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Friday, November 06, 2009

Richard Goldstone v. Dore Gold Liveblog

This is the first of at least three posts tonight that will deal with the Goldstone - Gold debate I just saw at Brandeis. The first one is my liveblog notes of the debate. The second will include video of the entire debate, which is being uploaded to YouTube as I am typing this. The third one will be my general comments about the debate.

I am going to post my raw notes of the debate in the interest of getting them up quickly, and then I will go back and add links, so if you see something you don't understand, hang in there.

Here we go:

I was hoping to liveblog this debate, but my wireless is acting up again and so I am typing into a Word document as things go along, and hopefully will find a way to upload later.

Security was much less tight than I thought it would be. I entered through an entrance that was neither ‘ticketed’ nor ‘general admission.’ They asked for an ID, I showed them a photo ID and told them I was ‘media.’ They asked what media, I said I was a blogger. The police officer asked for the name of my blog, and I was in. I’m sitting upstairs in the media section, but there are a lot of people here who are clearly not media. The funny thing is that it says “no cameras or cell phones” and as soon as you walk in there is a whole row of television cameras filming the entire event.

For those wondering about Mr. Sussman (the gentleman from SDS whose email I published at the beginning of the week, and which was cited by Caroline Glick in her Friday column) and his ilk, I have been told that the university has threatened to severely sanction anyone who disrupts this event.

I just noticed that there’s a cameraman from Israeli Channel 10 filming next to me…. Well, I didn’t get interviewed.

I’m sitting next to a Reuters correspondent and just ran into an old friend whose daughter is here covering for JPost. The friend said that the line to get in wrapped around the building twice.

Brandeis’ President Reinharz is giving an introduction about how the university seeks truth and how they have always hosted people on both sides. Goldstone will speak first, Gold second. He says that there is substantial agreement on the underlying principles involved in the Goldstone report.

The event is being streamed all over the world.

Reinharz makes the connection between Israel’s fight with Hamas and America’s fight with terrorists who melt into the civilian populations. Brandeis students and faculty will get priority in questions. He asks for civility during the speeches.

Daniel Terrace is introducing Goldstone. Professor Ilan Trohn is hosting the event with him. This is not a debate. But the format of the event is ‘illumination, not confrontation.’ Terrace will moderate the question and answer session at the end and then the speakers will give closing comments. This event is part of a continuing conversation on campus, and Professor Terrace asks again for civility.

Most important development in international law in the last two decades is development of protections for the world’s most vulnerable people. He talks about Goldstone’s background. Goldstone is a familiar figure at Brandeis. Goldstone gets a standing ovation from about five rather vocal older people in the second row.

Goldstone says he’s grateful to Dore Gold for agreeing to participate. He says that it’s to Israel’s credit that it’s concerned about many of the accusations in the Gaza report. Israel is a democracy that is committed to human rights. He says that the same cannot be said about Gaza (note – he does not refer to Hamas). He hopes to avoid the ‘personal attacks’ and then launches into a rant about all the personal attacks against him resulting from the Gaza report.

Four core and fundamental issues:

Human Rights Council’s record: Unfortunately, some members are human rights offenders and they impact the HRC’s record as an arbiter of human rights. He decries the disproportionate focus on Israel and notes that Kofi Annan also complained of the disproportionate focus on Israel. He notes that at the Council’s most recent session in Geneva they adopted resolutions relating to other countries but regrettably refused to investigate war crimes in Sri Lanka. He believes US sitting on HRC is a positive step.

His mandate: He says that the mandate he accepted was not biased against Israel. The original mandate was biased against Israel. As you all know, the mandate was never legally changed. He’s telling the story of the ‘new mandate.’ The Nigerian ambassador to the HRC asked him how he would word an even-handed mandate. Goldstone wrote out the mandate and the Nigerian ambassador – President of the HRC – asked him to accept that mandate. He said that it was the first even-handed HRC mandate in the Middle East. He quotes from the mandate he wrote. It is limited to 27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009 whether before during or after. He says that he hoped Israel would go along with the mandate, and that HRC adopted the ‘whole report,’ including that Hamas committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. He complains that they were not allowed to visit southern Israel and they were not allowed to go to the ‘West Bank’ either. He said he spoke to the Israeli ambassador to the HRC, but the response was that the ambassador had no authority to meet with him and that the Israeli government was not prepared to cooperate with the HRC mission. He referred to the mandate. Goldstone responded that was not his mandate. He said that two months later he got a response to his letters to the Prime Minister and to his request for reconsideration in which it was said that there would be no cooperation. He cites an article from Haaretz October 28 citing Yitzchak (Isaac) Herzog saying that not cooperating with Goldstone was a mistake.

What the mandate included: Violations of human rights and humanitarian law (what used to be called the laws of war). He says that Israel has the right to protect its citizens under international law and that it has the duty to do so. The mandate did not call on them to evaluate the right to use military force, but whether the manner in which it was used was consistent with international humanitarian law. He said that they conducted 50 phone calls with witnesses in southern Israel in addition to the interviews they conducted in Geneva. The rocket attacks terrorized women and children every day of their lives. He refers to militants who fired rockets who committed serious war crimes.

It’s not a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding and did not use criminal evidence standards. He said that the journalist from the Forward misunderstood him. He called for independent investigations in Israel and in Gaza.

He refers to the Dahiye doctrine explained by Gabi Eisenkot in 2006, who said that disproportionate force would be applied to any quarter from which rockets were being filed on Israel. He claims that’s a war crime. He cites Eli Yishai on January 6, 2009 saying that all of Gaza should be destroyed and homes should be razed to the ground. Goldstone claims that doctrine was applied in Operation Cast Lead. 5000 homes were destroyed. He notes high civilian death toll and huge number of homes destroyed. He complains of attacks on Gaza infrastructure – 200 factories. He lists flour mill, water supply, etc.

Unemployment in Gaza at 60% and 90% of people live on less than $1 per day. He cites Isaac Herzog again criticizing cabinet ministers’ remarks during the war as giving Goldstone ammunition. He cites comments again by Eli Yishai and Chaim Ramon [which were cited by Herzog. CiJ]. He says that response must be proportionate and up to now Israel accepted that.

Methodology: Relied on what they saw and were told. He complains that they were not informed of the Israeli government’s views.

As long as people are being treated without dignity there will be no peace.

He finishes. There was polite applause. Same people who stood up before applaud more vigorously.

Professor Ilan Tohrn introduces Dore Gold.

This is the first time that an Israeli of Ambassador Gold’s stature responds to any member of the Goldstone Commission. Israel argues that the official mandate was never rescinded by the HRC even if Goldstone objected to it. Canada, Japan and EU voted against the resolution. The number of states opposing the report has grown. He cites House resolution casting the report as biased 344-36. Condemnation of report is not narrowly based. The 575-page report emphasizes Israel and its bulk is about Israel.

Goldstone Report is the most comprehensive and damaging against Israel. There is nothing like it about Hamas or Palestinian society. Ambassador Gold has to explain why so many Israelis find this report so objectionable. He says that Gold must address the accuracy of the facts collected by the fact-finding mission and whether there are any facts it does not include. What alterations would Gold suggest and what suggestions would he offer. He asks the audience to extend the same attentiveness and courtesy that they extended to Goldstone.

Several people toward the back give a standing ovation. They just dimmed the lights – I’m not sure why. [Subsequently, I found out why: Gold was using slides and video for his presentation. CiJ].

Gold says the report is the most serious indictment of the State of Israel bearing the UN’s seal since the UN General Assembly adopted the Zionism is racism resolution from 1975. (There’s now a screen up with pictures of Gaza during the war – so far just one picture but let’s see if Dore’s going to show movies). Report delegitimizes Israel. He cites the weapons ship that was stopped on Wednesday morning with thousands of rockets. The UNHRC or any major UN body will not point out Iran’s constant involvement in human rights violations or war crimes against the State of Israel.

The IDF is not what appears in this report. The Israeli army for generations is taught to avoid civilian casualties at all costs. He cites the 35 who captured an Arab shepherd and released him (Students with signs are standing the front rows on the other side. They’re all dressed in black. I can’t see what the signs. Dore Gold addresses the interruption and says that the US fought a war seven years ago for freedom of speech and discussion). The IDF tells the story that even though the 35 were killed, but orders to kill civilians must be disobeyed. He talks about the Jenin refugee camp where there was house to house combat to minimize civilian casualties and 23 Israeli soldiers died. (There’s a slide presentation going along with this). Hamas used Shifa Hospital as a command and control center and Israel refused to attack it.

For that reason, the UN Gaza report has been condemned across the political spectrum in Israel. The commission inferred ill will where it was not warranted while Hamas – a terror organization – is almost protected throughout the text. Hamas appears as ‘Palestinian armed groups’ throughout the report. Moussa Abu Marzouk concluded – correctly – that the report acquits Hamas almost entirely. The report omits the fact that Cast Lead was a war of self-defense (applause). He quotes paragraph 18 of the report.

He cites Christine Chinkin’s letter to the Times of London on January 11, 2009 and quotes from the letter. The report claims Israel tried to punish Gaza from electing Hamas (paragraph 1884). He shows video of Kassam attack in Sderot.

By 2008, terror had spread as far away as Be’er Sheva. Shows direct hit on school in Be’er Sheva (picture). By 2008, nearly one million Israelis were under the reach of Hamas rocket fire. Israel withdrew from Gaza and rocket fire increased by 500% from 2005 to 2006. Hamas declared it was ending the quiet on December 19, 2008. There is no question of who committed aggression against whom. Israel went to war on December 27, 2008 to bring a halt to the rocket fire.

Report’s problem is the repeated claim that Israel deliberately killed Palestinian civilians. He puts up a slide with quotes from report. How do they reach these conclusions? Three ways:

Those ways were deliberate attacks against civilians, scope of destruction, attacks on public buildings. He puts up a military map of northern Gaza City of Hamas’ military positions embedded purposely inside civilian populations – shows red dots with white dots inside them, which were rocket launching sites. What would you do if your population was facing repeated rocket attacks for eight years and enemy has embedded its military capability within the civilian population? Your choices: indiscriminate attacks like Russia did in Chechniya, give up or try to separate Palestinian civilians from military capability. Israel chose the third means. They said that they would hit any house that stored rockets, but sent multiple warnings to the civilian population. They entered into radio transmissions, leaflets were dropped, and then there was an attempt to directly contact families through cell phones or home phones. He put up a message in Arabic with an English translation.

How do we know that they received those warnings? Here’s a Hamas TV clip and how Hamas tried to keep the civilians among the military. (I haven’t seen these before – this is impressive). He said that the Goldstone Report wanted proof that the Palestinians were forced to be human shields – that’s an impossible standard to meet. He shows the famous video that I have of Fathi Hamad telling a rally that they must act as human shields and how they desire death. There’s no separation between Hamas and the ‘armed elements’ that fight Israel. He talked about Israel redirecting missiles while putting up a slide about the Palestinian police station strike.

Does this sound like a country that engages in deliberate attacks against a civilian population? How can this be seen as consistent with the principle charge of the Gaza report that Israel deliberately attacked Palestinian civilians? The report views Palestinian policemen as non-combatants. But he shows that some of the Palestinian policemen were involved with al-Qaeda and another was involved with the murder of Americans in 2003.

He shows a Hamas map that shows that roughly 20% of the houses in northern Gaza City were booby-trapped. In some areas there were secondary explosions caused by Hamas.

He says that the report claimed that no mosques had weapons in them. He cites Travers from the commission in Harpers’ Magazine claiming that there was no evidence that mosques were used for munitions. Travers claims that this is a result of the idea that Islam is a violent religion. But he shows a video of a mosque with anti-aircraft missiles. He mentions Fallujah and the mosque attacked by Hamas that was full of Salafists.

Some of the sources that the report used felt the report went too far. He cites Jessica Montrell [of B'Tselem. CiJ] at HuffPo, “Breaking the Silence” which says that there were briefings by commanders to avoid civilian causalities, and finally he notes the reluctance of witnesses in Gaza to speak who seemed to be afraid of reprisals.

Gold concludes by putting Richard Kemp’s speech from the HRC meeting last month. Gold was excellent. There is a lot of applause and lots of people standing. I’m shocked at how many people were standing and applauding.

They are taking questions. President Reinharz throws out initial question. He asks about the 36 incidents that the mission investigated and asks Goldstone to give a sense of one or two of the incidents that make the most compelling case and why. Now there are three questions from the audience. First question is a student asking Ambassador Gold why the Israeli government has refused to launch an internal investigation, don’t Israelis deserve to know the truth. Second question, asks Ambassador Gold to address the question of disproportionate response and to look at the situation on its own without comparisons. The third question asks Judge Goldstone how this report can be considered fair and unbiased when Christine Chinkin was on the panel and was not removed from the investigation. All the questioners were students.

Justice Goldstone talks about what led them to the conclusion that civilians were intentionally attacked. He says that they chose the incidents – they were not given to them by Hamas. The one attack that affected him was the attack on the mosque in Gaza City during a service with over 300 people attending by a missile from IDF forces that killed 21 people and injured many more. He said that there were no secondary explosions, but even if there was, there is no permission under law to shoot at a mosque during services – it should have been done in the middle of the night when no one was there. The other example he cites was the demolition of the American school in Gaza City. He doesn’t understand why it was chosen – it was the center of anti-Hamas activity. He says there is no explanation for ordering a compound attacked with white phosphorus. He complains why the whole food infrastructure of Gaza was destroyed. If that isn’t collective punishment, what is?

Regarding Professor Chinkin, he says that everyone saw what was going on by watching al-Jazeera. He said that an occupying power cannot act in self-defense. He says that it didn’t matter – Israel could take military or police action to defend its population and that the letter added that Hamas had committed war crimes.

The microphone passes to Dore Gold who explains that in the Israeli military justice system does not allow any soldier, event etc. to escape investigation, and if the military advocate general won’t investigate, the attorney general can investigate and so can the Israeli Supreme Court. He has full confidence in the Israeli legal system. Of the 36 incidents, the IDF has never heard of 12 of them and is investigating them today. He doesn’t believe we need a new special investigation because of this report.

Gold discusses the al-Maqadmah mosque (the one Goldstone cited) and says that Israel did not attack the mosque. But how do we reconstruct a reality that is no longer with us? Do we know who was in the mosque? The web sites of Hamas tell us who was killed. But he believes that there are other possible outcomes that can be investigated through Arab websites. Israel didn’t attack that mosque.

He says proportionality is a legal doctrine and suggests that Goldstone explain it.

Goldstone complains that nine months after the allegations, the IDF is still investigating itself behind closed doors. So far there is only one conviction for the theft of a credit card and says that’s demeaning of the victims of Gaza (mild applause). He says that they found remnants of Israeli ammunition in the mosque.

Three more questions (all the questions are downstairs so I can’t ask). First question is for Justice Goldstone: If they had no access to the Israeli side, how could the report be unbiased and given that, why did they go ahead with the report? Second question is from a ‘Palestinian’ student who has a sign and is complaining that that the ‘Palestinian’ perspective is not being presented. So she asks Justice Goldstone how he feels since she feels disrespected in his name. Justice Goldstone said it’s not his question – it’s a question for the organizers. Third question is for Justice Goldstone and asks him to speak about conditions in Gaza both before the invasion and since.

Justice Goldstone says that he was saddened that they did not get Israel’s cooperation and asks why the information shown by Ambassador Gold was not shown to them during the investigation. He complains about Israelis having to be brought to Geneva and to Amman, Jordan to meet with the Commission. Goldstone says he would have liked to see a ‘Palestinian’ representative. This draws wild applause from the protest crowd. He talks about how he so feared being in Gaza. He said he feared being kidnapped and that Israelis would rejoice. He says that the people in Gaza were similar to the people in Israel, that they were warm etc. He talks about the conditions in Gaza and how people cannot rebuild their homes.

Dore Gold responds that there is no question that there was enormous damage in Gaza. But why doesn’t Hamas appear as a responsible party for what happened? (Applause). The report relates to ‘armed groups.’ Which armed groups? The report almost grants legitimacy to Hamas. He says that to invite the ‘Palestinians’ you’d have to decide whom to invite – Hamas or Fatah. He asks who started the war, who launched rockets, who booby-trapped homes. This war would never have happened if rockets were not fired at the State of Israel. Israel withdrew from Gaza in September 2005 and had no desire to go back there. He says that huge amounts of goods and services running between Egypt and Gaza (mild applause). Why should Israel open its borders when it’s being pelted by rockets every other day? The report would have real credibility if it treated Israel fairly and if it pinned the blame on the leadership of Hamas who created this tragedy for the ‘Palestinian’ people.

There are three final questions. First is an Israeli PhD student. He asks Justice Goldstone: How would you suggest to states to respond to terrorist threats in the future and how would you suggest that Israel engage with Hamas? A second student question asks Justice Goldstone and asks about the Israelis who suffered from rockets for eight years, and wasn’t that collective punishment and where was your voice then? Third question is another student who asks Justice Goldstone what he would have considered a proportionate response to the rocket attacks on Sderot.

About the rules of war – proportionality has nothing to do with comparing what one side uses and what the other side uses. Rather it’s doing things in the way that causes the least possible casualties. Hamas is the government of the Gaza Strip and it has a military wing. He said that they got an unsatisfactory response from Hamas. They asked Hamas from where the rockets were fired and were told that Hamas didn’t know because it’s from the military wing. They gave the same answer regarding Gilad Shalit. How to deal with that would make a good politics paper.

He says that we should read Chapter 24 of the report regarding the collective punishment of the people of southern Israel.

What is a proportionate response? He suggests commando operations but that costs lives. A proportionate response would be to bomb the places where Israeli intelligence has information that rockets and ammunition are being stored and if there is collateral damage, as long as it’s proportionate to the military aim, it would not be a war crime. But you can’t use anti-personnel weapons – that’s disproportionate.

Dore Gold responds that one of the central elements of our disagreement is how to treat Hamas. Do you recognize Hamas as legitimate or do you say that it’s a terror organization? In Afghanistan, the US decided to take down the Taliban regime. They set a principle that you cannot allow a terrorist regime to give sanctuary to terrorist organizations that attack civilians and commit war crimes. Hamas’ hosting terrorism and the report does not deal with it by referring to armed groups.

Summing up, Dore Gold. He brings comments back to UN and UNHRC. It’s no secret that they systematically mistreat the State of Israel. What are the rights of a minority state in the international system that repeatedly faces the majority in the UN? The UN will be judged on how it treats minorities. Israel is not in a position to be protected in the General Assembly or the Human Rights Council and that is a good enough reason for the State of Israel not to cooperate with this investigation (applause) and to leave the investigation in the hands of Israel’s military and civilian justice systems.

Justice Goldstone believes that Israel because of its isolation should have cooperated with an even-handed mandate. He questions whether the report has been condemned by all spectrums of Israeli society. He’s gotten lots of emails that say otherwise. He asks why the Israeli government made public overtures to the British and Dutch governments from financing Breaking the Silence. Finally, he still hopes that over Barak’s objections there will still be an ‘open investigation.’ He thanks Brandeis for living up to its reputation of speaking the truth.

Some thoughts summing up in a separate post.


Welcome Powerline readers.


At 3:28 AM, Blogger Mr. Gerson said...

"Justice Goldstone said it’s not his question – it’s a question for the organizers."

Re Palestinian questioner about his feelings. This is incorrect, it was the guy sitting next to Goldstone who made this statement.

At 3:52 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Mr. Gerson,

Someone just looked at the video for me (while it's uploading) and confirmed that I was correct. It was Goldstone who said that a 'Palestinian' should have been invited.

At 5:09 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The report was biased against Israel from its inception. The UN is rooted in the tyranny of the majority. This is the exact opposite of the democratic concept of protecting minorities and preventing the majority from doing whatever it likes to them. Israel has no such protection. And the UN's official adoption today of Goldstone reveals how perverted and corrupt the world organization has become. To that gravamen, Goldstone has no effective answer.

I thought Gold did very a good job of presenting Israel's case before an American audience. It needs to be repeated that Israel would have cooperated with a fair-minded body. It has done so in the past. The Goldstone panelists had their minds made up and nothing Israel could have submitted would have swayed them in its favor. You can look for the truth if you really desire to find it. Goldstone never did that and why its been discredited as a blood libel against the Jewish State.

Above all, Israel should never be asked to prove a negative and the country had every right to exercise its right of self defense in the face of clear and constant enemy aggression. This Goldstone can never change.

At 10:10 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I was at the debate tonight too. The students who stood up were wearing signs with quotes from Spinoza, Chomsky, and a few others. Their black t-shirts were from Democracy Now.

Whenever anybody where I was sitting (front right) clapped for Dore Gold, the leftists began making hissing sounds as loud as they could. This stopped after one of the police officers came over and cursed out the middle-aged man behind me for doing it.

The minute I walked up and got in line, some schmuck named Alan looked at my kipah, asked if I supported Israel, and then informed me that "Hitler taught you Jews well about the master race." I took his picture and a video (not of the incident iteself), if anybody is interested.

At 1:10 PM, Blogger judyinjerusalem said...

Thanks for a great report, Carl. Here's a link to Dore Gold's visual presentation--the video of the whole debate will be up at www.jcpa.org as soon as technically possible. The visual presentation is at http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/showpage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=84&FID=452&PID=3131

At 5:11 PM, Blogger Thermblog said...

Great reporting job; thank you.

At 12:23 AM, Blogger Mr. Gerson said...

Hey Carl :)

Goldstone did say that Pali's should have been invited, he didn't say that it's a question for the organizers.

At 6:44 AM, Blogger emelman said...

Thanks for your report. I tried googling for information about the debate and yours was the only useful and reasonably comprehensive report I could find.


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