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Yes, Virginia, There WERE Crimes

Sol Salbe writes: The release of the IDF's own report on Cast Lead has prompted an avalanche of comments arguing that it does indeed prove Goldstone correct. Mitchell Plitnick (below) come closest to the mark in saying no quite, but close enough. Plitnick has been chosen here because to my mind he is the most effective, largely because of his willingness to cut Israel some slack. Effectiveness is in the eye of the beholder. I am looking at it in terms of persuading people in my own community who were so eager to dismiss Goldstone.

Here are some other views: Yaniv Reich in Hybrid States; Jerry Haber in his Magnes Zionist blog; Richard Silverstein; and Haaretz’s editorial of 27 July 2010.

Israeli Cast Lead Report: Yes, Virginia, There WERE Crimes
by Mitchell Plitnick

I’ve just finished reading the Israeli report updating investigations into alleged war crimes in Operation Cast Lead. The report quite clearly shows there were some serious issues in that war, and that international outrage was not unwarranted, even if Israel would still maintain it was exaggerated.

Many make the case that the report vindicates the Goldstone Report and, in some ways, it does, though I don’t think it quite “proves the Goldstone Commission right” as other commentators have said. But what I think is more important is that it shows that if Israel had set up a credible, independent and civilian investigation of Cast Lead as soon as the war was over, and in response to calls from its own civil society, it would be in a much better position than it is today.

The character of such an investigation is important, as is demonstrated within this Israeli report itself, when it says that “Another challenge is that some Palestinian witnesses have refused to make any statement, even in writing, to IDF investigators. Other Palestinian witnesses have declined to provide testimony in person. While an affidavit can provide investigators with valuable information and serve as the starting point for an investigation, a written affidavit alone is generally inadmissible as evidence at trial. In the Israeli legal system, as in many others, proving a criminal case instead requires that witnesses be willing to appear in court to permit cross-examination on issues such as the witness’s ability to observe the events, whether a witness has any bias, and whether there were other relevant facts not recounted in the written statement. Hence, in some cases, the unwillingness of a complainant to cooperate in criminal investigations may deprive the investigators of the most significant evidence.”

Well, yeah, are we really surprised that the investigative team from the army that just wreaked havoc across your land, and which was previously occupying that land (by even the strictest definition) for almost 40 years would not be trusted by the victims?

I believe in approaching this question from a best-case scenario view. In other words, if we assume that Israel wants to balance its security needs with human rights concerns, and that it wants to minimize the negative backlash from any action it takes, what would it need to do? If it fails to meet even that standard, a purely Israel-centric one, what faith can it ask the rest of the world to have in it?

I’m more sympathetic than most of my blogging colleagues to some of Israel’s claims. I can understand that Israelis feel picked on with the international attention on Cast Lead while there are no such international investigations into the massive damage and civilian casualties resulting from the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan – two countries who did not perpetrate the terrorist attacks that led to the US-led invasions of both of them.

I’m also sympathetic to the contention by Israel that the laws of war need revision to deal with the realities of modern warfare which, far more often, does not occur between two armies, but between armies and guerilla forces.

And I think Israel is probably right when it says if the USA was attacked, even in ineffectual ways as with the qassam rockets, as often as Israel is, the American response would be less restrained than Israel’s.

None of this, in the end, changes the fact that Cast Lead was monstrous, that it killed a great many civilians, and that it, as well as the siege more generally, has done great harm to the people of Gaza with minimal, at best, effect on Hamas. And that’s the bottom line.

Indeed, those sympathies of mine only reinforce just how foolish and self-defeating Israeli obstinacy has been in regard to accountability for Gaza. The diplomatic fallout has been immense, and the momentum it has given to boycott movements is something no one but Israel could have provided.

And it could have been avoided at the outset if Israel had decided to appoint a credible investigative team, outside of the military but with military experience at the highest levels, with full transparency and outside observers, from the EU, Arab League, UN and USA.

Israel’s human rights community was screaming for something like that. But it didn’t happen. Now, the Military Advocate General lays out its report, which does find significant problems, comes up with some reasonable responses to some allegations (though these remain dubious because of the source and because, as the MAG admits, its very nature presents unique obstacles to its investigations), but fails again to examine the top echelon, and the basic guidelines, (based in good part on the work of Prof. Asa Kasher, who has repeatedly stated that he prioritizes the lives of soldiers over the lives of “enemy” civilians) which are framing Israeli military planning.

Perhaps, though I remain skeptical, the Tuerkel Commission will address some of the defects of credibility.

In any case, the latest Israeli report simply reinforces the need for impartial review. It gets closer to the mark, but the source will diminish its credibility. And, the enormous respect I have for Justice Richard Goldstone notwithstanding (and both Israel’s and the Jewish community’s treatment of this man is shameful beyond description), the UN Human Rights Council’s reports suffer the same credibility problem from the opposite direction. The UNHRC’s ridiculous record when it comes to Israel taints its products. I wonder if Israel could have obfuscated the Goldstone Report even to the extent it did if the UN had done the obvious thing and had the mandate for the commission come from a different body, such as the Secretary General’s office, rather than one so clearly biased against Israel.

Neither of those points means either report is wrong. The Goldstone Report was thorough and, though I thought there were some issues with it (what report, especially one that was prepared so hastily, doesn’t have problems), a fair reading of the full report cannot but determine that it was based on evidence and drew reasonable conclusions. A similar thing can be said about the latest Israeli report, while both reports are obviously grounded in their respective perspectives (Goldstone in international law, the Israeli one in Israeli operational parameters).

In the end, it is politics, not law, that have really brought more of the facts to light. We’d all do well to stop pretending otherwise; international law is a joke as long as it is selectively enforced. That includes its lack of enforcement with regard to Israel’s occupation as well as the total absence of any enforcement on NATO’s operations in Afghanistan and Iraq (and a host of other issues, like France’s current operations in Mauritania, or a whole slew of American operations around the world). It is politics, not law, which is determinative.

And there are ways to make it work. If the political will is there.


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Groundhog Year

I'm in a position to help you out here Geoff. A couple of years ago I spent a fair bit of time researching contempory history of the Middle East, that's how I came by my stuff. It's interesting catching up on our interaction back then and I realise my memory is a way to being as poor as yours. I'd forgotten how fun finally becomes tedium.

Don't just take my word for it. Here's more.

You'd probably make a good politician with your ability to obfuscate and duck uncomfortable questions. "The long or short version"  you asked me and two years two months later I'm  still waiting for either although by inference I gather your position is Israel has not done and cannot do wrong.

What was the question again?

Are you asking me what I think is the ideal outcome for the Israel/Palestine situation?

I remember now. The question anoyed me the last time you asked,  partly because I had answered it so many times I doubted your sincerity. Also some of your assumptions that seemed to me to underpin the question were out there in orbit somewhere past Pluto.  I mean no disrespect but what can I usefully say to a man who seemed to think Zionism is some kind of a mystical/religious movement based on Jewish exceptionalism and steeped in expansionism and domination? Not much has changed.

The ideal outcome? My ideas on this have not changed since the seventies. An independent, prosperous and secure Palestinian state in firm economic union with an independent and secure Israel. One state a homeland for an ancient nation and ancient people. The other a state for a modern nation born of an ancient people. Together a true bridge between West and East in the place where East and West have met, enriching both, since the beginning of history.

That'll do for a start.  Sound idealistic? Maybe, but I will claim, in a tiny way, I've done more than most Australians, including I'll wager anyone who has commented here over the years, to help this come to pass. But right now this outcome looks almost as distant  as ever.

Oh well, never mind. I will not despair of ever seeing peace.  Not ever.  It's a horribly big ask for only one reason. It is not up to the Israelis and Palestinians. It never has been. But there are many people who think as I do and for a while there in the nineties, for a short while, it looked like it might just happen. Don't give up. It might happen again. 


Scott: "In the meantime, care to address what I said?"

OK I will. They did accept 181. Where the hell do you get this stuff? And the bit about the borders is what a democracy does when it finds itself in a fight to the death with forces that do not recognise it, and yet is in occupation of a slab of territory that is part of the land that is the subject of a careful "land for peace"  formula such as that in 181.

Israel annexed Jerusalem in 1967. Quite rightly in my opinion. But it never annexed the West Bank, Sinai or the Golan Heights. You can take your pick on the "border". I see no good reason why the 1949 ceasefire lines have more legitimacy than the 1967 ceasefire lines. The Sinai was returned to Egypt as part of the Begin/Sadat deal. Syria can take up the Golan Heights pretty much whenever it likes. Right now it prefers a state of war.  The West  Bank is on the table, as is half of Jerusalem apparently. The latest is that the PA  just walked away from a US effort to get direct talks happening again instead of the pointless and asinine proximity talks that have been belching away for some time now. And Hamas just fired some missiles from Egypt into Israel and Jordan and murdered an Israeli police officer on the West Bank.

Right now, what would you like Israel to do? Declare its borders? Annex the regions around Jerusalem that everybody who sincerely accepts a two-state solution accepts must be a part of Israel? What else would you like to see? The IDF withdraw to those borders leaving the Palestinians to their own devices? Leave Fatah to Hamas?

No one wants Israel to do that. They want a negotiated settlement with a viable Palestinian state. Or at least a fighting chance of a viable state. The Palestinians were offered that twice in the nineties and a third time two years ago. If they are serious about peace they know they will be offered it again. But that won't happen until the grip  Iran has through Hamas on the throats of the Palestinian people has been broken.

And Iran is arming with nuclear weapons. And Hezbollah has been completely rearmed making a mockery of the promises of the UN to keep the peace and demonstrating yet again why the UN can never be trusted. Never.  As usual.

And I can tell you one other thing. The Israelis have got sick of it. You think you're sick of the Middle East dramas? Spare a thought for the Israelis. Maybe, just maybe, they've had enough of the talks, plans, promises and hypocritcal bullshit pouring from Europe and beyond, and the PA has blown its last opportunity to miss an opportunity. Maybe the Israelis will do exactly what you suggest.  Declare the borders, withdraw the IDF, immediately from where it can without risking a massacre, and ... well ... leave them to it. Leave the whole sorry mess for the Europeans to clean up. Strikes me as fair. Afterall the Europeans made the bloody mess in the first place.

Moving on ...

It really is about finding the time to reply to what is even worth a reply at all. I sat down to read that SMH article Scott Dunmore linked, skim read it, found it a basically pretty loose account of events, and went back to the start.

There I found this.

Initially, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, wanted no inquiry into the disastrous commando raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla that left nine Turkish citizens dead.

Now he has ended up with five

The man who wrote this has absolutely no understanding of Israeli society whatsoever. Go back to my first or second comment on the other thread. The dust had not settled on this ugly incident and I wrote something about the small matter of the inquiry or ten that would surely ensue as certain as  a lefty 's knee jerk. Dickheads who write that these inquiries were forced on a reluctant Israel don't have an opinion worth hearing.

That's why I stopped reading the SMH. You can so really find an opinion worth hearing.

The Formula

 1.  Employ cruelty and murder to defeat the possibility of a one-state solution.  Of course, torture of adolescent boys is most efficient and of greatest long-term benefit here, but the Gaza attack, the Wall, blockades, bulldozing of houses, apartheid etc. all help.

2.  Build settlements, to defeat the possibility of a two-state solution.

3.  Use our agents, especially North-American Jews, to foment wars of aggression against Afghanistan, Irak, Iran, by any and all states that might be inclined to criticise us, making their criminality worse than ours.    <http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2010/06/iranrsquos-nuclear-weapon-capability-containment-or-military-action/>.

4.  Use truculent, accusatory, deceptive rhetoric, accusations of antisemitism, allusions to the Holocaust, against all critics.

Naked aggression

Point 3 is only speculative, but there are no other discernible reasons for the United States' and Australia's naked aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan.

The United Nations does not allow intervention in the affairs of another country because its leader murders many of its people. The UN was set up by countries including Stalin's Soviet Union which did exactly that. Indeed, historically, it has been pretty much the norm. English kings and queens did it 500 years ago.

There was no possibility that a United Nations would be set up which would make it legitimate for the West to attack the Soviet Union because of the nature of Stalin's rule, because he had killed more Soviet citizens than Saddam did Iraki citizens.

Interference in the internal affairs of another country is called colonialism. It is not legitimate.

"Regime change" is just a deceptive synonym for naked aggression. It is absolutely illegal for one country to attack another in order to interfere with the rule of its ruler.

The Taliban offered to hand over Osama bin Laden to the United States but the offer was rejected, it this claim is correct.

So, why? A war against Islam? Because Australia is naturally a homicidally maniacal country?

Are the black hats, the bad guys, the aggressors, Australia and the others, like that in their own countries?

The answer is not very clear. Saddam was a mild ruler of an orderly secularised modern state, internally at piece, modern women driving their cars to work, many in professional employment, and walking down the street in Western attire.

Mild? Yes! Unless you were a political activist, or fell into a particular special category; and then he acted like Stalin or a traditional autocrat and you died under torture.

But the ordinary citizen knew nothing of that.

In the past, Saddam launched a war against Iran, but that was in trustful compliance with the wishes of his good friend the United States, and with their assistance.

So there is no known reason for the naked aggression of the United States and its puppet states against Afghanistan and Irak. Each invasion was definitely for a reason, but no-one knows what they were.

What of Iran's progress towards nuclear weapons?

Iran is making rapid scientific progress on a wide front, not only the nuclear front.

But with heavily-armed maniacs roaming the world, aggressive terrorist states the dominant world order today, and with various interest groups intriguing to make Iran the next victim, if you were Iranian, a citizen of a large country, an ancient civilization, sharing a border with a nuclear-armed failed state, Pakistan, on the east, and sharing a border with a nuclear-armed terrorist state, Turkey, to the west, wouldn't you want your country to be nuclear-armed?

The link

At point 3 I tried to give a link to the paper by one John or Jacob David (Jack David) arguing suavely that US "military action" against Iran is necessary.

Fiona: Congratulations on getting the link function to work.

Disraeli Gears amd Gullivers Travels

Thanks Michael but no correction required, I'd already done my homework, (what did we do before Wikipedia?) Disraeli was born into the Jewish faith and his father had him baptised Anglican at age thirteen. One can be forgiven for doubting its sincerity.

I'm probably missing something but I'm not too sure what transliteration has to do with Jonathon Swift.

Geoff my old sparring partner, can I share something with you? I was raised in an environment that was mildy anti-semitic. At an early age I was disturbed by my parents' almost sneering reference to somebody as a "jewboy" and I thought it totally unfair. In adulthood they would have got the rough edge of my tongue. Just where the a priori opinion came from I can only guess but next time you refer to "Jew haters" bear me in your mind as one who is not.

In my mind if nowhere else, you appear to carry a burden, the other side maybe, of the coin that has the image of the craven apologists you detest. Under siege, defend or sortie? It's not necessary.

You made two very salient points; the crass reference to evidence and the suggestions of referees. It is also pleasing that Israel instigated the reports but what recommendations came out of them if any, I don't know. Will there be courts martial, demotions or sackings? We must wait and see. I do however see a softening of the body politic of Israel. It would appear that Israel, with a change in the White House and a hardening of attitudes, is finally coming around to understanding reality. From the link this:

"From start to end, Israel's response to the convoy has been marked by confusion and political ineptitude. Still reeling from the damage to its reputation inflicted by the war on Gaza last year that killed 1400 Palestinians, the repercussions from the flotilla incident look set to reverberate until well into next year

Relations with Turkey, the one Middle East nation it could count as a friend, have reached a record low. With the UN inquiry to focus on reviewing the findings of the other four committees investigating the incident, its real aim appears to be to help mend relations between Israel and Turkey.

Netanyahu declared Israel had nothing to hide. "It is in the national interest of the state of Israel to ensure that the factual truth of the overall flotilla events comes to light throughout the world," he said.

One wonders why he didn't adopt that stance immediately."

I'm not trying to score points Geoff, but if you persist in your absolutism you might find yourself isolated. World opinion brought an end to apartheid in SA,  Maybe Israel is starting to look over its shoulder.

If Israel invested in the Palestinians the fear of being demographically overwhelmed in a one state democracy would be removed much in the way that if the USA had given the enormous amounts of money spent on the Vietnam war directly to North Vietnam, they would have had friends for life.

Why "one state" is a conversation ender

"If Israel invested in the Palestinians the fear of being demographically overwhelmed in a one state democracy would be removed much in the way that if the USA had given the enormous amounts of money spent on the Vietnam war ..."

Excuse me my old sparring partner, (that's one with a double edge if there ever was -- on the one hand I'm flattered by having a sparring partner I can't remember.  On the other,  ... that's been happening quite a bit lately), but have you gone completely insane since we last sparred? Whenever that was? With respect.

Demographically overwhemed? Did you actually write that, Scott Dunmore? The passing concern about the liquidation of the state, with all of its freedoms and lnstitutions, such as the rule of law, not God, and the delivery of the nation to the mercies of the likes of Hamas, IJ, Fatah, Iran et al, or their successors? Whose commitments to the values of secular liberal democracy are collectively laughable?  That's without even mentioning all the stuff about the Jews being cockroaches and vermin and the need to obliterate them from history?  Demographically overwhemed, you say? The same as tossing money at Vietnam?

Why? To satisfy the needs of Israel hating zealots in the West who just can't get their minds around the notion of Jewish nationhood? Not even  Jewish nationhood in Israel? Even while they have not the slightest difficulty at all identifying a Palestinian Arab nationhood?

How can I put this gently, Scott Dunmore. The one state solution is a no goer. Only Islamist ideologues, inciters of genocide, Israel hating lunatics and lurching late night crackpots even mention it. You can slap on your apartheid slurs as much and as long as you like. The reason why there will never be A "single state" has absolutely nothing to do with racism, as you would have it. It is unthinkable for another reason.  Too many people would prefer to be dead. Just as they would here.

Another extraordinary thing about the "one state" jerks that exposes their fraudulent intentions. It is that there is nothing in official Israeli "two state" policy, or for that matter in Zionist principle, that rules out negotiations at some point in the futue for some kind of a commonwealth or federation of the two states. Some kind of an economic union or treaty would be essential from day one of course. 

Back on speaking terms

Well it's a start but we know it's not going anywhere don't we Geoff? It's just a bit of fun to me but don't get the idea that I'm not sincere, I don't take it that seriously, that's all.

Can't remember? Alzheimer's or brain damage maybe, get yourself checked out.

"Did you actually write that". Hmmm, is this a trick question? (looks like my stuff,) because as someone who folllows events in that part of the world far more closely than I you know what I'm talking about. One state solution a no goer? Come on Geoff we all know that's exactly what the Israelis are after don't we? That's why they have never declared their borders or accepted 181. Just what to do with all those Arabs of course is the sticking point for them. Maybe if they treat them badly enough they'll just go away. Australia's a nice place.

Your last paragraph brings a little comfort but before anything like that can happen borders must be established.

Alzheimer's and brain damage

Alzheimer's and brain damage are both distinct possibilities, Scott Dunmore. But don't despair.  Another is simply I made a much bigger impression on you than you did on me.

Content free

I'm not going to respond to that Geoff, if you want to satisfy yourself go look at the archives, (I can't, I'm denied access(?)) but you should be alright.

In the meantime, care to address what I said?

1 New comment

Oh, surprise, surprise. First cab off the the rank, the indefatiguable defender of the faith and the indefensible, let's hear it for, wait for it....Geoff Pahoff! f

OK Geoff, first let me say I can't work you out. You're intelligent and that's not condescending and yet you persist on a course that goes nowhere. Fleetingly ,I considered the possibilty that you were cynically having a laugh but that's inconsistent.

Haters of Jews and Israel? Can we dispense of the rhetoric? I've never hated anyone or anything in my life and know nothing of it except that it's a vile, blind ignorant and unknowing emotion.

There is, I happily concede however, a small element of truth in what you claim. Israel is a zionist state and that is with which I'll quarrel. It's racist.

From zionists, blank stares, "of course it is you bloody idiot, that's the way and reason it was created." That's where it all went wrong. I don't go around proclaiming the fact that I'm Aussie or English any more than I'd draw attention to the fact that I'm right handed. The English had a Jewish prime minister and very effective one at that. Can you see a pommy  as Israel's PM?

There you have it Geoff, I'm anti-zionist and that's not exclusive; I'm anti lots of "isms".

If it's alright for the the disgraced Netanyahoo, (oh, I've got the spelling right believe me,) and the Likud to declare for zionism why don't you?

That way we can see where you're coming from and happliy ignore you.

Thanks for your contribution Sol, but (please don't take offence,) I can't see where it's leading. It's already gone off track ,for which I apologise and  become an extension of an ongoing debate, a term which I think, unrightfully dignifies it.

Do we really need  an opinion of a report which tells us what we already know?

I do understand sensitivities.


Scott, let me be the one to make this correction, kindly meant. Australia had a Jewish governor-general.  England never had a Jewish prime minister. Dizzy was a Christian.

But on your side, we can more reasonably transliterate the Hebrew of that man's name as ... yahoo than as ... yahu.  You've got the spelling right, we believe you.

Gee Gee Up

And I was still thinking of Isaacs, forgetting Zelman Cowan.

Israel's strength

I will comment further about this after I have had an opportunity to read the IDF report more carefully than I have now. However it is abundantly clear  that any suggestion the report, while very obviously thorough and robust, in any way vindicates the disgraceful Goldstone report, is absurd. These are the sorts of quite dishonest claims from the Israeli crackpot left and its emigres that one has come to expect. As usual they do themselves no credit at all.

A few other quick standout points. Consider this observation from Sol Salbe's link:

"While an affidavit can provide investigators with valuable information and serve as the starting point for an investigation, a written affidavit alone is generally inadmissible as evidence at trial. In the Israeli legal system, as in many others, proving a criminal case instead requires that witnesses be willing to appear in court to permit cross-examination on issues such as the witness’s ability to observe the events, whether a witness has any bias, and whether there were other relevant facts not recounted in the written statement. Hence, in some cases, the unwillingness of a complainant to cooperate in criminal investigations may deprive the investigators of the most significant evidence.”

Well duh. This is a feature of any criminal trial procedure in any criminal jurisdiction with any pretense of respect for the rule of law anywhere in the world. Of course this means sometimes prosecutions can not be launched or fail. You hardly have to go to Israel to see that. How else would the writer of this have it? What system would he prefer?

"And it could have been avoided at the outset if Israel had decided to appoint a credible investigative team, outside of the military but with military experience at the highest levels, with full transparency and outside observers, from the EU, Arab League, UN and USA."

At first I couldn't believe I had read this. The EU? The UN? The friggin' Arab League for chrissake? Australia also has a ratbag left of course as do most Western countries. They don't call them moonbats for nothing. But only the Israeli left seems so disdainful of their own country's hard won sovereignity and so quick to want to see it surrendered.

However the most obvious point as usual is ignored. The one thing so glaringly obvious that the hard left fringe are so utterly incapable of seeing. This is the very serious way the Israelis investigate themselves within a legal and official investigatory system as professional, independent and fearless as any in the world. Without exception. And how quickly the Israel haters everywhere will use the fruits of that to demonise Israel as best they can. Just watch what happens here.

Counting 10  9  8  7 ...

So be it. This is Israel's strength.  As it is with any other constitutional liberal democracy operating under the rule of law. The hard left just don't get that.

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