Saturday, December 19

Illegal Settler Arsonists and their Ilk

On Friday 10th Dec some right wing extremists associated with the settler movement went on the rampage. They decided that the best way to show their opposition to P.M.Netanyahu's so-called "settlement freeze" was by destroying a mosque in the town of Yasuf which is near Nablus.

This atrocious and despicable act of arson was condemned by most Israelis. There were even some attempts to reach a sulcha or peace between Israelis and Palestinians in the area. The head of the" peace team" was Rabbi Menachem Froman of the Tekoa settlement in the West Bank. The team even donated Qurans to the Palestinian community as a symbol of their sorrow for the settler, extremist vandalism. While the rabbi and his supporters' act was commendable, one cannot deny that the underlying cause for this arson lies in the deep rooted hate for Palestinians and for non-Jews in general. This hate stems from the education meted out to the children of settlers by right wing rabbis of the settler movement.

Only when the damage is done because of the warped and hateful religious ideology does one realize the danger of their so-called religious ideology. The damage to Israel by these religious right wing fanatics is comparable to the hate mongering of the racist Hamas imams on the Palestinian side!

Another great disappointment is the attitude of some religious Knesset members of the right wing religious parties. They take the ancient biblical "eye for an eye, tooth for tooth" rule as a justified retribution for vandalism committed by Islam extremists against synagogues and Jewish holy places in the past. This means that in the midst of our society lurks a hidden evil that believes that the Arabs and their holy places must be destroyed. Their representatives are part of the Netanyahu government!

A sign of maturity of any nation is tolerance towards those of differing faiths. This hate for the other serves no purpose and is destructive apart from being immoral. Israel's response to this vandalism committed in Yasuf is commendable but not strong enough. Had it been a synagogue that was vandalized a greater effort would have been made to bring the perpetrators to justice. It is doubtful if the vandals of the lunatic fringe within the settler movement will be brought to justice. No arrests have been made at the time of writing this article.

There is no justification for vandalism committed against any holy place whether Jewish, Moslem or Christian. Religious vandals of all faiths should be brought to justice.

Within the Israeli establishment lurks another tinder box of hate within the right wing religious Zionist Movement - the Yeshivot Hesder - (institutes of religious learning where religious soldiers combine military service with Torah study).

These institutions have a religious Zionist right wing ideology and are sympathetic to the settlers residing in the occupied territories. The religious soldiers attending are exposed to the narrow world view of right wing rabbis about the importance of greater Israel and the biblical justification of settling the entire Judea and Samaria (as they refer to the West Bank). The ideology of these religious institutions is right wing to extreme right wing. The latter even encourage their students to refuse to obey IDF orders concerned with evacuating settlements or ensuring settlement freezes.

It does not take much imagination to realize that the fanatic right wing rabbis in their enthusiasm to instill their nationalist Zionist ideas of settling the whole West Bank with Jews and using the Torah and quotations from it to justify the expulsion of the Palestinian population. They view themselves as the messengers of God who received the exclusive right to settle the whole West Bank. The moment they delegitimize the Palestinian population the next step would be violence against them.

Many graduates from these religious institutions - yeshvot hesder - are imbued with a fanatic right wing Zionist world view that is hostile to the Palestinian population who has been living in the West Bank for generations. They dehumanize the Palestinians and believe in transfer. Many of the settlers who are graduates of these institutions are involved in vandalism against Palestinians including uprooting their olive trees and general destruction to their property. It is annoying that the perpetrators of these acts are hardly ever caught let alone being brought to justice.

Israel fails to realize that the world condemns Israel for its colonialism and the illegal settlers living in the occupied territories are part of the occupation. The great mistake of the Six Day War of June 1967 is the encouragement of settlers to colonize the West Bank. It makes Israel’s claims of not wanting to rule another people as being false.

Tuesday, December 8

Jerusalem - Capital of Israel and Palestine

An elderly Palestinian woman gestures as she sits with her belongings in front of a disputed house in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheik Jarrah, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009. Jewish settlers claiming ownership forced their way into a disputed house in east Jerusalem on Tuesday, using hired guards to evict an elderly Palestinian woman and tossing the belongings of the 29 other residents into the rain, witnesses said. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

A united Jerusalem - referred to as the "eternal capital of Israel" will remain a cause of disagreement between Israel and the Palestinians until this problem is solved.

The claim that Israel's capital is a united city could not be further from the truth. One need not delve too deeply into Jerusalem’s history and its demography to realize that Jerusalem is a divided city.

Even the Jewish population is divided. The ultra-Orthodox or Haredi population live in self-imposed isolation from the secular areas. They are against any form of secular activity on Shabbat. They demonstrate against the opening of parking lots and factories such as Intel who work on Shabbat. Their weapons are stones and overturning trash cans to impose their religious will by force. Their Shabbat demonstrations end in violence. Every Shabbat there is one demonstration or another that they initiate. Surely violent demonstrations are a desecration of the Sabbath, but not in ultra-Orthodox Halacha, where this is viewed as a means to achieve a “holy end” of coercing the unfaithful to Shabbat observance.


There is also the Orthodox - non-Orthodox divide and the non-recognition of observant Conservative and Reform Jews even resulting in desecration of their synagogues by Orthodox Jewish extremists occasionally.

Another indication of the fallacy of “united Jerusalem” is the schism between Palestinian citizens of Jerusalem and Jewish citizens. Here the situation is no better. There is terrible neglect of infrastructure and services in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. East Jerusalem residents are required to pay taxes like all city residents. However they do not receive the same services. The Jerusalem Municipality has hardly invested in improving services for Palestinian residents. No new schools, public buildings or medical clinics have been built for Palestinians. Here there is an apartheid-like situation in the treatment meted out to Jewish and Palestinian population. Most investment goes into the city's Jewish areas.

Holding on to East Jerusalem with its impoverished Palestinian residents and stealthily depriving them of their homes in hidden transfer activities by allowing Jewish residents to confiscate Palestinian resident's homes in an attempt to live up to the fantasy of a "united city" will only exacerbate a situation which is potentially explosive. This is done by withholding permits from Palestinians to reside legally in Jerusalem. Palestinian residents are not welcome in Jerusalem. If a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem wishes to go overseas to study or lives a number of years in another country, he cannot return to his birthplace in Jerusalem. This is a legal tactic used by Israel to rid Jerusalem of its Palestinian population.

If Jerusalem is not a united city then it is a divided one. East Jerusalem demographically is not Jewish. What is Jewish about the Al Aqsa Mosque, Dome of the Rock and the various Churches in this area?

The Swedish Government has now put forth a plan to make Jerusalem the capital of both Israel and Palestine. It is a plan that recognizes Jerusalem as a divided city. It is divided between Palestinians and Israelis and even internally divided amongst the Jews. Jerusalem cannot be viewed as a united city apart from the sentiments of its unity as expressed by various Israeli governments over the years. Sentiments never express a reality.

Jerusalem has always been and always remains a divided city. Surely the time has come to realize this reality. It is divided culturally, politically, ethnically and nationally. The greatest division is between Palestinians and Israelis. This is the core of the Palestinian - Israeli Conflict. This should be the starting point of renewed negotiations not the end. The most dangerous attitude is the attitude based on religious sentiment rather than on a political reality. This applies to both Israelis and Palestinians.

Saturday, December 5

The Phony Freeze

These days many people in Israel are watching the news. They are beside themselves not necessarily with joy. The reason - P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu has made a "dramatic” announcement that he will freeze settlements in the occupied territories over a period of ten months as a gesture to get peace negotiations started with the Palestinians.

It is a tactical move to satisfy the US yet far short of a genuine freeze of settlement activity. It is not surprising that the Palestinian Authority, under Mahmoud Abbas, is not satisfied. The fact that extreme right wingers such as Ze’ev (Benny) Begin and Bogey Ayalon - support the "freeze" must raise suspicions that the freeze is not genuine nor is the will for reaching an agreement with the Palestinians. The establishment of settlements is such a strong part of Likud ideology that it would be unthinkable for the Likud coalition to change its policy towards settlement in the occupied territories.

The establishment of settlements is so deep in religious right wing Zionist ideology that any attempt to cease or freeze the establishment of settlements is total anathema to their religious ideology. This ideology is tantamount to ridding the West Bank of Palestinians as it is considered the land that God gave the Jews from biblical times.

It will be business as usual in the occupied territories with building operations, demolition of Palestinian homes considered illegal, continuing by stealth. It will be conceivable that permits for building operations will continue. This takes 10 months to fulfill anyway. The building of new homes in the occupied territories will be unaffected.

What is not covered by the "freeze" is the continuation of building operations in East Jerusalem which is considered to be Israeli and not open to negotiation. The Palestinians consider East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and that the settlement freeze should include East Jerusalem as well. In any case, the settlement freeze will exist in name only and the building cessations will be unnoticed. It is highly unlikely that the so-called freeze will be observed in any case. Apart from cosmetic freezes of insignificant outposts, Israel's government has no intention of freezing settlements. If it did, the extreme right wing factions in the Likud would not support it.

Of course it will be argued that even if there was a genuine freeze of settlement building the Palestinians would not accept it as a prerequisite for getting negotiations started again. The Palestinians would only recognize freezing of building operations if it was genuine and included East Jerusalem. The entire world now accepts the fact that East Jerusalem will eventually be the capital of the Palestinian State when established. The right wing, religious Zionist settler movements, with its racist rabbinical mentors, believes in transferring the Palestinian population out of the occupied territories to neighbouring Arab States.

On the other hand, if settlement building in the occupied territories continues, it will be at the expense of the future Palestinian state. It will render the chance of its establishment impossible. This brings back the idea of a binational state and all that it entails. If settlement activity in the occupied territories carries on which is the will of the right wing in Israel, they must also be held accountable for the failure of the two-state solution which has the support of most of the free world.

The freezing of settlements in the occupied territories must be seen for what it really is - a sop to President Obama! Despite this, the right wing Zionist settler movement demonstrates against the phony freeze. At the head of the protests are the pseudo Kahanist racists such as Ittamar ben Gvir, whose visage seems to pop up at every right wing extremist demonstration .This kippa and tzitzit cladded protégé of the late Rabbi Meir Kahana is a religious extremist (I still have memories of Ben Gvir ripping off the badges from late P.M. Rabin's car two weeks before his assassination.)

The moratorium on settlements has other ramifications. Violence of right wing settlers against the Palestinians is a strong possibility.

The behaviour of the right wing settler zealots towards the indigenous Palestinian population has the potential to explode into further violence and hatred. It is no wonder that the Palestinian population in the occupied territories refuse to be accommodating towards Israel.

Help! - Gush Shalom - Israeli Peace Bloc

The European Union
Is about to
Declare Jerusalem
The capital of
Two states.

For Israel,
And for a future
Of peace,
That is
A good thing –
Indeed a
very good thing!

Ad published in Haaretz, December 4, 2009"

Wednesday, November 11

The Law of Return may not be Fair

Recently, JackTeitel, a US Jewish immigrant of the extreme right wing, religious persuasion, was arrested for the murder of Palestinians and acts of terror against Jews he did not like. He had been involved in smuggling arms and hiding them over a period of 12 years. He acted on his own and the police never batted an eyelid until Teitel acted against Jews he hated.

If one reads the resume' of this violent criminal, it reads like a script for a horror movie. It also brings in the question of whether the Law of Return which grants every Jew the right to immigrate to Israel (or to make "aliya") without undergoing any form of screening as is the case in most countries. People with criminal records of violence ought to be barred from entry into Israel, let alone the automatic right to Israeli citizenship.

Jack Teital had the theoretical "ideal credentials" for coming to Israel. He came from a middle class American Jewish family. His father is a dentist and the family is steeped in the ultra-Orthodox tradition. He, himself, wears the religious trappings of his faith - "tzizit" (fringes) under his shirt and a "kippa" - surely the picture of a religious Jew observing "mitzvot" (God's Commandments).

After the blip on the TV announcing that Teital has been arrested, another blip occurred on the TV screen. A murder suspect, Damien Karlik, was arrested as well. There is evidence that the latter had murdered the entire Oshrenko family in cold blood. How did this monster manage to be allowed to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return?

Apparently the only criterion to be allowed to immigrate to Israel is to be Jewish. Within two days two dangerous suspects were arrested - two suspects with a dubious past record were welcomed into Israel as new immigrants. Time has proved that there are flaws in the Law of Return which automatically bestows Israeli citizenship on all and sundry of Jewish descent.

One cannot help but ponder on the attitude of the Minister of the Interior who is carrying out a campaign against foreign workers who arrived in Israel legally under contract to work in the building industry, agriculture and to care for our aged. These people were brought into Israel to work in jobs that Israelis are not prepared to do. They are certainly no threat to Israelis because they do not compete for jobs that Israelis seek.

Many of these people have made a positive contribution and their offspring were born here. Their children are Hebrew speaking and have friends in Israel as well as attending Israeli schools. Many of them are patriotic and wish to serve in the army. This is not good enough for the Interior Ministry that decides their fate.

Instead of being treated fairly, the Minister of the Interior has justified the deportation of these workers by stating that they are harbingers of AIDS, Hepatitis B, TB and various other diseases. Worst of all, they create assimilation problems and are therefore a threat to the existence of Jewish People. We all know, of course, that these remarks by the Interior Minister are racist and xenophobic! The Oz Unit of the migration police was established for the purpose of deportation of foreign workers whose contract had expired. They are viewed as a threat to the well being of Israel's citizens as mentioned. These people have been bluffed by various agency cartels that bring them out to do essential jobs that Israelis are not prepared to undertake. In many cases their salaries are poor and the caregivers are made to do general housework as well as work close to 18 hours a day! They hardly have any recourse to any body that protects their interests. The threat of deportation always hangs over their heads like the Sword of Damocles. They are exploited according to the whims and fantasies of their employers.

What about the Palestinians who lost their homes? Many of these people left much of their property behind as a result of the War of Independence (Al Naqba - the Catastrophe as the Palestinians refer to it) and became the eternal refugees. These people have no right of return or claims to compensation. Of course, compensation is a two-way street. Jews who were banished from the Arab lands of their origin are also entitled to compensation as their property was also confiscated by the Arab governments ruling at the time. A Jewish refugee problem was also created but many of these Jews immigrated to Israel and the Jewish refugee problem from Arab lands was alleviated.

However, criminals of the like we have witnessed at the beginning of this article have preferential treatment and are even welcomed initially despite their shady past record. This is all because they are viewed as part of the Jewish People under the Right of Return law.

Of course there are many people claiming successfully to be Jews such as many oligarchs of the ex-Soviet Union. Despite their dishonesty and swindles they managed to hobnob with members of the Knesset sewing their dubious influence. The Gaidemaks, Lerners and many others are examples of this. Money buys influence irrespective of how it was made. Nobody seems to ask but the photo scoops are there with the Israeli establishment rulers.

It somehow does not seem just to allow everybody of Jewish descent to immigrate to Israel without screening. Palestinians, who have been forced to flee because of numerous wars between Israel and the Palestinians, do not receive compensation for their material losses or are not permitted to return.

In the 1990s a wave of immigration arrived from the ex-Soviet Union. Unfortunately, this immigration was overrated as a positive element to Israel. Many highly talented people arrived in the country and were a positive contribution but there were also a high proportion of immigrants with dubious pasts.

Along with this unfiltered immigration came drug trafficking, prostitution including trading in women, alcoholism and violent criminals. These problems were almost unknown in Israel prior to the 1990's. The handwriting already appeared on the wall and the weaknesses inherent in the Law of Return were felt in the increasing violent crime rate. Family violence accompanied by grotesque murders had increased considerably.

Surely a double standard exists which is promulgated by the Law of Return creating a situation where many immigrants with a criminal record arrive in Israel unchecked. There were even extreme cases of neo-Nazis arriving that have beaten up defenseless people in the streets.

All these problems occur because of the liberal Law of Return which welcomed every Jew irrespective of his past record.

Saturday, October 31

Disturbances in Jerusalem

A Palestinian youth marks a V sign during clashes with Israeli policemen in the Arab neighborhood of Ras Al Amud in east Jerusalem, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009. Israeli forces stormed the Jerusalem's holiest shrine, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, Sunday, firing stun grenades to disperse hundreds of Palestinian protesters who

were pelting them with stones. ((AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

There seems to be certain regularity in the occurrence of disturbances in Jerusalem. There are periods of calm followed by violent conflagration between Jew and Moslem extremists. Both sides claim what they regard as their legitimate rights in Jerusalem. Both sides blame each other for the disturbances. Who really is to blame?

It is difficult say with absolute conviction. Both parties are moving towards extremist positions. The Moslems are goaded on by their radical religious leaders (many of whom are adopting anti-Jewish Hamas positions) also coupled with fears of the "Judaization of Jerusalem”. This can be seen on the ground as right-wing Yesha rabbis - the spokesmen of the settler movements - goad the faithful to pray on the Temple Mount. This is intended as a provocation to the Moslem community "to show who is boss".

It would be worthwhile to see what is happening in Jerusalem and to ask ourselves whether it is a provocation. According to a Haaretz Editorial of 26th October 2009, certain facts are indisputable. Mention is made of archaeological digs; the construction of Jewish neighborhoods and Jewish housing in and around the Old City; the purchase of property and condemning of public parks with the intention of using land to build Jewish residential neighborhoods seem to be part of a deliberate policy pursued by the Israeli Government..

The issue of Jerusalem is a highly emotional issue. Both sides lack the sensitivity to deal with this issue effectively so that both sides could live side by side in harmony, each side being pragmatic towards the other. Both sides have a religious stake in Jerusalem and yet no side really has the monopoly on Jerusalem.

Logic requires a tremendous amount of pragmatism and moderation in order to prevent religious violence which could have wide ranging repercussions. This could ignite the whole Middle East which would benefit nobody.

Jerusalem will always remain a divided city. The demographic make up of Jerusalem and its immediate surroundings is not conducive to uniting the city under Israeli rule. Western Jerusalem (or Jewish Jerusalem) prior to the Six Day War of June 1967, has a Jewish majority and this is indisputable. Eastern Jerusalem captured in the Six Day War is mostly Arab. Israel's control of Eastern Jerusalem will always be a contentious issue. Trust between Israelis and Palestinians have reached a new low not that it ever had any highs.

Jerusalem is like a dormant volcano. It can remain quiet for a period. Unlike a dormant volcano whose eruptions are more or less predictable, Jerusalem is not. The use of force to prevent violence is not going to work. The burning embers will always remain only to ignite at the slightest provocation.

The Jerusalem issue remains a hot potato with both Palestinians and Israelis laying claim to it. The forces of reason are not much felt here and while the one side encroaches on the interests of the other there will always be a conflict of interests.

Jerusalem is a holy city that is important to the three monotheistic faiths - Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In this fact also lies the solution. Perhaps Jerusalem should not be under the rule of any sovereign nation but declared an international city under the rule of representatives of the three monotheistic faiths, each faith having jurisdiction over the holy sites peculiar to their respective faiths.

Maybe Jerusalem should have a separate status. It could be the capital of Israel and Palestine, with both peoples having their legislative assemblies there. Naturally there will be areas of cooperation between both peoples in the day to day running of Jerusalem for the benefit of both. Jerusalem should have a special status and be an open city accessible to all worshippers.

Jerusalem could be divided into boroughs that are determined by the demographic nature of the city. This could be done so that the interests of all residents are safeguarded. In order to end the periodic cycle of violence in Jerusalem between Jews and Palestinians, new and imaginative approaches need to be investigated.

Both sides need to change their ideas and seek ways of cooperation. Projects focusing on peace education and emphasize the equal claims of both Israelis and Palestinians to Jerusalem. Neither side is going to disappear at the expense of the other. It is not an easy task because of the tragic histories of both sides resulting in a total lack of trust.

This is a conflict where both sides are right, as Amos Oz, the well-known Israeli writer, aptly describes it.

Dialogue between the two sides must be initiated. One must always remember that what is happening in Jerusalem is determines the future of the Palestinian - Israeli conflict that affects the whole Middle East.

Saturday, October 24

The Goldstone Report and Self-examination

The Goldstone Report has caused reverberations throughout Israel as well as in the Diaspora. As expected, the report is viewed as being biased with a positive tilt towards the Palestinian side.

The accusations against Israel committing war crimes against the Palestinians are unfair in as far as Israel's intentions are concerned. These intentions were to neutralize Hamas terrorist activity against Israel's citizens. There is no doubt that innocent Palestinians had suffered many losses - fatalities, injury and destruction of property.

Much of this was due to the cruel use of innocent Palestinians as human shields behind which Hamas terrorists hid. This was achieved by Hamas force and threats to annihilate Palestinian families who do not provide shelter for Hamas terrorists. Verification of Israel’s claims that it had avoided injuring innocent Palestinians needs clarification.

Hamas and its terrorist allied groups are irregular militants who do not abide by any Geneva Convention Laws of warfare. Their cruel practices and manipulations paid dividends as far as the Goldstone Report findings are concerned. The UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) had interviewed Palestinian witnesses and based its findings on their statements.

There were no Israeli witnesses and this was a severe tactical error on Israel's part. Israel never allowed UN investigators to interview victims of Qassam missiles. The reason being, according to Israel's view, that the UN investigators are biased against Israel and therefore had no right to come to Israel to investigate victims of Qassam missiles and Hamas terror as it would have no influence on the outcome of the report in their (Israel's) view. This attitude is open to debate.

At least, if Israel would have been more accommodating, testimony of Israeli witnesses could have been placed on record, even if the UNHRC was biased towards Israel. The testimony would have been documented as evidence from the Israeli side. The Netanyahu coalition surely exhibited shortsightedness in this regard.

The detailed accounts of reputed crimes against Palestinians committed by the IDF are questionable. The possibility of the tragedies suffered by innocent Palestinians could be because of Hamas hostile activity against Israel's citizens over the past 8 years. It is always easy for an uninvolved party to pass judgment on so-called human rights abuses or war crimes. The question that one is tempted to ask is how would any sovereign country react against terrorists who threaten its population at every opportunity? Did the US treat the Iraqis with kid gloves when their soldiers were threatened on Iraqi soil or for that matter the Afghanis?

Always lurking in the background is Israel's credibility. Israel is an occupying power no matter how one views it. This is certainly a factor. It weakens Israel's standing amongst the world of nations. While there is talk of freezing settlement activity in order to create an atmosphere more conducive to peace negotiations, Israel has been expanding settlements and even building new ones. Surely if Israel was serious in accepting the two-state solution as PM Netanyahu had stated recently, albeit with severe limitations, then gestures of freezing settlement activity would be a move in the right direction.

On the other hand, Hamas is very intransigent irrespective of whether Israel is an occupying power or not.

There has been unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005, and Hamas is in control there. Hamas showed no signs of improving the situation for their citizens. All they did was instill hate for Israel, demonizing the Jewish people and moving closer to the destructive Hezbollah-Iranian camp. They encouraged terrorism against Israeli citizens and did not show any inclination to become part of a peace process or a desire for responsible government which is the least they owe their people.

The Goldstone Report did not denigrate Hamas for the initiation of the Gaza War for which it was responsible but only stated in passing its minuscule responsibility for war crimes committed.

In conclusion, the Goldstone Report stated that Israel committed war crimes against the Palestinians while Hamas is let off rather lightly.

The recommendations of the Goldstone Report are that both parties to the conflict institute a commission of enquiry on the allegations of committing war crimes. Israel is prepared to do this but not Hamas. Hamas-ruled Gaza is not a sovereign state where the rule of law prevails. Hamas glorifies terrorist activities against innocent Israelis and its policies clearly support the non-recognition of Israel and its total destruction. How can the Goldstone Report even recommend that Hamas institute an enquiry into war crimes that it had committed? It will never happen. Does this mean that Hamas will land up in the International Court of Justice accused of war crimes? This is most unlikely. Hamas does not represent a state. There is no rule of law in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Opponents of the Hamas regime are tortured and even murdered. How can this evil band of terrorists be held accountable for anything? The Goldstone Report glibly overlooked Hamas responsibility for the Gaza War and intense suffering of the Palestinians for which it was clearly responsible.

This has placed the eminent Judge, Richard Goldstone, in the ingenious situation of being a protégé of Hamas which was certainly not his intention. It seems as if he was manipulated by the UNHRC

Human Rights Watch insisted that Hamas should launch a "credible investigation" into serious violations by its fighters during Operation Cast Lead. Even if this were an option, Hamas would say that Israel is responsible for war crimes against Palestinians and this would automatically absolve Hamas from any responsibility for war crimes against the Palestinians. There is no way that Hamas, with their band of terrorists and potential suicide bombers will institute a commission of enquiry into war crimes against both Israelis and Palestinians especially the former.


Some ministers want
A sham investigation,
Without defining responsibility
And without uncovering
The army’s actions.
That will not reduce
The pressure.

What is needed is a
State investigation committee,
Headed by a Superior Court judge,
To hear testimonies
From soldiers and Gaza residents,
In public and in the presence
Of international observers.

For the Israeli government
That is the lesser evil.

Ad published in Haaretz, October 23, 2009

Saturday, October 10

The Goldstone Report - Is it fair?

So much has been written about the Goldstone Report. The Israeli leadership has criticized it for being unfair, while the Palestinian leadership has commended it.

The report findings as a response to what occurred during Operation Cast Lead was not strong in its condemnation of Hamas for their terrorist acts against the citizens of Israel over the last eight years of the firing of Qassam missiles into Israeli towns in the south.

The intentions of Hamas terrorists were clear - to maim and kill as many innocent men, women and children as possible. Eight thousand Qassam rockets were fired over an eight year period to achieve this object. The damage to property was great but injuries and death to Israeli citizens was relatively low. This could be explained for two reasons:

  1. The inaccuracy of the Qassam rocket which is primitive.
  2. The discipline of the citizens vulnerable to the rocket attacks made their way to security rooms when siren warnings were sounded.

It could have ended very differently had the citizens not been well drilled during rocket attacks. This is in contrast to the Palestinians in Gaza who have no protection against Israel Air Force bombardment.

Excesses against the Palestinians did occur resulting in heavy injuries and loss of innocent lives. Israel had made use of white phosphorus in their military activity which had caused untold suffering of innocent Palestinians. The question is whether it was necessary to use white phosphorus against the Palestinians. This needs to be investigated. This does not mean that Hamas is exonerated from perpetrating war crimes. Israel's big mistake was not allowing the HRC to investigate and interview those living in Sderot and surrounding towns so that Hamas terror against Israeli citizens could have been ascertained.

The Goldstone Report relied heavily on Palestinian witnesses whose credibility was questionable. There were hardly any Israeli witnesses to counteract which unfortunately did not give a full and unbiased picture of the Goldstone Report.

Despite all the weaknesses inherent in the report due to inaccurate assessments, Israel must be held accountable for the suffering of innocent civilians during Operation Cast Lead. Having said this, Hamas must be blamed for the initiation of the operation and for its results. They had provoked the attack on Gaza by their terrorist activities against innocent Israelis in Sderot and surrounding towns.

Which country on earth would tolerate the firing of 8000 Qassam missiles on its civilian population during a period of eight years? The US knew how to retaliate in Iraq and Afghanistan after the massive Al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on 11th September 2001. How many innocent civilians were killed as a result - not to mention the massive collateral damage to infrastructure?

The fact that Israel refused to cooperate with the HRC (Human Rights Committee) resulted in lack of witnesses giving evidence on Israel's side. Perhaps this would have resulted in a more balanced report.

Hamas has demonized Israel over the years. Its Islamic clergy have gone on record for the most vicious anti Semitic incitement against Jews and Israel. This of course adds legitimacy to terrorist acts against the Jewish people in their eyes. Hamas and its allied terrorist groups are to be blamed for the initiation of Operation Cast Lead. This was retaliatory action to protect Israel's citizens from Hamas terror.

The Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands does weaken Israel's credibility. Israel is viewed as the strong victor oppressing the weak Palestinians. They are also viewed as colonialists because of its settlement policies whereby Palestinian lands are taken from Palestinians for the establishment of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. These illegal activities weaken Israel's position and the world views Israel as an occupying power.

The Goldstone Report does make mention of accountability by both Israel and Hamas and that both sides should initiate a commission of enquiry for their accountability as far as war crimes are concerned. In a way this is very unrealistic. Hamas, with its attitude towards Israel, would never do that as they justify the murder of Jews as an honour. Apart from that, they are bunch of murderous gangsters with no mercy towards Israelis or Palestinians who oppose their regime.

Hamas even shot Fatah supporters in the legs in Gaza. To whom are they accountable? What is to the kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit? He has been in captivity for over 3 years now without any contact with his family. The Geneva Convention does not apply to them so they have the liberty to do as they wish with captured prisoners-of-war. The Goldstone Report states in mild terms Hamas responsibility for human rights abuses. Is this naivety on the part of Judge Goldstone or perhaps he has been manipulated by the HRC and the UN? Hamas will never allow an investigation of war crimes either internal or external. They justify every act of terror that they have perpetrated as their "legitimate fight against Israel's existence" not just the occupation.

The Goldstone Report has emphasized Israel's responsibility for war crimes against the Palestinians while Hamas seems to be held less responsible for war crimes and was not condemned as soundly as Israel.

The fairness of the report is questionable taking into account the circumstances that provoked Israel into taking military action against the Hamas terrorists who also used their own people as human shields to maximize the Palestinian suffering in order to blame Israel. This ruse seemed to have worked to their advantage.

The Goldstone Report may have come to the correct conclusions as far as human abuses are concerned but the emphasis on Israel as being the main culprit of human rights abuses is unfair. The actual blame for the initiation of Operation Cast Lead must be laid on the doorstep of Hamas.

Monday, September 21

The War in Gaza and Goldstone Report

The Goldstone Report has come out on Operation Cast Lead - the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) military operation against Hamas terrorists in Gaza. The report damned Israel and certainly not with faint praise.

The severity of this report against IDF human rights abuses and the horrific destruction of infrastructure and the killing of innocent civilians are indisputable in Gaza. In a military operation of this nature this is expected. The report accuses Israel of war crimes. What was also expected is Israel's condemnation of the report and this has caused a flurry of diplomatic activity seeking worldwide support for the IDF and justification for the wanton destruction and carnage in Gaza.

Despite irrefutable proof of the use of white phosphorous against innocent people, IDF remains in denial.

A large proportion of the blame for the Goldstone Report findings must be laid on Israel. Israel refused to cooperate and refused the commission investigators entry into Israel. Much damage was caused to homes in towns in southern Israel but relatively few deaths and injuries. Perhaps an explanation for this was the discipline of the citizens who sought shelter in security rooms when sirens were sounded every time there was Qassam rocket fire targeting Israel. The Palestinians, on the other hand, had no recourse whatsoever to any protection from Israeli military activity. As stated in the Goldstone Report many were even used as human shields by Hamas during the hostilities.

The Israeli government made up its mind that the UN sponsored commission was biased. One of the world's most eminent judges, Richard Goldstone, a South African Jew, whose positive connections to Israel is well-known, cannot be called unfair or biased in his own right. He even stated that he regrets that Israel's attitude towards the investigation was negative and uncooperative. This had influenced the commission's findings.

What went wrong? Israel's attitude towards the investigations was negative. Israel had prejudiced the investigation by not cooperating even though it was invited to participate.

In an investigation of any kind a law court accepts evidence from all sides - the defense’s witnesses as well as the prosecution's witnesses before the judge weighs out the evidence and decrees a ruling. The judge arrives at a ruling based on the evidence presented to him. However, if there is insufficient evidence presented from the one side, the ruling is based on the evidence made available from the other side and conclusions are drawn as well as judgment. Judgment is passed if there is overwhelming evidence to justify it.

Israel refused to cooperate with the Goldstone Commission stating that it was biased from the start. The reason for this is that Israel regards UN sponsored commissions as being automatically prejudiced to Israel. Israel therefore felt that it was under no obligation to cooperate with any UN body focusing on the Gaza operation.

Judge Goldstone even expressed his great disappointment with Israel for denying the investigators entry into Israel to investigate what happened in Sderot and other areas affected by Hamas terrorist Qassam rocket fire.

Why did Israel not cooperate in this by allowing victims of Hamas terror to give evidence to the Goldstone commission? This resulted in most of the evidence coming from Gaza which the Palestinians, who had suffered from the merciless IDF actions, had supplied. The commission had carte blanche there. The massive destruction of buildings and 1300 Palestinians killed was emphasized to the commission. Apart from that, there was no lack of Palestinian witnesses willing to give evidence.

On the Israeli side there was an uncomfortable silence and lack of information as well as cooperation. A grave mistake was made and this was evident in the result of the Goldstone Report. This report was the result of the evidence made available and that Israel refused to cooperate.

Surely had Israel cooperated, the report would have been less damning of Israel. The often quoted epithet that "Israel has the most humane army in the world" does not wash down anymore in international forums nor does the justification of “unavoidable collateral damage” because of Hamas gunmen hiding themselves amongst the civilian population. The automatic Israeli reaction to the report shows shallowness, lack of knowledge and self-righteousness that is a similar reaction to a criminal in denial after having been found guilty of a heinous crime despite the irrefutable evidence made available in court to prove his guilt.

Now the "fun" begins as the Netanyahu-Lieberman Government sends its diplomats scurrying all over the world in a desperate bid to justify Israel's action and to refute the Goldstone Report findings.

This could have been avoided and it is doubtful if this intensive diplomatic activity will change attitudes.

The reason for Operation Cast Lead is well known. The motive was to end the Hamas firing of Qassam rockets into Israeli towns. Hamas was warned to cease their terrorist acts against Israel or else they will pay a heavy price. The warning went unheeded.

It must be noted that the unilateral Israeli disengagement from Gaza without any agreement was a massive error on Israel's side. There was no attempt by the Palestinian rulers in Gaza to build residential areas or develop the area vacated by the settlers. Instead it became a haven for Hamas terrorists to fire Qassam rockets into Israel. The Goldstone Report did not make much mention of this.

The purpose of the Goldstone Report was to investigate human rights violations and not to seek justification for it as Israel would have desired.

Another question that arises is whether Hamas will also be held accountable for the deaths of Israeli civilians and damage caused by their Qassams any less than Israel.

According to an article by Justice Richard Goldstone published in International Herald Tribune (18th Sept 2009), the Goldstone Report findings was concerned with the suffering of civilians because of hostilities of the war. Surely this is applicable to both sides - the IDF and Hamas terrorists who both stand accused of human rights abuses of both Israeli and Palestinians.

Both sides ought to be brought to the International Court of Justice at The Hague for accountability. The excuse that Hamas is not accountable is unacceptable! It was elected to rule Gaza by a majority in elections. Its human rights record even towards its own people is poor.

Hamas has broken every rule on human rights. The holding of Gilad Shalit in captivity without a chance of release or communication with his family is a severe violation of the Geneva Convention rules. It should also be part of the Goldstone Report as well which is so concerned with human rights abuses in war time. Operation Cast Lead was also launched as a response for the release of Gilad Shalit. The campaign failed and with it any hope of an early release.

This highly emotionally charged issue of the Goldstone Report resulted in severe criticism from Israel and as mentioned earlier in this article it was expected.

However, if one examines the report in its entirety without sentiment and in straight legalistic terms, it is a reasonable finding despite the immense difficulties involved in its compilation and lack of Israeli cooperation.