The Day In Israel: Sun Oct 25th, 2009

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bibi-barakThe US Congress is expected to vote in favor on a bipartisan bill calling on US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to categorically negate the UN’s Goldstone Report.

Meanwhile, here in Israel, the cabinet had a heated discussion on whether Israel will set up a commission of inquiry on the Goldstone report’s allegations of war crimes, with Defense Minister Ehud Barak – who opposes such a commission – angered by PM Netanyahu’s comments to the Washington Times on the possibility of setting up a commission of inquiry “not because of the Goldstone report but because of our own internal needs.”

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)



11:00PM: Fascinating BBC documentary on Entebbe, as part of the Age of Terror series.

Yes, I did say BBC.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Those were the days we didn’t negotiate with terrorists.

8:15PM: Richard Goldstone speaking with PBS’ Bill Moyers.


Fellow Understanding the Goldstone Report contributor Avi Bell, Professor of Law at Bar Ilan University and at University of San Diego Law School, has already done the hard work of watching the entire interview and analyzing Goldstone’s responses. Here’s what he had to say:

  1. The Goldstone report draws its conclusions on the basis of 36 incidents it says it investigated. The report says that incidents are illustrative and therefore justify the broader conclusions made by the report. But Goldstone admits that the report lied in saying that the incidents are “illustrative” and in saying that the Mission worked according to its self-described neutral mandate rather than the official biased one. Goldstone says “We chose those 36 because they seemed to be, to represent the most serious, the highest death toll, the highest injury toll. And they appear to represent situations where there was little or no military justification for what happened.” In other words, the Mission chose incidents that were seen as NOT ILLUSTRATIVE, and, rather, most likely to support a finding of war crimes.
  2. Goldstone repeatedly misstates the law in the interview.a) Goldstone implicitly misstates the rule of distinction. Goldstone rightly says that the rule of distinction requires combatants to distinguish between “combatants and innocent civilians.” But then, he “proves” that Israel violated the rule of distinction by saying “We found evidence in statements made by present and former political and military leaders, who said, quite openly, that there’s going to be a disproportionate attack. They said that if rockets are going to continue, we’re going to hit back disproportionately.” Stating that a counter-attack will be disproportionate to the attack isn’t a violation of the rule of distinction. The rule of distinction requires that Israel not aim its fire at civilians as such. It has nothing to do with how much fire Israel can aim at legitimate targets.b) Regarding the rules of distinction and proportionality, Moyers asks Goldstone, “Who is to say that? Who is to make that distinction?” Goldstone answers, “Well, that distinction must be made after the event.” That is absolutely, positively, not the law. The law is that commanders must make judgments on the basis of knowledge they have at the time, not that one second-guesses them after the event and judges them guilty on the basis of knowledge they may not have had. Thus, for example, Newton testified “In order to properly assess a real proportionality assessment therefore, the relevant question is what did the commander know? What information was available to him?”This is not an isolated misstatement by Goldstone. Throughout the interview, he keeps giving examples of judging after the fact. For example, he says: “We spoke to the owner of a home in Gaza City. He said he looked out of his window and he saw some militants, whether Hamas or other Palestinian groups, setting up their mortar launchers in his yard. He ran out and said, “Get out of here. I don’t want you doing this here. You’re going to endanger my family, because they going to bomb. Get out.” And in fact, they left. Whether that was typical or atypical, I don’t know, we didn’t, obviously, cover the field. But assuming they had disobeyed them, assuming they had launched the rockets from over the objections of the household owner, and his family, they launched the rockets and disappeared. It would be a war crime, as I understand it, for Israel to have bombed the home of that innocent household, who didn’t want this to happen.” Goldstone again, is wrong. Even if the facts were as Goldstone stated them, and the owner was absolutely innocent, the launching point of rockets would still be a legitimate target, and it would be permissible to attack it if the collateral damage were proportionate to anticipated military advantage, notwithstanding the damage to an innocent owner.Here’s another example. Moyer prompts “so there was intention,” meaning Israel deliberately violated the rule of distinction. Goldstone responds: “Well, certainly. You know, one thing one can’t say about the Israel Defense Forces is that they make too many mistakes. They’re very, a sophisticated army. And if they attack a mosque or attack a factory, and over 200 factories were bombed, there’s just no basis to ascribe that to error. That must be intentional.” Goldstone again is arguing that he can determine whether there was a crime by looking after the fact at what was destroyed, without any evidence of what the commander thought was the military advantage in attacking the site and what the commander thought would be the collateral damage. In Goldstone’s favor, here he at least tries to provide an excuse for his misstatement of the law: his preposterous assumption of Israeli omniscience.

    c) Goldstone falsely states that the only legal way to fight in an urban area is with commando actions. Moyer asks him: “But when the terrorists, the militants, whatever one wants to call them, are known to be embedded in, as you say, those tight, complex, concentrated areas, what’s the other army to do?” Goldstone says: “It’s for example, to launch commando actions, to get at the militants and not the innocent civilians.” This is clearly not in line with the practice of any other state in the world.

  3. Goldstone says that NATO fighting in Yugoslavia was basically legal (Goldstone’s comment: “Take the United States fighting wars in Kosovo and Iraq and Afghanistan. They have certainly at a high level, gone to extremes to protect innocent civilians. Where they’ve made mistakes, and mistakes have been made, in Kosovo, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, apologies have followed. The United States, in general, has accepted and tried its best, with the assistance of military lawyers, has tried its best to avoid violating international humanitarian law.”). But Israel’s government specifically said, and the report noted that “The Israeli Government states that this expression of its objectives is no broader than those expressed by NATO in 1998 during its campaign in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia” (paragraph 1201). And the report responded by intimating that Israel’s objectives were therefore illegal (paragraph 1202 – “The Mission makes no comment on the legality or otherwise of NATO actions there”), before then saying explicitly that Israel’s objectives were illegal.
  4. It’s interesting to see what Goldstone calls a good investigation. He dismisses the more than 100 Israeli investigations now ongoing because, he says, “it’s now, what, seven months since the end of the war. There’s only been one successful prosecution against a soldier, who stole a credit card, which is really almost fodder for cartoonists, in the plethora of alleged war crimes.” In other words, Israeli investigations will only be credible if they find Israelis guilty. The other reason he advances for attacking the Israeli investigations is “in those military investigations, as far as I’ve read, in only one cases have the military even approached the victims in Gaza. And obviously, to have a full investigation, one needs, as you say, to hear both sides.” This is rich, considering that Goldstone never spoke to any of the persons he accuses of committing crimes. Goldstone adds that Israeli investigations shouldn’t be trusted because they are done in “…secrecy? And, you know, I always quote Justice Brandeis, who said, “The best disinfectant is sunlight.” And this is happening in the dark. And even with the best good faith in the world on the part of the military investigators, the victims are not going to accept decisions that are taken in the dark, and don’t involve them.” But Goldstone is still refusing to refuse the evidence (written submissions, etc.) on the basis of which the report was written.
  5. Goldstone states of Israel, “It’s got a wonderful legal system, its got a great judicial system, its got retired judges who certainly, in my book, would earn the respect of the overwhelming number of people around the world, including the Arab world, who, if they held open, good faith inquiries, would put an end to this.” It’s worth reciting this in relation to Goldstone’s claims of the inadequacy of Israeli investigations. As paragraph 1803 of the report admits, the Israeli investigatory system ends at the High Court of Justice. Anyone who is disappointed with a decision not to investigate an incident or bring charges against an individual, or failure of a military court to convict may appeal to the High Court of Justice. This includes non-citizens, like alleged Palestinian victims, and interested observers like Goldstone himself. And the High Court of Justice has no standing requirement, so anyone may bring suit, even if they are not directly harmed. If Goldstone really cares to have new investigations, and has any real evidence to show that crimes were committed aside from the conclusory statements in the report, why doesn’t he file a petition with the Israeli High Court of Justice? Why doesn’t he suggest it to any of the alleged Palestinian victims? Is he afraid to put his alleged evidence to the test of a court?

7:35PM: Now this is rich.

cry babyJustice Richard Goldstone has turned down an invitation by the Israeli Press Council to speak at a journalism conference in Eilat, slated to be held in November, according to a statement issued on the council’s Web site on Sunday.

Goldstone, who headed the UN fact-finding mission charged with investigating Hamas and IDF actions during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, has accused Israel of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the campaign, sparking widespread controversy in Israel.

In response to the invitation, Goldstone wrote in a letter to Press Council Director-General Eric Bahar that he would not be able to attend the conference, due to a prior speaking engagement at New York’s Fordham University law school, according to the statement.

In the letter, Goldstone also expressed his disappointment with the Israeli reaction to his commission’s report, likening it to bullying and stressing that he had urged the government to cooperate with his investigation.

7:26PM: A 21-year-old palestinian woman has stabbed a security guard at the Qalandiya checkpoint in northern Jerusalem.

A security guard stationed at the Qalandiya checkpoint in northern Jerusalem sustained light to moderate injuries Sunday afternoon after being stabbed by a Palestinian woman in the abdomen.

The assailant was apprehended. The guard was treated at the scene by Magen David Adom emergency services personnel and later evacuated to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital.

“The guard was lying on the ground with a stab wound to his lower abdomen, and the young female terrorist was apprehended,” one of the paramedics said, “The guard was in great pain; he was in a state of shock.”

According to Magen David Adom, the stab wound was five centimeters deep (about two inches).

Guards manning the checkpoint spotted the knife in the woman’s handbag as she passed through the metal detector. She stabbed one of the guards who approached her with a knife she pulled out from under her skirt.

But the checkpoints are the problem, right?

4:35PM: Alan Howe of the Herald Sun has written this excellent op-ed on the Goldstone Report.

They say that you should set a thief to catch a thief.

The none-too-smart and ideologically unsound United Nations works on more simplistic levels – it sets angry Arabs to catch its Jews.

Works every time.

There’s no shortage of angry, resentful and underachieving Arabs at the UN, nor will it run out of like-minded Africans too soon.

By and large, Arabs and Africans are not good at democracy. They don’t do personal freedoms all that well. Many of them are fond of cruel and unusual punishments – you know, public stonings for miscreant young women wanting to marry the man of their choosing, that sort of thing.

That the UN powerlessly condemns such behaviour is, apparently, beside the point.

In a sneering perversion of logic, some Arab and African nations, to whom human rights are an unnecessary indulgence, sit at some of the UN’s top tables – the UN Human Rights Council and even the Committee Against Torture.

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Sharing leg space under the UN’s influential desks are such legendary stalwarts of democratic fairness and equality as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Cameroon, Madagascar, Jordan, Nigeria, Senegal and China. Tin pots, basket cases, thugs – take your pick.

They were just some of the countries that, as members of the Human Rights Council, initiated and sat on an inquiry into the Israeli actions in Gaza, which took place almost a year ago.

Led by esteemed South African jurist Richard Goldstone, they lived up to cheeky Oscar Wilde’s putdown of Britain’s then greatest poet, William Wordsworth. Wilde said of Wordsworth’s famous bucolic lessons that “he found in stones lessons he had already put there”.

The UN Human Rights Council had its finding sewn up in January when it sent “an independent … fact-finding mission” to the “occupied Gaza Strip”.

O CCUPIED by whom? The Israelis walked away from Gaza four years ago, courageously dismantling the settlements there and controversially forcing its grumpy civilians to leave.

The only Israeli in Gaza that I can think of is the kidnapped soldier, Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Hamas terrorists for more than three years. Now there’s someone Goldstone might have spoken to.

Gazans paid Israelis back in spades for the long-sought opportunity to be masters of their own fate: they sent thousands of Qasam rockets over the border and on to local towns, the deadly fusillade becoming a political imperative in democratic Israel.

Israelis wanted their Government to stop the shelling and end the terror. That’s why the Israeli army entered Gaza last December in a controversial invasion in which about 1400 people were killed, mostly Palestinians. That’s the thing when you take on the Israelis; they don’t come at you with some wobbly rockets that Uncle Ali knocked up out the back last night.

And if you are going to employ the terrorist tactics of hiding and operating in densely populated areas and schools, expect some painful collateral damage.

The UNHRC didn’t appear to be on a hunt for the truth – that often being unbearable – but they are keen to reinforce the prejudices of each other by condemning Israel. Its predecessor, the UN Human Rights Commission, did the same until, thoroughly discredited, it embarrassed even Secretary-General Kofi Annan and he shut it down.

So with a slight change of name – the acronym stays the same, saves on stationery – it’s back to the same unquenchable hatred for Israel.

Goldstone’s report predictably accused Israel of human rights abuses in Gaza – so self-defence is now a crime?

A RESOLUTION endorsing the report’s finding went further, upsetting its author. It contained “not a single phrase condemning Hamas as we have done in the report”, said Goldstone, sounding almost surprised.

So which fearless, peace-loving and virtuous states signed on?

Senegal, for a start. Kids are big business in Senegal, but not the Toys ‘R’ Us kind. There they are sold into forced labor, prostituted and often trafficked to other countries to become domestic servants – the illegal variety that has almost no identity and whom you can imprison and rape with impunity.

This year Senegal arrested nine HIV-prevention workers, reportedly beat them, accused them of consorting with criminals (being in police custody in Dakar, I guess they were), charged them with “indecent and unnatural acts” and jailed them.

Senegal – and I wish this were a joke – is also a key player on the UN’s Committee Against Torture.

Egypt also saw merit in the loony resolution. Now here’s a country that keeps the Committee Against Torture busy. The committee has expressed concern at the “persistence of the phenomenon of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by law enforcement officials”.

In 2002, the very committee on which now Egypt sits found it guilty of a pattern of “torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.

Nigeria voted yes. I’m voting Nigeria’s one of the nastiest governments on earth. Prisoners of its corrupt judicial system are raped and tortured. The lucky ones.

In Nigeria’s northern states, lashings and stonings are popular and, if you see an amputee in the streets, it is unlikely that he is a member of the Limbless Soldiers’ Association. Of course, there are restrictions on freedoms of speech, movement, assembly, religion and the press.

Djibouti voted yes, but I wonder what the genitally mutilated, repressed women of that Horn of Africa hellhole really think?

Cameroon voted yes, and if you are up for a few entertaining minutes just look at official travel advisory for it.

While you are there you might check advisories for Zambia, Pakistan, Ghana, the Philippines, Russia, Richard Goldstone’s homeland South Africa, Qatar, Mauritius and all the others who sit in judgment on a world gone mad.

1:48PM: Ynet’s Yair Lapid writes about his upcoming interview with Swedish “journalist” Donald Bostrom – of organ harvesting blood libel fame.

I’m supposed to interview Donald Bostrom at the upcoming Dimona media convention. But maybe I’m supposed to take the stage and punch him in the face?

Bostrom is the Swedish journalist who published the infamous article accusing IDF troops of harvesting organs from Palestinian bodies. We are dealing, of course, with a blood libel of the worst kind. However, Bostrom, who never saw such body and was unable to bring any proof for his story aside from a bunch of wild Palestinian rumors, still argues that the matter must be probed.

The moment such story emerges, he says, the press’ job is to publish it. And now I’ve been tasked with the unpleasant duty of explaining to Bostrom that he doesn’t understand how the press works during war.

According to Bostrom, freedom of expression means that if someone lies, the journalist isn’t supposed to verify the truth – but rather, publish the lie in a “balanced manner” (that is, next to a weak denial that convinces nobody.) Journalists like Bostrom never lie; they merely report the truth about what they were told by liars.

The story published by Bostrom, if you try for a moment to cool off and read it objectively, stems from lack of understanding: Israel, by law, sends anyone hurt by IDF fire to a post-mortem examination. Absurdly, this is part of our attempt to seek the truth. When the Bostroms of the world call, we want to give them accurate answers: Who killed him? Under what circumstances? When?

However, the Palestinians saw the bodies with the stitching marks on them and didn’t get it. Why is there a need to perform a post-mortem? They asked themselves. He was hit by a bullet and died. So then they started to circulate wild rumors, and Hamas’ PR department sold the story to the global media, and Bostrom bought into it.

Because from Goldstone to Bostrom, the State of Israel gets slammed time and again in the same way: The Palestinians lie. They realized, much before we did, that the war takes place not only on the streets of Gaza, but also on millions of TV screens. In their view, if we are allowed to use phosphorous bombs, they are allowed to use lies. This is the classic weapon of the weak: Cheap, effective, risk-free, and let’s admit it: Painful.

So is Bostrom an anti-Semite? Of course he is. Does he know he’s an anti-Semite? That’s a different story. I tend to believe that if we connect him to a polygraph and ask him whether he hates Jews, the needles will not shake. He doesn’t hate us; he just thinks we’re different.

It’s hard to blame him. This notion, that we’re different, came from us after all. If for 2,000 years you dress up differently, believe in a different God, celebrate different holidays, and on top of it insist on telling everyone that you’re completely different than them, ultimately they’ll believe you.

The problem is that this is a double-edged sword. When we say we’re different, we in fact mean to say that we’re better. It’s very nice, but human nature doesn’t work that way.

People always tend to prefer people who are similar to them; and what’s worse, they are always willing to believe about others things they would believe about themselves. They are different, these Jews, and everything is possible with them. They may be so smart that thye figured out the mystery of the ribosome, and they may be so cold-hearted that they created a hedge fund and stole $50 billion, and they may be so cruel as to harvest organs. You can never know; after all you can’t know what goes through their mind.

And the most painful part is that they placed us in the same category with the liars.

12:48PM: In case you think the Arab rioters are throwing “mere rocks” (which can be lethal on their own)

petrol bomb - Reuters

Palestinians stand near a fire that started after Arab youths threw a petrol bomb during clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem’s Old City October 25, 2009. Israeli police fired stun grenades at Arab youths who threw rocks at them (and petrol bombs, of course – ed.) in the compound of Jerusalem’s flashpoint al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City on Sunday, Israeli and Palestinian officials and witnesses said. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun (JERUSALEM POLITICS CONFLICT)

No doubt if any of the palestinians get burned, they will:

  • Blame Israel
  • Get their medical treatment in Israel at the taxpayers’ expense

9:08AM: Arab rioters have planned a “spontaneous” welcome to the working week on the Temple Mount.

Security forces, who were already on high alert in Jerusalem on Sunday morning, didn’t have to wait long to be called into action, confronting Muslim rioters on the Temple Mount and arresting 12 people.

Police, who were accompanying a group of tourists up to the mount, had caught several Muslim youngsters on video camera preparing to cause trouble, including filling barrels of oil to pour onto the ground to hinder the access of security forces and the visitors.

Following the discovery, police reinforcements stormed the mount and were pelted with stones by the young rioters. The forces dispersed the riots using stun grenades, among other means at their disposal.

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