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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Daily Goldstone 10/15

Some good stuff out there, as the UNHRC convenes to yet again condemn Israel (and ignore Hamas, directly ignoring the parts of the Goldstone report that are inconvenient.)

Warren Goldstein in the Jerusalem Post attacks Goldstone on legal and procedural grounds:

The Mission's findings were based on accepting the allegations of only one party to the conflict. The Mission did not try to cross-examine or challenge the witnesses in any real way. There is a lengthy, fascinating article by Jonathan HaLevi of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in which he analyses in detail the methodology employed by the Mission in respect of witnesses. He demonstrates that there was a lack of adequate cross-examination of the testimony of the witnesses. Unproven allegations of Hamas officials were accepted as established facts. Even the most basic questions were not asked; when, for example, allegations were made of Israel's bombing civilian installations, witnesses were not asked whether there were Hamas fighters or weaponry in the vicinity, or whether any attacks had been launched from the area.

[Another] procedural injustice which undermines the integrity and credibility of Judge Goldstone and the three other members of the Mission: There simply was not enough time to do the job properly.

Any lawyer with even limited experience knows that there was just not sufficient time for the Mission to have properly considered and prepared its report. One murder trial often takes many months of evidence and argument to enable a judge to make a decision with integrity. To assess even one day of battle in Gaza with the factual complexities involved would have required a substantial period of intensive examination. According to the Mission's Report, the Mission convened for a total of 12 days.

The Forward notes the contradictions that Richard Goldstone states in his interview published last week:

“We had to do the best we could with the material we had,” he said during the interview. “If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.”

And: “I wouldn’t consider it in any way embarrassing if many of the allegations turn out to be disproved.”

Nothing proven? Allegations? The air of tentativeness that hung over Goldstone’s remarks that day was surely missing from the stark and disturbing legal conclusions in the report, in which Israel was told flat out that it had violated international law by targeting civilians — “the people of Gaza as a whole.”

Nor is there anything tentative about Goldstone’s words in a New York Times opinion article published after the report was released, in which he wrote, “Repeatedly, the Israel Defense Forces failed to adequately distinguish between combatants and civilians, as the laws of war strictly require.”

It is difficult to know what to make of these contradictory statements, except that it’s obvious Goldstone is trying to climb down from the dangerous perch he had built.
Finally, Yaacov Lozowick publishes an email exchange he had with an Amnesty International press officer, and in the thread Yaacov explains in a personal way why the Goldstone report is so fundamentally offensive to Israelis as well as why it is fundamentally flawed:
The findings as they were announced by the members of the mission, before anyone had had a chance to read them, were ridiculous. I apologize for being so blunt, but I see no softer way to say it. Their methodology was, a-priori, never tenable. The moment they allowed themselves to make statements about Israel's intentions, as against Israel's actions, they demonstrated their biases and intellectual shoddiness. The only way to know about Israel's intentions is by researching those intentions: the decision-making process, the plans drawn up, the orders given and so on. These things can't be inferred from the results, they can't be learnt from talking to Palestinians, and they certainly can't be deduced from ruins of homes which could have been knocked down by all sorts of things including Hamas weapons.

If the Israelis won't give you access, you can't say what they were thinking, not unless you have access. Sad, perhaps, unfair, perhaps, but true. Someday, 50 years from now, historians will be able to pore over the documents whether the authorities like it or not, because we're a democracy. At the moment, however, if the Israelis refuse to talk and to cooperate, there's no way to say what they were thinking.

Since Goldstone and his colleagues made clear from the moment of publication that they had found Israel had intentionally targeted the Palestinian population, at that moment their intellectual credibility was destroyed. The Israelis then followed up by reading the report and demolishing its findings, but the rejection didn't have to wait.

I suggest, Neil, that you stop and think about this before simply writing me off. I'm being very serious here, and I'm telling you something very fundamental, and that is that Israel did not have the intention of hurting the civilian population of Gaza, You don't know me, you certainly don't know my sources of information, but I assure you the reading of the Goldstone commission (which I'm slowly reading - it's ghastly) is factually wrong. It's not true. You can wave the report from now till doomsday; you can take comfort in the large numbers of people around you who agree with you; you can talk about international law and human rights to your heart's content - none of this can change the reality, which is that the basic finding of the Goldstone fact finding mission is a blatant lie. Since it was clearly stated up front, it's no wonder that the official Israeli responders, who do know the facts, sharply rejected it.

Remember: Israeli intentions are about Israelis. The Israelis had them, the Israelis decided upon them, the Israelis know what they were. Take a deep breath and count to ten before you tell us what we were thinking - as the Goldstone team so foolishly did.
[W]hen our government takes steps most of us thought it should take, that's us who is responsible. And it's we, too. Not to mention that when you talk of the IDF, that's us and we in the most simple meaning: it was I when I was young, it's my son right now (and in Gaza last January), and I guess it will be my grandsons in the wars we'll still be waging 30 years from now.

Finally, here's a thought for you. Over the years prior to the Gaza campaign, as the Palestinians shot more than 10,000 projectiles at Israeli citizens in the Sderot region,we did our best to look away. It was far from the large cities; doing something about it would have inevitably have included hurting Palestinian civilians because Hamas uses them as shields; doing something would have brought the rage of Amnesty and HRW and the UN and the BBC on our heads... so we dithered. Year in and year out we refrained from action. Eventually, we began to admit to ourselves, this callousness of ours was eating away at who we are, at those Kol Yisrael statements I told you about. It became harder and harder to look ourselves in the eyes, knowing that we were preferring the suffering of the few to the trouble to all.

Eventually, our patience broke, and we acted. WE acted. In OUR name. So far as WE can tell, most of the actions WE took were moral, legal, and justified; if there were minor exceptions, WE'll deal with them. At the moment, close to a year later, it even seems to have worked, and no-one, not Israelis nor Palestinians, are getting killed. And we're whole again.