Monthly Archives: September 2009

Interview on IBA English News about Goldstone

I was interviewed this afternoon on the Israel Broadcasting Authority English News. If you want to see it, it’s up for 24 hours at IBA Closeup. I come in a little after half-way through.

It will be up tomorrow for 24 hours at Jewish TV News Network. Click on Israel Daily News from the IBA.

Goldstone: High Priest of Human Rights, Demopath’s Lethal Weapon

Melanie Phillips has a must-read analysis of the problem with the human rights community as it now stands. In so doing she has an interesting (and probably controversial thesis about both the biblical origins of human rights and the reasons why today’s “human rights advocates” have made Israel a major target.

I don’t have time to comment now, but will in the coming days. Meantime, I leave it to my readers to comment.

The ‘human rights’ witch-hunt

As readers may know, I have had my differences with the American civil liberties lawyer Alan Dershowitz – specifically, over how American Jews can continue to support Barack Obama given his acute hostility towards Israel and appeasement of the Arab and Islamic world. Nonetheless, all credit to Dershowitz for mounting a devastating onslaught upon Richard Goldstone and his shocking travesty of justice masquerading as judicious analysis for the UN Human Rights Commission on Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. In this piece, Dershowitz accuses Goldstone of conducting a ‘kangaroo court’ in which he

    abandoned all principles of objectivity and neutral human rights.

And in this terrific piece he excoriates Goldstone’s ‘wilful and deliberate’ refusal to hear the other side of the story – Israel’s side: the most elementary precondition of justice and fairness. As I wrote here, the mandate Goldstone was given by the UN required him to be thus one-sided and unjust, singling out Israel alone for investigation and thus merely collecting the evidence to uphold the prior verdict of guilt – an utter negation of legal and ethical principles which he sought to conceal by presenting a dubiously revised version of his mandate which bestowed a veneer of even-handedness, while delivering precisely the rigged verdict that the UN had required of him. Dershowitz tears him to shreds by showing how he refused to take evidence from Col Richard Kemp, Britain’s former commander in Afghanistan who had previously stated that during Cast Lead Israel had behaved with globally unprecedented ethical care to avoid killing Palestinian civilians — evidence which would have holed below the water-line the blood-libel Goldstone was assembling from overwhelmingly partisan sources that Israel had deliberately targeted civilians.

Dershowitz has written countless powerful articles and books attacking the Israel-bashers. Yet his onslaught upon Goldstone has a different quality. It is a cry of anguish. He has clearly set out not just to destroy Goldstone’s report but to destroy Goldstone. Thus he states:

    His name will forever be linked in infamy with such distorters of history and truth as Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and Jimmy Carter.

The reason for this all-out attack is surely that Goldstone personally embodies the two most nightmarish, perplexing and agonising aspects of the witch-hunt against Israel: that a malevolent campaign based on bigotry, falsehoods and injustice marches mind-bendingly under the banner of ‘human rights’; and that so many of its leading proponents are Jews.

Anatomy of (Self-)Contempt: Gideon Levy on Netanyahu’s UN Speech

Gideon Levy wrote a piece filled with contempt for Netanyahu’s UN Speech, which I posted last week. Now, having heard and read the speech, I’m amazed at what Levy says, since it barely even accords with the speech. In a sense what Levy has done is illustrate the famous Gary Larson cartoon.

what dogs hear
I tried to find the one with the wife yelling at her husband: “You are impossible. If you don’t make the bed right now, I’ll go crazy.” And he hears: “You…me…bed…now…crazy.”

What Bibi said; what Levy heard:

Netanyahu’s speech / Cheapening the Holocaust

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cheapened the memory of the Holocaust in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday. He did so twice. Once, when he brandished proof of the very existence of the Holocaust, as if it needed any, and again when he compared Hamas to the Nazis.

If Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, Netanyahu cheapens it. Is there a need of proof, 60 years later? Or, the world might think, is the denier right?

Apparently Levy lives in a universe where Holocaust denial is a mere pecadillo of the extreme loony right. He seems unaware of the growing encroachment of denial — especially among his people’s enemies — or the increasing mainstream credibilty it now receives in places like Spain. Cheapen? Many of the people in that room (a lone Palestinian delegate was still there) think it’s a serious debate, and all who left think the Jews made most of this up.

This purist claim that trying to refute Holocaust denial should be considered cheapening the Holocaust is doubly revolting coming from someone who surely would have no truck with those who make the Holocaust a sacred issue, and on the contrary, whose work is especially appreciated by people who belittle the Holocaust. Indeed, Norman Finkelstein, who regularly dismsses Holocaust-mongering, and compares Israel to the Nazis — something Levy would never do — loves Levy’s column. (One might argue that Finkelstein is to Levy, what Levy is to Netanyahu in the Gary Larson cartoon.)

Ben Dror Yemini vs. Gideon Levy: Fireman vs. Arsonist

Two articles today exemplify the vast differences between sanity and masochism in Israeli journalism, one by Gideon Levy of Ha-aretz expressing sheer contempt for Netanyahu’s speech at the UN, another expressing sheer contempt of Richard Goldstone for being the tool of “the dark side.” I link to the beginning of Levy’s (which I don’t have the time to fisk, but welcome your suggestions), and the full text of Yemini’s which appeared originally in Hebrew in Ma’ariv.

First, the arsonist who, in his glorious ability to “self”-criticize, spews his venom where all who hate his people can come and draw sustenance:

Netanyahu’s speech / Cheapening the Holocaust

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cheapened the memory of the Holocaust in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday. He did so twice. Once, when he brandished proof of the very existence of the Holocaust, as if it needed any, and again when he compared Hamas to the Nazis.

If Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, Netanyahu cheapens it. Is there a need of proof, 60 years later? Or, the world might think, is the denier right? A Advertisementnd it is doubtful that any historian of stature would buy the comparison the prime minister made between Hamas and the Nazis, or between the London Blitz and the Qassam rockets on Sderot. In the Blitz, 400 German bombers and 600 fighter planes killed 43,000 people and destroyed more than one million homes. Hamas’ Qassams, perhaps the most primitive weapon in the world, have killed 18 people in eight years. Yes, they sowed great terror – but a Blitz?

And if we can compare a poorly equipped terrorist organization to the horrific Nazi killing machine, why should others not compare the Nazis’ behavior to that of Israel Defense Forces soldiers? In both cases, the comparison is baseless and infuriating. Netanyahu began the speech as if he were chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial – Holocaust, Holocaust, Holocaust; his family and his wife’s family…

Now the fire-fighter:

(Article by Ben-Dror Yemini, Ma’ariv, 25.9.09, p. B4-5)

Let’s start at the end. Richard Goldstone perpetrated a moral crime. Not against the State of Israel but against human rights. He turned them into a weapon for dark regimes. Goldstone was not negligent. He did this with malice.

The criticism that was made in the first days following the report was on the basis of preliminary study. But time passes. And the more that the details of this report are revealed, the more it becomes clear that it is a libel. A libel with legal cover. A libel that was prepared in advance to incriminate the State of Israel, in the service of Libya and Iran. Goldstone willingly took up the loathsome role. He supplied these countries with the goods. The claim that “the discourse of rights” has become the dark forces’ most effective tool is a familiar one. The Goldstone report is the supreme expression of this. Its legal terminology is exemplary. It gushes about international human rights treaties. But it cannot hide the result: It is a libelous indictment of the State of Israel, in the service of the axis of terrorism and evil. Yes, there is marginal – very marginal – lip service regarding criticism of Hamas. Goldstone’s ilk is a sophisticated lot. They now reiterate from every stage, and Goldstone does it well, that they were actually objective. Here, they also leveled criticism at Hamas. How enlightened of them!

Goldstone sold his soul for an endless series of lies. Even Mary Robinson, who is not known as an admirer of Israel, understood that, “This is unfortunately a practice by the [UN Human Rights] Council: adopting resolutions guided not by human rights but by politics. This is very regrettable.” She refused to take the post. Goldstone took it and carried it out with excessive enthusiasm. If international law worked as it should, if the representatives of dark regimes did not have an automatic majority in it, Goldstone would have to stand trial. But this is impossible. And therefore, not only Israel but every moral person, every person for whom human rights are important, must declare Goldstone a criminal. Here is the proof.

Honor-Shame and Abbas’ Dilemma: The Problem of making peace

Khaled abu Toameh has an interesting analysis of the dilemma that Obama’s lates “peace-making” moves have created for Mahmoud Abbas. Although I don’t agree with his analysis, he does point out the central dilemma of the Arabs in dealing with the world — one also highlighted in the response to the failure of Farouk Hosni to become the head of UNESCO. (HT/Lianne)

Sep 24, 2009 1:11 | Updated Sep 24, 2009 1:23
Analysis: Tripartite summit undermines Abbas
Talkbacks for this article: 5
Article’s topics: Mahmoud Abbas, Barack Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority

Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah have not hidden their disappointment with the tripartite summit that was held in New York and which brought together US President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Binymain Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.Photo: AP [file]

On Wednesday, the officials said they were not only disappointed with the outcome of the summit which, they noted, did not achieve any breakthrough in the stalled peace talks, but also with the circumstances under which the meeting was arranged.

Even many representatives of Abbas’s Fatah faction voiced their deep disappointment over his agreement to meet with Netanyahu unconditionally. Some went as far as accusing Obama of “humiliating” Abbas by forcing him to meet with Netanyahu against his will and contrary to his pledges.

Note here that anything the Palestinians insist on and is denied them they see as a humiliation. In this case, they want Israel to make major concessions just for the privilege of speaking with Abbas. Anything else — like meeting with no preconditions — they view as a loss. So the zero-sum game here is hard: they want Netanyahu to freeze settlements as a precondition to sitting down. Any compromise, in the honor-shame world, shows weakness.

Of course, Obama is strongly to blame for this situation, since he and his administrators acted at the beginning as if the settlement issue were nonsense that they could put an end to with a sweep of their hand (something like an intifada in the original sense), encouraging the Palestinians to dig in and watch Israel squiirm. When they realized how complex the issue (and hopefully how unbalanced their approach), they left Abbas stranded on a limb he had proudly gone out.

George Bisharat on Goldstone: Not a Shred of Self-Criticism

George Bisharat, Palestinian-American professor of Law, has yet another attack on Israel — his last one was an eager recycling of the hearsay from Israeli soldiers that Ethan Bronner so accommodatingly offered up to the NYT readership.

This time using the Goldstone Commission as the prompter, he again goes on the attack. What’s astonishing — at least to an informed liberal who appreciates self-criticism — is how utterly void of any ability to examine the conflict from any but the totalistic Palestinian victim narrative in which Israel is a) guilty, b) responsible, and c) should engage in soul-searching as a result of the report.

Goldstone report: Israel’s failings
A U.N. report finds war crimes in last winter’s fighting; now Israel must be held accountable.

By George Bisharat
September 18, 2009

Will Israel’s decades-long impunity from international law finally come to an end? That is the question facing the international community in the aftermath of the just-released Goldstone report.

Richard Goldstone, formerly a supreme court justice in South Africa and chief prosecutor in the international tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia, headed a four-person United Nations mission investigating both Israel and Hamas for possible war crimes during Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip last winter. The mission conducted 188 interviews and reviewed more than 300 reports, 10,000 pages of documents, 30 videos and 1,200 photographs. The Israeli government barred the group from entering Israel or the Gaza Strip (it reached Gaza, ultimately, through Egypt). By contrast, Palestinian authorities, both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, cooperated with the mission. The 575-page report concluded that both sides committed war crimes before, during and after the intense fighting in December-January.

This is a fascinating account. No one reading it would know the following:

  • The mission was stacked against Israel both in mandate and in composition of the “judges”
  • the hundreds of reports were from ideologically committed NGOs
  • the videos somehow managed to exclude the extensive footage of Hamas using civilians as shields
  • the Israelis were inhospitable because of the corruption that hung like original sin around the commission
  • and the Palestinians, especially Hamas, were hospitable because the commission would relay every claim, no matter how ludicrous and self-contradictory, to the rest of the world.

Leveling the Playing Field and the Retreat into Stupidity: george on Peretz on Goldstone

Marty Peretz has a short post at The Spine on how dangerous the Goldstone Commission’s Report is for the ability of democracies to defend themselves against enemies who attack from the midst of civilian populations. It elicited a hostile comment from a reader who signs as george walton, which, I think, offers a fine insight into the workings of a peculiar kind of mindset that I’d like to label according to the meme “their side right or wrong.”

george starts by quoting Peretz:

MP:The fact is that the Taliban do not fight by the rules of modern warfare which try to limit the exposure of non-combatants.

Here’s what the Taliban should do. They should strike a deal with the coalition forces. If the coalition forces will agree to scale back on military hardware that is at least a thousand times more sophisticated and lethal than the terrorist’s arsenal, the Taliban will agree to back off from the civilians.

At first read, it’s hard to know if this is an Onion imitation, or serious sarcasm. The reader will forgive me for interpreting it as the latter (evidence below). Essentially, if I understand the sarcasm here, the Taliban has the right to hide among civilians because it’s the only way to fight against an oppressive external invader (who happens to be the allied forces).

Now I don’t know if george has any criteria for what constitutes legitimate resistance that is then allowed to sacrifice its own civilians for the cause, and what the chances that resistance movements that adapt such tactics might turn into “occupiers” of their own “liberated” populations, were they to succeed. Certainly the Taliban before the alliied invasion, with their policies towards women — acid in the face for not wearing the veil in public, a practice they continue even as “insurgents” — could hardly be called a liberating force. But that “sin,” however oppressive seems to be washed away as a result of the Taliban’s war against the US: their side right or wrong.

george continues:

David Landau’s Criticism of Goldstone: Even the Self-Absorbed See a Problem

Even hyper-self-critic David Landau, whose astonishingly self-destructiive advice to Condaleeza Rice, I’ve discussed before, finds Goldstone unpalatable. And yet, he remains firmly inside his moral narcissism, obsessing over the four-dimensional Israeli soul, implicitly treating Gentiles as three-dimensional bit players, and the Palestinians as two dimensional cardboard figures whose moral angency does not even exist.

Even for Goldstone, getting criticized by someone like Landau has to hurt. From fashlah to fadihah.

The Gaza Report’s Wasted Opportunity
Published: September 19, 2009

ISRAEL intentionally went after civilians in Gaza — and wrapped its intention in lies.
That chilling — and misguided — accusation is the key conclusion of the United Nations investigation, led by Richard Goldstone, into the three-week war last winter. “While the Israeli government has sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercises of its right to self-defense,” the report said, “the mission considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a different target: the people of Gaza as a whole.”

The report has produced a storm of outraged rejection in Israel. Politicians fulminate about double standards and anti-Semitism. Judge Goldstone, an eminent South African jurist and a Jew, is widely excoriated as an enemy of his people.

The report stunned even seasoned Israeli diplomats who expected no quarter from an inquiry set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council, which they believe to be deeply biased against Israel. They expected the military operation to be condemned as grossly disproportionate. They expected Israel to be lambasted for not taking sufficient care to avoid civilian casualties. But they never imagined that the report would accuse the Jewish state of intentionally aiming at civilians.

Israelis believe that their army did not deliberately kill the hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including children, who died during “Operation Cast Lead.” They believe, therefore, that Israel is not culpable, morally or criminally, for these civilian deaths, which were collateral to the true aim of the operation — killing Hamas gunmen.

It is, some would argue, a form of self-deception.

When does negligence become recklessness, and when does recklessness slip into wanton callousness, and then into deliberate disregard for innocent human life?

Note that we have yet to even reach the Palestinian starting point — target civilians deliberately… or, in short, terrorism. This simple observation, not on Landau’s radar screen because he doesn’t really think about Palestinians as human beings (i.e., moral agents), but only as victims (i.e., as innocent creatures), will become especially important in noting how the Goldstone Commission used the “T” word only to refer to Israel and never to refer to Hamas.

Iranians turn Muslim Scapegoating on its head

I’m creating a category for “irony of the day,” which generally involves either useful idiocy or civic heroism. Here it involves both: Ahmadinejad wanted to make “Al Quds/Palestinian Day” a big expression of national unity. Instead anti-Government protesters came out again, turning shouts of “Death to Israel” into shouts of “Death to Russia” (which quickly sided with Ahmadinejad). So, on the one hand, we have an elite who treat their commoners with contempt, and systematically abuse power, using the classic “anti-Semitic” trope for their scapegoating… only this time it blows up in their face.

Note how revealing the photo of Khatami jostled. This is an immense loss of face for so prominent a cleric (who actually supported Mousavi, but was attending the government rally).

What a fine expression of the surfacing of “hidden transcripts,” as James C. Scott describes them. The emperor’s fine anti-Zionist cloak comes unraveled. These are critical moments in the emergence of a civic polity: when the public can openly challenge the scape-goating narratiive with which an authoritarian elite keeps them focused in the wrong direction.

Despite Warning, Thousands Rally in Iran

Associated Press
Mohammad Khatami, center, a former Iranian president, is attacked as he attends a Quds Day rally.

Published: September 18, 2009

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Tens of thousands of protesters chanted and carried banners through the heart of Tehran and other Iranian cities on Friday, hijacking a government-organized anti-Israel march and injecting new life into the country’s opposition movement.

The protests, held in defiance of warnings from the clerical and military elite, served as a public embarrassment to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had hoped to showcase national unity just two weeks before he is set to meet Western leaders for talks on Iran’s nuclear program.

He used the annual rally for Jerusalem Day, also known as Quds Day, to deliver a fiery anti-Israeli speech in which he called the Holocaust “a lie” and impugned the West again for its criticisms of Iran’s disputed June 12 presidential election.

But his efforts to recapture the stage were largely drowned out by a tumultuous day of street rallies, in which the three main opposition leaders marched with their followers for the first time in months. Flouting the official government message of support for Palestinian militants, they chanted, “No to Gaza and Lebanon, I will give my life for Iran.”

Coming a day after President Obama announced a revised missile defense system that aims to check Iran’s military ambitions, the rallies underscored the continuing vitality of the domestic opposition movement, which has rejected the election as fraudulent and fiercely criticized the violence that followed it.

In a striking contrast with earlier rallies, the police often stood on the sidelines as protesters faced off against huge crowds of government supporters — many of them bused in from outside the cities — and chain-wielding Basij militia members. There were reports of arrests in Tehran and the southern city of Shiraz, but no shootings or deaths, with the police apparently showing greater restraint than during earlier protests.

Hamas and Human Shields: Is it a “human shield” if they’re willing?

Here’s the latest posting at the IDF YouTube site.

The combatant calls to a group of kids who appear to be accompanied by an adult woman and they wllingly go to provide cover for him.

This raises 2 points:

1. In terms of Israel getting blasted for collecive punishment, and for not discerning between civilians and miltants — how are you supposed to do that when everyone is involved, some wllingly? In this case the kids and woman are enabling a terrorst to escape after he committed terror act. What is their level of responsibility/involvement? legally? How should Israel respond when Hamas exploits the fact that Israel won’t attack civilians?

2. Is this not proof that Israel doesn’t fire deliberately on civilians. If they did, this tactic would make no sense. Here he exploits the IDF’s unwillingness to incur Palestinian civilian casualties, and yet Goldstone condems them for it.

Note that the Goldstone Commission explicitly addressed this issue with a dismissive sweep of the hand now familiiar to those reading the report. They themselves cite the following video in which a Hamas leader, warned by cell phone by an Israeli intelligence officer that his house will be bombed, acts just as the fellow in the video above. Goldstone’s response:

The Mission notes, however, that the incident occurred in 2007. No such incidents are alleged by the Israeli Government with regard to the military operations that began on 27 December 2008. The Mission received no reports of such incidents from other sources.

Couldn’t have looked very hard. Israel Matsav posts a good example from January 8, 2009:

Notes “the Mission,

475. The Mission is also aware of the public statement by Mr. Fathi Hammad, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, on 29 February 2009, which is adduced as evidence of Hamas’ use of human shields. Mr. Hammad reportedly stated that … the Palestinian people has developed its [methods] of death seeking. For the Palestinian people, death became an industry, at which women excel and so do all people on this land: the elderly excel, the mujahideen excel and the children excel. Accordingly,

476. Although the Mission finds this statement morally repugnant, it does not consider it to constitute evidence that Hamas forced Palestinian civilians to shield military objectives against attack. The Government of Israel has not identified any such cases.

Historians often use this kind of reasoning when the evidence disturbs their argument… “there is no evidence… nothing suggests that… not a shred of evidence supports…” It’s got nothing to do with reality, only with narrative.

Read the rest of Israel Matsav’s analysis.

Fisking Goldstone: What’s happened to this man?

Richard Goldstone has an op-ed in the NYT today. It is most striking because it is so transparently misleading. Indeed, it’s just the kind of misinformation that fisking was invented to counter. So I couldn’t help doing so.

Goldstone clearly counts on addressing a sympathetic audience ignorant of the facts — a choir. I address those readers of the news who still want to be part of a “reality-based” community, for whom evidence must be addressed, analyzed, and assessed. You make up your mind if Judge Goldstone is an honest, fair-minded man, or someone who, for whatever mysterious reason, is in thrall to a narrative he must serve, regardless of the evidence.

Justice in Gaza

I ACCEPTED with hesitation my United Nations mandate to investigate alleged violations of the laws of war and international human rights during Israel’s three-week war in Gaza last winter. The issue is deeply charged and politically loaded. I accepted because the mandate of the mission was to look at all parties: Israel; Hamas, which controls Gaza; and other armed Palestinian groups.

This is astonishing. Mary Robinson — the presiding genius of Durban Irejected it because the mandate was only to investigate Israel, tainted from the beginning. Goldstone requested, in vain, that the mandate be widened. For him to pretend that the mandate was to investigate all groups when it never was, whether he threw in some comments on Hamas or not, assumes a pervasive illiteracy among his audience — the readers of the NYT.

I accepted because my fellow commissioners are professionals committed to an objective, fact-based investigation.

The case against the composition of his committee — not one person sympathetic to Israel, at least one, Christine Chinkin, openly hostile — has led two groups of lawyers, in England and in Canada, to demand Chinkin’s disqualification since she had already pronounced herself — long before she saw any real evidence — on Israel’s guilt. Goldstone, even as he tossed out the petition on a subtle technicality, admitted that Chinkin’s case was borderline and the report reconfirms her prejudice. So whence comes this bland denial?

But above all, I accepted because I believe deeply in the rule of law and the laws of war, and the principle that in armed conflict civilians should to the greatest extent possible be protected from harm.

Goldstone Commission Report

I apologize to my readers for not posting (or even commenting) for a long time. On the other hand, I’ve been busy preparing for the issue of the Goldstone Report, which surpasses even the abysmal expectations its early history had aroused, in its arbitrary disregard for the truth, its cut and paste of the media and NGO world, its brutal disregard for the atrocious behavior of Hamas, its shoddy use of evidence and stunning credulity for Palestinian witnesses… all told, it’s a discouraging moral inversion that can only aid and abet those who wish to destroy the state of Israel, and the forces of terror in this world. Whether the authors know it or not, by applying an impossible standard to Israel which no other country can come near to meeting, they are endangering democracies.

(No, Richard, tell us what you really think.)

I am about to open a website, a part of the Second Draft initiative, to examine the Goldstone Report. I welcome all my readers to contribute any and all links to articles about the report — including favorable ones — as well as their own thoughts on the subject. The site will encourage submissions, and I’d be happy to include work from this blog’s extremely sharp and well-informed readership.

In the meantime, I hope to start posting material here again soon.