Sundry items on the Goldstone report

Good interview with Goldstone on Al Jazeera English:



Here's the second part:



Zeev Sternhell writes in Haaretz:

It is not the Goldstone report that has opened another painful phase in the erosion of Israel's credibility, but rather the cavalier attitude here toward the heavy Palestinian losses. In broad circles of Western European and American intelligentsia - in the universities and among cultural and media figures - Israel arouses ever-deepening hostility.


The London Review of Books' Adam Shatz writes about the "mobile phone wars" behind Mahmoud Abbas' early decision to postpone consideration of the Goldstone report:

In the Western press, Abbas’s blunder was widely described as an act of realpolitik that backfired in the court of public opinion, but the real story may have more to do with a mobile-phone company called Wataniya, a joint venture set up by a group of investors from Kuwait and Qatar (57 per cent share) and the Palestine Investment Fund (43 per cent), whose head is Abbas’s chief economic adviser, Mohammad Mustafa. In July 2008, Tony Blair brokered a deal between the PA and Israel that would have allowed Wataniya to become Palestine’s second mobile-phone operator, with a bandwidth of 4.8 MHz; the launch date was meant to be 15 October this year.

In divided Palestine, economic development is factional politics: Wataniya had to succeed, if only to provide proof that Palestinians are better off under the PA in the West Bank than in Hamas-controlled Gaza. It’s an argument Netanyahu has also been keen to make, in the hopes that middle-class West Bankers can be bought off, the Gazans forgotten, and statehood consigned to oblivion.

But on 15 September, Richard Goldstone released his findings. According to Jonathan Cook in the National, Israel warned Abbas that unless the Palestinian Authority withdrew its draft resolution on the report, it would deny Wataniya all of its radio frequencies; the PA promptly fell into line, requesting a six-month delay on the resolution. It isn’t hard to imagine what Abbas and his associates were thinking: if the deal collapsed, the PA would have to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties, and would also suffer a major loss in investment and jobs (more than 2000). Why should war crimes in Gaza get in the way of the West Bank telecommunications industry? Couldn’t this wait another six months?

The PA made its second U-turn, in response to Palestinian public opinion, on 6 October: the resolution on the Goldstone Report wouldn’t be postponed after all. On 15 October, the day Wataniya was set to launch, Israel ‘re-awarded’ it 3.8 MHz of airwave frequency spectrum. This was still 1 MHz shy of the 4.8 MHz it needs to be fully operational – Israel’s three major mobile-phone firms each have between 20 and 46 MHz. Why the shortfall? Israeli officials say it’s because the PA has failed to honour certain unnamed ‘commitments’; one of those commitments may have been deferring to its wishes on Goldstone.


Harpers' Ken Silverstein interviews Desmond Travers, one of the four members of the UN fact-finding mission led by Goldstone:

4. Critics have also said that Hamas deliberately inserted its fighters among civilians and that doing so increased the civilian toll. Did you find that to be the case?

We found no evidence that Hamas used civilians as hostages. I had expected to find such evidence but did not. We also found no evidence that mosques were used to store munitions. Those charges reflect Western perceptions in some quarters that Islam is a violent religion. Gaza is densely populated and has a labyrinth of makeshift shanties and a system of tunnels and bunkers. If I were a Hamas operative the last place I’d store munitions would be in a mosque. It’s not secure, is very visible, and would probably be pre-targeted by Israeli surveillance. There are a many better places to store munitions. We investigated two destroyed mosques—one where worshippers were killed—and we found no evidence that either was used as anything but a place of worship.

There is a sinister and foolish notion among certain proponents of insurgency warfare that to fight an insurgency means that civilians will inevitably be killed. But if you give the state authority to be indiscriminate with the lives of civilians in pursuing insurgents, it plays into the hands of the insurgents. Dead bodies are grist to the insurgents’ mill: if the dead are on your side they represent insurgent victories and if the dead are on their side then they have martyrs.

5. What is your view of the claim by Israeli officials that the IDF is the most “moral” army in the world?

Given the tactics, the weapons used, and the indiscriminate targeting, I think this is a dubious claim.

6. What other issues do you think need to be addressed?

We were disturbed by the lethality and toxicity of weapons used in Gaza, some of which have been in Western arsenals since the Cold War, such as white phosphorous, which incinerated 14 people, including several children in one attack; flechettes, small darts that are designed to tumble upon entering human flesh in order to cause maximum damage, strictly in breach of the Geneva Convention; and highly carcinogenic tungsten shrapnel and dime munitions, which contain tungsten in powder form. There is also a whole cocktail of other problematic munitions suspected to have been used.

There are a number of other post-conflict issues in Gaza that need to be addressed. The land is dying. There are toxic deposits from all the munitions that have been dropped. There are serious issues with water—its depletion and its contamination. There is a high instance of nitrates in the soil that is especially dangerous to children. If these issues are not addressed, Gaza may not even be habitable by World Health Organization norms.


I have to say that while I appreciate Judge Goldstone's professionalism (as shown in various interviews), I find it rather inappropriate for him to keep on repeating that he is a Zionist and loves Israel (as he has done on occasion.) Not just because, for me, Zionist is a dirty word that implies racism and the denial of the existence of a Palestinian people. But rather because Goldstone and his peers are meant to be professional assessors of the recent conflict in Gaza; they should keep their political views to themselves.