CiF’s Michael Mansfield throws a tantrum at prospect of UK not treating Israeli leaders as criminals

Oh dear! Mummy (in the form of the British parliament) has taken away the toy gun  (Universal Jurisdiction) with which Michael and his gang used to enjoy playing so much in their games of lawfare because they used it in an abusive manner. So now his little friends at ‘Comment is Free’ are enabling Michael Mansfield to vent his tantrum and – in a style which any former parent of a two-year-old will recognise – his over-riding argument is “it’s not faaair”.

Michael Mansfield chaired event which included Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, MEMO, and Richard Falk

Not infrequently described as supercilious‘ and publicity-seeking, Mansfield is no stranger to either the pages of the Guardian or the anti-Israel campaign. In May 2010 he was to be found pre-emptively championing the cause of the Muslim Brotherhood- organised and IHH-led flotilla which included the ‘Mavi Marmara’.  He is a member of the kangaroo court known by the rather self-important title ‘The Russell Tribunal on Palestine’ and a supporter of that meeting place for misfit fringe elements of the red-green alliance which is the BDS campaign.

It is, therefore, not difficult to discern that in his latest Guardian ‘rattle thrown out of pram’ piece, Mansfield is wearing his political hat rather than making use of any of his legal expertise.

Let’s start with the title: “Sleep easy, war criminals”. Not alleged war criminals, one notes; Mansfield has already put judge and jury (as well as the principle of innocent until proven guilty) out to pasture. And who exactly are these ‘war criminals’? The strap-line instantly provides the answer. Universal Jurisdiction becomes predictably less universal with the words “Britain’s insulting new rules on arrest warrants will only encourage Israel’s view of itself as above international law”.

Of course the only really insulting thing here is Mansfield’s assault on the reader’s intelligence as he goes on to cite politically motivated (if not often downright spiteful) UN resolutions and the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the subject of Israel’s anti-terrorist fence as though they were in some way legally binding. Such a prominent legal eagle as Mansfield definitely knows better, (or at least one hopes so for the sake of his £575–an-hour-paying clients), but the truth does not mold itself to his propaganda aims, and is therefore conveniently tossed aside.

With no less disregard for both facts and historical context, Mansfield throws in “the illegal occupation”, “illegal settlements”, “requisition of water resources”, “Gaza blockade” and other items as ‘evidence’ for Israel’s original sin. Difficult though it is to believe that this polemic is written by a man who is supposed to have made a career out of the search for proof, he outdoes even himself by citing unsubstantiated allegations of “illicit use of cloned passports”.

Continuing his disingenuous diatribe, Mansfield claims “an estimated death toll of 1,400 in Gaza” during operation Cast Lead, but of course neglects to mention that even Hamas admitted that half of those were its own combatants. Further, he misrepresents the findings of the methodologically faulted Goldstone Report (from which even its head has since distanced himself) as though they were proven indictments. As Richard Goldstone himself said at the time, “If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven” and “We couldn’t use that report as evidence at all.”

But although Michael Mansfield and others like him who play the lawfare game are obviously reluctant to allow such inconvenient things as proof and evidence to get in the way of their popular crusade as Hamas enablers, the British government has – at long last – stepped into the role of responsible adult to prevent exactly that kind of abuse of the law for political ends.  Naturally, Mansfield et al are peeved. Despite the fact that arrest warrants can still be issued in the UK for those suspected of being guilty of war crimes, it is now necessary for the Director of Public Prosecutions to be convinced that there is some legal –rather than political – basis to the request.

That is very inconvenient for the handful of practitioners of lawfare intent upon abusing the tax-payer funded British legal system in order to boost their own radical-chic credentials (and possibly even bank accounts) by delegitimizing a democratic country and providing logistic support for a terror organization proscribed by Britain itself.  Hence this written tantrum from the pen of Michael Mansfield who, together with the Guardian and others, makes up that small and very unrepresentative section of British society which appears to believe that in the entire world there is nothing more evil than one specific democratic nation defending itself against theologically-inspired armed terrorists.

Thank goodness that the British parliament, in keeping with its rich and illustrious tradition of upholding democracy, has now made it a little more difficult for fringe elements such as Mansfield to engage in political abuse.  One is, nonetheless, obliged to note that despite all the indignation and the rather unattractive indulgement in self-pity, Mansfield and his lawfare-playing colleagues have only themselves to blame for the fact that their very transparent game has been rumbled. Had they stuck to being the professional lawyers that they are, pursuing only cases with a real legal justification, rather than succumbing to the somewhat puerile temptation to play glamorous political revolutionary, there would be no need for tantrums now.

The Jewish disease of “if only Israel would do x,y, or z” there would be peace & harmony in the Mid-East

This is cross posted by David Suissa. This essay first appeared in The Jewish Journal and Huffington Post.

One of the most ironic obstacles to peace in the Middle East is what I call the Jewish disease of “ifonlyitis.” This is the school of thought that says “if only” Israel would do this, or “if only” Israel would do that, then we finally might resolve the conflict. I suffer from the syndrome myself, and for that I blame my mother. She convinced me from a very young age that “if only” I put my mind to something, there’s nothing I can’t do.

Well, Mother, it turns out there’s plenty I can’t do, and one of those things is make my enemies like me.

I was thinking of this last week when I read about the plan to increase pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to obtain the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas since June 2006. According to reports, the plan in the Shalit camp now is to “take the gloves off” against Netanyahu. That might include politicizing the cause and having more disruptive demonstrations throughout the country.

In an editorial in Haaretz, Nehemia Strassler wrote that the Shalit family has to “wage a personal war against the prime minister” and be “much more militant.” They must “organize mass protests and bring the country to a standstill. They must not give Netanyahu one moment of quiet.”

Evidently, because Bibi has failed to convince Hamas to return Shalit in exchange for the release of almost 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, he’s now the bad guy and must be punished. If you ever needed more proof of the Jewish instinct to blame ourselves for everything, this is it.

This is a sure sign of the “ifonlyitis” disease: The belief that everything is on our shoulders. It’s all about us. We can achieve anything. If only we would release a few hundred more terrorists with Jewish blood on their hands, we might finally free Gilad Shalit.

If only we did this, or if only we did that.

There is a wonderful psychological benefit to this disease. It gives us the illusion that we are in control; that we can affect our situation, no matter how bad it might seem. It empowers us. And when we’re in a hostile and unpredictable environment, we desperately need to feel we are in control of our destiny.

But we pay a heavy price for this illusion of control. First, it leads to tremendous tension and mutual animosity among Jews. Because we assume we are the ones who are always responsible for any situation, we end up constantly beating each other up.

Second, we get so busy beating each other up that we lose sight of the real obstacles to peace. To the Haaretz writer who is calling for a “war” against Netanyahu because Shalit is still not free, I want to scream: “Why on earth are you declaring war against Bibi? In case you forgot, he’s not the one who kidnapped Shalit and is holding him hostage!”

What Jews need, it seems to me, is less hatred of one another and more hatred of evil. Any group that will target a guided missile at a children’s school bus is evil. Any group that will codify the murder of Jews and destruction of Israel in its charter is evil. Those, my friends, are real obstacles to peace.

If we didn’t have this obsession with blaming ourselves for everything, we might focus more of our energies against the real bad guys – and maybe even come up with some imaginative ways of getting what we want.

For example, instead of pressuring the Israeli government over Gilad Shalit, why not transfer some of that pressure to the Palestinians?

A Syrian Jew who sat next to me at the first Seder this year had this idea: Take the names of the hundreds of Palestinian prisoners whom Israel has already offered to release and promote those throughout the Palestinian territories. Drop millions of leaflets with their names and pictures. Promote them on the Internet and social networks. Buy ads in Palestinian newspapers. Film some prisoners pleading for their freedom and run the clips on Al Jazeera.

In other words, put the real pressure on Hamas, not on Bibi. Humiliate Hamas for refusing to obtain the release of its own Palestinian brothers. Have them answer to the hundreds of Palestinian families who would love nothing more than to see their own Gilad Shalits returned home. Expose Hamas for turning its back on its own people.

Think that wouldn’t be more effective than starting a “personal war” against the Israeli prime minister?

It’s ridiculous to keep beating Bibi up over Gilad Shalit. His offer to release hundreds of prisoners is already risky – going beyond it would be reckless and irresponsible. He’s done his part. Now we must do ours.

Just like the global movement to free Natan Sharansky focused on pressuring the Soviet Union, the global movement to free Gilad Shalit must focus on pressuring the Palestinians. Ideally, we ought to find someone with international credibility who could spearhead this effort – someone highly motivated to do something special for Israel and the Jewish people.

In fact, I have a name in mind: Richard Goldstone.

Now “if only” I can convince him to go after the bad guys.

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

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.

Guardian readers unleash hateful anti-Israel vitriol in response to Goldstone Report defense

The defense of The Goldstone Report published in the Guardian, written by three of its authors – Hina Jilani, Christine Chinkin and Desmond Travers – in response to Richard Goldstone’s retraction of the most serious charges contained in the document, produced a large amount of hateful comments by Guardian readers beneath the line.  Here is a sample: 

The following reference to “Israel-firsters” is a thinly veiled charge of dual loyalty to those in the diaspora who defend Israel, and is a narrative advanced routinely by those on the paleoconservative right – such as Pat Buchanan.  (86 Recommends)

Goldstone recanted due to Zionist pressure. Also, Israel is an inherently racist state. (80 Recommends)

Hamas is more moral than Israel, who intentionally shoots children.

Israel engages in the mass murder of civilians with the most lethal weapons ever developed.

Goldstone gave in to Zionist pressure.

Goldstone was bullied by Jews to change his report. Israel is an Apartheid state.

Elected officials and the media are under the spell of the organized Jewish community.

Zionism is racism. Refers to the “Zionist mentality”.

Israel is based on ethnic cleansing and racism.

Israel is based on ethnic cleansing. Arabs would welcome the hundreds of thousands of Jews, who they expelled, back with open arms if Israel changed its behavior.

Original Zionists were all terrorists. Jews are supremacists who think they have a divine right to be treated better than others.

Israeli snipers target Palestinian children who are merely collecting rubble.

Spot-on reader comment in response to Guardian’s continued defense of Goldstone Report

Amidst the steady stream of hyperbole and vitriol directed towards Israel by readers in response to Guardian editorials attacking the Jewish state there are, thankfully, some who go against the stream to call the editors out on the tendentious and dishonest nature of their polemical assaults.

Today, in response to the Guardian editorial defending the Goldstone report (see our replies, here and here), the following was posted by a reader using the moniker, “LTCOLHOWARD”, and is worth noting.

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.

Britain pledges continued support for Goldstone report against Israel, even as Goldstone retracts allegations

Robin Shepherd’s new online magazine, The Commentator, has just gone live, and today’s lead story, on the appalling decision by the UK Foreign Office to continue their support for the Goldstone Report even after Goldstone retracted its most serious allegation, is well worth the read:

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague

The British Government is standing by the United Nations Goldstone Report alleging that Israel committed “war crimes” in its Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 even though Justice Richard Goldstone has now distanced himself from his report’s most controversial conclusions.

On Friday, Goldstone wrote a piece in the Washington Post in which he stunned diplomats, politicians and analysts by withdrawing the allegation that Israel had deliberately targeted civilians during the 22-day conflict. He said: “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”

The Foreign Office, however, confirmed its continued support for investigations into Cast Lead and said it did not want to see the withdrawal of the Goldstone Report from the United Nations.

“Justice Goldstone has not made such a call, and he has not elaborated on his views surrounding the various other allegations contained in the report, allegations which we firmly believe require serious follow-up by the parties to the conflict,” a Foreign Office spokesman told the Commentator on Monday evening.

In his piece, entitled “Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes”, Goldstone admitted that it was now clear that “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy”. With reference to evidence provided by Israel, he added: “…I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes”.

Read the rest of the story, here.

HRW’s Ken Roth responds to Goldstone’s retraction; Assures Guardian readers its still safe to demonize Israel: Let the hate begin

Human Rights Watch director Ken Roth, perhaps sensing that the cash cow of anti-Israel hatred may dry up as the result of Richard Goldstone’s recent retraction of allegations that Israel targeted civilians during the Gaza War, penned a feverish reply at CiF (Gaza: the stain remains on Israel’s war record, April 5.) to help sustain his group’s narrative of Israeli villainy.

Guardian readers, clearly relieved that their nearly week-long nightmare of doubt over Israeli sin following Goldstone’s mea culpa is over, took to the streets below the line en mass to express their emotion.

Let the hate begin:

Hamas is actually more moral than Israel. Their rocket attacks represents legitimate resistance.

Israel is a criminal and insane nation which kills and enslaves innocent Palestinians, and who bases their national legitimacy on an “ancient fairy tale”.

Israel guilty of murdering Palestinian children

Characterizing Hamas as anti-Semitic represents Israeli paranoia.  (Bonus: Comical semantic argument that Israeli Jews are the real anti-Semites)

Reader hopes Hamas won’t be negatively influenced by Zionist villainy and stoop to Israeli level of cruelty

Israel is marching towards Armaggedon

Israel is “slowly starving” Palestinians, and is guilty of the worst crimes against humanity in the world

Israelis are immutably and irredeemably racist

Hamas is not a terrorist group, just a “rag-tag” bunch of poorly equipped hooligans

Israel should apologize to their Arab neighbors for their murderous behavior over the last 50 years

Israel shoots anything that moves, including donkeys and “ancient grandmothers”

It seems that Goldstone’s retraction represented merely his collapse under “Zionist pressure”

Goldstone’s mea culpa! “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”

An op-ed by Judge Richard Goldstone in the Washington Post, author of the infamous “Goldstone Report” on Israel’s war in Gaza (Operation Cast Lead), represents a clear and stunning victory for everyone involved in the effort to demonstrate the egregiously biased and careless nature of the report which bears his name.

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.

The final report by the U.N. committee of independent experts — chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis — that followed up on the recommendations of the Goldstone Report has found that “Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza” while “the de facto authorities (i.e., Hamas) have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.”

Our report found evidence of potential war crimes and “possibly crimes against humanity” by both Israel and Hamas. That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying — its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.

he allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.

Read the rest of the essay, here.

Goldstone – “my loyalty is to justice”

This is a guest post by AKUS

Goldstone received this glowing commendation from an eager fan in the thread below his article: My mandate on Gaza was even-handed, my loyalty is to justice:

Several South African Jews who have known Goldstone from childhood do not share presidio’s high opinion of him. In fact, presidio needs to read this:

‘Goldstone sent 28 SA blacks to death’

Jurist Richard Goldstone was responsible for sending at least 28 black South Africans to death when they appeared before him during the apartheid regime, Yediot Aharonot reported Wednesday.

According to the report, Goldstone, who headed the UN committee which investigated alleged war crimes perpetrated by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, handed down the sentences while serving as a judge in the South African Court of Appeals.

Goldstone presided during the 1980s and 1990s, and wrote in one of his rulings that the gallows are the only deterrent for killers.

Unless, apparently, they are members of Hamas.

However, he responded to the report by saying that he was a part of the system and had to respect the laws of the state, occasionally having to enforce laws he was opposed to.

The former judge was also responsible for sending four men accused of violent acts to receive lashes alongside the upholding of other racist laws, Yediot Aharonot said.

Ah, yes – part of a “system” … “When I was offered an even-handed mandate … my position changed.” There is a pattern here: “just following orders”

Ignorance of Goldstone’s record allowed some to praise him for his “fight against apartheid” or his single-minded focus on carrying “serving justice”, no matter how distasteful. In fact, South African Jews have suddenly become the flavor of the day on CiF (unless, of course, they oppose Goldstone or made aliyah):

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The CiF Routine

CiF-veterans knew what to expect when the Guardian published Harold Evans’ critique of the Goldstone report, which Evans condemned as “A moral atrocity”. Obviously, this sound verdict could only elicit howls of protest by the assorted antisemites and Israel-bashers who are drawn to Cif for their daily fix of “down-with-Israel” delirium.

And it was equally obvious that CiF wouldn’t wait long to provide what the crowds were clamoring for: The next day, Michael Lerner – excuse me: RABBI Michael Lerner – dismissed Evans’ piece as a “screed” and opined that the “global choir of ethical cretins who condemn Goldstone’s Gaza report do Israel no favours.” If you are offended by the “ethical cretins”, you simply demonstrate your inability to appreciate political correctness a la GWV, and in any case, Georgina Henry herself made an appearance to assure everyone that it wasn’t meant “to offend”, it was just “colloquial” and “general”, and the “Guardian’s style guide” (oh-la-la) would ponder the question just how stylish Rabbi Lerner’s general colloquialism/colloquial generalism really truly was.

Naturally, the commentariat adored the good Rabbi’s pious pc-stylishness, but just to be on the safe side and to really make up for allowing Evans to call a spade a spade, CiF also wheeled in none other than Richard Goldstone himself.

True to form, Goldstone opened his piece with the bold claim: “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.” Well, it’s not the first time Goldstone makes a claim that would be kind of difficult to support by facts: Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has set up a website that perhaps doesn’t quite “come to grips” with the “substance” of the Goldstone report, but it does show that there isn’t all that much “substance” to it, and a group of bloggers have set up a website that offers many detailed and devastating rebuttals of Goldstone’s report from a variety of sources.

And then there is of course this authoritative verdict about the Goldstone report: “If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.” Quite so.

Oh, you wonder who said this? Well, this is the eminently venerable (?) Judge Goldstone  judging the Goldstone report in a recent interview with the Forward…

And Goldstone was good enough to elaborate why his report wasn’t really worth all that much: referring to a similar report that had been prepared in the 1990s for Yugoslavia, Goldstone reminisced:

“We couldn’t use that report as evidence at all […] But it was a useful roadmap for our investigators, for me as chief prosecutor, to decide where we should investigate. And that’s the purpose of this sort of report. If there was an independent investigation in Israel, then I think the facts and allegations referred to in our report would be a useful road map. […] I wouldn’t consider it in any way embarrassing if many of the allegations turn out to be disproved.”

You see how simple it is: Richard Goldstone wouldn’t be embarrassed if it turned out that the outrageous accusations he leveled against Israel and the IDF were shown to be baseless. And you know what: Richard Goldstone is right. Frivolous accusations against Israel is all that it takes – they quickly take on the aura of “facts” and dominate the headlines for weeks and months on end, generating floods of enraged comments and talkbacks demonizing Israel, and when it turns out that there was no evidence to back up the allegations, it won’t be much more than an obscure news item placed in a not too conspicuous spot. We have been through this, and there is a good name for it: the “Jenin massacre syndrome”.

Remember Jenin? Back then, a Guardian editorial opined that “Israel’s actions in Jenin were every bit as repellent as Osama Bin Laden’s attack on New York on September 11.” That was in April 2002. But what do you know: it took just some six years, and presto, there was this follow-up – in the Jerusalem Post: “‘Guardian’ editor apologizes for Jenin editorial.”

This belated apology came during a session at the 2008 Jewish Book Week, where Alan Rusbridger even said that Israel is a “moral necessity” – which is obviously a view that would be news to most Guardian/CiF readers who come to the site because it can always be relied on to describe whatever Israel did and didn’t do as “repellent”. And whoever doesn’t agree can be dismissed as an “ethical cretin”.

The poisonous atmosphere that is thus created is not unique to the Guardian or CiF, but it is of course their editorial choice to endorse and reinforce this kind of atmosphere through a relentlessly negative coverage of all things Israeli and, by inevitable extension, of many things Jewish. As Mark Gardner emphasized in a recent post on the CTS blog:

“It is plain that if the Jewish state is regarded as a pariah, a compulsive serial abuser of human rights, then Jews everywhere will suffer by (real or imaginary) association.”

Mark Gardner makes this point in his analysis of the undignified reaction of Human Rights Watch (HRW) to the criticism of the organization by its founder and long-time chairman, Robert Bernstein, who recently wrote in the New York Times:

“Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields. These groups are supported by the government of Iran, which has openly declared its intention not just to destroy Israel but to murder Jews everywhere. This incitement to genocide is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.”

HRW is for sure not the only organization that “has lost critical perspective” when it comes to Israel, and the evasions and distortions that Mark Gardner highlights in HRW’s response to Bernstein’s criticism will be familiar to anyone who has followed a few debates on CiF’s Israel-related threads. Indeed, as Mark Gardner points out:

“There has long been an instinctive reaction from groups such as HRW to savage their critics as being antagonistic pro-Israel lobbyists. There is no way that Robert Bernstein fits that ugly ethnic profiling, and yet HRW’s public reaction effectively treats him as just another pro-Israel snake in the grass. This suggests that HRW’s public reaction to Bernstein reflects an institutionalised inability to deal fairly and squarely with any concerns that are raised by Jews who don’t spend half their lives condemning Israel. The suspicion is strengthened when you contemplate the behaviour of the many groups, politicians and media that share HRW’s milieu. It is as if the constant drip, drip, drip, of their attitude to Israel has gradually eroded all of the sense and sensibility that such parties ever had towards the mainstream of the Jewish community.”

CiF is certainly among the “media that share HRW’s milieu”: on CiF, the “antagonistic pro-Israel lobbyists” are dismissed as the GIYUS brigade, or the paid-per-comment Hasbara rent-a-crowd; the “pro-Israel snake in the grass” is easily translated into something “colloquial” and “general” like the “global choir of ethical cretins”; and if “Jews who don’t spend half their lives condemning Israel” want to raise any concerns about this kind of atmosphere – well, tough luck: they will find out that Jews who don’t spend half their lives condemning Israel are not entitled to have any valid concerns when it comes to anything even remotely related to Israel.