanctity ascribed to the site by local Moslems, who in turn based their attitude on a well-rooted Jewish tradition. In this vein, many Jewish burial caves from the Second Temple were found there.

In addition, from Mt. Artis one can often see the coastal plane in the west, Mt. Gilad in the east, Mt. Hermon in the north, and the mountains of Jerusalem and Hevron in the south - in keeping with the Divine message to Jacob at that spot, as recorded in Genesis 28, that his descendants would inherit the entire Land, “west, east, north and south.”

Clinton: Settlement freeze not a pre-condition for talks

In press conference with PM Netanyahu, US secretary of state makes it clear that construction freeze in settlements not a precondition for negotiations with PA; earlier, Lieberman tells Clinton Palestinians don't want talks

Roni Sofer

A halt on settlement construction in the West Bank is not a pre-condition for the resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinians, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday There has never been a pre-condition. It's always been an issue within the negotiations," Clinton said about the settlements.

Speaking at a joint press conference ahead of her meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Clinton said that she was eager to see the sides embarking on talks, but added that a settlement freeze was not a pre-condition for negotiations.

"I want to see both sides as soon as possible begin in negotiations," said Clinton. "Both president Obama and I are committed to a comprehensive peace agreement."

"I think where we are right now is to try to get into negotiations. The prime minister will be able to present his government's proposal about what they are doing regarding settlements, which I think when fully explained will be seen as being not only unprecedented, but in response to many of the concerns that have been expressed," she said.

Meanwhile, PM Netanyahu said that Israel is interested in progressing on the peace front vis-à-vis the Palestinians, and also in respect to regional peace.

Israel is willing to embark on peace talks immediately, he said.

Palestinians repeat demand for settlement freeze

Responding to Clinton's remarks, a Palestinian official said Israel must halt settlement building for peace talks to resume.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: "A settlement freeze and acknowledging the terms of reference is the only way towards peace negotiations."

He added: "Settlement is illegitimate and it is not possible to accept any justification for the continuation of the settlement activity or to defend it in the lands occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem."

Lieberman: Palestinians trying to curb talks

The Palestinian Authority is aiming to prevent negotiations with Israel, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman charged earlier Saturday in his meeting with Clinton.

Lieberman especially criticized the Palestinians for presenting pre-conditions for the resumption of talks, noting that the PA did not make such stipulations in their dealings with the Olmert, Barak, and Sharon governments in recent years.

The foreign minister also told Clinton that he recommended, in a talk with Netanyahu, not to embark on negotiations with the Palestinians as long as they continue their incitement over the Goldstone Report and insist on bringing the matter up with the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

Earlier in the day, the top State Department official met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinians, however, rejected her request to resume talks with the Jewish State based on understandings reached between the US and Israel.