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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Why we won't listen to Goldstone

Writing in YNet on Wednesday, Tel Aviv University professor Aeyal Gross urges Israelis to listen to the Goldstone Commission report, claiming - despite all evidence to the contrary - that it looked into the conduct of both sides in the Gaza conflict.
The report was drafted by a distinguished group of experts that are not nti-Semitic or anti-Israeli. Goldstone made a name for himself not only as a prosecutor on behalf of the special courts for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, but also as a courageous South African judge, especially when he looked into the roots of political violence towards the end of the apartheid regime and exposed the complicity of security forces.

Perhaps when a person who nobody can accuse of being hostile to Israel or wishing to distort justice puts a mirror before us, as he did in his own country in the 1990s, our land too will open its eyes?
In the past, I have noted the inherent bias in the Goldstone Commission's mandate and makeup. But I'd like to look at the incident that Gross cited in his article to show how the Goldstone Commission ignored evidence that was readily available on the Internet.
For example, read the story of the Abu-Khalima family: A phosphorous shell was fired at their home. Even though the family moved to what it thought would be a secure room, the shell penetrated through the ceiling and hit family members directly. Five people died on the spot, including four children aged 14, 12, 8, and a year-and-a-half. Other people were wounded. The IDF did not allow an ambulance to evacuate the dead and wounded, and also removed them from the vehicles they traveled in to the hospital as it fired and killed more relatives who survived the initial bombing.
Here are the relevant paragraphs from Goldstone's report (thanks to Omri Ceren for figuring out that Khalima and Halima are one and the same).
786. The Mission interviewed three members of the Abu Halima family who were eyewitnesses to the events described below.435 The Mission also spoke to the doctor who treated some of the family members.436 The Mission reviewed a report by Physicians for Human Rights – Israel and Palestinian Medical Relief Society which includes analysis by doctors who observed the wounds of the surviving victims at the beginning of March 2009 and also has medical reports confirming the injuries they suffered.437 Finally, the Mission reviewed information received from TAWTHEQ. [Elder of Ziyon has already proved that TAWTHEQ is Hamas. CiJ].

787. On 3 and 4 January 2009, the initial days of the ground invasion, there was heavy aerial bombardment and shelling by tanks of the open areas around Siyafa village, in al-Atatra neighbourhood west of Beit Lahia. Most residents are farmers and, although the Israeli armed forces had dropped leaflets warning civilians to leave the area, most had chosen to stay. Based on their previous experiences of ground invasions, they reportedly believed that they were not in danger.

788. On 4 January 2009, the bombardment reportedly increased as Israeli troops moved into and took control of al-Atatra neighbourhood. The Abu Halima family was sheltering in the home of Muhammad Sa’ad Abu Halima and Sabah Abu Halima in Sifaya village. The house has two floors; the ground floor is used for storage and the living quarters are on the upper floor. According to Sabah Abu Halima,438 16 members of her immediate family were sheltering on the upper floor.

789. In the afternoon, after hearing that a shell had hit the adjacent house of Sabah Abu Halima’s brother-in-law, most of the family moved from the bedroom into a hallway in the middle of the upper floor, where they thought they would be better protected. At around 4.30 p.m., a white phosphorous shell came through the ceiling into the room where they were sheltering.

790. According to family members who survived,439 there was intense fire and white smoke in the room, the walls of which were glowing red. Five members of the family died immediately or within a short period: Muhammad Sa’ad Abu Halima (aged 45) and four of his children, sons Abd al-Rahim Sa’ad (aged 14), Zaid (aged 12) and Hamza (aged 8), and daughter Shahid (aged 18 months). Muhammad Sa’ad and Abd al-Rahim Sa’ad were decapitated, the others burnt to death. Five members of the family escaped and suffered various degrees of burns: Sabah Abu Halima, her sons Youssef (aged 16) and Ali (aged 4), daughter-in-law Ghada (aged 21), and
Ghada’s daughter Farah (aged 2).440

791. Family members tried to call an ambulance, but the Israeli armed forces had declared the area a closed military zone and ambulances were not permitted to enter. Two cousins put Sabah Abu Halima in the back of a tractor trailer and drove her to Kamal Idwan hospital in Beit Lahia. The driver reported that he reached the hospital despite coming under fire from Israeli soldiers posted inside the Omar Bin Khattab school for girls on the road to al-Atatra.441 One cousin remained with Sabah Abu Halima, while the other returned to help the rest of the family.

792. The remaining survivors and the injured were placed on a second tractor trailer to take them to Kamal Idwan hospital. The remains of Shahid Abu Halima were also taken. The tractor was driven by a cousin, Muhammad Hekmat Abu Halima (aged 16). Another cousin, Matar Abu Halima (aged 17), his brother Ali (aged 11) and his mother, Nabila, accompanied them.

793. When they reached the crossroads next to the Omar Bin Khattab school in al-Atatra, Israeli soldiers positioned on the roof of a nearby house, some ten metres away, ordered them to stop. Muhammad Hekmat, Matar, Ali, Nabila and Matar got down and stood beside the tractor. One or more soldiers opened fire, hitting Muhammad Hekmat Abu Halima in the chest and Matar Abu Halima in the abdomen.442 Both died as a result of their injuries. Ali, Omar and Nabila Abu Halima fled. Omar was shot in the arm, but they eventually reached Kamal Idwan hospital.

794. The remaining family members were ordered to abandon the tractors and walk. They were not permitted to take the bodies of the two dead boys, or the remains of Shahid Abu Halima, which were recovered four days later, on 8 January. Ghada Abu Halima, who had burns on 45 per cent of her body, had great difficulty walking. After some 500 metres, a vehicle picked up several members of the family, including Ghada and Farah, and took them to al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.

795. Dr. Nafiz Abu Shaban, Chief of Plastic Surgery at al-Shifa hospital, confirmed that Sabah, Ghada and Farah Abu Halima were admitted there with serious burns and were transferred to Egypt for treatment. The doctor believed that the burns were caused by contact with white phosphorous.443
Goldstone treats the 'Palestinian' testimony as fact:
796. The Mission found Sabah Abu Halima, Muhammad Sa’ad Abu Halima and Omar Sa’ad Abu Halima to be credible and reliable witnesses. It has no reason to doubt the veracity of the main elements of their testimonies, which were corroborated by the testimony of Dr. Nafiz Abu Shaban of al-Shifa hospital.
But Goldstone apparently did not critically examine the Halima family. As Elder of Ziyon points out in an as-yet-unpublished interview:
--Other people I’ve spoken to point to the report’s reliance on Palestinian eyewitness testimony as its central problem? Do you agree? If so, why? Is there something inherently untrustworthy about Palestinian witnesses?

At the risk of breaking rules of political correctness, the answer has to be (in general) "yes." There is a script that Palestinian Arabs are conditioned to use, and when they speak to the press for the record they almost always adhere to it. I have a number of examples here, and in context of the Gaza operation the most telling are this story from an embedded YNet reporter and this story where an anonymous farmer tells another reporter that, yes, there were actually rockets from the area that every "eyewitness" claimed had none.
Goldstone was not meant to be conducting a trial and his finding the witnesses 'credible' based on his impressions and those of the other members of his biased commission is irrelevant.

In the next paragraph, Goldstone admits that he cannot determine that the shelling of the house was improper.
797. With regard to the white phosphorous shelling of the Abu Halima family house [Are the 'Palestinians' military experts who can determine that white phosphorus was used? CiJ], the Mission notes that the house is located in a village in a rural area. The shelling occurred on 4 January 2009 at a time when Israeli ground forces were apparently advancing into al-Atatra. Moreover, the Israeli armed forces had dropped leaflets warning civilians to leave [Funny, I don't ever recall Hamas dropping leaflets in Gaza urging Israeli civilians to leave before they fired Kassams. CiJ]. Under the circumstances, the Mission cannot make any determination as to whether the shelling of the Abu Halima house was a direct attack against a civilian objective, an indiscriminate attack or a justifiable part of the broader military operation.
But then in the next paragraph, Goldstone makes this incredible statement.
798. With regard to the shooting of Muhammad Hekmat Abu Halima and Matar Abu Halima, the Mission notes that the Israeli soldiers had ordered the tractor on which they were transporting the wounded to stop and had ordered the two cousins (aged 16 and 17) to come down. They had complied with those instructions and were standing next to the tractor, when the Israeli soldiers standing on the roof of a nearby house opened fire on them. The soldiers cannot have been mistaken about the circumstance that these were two civilians taking gravely wounded persons to a hospital. The shooting of Muhammad Hekmat Abu Halima and Matar Abu Halima was a direct lethal attack on two under-age civilians. The fact that they were hit in the chest and the abdomen, respectively, indicates that the intention was to kill them.
How does Goldstone make a determination of fact that the soldiers "cannot have been mistaken that these were two civilians taking gravely wounded persons to a hospital" without asking the soldiers? How many times have we seen 'Palestinians' using ambulances to transport weapons and terrorists? How many times have we seen 'dead' 'Palestinians' fall off their funeral biers and get back on them?

How did he determine that these two 'under-age civilians' (and there have been many Hamas terrorists who were 16 and 17 years old) were hit in the chest and abdomen? Did he examine the bodies? Did he receive a pathology report that was not vetted by Hamas? Did he see a pathology report at all? For that matter, how did he determine that they were 16 and 17?

And then he goes on:
799. The Mission further notes that in this case the Israeli armed forces denied the ambulances access to the area to evacuate the wounded and then opened fire on the relatives of the wounded who were trying to take them to the nearest hospital.
Once again, he is completely dependent on witnesses he uncritically decided were 'credible' without any cross-examination. There was no adversarial proceeding here. Goldstone's job wasn't to uncritically regurgitate 'evidence' he gathered from the 'Palestinians' - it was to critically examine that evidence.

What could Goldstone have discovered about al-Atrata - the village where this took place - had he bothered to look on the Internet?

IDF paratroopers discovered a map of the northern Gaza town of al-Atatra and used it to avoid casualties in the town. Today, the map was shown during an IDF briefing. This is sweet.
The map is handwritten and is based on a bird's-eye view of the town, likely taken from Google Maps. On the map, Hamas split up the town into three different sectors - red, blue and green. On the map, Hamas highlighted several important sites such as mosques, a gas station and a fuel depot.

"Inside the map, the terrorists also marked sniper positions, as well as the location of roadside bombs, anti-tank bombs and landmines," Chief Intelligence Officer Brig.-Gen. Yuval Halamish said Thursday.

The map was discovered by soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade during operations in al-Atatra and was translated in the field and used by the troops to avoid casualties.

Halamish said that the map showed how Hamas does not hesitate to use civilian infrastructure for its terrorist activity. On the map, a brown dot is marked next to a mosque representing a nearby sniper position.

"This is a civilian area and you can see on the map how Hamas booby-trapped the entrance to homes in order to hit the IDF," Halamish said. In another case, a large explosive device was marked on the map next to a gas station. Had it been detonated it would have likely destroyed the gas station as well, killing and wounding civilians who live in the area.

In another case, Halamish said that soldiers discovered a mannequin dressed like a soldier at the entrance to a home. Had soldiers entered the home, the mannequin would have exploded, collapsing the floor and causing the troops to fall into a tunnel where they would have been abducted by Hamas operatives.
Maybe that might have had something to do with the soldiers' treatment of the Abu Halima's? Here's another story about Al-Atrata in which the IDF provided 'Palestinian civilians' with food and blankets and evacuated them from a battle area (to Be'er Sheva), returning them when the fighting ended.

By the way, the Al-Atrata neighborhood was the launching point for Kassam rockets into Ashkelon - maybe the rocket that hit Dr. Siderer came from there. It's also just south of the former Jewish towns of Nisanit, Dugit and Elei Sinai, which were abandoned by Israel (and had all their Jews expelled) in the summer of 2005. But Goldstone ignores those facts too.

In 2006, the Washington Post reported on the use of children as human shields and weapons bearers in the very same village of Al-Atrata. Does anyone doubt it was different this time?

Sorry Aeyal. Tell your friend Richard Goldstone that we'll listen to him when he produces an unbiased report. And not before.


According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights casualty report, Mohamed Hokmat Abu Halima, casualty number 523, referred to in Goldstone's paragraph 798, was 18 years old at the time of his death, and was therefore not an 'under-age civilian' as Goldstone said he was. He died on January 4, 2009, the date given by Goldstone.

According to the same report, Matar Sa'ad Abu Halima, casualty number 887, was 17-years old at his death, but died on January 8, 2009, and not in the January 4 incident cited by Goldstone.

Sounds like Mr. Goldstone didn't get his homework right.


At 9:42 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

this is a superb job. alas, what a travesty this report is. there are studies that show even chimpanzees know when they're being deceived, that it's a fundamental part of our evolutionary equipment to detect cheating, and that not doing so increases deceit. what's goldstone's problem -- he's not dumber than a chimp, is he?

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

"[Funny, I don't ever recall Hamas dropping leaflets in Gaza urging Israeli civilians to leave before they fired Kassams. CiJ]."

Bad comparison Carl.

A better one would be Hamas warning Israelis to leave the area of a suicide bomber so they can blow themselves up without harming civilians around them.

At 1:37 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Also: "Goldstone's job wasn't to uncritically regurgitate 'evidence' he gathered from the 'Palestinians'"...

Yes it was. Goldstones job was to attack Israel, as outlined by his mandate.

At 2:44 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Toe is right about the analogy, and it points out that Israel tries to avoid civilian casualties while targeting combatants, while Hamas tries to target civilians. But isn't that their right as "resisters"?

At 6:04 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Commission was not even a court of law and it afforded Israel none of the rights criminal defendants are routinely extended. It took Israel's silence and refusal to cooperate as evidence of guilt where on the other hand in any enlightened country, no one may be compelled to testify against himself in any proceeding. Goldstone violated all the accepted rules of fairness, due process and justice and Israel is supposed to just sit back and accept its verdict?

Never - and that's as it should be,


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