Op de blog met de ironische naam "Elder of Ziyon" staan veel scherpe berichten en analyses, en een serie met onjuistheden in het rapport van de commissie Goldstone. In het rapport staan vreemde dingen, zoals dat er geen bewijs was dat de Palestijnse gewapende groeperingen in burgerkleren raketten afschoten (met een video op de blog die laat zien dat dat wel degelijk het geval was), en vervolgens beweert men dat dit geen schending van het internationale recht is (met op de blog de passage uit de Geneefse Conventie waarin duidelijk staat dat dit verboden is), dat er geen bewijs is dat moskeeën werden gebruikt voor de opslag van wapens (met een video waarin dit duidelijk te zien is) etc. etc. Lees de hele serie.
The Goldstone report spends a lot of space (paragraphs 414-421) trying to justify its contention that the Hamas police force was a civilian force, and that Israel was not justified in attacking it. I believe that this analysis is flawed and that the conflicting evidence is weighted with a clear bias towards declaring the policemen to be civilian.
410. In order to shed some light on where the truth might lie between these two conflicting descriptions of the police, the Mission finds it necessary to examine the development of the security forces linked to Hamas after its election victory in January 2006. When Mr. Said Seyam, a senior Hamas representative,269 took office as the Palestinian Authority's Minister of Interior in April 2006, he found that he had little or no control over the Palestinian Authority's security forces, which were put under the control of the President of the Palestinian Authority and of officials loyal to him.270 On 20 April 2006, he announced the formation of a new security force
reporting directly to him. This was the Security Forces Support Unit, also known as the Executive Force (al-Quwwa al-Tanfiziyya). The new security force appears to have had a double function as both a law-enforcement agency and, at least potentially, a military force. It was officially charged with enforcing public security and protecting property. At the same time, he appointed Mr. Jamal Abu Samhadana, commander of the Popular Resistance Committees, as the head of the Executive Force271 and announced that it would be composed of 3,000 new recruits from various Palestinian armed groups, including al-Qassam Brigades.272 The newly appointed commander reportedly declared: "[The Executive Force] will be the nucleus of the future Palestinian army. The resistance must continue. We have only one enemy. I will continue to carry the rifle and pull the trigger whenever required to defend my people. We are also a force against corruption. We are against thieves, corrupt officials and law breakers." 273
411. In August 2007, following the June 2007 Hamas seizure of full control over Gaza, the current Director of the Gaza authorities' civil police, then head of the Executive Force, Gen. Abu Obeidah, described the planned reorganization of the security services in Gaza. Executive Force members were to be integrated into the civil police. He reportedly stated that Hamas was "working hard to retrain Executive Force members to perform police duties" and that the "Force will be in charge of chasing drug dealers and lawless residents". At the same time, he stated that
"members of the Force are religious, and are resistance fighters."274
412. In October 2007, the security services operating in Gaza were reorganized. The previous Palestinian Authority's police agencies in Gaza were merged with the Executive Force.275 The security forces under the control of the Ministry of Interior emerging from this reorganization comprise the Civil Police, the Civil Defence, the Internal Security (an intelligence agency) and the National Security. Their mandates, according to the Gaza authorities' Ministry of Interior's website,276 are differentiated.
413. The National Security force is given specific military tasks, such as "the protection of the State from any foreign aggression" and "responsibility for the defence of the Palestinian homeland in the face of external and internal threats". It is thus plainly a military force whose members are, under international humanitarian law, combatants.277 The functions of the police have been outlined above.
414. On 1 January 2009, during the Israeli military operations in Gaza, the police
spokesperson, Mr. Islam Shahwan, informed the media that the police commanders had managed to hold three meetings at secret locations since the beginning of the armed operations. He added that "an action plan has been put forward, and we have conducted an assessment of the situation and a general alert has been declared by the police and among the security forces in case of any emergency or a ground invasion. Police officers received clear orders from the leadership to face the enemy, if the Gaza Strip were to be invaded."278 Confirming to the Mission that he had been correctly quoted, Mr. Shahwan stated that the instructions given at that meeting were to the effect that in the event of a ground invasion, and particularly if the Israeli armed forces were to enter urban settlements in Gaza, the police was to continue its work of ensuring that basic food stuffs reached the population, of directing the population to safe places, and of upholding public order in the face of the invasion. Mr. Shahwan further stated that not a single policeman had been killed in combat during the armed operations, proving that the instructions had been strictly obeyed by the policemen.
415. The Mission notes that there are no allegations that the police as an organized force took
part in combat during the armed operations. On the basis of the information provided by the
Gaza authorities and of the above-mentioned study of the Orient Research Group Ltd., it would
appear that 75 per cent of its members killed in the course of the military operations died as a
result of the air strikes carried out during the first minutes of the Israeli attack. These men had
not engaged in combat with the Israeli armed forces.279
416. The Mission also notes that while the then commander of the Executive Forces and now
Director of Police did reportedly say in August 2007 that members of the Executive Force were
"resistance fighters", he stressed in the same interview the authorities' intention to develop it into
a law enforcement force. The Mission notes that a situation in which a recently constituted
civilian police force integrates former members of armed groups would not be unique to Gaza.
That prior membership in itself would not be sufficient to establish that the police in Gaza is a
part of al-Qassam Brigades or other armed groups.
417. Except for the statements of the police spokesperson, the Israel Government has
presented no other basis on which a presumption can be made against the overall civilian nature
of the police in Gaza. It is true that the police and the security forces created by Hamas in Gaza
may have their origins in the Executive Force. However, while the Mission would not rule out
the possibility that there might be individuals in the police force who retain their links to the
armed groups, it believes that the assertion on the part of the Government of Israel that "an
overwhelming majority of the police forces were also members of the Hamas military wing or
activists of Hamas or other terrorist organizations",280 appears to be an overstatement that has
led to prejudicial presumptions against the nature of the police force that may not be justified.
420. The Mission further notes that the study conducted by the Orient Research Group Ltd.
names policemen killed during the attack, whom it identifies as members of Hamas, al-Qassam
Brigades, other armed Palestinian groups or "terror operatives" whose affiliation is not known.
In 78 out of 178 cases the policemen are alleged to be members of al-Qassam Brigades on the
sole basis that they were allegedly Hamas members.
421. Furthermore, it appears from the response to the Mission from the Orient Research Group
Ltd. describing its methodology that its information on police members' alleged affiliation with
armed groups was based to a large extent on the websites of the armed groups. In this respect,
the Mission is mindful of a recent report by a Palestinian human rights NGO drawing attention to
the "issue of the 'adoption' of killed persons by resistance groups; i.e. declaration by a political
or armed group that the person killed was one of their members. Often, when persons, including
children, are killed by actions of the Israeli armed forces , political and/or armed groups 'adopt'
them as 'martyrs' placing their photographs on their websites and commending their contribution
to resisting occupation. This does not mean that those persons killed were involved in resistance
activities in any way. The families accept this 'adoption' of deceased family members for
various reasons including the willingness of resistance groups to provide financial support to the
families and pay for funeral costs of the persons killed." As the NGO concludes, "these cases
require in-depth investigation on a case-by-case basis in order to determine every person's status
according to his actual affiliation".283