Al Jazeera: Just a quarter of the $3.5bn in aid pledged to rebuild Gaza in the wake of last summer’s devastating war has been delivered, according to a new report.
The report from the Association of International Development Agencies, released on Monday, found that only 26.8 percent ($945m) of the money pledged by donors at the Cairo conference six months ago has been released, and reconstruction and recovery have barely started in the besieged coastal enclave.
“The promising speeches at the donor conference have turned into empty words,” said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam, which was among the report’s signatories.
“There has been little rebuilding, no permanent ceasefire agreement and no plan to end the blockade. The international community is walking with eyes wide open into the next avoidable conflict, by upholding the status quo they themselves said must change.”
News this week that eBay founder Pierre Morad Omidyar is ready to invest $250 million in a new media venture, should have come as unsettling news to staff at the Washington Post.
Jay Rosen says Omidyar “was one of the people approached by the Washington Post Company about buying the Post,” and since Amazon’s Jeffrey Bezos paid $250 million for the Post, it doesn’t sound like he outbid Omidyar. On the contrary, it sounds more like Omidyar felt like if he was going to spend that amount of money, it would be better spent creating a new organization than taking over an old institution.
Technology journalist David Kirkpatrick, describes the Post’s buyer like this: “Bezos is like a trickster. He’s like a very calculating, secretive genius.” Chances are, he views his purchase as a technologist and entrepreneur would: the acquisition of a platform and a strong brand. The bits inside that structure — traditionally known as journalists — must all be aware that they are each expendable.
So what’s a lowly blogger inside the newspaper going to do when afraid that he might seen get trimmed off like a piece of fat? Take new risks and try and stand out? Or curry favor inside the organization by flattering his superiors?
There is a social and journalistic taboo around speculating about motives. After all, since motives are inherently private, such speculation can easily be refuted — even if it happens to be accurate. Still, assessing motives is something that human beings do all the time, even if discretion usually dictates that those assessments, like the motives themselves, also remain concealed. Once in a while, though, it’s worth breaking the taboo.
On Wednesday, the Post’s associate editor and columnist, David Ignatius, revealed this:
The Turkish-Israeli relationship became so poisonous early last year that the Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is said to have disclosed to Iranian intelligence the identities of up to 10 Iranians who had been meeting inside Turkey with their Mossad case officers.
Opinion writers like Ignatius revel in their occasional ability to break news, since it underlines their privileged access to high-level sources. At the same time, they have a habit of making themselves a mouthpiece for such sources. Ignatius, for instance, has been branded as “the CIA’s spokesman at The Washington Post.”
On Thursday, Max Fisher, the Post’s foreign affairs blogger, took the opportunity to give Ignatius’s column an extra boost and suggested that it might have helped resolve an enduring mystery: why it had taken the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, almost three years to apologize to Turkey for the deadly attack on the Mavi Marmara in 2010.
That refusal to apologize is now “much more understandable” — at least in Fisher’s mind — now that (thanks to Ignatius) we know about Turkey’s “effort to slap the Israelis” by outing their Iranian intelligence assets.
Under the headline, “Now we know why Netanyahu wouldn’t apologize for the Gaza flotilla raid,” Fisher is nevertheless forced to concede that this “explanation” explains virtually nothing: “This does not explain, of course, why Netanyahu wouldn’t have apologized between the initial 2010 raid and this reported 2012 spy outing.”
Indeed. On the other hand, Netanyahu’s unwillingness to apologize may in fact answer what Fisher regards as a remaining mystery: “Why did the Turkish government out these Israeli spies?” Urrmmm… how about because the Israelis wouldn’t apologize for killing nine Turkish citizens. (Note, Turkey now denies the outing ever occurred and says Ignatius’s story is a smear campaign.)
Now if Fisher really wanted to dig into the bad blood between Turkey and Israel, he might want to make a less complimentary reference to Ignatius and look back at the 2009 row at Davos which the columnist seriously mishandled.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan took exception to a thundering address delivered by Israeli president Shimon Peres who claimed that the IDF’s conduct, while slaughtering hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza, was above reproach. Ignatius tried to hush Erdogan by insisting that everyone would rather get to dinner, after which the Turkish prime minister famously stormed off the stage.
Fisher wants to point out that “many developments in international relations happen in secret,” as indeed they do, and that only later are some of these mysteries unraveled by sage-like columnists.
But in this case, the columnist was no sage and the most important developments were highly visible.
In a 37-page article for the journal International Security, Jerome Slater writes: Scholars and policymakers regard the Israeli-Palestinian conºict as one of the most serious and intractable conflicts in today’s world. In particular, there continues to be fierce controversy over the most recent large-scale Israeli military action in that conflict: the three-week attack on Gaza that began on December 27, 2008. Operation Cast Lead, as Israelis call the attack, was justified by Israel and its supporters as a legitimate use of force in self-defense, the purpose of which was to end Hamas’s terrorist attacks on Israel’s civilian population. Even critics of Cast Lead have mostly accepted this argument—despite condemning Israel’s methods and, especially, its indiscriminate attacks on Gaza’s civilian infrastructure and sometimes direct attacks on noncombatants. In particular, most of the leading investigations of Cast Lead, including those by the Goldstone Commission, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and B’Tselem (Israel’s leading human rights organization) did not seek to refute the self-defense argument, even as they concluded that Israel had been guilty of war crimes because of the manner in which it conducted the attack on Gaza.
The argument of this article, however, is not only that the Israeli methods were morally (and, in most cases, legally) wrong,1 but that the very purpose of Cast Lead cannot be justified as one of self-defense. Rather, I argue that Cast Lead was a moral catastrophe, a wholesale violation of the just war philosophy that has guided Western thought on war and morality for more than 2,000 years. In addition, with regard to the history of Israeli military strategies, Cast
Lead was hardly unprecedented, because it must be understood in the context of Israel’s “iron wall” strategy, which from the outset has included deliberate attacks on civilians or their economy, institutions, and infrastructures. [Continue reading…]
Haaretz reports: Israel’s military prosecution announced Tuesday that no legal steps will be taken against those responsible for the killing of 21 members of the Samouni family during the 2009 Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
A letter was received by the human rights group B’Tselem from Major Dorit Tuval, Deputy Military Advocate for Operational Matters. Tuval said that the case has been closed after the investigation has found that the attack on the civilians, “who did not take part in the fighting,” and their killing were not done knowingly and directly, or out of haste and negligence “in a manner that would indicate criminal responsibility.”
B’Tselem activists condemned the decision and called for an alternative investigatory body to probe such incidents.
On the morning of January 4, Givati commanders ordered the dozens of members of the extended Samouni family to leave the three-story house (the home of Talal Samouni), which they then turned into their outpost. The soldiers told them to gather in the one-story home of Wail Samouni, on the other side of the road and about 30 meters southeast. The Samounis took the fact that the soldiers themselves concentrated the family in one building, and saw that there were infants, children, women, elderly people and unarmed men, as insurance that they would not be harmed.
Despite the intense firing heard all around them that entire evening, the family’s fears were mitigated by the proximity of the soldiers who had assembled them into the one home. Several of the Samouni men even left the house on Monday morning (January 5) to collect wood for a fire, hoping to bake pita and heat up tea.
They also called out to a relative who had remained in his home, a few meters east of them, and suggested he join them because their house was safe.
In conversations with Haaretz, the Samouni men explained how they felt safe due to the proximity of the IDF soldiers and due to the fact that the soldiers who gathered them in the house saw that they are all civilians.
According to testimonies given to Haaretz and Breaking the Silence by soldiers who took part in the attack, then-Givati Brigade commander Col. Ilan Malka concluded from UAV images of the house that armed Palestinians were inside.
He then ordered an aerial strike on the house, killing one person on the spot. When the casualties went back inside the house, another missile was shot on the house and 20 more people were killed, including three babies and six children between the ages of 5 to 16. Some 40 people were wounded.
Some of the casualties were trapped in the destroyed house, among the bodies, for three days, until the IDF allowed rescue services to arrive at the house and evacuate the bodies.
Attorney Yael Stein of B’Tselem said in response, “It cannot be that in a well-managed system no person will be found guilty of the army operation that led to the killing of 21 people who were not involved in combat, and resided in a structure on the instructions of the army – even if the attack was not done purposefully,” she said.
“The manner in which the army rids itself of responsibility in this case… again illustrates the need for an investigatory body outside of the army.”
A “dangerous” statement by the office of International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor that it cannot consider allegations of crimes committed during the 2008-9 Gaza conflict means Palestinian and Israeli victims seem likely to be denied justice, Amnesty International said.
The Office of the Prosecutor today said that it cannot consider allegations of crimes committed during the conflict unless the relevant UN bodies or ICC states parties determine that the Palestinian Authority is a state.
“This dangerous decision opens the ICC to accusations of political bias and is inconsistent with the independence of the ICC. It also breaches the Rome Statute which clearly states that such matters should be considered by the institution’s judges,” said Marek Marczyński, Head of Amnesty International’s International Justice campaign.
“For the past three years, the prosecutor has been considering the question of whether the Palestinian Authority is a “state” that comes under the jurisdiction of the ICC and whether the ICC can investigate crimes committed during the 2008-9 conflict in Gaza and southern Israel.”
“Now, despite Amnesty International’s calls and a very clear requirement in the ICC’s statute that the judges should decide on such matters, the Prosecutor has erroneously dodged the question, passing it to other political bodies.”
“Amnesty International once again calls on the Prosecutor to follow the procedures established by the Rome Statute by passing the matter to the judges, rather than frustrating efforts to bring justice to Palestinian and Israeli victims of the Gaza conflict.”
Jen Marlowe writes: Just months after the Israeli assault that killed 1,390 Palestinians, I visited Gaza. Among dozens of painful stories I heard, one family stood out. I spent several days with Kamal and Wafaa Awajah, playing with their children, sleeping in the tent they were living in, and filming their story.
Wafaa described the execution of their son, Ibrahim. As she spoke, her children played on the rubble of their destroyed home. Kamal talked about struggling to help his kids heal from trauma.
What compelled me to tell the Awajah family’s story? I was moved not only by their tragedy but by the love for their children in Wafaa and Kamal’s every word.
Palestinians in Gaza are depicted either as violent terrorists or as helpless victims. The Awajah family challenges both portrayals. Through one family’s story, the larger tragedy of Gaza is exposed, and the courage and resilience of its people shines through.
The creation of a Jewish state, right from the moment of its conception, was never compatible with the development of democracy.
Democracy rests on the recognition of the political rights and power of dēmos, the people, and in as much as it allows for any kind of discrimination it does so by empowering the under-privileged. The idea that there could be such as thing as a Jewish democracy which helps preserve the Jewish character of the state at the expense of the interests of non-Jewish minorities is an insult to the idea of democracy.
Even so, since this is a contradiction that doesn’t seem to trouble most Jewish Israelis the most immediate democratic threat to Israel does not come from inside its borders — it comes from Egypt.
A year ago, if in response to an attack emanating from inside Egypt’s borders Israel had “retaliated” by launching attacks on Gaza, it would have been confident that it’s military action would have received a fairly muted response from the Mubarak regime. Demonstrations on the streets of Cairo would have done little to damage Egypt’s cordial relations with Israel.
Now everything has changed. Thus on Monday, even while rockets were still be fired at Israel from Gaza the Netanyahu cabinet voted to refrain from any action that could lead to an all-out war against Hamas. Gone is some of the hubris that fueled Israel’s 2009 war on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead.
Why? Israel can no longer be guided by its confidence that it can punish the population of Gaza with total impunity. Now its calculus must take into consideration the mood of 80 million Egyptians who can do much more than just shout on the streets — they can influence the policies of their own government. That power is still muted by military rule, but everything Israel does to alienate Egypt now has much greater potential to define and sour future Israeli-Egyptian relations.
After the Eilat attacks last week, Israel was swift to launch what Netanyahu described as retaliatory air strikes against the leaders of the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza, even though the Israeli Defense Forces’ spokesperson later denied that the IDF believes the PRC was responsible.
At the same time, Netanyahu’s choice to hit Gaza may have had as much to do with Israel’s wariness about challenging Egypt.
One of the assumptions enshrined in the Camp David Accords was that the demilitarization of Sinai was in Israel’s security interests, but that is no longer the case. Since the fall of Mubarak, militants in the peninsula have taken advantage of the security vacuum, launching multiple rocket attacks, and now, evidence suggests, attacking Israelis outside Eilat.
Before he then pointed the finger at Gaza, Israeli minister of defense Ehud Barak last week acknowledged: “The attacks demonstrate the weakening of Egypt’s control over the Sinai peninsula and the expansion of terrorist activity there.”
Even so, Israel’s political leaders share the same fear of acts of terrorism that politicians do everywhere — that such acts risk making the state look impotent. To have responded to the attacks by saying that Israel would engage in intense diplomatic dialogue with Egypt in order to improve security would not have been enough, yet neither could Israel afford to disregard Egyptian sovereignty by pursuing militants across the border.
The only muscle-flexing alternative was to strike Gaza. But even with its show of force, Israel now feels constrained.
What emerged most clearly from Netanyahu’s and Barak’s statements to the cabinet was that Israel lacks the international legitimacy needed for a large-scale operation in Gaza. The diplomatic crisis with Egypt [following the deaths of three Egyptian policemen killed by Israelis during the Eilat attacks] further constrains Israel’s freedom of action.
“The prime minister thinks it would be wrong to race into a total war in Gaza right now,” one of Netanyahu’s advisors said. “We are preparing to respond if the fire continues, but Israel will not be dragged into places it doesn’t want to be.”
Several Netanyahu aides detailed the constraints on Israeli military action, most of which are diplomatic.
“There’s a sensitive situation in the Middle East, which is one big boiling pot; there’s the international arena; there’s the Palestinian move in the Untied Nations in September,” when the Palestinians hope to obtain UN recognition as a state, one advisor enumerated. “We have to pick our way carefully.”
For Israel, the regional expansion of democracy is clearly problematic. No longer can it take comfort in the deals it once made with a small handful of autocratic allies. Arab populations whose views could all too easily be ignored in the past, now have new power to make themselves heard and the voice of democracy frightens Israel.
Muhammad Idrees Ahmad writes:
A gypsy named Melquiades who died many years ago in Singapore returned to live with the family of Colonel Aureliano Buendia in Macondo, because he could no longer bear the tedium of death. These are the kinds of characters that populate Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magnificent work One Hundred Years of Solitude. Today they also seem to occupy the tribal badlands of Pakistan’s north-western frontier.
On June 3, when Ilyas Kashmiri was killed in a US drone strike, he had already been dead for over a year. In September 2009, the CIA claimed that it killed Kashmiri along with two other senior Taliban leaders in North Waziristan. But the lure of the limelight was seemingly irresistible even in death, because on October 9, Kashmiri returned to give an interview to the late Syed Saleem Shahzad of Asia Times Online.
Baitullah Mehsud, the former commander of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also rose from the dead many times. On at least 16 occasions, Mehsud was in the gun-sights when CIA drones loosed their Hellfire missiles. Yet, until August 2009, he proved unable to settle into the afterlife. Mullah Sangeen also experienced at least two resurrections.
Death is clearly not what it used to be.
Or perhaps the people who were killed in the other attacks were not Kashmiri, Sangeen or Mehsud. Indeed, the attack on a funeral procession on June 23, 2009, which killed Sangeen was supposedly aimed at the TTP chief. It killed 83 people who certainly were not who they were supposed to be.
These are not isolated events. At the end of 2009, the Pakistani daily Dawn calculated that, of the 708 people killed in 44 drone attacks that year, only 5 were known militants. Earlier that year, The News, Pakistan’s other major English-language daily, had calculated that between January 14, 2006, and April 8, 2009, 60 drone attacks killed 701 people – of whom only 14 were known militants.
The US has come a long way since July 2001 when it rebuked the Israeli government for its policy of “targeted assassination”, which it said were really “extrajudicial killings”. In September of that year, CIA director George Tenet confessed that it would be a “terrible mistake” for someone in his position to fire a weapon such as the predator drone. By 2009, such qualms were obsolete. Indeed, the new CIA director Leon Panetta declared predator drones “the only game in town”. The catalyst was 9/11 – and lifting the ban on extrajudicial killings was just one of the many illegal policies it licensed.
The Associated Press reports:
Egypt’s decision Wednesday to end its blockade of Gaza by opening the only crossing to the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory this weekend could ease the isolation of 1.4 million Palestinians there. It also puts the new Egyptian regime at odds with Israel, which insists on careful monitoring of people and goods entering Gaza for security reasons.
The Rafah crossing will be open permanently starting Saturday, Egypt’s official Middle East News Agency announced. That would provide Gaza Palestinians their first open border to the world in four years, since Egypt and Israel slammed their crossings shut after the Islamic militant Hamas overran the Gaza Strip in 2007.
During the closure, Egypt sometimes opened its border to allow Palestinians through for special reasons such as education or medical treatment. But with Israel severely restricting movement of Palestinians through its Erez crossing in northern Gaza, residents there were virtual prisoners.
Reuters reports on differences of opinion in Hamas’ leadership. Does this suggest a possible split in the group? Wrong question. Perhaps more significantly it suggests that the long-held assumptions about who is more radical and ideological and who is more pragmatic got the labels the wrong way round. Contrary to common opinion, the voice of moderate pragmatism tends to come out of Damascus more often than Gaza.
Divisions in Hamas have been brought to the surface by a reconciliation agreement with rival group Fatah, exposing splits in the Palestinian Islamist movement that could complicate implementation of the deal.
It is the first time differences between Hamas leaders in Gaza and the movement’s exiled politburo in Damascus have been aired so openly in public, supporting a view that the group is far from united.
The disagreements have embarrassed a movement that has always denied talk of internal divisions. But analysts do not believe they signal an imminent fracture: neither wing of the Hamas movement can survive without the other.
Signs of strain began to show in the Hamas response to the killing of Osama bin Laden, declared a holy warrior by the head of the Hamas-run Gaza government in remarks described by a member of the exiled leadership as “a slip of the tongue.” Khaled Meshaal, head of the movement in exile, then became the focus of criticism by Gaza-based leaders who said they were surprised by remarks suggesting a degree of support for peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
Meshaal had said Hamas was willing to give “an additional chance” to the peace process always opposed by his group, which is deeply hostile to Israel and has routinely declared negotiations a waste of time.
Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a senior figure in the Gaza administration, said the comments had surprised the entire Hamas movement and contradicted its strategy based on armed conflict with Israel.
Gideon Levy writes:
All at once the last doubts have disappeared and the question marks have become exclamation points. Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu Al-Aish wrote a short book in which he invented the killing of his three daughters. The 29 dead from the Al-Simoni family are now vacationing in the Caribbean. The white phosphorus was only the pyrotechnics of a war film. The white-flag wavers who were shot were a mirage in the desert, as were the reports about the killing of hundreds of civilians, including women and children. “Cast lead” has returned to being a phrase in a Hanukkah children’s song.
A surprising and unexplained article in The Washington Post by Richard Goldstone caused rejoicing here, a Goldstone party, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a long time. In fact, Israeli PR reaped a victory, and for that congratulations are in order. But the questions remain as oppressive as ever, and Goldstone’s article didn’t answer them – if only it had erased all the fears and suspicions.
Anyone who honored the first Goldstone has to honor him now as well, but still has to ask him: What happened? What exactly do you know today that you didn’t know then? Do you know today that criticizing Israel leads to a pressure-and-slander campaign that you can’t withstand, you “self-hating Jew”? This you could have known before.
Was it the two reports by Judge Mary McGowan Davis that led to your change of heart? If so, you should read them carefully. In her second report, which was published about a month ago and for some reason received no mention in Israel, the New York judge wrote that nothing indicates that Israel launched an investigation into the people who designed, planned, commanded and supervised Operation Cast Lead. So how do you know which policy lay behind the cases you investigated? And what’s this enthusiasm that seized you in light of the investigations by the Israel Defense Forces after your report?
You have to be a particularly sworn lover of Israel, as you say you are, to believe that the IDF, like any other organization, can investigate itself. You have to be a blind lover of Zion to be satisfied with investigations for the sake of investigations that produced no acceptance of responsibility and virtually no trials. Just one soldier is being tried for killing.
Electronic Intifada reports:
As Palestinians were preparing for their weekend this Thursday afternoon, all of a sudden barrages of Israeli artillery fire and air raids by warplanes struck several regions of the Gaza Strip. Five Palestinians were killed and about thirty more injured.
Israeli shells struck farm land, homes, a mosque and an ambulance, and the injured were evacuated to al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Kamal Adwan hospital in northern Gaza and the Abu Yousif al-Najjar hospital in southern Gaza.
At the admissions department at al-Shifa hospital, Muhammad al-Madhoun, a journalist, told The Electronic Intifada how he was injured by a huge explosion as he sat at a relative’s home in the al-Saftawi neighborhood in northern Gaza.
“All of a sudden, we heard an explosion and saw pillars of smoke. Then I felt I had a big strike on my head, then I saw nothing and put my hand on my back to find blood. I fell down on the floor and awoke to find myself at the hospital,” al-Madhoun said, surrounded by medical staff.
Sources at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City said that they received six injuries earlier this afternoon; among them were two women and several children.
The Iron Dome missile defense system on Thursday successfully intercepted for the first time a Grad rocket that was fired at the Israeli city of Ashkelon from the Gaza Strip.
Iron Dome’s success Thursday marks the first time in history a short-range rocket was ever intercepted.
According to reports from the area, the interception could be seen in Israeli towns near northern Gaza. The second Iron Dome battery was positioned in the area of Ashkelon over the weekend, in addition to a battery already placed north of Be’er Sheva.
Following the attack on the bus, in which a 16-year-old boy was seriously wounded and the bus driver was hurt moderately, a barrage of 15 rockets and mortars were fired at southern Israel, most of them hitting open areas.
Ahram Online reports:
Palestinian crossings official Raed Fattouh, who coordinates entry of goods between Israel and Gaza, said that Israeli authorities are prohibiting the passage of at least 700 goods into Gaza.
In a press statement Wednesday morning, Fattouh made clear that the Israeli Occupation Forces are preventing 50 per cent of Gaza imports to pass due to excuses that are unsubstantiated and unconvincing.
Fattouh pointed out that most of the prohibited material belongs to the building and construction sector, which increased the housing problem in the strip that had been piling up for four years.
The Washington Post reports:
The democratic uprisings that have swept through the Middle East will make it harder for Israel to reach a peace deal with Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said this week.
That stance puts Netanyahu at odds with others here, including his defense minister, who say the changes in the region add urgency to Israel’s pursuit of a peace accord. It will also dampen expectations that Netanyahu will use a visit to Washington next month to outline any bold new ideas about breaking a negotiating impasse.
“Any potential deal with the Palestinians has to account for the tremendous instability in the region,” Netanyahu said in an interview at his Jerusalem office. “The majority of the Israeli public wants to be sure those concessions don’t endanger Israel’s security.”
Netanyahu has always struck a cautious line on relinquishing more of the West Bank to Palestinian control and has long insisted on the need for strong security guarantees, such as maintaining an Israeli military presence in the disputed territory of the Jordan Valley, part of territory that Palestinians want for a future state. But the tumult in Jordan and Egypt makes him even more cautious about making concessions, a senior Israeli official said.
Al Jazeera reports:
Israeli troops have stormed Awarta village in the northern West Bank, arresting more than 100 women as they hunted the killers of an Israeli family from the illegal settlement of Itamar, officials said.
The military also used bulldozers to destroy Palestinian houses in a northern farming village east of Tubas, in an area under Israeli control, according to Palestinian security officials.
In Awarta, hundreds of troops entered the village shortly after midnight on Thursday and imposed a curfew after which they began rounding up women, many of whom were elderly, local council head Tayis Awwad told the AFP news agency.
They continued to carry out house-to-house searches through the night, he said.
The women were taken to a military camp where troops took their fingerprints – and DNA samples – before most were released, said the Palestinian sources.
Here’s a circle that should never have been closed.
The Goldstone Report, once credited with having provided a hefty shove as Israel veered towards pariah status, is now being held up by Israelis as having unintentionally demonstrated why, when the need arises, Israel will be able to launch Cast Lead Two and once again chant: “we have no choice” — no choice but to slaughter hundreds more Palestinians.
The New York Times reports:
Israel grappled on Sunday with whether a retraction by a United Nations investigator regarding its actions in the Gaza war two years ago could be used to rehabilitate its tarnished international image or as pre-emptive defense in future military actions against armed groups.
The disavowal, by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge who led a panel of experts for the United Nations, appeared in an opinion article in The Washington Post. He said that he no longer believed that Israel had intentionally killed Palestinian civilians during its invasion of Gaza.
Many here considered the article truly significant. Commentary came in a flood, ranging from gracious praise to vindictive indignation. Some cited the message of Proverbs 28:13 that whoever confesses and renounces his sins “finds mercy.”
Still, the question remained whether the harm the Goldstone report caused — the ammunition it gave to those who view Israel as a pariah state and question its right to exist; the campaigns that have stopped some Israeli officials from traveling abroad for fear of arrest for war crimes — could be undone.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that Israel would work “to formulate practical and public diplomacy measures in order to reverse and minimize the great damage that has been done by this campaign of denigration against the State of Israel.”
A number of officials said that while the blow to Israel’s name had been great, the renunciation of the harshest conclusion would help in the future.
“The one point of light regards future actions,” Gabriela Shalev, a law professor and most recently Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said on Israel Radio. “If we have to defend ourselves against terror organizations again, we will be able to say there is no way to deal with this terror other than the same way we did in Cast Lead.”
“If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document,” Judge Goldstone wrote in the Washington Post. But it matters little what kinds of revisions Goldstone would now make; the most significant thing is that he is perceived as having disavowed some of his own conclusions.
The political impact of the report always had more to do with the identity of its author than the report’s contents. Thus the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict quickly became known simply as the Goldstone Report. It’s supposed authority derived not from the fact that it had been produced by independent international fact-finding mission under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Council — what mattered more than anything else was that Goldstone was Jewish and a Zionist.
Israel — the theory went — would be forced to sit up and pay attention if a humanitarian rebuke came from such an impeccable source. But on the contrary, Goldstone ended up being elevated to the status of presenting an existential threat to the Jewish state, on a par with Iran.
He has now effectively disarmed himself.
Israel, long enamored with the notion that its soldiers have higher moral standards than any other military force, has been quick to declare that it has been vindicated. The Goldstone Report itself has ended up better serving those who want to sustain Israel’s sense of victimhood than in being the cause of any change in Israel’s behavior.
There’s a lesson here: don’t attach too much attention to a 500-page report that few people have read, or to the ethnicity or ideology of the messenger. The reason Gaza changed the world’s view of Israel was largely thanks to on-the-ground reporting — not a report — and it came from the voices and faces and presence of young journalists who were describing what they saw, as it happened.
Al Jazeera shone the brightest spotlight on Gaza — in his report, Goldstone did little more than reiterate what we already knew.
The Palestine Papers reveal:
On October 2, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council was widely expected to pass a resolution supporting the Goldstone Report, the UN’s probe of war crimes committed during Israel’s war in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.
The Council instead agreed to delay a vote on the report until March 2010, following major reservations expressed by the Palestinian Authority, the United States and Israel.
A UNHRC endorsement of the report would have brought Israeli officials one step closer to prosecution before a war crimes tribunal, an event many Palestinians were anxious to see.
But, as The Palestine Papers reveal, the Palestinian Authority apparently sacrificed a potential victory for Palestinian victims in exchange for favorable assurances on negotiations from the United States and, they hoped, from Israel.
Richard Falk writes:
It is dismaying that during this dark anniversary period two years after the launch of the deadly attacks on the people of Gaza, code-named Operation Cast Lead by the Israelis, that there should be warnings of a new massive attack on the beleaguered people of Gaza. The influential Israeli journalist, Ron Ren-Yishai, writes on December 29, 2010, of the likely prospect of a new IDF major attack, quoting senior Israeli military officers as saying “It’s not a question of if, but rather of when,” a view that that is shared, according Ren-Yishai, by “government ministers, Knesset members and municipal heads in the Gaza region.” The bloody-minded Israeli Chief of Staff, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi reinforces this expectation by his recent assertion that “As long as Gilad Shalit is still in captivity, the mission is not complete.” He adds with unconscious irony, “We have not lost our right of self-defense.” More accurate would be the assertion, “We have not given up our right to wage aggressive war or to commit crimes against humanity.” And what of the more than 10,000 Palestinians, including children under the age of 10, being held in Israeli prisons throughout occupied Palestine.
Against this background, the escalation of violence along the Gaza/Israel border, should set off alarm bells around the world and at the United Nations. Israel in recent days has been launching severe air strikes against targets within the Gaza Strip, including near the civilian crowded refugee camp of Khan Younis, killing several Palestinians and wounding others. Supposedly, these attacks are in retaliation for nine mortar shells that fell on open territory, causing neither damage nor injury. Israel also had been using lethal force against children from Gaza, who were collecting gravel from the buffer zone for the repair of their homes. As usual, the Israeli security pretext lacks credibility as if ever there was an occasion for firing warning shots in the air, it was here, especially as the border has been essentially quiet in the last couple of years, and what occasional harmless rockets or mortar shells have been fired, has taken place in defiance of the Hamas effort to prevent providing Israel with any grounds for the use of force. Revealingly, in typical distortion, the Gaza situation is portrayed by Ashkenazi as presenting a pre-war scenario: “We will not allow a situation in which they fire rockets at our citizens and towns from ‘safe havens’ amid [their] civilians.” With Orwellian precision, the reality is quite the reverse: Israel from its safe haven continuously attacks with an intent to kill a defenseless, entrapped Gazan civilian population.
Perhaps, worse in some respects than this Israeli war-mongering, is the stunning silence of the governments of the world, and of the United Nations. World public opinion was briefly shocked by the spectacle of one-sided war that marked Operation Cast Lead as a massive crime against humanity, but it has taken no notice of this recent unspeakable escalation of threats and provocations seemingly designed to set the stage for a new Israeli attack on the hapless Gazan population. This silence in the face of the accumulating evidence that Israel plans to launch Operation Cast Lead 2 is a devastating form of criminal complicity at the highest governmental levels, especially on the part of countries that have been closely aligned with Israel, and also exhibits the moral bankruptcy of the United Nations System. We have witnessed the carnage of ‘preemptive war’ and ‘preventive war’ in Iraq, but we have yet to explore the moral and political imperatives of ‘preemptive peace’ and ‘preventive peace.’ How long must the peoples of the world wait?
Joseph Dana writes:
Of all the criminals involved with the 2008 Gaza war, an Israeli leftist will be going to jail for riding his bike against the war in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv Magistrates court judge Yitzhak Yitzhak convicted Israeli leftist Jonathan Pollak of illegal assembly for his participation in a January 2008 Critical Mass ride against the siege on Gaza and then sentenced him to three months imprisonment that will begin on January 11th, 2011. Pollak was the only one detained at the said protest, and was accused of doing nothing other than riding his bicycle in the same manner as the rest of the protesters. The conviction activates an older three-month suspended sentence imposed on Pollak in a previous trial for protesting the construction of the Separation Barrier. An additional three month prison term was also imposed for the current conviction, which will be served concurrently. His imprisonment is part of a clear strategy of silencing dissent in the Israeli left.
Jonathan Pollak is one of the founders of the Israeli leftist group “Anarchists Against the Wall“, which join weekly unarmed Palestinian protests throughout the West Bank against the Separation Wall and the Occupation. Since 2008, he has served the media coordinator of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, an Palestinian umbrella organization designed to garner media attention for the unarmed struggle in the West Bank.
Pollak gave the following statement in court today:
Your Honor, once found guilty, it is then customary for the accused to ask the court for leniency, and express remorse for having committed the offence. However, I find myself unable to do so. From its very beginning, this trial contained practically no disagreements over the facts. As the indictment states, I indeed rode my bicycle, alongside others, through the streets of Tel Aviv, to protest the siege on Gaza. And indeed, while riding our bicycles, which are legally vehicles belonging on the road, we may have slightly slowed down traffic. The sole and trivial disagreement in this entire case revolves around testimonies heard from police detectives, who claimed I played a leading role throughout the protest bicycle ride, something I, as well as the rest of the Defense witnesses, deny.
As said earlier, it is customary at this point of the proceedings to sound remorseful, and I would indeed like to voice my regrets regarding one particular aspect of that day’s events: if there is remorse in my heart, it is that, just as I argued during the trial, I did not play a prominent role in the protest that day, and thus did not fulfill my duty to do everything within my power to change the unbearable situation of Gaza’s inhabitants, and bring to an end Israel’s control over the Palestinians.
His Honor has stated during the court case, and will most likely state again in the future, that a trial is not a matter of politics, but of law. To this I reply that there is hardly anything to this trial except political disagreement. This Court may have impeded the mounting of an appropriate defense when it refused to hear arguments regarding political selectiveness in the Police’s conduct, but even from the testimonies which were admitted, it became clear such a selectiveness exists.
The subject of my alleged offense, as well as the motivation behind it were political. This is something that cannot be sidestepped. The State of Israel maintains an illegitimate, inhuman and illegal siege on the Gaza Strip, which still is occupied territory according to international law. This siege, carried out in my name and in yours as well, sir, in fact in all of our names, is a cruel collective punishment inflicted on ordinary citizens, residents of the Gaza strip, subjects-without-rights under Israeli occupation.
In the face of this reality, and as a stance against it, we chose on January 31st, 2008, to exercise the freedom of speech afforded to Jewish citizens of Israel. However, it appears that here in our one-of-many-faux-democracies in the Middle East, even this freedom is no longer freely granted, even to society’s privileged sons.
I am not surprised by the Court’s decision to convict me despite having no doubt in my mind that our actions on that day correspond to the most basic, elementary definitions of a person’s right to protest.
Indeed, as the Prosecution pointed out, a suspended prison sentence hung over my head at the time of the bicycle protest, having been convicted before under an identical article of law. And, although I still maintain I did not commit any offense whatsoever, I was aware of the possibility that under Israeli justice, my suspended sentence would be imposed.
I must add that, if His Honor decides to go ahead and impose my suspended prison sentence, I will go to prison wholeheartedly and with my head held high. It will be the justice system itself, I believe, that ought to lower its eyes in the face of the suffering inflicted on Gaza’s inhabitants, just like it lowers its eyes and averts its vision each and every day when faced with the realities of the occupation.
In a profile for The Independent, Donald Macintyre wrote:
[Pollak] attended the first of very many demonstrations as a months-old babe-in-arms at the huge mass rally in Tel Aviv calling for an end to the first Lebanon war in 1982. What makes him and his Israeli comrades unusual, however, is the decision to go beyond mere demonstrations to, as he himself puts it, “crossing sides, moving from protest to joining resistance”.
A high school dropout at 15, he was a teenage animal right activist, a cause with few Israeli adherents – and most of those Israelis who were part of it were anarchists. Very much part of Tel Aviv’s young counterculture in the politically relatively relaxed Nineties, Mr Pollak became one too. He remains an anarchist and a vegan, still a strong believer in animal rights, which he sees as consistent with his wider politics. For him, “racism, chauvinism, sexism, speciesism all come from the same place of belittling the other”, he said.
A few minor brushes with the law appear to have been enough to convince the army that he was not suitable material for compulsory military service. “I don’t think they wanted me any more than I wanted them,” he said. He spent two years in the Netherlands, living in a squat, before being deported back to Israel.
By this time, the second intifada was at its peak, and Mr Pollak found himself drawn, despite the dangers for a young Israeli of visiting the West Bank at the time, to the unarmed dimension of the Palestinian cause – including, most significantly, the very first anti-barrier protests in the West Bank village of Jayyous.
According to [Ayed] Morrar [the director of Budrus], a long-term opponent of armed uprising, “Jonathan… is a man trying to prove that those who believe in occupation cannot claim to be humanitarian or civilised. He also wants to prove that resisting oppression and occupation does not mean being a terrorist or killing”.