Thursday, October 01, 2009

Part Two, Section A of the Goldstone Report is dedicated to "Military Operations." Goldstone decides to begin this section with a description of the blockade:
311. The military operations of 28 December to 19 January 2009 and their impact cannot be fully evaluated without taking account of the context and the prevailing living conditions at the time they began. In material respects, the military hostilities were a culmination of the long process of economic and political isolation imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel, which is generally described as a blockade.
Why exactly does Goldstone choose the blockade as the beginning point of the narrative? It would be at least as valid to choose the beginning of the Qassam rocket fire on Israelis several years beforehand, or perhaps the violent Hamas coup against the PA, or perhaps the rocket fire that came after Israel's disengagement from Gaza, or any of a number of other seminal events each of which helped shape the circumstances of the fighting.

By choosing the blockade as his starting point for the military operations, Goldstone specifically chooses an event that makes Israel appear to have initiated the conflict. (He repeats the same pattern in choosing December 27th as the beginning of actual hostilities, and ignoring Hamas' effective declaration of war on December 24th, accompanied by a huge rocket barrage. )

Is it not strange to ignore the role that thousands of Qassam rocket attacks had in setting this fighting into motion, and that they are not considered a seminal event by Goldstone?

The blockade section of the report blames only Israel. It does not note that the Quartet participated in the blockade (except for an elliptical statement "This was also accompanied by the withholding of financial support for the Gaza Strip by some donor countries and actions of other countries that amounted to open or tacit support of the Israeli blockade.)

Goldstone also does not saythat Egypt has any part to do with the blockade. In fact, in paragraph 278, the report says:
Israel controls the border crossings (including to a significant degree the Rafah crossing to Egypt, under the terms of the Agreement on Movement and Access 163) and decides what and who gets in or out of the Gaza Strip.
However, the link he provides to this Agreement shows no such thing.

In reality, Egypt was not a signatory to the Rafah Agreement - it was between Israel, the PA and the EU. Israel could veto specific people from going into Gaza, and it could watch the crossing via closed-circuit TV, but the Rafah Agreement provided for EU observers to be the main gatekeepers and for the Palestinian Authority to be the party responsible on the Gaza side. After the Hamas coup, the Rafah crossing was closed because the EU observers could no longer travel there safely and because the PA was no longer in charge, as per the agreement. Israel's influence over Egyptian behavior at Rafah has nothing to do with this agreement, that was in any case effectively abrogated by Hamas' coup.

Egypt has opened up the Rafah border on a number of occasions, for humanitarian aid and for people to cross (often for pilgrimages to Mecca or medical reasons.) There is nothing in the Rafah Agreement that precludes Egypt from fully opening up Rafah. There are obvious reasons why it doesn't do so, and they have little to do with Israel.

In other words, Goldstone blames Israel exclusively for the blockade, even on the Egyptian side, using a link to a UN document that shows nothing of the sort.

(At times, Hamas also limits movement out of Gaza as well, another salient fact that Goldstone ignores. Hamas stopped Fatah members from attending the Bethlehem conference and it stopped Gazans from leaving when Egypt opened the border in May.)

In the blockade section of the report, Goldstone mentions (para. 320)
The tunnels built under the Gaza-Egypt border have become a lifeline for the Gaza economy and the people. Increasing amounts of fuel (benzine and diesel) come through those tunnels as well as consumables.
Yet he doesn't mention other major imports through the tunnels - explosives, rockets and weapons. Egypt has confiscated many tons of weapons before they reached Rafah. Goldstone elsewhere mentions that some of Hamas arsenal are "thought to be smuggled" and "allegedly smuggled" without saying exactly how (para. 1621 and 1622.)

Since Goldstone ignores the smuggling of weapons to Hamas through the tunnels in context of the blockade, it doesn't even address the concerns that Israel has about allowing construction materials or infrastructure materials like metal pipes into Gaza. It ignores the fact that Hamas has confiscated metal pipes meant for sewage treatment in order to manufacture rockets.

More generally, Goldstone doesn't address other pertinent facts about the reasons for the blockade. Hamas takes all of the available materials that Israel allows into Gaza first, and then hands over the leftovers to the rest of the territory. It ensures that it has all the fuel it needs before it allows the rest to go to ordinary Gazans. Hamas has also stolen ambulances donated by other countries and converted them for military use. All these are ignored by Goldstone as he assails Israel alone for the blockade.

Hamas' apparent policy is that any imports to Gaza are primarily used for military purposes and only secondarily to help Gazans themselves. If that policy would change, in a transparent manner, all indications are that Israel would allow far more goods through to Gazans. One only needs to see the differences between how Israel treats Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and those in Gaza to see that the driving factor for Israeli behavior is not to punish the people but to protect Israeli citizens.

Goldstone sees no such nuance. He flatly states that the blockade "amounts to collective punishment intentionally inflicted by the Government of Israel on the people of the Gaza Strip" (para. 1878).

One can argue whether the blockade is effective, and one could argue whether the specific goods Israel disallows into Gaza can be used against Israel. But if Goldstone is being fair he should at least mention Hamas abuses with the goods that are brought into Gaza as a possible reason for Israel's reticence to provide it with such goods.

Similarly, he fails to point any blame at Hamas for Israel's reluctance to provide Gaza with materials that Hamas would immediately use against Israelis.

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