Category Archives: operation cast lead

Anthony Lawson on Gaza: Comments please

I just received the link to this piece from someone on my Class of ’71 Listserv. She presents herself to everyone as a lover of peace, but she apparently is drawn to some of the worst war-mongering propaganda around. I don’t have time to tackle this right now. I welcome your comments both on the film itself (and its two authors Joe Mowrey, scriptwriter, and Anthony Lawson), and the way in which such a piece of work can appeal to people who think they are in the peace camp.

The Goldstone Report Part I and II: A Failure of Intelligence, A Miscarriage of Human Rights

I have just published an article in MERIA (Middle East Review of International Affairs) on Goldstone’s Gaza Report in two parts:

The Goldstone Report Part I: A Failure of Intelligence

and

The Goldstone Report Part II: A Miscarriage of Human Rights

From the conclusion:

Intimidation and Advocacy: The Narcissistic Payoff

There is something more sinister here even than various forms of animosity toward Jews, conscious and unconscious, or radical ideologies that have somehow lost their way. If it were only that problem, then reasoned discourse, hard evidence, and some serious self-criticism on the part of the parties involved might help, at least in some cases. One wouldn’t find so much unanimity. There is, however, something more fundamental that underlies the positions taken in the Arab-Israeli conflict, something that explains why, despite so many powerful anomalies (like Hamas using human shields and shutting out aid at the Egyptian border), “progressives” continue to cling to their self-destructive paradigms and adopt positions that so violate the very principles they claim to espouse. That more powerful factor is: “We are afraid and we cannot admit it.”

Journalists in particular, subject to pervasive threats and occasional violence in the Palestinian territories (and elsewhere in the Middle East), cannot possibly admit this to their readers and viewers for fear of losing credibility. Moreover, not inclined toward living in the constant recognition that they have succumbed to the double indignity of bending their knee to jihadi demands, and to hiding that fact from their audiences, they prefer to believe that they say what they do out of advocacy. They can thus feel noble by embracing the cause of the oppressed (who happen to be the same people who threaten them). How much braver it feels to accuse the Israelis of whining about unfair coverage than to admit one cannot report honestly on Hamas’ behavior. With the alchemy of advocacy for the “oppressed” and “wretched of the earth,” they transform this double cowardice into bravery, “speaking truth to Israeli power.”

That intimidation, however, extends beyond the journalistic front lines to the home front as well. Since the Salmon Rushdie affair in 1989, Muslims have realized that they can extend Shari’a through intimidation, that when they call for targeted killings of blasphemers of Islam, the West will back down. The twenty-first century has been a privileged terrain for such spectacles of intimidation and appeasement, among the most spectacular (and enduring) concerned the “Muhammad Cartoons.” Note that the same radical forces in Islam that responded so violently–and so openly about their agenda–to Western indiscretions, also, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, produced a stunningly long list of suicide attacks on civilians of all faiths around the world, beginning with Israel, but then becoming frequent in both the West and Muslim-majority societies.

Much of this intimidation has been internalized in the form of a politically correct narrative whose hegemony depends on the silences it imposes. It denounces any criticism that offends Muslims as gratuitous insult and provocation. The key issue, of course, is where should one draw the line between gratuitous insult and important criticism? If politeness is not saying certain things lest there be violence, civility is being able to say certain things and there won’t be violence. Is contemporary Western discourse too obsessed with being polite with Muslims? Are they too thin-skinned (especially given how violently they can dish out the criticism)? It certainly seems strange then that supporters of human rights and defenders of free speech expend far more effort silencing those who “seem” to insult Islam, than offensive Muslims who call for the death of blasphemers, who carry signs in the streets of European capitals that read: “Slay all those who insult Islam.”

Those who follow this politically-correct line so dominate the public discourse that any dissent takes one on a perilous path to marginalization–those who make even mildly critical remarks about Muslims, Arabs, or Palestinians are rapidly dismissed as proto-fascists. If they persist, they may be accused of incitement, Islamophobia, and even holocaust denial (of the genocide against the Palestinians). What is portrayed as politically correct–whether Hina Jilani’s it would be “cruel not to believe” or Erik Alterman’s it is an “inarguably racist rant” to say that “Arabs are feigning outrage”–trumps trying to determine what actually happened based on the evidence. They think they are being virtuously generous and open-minded; but in the world of cognitive warfare, the outcome is systematic renunciation all the West’s main defenses.

As a result, Americans don’t know how to protect themselves from real enemies like Major Malik Hassan, FBI Arabic translators whose loyalties lie elsewhere, or government advisors who “help” law enforcement and security deal with the Muslim community. Ironically, stigmatizing as a “right-winger” and an “Islamophobe” anyone who points out the “us-them” ideology–wala wa bara (loyalty to fellow Muslims and enmity to infidels), a mentality so prevalent among Muslims and so effectively incited by radicals–will make it harder to counteract that problem. The losers here are moderates on all sides, especially among the Muslims whom jihadists like Hamas and Jama’at-e-Islami are permitted to stigmatize as collaborators with the enemy.

Alas, Goldstone may have won his peaceful sleep at the cost of the Gazans’–and everyone else’s–nightmares, for not only does his report target Israel, it will eventually serve to target every civil polity with a powerful army attacked by this asymmetrical war waged by jihadi forces. Ironically, once these other armies become aware of the heightened standards, they go straight to Israel for advice on how to lower the civilian tolls in their military maneuvers.

The consequences of such self-delusion are massive. The Goldstone Report embodies an astonishing failure of Western culture to collect reliable intelligence, to “see” clearly enough to make sober judgments and take effective decisions. A systematic inversion sets in: al-Dura 2000, symbol of Palestinian blood libels, becomes “Israel’s images of hate”; Jenin 2002, the most exceptional example of military self-sacrifice for the sake of sparing enemy civilians in the history of human warfare, becomes “the Jenin Massacre”; Lebanon and Gaza 2006-2009, the revolting spectacle of religious fanatics victimizing their own people in a war of extermination, become symbols of freedom fighters resisting Israeli apartheid imperialism. The result, as Irwin Cotler points out, is the grotesque double moral inversion of making Israel the only country accused of genocide, even as it is the only contemporary country subject to incitement as the object of genocide.

It may make many in the West feel good to “believe” the Arab Muslim narrative of suffering at the hands of the Israeli oppressor. After all, it allows them to be generously empathic, and to wag the finger at Israel. Yet it also empowers the very forces of intolerance, violence, and reactionary goals they imagine they are opposing. It is neither honorable nor courageous; it is a capitulation that endangers the most hard-earned freedoms. Even as they congratulate themselves on bravely balancing advocacy and “objective” journalism, reporters daily betray the very charge given to them by the citizens they serve–to report accurately.

If someone had told the founders of Hamas, as they penned their genocidal “charter” of Islamic supremacy in 1988, that in 20 years time, infidels in Europe would be carrying their flags and chanting “We are Hamas,” they would have laughed in disbelief. It is not that the jihadists–violent and “non-violent”– are so smart or talented at deception; it is that their Western counterparts are so stupid. Great civilizations do not necessarily die or fall to superior powers; they can self-destruct.

Goldstone’s inexcusably unprofessional report represents a major step on the way to either the suicide of a human rights culture unique in history and a millennium in the making, or a global war that will beggar World War II for casualties. The tragedy is that this fight might be won largely non-violently by showing some courage, honesty, and judgment. Given the cost in lives that would ensue in a war with the vicious forces now empowered daily, is that too much to ask for?

Ben Wedeman trying to undermine Israel on its Aid to Gaza: But even he has to admit…

Here’s Ben Wedeman in the second week of the war commenting on Israel’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, by supplying Gazans with aid.

This is a particular gem of MSNM moral and intellectual confusion since his overall thrust is that Israel’s aid is a) just PR for show, b) pretty pathetic given that “ironically, their actually bombing the place,” and c) that no one’s impressed in Gaza since Israel’s to blame for the blockade in the first place. In the process of dismissing Israel’s effort, he makes an error which forces him to correct himself in mid-stream, which then leads him in another direction. The result: a revealing piece of euphemistic nonsense well worth savoring.

Well Israel has allowed a steady number of trucks coming with humanitarian goods uh into Gaza. This rather ironically as they’re actually bombing the place they’re sending food in as well. My understanding is 66 trucks went in today, so they do want to be at least seen as, as uh caring or providing or allowing others to provide humanitarian relief to the civilian population. Uh, but that sort of thing doesn’t necessarily go down very well, because it’s only Israel that controls the crossings, uh, into Gaza, with the exception of the one in Egypt and uh so, therefore if Israel were to cut off the supply altogether, uh, they would depend on Egypt and that’s not a good, uh, place to depend on.

Let’s take this piece apart:

News Media, Arab Honor-Shame, and Operation Cast Lead: The Failures of Cognitive Egocentrism

A segment from a long essay on the Goldstone Report to appear in MERIA in January, with embedded video.

In some senses, it might be fair to argue that the news media believe that by emphasizing the humanitarian catastrophe, they contribute to peace. By putting pressure on the Israelis, they reason, they can help to stop the bombing. Christiane Amanpour quite un-self-consciously revealed the calculus in a question to Tony Blair:

Amanpour to Blair: “The civilian casualties in Gaza are obviously going to put a big pressure on Israel. How long can Israel withstand this pressure?”

Note that Amanpour asks the question with great confidence – this, she clearly feels, is a good, even shrewd question – unaware of what she reveals about her own thinking. Indeed, from her point of view, this isn’t even advocacy; it’s such a widespread attitude that it has the status of Realpolitik.

Now when such diplomatic dynamics are so obvious to the media, what’s to prevent them from thinking that the more they emphasize the humanitarian catastrophe, the sooner the violence will end?

Aside from the multiple, highly questionable, assumptions that underlie such apparently “self-evident” reasoning, the question also reveals a fundamental position of advocacy or bias – the “solution” will come from pressure on Israel, not on Hamas.

For a fascinating example of the cognitive dissonance that results from confronting Hamas, a journalist asking an Arab spokesman why Hamas doesn’t just stop the fighting, consider this exchange between “rational” BBC interviewer, Karen Ginoni, and the Arab League Ambassador to the UN, Yahya Mahmassani.

What Happened at the mosque and inside Goldstone’s mind?

Jonathan Dahoah Halevi, whose work on the evidence from OCL is extensive, has published some thoughts on the Al Maqadmah mosque case and the Goldstone Report’s handling of it. I add comments to bring out some of the more astonishing aspects of his argument.

What happened at mosque?
Jonathan Dahoah Halevi questions reliability of reports on Gaza mosque attack

Jonathan Dahoah Halevi
Published: 11.12.09, 17:21 / Israel Opinion

On November 5, 2009 there was a confrontation at Brandeis University in Massachusetts between the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Dr. Dore Gold, and Judge Richard Goldstone. It dealt, among other things, with the affair of the Maqadmah mosque in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, about which two contradictory versions exist, that of Israel and that of the Goldstone Committee’s Report.

The Goldstone Report about Operation Cast Lead accuses Israel of an air strike on the mosque on January 3, 2009, which caused the deaths of “at least 15 Palestinians” who were in it at the time. During the confrontation with Dr. Gold, Goldstone claimed that 21 Palestinians had been killed, and he presented the attack as a salient example of Israel’s policy of deliberately targeting innocent civilians. However, Israel issued official documents stating that its Air Force did not attack the mosque and that the dead had been killed in fighting the IDF.

Goldstone’s doubly revealing nightmare from which we have not awoken

In his “debate” on Thursday November 5, at Brandeis, during question and answer, Goldstone got chummy with the audience and told them an anecdote about how he felt going into Gaza:

As far as conditions in Gaza are concerned, I must say that my visit to Gaza turned out very differently from what I had anticipated. Frankly, and I make no, no, no, and I’m not ashamed to say it, I was very nervous about being a Jew going into Gaza on probe by Hamas, especially when the first reaction to my appointment by Hamas was to reject a meeting with me because I was Jew.

And my wife sitting here will remember that three nights before I went, I woke up in the middle of the night after a terrible nightmare, with sweat on my brow, because I had a vivid dream that I’d been kidnapped by, by Hamas, and people in Israel were rejoicing. [laughter] That was the nightmare, based on real fears.

Now Goldstone clearly didn’t tell this anecdote in order to reveal the utter intellectual bankruptcy of both his Report’s methods and and conclusions. But that’s what he did.

“Hullo, Can you see Florida from here?”: Helena Cobban opens a window onto the “global hamoulah” of progressives

Helena Cobban, who to her pacifist credit, expressed deep disapproval of Marc Garlasco’s unsavory hobby, despite the fact that she is on the board of HRW, and shares their attitude towards Israel, here gives us a fine example of how the “human rights” community think. It’s a stunning ride through the wild side of liberal cognitive egocentrism, the epistemological priority of the other, and masochistic omnipotence syndrome weaponized against those who dare defend themselves against sub-altern aggression. An excellent guide to what ails our chattering classes, including their chattering tone of self-confidence.

The value of the human rights frame
Posted by Helena Cobban October 22, 2009 11:15 PM EST

Michael Goldfarb, who was the deputy communications director for John McCain’s campaign, worked for a while in that temple of neoconservative organizing, the Project for a New American Century, and is a kind of scuzzy attack-dog for the pro-settler hard right, has now decided to come after–poor little moi.

Ad hominem? Moi?

(Yay! I made the big leagues of this guy’s ‘enemies’ list’! Oops, suppress that childish thought, Helena.)
HT to Richard Silverstein, co-rabbi of our “off-broadway” bloggers’ panel at J Street, next Monday noon-time, for having read Michael Goldfarb’s blog so the rest of us don’t have to…

For those who don’t know, “the rest of us” means, it’s, in Amira Hass’ proud phrasing, the global hamoulah [clan]” of leftists/progressives who know they’re at the cutting edge of global morality, leaders of the fight for a truly just and peaceful world, by identifying with the oppressed. And they’ve gathered, somewhat comically, at the JStreet conference in force.

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.

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

By RICHARD GOLDSTONE
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.

Colonel Richard Kemp on IDF’s Moral Performance

One of the real puzzles I hope to pose in order to motivate my readers to slog through my new book is the bizarre phenomenon of the difference between the IDF’s ethical performance and the way it registers in the MSNM (my new acronym, Mainstream News Media). I first became really aware of this in Jenin, when the Israelis had sacrificed the aerial option in order to avoid civilian casualties, lost over a dozen men in hand-to-hand combat, and finally ended up killing 52 people, 47 of which were combattants, but got accused of massacres and war crimes that drove the international media into a frenzy.

Here, at a JCPA conference on Operation Cast Lead and International Law, British Colonel Richard Kemp describes the extraordinary measures the Israelis went to in order to spare civilian casualties in Gaza (cf. Sri Lanka).