The Guardian’s Conal Urquhart, Conflict, and an Interesting Conflict of Interests.

Conal Urquhart

With Harriet Sherwood apparently having abandoned Jerusalem in favour of Libya, (was it something we said?) CiF reports from this part of the world are mostly being written by Conal Urquhart. On April 14th, CiF published Urquhart’s version of ‘everything a Guardian reader needs to know about the Goldstone Report’.

In his opening sentence Urquhart quotes unverified casualty figures in Gaza, opting for the number promoted by Palestinian NGOs which contributed to the Goldstone report. However, in November 2010, Hamas admitted that some 700 of the dead were actually terrorist combatants, and the total number of casualties is set at 1,166 following IDF investigations, of which some 60% were combatants.

Whilst making a passing mention of Mary Robinson’s refusal to head the UNHRC commissioned investigation, Urquhart fails to expand on the subject of the biased mandate of the investigation or the fact that the UNHRC’s anti-Israel stance is both well-known and has been much criticized, even by UN officials themselves.

Urquhart also fails to mention the conflicts of interest affecting Goldstone himself as well as the other members of the mission and its staff. As NGO Monitor reports:

  • Several members of the Goldstone Mission have had significant links to NGOs, including HRW, Amnesty International, and PCHR.  These same NGOs were among the most cited in the Goldstone report.  These connections, which were not disclosed by the Mission, call into question the ability of panel members and staff to objectively evaluate information submitted by these organizations. These conflicts are in clear violation of the International Bar Association’s London-Lund Guidelines for Fact Finding Missions.[1]
  • Three members of the Mission – Goldstone, Hina Jilani, and Desmond Travers – signed a March 2009 letter initiated by Amnesty International  and widely publicized, stating that “events in Gaza have shocked us to the core.”
  •  The fourth member, Christine Chinkin, who declared Israel’s actions to be a “war crime” and delegitimized Israel’s right to self-defense while the fighting in Gaza was still underway, was also previously a consultant to Amnesty International.
  • Goldstone mission staff researcher, Sareta Ashraph, is a UK lawyer and a member of Amnesty International who has a history of anti-Israel political activity.  For instance, in 2003, she was an organizer for a Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights “lawfare” lecture given by Raji Sourani, head of PCHR, and chaired by Daniel Machover, the attorney responsible for filing PCHR’s 2005 case against Doron Almog and a leading proponent of lawfare.  Ashraph also worked in the West Bank on “investigations of allegations of violations of international humanitarian law following ‘Operation Defensive Shield’ in 2002.”
  •  Francesca Marotta, Head of the Secretariat UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, is a long-time employee of the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights as Coordinator of the Methodology, Education and Training Unit, Research and Right to Development Branch and the “UNHCHR officer responsible for the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”  In1997 and 1999, she held meetings with PCHR.

As previously reported by NGO Monitor, Goldstone was an HRW board member at the time of his appointment.  Although he stepped down after NGO Monitor pointed to this conflict of interest, his mission has been vigorously promoted by both HRW and Ken Roth.  Goldstone’s September 17, 2009 oped in the New York Times closely echoed language from a September 16, 2009 HRW press release. (In this time frame, HRW was forced to suspend and open an investigation of “senior military expert” Marc Garlasco, who co-authored a number of reports targeting Israel.)

Urquhart goes on to imply that Israeli objections to the obviously biased mandate of the mission were the fruit of no more than base subjective emotions:

“If the appointment of a Jewish Zionist judge with impeccable international credentials was meant to appease Israel, it failed. The Israeli government and its supporters in the Israeli media went for Goldstone with a vengeance.” (my emphasis)

The next claim presented by Urquhart is that Israel refused to co-operate with the mission, ignoring the fact that to expect Israel to afford credence to such a one-sided project is tantamount to demanding that a soon to be executed prisoner load the firing squad’s rifles himself. He completely ignores the fact that several Israeli bodies did present – or at least try to – evidence to the Goldstone mission. 108 Israeli citizens from the regions targeted by Hamas rockets did give evidence to the commission. One of them later reported that:

“When I stood up and started to testify before the judges, Justice Goldstone fell asleep in front of me. It was an embarrassing moment but I continued talking, realizing that I should not have high hopes”

Urquhart’s claims that “[a]t the same time the Israeli army embarked on an unprecedented investigation into its own “war crimes” (my emphasis) also fail to take into account that the IDF’s legal division, which is completely independent from the chain of command, investigates any and every accusation of wrongdoing by Israeli soldiers, even if no official complaint has been made or if the accusation merely appears in a media report or comes from  a hostile NGO.  Urquhart’s claim that it was only the existence of the Goldstone mission which “galvanised Israel to start investigations” is also untrue: by July 2009 an initial report had already been released although investigations were still ongoing.

Given that so much has been written about the circumstances surrounding the Goldstone ‘fact-finding’ mission and the resulting report itself, not to mention Goldstone’s recent backtracking, readers may be rather perplexed by Conal Urquhart’s pious adherence to the official UNHRC mantra. His orthodoxy becomes a little more transparent when one appreciates that Urquhart was, at least until two months ago (and may still be) a UN employee, in addition to his writing for the Guardian.

Urquhart has been in this region since about 2002, spending considerable time in Gaza in the framework of his role as External Relations Advisor for the UN Development Programme. His wife, Kirstie Campbell, is also a UN employee; spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme.

The underlying problem with the UN Human Rights Council is that is dominated by the 57 member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. This is what enables it to place human rights abusing countries such as Libya and Iran on its council and sub-committees and this is what was behind the conception of the Goldstone report with its biased mandate and the continued and relentless obsession with Israel, often at the exclusion of urgent human rights issues in some of its own member states.

But the UNHRC is far from the only UN body influenced by the OIC agenda. The UN Development Programme functions under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council, where, of the current 54 member states, 11 are members of the OIC. Currently active members of the UN Development Programme’s board include Iran, Pakistan, Qatar, Yemen, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Djibouti, Cameroon and Bangladesh – all of which are members of the OIC, with the latter two also holding vice-presidency of the body.

Thus, considering that the UNDP tells us that it “operates according to the principles and values of the United Nations”, we might reasonably ask ourselves whether someone such as Conal Urquhart who has imbibed that organizational culture for considerable time is capable of offering an impartial and objective view of a report commissioned by the UNHRC and compiled with the aid of the equally partisan UN OCHA.

This CiF article by Urquhart would not only suggest that his objectivity is severely compromised, but it also prompts wider questions as to Urquhart’s suitability in general as a reporter on Israeli affairs due to the obvious conflict of interests brought about by a journalist also having financial and employment ties to the United Nations.

Anne Bayefsky on the absurdity of Goldstone authors’ desperate defense in The Guardian

This was written by Anne Bayefsky, and published in the blog of National Review, The Corner Bayefsky is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, director of the Touro College Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, and the editor of www.EYEontheUN.org.

Following Richard Goldstone’s recent retraction of the central finding of his infamous report, the other three members of his U.N. committee have clearly been depressed. The committee chair had gotten all of the glory from the U.N.’s anti-Israel bloc for producing the blood libel that Israel had deliberately set out to murder Palestinian civilians, not responded to years of Palestinian terrorist attacks on its own civilian population. Their names were rarely, if ever, mentioned. The retraction threatened to wipe them completely from the history books. So in another newspaper yesterday, they demanded the recognition they feel they so richly deserve.

Christine Chinkin, Desmond Travers, and Hina Jilani published an article in the Guardian in which they reiterate their enthusiasm for their libelous conclusions and complain:

“We regret the personal attacks and the extraordinary pressure placed on members of the fact-finding mission since we began our work in May 2009. This campaign has been clearly aimed at undermining the integrity of the report and its authors.”

Indeed, the “integrity” of both the report and its authors is exactly what is in issue.

The lack of integrity of the report itself was apparent from the start. The mandate of the so-called investigators was set by the Human Rights Council after it had decided Israel was guilty. In its words:

“The Human Rights Council … decides to dispatch an urgent, independent international fact-finding mission … to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian people.”

No self-respecting lawyer or professional of any kind would have taken a job defined in such a one-sided way. But these people were different, because each of them was as biased as their U.N. masters.

The “integrity” of Christine Chinkin, a law professor at the London School of Economics, was not difficult to discern. On January 11, 2009, in the midst of the Gaza war, Chinkin signed a letter to The Times newspaper which stated:

“Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is not self-defence — it’s a war crime.”

Allegedly, the purpose of the Goldstone mission was to investigate whether war crimes had been committed. No democratic state governed by the rule of law would ever have appointed Christine Chinkin to a Gaza war-crimes inquiry after she had signed that letter. No lawyer being considered for a position on such an inquiry, with the slightest concern about integrity, would ever have taken the job. But then Chinkin’s lack of integrity is precisely why she was selected.

The Times letter she signed also stated:

“The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable as they are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to rely on self-defence. … Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defence.”

At the time of this statement, Israeli civilians had endured 12,000 mortar and rocket attacks over the eight years prior to the Gaza operation. This hired-gun, prepared to manufacture rules for fighting back invented only for the Jewish state, lacks far more than integrity. Her words are a catalyst for more of the same. On April 7, 2011, Hamas terrorists fired a mortar from Gaza into a school bus, grievously injuring a schoolboy who happened to be the only child on the bus. If 12,000 mortars and rockets were not enough to justify acts of self-defense, then, on Chinkin’s twisted logic, the targeting of Jewish schoolchildren by an organization publicly dedicated to genocide against the Jewish people would not entitle Israel to self-defense today either. One shudders to think how many dead and mutilated Jewish children would be enough for Christine Chinkin.

Read the rest of the essay, here.

Authors of Goldstone Report publish apologia in Guardian, complain they’re victims of “attacks” and “extraordinary pressure”

The Guardian published a defense of the Goldstone Report today by the three dissenting members, in response to Richard Goldstone’s recent retraction of the most serious allegations, which illustrates just how desperate those who insist upon the report’s veracity have become.

Specifically, the apologia – authored by Hina Jilani, Christine Chinkin and Desmond Travers – laughably tried to characterize themselves as victims, alluding darkly to “the personal attacks and the extraordinary pressure placed on members of the fact-finding mission.”

While I’ll leave to your imagination the question of who precisely they are asserting applied such “extraordinary pressure”, the mind boggles at the audacity of those responsible for such a malicious defamation of Israel – one which did incalculable harm to the Jewish state’s moral standing – to engage in efforts to portray themselves as the saga’s true victims.

One of the more remarkable dynamics in the continuing delegitimization campaign against the Jewish state is how those who routinely engage in the most hideous slanders against Israel reveal themselves to be remarkably thin-skinned – lacking the capacity to withstand anything approaching the same level of critical scrutiny and self-reflection that they’re continually demanding of Israel.

Israel’s critics (whether in the media, international bodies such as the UNHRC, or NGOs) – those who attack the state with something approaching a religious intensity – show an almost comical propensity to charge others with “silencing” them, or even of engaging in “McCarthy-like” attacks, when their arguments are placed under the microscope and refuted.

Like defamations against Jews throughout history has demonstrated, ideas – even the most morally and intellectually bankrupt ones – have a very long life, and have a remarkable capacity to remain embedded in the public imagination long after such views are discredited.

The only thing available to Israelis (and those brave few who are willing to unapologetically defend her), in response to those who continue to hold the Jewish state to standards that no other people in the world are held to, is to rhetorically counter-attack, to name and shame those who peddle in such vilification.

The moral prerogative to utilize these rhetorical weapons represents a right we have no intention of ever forfeiting.

(Also, see NGO Monitor’s response to the Guardian piece, here.)

Jonathan Freedland defends Israel. Hundreds of Guardian readers respond in a fury of hate.

Jonathan Freedland’s refreshingly lucid defense of Israel, and criticism of those who continue, despite all the evidence, to defend the Goldstone Report (CiF, April 7), elicited a very large volume of reader comments – many expressing a visceral animosity towards the Jewish state that’s become one of the defining features of those who subscribe to the Guardian’s ideology.  Here’s a sampling.

Israel is a uniquely cruel and self-righteous nation.  Her supporters abroad are more loyal to Israel than their own nation: Dual Loyalty Charge. (319 Recommends)

The world only accepts Israel’s uniquely brutal behavior due to (presumably post-Holocaust) guilt. (180 Recommends)

Israel has committed “near genocide” against the Palestinians (284 Recommends)

Israel is a “settler colonial state”.  The media are dominated by pro-Israel propaganda. (55 Recommends)

Israel’s atrocities against the Palestinians set it apart from other injustices in the world.  Jews, who were once victims, are now victimizers. (67 Recommends).

Israel, like racist institutions and nations of the past, will eventually be defeated and cease to exist.

The Guardian’s Selective Omission

This is cross posted by Yarden Frankl at the blog of Honest Reporting, Backspin

The Guardian has decided that Judge Goldstone’s admission that he was wrong is actually… wrong. That’s because the Guardian now claims that the report was not really about the deliberate killing of civilians. As they say:

The report did not in fact claim that Israel set out deliberately to murder civilians

Actually, the report did that specifically.

(b) . Incidents involving the killing of civilians:
Section: 1718. The Mission found numerous instances of deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects (individuals, whole families, houses, mosques) in violation of the fundamental international humanitarian law principle of distinction, resulting in deaths and serious injuries.

In these cases the Mission found that the protected status of civilians was not respected and the attacks were intentional, in clear violation of customary law reflected in article 51(2) and 75 of the First AP, article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and articles 6 and 7 of ICCPR. In some cases the Mission additionally concluded that the attack was also launched with the intention of spreading terror among the civilian population.

The Guardian is clearly upset with Goldstone’s retraction and tries to minimize it, claiming that Goldstone was only referring to one specific case (the Samouni family.) However, Goldstone himself uses that case as representative (“for example”) of where his investigation erred, not as the sole case on which his reversal was based.

The key sentence in Goldstone’s Washington Post letter is that:

civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.

One might thing that such an admission by the report’s chief author would cause the Guardian to reevaluate its position. But no, instead of blaming Israel for the intentional killing of civilians as a matter of policy, it now blames Israel for indiscriminate killing of civilians as a matter of policy.

Yet the Guardian offers no new evidence for this accusation, merely pointing back at the original flawed and debunked report. The editorial presents a list of accusations as facts. Yet these accusations are lacking both credibility and context. A full treatment of every one of the accusations based on Israel’s investigation has been published online. In certain cases, the investigations found the individual soldiers had acted against standing orders. But the vast majority of incidents were found to have been performed based on military need and done so in a way to limit civilian casualty and damage as much as possible.

In fact, Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of British troops in Afghanistan, testified  in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council that Israel “did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.” Both the Goldstone report and now the Guardian ignore this expert testimony that undermines their accusations.

With regards to the casualty figures, Goldstone now maintains that the figures match that of the IDF (which even Hamas concurs with.) According to these figures, the majority of casualties were combatants. Yet the Guardian — ironically in an editorial about Goldstone’s reversal — continues to use the earlier casualties claim that Goldstone now disavows.

The Guardian implies that Goldstone’s admission just effects a small part of the report. However, the Op-Ed speaks for itself. In Judge Goldstone’s own words:

We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.

Jonathan Freedland vs. The Guardian on the Goldstone Report (On “Liberalism”, real and imagined)

After reading the Guardian’s utterly predictable defense of the now discredited Goldstone Report, in the editorial titled “Goldstone Report, the unanswered questions: Indiscriminate warfare, as opposed to deliberate killing, was undoubtedly Israel’s state policy“, I considered fisking the polemic, and writing a point by point rebuttal, but then happened upon Guardian contributor Jonathan Freedland’s essay in today’s CiF, “Where’s the Goldstone Report into Sri Lanka, The Congo, or Darfur?”, and decided on a different tack.

The Guardian’s reply to Goldstone’s retraction of his report’s malicious allegations that Israel willfully targeted civilians, and their insistence on the overall accuracy of the report, says more about their ideologically driven obsession with Israel than it does about the irreparably flawed report itself.

In reading the Guardian’s editorial you’d be hard pressed to know that a fanatical movement dedicated to the destruction of Israel, Hamas – the only internationally recognized terrorist group who governs a polity in the world – had anything to do with the conflict, nor that this reactionary Islamist movement cynically and callously placed arms and weaponry in close proximity to Palestinian civilians.  Indeed, in a 640 word essay, the word “Hamas” is used only once.

Inversely to the Guardian’s reflexive hostility to Israel is the respect they pay to an international body which commissioned the report, the UN Human Rights Council  – about which Jonathan Freedland observes:

“For who was it that commissioned Goldstone and his team to look into Gaza? It was the UN Human Rights Council. That sounds like an eminently respectable body – until you look at its record. A 2010 analysis showed that very nearly half of all the resolutions it had passed related to Israel: 32 out of 67. And guess which country is the only one to be under permanent review, on the agenda for every single meeting? Israel. There is only one rapporteur whose mandate never expires. No, it’s not the person charged with probing Belarus, North Korea or Saudi Arabia, despite the hideous human rights records of those nations. It is Israel. The UNHRC, whose predecessor body was once, laughably, chaired by Libya.”

Laughable? Yes: But, the humor, and plain absurdity, of taking the sage advice of this club of tyrannies and despots seriously is apparently lost on Guardian editors.

Freedland continues:

“We can laugh at an organisation so potty it would put a murderous tyrant like Muammar Gaddafi in charge of monitoring human rights around the globe. But in its belief that no country in the world behaves worse or matters more, a belief expressed by the sheer volume of attention it pays to Israel, it reflects a view that is alarmingly widespread.”

Yes, its is, as I imagine Freedland is aware, a belief that is “alarmingly widespread” among the Algonquin round table of jurists which crafts the editorial positions at the Guardian.

Freedland continues:

“Many respectable folks have spent decades insisting that the “core issue” in the Middle East, if not the world, is the Israel-Palestine conflict – that it is the “running sore” whose eventual healing will heal the wider region and beyond.”

Of course, such ‘respectable folks” include the editors at the Guardian, who, commenting on the political upheavals in the Arab world, insistedin a perfect illustration of their calcified political thought, that “the cockpit of the crisis [in the Arab world is], Palestine.”

Freedland continues:

“That was always gold-plated nonsense…”

“Nonsense” that the Guardian accepts continually.

Adds Freedland:

“…but now the Arab spring has come along to prove it. Now the world can see that the peoples of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain have troubles aplenty that have nothing to do with Israel. There could be peace between Israelis and Palestinians tomorrow, but it wouldn’t relieve those in Damascus or Manama or Sana’a from the yoke of tyranny. For them, Israel is not “the heart of the matter”, as the cliché always insisted it was. The heart of the matter is the regimes who have oppressed them day in, day out, for 40 years or more.”

Then, in a passage that sounds as if it’s directed squarely at the paper he contributes to, and their masses of sycophants, Freedland notes:

“Yet it is not the suffering of these hundreds of millions of Arabs which has attracted the sympathy of the UN Human Rights Council. Nor has it stirred the compassion of left-leaning liberal types who pride themselves on their care for the oppressed. Few places get them excited the way Israel does.”

Freedland then observes:

“So in 2009 Sri Lanka could kill between 7,000 and 20,000 civilians, displacing 300,000 more in its bombardment of the Tamils at about the same time as the Gaza conflict – but you will search in vain for the Goldstone report into Sri Lankan war crimes. Nor will you find Caryl Churchill writing a play called Seven Sri Lankan Children – asking what exactly is it in the Sri Lankan mentality that allows them to be so brutal.”

No, such intense moral introspection is only asked of Jews, a continual demand which – despite the Jewish (and Jewish state’s) propensity for self-criticism – is never quite sated.

Returning to the Goldstone Report, Freedland says:

“There is no Goldstone or Churchill to probe the 4 million deaths in the Congo, the slaughtered in Darfur or the murdered in the Ivory Coast, let alone the civilian deaths inflicted by the US and Britain in Iraq and Afghanistan. No one is proposing an academic boycott of those nations or any of the other serial violators of human rights.”

Then, in another passage which seems squarely aimed at the Guardian and broader Guardian Left media:

“Many will say that there is indeed a double standard – but it benefits Israel, routinely protected by a US veto at the UN unavailable to those weaker states deemed hostile. That may be true of the most powerful western governments. But when it comes to the academic, cultural and, yes, the media sphere, the bias often works the other way around.”

Concluding, Freedland observes:

“I fully understand why Jews and Palestinians regard their conflict as the central issue in the universe. But for the rest of the world to see it that way – the way those who dispatched Judge Goldstone saw it – makes no sense at all.

While it’s of course possible to read too much into his refreshing lucidity, Freedland, whose commentary we haven’t always agreed with, seems lately to be exasperated with the Guardian’s mind numbing myopia and, and is writing in a manner suggesting a desire to stand athwart the dangerous ideological tide of the behemoth institution he’s tied to, yelling, stop!

Liberalism, in its very best tradition, is an orientation which is disinclined to accept the received wisdom of powerful individuals and institutions, and is informed by an inclination to be thoughtfully suspicious of popular opinion and to think seriously and critically about those facts and ideas which everyone just knows is true.

The competing reactions – by Freedland and the Guardian – to Goldstone’s retraction of the most serious allegations made against the Jewish state in the report which bears his name is a great illustration of the fact that when it comes to challenging such received opinions about Israel, Jonathan Freedland is the true liberal.

The Guardian and Kenneth Roth: avoiding self-examination

The moment Judge Richard Goldstone went renegade – deserting the creed of the report in his own name – it was obvious that it would only be a matter of time until all those who had invested so much in the production and promotion of that flawed report would be out in force to engage in damage control.

Both the Guardian and Human Rights Watch were heavy promoters of the Goldstone report and so it is hardly unexpected that the head of HRW Kenneth Roth, was given a platform on CiF on April 5th in order to promote the view that Goldstone’s retraction represents no more than an insignificant aberration.

The alternative would be for Roth and many others, including some of the Guardian staff, to engage in some serious introspection and ask themselves why they were so keen at the time to advance the fallacy that Israel deliberately targeted civilians during Operation Cast Lead. As Richard Cohen, writing in the Washington Post, correctly states:

“But overall, Israel adheres to a morality we all recognize and admire — and that its enemies, Hamas in particular, do not. Those who gleefully embraced the Goldstone report have to ask themselves why. They may hate the answer.”

Rather than face up to such an unpleasant option, Roth opts for a ‘no but, yeah but, no but’ Vicky Pollard-style option; highly unbecoming of the executive director of a supposedly serious organisation. Not that there’s much surprising about that either considering HRW’s track record of unprofessionalism when caught out on previous indiscretions such as fund-raising in Saudi Arabia, schmoozing Ghaddafi, or employing a Nazi memorabilia enthusiast.

Kenneth Roth must be feeling betrayed. The process which began when Robert Bernstein, founder of Human Rights Watch, went  public with severe words of criticism against the organization in October 2009 as a result of its frenzied promotion of the Goldstone report – and egregiously disproportionate focus on Israel – has now gained even more impetus with Goldstone’s retraction of his own work. Like Bernstein, Goldstone comes from within the human rights community, having served on the board of HRW itself even after his appointment by the UNHRC. Indeed much of the Goldstone report itself is based upon information provided by HRW, which probably explains the zeal with which HRW worked to publicise it.

Now, undone by those whom he promoted, Roth attempts to save his sinking ship by rushing to shore up the fallacies his organization has spent so much time and energy creating. According to him, “Goldstone led a UN commission that issued a detailed and damning report on the Gaza war, finding that both Israeli and Hamas forces committed war crimes”, whereas in reality no such proof was offered by the report and Goldstone himself stated that “We had to do the best we could with the material we had. If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.”

Yet again, Roth brings up the subject of the alleged “indiscriminate” use of white phosphorous by Israeli forces – a theme which HRW has been promoting since the days of Operation Cast Lead itself and ever since, despite the fact that the accusations were investigated immediately following the hostilities. Notably, there has been no comparable indignation from HRW regarding the use of white phosphorous by Hamas, most recently a couple of weeks ago in attacks deliberately aimed at Israeli civilians.

Roth claims that:

“Part of the problem is that the military has been asked to investigate itself – never an ideal way to arrive at the truth. Moreover, the person leading the military investigations – Israel’s military advocate general – probably took part in the policy decisions that should be investigated.”

Such a populist statement may go down well on the virtual pages of CiF, but it reveals either gross disingenuousness or a shocking lack of knowledge which could be easily and rapidly corrected, for example by studying this document.

“Israel‘s legal and judicial apparatus is fully equipped and motivated to address alleged violations of national or international law by its commanders and soldiers.  Such allegations are reviewed through a multi-tiered system of independent and impartial proceedings before Israeli investigative, administrative and judicial authorities, including Israel‘s highest judicial instance, the Israeli Supreme Court.

Israel has a military justice system that operates within the IDF but is professionally independent.  The military justice system is based primarily on the Military Justice Law of 1955, a comprehensive statute which governs the investigation of misconduct and indictment and prosecution of offenders and establishes the Court Martial system.  The military justice system empowers the Military Advocate General to try soldiers not only for unique ―military offences (such as absence without leave, conduct unbecoming an officer, etc), but also for ordinary criminal offences under Israel‘s Penal Law, 1973.  Any and all allegations regarding offences committed by IDF personnel, and related to the military, are dealt with through this multi-tiered system, including allegations regarding improper conduct on the battlefield.

The IDF system of review includes three main components: the Military Police Criminal Investigation Division (―MPCID), the Military Advocate General‘s Corps (―MAG), and the Military Courts.  The MAG Corps and Military Courts are both independent from the IDF command hierarchy, are subject only to the law, and are also entirely independent from one another.”

The damage done to Israel and Israelis by the Goldstone report is probably unquantifiable, but that is not the only harm it has wreaked. Considerable damage has also been done to the reputations of many human rights organisations, beginning with the abuse of those rights by so many members of the UN Human Rights Council which commissioned the Goldstone report and down to the NGOs such as Human Rights Watch which too often misuse their authority –and the trust of the public – for political ends.

Possibly the most significant and valuable thing which Judge Goldstone could now do is to join those such as Robert Bernstein who seek to reinstate some integrity into the world of human rights advocacy. Hopefully, Goldstone may also be able to impress upon his former colleagues, including Kenneth Roth, the urgency of such a mission because, to quote HRW’s founder:

“Only by returning to its founding mission and the spirit of humility that animated it can Human Rights Watch resurrect itself as a moral force in the Middle East and throughout the world. If it fails to do that, its credibility will be seriously undermined and its important role in the world significantly diminished.”

And of course, were the Guardian really the ‘leading liberal voice’ it pretends to be, it too would refrain from nurturing those driven more by base political motives than a real commitment to universal human rights. Somehow, though, I have a hunch that neither Roth nor the Guardian staff are capable of the kind of self-examination needed to appreciate that there are more important things at stake than their own political soap-boxes.

I do hope they prove me wrong.

Goldstone Report: The Judge Is Still Lying

This is cross posted by Yarden Frankl, who blogs at “Crossing the Yarden“.

So now, Judge Goldstone writes an op-ed in the Washington Post where he admits that the Israeli military did NOT intentionally target civilians in Gaza.

But beyond the obvious disgust, there is one part of his “magnum oops” that you might have missed.

About the original report, he now writes “Our report found evidence of potential war crimes and “possibly crimes against humanity.”

Oh really?

“Potential” war crimes?

“Possibly” crimes against humanity?

Excuse me. I think that I have a real “potential” to be sick and “possibly” throw up.

I went back and looked through the 500 plus page report. There are dozens of accusations of specific “war crimes” that Israel violated. Then I did a word search for the word “potential.” Guess how many times Goldstone labeled his accusations as only “potential” war crimes? None. There was no doubt expressed in the report about Israel’s actions. “Possible crimes against humanity?”  Nope.

It’s as if Goldstone is now saying “well, back then I just didn’t know if Israel committed war crimes. But you know, looking back, I don’t think they did.”

Judge Goldstone, Your Honor, excuse me, but you actually sounded certain in your report’s conclusions when you wrote:

(b) . Incidents involving the killing of civilians:
1718. The Mission found numerous instances of deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects (individuals, whole families, houses, mosques) in violation of the fundamental international humanitarian law principle of distinction, resulting in deaths and serious injuries.

In these cases the Mission found that the protected status of civilians was not respected and the attacks were intentional, in clear violation of customary law reflected in article 51(2) and 75 of the First AP, article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and articles 6 and 7 of ICCPR. In some cases the Mission additionally concluded that the attack was also launched with the intention of spreading terror among the civilian population.

Did some UN intern leave out the words ”potential” and “possible” when he typed that up for you? Were you so busy looking up all the specific violations of international law that you somehow forget to add that you were not 100% certain when you accused the Israeli army of: deliberately attacking Palestinian civilians in Gaza with one of the goals  to spread terror among the population.

Don’t try pitching us a softball now. Your accusations were as harsh as could be. Despite all the evidence that you chose to ignore, you barreled ahead and wrote page after page of how utterly evil Israel and our army are. In your report, our kids are not brave young men defending our country, they are baby killers acting under orders.

Now you are having a change of heart?  If you are feeling remorse, I gotta tell you — you’ve got a long way to go. The first step would be to try, just try, to be brutally honest about what you originally wrote and the damage it has done to the nation of Israel.

Then, maybe instead of submitting a timid little letter to the Washington Post, why not travel to some of the many nations who have accepted your original report as holier than the Bible and tell them how you got it wrong.

And to cap off your tour of apology, go to the U.N. and stand before the Human Rights Council — that group that represents despots and thugs who appointed you in the first place. Tell them that you wish to “revise” your report and then go give them a new document that accurately reflects what happened during the Gaza war.

I suggest that you begin by giving a call to Richard Kemp, the British military expert whose testimony you ignored in favor of the Hamas press releases.  If you have trouble recalling his remarks, I will give them to you here:

“I don’t think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza.”

The Nightmare Shidduch

This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman

So the Guardian is backing the Liberal Democrats (“LibDems”) for the UK election on Thursday, as the Party that offers the best chance of achieving change from a ‘First Past The Post’ electoral system to a ‘proportional representation’ one.

But how convenient for Rusbridger et al that the LibDems are by far the closest in ideology to CIF’s Israel bashers. Indeed there are several crossovers. It was the LibDem’s leader, Nick Clegg, who voiced support for an arms embargo on Israel. Moreover he chose CIF as his platform to announce it. That speaks volumes.

And what a coincidence that Clegg has been advised by Nicholas Blincoe, a former ISM activist, who writes for the Guardian and was a staffer for a time. Blincoe’s insights about Israel include this one:

Israeli archaeologists are like the fireman in the novel Fahrenheit 451; their job is to erase the traces of non-Jewish civilizations, not to investigate them.

And look how Nadhmi Auchi, an anti-Israel Iraqui billionaire, is close to Clegg and organised a fundraising dinner for a LibDem candidate.

Then there is Jenny Tonge, famous for saying “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they’ve probably got a grip on our party.” Until very recently she was a Patron of the viciously antisemitic Palestine Telegraph. Only when it posted a David Duke video did she resign. But she has not been thrown out of the LibDem Party – as she surely should be.

You can see here what Tonge and a LibDem MP Sarah Teather say about Israel.

Here you can see the LibDems’ response to the questionnaire sent to candidates by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (the only party – as opposed to individual candidates – to respond). (The response has been taken off the PSC site). They call for a ban on settlement goods, suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement and an arms embargo on Israel).

33 LibDem candidates have so far put their name to this. A further 25 LibDem candidates signed the PSC’s pledges.

One LibDem candidate said that the only reason that there was not an arms embargo on Israel was “the power of the Jewish lobbies in Washington and Britain”.  She also echoed Tonge’s call for an inquiry to disprove allegations that Israeli army medical teams in Haiti “harvested” organs of earthquake victims.

And the LibDems’ spokesman on foreign policy, Shadow Foreign Secretary Ed Davey MP, thinks the Goldstone Report is “balanced” and wants the UN to act on it.

More still: Over 80% of the LibDem MPs in the Parliament which has just been dissolved are happy to see Israelis arrested in the UK on politically motivated false “War Crimes” charges.

Finally …….. remember Chris Davies? He was the LibDem MEP who told a constituent that he hoped she enjoyedwallowing in her own filthafter she wrote to disagree with his views on Israel. He remains a LibDem MEP though he was forced to resign as the Party’s Leader in the European Parliament.

Voluminous though this catalogue is, I’m sure that diligent CIF readers can add to it. Like the way the LibDems’ message on Israel changes according to whether the listener is mezzuzah or muezzin.

I certainly will not be voting for the LibDems on Thursday. No Jew or supporter of Israel should vote for them. They and the Guardian deserve each other. It is a nightmare shidduch.

In fact I have already voted (by post) for the Conservatives. I want a Conservative government because of the previous government’s hostility to Israel. Of course there will be Conservative policies towards Israel with which one disgrees but on the basics – closing the Universal Jurisdiction loophole, opposing the Goldstone Report/Islamic extremism/Iran/Hamas/Hisbolla – they can be trusted.

Postscript:

Not all LibDems are endemically hostile to Israel. Baroness Sarah Ludford has been a great supporter in the European Parliament. There is a LibDem “Friends of Israel” organisation (Vice Chair Matthew Harris, the candidate in Hendon) which especially at Party Conferences has done a good job in stopping some of the extreme hostility being ratified in Resolutions. Chris Huhne – the Home Affairs spokesman who should be Party Leader (he ran against Clegg and reportedly a sack of votes which arrived late would have swung it for Huhne, but he generously said that they should not be counted when this was offered) certainly does not go along with the extreme hostility and neither does Vince Cable (the Shadow Finance Minister). But I believe these people are in a small minority in the Party. If the LibDems entered the Cabinet in a hung Parliament, they certainly would not form the majority voice in the Party’s foreign policy.

Explanatory Note: A “Shidduch” (Hebrew: שִׁידּוּךְ‎) is a match made between two Orthodox Jewish singles.

Disclaimer: The above are personal views and should not be attributed to the UK Zionist Federation of which I am (honorary) Co-Vice Chair.

Could the Guardian have got it wrong…yet again?

Yesterday the Guardian published an article claiming that it has photographs of a 500 pound bomb dropped on the Al Badr flour mill during Operation Cast Lead. Given the Guardian’s track record for accuracy when it comes to Israel, you can hardly blame one for being a little more than suspicious of these claims.

Carl in Jerusalem over at Israel Matzav has similar concerns as to the veracity of the Guardian’s claims.

The picture at the top of this post came from a BBC report in June 2009. The caption says that it is the top two floors of the al-Badr flour mill. Here’s a larger version of the picture:

I am not a military expert, but the damage would seem to be more consistent with a hit from a helicopter or a tank shell than from an F-16 as Goldstone claims above. If the building had been hit by an F-16, I would think that the roof would be gone. While Goldstone also refers to helicopters, note that the Guardian report, which challenges the Israeli account, refers to a 500-pound bomb. Helicopters don’t carry 500-pound bombs. A 500-pound bomb would not have left the roof intact (more evidence that the roof was intact follows below).

To read the whole thing click here.

Then: Guardian Newspaper Slammed ‘Richard-Richard’ Goldstone Inquiry as ‘Rubbish Bin’

This is a cross post by Hillel Neuer of UN Watch

That the U.N.’s Goldstone Report on alleged war crimes in Gaza is a travesty of justice is best demonstrated by analyzing its skewed contents, method, and conclusions, as well as its tainted political framwework, one-sided mandate, and prejudiced mission members.

I do not believe, as some do, that there is much to gain by casting aspersions on Goldstone’s widely respected career, although it is certainly relevant to counter the false claim that he has a record of pro-Israel actions. (In fact, he has a record of significant actions harshly critical of Israel.)

I am perfectly willing to recognize that Goldstone has accomplished many good things in his life, as those close to him have attested to me, even if his actions surrounding the report have been disreputable in the extreme.

That said, it is remarkable to observe how Goldstone is being lionized by certain circles solely because that is seen as useful to skewer Israel.

For example, these days, The Guardian of London has shown itself to be one of the most enthusiastic admirers of Richard Goldstone, running countless news articles, op-eds and editorials supporting his UN report on alleged war crimes in Gaza, including this one from December, which invokes the Goldstone Report to support the thesis that the UK’s public interest lies in prosecuting visiting Israelis for war crimes.

Interestingly, however, when there was no incentive to skewer Israel, the same Guardian of London once accused Richard Goldstone of running a “much vaunted judicial commission of inquiry” that “failed dismally,” and that was a “rubbish bin” used by the South African government; of Goldstone’s “disturbing” practice by which he acted with “overt political ’sensitivity’,” including his being “at pains to involve the politically distinguished in the conduct of his inquiry”; and of harboring such ambition to succeed Boutros-Boutros Ghali’s post as UN Secretary-General, that Goldstone’s legal colleagues gave him the nickname of “Richard-Richard.”

Continue reading

Mr. Prime Minister: No to Goldstone!!

If you are a British citizen or resident, please take the time to sign up to the petition at the link below to send a message to the Prime Minister that the UK should declare its opposition to the Goldstone Report and ensure its rejection when a vote is taken in the UN Human Rights Council in March 2010.

Children that are British citizens and residents can also sign the petition if they have an email address.

http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/NoToGoldstone/