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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Daily Goldstone 11/17

An open letter to Justice Goldstone, at CAMERA. Excerpts:

Dear Justice Goldstone,

You've frequently accused critics of presenting ad hominem arguments against you instead of dealing with the substance of the Report prepared by the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict which you headed. I have several specific questions about the substance of the report arising from statements made there and from your own subsequent comments on November 5th at Brandeis University. I hope that you will clarify these points and address my concerns.

The Mission concluded that Israel may be guilty of war crimes based on the assumption that the country's military forces and leaders deliberately targeted civilians. In order to reach this conclusion, the Mission ignored or discounted available evidence that contradicted that assumption while ignoring the weaknesses in testimony and evidence that imputed to Israel the motive of targeting civilians. This gives rise to the following questions.

1) Questions regarding the al Bader flour mill and denying sustenance to civilians

At the debate, you mentioned the damage to a flour mill in Gaza (the al Bader flour mill) as one of the incidents that convinced you that civilians were intentionally targeted. The Report is more specific, stating that the mill was attacked "for the purposes of denying sustenance to the civilian population" – which it charges may constitute "a war crime."

A) How can you reconcile this imputed motive with Israel's act of transferring 14,208 tons of flour into Gaza during the war – an average of 618 tons/day which is not only significantly more flour than the 220 metric tons the Al Bader mill could have produced in a day; but well over the 450 tons/day that the UN and the World Food Programme says Gaza needs?

Clearly if Israel's intention was to deny flour to Palestinian civilians, it would not have facilitated the import of almost triple the amount produced by the mill that was damaged.

B) And more broadly, how can you reconcile the imputed motive of purposefully denying sustenance to the civilian population with Israel's implementation of a daily humanitarian recess during the war in order to facilitate the transfer of humanitarian supplies?
C) Why did the mission fail to investigate or mention the fact that Hamas repeatedly seized shipments of humanitarian goods that were sent into Gaza from Israel and interfered with their distribution to the point where UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon issued a demand to Hamas to release the goods? Why did the Mission avoid charging Hamas with "denying sustenance to the cvilian population"? (See, for example, "Hamas raids aid trucks, sells supplies" and "Statement by UN Secretary-General Demanding Immediate Release of Humanitarian Goods Seized by Hamas" )

The Report states (in Paragraph 933) that "the aim of the strike, if not military, could only have been "to destroy the local capacity to produce flour." But given that this local capacity is dependent, in any case, on the importation of wheat, it would have been unnecessary for Israel to carry out a military air strike for that purpose. Had Israel's intention been to deny Gazans the "local capacity to produce flour," it could have permanently suspended the transfer of grain – something which it did not do. On the contrary, it facilitated the transfer of both grain and flour into Gaza.

D) Given the above and given the Report's observation (in Paragraph 929) that "the building was one of the tallest in the area and would have offered extensive views...", wouldn't it be more logical to conclude that the strike was against enemy fire and/or surveillance? Why did the Mission dismiss the possibility that the air strike was against a source of Hamas fire and/or surveillance?

If the Mission dismissed this real possibility solely on the basis of the mill owner's testimony, shouldn't they have taken into consideration the real possibility that the witness might have tried to cover up for Hamas operatives fearing retribution lest he incriminate them in his testimony?

Much of the letter refers to the more comprehensive, and recently updated, CAMERA critique of the Goldstone report.