zaterdag 31 oktober 2009

Joodse humor als hasbara wapen voor Israel

In Joodse kringen is humor al eeuwenlang een beproeft middel tegen antisemitisme en andere ellende. Wie niet horen wil, moet maar lachen?
Here's news for a lot of Europeans:
- Israel is not headed by a dictator
- Arabs can vote in Israel.
Since many people do believe Israel is headed by a dictator, despite our best efforts at Israel advocacy, the only thing to do may be to laugh.
Ami Isseroff

Bring out the Laughter Brigade

Oct. 17, 2009
Daniella Ashkenazy , THE JERUSALEM POST

We've tried everything - from serious advocacy to provocative pictures of sexy sabras in bikinis. With every newspaper on the face of the earth reporting Israel's bedlam-bordering-on-anarchy two-Jews-three-opinions political culture, it's rather amazing, but a third of the Germans, Spanish and English and 20 percent of Americans recently polled believe Israel is headed by a dictator. This is only one finding in a survey conducted by Midgam in collaboration with El-Al, published in the Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot.

We've featured Israel's free-wheeling openly-gay community as a come-on for tourists with alternative lifestyles, but 20.6 percent of the Spanish and 15 percent of the English and the Germans are sure that stoning - like in the Bible - is part of the Israeli judicial system.

All things considered, maybe it's a blessing in disguise that 10 percent of all Americans have never heard of Israel. Twenty-nine percent of the Germans who have, think Arabs can't vote.

The one ploy we Jews have yet to try is our oldest and most effective weapon. Humor.

YES, IT'S time to crack out the humor, bring on the clowns - and they come in a host of packages: Silly politicians and Kafka-like ordinances, two-bit crooks and weird court cases and people with harebrained schemes.

Israel is a militaristic country? Let's fight back by introducing folks to the IDF recruit who was afraid of the dark, whose Jewish mother snuck into boot camp and accompanied him on patrol, disappearing at daybreak. And the reserve combat unit that found itself wresting with feeding two famished Palestinian lions during the Cast Lead campaign.

Wanna kill the "stoning image" and leave an indelible impression? Scholarly descriptions of the Israeli court system won't make a dent. Tell the average Tom, Dick or Helmut about the minister of justice throwing the book at overly-judicious judges in the lower courts who've gotten into the bad habit of writing long-winded decisions "as if everyone was on the Supreme Court." They'll never forget it.

Israel is a gloomy and dangerous place? That's what focus groups find among Jewish kids. The best antidote for such adolescents is a hefty dose of anecdotes about… Israeli adolescents.

Take your pick: impudent young entrepreneurs who one August night "took over" an empty office building parking garage in the heart of Tel Aviv, set up an open-air disco that attracted thousands of youngsters, then vanished into the heat of the night with the take. Or, the partially-unidentified "benchmarkers" who attached little engraved metal plaques to benches along Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard - declaring "Amnon's Bench" or "Hilah's and El'ad's Bench," leaving city officials scratching their heads at this strange graffiti. And those are just the appetizers.

Want to balance the picture of Israel being "a country filled with religious fanatics"? This glum plum was discovered by the focus group people, this time studying adults. Share the news about an Orthodox rabbi from Caesaria who donned a pair of rollerblades to make Shabbat minyanim at two different synagogues at opposites ends of town.

These are all genuine news items published in reputable mainstream Hebrew papers. They just never made the Washington Post. Most didn't even make the Jerusalem Post. Nor Chuck Shepherd's syndicated column News of the Weird carried by 250 papers across the globe… because almost all these stories which we journalists label "soft news" are safely hidden in the back pages of the Hebrew press.

Take the stories about an enterprising security guard who chose to hold up the very bank he was hired to protect against suicide bombers, or the court ruling on a divorce settlement requiring the man to pay his former spouse one pregnant goat a year for the next 35 years - raising serious questions over "who got whose goat"?

The above events occurred in the middle of the 2000-2005 Terror War - two out of literally thousands of quirky news clippings I have from that time.

CLEARLY, SOMETHING is very wrong with the way Israel is being perceived even by our most ardent supporters, if an American-Jewish woman felt compelled to go on three solidarity missions in 2002 saying "it was like visiting a relative in the hospital."

Furthermore, anecdotes like these can be skillfully used by hasbara activists, particularly on campus and in schools - lacing their argumentation with humor to defuse tension and break down stereotypes, or burying hecklers in a sea of laughter with a few well-placed shots of humor. This kind of input about Israel has the power to unsuspectingly undermine the preconceptions of even the most dedicated Israel-basher.

With all the funny Jews out there - some say 80 percent of all comedians are Jewish - it's time we mobilized cadres of talk show scriptwriters, standup comedians and humor columnists and satirists - even off-Broadway playwrights who will begin using this kind of material in their professional lives.

There is an overabundance of wacky news from Israel that can make the cut on its own merits just waiting to be spoofed and savored, that happens to paint Israel as the comical, familial, quirky and, at times, unbelievable place it really is.

No one's preconceptions - friend or foe - will survive intact.

The writer is a seasoned bilingual Israeli journalist who writes features for The Jerusalem Post and once wrote serious and humorous copy for a host of other print media (Israel Scene, Jerusalem Dateline, Davar, Telegraph, Haolam Hazeh) who are 'dead' due to no fault of her own. She authors Chelm-on-the-Med© Online ( which serves as an open source for incredible snippets of daily life in Israel culled from the Hebrew press.


Palestijnse opruiing over Jeruzalem aangewakkerd door PA van Abbas

De rellen op de Tempelberg zijn grotendeels aan onze aandacht ontsnapt, omdat we in Israel doorgaans minder van het Israelische nieuws meekrijgen dan thuis met onze onbeperkte toegang tot al het digitale nieuws. Tijd dat we Hebreeuws leren.
De positie van Abbas en andere prominente Fatah leden en de rol van enkele van hen in de rellen is ronduit schandalig.
On Sunday evening, the bureau of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas released a statement condemning Israel for "extremist activities at Al-Aqsa." In the extraordinarily scathing statement, the Palestinian Authority accused Israel of sending Jewish soldiers and officers to damage the mosque, and of taking provocative steps against the Arabs of Jerusalem. "Jerusalem is a red line that must not be crossed ... The Palestinian people and its national authority will defend the holy places," declared the statement.
This was the first time Abbas' bureau had used the terms "resistance" and "battle." It also said: "Our people will continue to cling to the land of our holy city and will be victorious in resisting its Judaization, its takeover and the expulsion of its citizens."
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the president's spokesman, called upon the Palestinian people to overcome the disputes and "to unite in the battle to defend Jerusalem and the holy places."
Hier worden - ook in onderstaand artikel - allerlei verklaringen voor gegeven en excuses aangevoerd, maar feit is dat dit in lijn is met het Fatah beleid de afgelopen jaren, waarin 'martelaren' worden geprezen, Palestijnse scholen naar hen worden vernoemd, allerlei plaatsen in Israel als Palestijns worden voorgesteld, en iedere historische binding van de Joden met Jeruzalem wordt ontkend en dit als exclusief Palestijnse stad wordt voorgesteld, om maar een paar dingen te noemen.

Palestinian anger over Jerusalem is affecting Abbas
By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
The pattern repeats itself: A relatively marginal Jewish organization calls upon the public to hold prayers on the Temple Mount to mark Yom Kippur, Sukkot or, as was the case this week, "Rambam Day" (commemorating Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon's visit to the Land of Israel in the 12th century). These announcements win a great deal of attention in the Palestinian and Arab media, of course.
Muslim clerics, Palestinian politicians and members of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel urge Muslims to flock to the Al-Aqsa Mosque to defend it from Jewish "takeover attempts." On the day of the "operation," these groups arrive at the Temple Mount, accompanied by Arab media representatives (especially the Al Jazeera TV crew). They all wait until 7:30 A.M., when the Israel Police open the Mughrabi Gate to entry by non-Muslims. The Jewish groups do not even bother to show up, but the police who enter to enable the hypothetical visit are greeted with massive stone-throwing.
Meanwhile, Fatah members are in the mosque to express their solidarity and to prove that they aren't being directed by Israel's Arabs, but rather are leading this fight themselves. One of the most prominent figures present is the man who holds the Jerusalem portfolio for Fatah, Hatem Abdel Qader, who was arrested there this week on suspicion of incitement.

As is the case with his fellow Fatah activists, it's doubtful that Abdel Qader really wants the escalation on the mount to spark a conflagration throughout the territories. Their main intention seems to be to make their presence felt, to let off steam and then to return to routine in the compound. But the political environment, and especially the media, pushes them to make very aggressive statements against Israel, including accusations of attempts to damage the Al-Aqsa Mosque, even though nothing has changed on the ground at the Temple Mount in recent weeks.
On Sunday evening, the bureau of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas released a statement condemning Israel for "extremist activities at Al-Aqsa." In the extraordinarily scathing statement, the Palestinian Authority accused Israel of sending Jewish soldiers and officers to damage the mosque, and of taking provocative steps against the Arabs of Jerusalem. "Jerusalem is a red line that must not be crossed ... The Palestinian people and its national authority will defend the holy places," declared the statement.
This was the first time Abbas' bureau had used the terms "resistance" and "battle." It also said: "Our people will continue to cling to the land of our holy city and will be victorious in resisting its Judaization, its takeover and the expulsion of its citizens."
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the president's spokesman, called upon the Palestinian people to overcome the disputes and "to unite in the battle to defend Jerusalem and the holy places."
Abbas is nearly the only Palestinian leader who opposed the use of violence throughout the Al-Aqsa intifada, especially the rocket fire from Gaza. The problem is that the current mood - among the media, his rivals in Hamas and even from top Fatah officials - is contagious and affecting even the PA president's bureau.
The most outstanding example of Fatah's new rhetoric, so reminiscent of that of Abbas' predecessor Yasser Arafat, was heard two weeks ago, when several members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council convened at the culture hall in Ramallah. On the stage sat four members of the party's central committee, at least three of whom are considered bitter enemies: Mahmoud Dahlan, Jibril Rajoub, Tawfik Tirawi and the Fatah representative in Lebanon, Sultan Abu al-Aynayn. If, a year ago, a Fatah member would have been told that they would sit side by side without fighting, he would certainly have thought it was some sort of fantasy.
It appears that Abu al-Aynan did not exactly call at that gathering for a renewal of suicide attacks, as the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi claimed, but he did praise the muqawama, the resistance, very highly. For his part, Tirawi declared, "We shall resist, we shall resist, we shall resist," and promised the resistance would last for 50 years. (In a conversation with Haaretz afterward, he claimed he said only that if Israel says it will keep negotiating for 20 years, the Palestinians will keep resisting for 50 years.)
The problem is that members of Fatah's military wing - who dropped out of the armed struggle against Israel after Hamas' violent coup in Gaza in June 2007 - could take the talk about resistance literally, and go back to initiating attacks. By the same token, Fatah's attempts to help organize the riots on the Temple Mount are liable to exact a high price in violence. If, in the next round of clashes, an Israeli policeman feels that his life is in danger and reacts by shooting and killing Palestinian demonstrators, as has happened in the past, this is liable to lead to a conflagration, especially given the current dead end in the diplomatic realm.
Rajoub also acknowledged in a conversation with Haaretz that the feeling of frustration and bitterness is indeed affecting the tone of Fatah leaders.
Election speak
In less than three months, the Palestinian territories are slated to have elections. It is doubtful they will be held if there is no reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. However, if Egypt does indeed succeed in getting that Islamic organization to agree to a compromise, the vote will be held nine months from now, in June 2010. And during an election, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government still in power in neighboring Israel, it is always better to go back to Yasser Arafat's old, familiar slogans.
The PA, whose leaders urged Israel to take stronger action against Hamas last January, played a key role in the anti-Israel campaign launched over Operation Cast Lead and the ensuing affair of the Goldstone report about the war. And Abbas' attempt to backtrack in the midst of the uproar and stop pushing that report has brought very harsh criticism from home, which apparently is motivating the top Fatah officials' belligerent stance.
Officials from Netanyahu's bureau, the defense establishment and the Justice Ministry are still looking for a compromise to diminish the international pressure surrounding the report, reduce the chances of legal proceedings against top Israel Defense Forces officials in Europe and avoid pushing Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi to resign.
At the end of last week, the prime minister released a trial balloon about a potential Israeli inquiry - by means of a hint to journalist Lally Weymouth of Newsweek - but he retreated in light of the angry reaction to this by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Yet, Netanyahu's close associates believe there is no way to avoid some sort of examination, even if it is done without crossing the red line - i.e., summoning officers and soldiers to testify.
A highly placed individual at the Prime Minister's Bureau explained this week in a meeting with guests from abroad why it is so important to Israel to avoid a commission of inquiry over Operation Cast Lead. To this day, he said (clearly hinting at the disengagement from Gaza), it has been customary to think that when statesmen err and make the security situation more complicated, we can always rely on the army to rectify matters. But if we let officers get in trouble because of actions they were required to take, we cannot expect similar responsiveness next time.
On Wednesday, Aluf Benn wrote in Haaretz, rightly, that Israel needs an investigative committee to examine fundamental questions, rather than to rebut exaggerated accusations of war crimes. Benn asked, for example, what the government ministers knew beforehand about the potential impact on Palestinian civilians of a large-scale military campaign in Gaza.
In this regard, at least, there is no dearth of convincing evidence. Ashkenazi did not spare efforts to inform the government that entering Gaza would result in hard fighting and many civilian casualties. Similar things were said a year before the war, when GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yoav Gallant presented the operational plans to the cabinet. Journalists also heard pessimistic assessments from generals in the weeks preceding Cast Lead, and some even overestimated the number of casualties.

Europese campagne om IDF officieren te vervolgen voor "oorlogsmisdaden"

Waarom worden dit soort initiatieven niet ondernomen tegen werkelijke schurkenstaten, tegen de tientallen totalitaire en dictatoriale regimes die de afgelopen tijd oorlogen hebben gevoerd en hun bevolking hebben onderdrukt en dissidenten opgepakt en gemarteld? De gretigheid waarmee Europese 'mensenrechtenactivisten', 'vredes'activisten en allerhande zogenaamde idealisten zich inzetten om Israel te treffen, zwart te maken, te isoleren en demoniseren heeft een zeer nare bijsmaak.

EU drawing up lists of IDF "war criminals"

Last update - 08:21 27/10/2009       
EU lawyers draw up list of IDF officers suspected of Gaza war crimes
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent
Human rights lawyers and pro-Palestinian activists in a number of European countries hold lists with names of Israel Defense Forces soldiers allegedly linked to war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. Existing legislation enables arrest warrants to be issued against these officers if they enter those countries.
Lawyers in Britain and other European countries have been collecting testimonies of Palestinians and other data from Gaza since January, which they maintain proves that war crimes were committed by the IDF during the offensive. The evidence is linked to IDF officers holding ranks of battalion commander and higher, who were in command during various stages of Cast Lead.
The other nations who have lawyers collecting information on the matter include the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Norway, whose laws, as well as Britain's, allow the issuance of arrest warrants against foreign citizens suspected of war crimes.
Attorney Daniel Makover from London is coordinating the efforts in Britain. One of his colleagues visited the Gaza Strip several weeks after the fighting in order to collect testimonies. Palestinians civilians also gave the legal assistant their approval, and asked that he file the suits in their name, in line with British law.
Speaking to Haaretz, Makover refused to offer details on the identity of the IDF officers or how many were listed, but said that much depends on the specific details of each case. Makover said that anyone who was involved in an incident may face criminal charges. The attorney added that there are officers who are obviously candidates for charges, and others who are less obvious, but emphasized that it depends on the facts collected on the ground.
Makover said that the Goldstone report on the fighting in the Gaza Strip will bolster the efforts of the activists, and said that some of the instances mentioned in the report were already known to the attorneys. Makover is part of an unofficial network of attorneys operating in various countries in Europe, exchanging and sharing information so that suspected officers may be arrested in those countries.
The information is often received from pro-Palestinian activists who follow Jewish or pro-Israel groups that invite IDF officers to deliver lectures. In some instances, this information is relayed to border controls. Makover said that a small number of names of IDF officers is already on a British police watch list, and that when they arrive in Britain the authorities will issue an arrest warrant that will lead to their possible detention.
A number of human rights groups are busy working to create an international organization that would enable closer surveillance of those they suspect of war crimes and torture, as well as seek warrants for their arrest.
The IDF did not wish to specify the instructions it has given to officers before they travel abroad. In practice, many of the officers who participated in the Gaza operation have been asked to consult with legal experts at the Foreign Ministry, where they are instructed how to behave abroad and where they need to lower the profile of their identity; in some cases they are advised not to visit certain countries.
The Foreign Ministry released a statement saying: "The ministry is aware of efforts undertaken by Palestinian groups and their supporters to harm IDF officers through legal and public relations means, and is working to prevent such efforts."

Progressieve antisemieten in Egypte

Volgens onderstaand artikel is het Egyptische antisemitisme betrekkelijk recent, maar dat wordt niet gerelateerd aan Israels ontstaan maar aan de opkomst van totalitiaire regimes in Europa die het antisemitisme naar de Arabische wereld overbrachten. Daar viel dit in vruchtbare aarde, wat erop wijst dat dit een niet geheel nieuw en vreemd gedachtegoed was in de Arabische wereld, al was het eerder niet in die mate aanwezig. Opvallend is dat niet alleen islamisten zoals de Moslim Broederschap maar juist ook liberale groeperingen er gevoelig voor waren.
Ook in Europa is dit fenomeen zichtbaar, waar niet alleen extreem rechts maar ook elementen binnen radikaal links de Joodse staat demoniseren en 'zionisten' als een duistere en machtige groep voorstellen die voor allerlei onrecht verantwoordelijk wordt gehouden. In de Arabische wereld gebeurt het openlijker en extremer, en wordt antisemitisme door de staat gesteund en bevorderd. Daar immers is dit cruciaal in het kanaliseren van de onvrede en het bij elkaar houden van een slecht functionerende samenleving vol corruptie, armoede en willekeur.

Liberal anti-Semites in Egypt

Why are Egypt's Liberals Anti-Semitic?
            Cairo - Wall Street Journal
            Later this week, Egypt will play host to the 56th Congress of Liberal International, which bills itself as the world federation of liberal and progressive democratic parties. Among the nearly 70 parties represented by LI are Britain's Liberal Democrats, Germany's Free Democrats, and the Liberal Party of Canada. In the U.S., LI's Web site cites the National Democratic Institute as a cooperating organization since 1986.

            In Cairo, the visiting delegates will be hosted by the Al-Gabha, or Democratic Front Party. Western liberals (in the old-fashioned sense of that word) are always delighted to discover like-minded people in the Third World, and perhaps nowhere more so than in Arab countries. Yet, at least in Egypt, there's a dirty little secret about these self-described liberal parties: They are, for the most part, virulently anti-Semitic, sometimes opportunistically but just as often out of deeply-held rancorous convictions.

            Consider the case of Sekina Fouad, a well-known journalist who also serves as the DFP's vice president. In an article published earlier this year, Ms. Fouad dismisses any distinction between Jews and Israelis, the reason for which is "the extremity of the doctrine of arrogance, distinctiveness and condescension [the Jews] set out from and seek to achieve by all means, and on top of which blood, killing, terrorizing and frightening." She corroborates this argument with an alleged statement by "President" Benjamin Franklin, asking Americans to expel Jews since they are "like locusts, never to get on a green land without leaving it deserted and barren."
            Needless to say, Franklin never made any such statement, not that a journalist like Ms. Fouad would bother to check. She also asks the question "Are Zionists Human?" which offers backhanded credit to Jews for having "helped [her] understand a history full of examples of their expulsion, getting rid of them and their unethical and inhuman methods." In earlier writings, Ms. Fouad has written about what she calls "Talmudic teachings that determine types of purity unachievable by the Jew unless by using Christian human sacrifice" for the making of "blood pies." Not surprisingly, she also dismisses the Holocaust as part of an "arsenal of Jewish myths."

            Nor is Ms. Fouad some kind of outlier in the Egyptian liberal movement. Take Ayman Nour, who contested the 2005 presidential election under the banner of his own party and was subsequently jailed for nearly four years, becoming something of a cause célèbre among Western officials, journalists and human-rights activists.

            Immediately after his release earlier this year, he attended a celebration organized by opposition groups-including the Muslim Brotherhood-in the northern city of Port Said, commemorating "the first battalion of volunteers from the Egyptian People setting off to fight the Jews in 1948." The word "Jews" was stressed in bolded black lettering on the otherwise blue and red banner hanging above the conference panel. Yet far from trying to distance himself from that message, Mr. Nour got into the spirit of the conference, talking not only about his solidarity with Palestinians but also "the value of standing up to this enemy, behind which lies all evils, conspiracies, and threats that are spawned against Egypt."

            Then there is the case of Egypt's oldest "liberal" party, Al-Wafd, whose eponymous daily newspaper is one of Egypt's most active platforms for anti-Semitism. Following President Obama's conciliatory Cairo speech to the Muslim world, columnist Ahmed Ezz El-Arab faulted Mr. Obama for insisting that the Holocaust was an actual historical event and gave nine historical "proofs" that it had never happened. He concluded that "the evil Jewish lies succeeded in creating an atmosphere of hatred for Germans that resulted in the death of millions."

            These examples are, sadly, just the tip of an iceberg. What makes them all the more remarkable is that, contrary to stereotype, they do not have particularly ancient roots in Egypt. Until Egypt's Jews were expelled by Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s and '60s, Egypt had a millennia-old, thriving Jewish community. As late as the 1930s, Jewish politicians occupied ministerial posts in Egyptian governments and participated in nationalist politics.
             But all that changed with the rise of totalitarian and fascist movements in Europe, which found more than their share of imitators in the Arab world, both among Islamists and secularists. When Egypt's monarchy was overthrown in 1952 by a military coup, anti-Semitism became an ideological pillar of the new totalitarian dispensation.
            Since then, Egypt has evolved, coming to terms (of a sort) with Israel and adopting at least some elements of market-based economic principle. But anti-Semitism remains the political glue holding Egypt's disparate political forces together. Paradoxically, this is especially true of the so-called liberals, who think they can traffic on their anti-Semitism to gain favor in quarters where they would otherwise be suspect or unpopular. They have taken to demonizing Jews with the proverbial zeal of a convert.

            Westerners, who tend to treat Arabs with a condescension masked as "understanding," may be quick to dismiss all this as a function of anger at Israeli policies and therefore irrelevant to the development of liberal politics in the Arab world. Yet a liberal movement that winds up espousing the kind of anti-Semitism that would have done the Nazis proud is, quite simply, not liberal. That's something the visiting delegates should know before they come to Cairo. More importantly, it's something the Arab world's genuine liberals need to understand before they once again commit moral suicide.
Messrs. Bargisi and Tadros are senior partners with the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth.

Iran wilt flinke aanpassingen in compromisvoorstel atoomregeling

Het lijkt erop dat hoe meer concessies het westen doet, hoe meer Iran zich gesterkt voelt in zijn positie dat het recht heeft op een kernwapen en het zal lukken om dat te verkrijgen. Zie ook Ami Isseroffs commentaar hieronder wat betreft Irans strategie.

Report: Iran proposes "big changes" to draft atom deal

Who is surprised by this? Perhaps President Obama and BBC listeners and readers, since the latter heard and read that Iran welcomed the agreement and would sign it. As expected, Iran will propose "changes." The changes will be big enough to prevent a meaningful agreement. They will not be big enough to prove that Iran is trying to wreck the agrement. So the negotiations will go on, and on and on, and the centrifuges will keep spinning and spinning, and the earth moving equipment will keep hollowing out mountains for more nuclear installations like the one near Qom. Then one day, Iran will have the bomb, and everyone can innocently say, "<g> who expected that?" Right?
Ami Isseroff
Iran proposes big changes to draft atom deal: report
Thu Oct 29, 2009 1:09pm EDT
By Reza Derakhshi
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran proposed changes to a U.N.-drafted nuclear fuel deal on Thursday, Iranian media said, making demands that appeared to challenge the basis of the agreement with the United States, France and Russia.
The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which had requested a reply by last Friday, said its chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, had now received an "initial response" from Tehran.
"(ElBaradei) is engaged in consultations with the government of Iran as well as all relevant parties, with the hope that agreement on his proposal can be reached soon," the IAEA said in a statement. It gave no further details.
The Iranian pro-government daily Javan said in an unsourced report that Iran wanted shipments of low-enriched uranium (LEU) -- for conversion abroad into fuel for a Tehran research reactor -- to take place in stages, not in a single consignment.
It also wanted simultaneous imports of higher-enriched fuel from other countries for the same plant.
The conditions were likely non-starters for Western powers, which suspect the Islamic Republic covertly seeks nuclear arms capability. Tehran says its program is only for electricity.
"If the Iranian position is as described, it gets the IAEA nowhere," a western diplomat in Vienna said. "They are undercutting Mohamed ElBaradei, who is seeking to help them demonstrate the peaceful intent of their nuclear program."
Under ElBaradei's plan, Tehran would transfer about 75 percent of its known 1.5 tons of LEU in one shipment to Russia by the end of this year for further enrichment. The material would then go to France to be converted into fuel plates.
These would be returned to Tehran to power the U.S.-built reactor, which produces radio-isotopes for cancer treatment.
The U.S. role would be to upgrade safety and instrumentation at the plant, Iranian officials said.
France reacted cautiously to the reports of Tehran's latest position, saying it wanted to see Iran "respond clearly and positively to the proposal submitted by the IAEA, which is fully supported by France, the United States and Russia."
Western powers were likely to rebuff Tehran's proposed amendments because their priority is to reduce the stockpile of Iranian LEU to ward off the danger that Iran might turn it into the highly enriched uranium needed for an atom bomb.
Sending most of the LEU abroad would buy about a year for talks on forging a long-term solution to the nuclear dispute, in which Western powers want Iran to halt enrichment in return for economic incentives.
Iran's request for nuclear fuel imports is problematic because U.N. sanctions ban trade in such materials with Tehran.
Western diplomats said Iran risks rekindling demands for harsher sanctions unless it acts on the fuel plan and other nuclear transparency measures before the end of the year.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated that his country would not retreat "one iota" on its right to a nuclear program and suggested it was gaining ground in the dispute.
"They (the West) used to tell us to halt everything (nuclear activities), but today they have announced their readiness to cooperate with us in fuel exchange and technology," he said in a speech in the northeastern city of Mashhad on Thursday.
"We welcome cooperation on nuclear fuel, power plants and technology and we are ready to cooperate," he added, without saying whether Iran would accept the IAEA proposal or not.
But Iran's English-language satellite station PRESS TV quoted an unnamed source as saying that Iran did not trust other countries involved, such as the United States and France.
"Iran needs to receive guarantees that the nuclear fuel for Tehran's research reactor will in fact be supplied," it quoted the source as saying. "Iran as the buyer of the nuclear fuel should determine how much fuel it requires to purchase."
The draft fuel deal emerged from talks that followed an October 1 meeting in Geneva, where Iran also told six big powers it would open a newly disclosed enrichment site to U.N. inspectors.
Four senior IAEA inspectors returned to Vienna on Thursday after a first visit to the site, which Iran expects to start operating at the end of 2010. The team chief said it "had a good trip" but would not elaborate. Details are likely to come in the IAEA's next quarterly report on Iran, in mid-November.
The inspectors wanted full access and documentation to verify that the plant, being built beneath a mountain, was designed to enrich uranium only to the low purity needed for electricity, not the high level suitable for bombs.

Israëli's en de Iraanse atoombom

Een toekomstige Iraanse kernbom vormt een nieuwe existentiële dreiging voor Israël die veel mensen bezighoudt. Men is verre van gerust op het compromis dat de internationale gemeenschap onlangs met Iran heeft gesloten.

Israel and the Iranian A-Bomb

The Return of Israel's Existential Dread

In tabloid cartoons and dinner conversations, Israelis brace themselves for war with Iran.
By YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI - Wall Street Journal
The postcard from the Home Front Command that recently arrived in my mailbox looks like an ad from the Ministry of Tourism. A map of Israel is divided by color into six regions, each symbolized by an upbeat drawing: a smiling camel in the Negev desert, a skier in the Golan Heights. In fact, each region signifies the amount of time residents will have to seek shelter from an impending missile attack. If you live along the Gaza border, you have 15 seconds after the siren sounds. Jerusalemites get a full three minutes. But as the regions move farther north, the time drops again, until finally, along the Lebanese and Syrian borders, the color red designates "immediate entry into a shelter." In other words, if you're not already inside a shelter don't bother looking for one.
The invisible but all-pervasive presence on that cheerful map of existential dread is Iran. If Israel were to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, Tehran's two terrorist allies on our borders—Hezbollah and Hamas—would almost certainly renew attacks against the Israeli home front. And Tel Aviv would be hit by Iranian long-range missiles.
On the other hand, if Israel refrains from attacking Iran and international efforts to stop its nuclearization fail, the results along our border would likely be even more catastrophic. Hezbollah and Hamas would be emboldened politically and psychologically. The threat of a nuclear attack on Tel Aviv would become a permanent part of Israeli reality. This would do incalculable damage to Israel's sense of security.
Given these dreadful options, one might assume that the Israeli public would respond with relief to reports that Iran is now considering the International Atomic Energy Agency's proposal to transfer 70% of its known, low-enriched uranium to Russia for treatment that would seriously reduce its potential for military application. In fact, Israelis from the right and the left have reacted with heightened anxiety. "Kosher Uranium," read the mocking headline of Israel's largest daily, Yediot Aharonot. Media commentators noted that easing world pressure on Iran will simply enable it to cheat more easily. If Iranian leaders are prepared to sign an agreement, Israelis argue, that's because they know something the rest of us don't.
In the last few years, Israelis have been asking themselves two questions with increasing urgency: Should we attack Iran if all other options fail? And can we inflict sufficient damage to justify the consequences?
As sanctions efforts faltered, most Israelis came to answer the first question affirmatively. A key moment in coalescing that resolve occurred in December 2006, when the Iranian regime sponsored an "International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust," a two day meeting of Holocaust deniers. For Israelis, that event ended the debate over whether a nuclear Iran could be deterred by the threat of counter-force. A regime that assembles the world's crackpots to deny the most documented atrocity in history—at the very moment it is trying to fend off sanctions and convince the international community of its sanity—may well be immune to rational self-interest.
Opinion here has been divided about the ability of an Israeli strike to significantly delay Iran's nuclear program. But Israelis have dealt with their doubts by resurrecting a phrase from the country's early years: Ein breira, there's no choice. Besides, as one leading Israeli security official who has been involved in the Iranian issue for many years put it to me, "Technical problems have technical solutions." Israelis tend to trust their strategic planners to find those solutions.
In the past few months, Israelis have begun asking themselves a new question: Has the Obama administration's engagement with Iran effectively ended the possibility of a military strike?
Few Israelis took seriously the recent call by former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski to shoot down Israeli planes if they take off for Iran. But American attempts to reassure the Israeli public of its commitment to Israel's security have largely backfired. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent threat to "obliterate" Iran if it launched a nuclear attack against Israel only reinforced Israeli fears that the U.S. would prefer to contain a nuclear Iran rather than pre-empt it militarily.
On the face of it, this is not May 1967. There is not the same sense of impending catastrophe that held the Israeli public in the weeks before the Six Day War. Israelis are preoccupied with the fate of Gilad Shalit (the kidnapped Israeli soldier held by Hamas), with the country's faltering relations with Turkey, with the U.N.'s denial of Israel's right to defend itself, and with an unprecedented rise in violent crime.
But the Iranian threat has seeped into daily life as a constant, if barely conscious anxiety. It emerges at unexpected moments, as black humor or an incongruous aside in casual conversation. "I think we're going to attack soon," a friend said to me over Sabbath dinner, as we talked about our children going off to the army and to India.
Now, with the possibility of a deal with Iran, Israelis realize that a military confrontation will almost certainly be deferred. Still, the threat remains.
A recent cartoon in the newspaper Ma'ariv showed a drawing of a sukkah, the booth covered with palm branches that Jews build for the autumn festival of Tabernacles. A voice from inside the booth asked, "Will these palm branches protect us from Iranian missiles?"
Israelis still believe in their ability to protect themselves—and many believe too in the divine protection that is said to hover over the fragile booths. Both are expressions of faith from a people that fear they may once again face the unthinkable alone.
Mr. Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, and a contributing editor to the New Republic.

Amnesty International waterrapport Palestijnse gebieden

Amnesty International heeft het - in tegenspraak met haar reputatie van een degelijke en neutrale mensenrechtenorganisatie - wederom klaargespeeld om een misleidend rapport over Israel en de Palestijnse gebieden naar buiten te brengen, waarin feiten, achtergronden en context vakkundig worden genegeerd. En vanwege haar reputatie nemen media als het NOS Journaal AI's bevindingen helaas klakkeloos over....
De suggestieve beelden van uitgedroogde Palestijnse landbouwgrond tegenover Israelische zwembaden - liefst nog in de Joodse nederzettingen - is ronduit vals en achterbaks. Ik kan in Nederland ook wel beelden verzamelen van een villa in het Wassenaar en een arme allochtoon en vervolgens betogen dat Nederland een racistische maatschappij is waar mensen zwaar worden gediscrimineerd en uitgebuit.
Wij logeerden onlangs in Galilea bij een gezin waar het douchewater werd opgevangen om nadien de tuinplanten mee water te geven. Om de waterschaarste in Israel te bestrijden wordt binnenkort het verbruik boven een minimum hoeveelheid per persoon extra zwaar belast.

October 28, 2009

Amnesty Water Falsehood #1

We will keep a running list of Amnesty International's falsehoods in its new report "Troubled Waters -- Palestinians Denied Fair Access to Water." Keep checking back for updates.

Here is the first:

An Amnesty news report accompanying the report ("The Day the Bulldozers Came") alleges:

The village of Beil Ula, where Mahmoud [al-'Alam] lives, is not connected to the Palestinian water network.

Fact: The Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem, a Palestinian outfit, has a 17-page town profile of Beit Ula, which states on page 13:

Beit Ula has been connected to the water network since 1974. Provided by the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA), almost 70% of town households are connected to the network.


Amnesty's Water Report: Will the Facts Trickle Out?

Yesterday Amnesty International issued a report condemning Israel's water policies and charging the Jewish state with discriminatory practice vis-a-vis allocation to its Palestinian neighbors ("Troubled Waters: Palestinians Denied Fair Access to Water"). The report is based solely on Palestinian sources.

NGO-Monitor, Israel's Foreign MInistry, and the Water Authority have responded, blasting Amnesty for the report's flaws.

CAMERA is reviewing the report and will provide updates as they are available. In the meantime, we were struck by this promotional video for the report, which juxtaposes photographs of sprinklers and swimming pools in Israeli communities with images of barren Palestinian water reservoirs and children carrying water vessels. Yet, there is no shortage of swimming pools in the Palestinian West Bank. As Ha'aretz's Avi Issacharoff wrote on Aug. 8, 2007:

Nowadays, every city in the West Bank has a pool or a recreational complex: Bethlehem has one similar to Al-Khaluf [a clover-leaf-shaped pool in Dura, near Hebron], while Ramallah has more than 10. One of Jenin's swimming champs committed a suicide bombing at Jerusalem's Sbarro restaurant in August 2001. Nablus has a pool reserved for women, and an Olympic pool. Another pool and recreation complex sits between Nablus and Tubas.

Al Khaluf draws more than 2,500 people on an average weekend day, [lifeguard Ahmed] Rajoub says. ("West Bank swimming pools help Palestinians brave the heat")

For more on water issues concerning Israel and the Palestinians, see earlier CAMERA reports here.

vrijdag 30 oktober 2009

Smokkeltunnels Gazastrook riskante maar florisante handel

Volgens andere berichten eist Hamas wel degelijk een deel van de opbrengst op als belasting. Hoe dan ook, het is duidelijk dat de mensen in Gaza niet van de honger omkomen.
The New York Times
Rafah Journal

Goods Flood Gaza's Tunnels, Turning Border Area Into a Shopping Mecca

Published: October 21, 2009


RAFAH, Gaza — Dusty sacks filled with cans of Coca-Cola were being loaded onto trucks by young boys, headed for supermarkets in Gaza City. Thousands of motorcycles were lined up on display in a nearby stadium, ranging in price from $2,000 to $10,000.

At Nijma market, refrigerators, flat-screen televisions, microwaves, air-conditioners, generators and ovens filled the tents, all at inflated prices, having been spirited into this town on the border with Egypt through tunnels under the sand. Some Gazans have even purchased cars smuggled in parts into the isolated Palestinian enclave.

The tunnels emerged as an essential lifeline for Gaza two years ago, when Israel imposed a political and economic embargo after Hamas took over the area. Israel did its best to obliterate them during its three-week military offensive in Gaza last winter, saying they were being used for smuggling weapons and explosives.

But the builders set to work immediately after that, and with little hope of the border crossings with Israel opening anytime soon — and rich profits to be harvested — there are more tunnels now than ever, and Rafah has turned into a shopping mecca where the tunnel owners are kings.

"If the siege were to be lifted," said Osama, 22, a tunnel owner, "I would end up in intensive care." Osama would not give his family name, fearing he would never be able to travel legally out of Gaza if identified. Locally, he goes by the nickname of Doda, which means worm.

In the past, armed gangs roamed this frontier town with a lawless feel; journalists and humanitarian workers were about the only visitors to venture here. Now, customers flock in from all over Gaza. What started as a few clandestine tunnels dug beneath houses has turned into a booming industry that nobody bothers to hide.

Before the Gaza war the tunnels numbered in the hundreds. Today about 1,500 of them are said to be crammed into an eight-mile stretch along the border, employing in the neighborhood of 30,000 Palestinians from all over the territory. A local merchant has opened a 24-hour grocery store called "Dubai" to cater to them. Only the milk and the yogurt come from Israel. The soft drinks, beans, chocolate, cookies and cooking oil come in consignments from under the ground.

Across the street Abu Raed Alarja, 58, fixes tools that are used to dig the tunnels. Inside his dark store, he also stocks cement, generators and blue plastic barrels strung together with strong ropes, used to drag goods from the Egyptian side.

For the tunnel owners the profits are high, but precarious. Israel regularly bombards the tunnels in response to rocket fire, and some that are not well constructed collapse. Egypt also occasionally seals them from its side, a tactic it uses to keep Hamas in line.

Hamas runs some tunnels of its own, but local residents say the group does not collect taxes from those that are privately owned.

A syndicate has been formed to supervise the tunnel system and to defend the rights of workers killed on the job — at least 116 to date, according to local human rights groups. Five workers 17 to 20 years old were killed in one of Osama's three tunnels five months ago when it collapsed because of the dryness of the sand. Osama paid the five families $2,000 each in compensation and has promised to pay an additional $7,000 each in a few months.

Osama started out as a day laborer, digging tunnels from the age of 16. He graduated to running drugs and TNT through the tunnels into Gaza. Though he is a supporter of Fatah, the secular rival of Hamas, he says he supplied both parties. He was young but intimidating enough. He says he used to eat in restaurants in Gaza City and leave without paying. "Now it is different," he said. "We fear Hamas."

For the same reason he no longer smuggles drugs or weapons, though the money he made from that illicit trade helped set him up in legitimate business. He says that each of his three tunnels cost about $300,000 to build, and that four friends helped him finance the enterprise.

By night he brings in live animals, motorcycles, potato chips, Coca-Cola and clothing for women and children. But the most lucrative import is fuel, which he pumps through a pipe fixed on the ceiling of a tunnel more than half a mile long and collects in a large tank on the Palestinian side. Like any smart businessman, Osama does most of his pumping after Israel has blocked fuel supplies from its side or has bombed a few competing tunnels, lifting prices in Gaza.

The tunnel owners, Gaza's nouveau riche, say they make on average more than $1 million a year from each tunnel.

Sharif Abu Daf, 30, used to work as a contractor in Gaza City until Israel closed the commercial crossings and prevented cement and other construction materials from coming in. Now he is digging to feed his wife and his six children and making 120 shekels, about $32, a day.

The tunnel owners have brought little change to Rafah, which they consider a conservative backwater. Instead, they prefer to invest their money in property in Gaza City and beyond.

"We make millions, but we are not educated," said Imad, 29, one of Osama's partners. Some local men, he noted, marry more than one wife. "If I want to invest, I'll go to Morocco. I heard it is a beautiful place. They have a normal government."

"What's the point of having so much money when you are not able to travel?" said Hazim, 23, another partner who started out digging tunnels. He said he wanted to go to Egypt, study business administration and then invest in Cairo.

"They have never seen beyond Gaza," said Imad's father-in-law, Abu Mohammed, 57, of the younger generation. "They think like they are in a tunnel," he continued. "They have never seen malls or real supermarkets like I saw in Dubai."


Goldstone rapport Gaza Oorlog ondermijnt vertrouwen in internationaal recht

Israel had misschien beter kunnen meewerken aan het onderzoek van de commissie Goldstone naar de Gaza Oorlog, maar haar begrijpelijke weigering ontslaat de commissie er niet van om alle relevante informatie te bestuderen en even serieus te nemen en op dezelfde manier te beoordelen. Ook had men voor de behandelde incidenten alternatieve interpretaties en mogelijkheden in ogenschouw moeten nemen, zoals een rechter ook alternatieve interpretaties van gebeurtenissen, bewijzen, verklaringen etc. in overweging moet nemen. Voor alles moet een rechter echter neutraal zijn en zich niet al voor hij een zaak behandelt over de schuld van de verdachte uitlaten, zoals een medewerkster van de commissie Goldstone deed. Goldstone komt nou met het slappe excuus dat het geen juridisch onderzoek was maar een 'fact finding mission', en dat nader onderzoek nodig is.

Among its most damning findings, the report states that Israeli forces indiscriminately attacked universities, mosques and civilian areas. Its pages are full of testimony from witnesses, or partial witnesses or, more accurately, non-witnesses who heard stories from their brother-in-law who knows someone who was almost there. As Goldstone has described it, "We had to do the best we could with the material we had."
There are many tragedies in Gaza that deserve proper investigation, including death and destruction on both sides. But the biggest tragedy of the Goldstone report is the damage done to international law. Goldstone, a renowned jurist, has wasted his reputation on a deeply flawed and biased report. It will undermine faith in the rule of international law for any who, apparently unlike the members of the UNHRC, actually take the time to read it.

Goldstone report undermines faith in international law
October 22, 2009
Ed Morgan - Professor of law at the University of Toronto

The Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on Gaza has now been endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council as documenting Israeli war crimes.
But from a legal point of view, the Goldstone report is full of more holes than the tunnel-riddled strip along the Gaza-Egypt border.
Despite its 574-page girth and the heaviness of its potential impact, the actual evidence compiled against Israel is rather thin. Justice Richard Goldstone himself has worried that the UN action on the report is being treated as conclusive when it was never intended that way. "If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven," Goldstone told a reporter.
Among its most damning findings, the report states that Israeli forces indiscriminately attacked universities, mosques and civilian areas. Its pages are full of testimony from witnesses, or partial witnesses or, more accurately, non-witnesses who heard stories from their brother-in-law who knows someone who was almost there. As Goldstone has described it, "We had to do the best we could with the material we had."
A careful read through the seemingly weighty report reveals that, legally, they didn't have much.
For example, the report describes the Israeli attack on Gaza's Islamic University, stating: "These were civilian, educational buildings and the mission did not find any information about their use as a military facility."
Anyone with a normal university campus in mind would agree, unless they were in the habit of watching Palestinian television. The Islamic University was previously featured as the site of clashes between Fatah and Hamas gunmen, with Fatah soldiers identifying it as a weapons laboratory for the new and improved Qassam rockets that Hamas fires by the thousands into Israel. Palestinian Authority television had a full display of the weapons cache found in the Islamic University at the time.
The report also condemns the destruction of several mosques in Gaza by Israeli fire, finding no basis for the Israeli allegations that mosques were used as launching points for Hamas attacks and as weapons storage facilities. Again, anyone with a normal image of a house of worship in mind would have to agree.
But the "fact-finding" mission did not seem to gather all of the facts. Israeli soldiers testifying at Tel Aviv's Rabin Academy after the war displayed first-hand photographs – not hearsay accounts from a friend of a friend – showing weapons stored in Gaza mosques and Hamas gunmen using mosques as firing platforms. Goldstone has complained that the Israelis did not cooperate with the mission, but the IDF testimony is publicly available for anyone, including the UN's "fact finders," to see.
Finally, the report condemns Israel for the many civilian deaths in Gaza. In response to Israeli accounts – again, well photographed – that Hamas forces concentrated themselves in civilian populated areas, the report put its head in the sand: "The mission notes that those interviewed in Gaza appeared reluctant to speak about the presence of or conduct of hostilities by the Palestinian armed groups."
But if they couldn't get locals to talk, and if they didn't want to look at Israeli evidence, they could have paid attention to Hamas spokesman Fathi Hammad, who when interviewed described his organization as being at one with the people of Gaza: "This is why they have formed humans shields of the women, the children, the elderly and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine."
Now that's a war crime.
There are many tragedies in Gaza that deserve proper investigation, including death and destruction on both sides. But the biggest tragedy of the Goldstone report is the damage done to international law. Goldstone, a renowned jurist, has wasted his reputation on a deeply flawed and biased report. It will undermine faith in the rule of international law for any who, apparently unlike the members of the UNHRC, actually take the time to read it.

Richard Goldstone: VN Gaza rapport bevat geen juridische bewijzen

Richard Goldstone zegt dat zijn bevindingen niet bikkelhard zijn, maar zijn beschuldigingen en conclusies tegenover Israel zijn dat wel, net als de felle kritiek op Israel naar aanleiding van dit rapport. Goldstone zegt:
For all that gathered information, though, he said, "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."
Goldstone emphasized that his conclusion that war crimes had been committed was always intended as conditional. He still hopes that independent investigations carried out by Israel and the Palestinians will use the allegations as, he said, "a useful road map."
Het lijkt op een slappe uitvlucht om, als blijkt dat een en ander toch wat anders in elkaar zit, zijn gezicht te kunnen redden. Op weblogs als Elder of Ziyon wordt tot in detail aangetoond dat van alles niet klopt, dat gedode Hamas terroristen onterecht als burgers worden vermeld, dat 'onschuldige' getuigen betrokken blijken te zijn bij Hamas en men cijfers van een aan Hamas geliëerde organisatie gebruikt als betrouwbare bron. Onterecht worden de getroffen Hamas 'politieagenten' als burgers neergezet, ondanks bewijs dat zo'n driekwart of meer bij de Al Qassam Brigades actief is. Ook in onderstaand artikel wordt verwezen naar de dodenlijsten van Hamas en Islamitische Jihad, waarop verschillende namen prijken van 'onschuldige' slachtoffers van Israels bombardementen op bijvoorbeeld een moskee.
Als er niks bewezen kan worden, en men blijkbaar slechts kan speculeren, dan moet men zich verre houden van vergaande conclusies als dat Israel bewust burgers tot doel had. Men had kunnen concluderen dat nog veel vragen onbeantwoord zijn en nader onderzoek nodig is, liefst door beide partijen zelf. De kans dat Israel daartoe zou besluiten is bovendien een stuk groter wanneer een fair onderzoek daartoe oproept dan een dat Israel zonder fatsoenlijk bewijs als de slechterik en grote oorlogsmisdadiger neerzet.
Goldstone: 'If This Was a Court Of Law, There Would Have Been Nothing Proven.'
At Odds: Richard Goldstone, in his New York office, says his report on Gaza presents only tentative findings. But the document makes bold allegations that haven't been scrutinized.

By Gal Beckerman
Published October 07, 2009, issue of October 16, 2009.

The incident detailed in paragraphs 713 through 716 of the Goldstone Report, if accurate, was a moment of indiscriminate terror.

A hundred members of the extended al-Samouni family are gathered together in one house, ordered there by Israeli soldiers patrolling their Gaza neighborhood of Zeytoun as part of Operation Cast Lead. Five men step out of the house to collect firewood. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a missile strikes them, fired, possibly, from an Apache helicopter. Two or three more missiles follow, this time aimed directly at the house. In all, 21 family members are killed, among them many women and small children. When the surviving al-Samounis attempt to leave and make their way to Gaza City, they are told by an Israeli soldier to return to the house, to "go back to death."

A few pages later, in paragraphs 822 through 826, there's another scene of seemingly unprovoked violence. In a mosque on the outskirts of Jabilyah, somewhere between 200 and 300 men and women are gathered for the evening prayer. An explosion rips the front door off its hinges and flings it all the way across the room. A missile has struck the mosque's entrance, killing 15 people, some kneeling mid-prayer. A boy sitting by the door has his leg blown off.

The details are hard to turn away from, but they have, in fact, been largely ignored. Instead, the heated conversation about the Goldstone Report, the United Nations fact-finding mission led by Richard Goldstone, an internationally respected jurist and a South African Jew, has revolved mostly around political questions - charges of imbalance, lack of context and a history of anti-Israel bias on the part of the U.N. Human Rights Council, which gave Goldstone his charge.

Goldstone's findings themselves have, meanwhile, been left largely unexamined. The 36 specific incidents he focuses on in his report paint a disturbing picture of an Israeli army purposefully targeting unarmed civilians. But the facts of the report are built mostly on testimonies of Palestinian eyewitnesses, which have received little scrutiny or verification. Critics also call attention to parts of the commission's work that they say was sloppily done, without sufficient cross-examination and double checking of information. Alternative interpretations of the incidents described are not considered, let alone fully explored.

Israel's decision to refuse to cooperate with the Goldstone Commission as it was doing its work - a decision questioned even by some critics of the report - doubtless played a role in this. Tellingly, in an interview with the Forward on October 2, Goldstone himself acknowledged the tentative nature of his findings.

"Ours wasn't an investigation, it was a fact-finding mission," he said, sitting in his Midtown Manhattan office at Fordham University Law School, where he is currently visiting faculty. "We made that clear."

Goldstone defended the report's reliance on eyewitness accounts, noting his mission had cross-checked those accounts against each other and sought corroboration from photos, satellite photos, contemporaneous reports, forensic evidence and the mission's own inspections of the sites in question.

For all that gathered information, though, he said, "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."

Goldstone emphasized that his conclusion that war crimes had been committed was always intended as conditional. He still hopes that independent investigations carried out by Israel and the Palestinians will use the allegations as, he said, "a useful road map."

He recalled his work as chief prosecutor for the international war crimes tribunal in Yugoslavia in 1994. When he began working, Goldstone was presented with a report commissioned by the U.N. Security Council based on what he said was a fact-finding mission similar to his own in Gaza.

"We couldn't use that report as evidence at all," Goldstone said. "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."

Nevertheless, the report itself is replete with bold and declarative legal conclusions seemingly at odds with the cautious and conditional explanations of its author. The report repeatedly refers, without qualification, to specific violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention committed by Israel and other breaches of international law. Citing particular cases, the report determines unequivocally that Israel "violated the prohibition under customary international law" against targeting civilians. These violations, it declares, "constitute a grave breach" of the convention.

It is this rush to judgment based on what critics believe to be unsubstantiated allegations that has angered some who have delved into the details.

"If the accusations are true they are very serious," said Avi Bell, a law professor at Bar-Ilan University. "But they are still just accusations. That doesn't make them true in and of themselves. That's where the fact-finding should begin, not where it should end."

Goldstone said he believed Israel did have a "responsibility" to respond in some way to the incessant Hamas missiles from Gaza. It was the form this response took that, he said, "amounted to reprisals and collective punishment, and constitute war crimes."

The report's brief against Israel can be broken down into two broad categories. For the first, it uses satellite maps, eyewitness accounts and on-the-ground inspection to illustrate many instances in which large civilian infrastructure sites in Gaza were targeted and destroyed - food storage centers, water supply sources, agricultural land, sewage plants, as well as police stations and the legislative building in Gaza City. The only explanation for this kind of targeting, said Goldstone, is to collectively punish the population. Indeed, most legal experts agree that targeting such non-military sites is a war crime. But in its own published report on Cast Lead, issued in July, Israel openly acknowledges hitting these non-military targets, characterizing them instead as part of the "Hamas terrorist infrastructure," and therefore legitimate objects for attack.

It is the second category of charges in the report that many Israelis condemn furiously as a kind of blood libel, contesting not only Goldstone's legal conclusions about what happened, but also that the events in question happened at all.

Goldstone asserts that the Israeli army, in a few detailed instances, specifically targeted unarmed, non-combatants on the ground in conditions where no fighting was taking place. If true, these would be serious breaches of Israel's own "Law of Armed Conflict." Unlike the destruction of infrastructure, Israel has repeatedly emphasized in public that under no circumstances does it condone shooting of civilians. While not disclosing details, the Israeli army has said that it is looking into 100 complaints related to the Gaza operation and is currently conducting 13 criminal investigations.

In a section entitled, "Deliberate Attacks Against the Civilian Population," Goldstone's report examines 11 incidents, including the al-Samouni family deaths and the strike against the al-Maqadmah mosque in Jabaliyah. Both have also been cited repeatedly by Goldstone in his public comments as particularly egregious examples of what he termed Israel's criminal conduct during the war.

In the al-Samouni case, the report lists its sources of information. Five members of the family were interviewed, as well as a few neighbors. The mission also interviewed Palestinian Red Crescent personnel who said they sought but were denied permission by the Israeli Army to come to the aid of those wounded. Mission members visited the site of the house that was hit in the attack. Goldstone described sitting with the family among the debris of their destroyed house. Material from other NGOS - it doesn't distinguish which ones - were also reviewed. The mission also examined photos that appeared to verify the deaths of the 21 men, women and children the witnesses said died.

But for the most part, the actual details of the events that took place on the morning of January 5, 2009, resulting in the 21 deaths, were pieced together from eyewitness testimony.

Israel responded dismissively to initial reports of the Army's attack on the home of Wa'el al-Samouni. On January 9, Israeli Army spokesman Jacob Dallal denied that the army gathered any large group of people into the house or that any attack had taken place on any house in the neighborhood at all. It is a statement the army has never amended.

Despite this declaration, the Goldstone report shows photos of Wa'el al-Samouni's home, taken on January 18, when the surviving family members were finally able to return. The photos "show feet and legs sticking out from under the rubble and sand, and rescuers pulling out the bodies of women, men and children," the report notes. The house, and most other houses in the neighborhood had been demolished, the report adds.

Some have challenged the report's version. These critics raise questions as to whether the Samounis' neighborhood was fully pacified when the Israeli Army shelled the house, as the report contends. Jonathan Halevi, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Israel army, submitted material to the commission citing accounts of combat by Palestinian armed groups that he argued disproved many assertions made in the report.

The Goldstone report made use of Halevi's material, finding that they actually supported Goldstone's own findings. But Halevi faulted Goldstone for failing to look into similar material freely available elsewhere on-line.

In the material Halevi sent to the commission about the Samouni incident, he focused exclusively on the military activity of Hamas in the area at the time in question. He found there was none and Goldstone cited this in the report as evidence that fighting had ended. But Halevi said that other information - specifically, the Web sites of other militant groups - would have made it clear that another militia, Islamic Jihad, was operating in the area on the morning in question.

"From the report you can get the impression that Israel operated in the Gaza Strip in a vacuum, which means there was almost no resistance," said Halevi, who was an adviser to the Policy Planning Division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is currently a researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Halevi has studied the names of those killed in the incursion and matched them with lists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants listed on websites for the two groups. He contends that not only was fighting ongoing near the al-Samouni's house, but that some of the men in the al-Samouni family were actually connected with Islamic Jihad and that the attack might not have been as unprovoked and indiscriminate as presented in the report. If the Palestinian witnesses had been cross-examined to establish their credibility, Halevi said, a more complex picture might have emerged.

Others have raised more general concerns about the reliance on eyewitness testimony.

"People don't see what they think they see," said Bell, the Bar Ilan law professor. "They don't remember what they think they remember. That's in the best of circumstances when they are trying to give you accurate information. In this case, what you have are witnesses that, for the most part, are living under a totalitarian government and subject to systematic intimidation. And also, they are living in a long time war zone where they have extreme hostility to the other side."

Goldstone has referred to the mosque incident as a case where there is no other possible interpretation for what could have occurred other than a deliberate targeting of civilians. Besides the eyewitness accounts, the mission visited the mosque and conducted a forensic investigation. In his talk with the Forward, Goldstone emphasized what set apart this attack as a war crime.

"Assuming that weapons were stored in the mosque, it would not be a war crime to bomb it at night," Goldstone said. "It would be a war crime to bomb it during the day when 350 people are praying."

As with the al-Samouni house, Israel denied at the time that an attack on the mosque had taken place at all.

But critics have also questioned whether the clear cut version of the attack that appears in the report is the whole story. According to Halevi's research, as well as the investigative work of an anonymous blogger called "Elder of Ziyon" - both of whom crosschecked websites for Islamic Jihad and Hamas - among the 15 dead were six men who they contend were members of the Al Qassam Brigades, Hamas's paramilitary wing.

Because the blast hit just outside the mosque, Halevi posits that it was perhaps a drone attack aimed at a group of militants meeting nearby. Because the mosque had unexpectedly combined its sunset and evening prayers that day, as the report itself describes, the Israelis might have come to the false conclusion that the mosque itself was empty, he speculated.

The report does not entertain such other possibilities or address the coincidence that so many of the dead were, according to Halevi, militants, by Hamas' own listing. At the end of the section on the mosque attack, the report arrives at its conclusion: Based on accounts "from multiple witnesses" as well as viewing the site, Israel violated international law, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Goldstone maintains that the burden is now on Israel to counter these findings through its own probe.

"If I was advising Israel, I would say have open investigations," he told the Forward. "In that way, you can put an end to this. It's in the interest of all the people of Israel that if any of our allegations are established and if they're criminal, there should be prosecutions. And if they're false, that should be established. And I wouldn't consider it in any way embarrassing if many of the allegations turn out to be disproved."

Goldstone rejected the credibility of the army's secret investigation of itself. He noted that none of the Palestinian witnesses he had met reported having been contacted by the army to hear their account. Instead, he offered the example of the Israeli investigation into the Sabra and Shatilla massacres, commissioned by Menachem Begin, as a model to emulate.

The United States has so far blocked action against Israel in the United Nations regarding the Goldstone Report - even convincing Palestinians to drop their push in the U.N. Human Rights Council to reach a Security Council resolution. The matter has been postponed until March of next year. But lately, the United States has also been publicly urging Israel to conduct an independent and open investigation.

As a democracy, said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly on October 5, "Israel ha[s] the kind of institutions that could address these allegations. And, of course, we urged Israel to address these very serious allegations."

Contact Gal Beckerman at


Volgens oprichter is Human Rights Watch de weg kwijt betreffende Israël

Veel organisaties die nu eenzijdig gefocused zijn op Israel waren dat vroeger niet. De stichter van Human Rights Watch sprak onlangs in The New York Times zijn ongenoegen uit voor deze koersverandering bij HRW. Het is jammer dat niet meer mensen de moed hebben de vooringenomenheid van op zichzelf goede en gerenommeerde organisaties als Amnesty International, de VN, diverse ontwikkelingsorganisaties en linkse politieke partijen aan de kaak te stellen. Het verexcuseren van alles wat de Palestijnen doen en veroordelen van iedere Israelische militaire actie (en welhaast iedere andere Israelische activiteit) heeft weinig met de idealen van de derde wereldbeweging en progressieve politiek te maken. Hamas en Hezbollah zijn in feite extreem reactionaire en totalitaire bewegingen.
Op-Ed Contributor

Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast

Published: October 19, 2009


AS the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman emeritus, I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group's critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.

At Human Rights Watch, we always recognized that open, democratic societies have faults and commit abuses. But we saw that they have the ability to correct them - through vigorous public debate, an adversarial press and many other mechanisms that encourage reform.

That is why we sought to draw a sharp line between the democratic and nondemocratic worlds, in an effort to create clarity in human rights. We wanted to prevent the Soviet Union and its followers from playing a moral equivalence game with the West and to encourage liberalization by drawing attention to dissidents like Andrei Sakharov, Natan Sharansky and those in the Soviet gulag - and the millions in China's laogai, or labor camps.

When I stepped aside in 1998, Human Rights Watch was active in 70 countries, most of them closed societies. Now the organization, with increasing frequency, casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies.

Nowhere is this more evident than in its work in the Middle East. The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.

Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world - many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch's Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.

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.

Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch's criticism.

The organization is expressly concerned mainly with how wars are fought, not with motivations. To be sure, even victims of aggression are bound by the laws of war and must do their utmost to minimize civilian casualties. Nevertheless, there is a difference between wrongs committed in self-defense and those perpetrated intentionally.

But how does Human Rights Watch know that these laws have been violated? In Gaza and elsewhere where there is no access to the battlefield or to the military and political leaders who make strategic decisions, it is extremely difficult to make definitive judgments about war crimes. Reporting often relies on witnesses whose stories cannot be verified and who may testify for political advantage or because they fear retaliation from their own rulers. Significantly, Col. Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and an expert on warfare, has said that the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza "did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare."

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.


Robert L. Bernstein, the former president and chief executive of Random House, was the chairman of Human Rights Watch from 1978 to 1998.

A version of this article appeared in print on October 20, 2009, on page A31 of the New York edition.