Category Archives: Israel-2009

New report about carcinogens and fetotoxic materials in Gaza war wounded

The New Weapons Committee recently released a report of detailed biopsy studies conducted on people in Gaza injured by Israeli weapons during the Israeli assaults of summer 2006 and winter 2009. (Hat-tip Ray J.)
The NWC’s May 11 press release warns that the biopsy results indicate Israel’s use of new and potentially very worrying kinds of weapons during those assaults:

    Toxic and carcinogenic metals, able to produce genetic mutations, have been found in the tissues of people wounded in Gaza during Israeli military operations of 2006 and 2009. The research has been carried out on wounds provoked by weapons that did not leave fragments in the bodies of the victims, a peculiarity that was pointed out repeatedly by doctors in Gaza. This shows that experimental weapons, whose effects are still to be assessed, were used.
    The researchers compared the quantity of 32 elements present in the tissues through ICP/MS (a type of highly sensitive mass spectrometry) . The job, carried out by laboratories of Sapienza University of Rome (Italy), Chalmer University (Sweden) and Beirut University (Lebanon)[I think that’s a referece to the American University of Beirut ~HC], was coordinated by the New Weapons Research Group (Nwrg), an independent committee of scientists and experts based in Italy, who is studying the use of unconventional weapons and their mid-term effects on the population of after-war areas. The relevant presence of toxic and carcinogenic metals found in the wound tissues points to direct risks for survivors, but also to the possibility of environmental contamination.

Scroll further down that web-page for links to the the Word doc version of the study itself and PDF versions of the supporting materials.
Articles 22 and 23 of the 1899 Hague Conventions state the following:

    Article 22
    The right of belligerents to adopt means of injuring the enemy is not unlimited.
    Article 23
    Besides the prohibitions provided by special Conventions, it is especially prohibited:–
    To employ poison or poisoned arms;
    To kill or wound treacherously individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army;
    To kill or wound an enemy who, having laid down arms, or having no longer means of defence, has surrendered at discretion;
    To declare that no quarter will be given;
    To employ arms, projectiles, or material of a nature to cause superfluous injury;
    To make improper use of a flag of truce, the national flag, or military ensigns and the enemy’s uniform, as well as the distinctive badges of the Geneva Convention;
    To destroy or seize the enemy’s property, unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war.

The value of the human rights frame

Michael Goldfarb, who was the deputy communications director for John McCain’s campaign, worked for a while in that temple of neoconservative organizing, the Project for a New American Century, and is a kind of scuzzy attack-dog for the pro-settler hard right, has now decided to come after– poor little moi.
(Yay! I made the big leagues of this guy’s ‘enemies’ list’! Oops, suppress that childish thought, Helena.)
HT to Richard Silverstein, co-rabbi of our “off-broadway” bloggers’ panel at J Street, next Monday noon-time, for having read Michael Goldfarb’s blog so the rest of us don’t have to…
Long story short, Goldfarb is attacking me because, he says, “she likes to compare Israel to Hamas.” And he picks a pretty good quote from this late December 2008 JWN post, to prove it:

    Most people in the west have been wilfully mis- or dis-informed about Hamas and believe either that it is made up of wild-eyed men of violence who perpetrate violence for its own sake, or that its main goal is the violent expulsion of all Jewish people from Israel/Palestine. These impressions are quite misleading. Yes, Hamas has used significant amounts of violence against Israelis since it was founded in 1987. But so too has Israel, against Hamas. Indeed, Israel has killed many times more Hamas supporters and leaders than Hamas has ever killed Israelis. Does that mean we understand Israelis to be only “mindless, wild-eyed men of violence”? No. For both sides, we need to try to understand what they seek to achieve with the violence they use; as well as the conditions under which they can be expected to moderate or end it.

So here’s the thing that Michael Goldfarb and people of his ilk really don’t seem to understand: For the vast majority of the people on God’s earth today, Palestinians are just as fully human as Jewish people, and just as deserving as Jewish people of our compassion and our understanding.
That, it seems to me, is the true value of the “human rights” approach to world affairs. To understand that no one bunch of people, however described– “Jewish”, or “Arab”, “American”, “Burmese”, “Georgian”, “Muslim”, or even “Quaker”– is deserving, at a deep level, of any more deep human concern than any other people. To understand that all “peoples”, as such, have made wonderful and distinctive contributions to the expression of full human flourishing, and that–even more importantly– all human persons, whichever of these groups they self-affiliate with, are equally deserving of our concern and our objective judgment regarding their actions.
And that the basis for any such judgment must be quite “culture”- and politics-neutral.
That is the true value of putting a human-rights frame on world affairs. But the Michael Goldfarbs, the Norman Podhoretz’s, the Alan Dershowitz’s, and Robert Bernsteins of this world truly don’t get this. They truly think there is something so “special” about Jewish people and their experience in the world that somehow the (and especially the allegedly “Jewish” state, Israel) deserve to be given a free pass on the application of any neutral standards of behavior, such as would be applied to anyone else.
So Michael Goldfarb can’t bear it when I write,

    Yes, Hamas has used significant amounts of violence against Israelis since it was founded in 1987. But so too has Israel, against Hamas. Indeed, Israel has killed many times more Hamas supporters and leaders than Hamas has ever killed Israelis. Does that mean we understand Israelis to be only “mindless, wild-eyed men of violence”? No. For both sides, we need to try to understand what they seek to achieve with the violence they use; as well as the conditions under which they can be expected to moderate or end it.

And more importantly, Goldfarb, Bernstein, and many other die-hard supporters of “Israel– right or wrong” truly couldn’t bear it when the distinguished Jewish (and as it happens, also Zionist) criminal investigator Judge Richard Goldstone came out with the report in which he tried to apply a single unified “human rights” standard to the behavior of the decisionmakers on both sides of the Israel-Hamas divide.
Bernstein’s case is particularly egregious. In Monday’s New York Times this guy who, ways back when, had been the founding Chair of Human Rights Watch– back when it was still “Helsinki Watch”– had an anguished op-ed piece in which he wrote that he now felt he had to break publicly with HRW because of its alleged “unfairness” in criticizing Israel.
The argument Bernstein made was revealingly disingenuous. He still seems stuck in the “Helsinki era” mindset of using the human rights issue as a weapon in Cold War rivalry. Hullo! The Cold War has been over for 20 years next month!
Also, though the frame he tried to use was the distinctly Cold War frame of “democratic” versus “undemocratic” nations, he made no reference at all to the fact that there had in fact been an election in Palestine in January 2006, that was free and fair, and which Hamas won… Or, to the tragic response the election of that leadership met with from Israel, Washington– and come to that, from Bob Bernstein, too.
This reminds me of the piercing comment that the great Jewish-American liberal Ira Glasser recently made about Norman Podhoretz: “He has not only lost the ability to feel for or identify with the persecution of others; he has lost all ability to see why anyone else would.”
… Bernstein’s piece came out Monday. Then on Tuesday, Netanyahu trotted out his ridiculous “whining baby” argument against the whole, weighty corpus of the “laws of war”, which in modern times have been assembled over the course of 150 years now.
Honestly, what a whiny baby. The last person who claimed that “things are so different now” that the laws of war all have to be upended was, of course, Alan Dershowitz, back when he was arguing that somehow in the “age of terrorism” it would be necessary and justifiable to start engaging in torture.
The bottom line on the whole furor over Goldtsone in rightwing Israeli and Likudnik American circles is, however, that the reaction of the whole of the international community– not just Judge Goldstone, but certainly including him– to the assault the israeli government launched against Gaza last winter just about ensured that no Israeli government will dare to launch any kind of similar assault any time in the near future– if ever.
I think Aluf Benn had it just about right in this recent article:

    Operation Cast Lead in Gaza was perceived in Israel as a shining victory. Rocket fire from Gaza was brought to a halt almost completely. The Israel Defense Forces emerged from its failure during the Second Lebanon War and deployed ground forces with few casualties. “The world” let the operation continue and did not impose a cease-fire. A wonderful war.
    Ten months later, it seems the victory was a Pyrrhic one. Israel did not realize that the rules have changed with Barack Obama’s election as U.S. president.
    …Even if the legal process that Goldstone initiated ends up being halted, and Israel is not put in the dock in The Hague, its hands have been tied. The world, led by Obama, will not let it initiate a Cast Lead II operation.

So now, frustrated by their inability to dream up a “Cast lead II”, Israel’s hardliners are taking out their frustrations by railing against Goldstone and “demanding deep changes in the laws of war”. Oh yes, that, and also in a fit of continuing pique, continuing to keep the 1.5 million of Gaza tightly– and quite illegally– besieged.
Beware the whiny babies when they have guns and exercise real coercive power.

Nozette: Pollard, 2.0?

So, Obama’s Justice Department has finally decided to play some degree of hardball with Israel?
Back in May, Obama’s Justice Department decided to back down on the indictment against AIPAC’s Steve Rosen.
Last month, Obama’s special peace envoy, George Mitchell, apparently decided to back down on pushing Netanyahu for “the settlement freeze.”
So make no mistake: This decision that the Justice Department announced today, to issue an indictment against a US citizen who was apparently quite ready to betray US national secrets to someone he thought to be an agent of the government of Israel, is a big development.
The Department of Justice website tells us that,

    A criminal complaint unsealed today in the District of Columbia charges Stewart David Nozette, 52, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, with attempted espionage for knowingly and willfully attempting to communicate, deliver, and transmit classified information relating to the national defense of the United States to an individual that Nozette believed to be an Israeli intelligence officer. The complaint does not allege that the government of Israel or anyone acting on its behalf committed any offense under U.S. laws in this case.
    Nozette was arrested earlier today by FBI agents and is expected to make his initial appearance tomorrow in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
    “The conduct alleged in this complaint is serious and should serve as a warning to anyone who would consider compromising our nation’s secrets for profit,” said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
    “Those who would put our nation’s defense secrets up for sale can expect to be vigorously prosecuted,” said Channing D. Phillips, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. “This case reflects our firm resolve to hold accountable any individual who betrays the public trust by compromising our national security for his or her own personal gain.”
    …According to an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Nozette received a Ph.D. in Planetary Sciences from MIT in 1983, and worked at the White House on the National Space Council, Executive Office of the President, in 1989 and 1990. He developed the Clementine bi-static radar experiment that purportedly discovered water on the south pole of the moon. Nozette also worked at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from approximately 1990 to 1999 where he designed highly advanced technology. At the Department of Energy, Nozette held a special security clearance equivalent to the Defense Department Top Secret and Critical Nuclear Weapon Design Information clearances. Department of Energy clearances apply to access to information specifically relating to atomic or nuclear-related materials.
    … According to the affidavit, on Sept. 3, 2009, Nozette was contacted via telephone by an individual purporting to be an Israeli intelligence officer, but who was in fact an undercover employee of the FBI (UCE). During that call, Nozette agreed to meet with the UCE later that day at a hotel in Washington D.C. According to the affidavit, Nozette met with the UCE that day and discussed his willingness to work for Israeli intelligence.
    Nozette allegedly informed the UCE that he had, in the past, held top security clearances and had access to U.S. satellite information. Nozette also allegedly said that he would be willing to answer questions about this information in exchange for money. The UCE explained to Nozette that the Israeli intelligence agency, or “Mossad,” would arrange for a communication system so that Nozette could pass information to the Mossad in a post office box. Nozette agreed to provide regular, continuing information to the UCE and asked for an Israeli passport…

So, the formerly “permeable membrane” between the US strategic-scientific community and the Israeli strategic-scientific community, that had benefitted the Israeli community so much over the past 16 years, suddenly doesn’t look quite so permeable any more?
Interesting.
Significant too, of course, that the DOJ statement spelled out that, “The complaint does not allege that the government of Israel or anyone acting on its behalf committed any offense under U.S. laws in this case.”
Also significant: that Nozette’s main motivation seems to have been monetary.
And of course, this:

    The public is reminded that a criminal complaint contains mere allegations and that every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Absolutely. (I mean, isn’t that the same rule the US government applies when deciding whom to snuff out in the drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan??)

Olmert, author of assault on Gaza, shunned in Chicago

The Harris School for Public Policy at the University of Chicago presumably thought it was quite “normal” and appropriate– perhaps, even a boon for fundraising!– to invite former Israeli p.m. Ehud Olmert to give a lecture.
Olmert, however, is not just any old former prime minister. He was also the prime author of the decision to launch two extremely inhumane wars of choice: against Lebanon in 2006 and against Gaza last winter.
Israel’s conduct of the latter war– as well as a lot of other Olmert-era policies like the prolonged and lethal siege of Gaza and the continued attacks on the Palestinian community in Jerusalem– rightly came under severe criticism from the UN’s Goldstone Commission.
Judge Richard Goldstone, an experienced international prosecutor and investigator (and also Jewish and a self-proclaimed Zionist) determined that many of Israel’s actions against Gaza constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.
So why would the University of Chicago or any other university in the democratic world consider it appropriate or “normal” to give a podium to an accused war criminal like this?
Today, Ali Abunimah and numerous other supporters of the simple proposition that the rights of Palestinians should be protected just as much as anyone else’s rights were, as it happened, there in the lecture hall too.
You can see the series of exchanges that resulted in this great report on Electronic Intifada.
It’s also worth reading this piece of analysis by Aluf Benn in tomorrow’s Haaretz.
Benn writes,

    Operation Cast Lead in Gaza was perceived in Israel as a shining victory. Rocket fire from Gaza was brought to a halt almost completely… “The world” let the operation continue and did not impose a cease-fire. A wonderful war.
    Ten months later, it seems the victory was a Pyrrhic one. Israel did not realize that the rules have changed with Barack Obama’s election as U.S. president.

He also noted this about last winter’s war:

    The defense minister, Ehud Barak, wanted to halt Cast Lead after two or three days, but was overruled by Olmert who wanted to keep the campaign going, and then going further.

It seems that the accused war criminal Olmert is planning to speak at other US universities, too.
The University of Arkansas on October 27, for example.

UN-HRC endorses Goldstone; Netanyahu’s over-reach unraveling?

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today endorsed the report of the Goldstone Commission that identified probable war crimes and and crimes against humanity committed by Israel and by some Palestinian armed groups during last winter’s Israeli assault on Gaza.
That report from AFP tells us that,

    25 of the council’s 47 members, led by the Arab and African states, voted for the resolution. Six, including the United States, voted against while 16 others either abstained or did not vote.
    The resolution calls for the endorsement of “the recommendations contained in the report” produced by a fact-finding mission led by international war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone to probe the 22-day conflict.
    It also “calls upon all concerned parties including United Nations bodies, to ensure their implementation.”

It was tragic that the US voted against the HRC resolution. However, it seems likely the Goldstone report will now be considered by the Security Council at the session it will be holding on the matter next week.
The world– and especially perhaps the majority-Muslim countries of the world– will be watching closely to see that the US does not cast a veto there.
The fact that the HRC took up the Goldstone report once again, and that it endorsed its main findings and recommendations, marks a double setback for Israel’s current, extremely rightwing government, which had fought tooth and nail to quash or bury it.
In the first instance, the HRC’s decision to take up the report once again this week was due to the fact that the PLO leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, which ten days took its own– quite clearly Israel-spurred– action to bury the report, was forced by the overwhelming strength of Palestinian public opinion to reverse that policy.
In the second instance, the fact that the report won such strong endorsement in the HRC marked a notable setback for the campaign Netanyahu waged against it there.
Netanyahu and his coalition partners– many of whom are even more extreme than he is– have been riding high in recent weeks. They had completely bypassed all the efforts of the Obama administration to win a freeze on the construction of new (illegal) Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank. They had persuaded Obama to force Abbas into a humiliating three-way meeting along with Netanyahu and Obama, despite Abbas’s previously oft-stated refusal to meet with Netanyahu in the absence of a settlement freeze. The actions of extremist, government-backed Israeli settler organizations to penetrate, settle, and excavate deep inside areas of Palestinian East Jerusalem were accelerating full-steam ahead.
Oh, Netanyahu must have been feeling so happy… Especially at his ability to keep the Obama administration completely off his back.
Not so fast, Mr. Netanyahu.
Right now, Pres. Obama and his most senior military and diplomatic advisers are meeting in prolonged, solemn session to reach some extremely serious decisions about the deployment of reinforcements for, and the mounting threats to, the many scores of thousands of US and allied troops who are deployed deep into the heart of many very distant portions of the Muslim world.
And Netanyahu, the prime minister of a small country of some seven million citizens, thinks his government’s interest in colonial expansion should necessarily trump the rights of the Palestinian residents of the occupied West Bank and Gaza, the strong concern that the world’s more than one billion Muslims have in the wellbeing of Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, and the safety and security of the US and allied troops who are deployed throughout the Muslim world?
He’s been dreaming– and pursuing– some dreams that are extremely hazardous to international peace and stability.
But now, there are some signs that the extent of Netanyahu’s colonialist over-reach is becoming more clear, including to decisionmakers here in Washington; and that it may, finally, be meeting its limits here.
In one of my early reactions to the Goldstone report last month, I noted that many of the folks who have wanted to bury or set aside Goldston’s recommendations about winning accountability for past actions in Gaza said they wanted to do so “in the interests of peacemaking; that is, the interests of the future rather than the past.”
However, I also noted that Gaza’s 1.45 million people face conditions of horrendous inhumanity and stress in the present; and that those conditions continue, day by day by day.
The prime interest of everyone concerned about relieving suffering in the Israeli-Palestinian theater should therefore surely be on lifting Israel’s quite inhumane siege of Gaza. A siege that is, as Godlstone noted, itself an instance of quite illegal collective punishment.
I gather that last night, at a dinner hosted by the American Task Force on Palestine, Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. Jim Jones, told attendees that “All three of the crossings between Israel and Gaza should be opened.” (HT: Gene Bird)
Those are the crossings through which goods, and a small number of people, flow. Since it is still, under international law, the occupying power in Gaza, Israel has direct responsibility for the wellbeing– we could even say, the normal human flourishing– of the residents of Gaza. So obviously, those gates should be opened.
Winter approaches, but the Gazans haven’t been able even to rebuild their homes, businesses, and basic infrastructure after the destruction Israel wrought last winter.
Gen. Jones can tell an audience that “the gates should be opened.” But the US government continues to provide immense, and in many fields quite unequalled, benefits to the government of Israel– in the military, economic, diplomatic, and many other arenas.
So when will we see the Obama administration start to apply some strict accountability to Israel’s government regarding lifting the siege of Gaza?
Deeds, not words, please. On all aspects of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking and the protection of Palestinian– along with Israeli– rights.

‘The Nation’ piece on AIPAC’s Tom Dine

This piece is online now, here. It was really fascinating to work on– just as it has been really interesting to work with Dine on the US-Syria Working Group, as is mentioned in the article.
Th Nation has two linked pieces– both by Phil Weiss and Adam Horowitz: American Jews Rethink Israel, and Israel vs. Human Rights.
Great work, Phil and Adam! I’m proud to be up there with you!

Daniel in the lions’ den

Charismatic British-Israeli peacenik Daniel Levy made a remarkable presentation this morning, at a big conference on US-Israeli relations organized by the extremely rightwing, pro-Israeli think-tank, the Hudson Institute.
Luckily Matt Duss of the Center for American Progress’s Wonk Room was there to video and verbally describe the highlights for the rest of us.
If you scroll down Matt’s blog post there to the 6-minute video you can enjoy not just Daniel’s great presentation but also the extreme discomfort of his fellow-panelists Doug Feith and the equally craven Bob Lieber. It is also kind of fun to see Daniel speaking his mind about the disaster of the current Israeli government’s policy while many iterations of the Hudson Institute’s logo are waving around behind his head.
Scroll down even further for the handily provided actual transcript of what he said.
Talk about Daniel in the den of lions, eh?
So okay, here is my big confession. I was actually at that same conference– until just before Daniel and Co. got to speak; but I had to duck out just before their panel started.
I was there, however, for the peroration made earlier by Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, who until recently worked under some degree of cover as a ‘neutral’ (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) US historian of the US’s Middle East policy.
The heart of what Oren had to say was a fuller, verbal elaboration of the theme he introduced in this recent article in The New Republic:

    Where Ahmadinejad leaves off, the Goldstone Report, or, as it is officially called, the “United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict,” persists…
    The Goldstone Report goes further than Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust deniers by stripping the Jews not only of the ability and the need but of the right to defend themselves. If a country can be pummeled by thousands of rockets and still not be justified in protecting its inhabitants, then at issue is not the methods by which that country survives but whether it can survive at all. But more insidiously, the report does not only hamstring Israel; it portrays the Jews as the deliberate murderers of innocents–as Nazis. And a Nazi state not only lacks the need and right to defend itself; it must rather be destroyed.

Oren is a sad, sad, and deeply wounded guy if he can even imagine such an accusation against Judge Goldstone.
That is why I am really glad that his sick ranting was followed, in short order, by the eminent good sense from Daniel Levy.
I wish Oren could have stuck around to hear Levy. But he, too, had to duck out. His driver nearly ran me down as I biked away from the Hudson Institute.

Israelis reconsidering views of ‘the Other’

Haaretz has had two interesting stories in recent weeks detailing attempts by Jewish Israeli peace activists to stimulate discussion and reconsideration among their compatriots regarding their views of ‘the Other’.
One of these stories was about a project jointly undertaken by Israeli conceptual artist Mushon Zer-Aviv worked and the brilliant Gaza-Palestinian writer Laila El-Haddad: They created a walking tour of Tel Aviv in which, by overlaying a map of Gaza City onto the map of Tel Aviv, participants could understand the spatial relationships among various different spots in Gaza City by visiting geographically analogous spots in Tel Aviv.
If you’re in Israel, there’s a number you can call, and then punch in numbers to hear Laila’s audio homage to her chosen Gaza City locations. Now, the YANH team has put the audio clips onto their website, too. So even if you’re not in Israel you can download a copy of the project’s map and take an audio-enhanced virtual tour around such Gaza landmarks such as the Arts & Crafts Village, the Palestinian Parliament building, Kathem’s ice cream parlor, etc…
In the Haaretz description of the project linked to above, read Laila’s thoughtful expression of her feelings about working with Zer-Aviv on this project.
The second project described/reviewed by Haaretz is the book about Israeli perceptions of Golan that peace activist (and longtime Golan resident/settler) Yigal Kipnis published recently about Israeli perceptions of Golan.
Reviewer Yechiam Weitz writes,

    The main argument put forth by Kipnis, a geographer and historian, is that the image of the Golan built up over those years in the eyes of the Israeli public was that “the mountain has become a monster,” in the words of a song by Yoav Katz, entitled “The Little Girl from Gadot” (a kibbutz at the foot of the Heights). This perception reached its climax in 1967, “but continued to be shaped and preserved in the collective memory, where it remains fixed to this day.” Kipnis asks if this image is justified, and he proceeds to respond to his own question in a way both complex and riveting.
    From the narrow point of view of the residents of the border settlements, who “underwent the routine of life in a war zone at a topographical disadvantage, the answer is decidedly yes,” writes the author. But this subjective memory does not correspond with the historical facts. In actuality, there was no justification at all for the menacing image of a Syrian Golan Heights. The primary reason for this was Israel’s military superiority over Syria, which only increased as the years went by. In this context, Kipnis points out something that is to a large extent an absurdity: “The greater that Israel’s military superiority became, the more powerful was the image, and the more Israel made use of its superior force, the power of the image reached new levels.”

This latter point is one that has much broader applicability in terms of the self-image of Israelis in general, I think.
I am really looking forward to reading Kipnis’s book in English. I do hope it gets translated soon!
Weitz discloses in the review that he himself is the son of Raanan Weitz, who was head of the Settlement Department of the Jewish Agency. He notes that Israel’s M in 1967, Levi Eshkol, had succeeded Raanan Weitz as head of the settlement department and had pursued jewish settlement efforts for many years prior to 1967.
Nevertheless, according to the research revealed in Kipnis’s book,

    Very soon after the war’s end, on June 19, 1967, Eshkol’s cabinet made a dramatic and secret decision: It would sign peace agreements with Egypt and with Syria based on the international borders. All the ministers supported it, including Menachem Begin, who had joined the government on the eve of the war and was a full partner in formulating the decision. It proposed “offering Syria a peace agreement based on the international border, ensuring Israel’s water rights, and the demilitarization of the Golan Heights.”
    The decision was conveyed to the American administration, which was to transmit it to the rulers of Egypt and Syria. Kipnis suggests that, “Contrary to conventional wisdom, Egypt and Syria did not reject the peace offer … for the simple reason that it was never passed on to them by the U.S. government.” When no reply to his generous offer was received, Eshkol understood that “the vision of a peace agreement with Syria was not about to be realized in the near future,” and he laid down the policy that there would not be a withdrawal from the Golan without a peace agreement. “This policy was based on the deployment of an
    Israeli presence on the Golan and on plans for settlement there, as well as demonstrating determination to hold on to it for as long as was necessary,” Kipnis explains.
    Eshkol led the settlement enterprise on the Golan until his death in February 1969…

I am fascinated by this assertion that Eshkol had transmitted to the Americans his withdrawal offers to both Egypt and Syria with, presumably, the clear expectation (or outright request?) that Washington pass them on to those two other governments– but that Washington never did send the message on to Cairo and Damascus.
If so, then the U.S. government bears a large degree of responsibility for all the human suffering that has been occasioned since 1967 by the long delay (in the case of Egypt) and the failure to date (for Syria) of the effort to secure a land-for-peace final peace between Israel and those two countries.
Most notably, given that today is October 7, we could say that the huge human suffering occasioned by the October War of 1973 could have been completely avoided. That war was launched by Egypt and Syria on October 6, 1973 with the express effort of restarting the long-stalled peace diplomacy (in the case of Sadat) and of both restarting the diplomacy and regaining the Syrian national land still held under Israeli occupation (in the case of Syria.)
We can also note that since 1967 some half million Syrian citizens– persons displaced into the Syrian interior by the 1967 war and the subsequent occupation, and their descendants– have been deprived of the right to reside or farm in their families’ rightful Golan homesteads; and the 17,000 or so Golani Syrians who have stayed in their homes since 1967 have been forced to live under a land-grabbing form of Israeli military occupation for 42 years now.
… Anyway, I am really delighted to see the attention being given to Kipnis’s book– as to the very innovative cultural intervention undertaken by Zer-Aviv and El-Haddad. The peace forces in Israel are so much better grounded in the history and realities of their community’s always tortured relations with its Arab neighbors than are most of the ardent “supporters of Israel” in the west! The ignorance many of these “supporters” display about Israel’s own past and present actions is often almost as great as their disregard for the rights and views of Israel’s Arab neighbors.

Goldstone’s careful documentation & argument

I’ve had the chance to be reading more of the report of the Goldstone Commission Report (PDF). It’s 425 pages long, so not an easy or light read!
But I’ve been very impressed with the thoroughness of both the documentation and the argumentation in the report. Goldstone and his team are very professional and careful investigators of atrocities. He, of course, got his first experience of doing such work when he was investigating allegations of serious wrongdoing by the security forces in his native South Africa in 1989-90. There, too, his investigation was hampered by serious non-cooperation from the state authorities and he was subjected to some fairly vile slurs mobilized by the state’s propaganda apparatus… But he persisted; and his report opened a chink of understanding among many White South Africans who until then had preferred to turn a blind eye, into the actions the Apartheid-era security forces took against their non-White compatriots, allegedly on their behalf…
His latest report shows the same thoroughness he brought to his work there, and later to the indictments he drew up against leading perpetrators of atrocities in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
For example, the Report has pulled together an excellent chronology of all the military incidents that occurred during the six-month ceasefire that started June 19, 2008. This account makes clear– as many official Israeli sources already have– how few in number were the incidents of firing any kind of ordnance from Gaza into Israel during the whole period until November 4– the day on which Israel itself undertook a major and deliberate violation of the ceasefire. But it goes beyond the official Israeli sources in noting that those rockets and missiles that were fired from Gaza prior to November 4 were not attributable to Hamas. many were attributed to– or even claimed by– the Fateh-affiliated Al-Aqsa Brigades. Others, to Islamic Jihad.
So this picture of an “unstoppably violent” Hamas that Israelis like to portray to the world is quite simply untrue. Yes, Hamas uses violence for political ends. (Like Israel.) But it does not do so irrationally or uncontrollably; and indeed, it turns out that Hamas– like Israel– is deterrable.
The report has a lengthy consideration of the Israeli forces’ firing, on January 6, of four mortars against Al-Fakhoura Street, near to an UNRWA school being used as a shelter for civilians who had fled other zones of fire. The mortars apparently killed more than 31 people. In the course of many, heavily-footnoted pages the report considers all the evidence available to it concerning what actually happened. It noted that the Israelis’ official version of what had happened changed over time.
It finds, para. 690, that:

    the attack may have been in response to a mortar attack from an armed Palestinian group but considers the credibility of Israel’s [argument to this effect] damaged by the series
    of inconsistencies and factual inaccuracies.

It then does some very thoughtful legal analysis of the Israelis’ decision to use mortars in this quite evidently heavily populated area, and concludes thus:

    696. [T]he Mission finds the following:

      (a) The military advantage to be gained was to stop the alleged firing of mortars that posed a risk to the lives of Israeli armed forces;
      (b) Even if there were people firing mortars near al-Fakhura Street, the calculation of the military advantage had to be assessed bearing in mind the chances of success in killing the targets as against the risk of firing into a street full of civilians and very near a shelter with 1,368 civilians and of which the Israeli authorities had been informed.

    697. The Mission recognizes that for all armies proportionality decisions will present very genuine dilemmas in certain cases. The Mission does not consider this to be such a case.

I note that one of the other three members of Goldstone’s fact-finding team was Colonel Desmond Travers, a former officer in the Irish Armed Forces and member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI).
One of the real strengths of the report is that it provides, for the world public, real details about the terrible way in which named people were hurt during the fighting. It also provides a record of evident and systematic disinformation about the nature of the Israeli actions.
In discussions here and elsewhere in the week since the report came out, supporters of the government of Israel have ranted and raved against the report, against Judge Goldstone himself, and against the UN. They have not, however, presented any factual evidence that refutes any of the report’s findings.
And most of them have given no indication whatsoever that they have even read the report. They should. So should everyone concerned about the prospects for peace in the Middle East. And so should all US citizens who are concerned about how Israel uses all the financial and military aid our government gives to it.

Goldstone’s mission gets key acknowledgment

While Israeli PM Netanyahu has been trying to downplay the importance of the Goldstone report, denigrate its principal author, and generally discredit the UN Rights Council’s whole venture of commissioning it, acknowledgment of the report’s real importance has come from unlikely source: the hawkish American-Israeli commentator Yossi Klein Halevi.
Back in August, it turns out, Klein Halevi had already judged that,

    The Goldstone report may well mark the end of Israel’s limited wars against terrorist groups. Israel cannot afford to continue to be drawn into mini-wars against terrorists hiding behind their own civilians to attack Israeli civilians, given that each such conflict inexorably draws the Jewish state one step closer toward pariah status. Limited victories on the battlefield are being turned into major defeats in the arena of world opinion.

Hat-tip Jim Lobe for finding that.
I happen to agree with Klein Halevi’s broad judgment on this point. (If we set aside his use of a designations like “terrorist groyups”, “hiding behind their own civilians”, etc… I mean, that is boiler-plate for people like YKH.)
Still, his core judgment there– that Israel may, for political reasons, no longer be able to undertake massive military assaults against neighboring populations of the kind it undertook in 2006 and late 2008– seems to me a sound and very important one.
There are a number of reasons why I agree with that. One key one is that those assaults were only possible because Israel received total political/diplomatic shielding for those actions (and significant support in terms of arms supplies, too) from George W. Bush’s Washington.
But he is no longer “there” for Israel any more. I do believe that in this respect, the presence of Obama in the White House marks a difference from the days of GWB.
Meanwhile, though, another trend has been occurring in world affairs, as well: the noticeable lessening in the global power balance the former Uberpower, the US. (As I noted in my IPS piece yesterday.)
Next time, if a belligerent Israeli leader wanted to launch an atrocity-laden assault of that nature– against the population of Gaza, or East Jerusalem, or Hebron, or Lebanon– I truly do not believe any US president could shield him from the speedy intervention of international bodies. And the revelations of the Goldstone report (as of all the previous reports on the suffering of Gaza’s people, as widely disseminated both during and since the 23-day assault) have aroused a new kind of conscience and strong disquiet among many, many US citizens, including Jewish Americans.
So while I’m not saying “another Gaza” is impossible, I agree with Klein Halevi that it seems increasingly unlikely. Partly because of Goldstone’s work. But most because no power in the modern world can behave as Israel behaved in Gaza last winter and not have its actions widely publicized, and not have those actions subjected to deep popular revulsion all around the world.
Hullo! We are no longer in the 19th century!
In his piece, Klein Halevi was casting around for ideas of things the Israeli military could do, if the “Gaza option” (or the “Dahiyeh Doctrine” as it is also known) no longers looks like an effective strategy. The suggestion he makes is a strange one:

    [This] untenable situation may well leave Israel no choice but to return to the post-1967 policy of preventing altogether the presence of terror enclaves on its borders. Better, Israelis will argue, to deal decisively with the terror threat and brace for temporary international outrage than subject our legitimacy to constant attrition, even as the terrorist threat remains intact.

Now, I think the only possible reading of that is that he is urging the Israeli military to strike even harder, deeper, and more decisively next time round, rather than being– as he had claimed they were– so very half-hearted and pussy-footing in 2006 and late 2008.
But regarding the 2006 assault against Lebanon, that is certainly not the case. Klein Halevi wrote,

    Israel’s two unilateral withdrawals – from Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005 – both resulted in the creation of terror enclaves on its borders, negating long-standing strategy. The policy of prevention was replaced by a policy of containment.
    That policy of containment was expressed in the 2006 operation against Hezbollah in Lebanon, and by this year’s operation against Hamas in Gaza. In both those mini-wars, Israel opted not to uproot the terrorist enclaves, hoping that the partial flexing of Israeli power would deter further aggression.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Olmert and Halutz’s war aim in 2006 was– as I documented here— nothing less than the destruction of Hizbullah, through a combination of two (over-lapping) strategies: both direct physical destruction, and inflicting such harsh physical punishment on the whole of Lebanese society and its national infrastructure that the Lebanese people would “turn against” what remained of Hizbullah, repudiating it and dismantling it completely.
Well, that didn’t work, did it.
So 30 months later, when Olmert launched the second of the two horrendous assaults with which his name should forever be linked, he and his people were careful not to promise more than what they were confident of achieving. This time, not the complete “destruction” of Hamas, but its downgrading to a point where its capabilities had been considerably reduced. But oh, they were still trying as hard as they could for both decapitation and destruction… Which, once again, they failed to attain.
So now, Klein Halevi, judging that neither of those assaults was successful, is arguing for something even harsher next time.
I wonder what’s been smoking? His prescription is completely unrealistic if Israelis want to retain even a sliver of respect from the international community– or, to win any acknowledgment or cooperation from its neighbors.
Unrealistic or not, though, his prescription still constitutes extremely dangerous incitement, and should be treated as such.