Friday, November 6, 2009
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said in response to Thursday's vote that Israel "maintains the right to self-defense", and would "continue to act to protect the lives of its citizens from the threat of international terrorism".
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Judge Goldstone's letter to the sponsors of the US Congressional resolution condemning his report --
The Honorable Howard Berman
Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs
The Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Ranking Member, House Committee on Foreign Affairs
October 29, 2009
Dear Chairman Berman and Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen,
It has come to my attention that a resolution has been introduced in the Unites States House of Representatives regarding the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which I led earlier this year.
I fully respect the right of the US Congress to examine and judge my mission and the resulting report, as well as to make its recommendations to the US Executive branch of government. However, I have strong reservations about the text of the resolution in question – text that includes serious factual inaccuracies and instances where information and statements are taken grossly out of context.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Desmond Travers was one of the four members of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which produced the controversial Goldstone Report. Travers is a retired Colonel of the Army of the Irish Defence Forces. His last appointment was as Commandant of its Military College. He also served in command of troops with various UN and EU peace support missions. I recently spoke to Travers by phone about the report. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Richard Goldstone, the lead author of a United Nations report that found evidence of war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas during last winter’s Gaza war, challenged the Obama administration in an interview broadcast Thursday to explain what it has called serious concerns about his report.
In the interview on Al Jazeera, Mr. Goldstone, a South African jurist, said that the official American response to the 575-page report had been ambivalent. The Obama administration, he said, “joined our recommendation calling for full and good-faith” domestic investigations of the alleged crimes in both Israel and Gaza, “but said that the report was flawed.”
“But I have yet to hear from the Obama administration what the flaws in the report that they have identified are,” Mr. Goldstone said. “I mean, I would be happy to respond to them, if and when I know what they are.”
Monday, October 26, 2009
J Street's Ben-Ami On Zionism and Military Aid to Israel
by Jeffrey Goldberg, published in the Atlantic
Jeremy Ben-Ami of the liberal lobbying group J Street is the man of the moment: The group's upcoming conference in Washington has become a source of great controversy for many reasons. I interviewed Ben-Ami yesterday by telephone, and here is an edited transcript of our conversation. In our talk, he showed that he learned a bit about triangulation during his years in the Clinton White House.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Israel has been dealing one blow after another to the rest of the world. While China has still not recovered from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's absence from the reception at its Tel Aviv embassy - a serious punishment for China's support for the Goldstone report - France is licking its wounds after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "vetoed" a visit by the French foreign minister to Gaza. And Israel has dealt another blow: Its ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren, will boycott the conference next week of the new Israel lobby J Street.
Goldstone dares US on Gaza report
Published by Al Jazeera English
Richard Goldstone, the jurist who authored a UN report accusing Israel of war crimes and crimes against humanity during its war on Gaza, has challenged the US to justify its claims that his findings are flawed and biased.
Goldstone told Al Jazeera on Thursday that he had not heard from the administration of Barack Obama, the US president, about the flaws Washington claims to have identified in the report.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
by Richard Goldstone, published in the Jerusalem Post
Five weeks after the release of the Report of the Fact Finding Mission on Gaza, there has been no attempt by any of its critics to come to grips with its substance. It has been fulsomely approved by those whose interests it is thought to serve and rejected by those of the opposite view. Those who attack it do so too often by making personal attacks on its authors' motives and those who approve it rely on its authors' reputations.
Virtually all of Israel is now speaking in one voice against the Goldstone report, against any attempt to blame us over the war in Gaza. We've honed our message to a sharp point and, inspired by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's performance at the UN, we're delivering it with just the right tone of outrage:
How dare anyone deny us the right to self-defense! How dare anyone deny us the right to fight back against terrorism!
If there were any lingering doubts concerning the status and integrity of the Palestinian National Authority -- and its so-called President, Mahmoud Abbas ("so-called" because his term of office, such as it was, expired almost a year ago) -- they were surely dispelled once and for all by its decision to drop its support for a UN resolution that would have referred the Goldstone Report on Israel's post-Christmas 2008 attack on Gaza to the UN Security Council.
It took 25 years longer than George Orwell thought for the slogans of 1984 to become reality.
“War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery,” “Ignorance is Strength.”
I would add, “Lie is Truth.”
The Nobel Committee has awarded the 2009 Peace Prize to President Obama, the person who started a new war in Pakistan, upped the war in Afghanistan, and continues to threaten Iran with attack unless Iran does what the US government demands and relinquishes its rights as a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty.
Since his address to the Muslim world from Cairo, Egypt, President Barack Obama has called on Israel to halt settlement construction in the West Bank, rightfully identifying the expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements as one of the primary roadblocks to peace. But under the leadership of right-wing politician Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel has rebuffed Obama’s request, claiming a “fundamental right” to expand existing settlements and, in some instances, grant new building permits to Jewish settlers.(read more)
JERUSALEM - Israel's powerful foreign minister Thursday said he would tell a visiting U.S. Middle East envoy that there was no chance of reaching a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians for many years.
Peacemaking policy in Israel is decided by the prime minister's office, and not the foreign ministry. But Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman carries significant weight in Israeli decision-making, and his is a sentiment common among confidants of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
by David Theo Goldberg and Saree Makdisi
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains one of the most visible political issues on campuses around the nation. A rising level of concern about the continuing Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory (now in its fifth decade), as well as the precarious position of Israel's beleaguered Palestinian minority, have been countered by increasingly strident, even furious, attempts to silence or stifle criticism of Israeli policy on American college campuses.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
American Jews for a Just Peace-Detroit present..
Internationally renown scholar and author will speak on The Israel-Palestine Conflict: What We Can Learn From Gandhi Tuesday, February 17, 2009 • 7:30 pm Rackham Amphitheater, Fourth Floor 915 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1070
Norman Finkelstein has authored numerous books and articles on the Israel-Palestine conflict and related issues, including "Beyond Chutzpah: On the Abuse of Anti-Semitism and the Misuse of History", now available as an updated edition with a new preface; "The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (2nd ed.) ; and "Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict", (new revised ed.).
Finkelstein received his PhD in Political Science from Princeton University and has held faculty positions at Brooklyn College, Rutgers University, Hunter College, New York University, and DePaul University. He was denied tenure at DePaul after interference by Alan Dershowitz. On May 23, 2008, Finkelstein was denied entry to Israel and deported because of suspicions that "he had contact with elements 'hostile' to Israel."
For more info: Andrew Dalack or Bre Arder at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org respectively
Saturday, January 17, 2009
UN accuses Israel over phosphorus
The head of the UN aid agency in Gaza has accused the Israeli military of firing what was believed to be white phosphorus shells at its compound.
John Ging told the BBC that in spite of discussions with the Israeli liaison, "three rounds that emitted phosphorus" hit a corner of the Gaza City facility.
Israel's military said all weapons it used complied with international law.
Phosphorus shells are legal to use as a battlefield obscurant, but are banned from use where civilians may be harmed.
Human Rights Watch says it has observed "dozens and dozens" of white phosphorus shells being fired by Israel at the Gaza Strip - a heavily populated civilian area where its use is prohibited.
Palestinian medical officials said they had treated large numbers of casualties with unusual burns that were extremely painful to treat and could be consistent with exposure to white phosphorus (WP).
The Israeli military has declined to comment on specific munitions used during the 20-day offensive, but said any its weapons were used in compliance with international law.
There is no way independently to explain the contradiction between both sides' reports, as Israel has prevented international journalists from entering Gaza since its offensive began on 27 December.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Ging, director of operations in Gaza for the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa), said the area surrounding its compound had been under "relentless artillery and tank bombardment all night and all day".
Some rounds, Mr Ging said, had struck a part of the compound where about 700 residents of nearby blocks of flats were taking shelter. Three people were injured in the bombardment.
Evidence of white phosphorus munitions used in Gaza, HRW says
"Then an hour later, in spite of our protests and real-time discussions with the Israeli liaison, three rounds that emitted phosphorous struck the other corner of the compound," he added.
The compound is Unrwa's main distribution hub in Gaza and Mr Ging said the shells set alight part of a warehouse in which there were stored thousands of tonnes of food and medicine, and the workshop area.
The fires then threatened to engulf five fuel tankers, which had been due to be sent out that morning, but could not leave because it was too dangerous outside.
"When the fires broke out, five of our brave staff dashed down there and moved the trucks out of the area, so we avoided a massive explosion," he said.
Mr Ging told CNN the fire was very difficult to extinguish because the smoke from WP becomes toxic if water is used.
Following the incident, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon - in Israel to push for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip - expressed his "outrage" and demanded a full explanation from the Israeli government.
"The defence minister said to me it was a grave mistake and he took it very seriously. He assured me that extra attention will be paid to UN facilities and staff and this will not be repeated," Mr Ban said.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the compound had been targeted after militants had opened fire from there.
"It is absolutely true that we were attacked from that place, but the consequences are very sad and we apologise for it," he said. "I don't think it should have happened and I'm very sorry."
White phosphorus sticks to human skin and will burn right through to the bone, causing death or leaving survivors with painful wounds which are slow to heal.
The international convention on the use of incendiary weapons says it should not be used where there is a possibility of hitting civilians. An Israeli military spokesman said it was investigating the reports, but reiterated earlier assurances about the legality of its weaponry.
The Israeli military may be using legal weapons, but it is using the weapons in an illegal manner
Human Rights Watch
White phosphorus is permitted on the battlefield to make smoke screens to allow troops to move undetected, and also to impede infrared anti-tank weapons.
But its use in the densely populated areas of central Gaza City would be "unlawful", as it dispersal would be indiscriminate and could put civilians at risk, says Human Rights Watch military analyst Marc Garlasco.
"The Israeli military may be using legal weapons, but it is using the weapons in an illegal manner," Mr Garlasco told the BBC News website.
He said he had observed dozens and dozens WP shells used by the Israeli army over Gaza since 27 December, both ground-burst shells and air-burst, scattering distinctive burning lumps of phosphorus which left white smoke trails.
"We are absolutely certain this is white phosphorus, this is the singular, unique visual signature of white phosphorus on the battlefield. Not only have I seen it for myself but I have checked with US artillery," Mr Garlasco added.Mr Garlasco also examined a press photograph which showed a burning lump of matter in the UN compound. He said it "definitely appeared" to be WP, but that the photo was not detailed enough to say with complete certainty.
Israel 'to announce ceasefire'
A large number of civilians have died in the three weeks of conflict
The Israeli cabinet is set to back an end to offensive military activities in the Gaza Strip, three weeks after attacks began, the BBC understands.
Israel's leaders are expected to approve a ceasefire at a meeting later on Saturday, after which PM Ehud Olmert will address the nation, sources said.
The sources said the ceasefire deal did not involve Hamas.
It is not clear how Hamas will respond; its officials say the group will ignore any truce unless its demands are met.
Ahead of the move violence continued in Gaza, with 50 Israeli air strikes overnight. Rocket fire from Hamas militants also continued.
About 1,200 Palestinians have been killed since the violence began on 27 December. Thirteen Israelis - three civilians and 10 soldiers - have been killed during the campaign.
The Israeli move comes amid intense diplomacy aimed at ending the conflict.
Israeli sources told the BBC's Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, that Mr Olmert would announce an end to offensive military operations from "H-Hour", the exact timing of which is not yet clear.
Mr Olmert was expected to link the move to Israel having achieved its goal of curtailing rocket fire from Hamas-linked militants, the sources said.
If rocket fire continued after "H-Hour", Israel would respond, the sources said. If there was a single incident, Israel would hit back surgically. If there were more attacks Israel would go back on the offensive, they said.
The sources stressed that this was a unilateral action by Israel. How Hamas responds remains to be seen.
Hamas insists that any ceasefire must involve Israeli troops withdrawing from Gaza and an immediate lifting of the Israeli blockade.
The announcement came on the 22nd day of violence in Gaza.
United Nations officials said two children, aged five and seven, were killed when Israeli tank fire hit a UN school where hundreds had taken shelter in the northern town of Beit Lahiya.
John Ging, the Unrwa chief in Gaza, told the BBC that there was "nowhere safe in Gaza".
"I'm ashamed of this - there's international legal responsibility to protect civilians in conflict, and we're not doing it," Mr Ging said.
An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, told the BBC that Israel was waiting for more information on what happened.The Israel military said Hamas fired seven rockets into Israel on Saturday; there were no casualties.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Demonstrate for an end to Israel's assault on the people of Gaza
Demand an unconditional and immediate cease-fire and total withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza
Please do not bring the flags of any political parties
ARMBANDS FOR JUSTICE
Black armbands will be distributed campus-wide for people to wear in support of an unconditional and immediate cease-fire and total withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza. They will be distributed by members of the Action Gaza committee and will be available at the informational tables set up near the posting wall in Mason Hall TODAY, Wednesday, January 14 from 10 AM to 4 PM. Armbands will also be distributed at TODAY's demonstration in front of the Michigan Union from 8 PM to 10 PM.
Wear your armbands daily until a ceasefire is issued. When people ask about your armband, talk to them about the atrocities being committed in Gaza, the devastatingly disproportionate attacks upon the Palestinian people and Israel's blatant abuse of human rights and repeated violations of international law. If you would like to get an armband, please contact Kamelya Youssef at email@example.com.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
JERUSALEM — Three times in recent days, a small group of foreign correspondents was told to appear at the border crossing to Gaza. The reporters were to be permitted in to cover firsthand the Israeli war on Hamas in keeping with a Supreme Court ruling against the two-month-old Israeli ban on foreign journalists entering Gaza.
Each time, they were turned back on security grounds, even as relief workers and other foreign citizens were permitted to cross the border. On Tuesday the reporters were told to not even bother going to the border.
And so for an 11th day of Israel’s war in Gaza, the several hundred journalists here to cover it waited in clusters away from direct contact with any fighting or Palestinian suffering, but with full access to Israeli political and military commentators eager to show them around southern Israel, where Hamas rockets have been terrorizing civilians. A slew of private groups financed mostly by Americans are helping guide the press around Israel.
Like all wars, this one is partly about public relations. But unlike any war in Israel’s history, in this one the government is seeking to entirely control the message and narrative for reasons both of politics and military strategy.
“This is the result of what happened in the 2006 Lebanon war against Hezbollah,” said Nachman Shai, a former army spokesman who is writing a doctoral dissertation on Israel’s public diplomacy. “Then, the media were everywhere. Their cameras and tapes picked up discussions between commanders. People talked on live television. It helped the enemy and confused and destabilized the home front. Today, Israel is trying to control the information much more closely.”
The government-commissioned investigation into the war with Hezbollah reported that the army had found that when reporters were allowed on the battlefield in Lebanon, they got in the way of military operations by posing risks and asking questions.
Maj. Avital Leibovich, an army spokeswoman, said, “If a journalist gets injured or killed, then it is Central Command’s responsibility.” She said the government was trying to protect Israel from rocket fire and “not deal with the media.”
Beyond such tactical considerations, there is a political one. Daniel Seaman, director of Israel’s Government Press Office, said, “Any journalist who enters Gaza becomes a fig leaf and front for the Hamas terror organization, and I see no reason why we should help that.”
Foreign reporters deny that their work in Gaza has been subject to Hamas censorship or control. Unable to send foreign reporters into Gaza, the international news media have relied on Palestinian journalists based there for coverage.
But it seems that many Israelis accept Mr. Seaman’s assessment and shed no tears over the restrictions, despite repeated protests by the Foreign Press Association of Israel, including on Tuesday.
A headline in Tuesday’s issue of Yediot Aharonot, the country’s largest selling daily newspaper, expressed well the popular view of the issue. Over a news article describing the generally negative coverage so far, especially in the European media, an intentional misspelling of a Hebrew word turned the headline “World Media” into “World Liars.”
This attitude has been helped by supportive Israeli news media whose articles have been filled with “feelings of self-righteousness and a sense of catharsis following what was felt to be undue restraint in the face of attacks by the enemy,” according to a study of the first days of media coverage of the war by a liberal but nonpartisan group called Keshev, the Center for the Protection of Democracy in Israel.
The Foreign Press Association has been fighting for weeks to get its members into Gaza, first appealing to senior government officials and ultimately taking its case to the country’s highest court. Last week the justices worked out an arrangement with the organization whereby small groups would be permitted into Gaza when it was deemed safe enough for the crossings to be opened for other reasons.
So far, every time the border has been opened, journalists have not been permitted to go in.
On Tuesday, the press association released a statement saying, “The unprecedented denial of access to Gaza for the world’s media amounts to a severe violation of press freedom and puts the state of Israel in the company of a handful of regimes around the world which regularly keep journalists from doing their jobs.”
At the same time that reporters have been given less access to Gaza, the government has created a new structure for shaping its public message, ensuring that spokesmen of the major government branches meet daily to make sure all are singing from the same sheet.
“We are trying to coordinate everything that has to do with the image and content of what we are doing and to make sure that whoever goes on the air, whether a minister or professor or ex-ambassador, knows what he is saying,” said Aviv Shir-On, deputy director general for media in the Foreign Ministry. “We have talking points and we try to disseminate our ideas and message.”
Israelis say the war is being reduced on television screens around the world to a simplistic story: an American-backed country with awesome military machine fighting a third-world guerrilla force leading to a handful of Israelis dead versus 600 Gazans dead.
Israelis and their supporters think that such quick descriptions fail to explain the vital context of what has been happening — years of terrorist rocket fire on civilians have gone largely unanswered, and a message had to be sent to Israel’s enemies that this would go on no longer, they say. The issue of proportionality, they add, is a false construct because comparing death tolls offers no help in measuring justice and legitimacy.
There are other ways to construe the context of this conflict, of course. But no matter what, Israel’s diplomats know that if journalists are given a choice between covering death and covering context, death wins. So in a war that they consider necessary but poorly understood, they have decided to keep the news media far away from the death.
John Ging, an Irishman who directs operations in Gaza for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, entered Gaza on Monday as journalists were kept out. He told Palestinian reporters in Gaza that the policy was a problem.“For the truth to get out, journalists have to get in,” he said.
Art-rock eminence Brian Eno is not happy at all about Israel's recent attacks on Gaza, and we recommend that Israel stop all these attacks right now because you do not want to see what happens when Brian Eno gets pissed. In an editorial on the Counterpunch weekend edition (via Daily Swarm), Eno had this to say:
"The Israelis are a gifted and resourceful people who fully deserve the right to live in peace, but who seem intent on squandering every chance to allow that to happen. It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that this conflict serves the political and economic purposes of Israel so well that they have every interest in maintaining it. While there is fighting they can continue to build illegal settlements. While there is fighting they continue to receive huge quantities of military aid from the United States. And while there is fighting they can avoid looking candidly at themselves and the ruthlessness into which they are descending.
"Gaza is now an experiment in provocation. Stuff one and a half million people into a tiny space, stifle their access to water, electricity, food and medical treatment, destroy their livelihoods, and humiliate them regularly...and, surprise, surprise - they turn hostile. Now why would you want to make that experiment?"
And on Saturday, Eno showed up to the Stop Gaza Massacre protest in London to read his editorial and to make a confusing reference to "middle-class English people like me." Eno: When you're making that Coldplay money, you no longer get to call yourself middle-class.
Some of Eno's recent projects include the score for Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, an iPhone app, and a really good album with David Byrne.