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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Goldstone and the Abu Askars

I just looked at the testimony of one of the Goldstone witnesses, Mohammed Abu Askar. While the report did mention that he was a Hamas member it stressed that he was not a member of the Qassam Brigades. He testified concerning the Fakhoura school incident.

Here is a prime example of how credulous the commission was of his testimony, concerning his oldest son Khalid who was killed in the attack:
Khalid is a newlywed groom. He got married 15 days before the war, and such grooms, as you know, are, are, happily spend their days as newlyweds, and they do not really have time to go to war or other, or to be wanted. He's also quite young. He was only 18 years old. Again I say that what was being targeted was a child.
The final report mentioned Khalid's newlywed status, in an effort to show that the IDF could not have possibly been targeting him legitimately:
686. It would appear that shortly after the attack the Israeli armed forces received some information that two Abu Askar brothers had been killed. That much is indeed true. However, the use made of that information appears to the Mission to have been knowingly distorted. The brothers were Imad and Khalid, not Imad and Hassan as asserted. One was a 13-year-old boy, the other was a recently married 19-year-old. The certainty and specificity with which the Israeli authorities spoke at the time make it very difficult for them to suggest now that they had simply mixed up the names.
Could Khalid and Imad have been shooting mortars at the time from the street? It is difficult to think that Imad was involved, but it is certainly a possibility.

First of all, Mohammed Abu Askar understated the ages of both his sons: Khalid was 19 (born December 12, 1989), and PCHR indicates that Imad was 14, not 13.

Secondly, the al-Qassam Brigades has an unusually detailed obituary for Khalid, indicating that he was quite well known. It says that he was an avid attendee at mosques from a young age, that were festooned with "jihad slogans." He joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 2004, meaning he was (almost certainly) 14 at the time. More importantly, he wanted to join the Al Qassam Brigades at the same time, but was rejected because he was too young, causing him to throw a temper tantrun and lock himself in his room. He demanded again to join the Qassam Brigades when he entered high school and this time he was accepted.

Khalid was already involved in terror attacks when he was 16, participating in "dozens of ambushes." He attempted "martyrdom operations" against Israelis at least three times, in March, April and June 2008 (one at Kerem Shalom) but they were not successful.

He fought with the Qassam Brigades even after his marriage in December, fighting with Ayman Ahmed ‘Amer al-Kurd who was killed (#758 on PCHR English list.)

Given that history, is it so far-fetched that young Imad would have the same burning desire for martyrdom at an early age that Khalid had, and that he would tag along with his older brother that he idolized as he sought revenge for the destruction of their family house earlier that day? One could argue otherwise, but any fact-finding mission should at least have considered this.

More to the point: The Goldstone Commission accepted their father's testimony without any skepticism, even after Mohammed claimed that he saw over 6 mortars fired (the final report says they were only aware of four.) It mentioned the utterly irrelevant fact that Khalid was a newlywed but ignored the quite relevant fact that he was a well-known al-Qassam Brigades member. It didn't think anything strange about the discrepancy of ages, even as it noted his correct age after hearing Mohammed's testimony that he was 18 (using his young age as to score a propaganda point.) Finally, it believed the father when he claimed that his son wasn't fighting after his wedding.

Goldstone seized on the inconsistent Israeli position between the immediate aftermath of the incident and the later clarifications that the IDF made as proof that the IDF claims were not credible, but the inconsistencies of an admitted Hamas member who raises his sons to be martyrs is not considered at all.