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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Goldstone Commission on human shields: Lies and damned lies

I mentioned earlier that the Goldstone Commission report is 574 pages long. I have it sitting open on my computer, but finding the time to read it in its entirety... isn't likely to happen anytime soon. So I thought I would do some searching to try to give you the flavor. I searched for the term "human shield."

What I was looking for was the use of the 'Palestinian' civilian population by Hamas as human shields. It's basically not there. Here's what they have to say about it:
474. The Mission’s attention has been drawn to a well-known incident in which women and children followed calls to gather on the roof of the house of a Palestinian man who had been informed by the Israeli authorities that his house would be targeted. This incident has been documented in video footage in the public domain and is referred to in submissions received by the Mission as evidence of the use of human shields. 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. On the contrary, in one case investigated by the Mission, a Hamas official received a phone call from the Israeli armed forces to the effect that his house would soon be targeted. He evacuated the house with his family and alerted the neighbours to the imminent threat so that they, too, were able to leave their homes before the missile did indeed strike.
Let's go to the videotape. January 8, 2009.

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.
Let's go to the videotape. Click on the captions button (click the right widget and then CC) for an English translation:

And here's a highlight reel for good measure. Let's go to the videotape.

Now you all remember the video of the kid being pulled by the Hamas operative who was afraid of being shot, don't you? You're going to see it again below. Goldstone so helpfully calls that "mingling."
F. Mingling with the civilian population to shield combatants against attack

477. When military operations take place in areas in which civilians are present, the
importance of military dress and distinctive signs to distinguish combatants from civilians is all the greater. The Mission notes that only one of the incidents it investigated clearly involved the presence of Palestinian combatants. In that incident, the witness told the Mission that three fighters trapped in his neighbour’s house were “wearing military camouflage and headbands of the al-Qassam Brigades”.

478. Reports on the military operations by NGOs suggest that in general members of
Palestinian armed groups did not wear military uniforms. One report states that after the destruction caused by the Israeli air strikes at the start of the military operations, members of al-Qassam Brigades abandoned military dress and patrolled streets “in civilian clothes”. A second report states that members of the Palestinian armed groups “also mixed with the civilian population, although this would be difficult to avoid in the small and overcrowded Gaza Strip, and there is no evidence that they did so with the intent of shielding themselves”.
Let's go to the videotape.

479. Finally, on this issue, it is relevant to mention that the Israeli Government has produced no visual or other evidence to support its allegation that Palestinian combatants “mingle routinely with civilians in order to cover their movements”.
Let's go to the videotape.

What Goldstone does claim is that the IDF used 'Palestinian' civilians as human shields. He bases that claim on testimony by 'Palestinians' that he deemed credible. My friends at NGO Monitor have already taken apart the 'Palestinians' and their NGO's on Gaza - for example, see here. But Goldstone claims that the testimony was corroborated by Israeli soldiers....
1089. In more general terms, the Mission notes that the statements of the men used as human shields by the Israeli armed forces during house searches are corroborated by statements made by Israeli soldiers to the NGO Breaking the Silence. The soldier providing testimony 1 speaks of the “Johnnie procedure”: “It was the first week of the war, fighting was intense, there were explosive charges to expose, tunnels in open spaces and armed men inside houses. […] Close in on each house. The method used has a new name now – no longer 'neighbour procedure.' Now people are called 'Johnnie.' They're Palestinian civilians, and they're called Johnnies […] To every house we close in on, we send the neighbour in, 'the Johnnie,' and if there are armed men inside, we start, like working the 'pressure cooker' in the West Bank.” This soldier then mentions that some commanders were “bothered” by the fact that “civilians were used to a greater extent than just sending them into houses.” A second soldier interviewed by Breaking the Silence, testimony 17, appears to have discussed the “Johnnie procedure” at length, but his testimony was censored or otherwise cut in that respect, so that we can only read: “They [civilians found in houses] were used as ‘Johnnies’ (at a different point in the interview the witness described the ‘Johnnie’ procedure, using Palestinian civilians as human shields during house searches), and then released, and we’re finding them in later searches.”

1090. The Mission thus finds that while these testimonies do not confirm the details of the specific cases it investigated, they strongly support the general allegation that the Israeli armed forces engaged in the practice of compelling Palestinian civilians to accompany them on house searches.
Remember Breaking the Silence?
In early March 2009, Breaking the Silence 'leaked' 'confessions' from IDF soldiers allegedly involved in the liquidation of a terrorist that took place in November 2000 to the British media, which published them with sensationalist headlines. I ripped the story apart at the time, as did others. But that was just a warm-up for what was to come.

Two and a half weeks later, Breaking the Silence released 'confessions' of IDF soldiers who were involved in Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 and January 2009. The 'confessions' involved 'war crimes' against 'Palestinians.' Haaretz (Israel's Hebrew Palestinian daily) published the 'confessions' without having vetted them with the IDF for comment. The 'confessions' turned out to be hearsay, encouraged by the leftist dean of Israel's only secular pre-military academy.

This past week, Breaking the Silence released a new round of 'confessions.' You can read a summary of it here. This is the part I found most curious:
As for Breaking the Silence's motivations, The Jerusalem Post's Amir Mizroch offers an insider's insight on his personal blog on how the group attempted to give Ha'aretz exclusive rights to the story. The paper, in light of its previous embarrassment, did not take the bait and sent the report to the IDF for response. Meanwhile, Breaking the Silence attempted to get the JPost's military correspondent off the story, fearing that the paper would take a critical look at their report. According to Mizroch:
Several days before all this, Breaking The Silence gave out their report to a wide array of foreign media, and not to the IDF to probe into itself, with the caveat that they observe the embargo until after Ha'aretz published the report first. All of which shows their original intent was to get as much uncritical worldwide publicity for their report. Legitimate, sure. Fair? Not so sure.
Breaking the Silence has succeeded in gaining the international publicity that it sought. Many media outlets have also demonstrated their propensity to uncritically publish unverifiable accounts from non-governmental organizations that feed their own unquestioning narrative of Israel and the IDF.
I'm not sure that I agree that it's legitimate or fair, and it certainly isn't if one's goal is to reach the truth (which - silly me - is what I thought news stories were supposed to do) and not to present the news with a certain slant.

There's another great comment about Breaking the Silence here. Make sure to read it all.
Goldstone has adopted Breaking the Silence as their Israeli testimony - they're all over the report. Yet not one assertion made by Breaking the Silence has ever been proven.

Lies and damned lies. Probably some statistics too but I haven't seen them yet.


At 3:25 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

In other words, the Goldstone Commission adopted the Hamas' narrative and rejected Israel's case. The conclusion was entirely predictable. That's enough to discredit it.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Shoher also prepared a Goldstone's rebuttal at http://samsonblinded.org/blog/goldstone-report-the-rebuttal.htm
The question, though, is what is wrong with using Palestinians as human shields? To my knowledge, that practice (when practiced) was entirely safe for them.


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