Rethinking Goldstone?

[Editor's Note: In light of the recent Washington Post op-ed in which Goldstone seemed to be retreating on some of what his UN report on Israeli and Hamas human rights violations took place during Israel's invasion of Gaza in Dec. 2008 and Jan. 2009, Tikkun author Mitchell Plitnick provides us with a way to think of what we like to call our "progressive middle path" that is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine, and critical of both sides as well.]

Quite frankly, the Goldstone Report on the Israeli devastation of the Gaza Strip and Hamas rocket firing during what was called Operation Cast Lead has been a fiasco of politicization from day one.

Back in November of 2009, I wrote a piece looking at some of the basic flaws with the Report, but also why it was so very important. Now, Richard Goldstone himself has written an op-ed in the Washington Post that seems to be a retreat from the Report he was the lead author of and that only serves to stir up the hornets’ nest even further.

The politicization has come from both sides, left and right. This is reflected in the responses to the report. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that in light of Goldstone’s op-ed the entire report should be scrapped. On the other side, Adam Horowitz, who recently co-edited a book on the Goldstone Report, says the UN report which prompted Goldstone’s op-ed only proves that the issue needs to be brought before the International Criminal Court.

For me, the whole episode, from start to finish, simply shows the naiveté of the concept that somehow human rights and international law can be applied objectively and not subjected to political influences.

I had problems with all of this from the beginning. Israel’s constant framing of so many criticisms as anti-Semitism or at least anti-Israel bias has turned into a cry of wolf that only its passionate devotees treat with credibility these days. But when it comes to the UN Human Rights Council, the accusation not only has merit, but is absolutely spot-on.

The UNHRC has only one country, Israel, under permanent review, and as of 2010, almost half its resolutions had to do with Israel. Its rapporteur on the issue is charged only with reviewing Israeli human rights violations, not Palestinian ones. The mere fact that an international human rights body includes among its members such states as China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Thailand, and until just a few weeks ago, Libya (and the inclusion of the US, responsible for so many human rights violations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Guantanamo Bay, which executes developmentally disabled people, and so many other stains on its human rights record that are ongoing hardly helps) already calls its legitimacy into question. Its record on Israel should have necessitated that another body be overseeing the volatile investigation into Operation Cast Lead.

The fact that Goldstone himself had to refuse the assignment unless the mandate for it was expanded to include all actors, not only Israel, not only reinforces the issue of anti-Israel bias at the UNHRC, but also the fact that these are not legal/criminal investigations, but political ones.

Then the report came out, and an endless barrage of comments ensued. Most of those comments came from so-called “pro-Israel” pundits, mostly those who are not defending Israel, but rather its occupation and other policies which are leading to Israel’s demise. And most of those comments dealt not at all with the substance of the Goldstone Report, but rather with the bias of the UNHRC, and trumped-up charges of hatred of Israel and even of Jews against the group that assembled that report. The most scathing attacks — in keeping with a strategy of targeting alleged “traitors to the tribe” that we’ve seen manifested again recently in Israel’s Orwellian investigation of J Street and the ADL’s unwarranted attacks on Jewish Voice for Peace — were reserved for Goldstone himself. The South African jurist and self-proclaimed Zionist was mercilessly pelted with all sorts of scurrilous claims.

And now we have Goldstone’s latest contribution to the circus.

There’s an irony to all of this. The Goldstone Report was not a document of verdict of any kind. It raised questions and recommended investigation. Yet the left interpreted it as an indictment of Israel and Israel and its supporters reacted just the same. Now Goldstone’s words are being defined as much more of a retreat than they are.

Goldstone has maintained from the beginning, quite accurately, that the chief recommendation of his report was for the parties involved to investigate these allegations themselves. He also bemoaned from the beginning that Israel refused to cooperate with the investigation and that if they had, the results may well have been different. In his op-ed, he reiterates these very valid points.

Indeed, much of his piece simply reflects things he has been saying all along, from before the investigation started, while he was engaged in it and after the report came out.

That said, he does say some things that seem, at best, puzzling. Chief among these is his flat statement that the UN committee following up on his report “…indicate[s] that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.” In fact, the committee’s report says nothing of the kind. As Horowitz points out: “This endorsement of the Israeli investigation is directly contradicted by the expert’s report he appears to be referencing.”

Horowitz goes on to quote from the committee’s report:

“The Committee does not have sufficient information to establish the current status of the on-going criminal investigations into the killings of Ateya and Ahmad Samouni, the attack on the Wa’el al-Samouni house and the shooting of Iyad Samouni. This is of considerable concern: reportedly 24 civilians were killed and 19 were injured in the related incidents on 4 and 5 January 2009. Furthermore, the events may relate both to the actions and decisions of soldiers on the ground and of senior officers located in a war room, as well as to broader issues implicating the rules of engagement and the use of drones. There are also reports indicating that the MAG’s decision to investigate was opposed by the then Head of the IDF Southern Command. Media reports further inform that a senior officer, who was questioned “under caution” and had his promotion put on hold, told investigators that he was not warned that civilians were at the location. However, some of those civilians had been ordered there by IDF soldiers from that same officer’s’ unit and air force officers reportedly informed him of the possible presence of civilians. Despite allegedly being made aware of this information, the officer apparently approved air strikes that killed 21 people and injured 19 gathered in the al-Samouni house. Media sources also report that the incident has been described as a legitimate interpretation of drone photographs portrayed on a screen and that the special command investigation, initiated ten months after the incidents, did not conclude that there had been anything out of the ordinary in the strike. As of 24 October 2010, according to media reports, no decision had been made as to whether or not the officer would stand trial. The same officer who assertedly called in the strike reportedly insisted that ambulances not enter the sector under his control, fearing attempts to kidnap soldiers.”

Horowitz is right in saying that is hardly an indication that there was no policy of targeting civilians.

There were reasons many thought there was such a policy. One was a comment made by an Israeli official, Dov Weisglass in 2006 regarding the siege on Gaza generally, not Cast Lead: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger… The hunger pangs are supposed to encourage the Palestinians to force Hamas to change its attitude towards Israel or force Hamas out of government.” This indicates a strategy of collective punishment as a means to induce the population to rise up against their rulers.

Was this still in place at the end of 2008? Consider the words of Matan Vilnai, the Deputy Secretary of Defense in the Olmert government in February 2008: “The more Qassam [rocket] fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah [note: “Shoah” is the Hebrew word referring to the Holocaust] because we will use all our might to defend ourselves… We’re getting close to using our full strength. Until now, we’ve used a small percentage of the army’s power because of the nature of the territory.”

Other statements by Israeli military and political leaders during Cast Lead indicate that Israel unilaterally decided to expand the definition of legitimate targets, basing their decision on the fact that the civilian infrastructure in Gaza was controlled by a recognized terrorist organization. From B’Tselem’s “Guidelines for Investigation Into Operation Cast Lead”:

On 30 December 2008, following an attack on buildings in the Gaza city government  complex, the IDF Spokesperson stated that the air force had attacked three buildings in the complex, “in which the government’s activity is concentrated, and which support financing, planning, and carrying out terrorist acts.” The announcement continued: “Attacking this strategic governmental objective was executed following the prolonged firing of the Hamas terror organization at Israeli territory, and in the framework of IDF activity to strike at the governmental infrastructure and the military wing.” Two days later, on 1 January, following the attack on the building of the Legislative Council and the Ministry of Justice, the IDF Spokesperson’s Office issued a similar announcement: “Attacks on strategic governmental objectives, which are part of Hamas’ government apparatus, is a direct response to the prolonged firing of the Hamas terror organization at communities in southern Israel.”

As opposed to other announcements made by the IDF Spokesperson regarding various bombing and shelling throughout the operation, the above announcements did not claim that the buildings served any military purposes, such as munitions storage or cover for armed Palestinians. This disparity indicates that the reason for striking these targets was not related to the purposes for which they were being used.

Statements by Israeli officials, according to which Israel deems everything connected to Hamas a legitimate target, strengthen this conclusion. In an article published in the Washington Post, Major Avital Leibovich, of the IDF Spokesperson’s Office, said that the military had indeed expanded the list of its targets, in comparison with previous operations, contending that Hamas uses civilian activity to cover up its military actions. Consequently, she argued, “everything related to Hamas is a legitimate target.”

The deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Dan Harel, at a meeting with heads of local authorities in southern Israel said as follows: “We are striking not only terrorists and launchers, but the entire Hamas administration, and all its arms… We are striking government buildings, manufacturing plants, security branches, and so forth. We demand governmental responsibility from Hamas and we do not distinguish between the various branches. Following the operation, no Hamas building will be left standing.”

Moreover, B’Tselem investigated each and every death in Operation Cast Lead and found that of 1,396 Palestinian fatalities, 763 were not taking part in hostilities when they were killed (an additional 32 could not be classified as to whether they were taking part in hostilities or not). Of the 601 who did not fall into that group, 248 were police who were killed in police stations, and whom Israel claims were part of the Hamas armed force. Whether those police really did qualify as legitimate targets is an open question, one which absolutely cries out for an impartial determination, as it could set a dangerous precedent for others.

That leaves an awful lot to investigate regarding Israel’s policy, as well as its specific actions in Cast Lead. Is it an indictment of crime, much less proof? Absolutely not. Perhaps Israel can demonstrate that they took adequate care to ensure they were targeting combatants and minimizing civilian casualties—that is all that is required under international humanitarian law.

But it is certainly clear that a serious investigation is needed. The UN Committee of independent experts charged with following up on Goldstone explicitly complains that Israel has not adequately investigated the questions of policy raised by Cast Lead, and that the investigations that have taken place have often been opaque, casting doubt on the veracity of the results, which have seen only three cases prosecuted so far. And that, it seems to me, from an international law perspective, is the most important question.

Goldstone, in his op-ed, seems to be making a very big deal out of the fact that Israel has gone much farther than Hamas in complying with the Report’s call for investigation. True, for sure, but is that really an adequate standard? Is any Israeli really proud to say “Hey, we’ve done a lot better than Hamas?”

The Goldstone Report was taken as a declaration of Israel’s guilt of war crimes by many on the left, including some who are more sympathetic to Israel but were outraged by devastation Israel let loose on the people of Gaza. It was never that.

But neither was it some attempt to “get” Israel, as it was portrayed by supporters of Israeli militarism and occupation. The Report raised serious questions, and it did not stand alone. Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, Gisha and many other human rights organizations also raised serious issues.

The strategy of the increasingly loony and fanatical “anti-de-legitimization” crew has been to attack the messenger, rather than the substance. Yet these questions are legitimate, and should be asked even if Israel acted in perfect compliance with the law and with every caution to protect civilian lives. And they have yet to be adequately addressed.

The UN report to which Goldstone referred in his op-ed says that “Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza.” It has indeed done this, much of it only after the storm Goldstone unleashed.

But those investigations have occurred, and absent any clear standard which they fall short of (and, like the situation with proportionality, which I discussed in another piece recently, there are no clearly established guidelines for what is a viable and credible investigation), I cannot agree with Adam Horowitz when he says that the matter should now move to the International Criminal Court.

But neither can the results of the Goldstone Report and the conclusions of the follow-up committee be dismissed.

In the end, these are not simple criminal investigations. The entire process is not a legal one which is held to some sort of standard of objectivity. It has been subject to political pressures from ALL DIRECTIONS from the very beginning, and every time a new twist in this saga hits the news, everyone tries to spin it to their advantage.

Until we have clearer guidelines under the law for such investigations and mechanisms to ensure that all parties are treated fairly, we have to move forward with a clear consciousness that these proceedings are much more political than legalistic.

And the best political response to all this noise around Goldstone is to push for a unified international program that will protect all civilians, Israeli and Palestinian, without discrimination. That, by the way, would probably also serve to smooth a path for broader political progress on the conflict in general.

tags: Israel/Palestine   
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53 Responses to Rethinking Goldstone?

  1. Morris Schreibman April 3, 2011 at 6:58 am

    Am I understanding Mitchell Plitnick correctly? Is he saying that now that Justice Goldstone is reassessing his position – in light of the investigations which Israel has conducted as a response to the Goldstone report – that the complete process was unrealistic from the beginning?

    I think that Mitchell is missing the very significant points of Mr. Goldstone’s recent comments:
    (1) Israel’s investigation has satisfied Goldstone that the IDF never intentionally targeted civilians.

    (2) Goldstone emphasizes that while Israel did respond appropriately to his original report, that Hamas did not respond at all.

    (3) Goldstone acknowledges that Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas terror and that Hamas terror is exactly that: deliberate targeting of civilians.

    Perhaps the most significant aspect of Mr. Goldstone’s most recent comments is his integrity and willingness to reassess his positions in light of new evidence. All those people who embraced the Goldstone Report with enthusiasm when it was first released, are now obligated (if they have any personal integrity) to consider his reassessment.

    • john abraham April 4, 2011 at 2:05 pm

      A response to your three points.
      1. Mitchell did not miss the point. He states quite clearly his puzzlement with Goldstone’s outright assertion: that the U.N. follow-up Committee found Israel to not have the policy of attacking civilians. He then cites the report and finds no such corrobation of Goldstone’s claim.
      He further makes the point that the process of Israel investigating itself leaves us with no objective standard to verify the findings of the investigation.
      2.This point is disingenuous because it leaves out the fact that Hamas fully co-operated with the U.N. investigators when the report was in progress(Israel would not) – a much more objective standard than the alleged perpetrators investigating themselves.
      Besides this point, Goldstone has a definite slant to his recantation. Hamas is the criminal while Israel is seen as the moral victim whose image is tarnished by “mistakes” of some IDF soldiers.
      3. No one denies that Israel has the right to defend itself – but proportionally. True, Hamas acts criminally(and to my way of thinking irrationally) when it targets civilians with its rockets. However, these criminal acts must be seen in context – that is, in the context of the destruction Israel and the West (especially the U.S.)has wrought upon the Palestinian people. Also, to this point, the whole question of instigation is up for discussion. Does Israel instigate by intrusions and killings of Palestinians and then sit back and wait for the rockets to come (this is why I say the Hamas response is irrational because it gives Israel the moral high ground and justifies operations such as Cast Lead).

  2. john abraham April 4, 2011 at 4:00 am

    It is obvious that Judge Goldstone has “caved” due to the harrassment and ostracization he’s received. It’s equally obvious, that in doing so, he does Israel no favor as it enables its illegal and immoral behaviour.
    In my opinion, rather than trying to “whitewash” his unfortunate retraction, you should be explaining how, due to “information after the fact”, you gave the Tikkun Award to the wrong man.
    In this way, you would continue to uphold your integrity as an institution.

    • Morris Schreibman April 4, 2011 at 1:52 pm

      Mr. Abraham –

      Can you cite any specific evidence to support your contention that Judge Goldstone has “caved”?

      This is a man who stood up to the South African apartheid establishment for what he felt was justice, and then stood up to the mainstream world Jewish community for what he felt was justice, whom – as far as I know – never shied away from an invitation to debate the Report, his findings or his methods. I find it very difficult to accept the idea that he has suddenly “caved” in response to pressure from anybody. I find it much more reasonable to conclude that he continued to analyze the evidence as it was provided, and reassessed his thinking in light of that additional evidence. This kind of reassessment – and the integrity to publicly admit that he was reconsidering his findings strikes me as much more consistent with the personality and values of Mr. Goldstone as they has been presented to us over the last 3 years.

      I suggest that those people whom – in the absence of any concrete evidence whatsoever – now accuse Mr. Goldstone of caving into outside pressure are engaging in precisely the same character assassination against Goldstone that they have accused the international Jewish establishment of doing to him since the Report was released.

      • john abraham April 4, 2011 at 6:00 pm

        Mr. Schreibman:
        I acknowedge that Mr. Goldstone had an outstanding record of achievement. For this reason he received the Tikkun award.
        You ask for evidence of his having “caved”.
        It’s contained in the Editorial which we are currently discussing.
        In my earlier response to your 3 points I give reasons as to why I disagree with them. The points made tbere are part of the reason I believe Mr. Goldstone “caved”.
        Let me add here, that his most devastating conclusion – that Israeli policy was not to directly target civilians does not hold up under scrutiny. To back up his conclusion, he mentions new evidence that he did not possess during the Report period. However, he does not make a convincing argument supporting this new evidence. He forgets to mention that the Committee headed up by Judge Davis,which he cites as support, stated that Israel’s investigation of itself was inadequate in that it did not go to the heart of matter; that is, into the details of who designed, planned, and ordered Cast Lead. How could a man, with his legal acumen, in face of so many other reports, and contrary evidence, come to such a crucial conclusion – letting Israel off the hook?
        He caved!

        • Morris Schreibman April 4, 2011 at 8:44 pm

          Mr. Abraham –

          Can you please point out for me in Mitchell Plitnick’s original editorial evidence which specifically indicate that he “caved” due to the harassment and ostracization (ostricism is the correct word, I believe) he’s received”? I’m not asking for speculation; I’m asking for specific evidence that his change of behavior constituted an emotional surrender to social pressure.

          As far as I’m concerned, Goldstone should get the Tikkun award twice: once for the original report and the 2nd time for having the courage and integrity to re-examine his conclusions in the face of new evidence.

          • john abraham April 5, 2011 at 5:58 am

            Mr. Screibman:
            It is spelled ostracism. And, thank-you for pointing that out.
            I believe you’ve misunderstood which editorial I was referring to in my earlier comments and response.
            I’ve not been referring to Mitch Pitnick’s article but to Mr. Goldstone’s opinion piece in the Washington Post.
            As evidence, I have argued that he does not substantiate his reasons for stating that in Operation Cast Lead civilians were not targeted as a matter of Israeli policy. I have further argued that his piece is slanted condemning Hamas for not pursuing his recommended internal investigation without noting their initial full co-operation with Goldstone’s inquiry – something Israel would not do.
            I have also stated that Goldstone accepts, and lauds the internal investigation of Israel. To support this view, he cites the follow-up inquiry by Judge Davis’ committe while conveniently forgetting to mention that this same committee had serious reservations about this investigation; namely, that it did not inquire into who designed, planned, and ordered Cast Lead.
            As a result,in my opinion, he has in no way substantiated his, so called, “new evidence” which prompted him to change his view. O
            All of this has lead me to conclude that the pressure brought to bear on him was the cause for his reversal.

          • David April 5, 2011 at 9:02 am

            Morris, you might as well be talking tyo a wal. Just the other day, Goldstone was a Tikkunista hero. This just has to be terribly uncomfortable for the Jewish left.

          • john abraham April 6, 2011 at 9:28 am

            Mr. Screibman:
            I’m responding to your last reply. In this reply, you ended by asking:
            “Why is it so difficult for you to accept that he might have arrived at his re-consideration through an ongoing intellectual process?
            My succinct response!
            Mr. Goldstone offers “new evidence” as the reason for his retraction.
            His “new evidence” is based on the internal investigation by the Israeli government. Ridiculous!
            It is shameful that a man of his stature should offer such an, obviously, poor rationale (not intellectual) for his change.
            Unless he comes up with clear, believable, new evidence, then I would have to continue to assert that the pressure got to him and he caved.

          • Gene St.Onge April 6, 2011 at 12:48 pm


            By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask what this ‘new evidence’ that Goldstone has uncovered really is. I saw that John also asked for this, as has many others, but I haven’t seen an answer from you as yet. You’ve asked for hard evidence from everyone else. Where is yours – or, more specifically, Goldstone’s??

            Thank you.

        • David April 5, 2011 at 9:07 am

          John, you obviously do not knwo what it is like to fight a war in an urban area, especially when you enemy hides behind civilians. So muhc bias, so much resentment. How sad and how intellectually shallow.

          • Morris Schreibman April 5, 2011 at 11:41 pm

            Mr. Abraham –

            OK – so let us use your terminology: Goldstone “caved”.

            To what exactly did he cave?

            This is a man who did not cave to the very real and mortal threat of South African death squads, nor to the ostracism (I swear to you that Tikkun’s spell checker did not flag “ostricism” 2 nights ago) of his South African community. It is difficult to believe that this same man would now cave to ostracism and other social pressure from the Jewish community.

            This is a man who has based his entire professional career on the universal administration of justice and on the fundamental impartiality which is a prerequisite for any system of justice.

            This is a man who therefore might well be swayed by the extensive open debate which has resulted from the original report, as well as the official investigation reports which Israel has provided in response to the commission’s conclusions.

            So I’m perfectly happy to use your terminology ‘caved’ if you are willing to concede that he ‘caved’ to the force of argument and new evidence.

            Why is it so difficult for you to accept that he might have arrived at his reconsideration through ongoing intellectual process? Why do you feel constrained to discredit his reconsideration of earlier conclusions?

          • john abraham April 6, 2011 at 9:07 am

            No! Fortunately, I have not had to participate in urban warfare.
            But fair questions back to you: have you ever been occupied,your property taken away, lived in a ghetto, denied your freedom, deprived of basic rights,had family members killed, humiliated time and again at check points, …? If so,then, where is your compassion?

  3. Gene St.Onge April 4, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I’ve been reading Mitchell’s articles for years and have generally found them to be well thought out and enlightening. So, it was with great surprise and dismay that I found this latest editorial to be confusing and tortuous, and certainly not worthy of someone of Mitchell’s capabilities.

    Michell begins by claiming that human rights and international law cannot be applied objectively and without political influences. So, is he saying that international law, much of which grew out of the treatment of Jewish prisoners during WWII, should not be taken seriously nor applied here at all? And his attack on the Human Rights Council is a classic case of attacking the messenger rather than heeding the message. Let’s remember that the Goldstone Report was only one of a number of such reports on Operation Cast Lead. Its findings are consistent with those of PCHR, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Break the Silence, the UN Board of Inquiry and the Fact-Finding Mission of the Arab League. Does he find all of these authors and reports suspect as well?

    Michell, to his credit, agrees that Goldstone Report unearthed enough in the committee’s exhaustive research to warrant further investigation by both parties, Hamas and Israel. However, he then agrees with Goldstone’s claim that Israel has investigated over 400 allegations of operational misconduct. Indeed, he seems to praise Israel for conducting investigations, and issuing a report, while Hamas has done nothing. If Israel had conducted a thorough and transparent investigation of the IDF’s conduct during Operation Cast Lead, why have there been only 3 convictions (1 for credit card theft and two for using a child as a human shield [suspended sentence]while only one other soldier has been charged with a crime. You can make the argument that, what Israel has done (i.e. whitewashed its involvement in Cast Lead) is even worse that Hamas’totally ignoring its investigative responsibility altogether.

    Finally, Mitchell says that the the conclusions of the Goldstone Report cannot be dismissed, but should not be turned over to the ICC. Then he speaks ambiguously of establishing some sort of ‘clearer guidelines’ before further investigating the Report’s claims. Goldstone, himself, didn’t have any problem with turning over the investigation to the ICC should the individual parties fail to do so. This is the situation at this moment, and so the ICC is the logical body to take up this issue from here on.

    Mitchell’s ambiguities and contradictions stem from his continuing attempt to reconcile his deeply held commitment to Zionism with his heart-felt concern for the plight of the Palestinian people. The problem is that these two positions, i.e. commitment to justice for the Palestinians and commitment to a Jewish State, are irreconcilable. This is evident by simply looking at what has become of Zionism .It embodies the worst aspects of tribalism and, in the end, threatens to destroy, rather than protect, the Jewish people. It has already done a fine job in destroying Judge Goldstone, whose capitulation to Zionism has betrayed the trust the world community and further threatened the lives of innocent Palestinians. May his soul, wherever it is, rest in peace!

  4. David April 5, 2011 at 8:42 am

    My head is still spinning form the op-ed by Goldstone. This report produced nothing but grief for Israel. Israel was condemned by a world body. Tzipi Livni faced the threat of arrest for war crimes if she set foot in the UK. former Israeli officers may have been arrested as well for war crimes

    Israel’s only fault, and this has been a common complaint, is that they were not more forthcoming. But what does that matter. The Israeli govt was facing the HRC, who already drew up their own conclusions. Goldstone was merely a tool for them. yes, use a good Jew to make Israel look like a criminal sate, that will father re-enforce their Anti Semitism

    @ Gene St.Onge; Why would you expect more than one convictions from the Israeli side. Are you convinced there are other war crimes that are being hidden? If so on what basis? Come on, I want to read your claims. It is so knee jerking easy to point a BIG finger at Israel. And yet, you conveniently reserve any comment about Hamas.

    Israel has enough enemies who want erase her from the map, they do not need help form within the Jewish community. And Tikkun honored Goldstone based on this report.

    I suggest you re-check you moral compass.

    • Gene St.Onge April 5, 2011 at 10:05 am


      That was my point, i.e. don’t expect any country, or anyone for that matter, to investigate itself honestly and transparently. So, don’t consider Israel’s so-called investigation of its part in Operation Cast Lead as worth any more than the paper it’s printed on. Since, then, there has been no credible investigation by either of the parties, Israel or Hamas, we should follow Judge Goldstone’s and the committee’s advice and turn this over to the ICC.

      I suggest you read the Goldstone Report yourself, or at least the 45-page summary of it that you can find on-line. If you bother to do so you’ll find that the most serious allegations made in the report against Israel- and, to date, not retracted by anyone on the committee, including Goldstone, (as far as I know, but that could certainly change)- are the following:

      - Direct targeting of civilians.
      - Widespread indiscriminate attacks.
      - Indiscriminate and illegal choice of
      targets and methods of combat.
      - Extensive destruction of public and
      private infrastructure, including the
      destruction of 7872 housing units.

      There is, more specifically, the attack on the UNRWA headquarters, the attack on the Fakhoura School, the Abdul Dayem case, the Al-Dia case, the Abu Halima case and the attack on the Arafat Police compound. Also needing further investigation was the use of white phosphorous, and the artillery bombardment of civilian areas.

      There is more than enough here to justify further investigation. That’s all we want to see.

      As for my ‘moral compass’, it doesn’t discriminate based on race creed or color. It seeks even-handed justice for all people, regardless of their particular history. As someone once told me, the law works for everyone, or it works for no one!

      What does you ‘moral compass’ tell you??

  5. David April 5, 2011 at 11:02 am

    ” Direct targeting of civilians.
    - Widespread indiscriminate attacks.
    - Indiscriminate and illegal choice of
    targets and methods of combat.
    - Extensive destruction of public and
    private infrastructure, including the
    destruction of 7872 housing units”

    If you read goldstone’s op-ed, you will fid that he retracted the claim that Israel targeted civilian. If you care to even understand the nature of this war, Hamas chose to defend itself in heavily populated areas. if you care to review the legal rules of war, if shots are fired i a particular are, it becomes a legal war zone.

    In as urban war environment, defenders may chose any building to become a defensive position, whether it be a school a hospital or a police station. For Hams, this seems to be their mode of operation. Civilian casualties aid their publicity campaign. Do you think of ONE SECOND, that Hamas cares about civilian losses on their side? I will give you the simple answer, NO.

    Israel was facing an enemy that does not operate by the same rules of war. They are fighting group that has no moral standard. Don’t forget their army of suicide bombers who would routinely blow up buses in Israel. And don’t forget that in te past several days, Hamas rockets have been fired into Beer Sheva and Ashkelon

    In the next armed conflict with Hamas, Israel will have a huge problem on the hands. The whole world will be watching as Israel tries to surgically remove the rocket threat from southern Israel. Those rockets will be pouring into Ashdod, Sderot, and Beer Sheva, and you will be wishing Israeli soldiers and their leaders to be dragged off to The Hague.

    I will acknowledge that Gaza Palestinians are victims. They are victims of the very force holding them hostage, Hamas.

    BTW, my moral conmapsss tells me that Israel has EVERY right to defend its citizens agaist attack and the self rightious could scream al they want.

    • Gene St.Onge April 5, 2011 at 2:07 pm


      You’ve pushed the wrong button with me. Calling me an anti-Semite is totally unacceptable! It’s also unacceptable to my Jewish wife and friends, and all who see this as trivializing anti-Semitism by calling everyone who disagrees with the Israel government’s policies a anti-Semitic.

      Some moral compass you have there, David, that says you can do anything you want to defend yourself. No room for international law or human rights in your book!

      Don’t bother responding. I’m through wasting my time with you !

  6. Morris Schreibman April 5, 2011 at 11:47 pm


    Can you tell us specifically which of the Israeli government reports you have read which respond to the various incidents you cite, and specifically why you feel that these responses are inadequate or otherwise unacceptable?

    Can you also tell us why you would accept the Israeli accounts of these incidents with any less sceptical or critical appraisal than the original eye-witness reports?

    • Gene St.Onge April 6, 2011 at 9:39 am

      Mr. Schreibman,

      I’ll be more than happy to respond to your questions. However, it may be a day or so before I get back to you on this, since I run a business and have a lot to take care of right now. I also want to be as thorough in my response as possible.

      As for David’s comments, they are hardly worth a response. Clearly, trying to engage him in an honest give-and-take is impossible. His parroting of the unsubstantiated charges that I was a tool(also known as a ‘useful idiot’) of the ‘terrorist’ organization IHH makes clear that David has already swallowed the Kool Aid and is completely closed to any sort of independent, critical thought on the issue. (Note: you may want to do your own independent research on IHH to decide for yourself if it is, indeed, a terrorist organization. In doing so, take a close look at how it has most recently aided disaster victims in Haiti and Japan).Thankfully, Rabbi Lerner was gracious and open-minded enough to have me tell my flotilla story at High Holidays last year. It’s also been gratifying to me that the overwhelming majority of people I’ve met since my flotilla experience, including a substantial majority of Jews, have been very supportive of me and the efforts of the other humanitarians that attempted to bring relief to the besieged people of Gaza.

      • David April 6, 2011 at 10:30 am

        Gene, You were on a flotilla that attempted to abduct soldiers and hold them hostage. The moment those soldiers were assaulted; they opened fire in defense of their own lives. I saw the film clips and read the accounts. There were a cell of activists on that boat with knives and metal poles. If one of these soldiers was killed, the blood would have been on your hands. Why do you think that Hamas was all the more willing to support the flotilla mission?

        I am sure what you write here you would not say under oath in a court of law.

        I know the kinds of soldiers who serve in the elite commando units and they are under STRICT orders not to fire unless their lives are threatened.

        BTW, Gaza is well supplied with both food and long and medium range rockets. Most recently they have shot rockets into Beer Sheva and Ashkelon. Why do you support the murder of Israelis?

        Finally you claim I make ‘unsubstantiated charges: This is your quote:
        “” Direct targeting of civilians.
        - Widespread indiscriminate attacks.
        - Indiscriminate and illegal choice of
        targets and methods of combat.”

        You have yet to substantiate that claim. Why? Because you can’t. Goldstone’s op-ed seems to have proven it.

        • Gene St.Onge April 6, 2011 at 11:25 am


          I will answer you here. First of all, I certainly would say what I’ve said here under oath. Why wouldn’t I since I believe everything I’ve said. As for the incident on the Mavi Marmara, the press did a great job of reporting Israel’s implausible version of events, i.e. that Turkish ‘terrorists’ were planning to ambush one of the most sophisticated and fully armed defense forces in the world with nothing more than kitchen knives and pipe sections. But, they never checked with us, who were illegally imprisoned at the time and, also illegally, not allowed to talk to anyone on the outside. Our version, backed by individual accounts and, since then, practically supported by the IDF itself (see the article below)was that the commandos began firing on the passengers on the Mavi Marmara before they landed on the ship in order, as they saw it, to protect the commandos from those Turkish ‘terrorists’. Here’s the article, which was just published a few days ago:

          “The shooting and killing of peace activists on the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla almost a year ago was inevitable claim two Israeli journalists who have revealed the contents of secret documents detailing Israeli plans for attacking the ships. According to Dan Margalit and Ronen Bergman, the head of Israel’s Southern Command, General Yoav Galant, had warned more than a year ago of the consequences of trying to seize the flotilla of ships taking humanitarian aid to the besieged territory.

          Galant’s warning came in a discussion within Israel’s military High Command. The general said that the proposed boarding technique, an “air drop operation”, would not only “endanger soldiers’ lives” but would also mean that the soldiers would “have no choice but to open fire and kill many activists”.
          Nine peace activists were killed and many others were wounded when Israeli commandos boarded the ships from helicopters on 31 May 2010 while the flotilla was in international waters. The ships were taken under escort to an Israeli port and the surviving passengers were flown out of Israel following a short imprisonment and interrogation.”

          Not only did the commandos kill 9 Turks, but they killed at least 6 of them, execution style, with multiple shots to the head and chest.

          I imagine this is nearly impossible for you to accept, i.e. that the ‘world’s most moral army’ could do something like this. But, they can and they did.

          Keep your mind, and your heart, open and maybe we’ll get some place with this.

          • David April 6, 2011 at 12:07 pm

            With the exception of one, all of those ships were taken without incident. The one ship had a planted cell on it of IHH activists. Their plan whether you were a party to it or not, was to abduct soldiers.

            Israeli’s only error was not to anticipate that there might be such a planted cell. if the soldiers were endangered by boarding, that could only support the notion that there was a violent cell aboard. Why else would “peace activists” endanger the lives of soldiers?

            this blockade is not a joke,. Your flotilla of fools was a test run for a bolder flotilla, perhaps containing arms. israel is currently at war with Hamas, an organization that ahs shot countless rockets into Israeli towns. They are well within their rights to block traffic to Gaza. If you choose to try and break a blockade, then it only makes you a combatant. Any other nation imposing a blockade would have fired a warning shot. Absent a response, the ship would have been sunk. Israel did not do that,

            As for you detention, well, it seemed to last a few days. You were released and allowed to whine to the world about the mean Israelis.

            I somehow doubt you would give the same kind of narrative under the threat of committing perjury. . It is so easy to write fiction with no consequences. .Supporting a hams controlled territory only shows that you support terrorism. I will gladly remind you of that everytime a Grad or Qassam lands in Beer Sheva or Sderot. or when one of your kindred organizations such as the ISM runs cover for a suicide bomber.

            Seeing that you dismiss Goldstone’s retraction and stick with your own claim that the IDF targeted civilians, your credibility is shot here.

            Hatred of Israel is just another form of anti Semitism

            Just an FYI, I am a pround veteran of the IDF. I know all to well the rules of armed engagement

    • Gene St.Onge April 6, 2011 at 9:49 am

      One more thing. I just did a search on Germany’s policy regarding IHH and was unable to find anything about IHH being illegal in Germany. There is also an IHH organization in Germany and some controversy as to whether or not it has the same roots. But, I’ve found nothing that says it’s illegal there. Meanwhile, and more importantly, despite Israel’s tireless efforts, the US State Dept. has refused to label IHH as a terrorist organization. That’s far more meaningful and telling than anything some other nation may have done.

  7. David April 6, 2011 at 5:17 am

    Mr.St Onge cannot use specifics, nbecasue he ahs none. He is convinced that Israel has an army of war criminals.

    • Gene St.Onge April 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm

      BTW, where’s your evidence re: IHH being a ‘terrorist organization’? I’m looking for clarification of this, particularly your claim that it is illegal in Germany. Also, why do you suppose our own State Dept. hasn’t determined that IHH is a terrorist organization??

      Since it was this ‘terrorist organization’ that allegedly planned the ‘ambush’ of those helpless commandos that boarded the Mavi Marmara, I think it’s germane to our discussion here. Don’t you agree?

      I’ll be anxious to hear what the Lobby -er, you – has as an answer to this. I think I already know what it is.

  8. David April 6, 2011 at 5:44 am

    If you really want to know more about St Onges’s political affiliations, you might want to note that he was a passenger Gaza flotilla that tried to break the Gaza blockade

    St Onge might want to know that the flotilla was sponsored the Turkish charity, IHH, This charity had been made illegal in Germany for its affiliation with Hamas. In an indirect way, St Onge and his “peace activists” unknowingly were the tool of a terrorist organization. SF Gate made him look like a hero.

    • Gene St.Onge April 6, 2011 at 12:41 pm

      Looks like you’re admitting to, at least, the possibility that the commandos shot first before they boarded the Mavi Marmara. Very interesting. There was, by the way, incidents on all the boats. I was hit by the butt end of a rifle by a commando as I was trying to help another passenger that was hit in the eye, also by the butt end of a rifle, and was being kicked on the deck of the boat.Others were hurt more seriously. Oh, I’m sorry, please excuse me for whining.

      Rules of engagement, as I understand them, don’t include attacking boats and ships that are in international waters, unless there are combat operations underway. Even the Israel apologist, international experts say that. As far as I know there have never been any ‘naval battles’ between the ‘Gazan Navy’ and the Israeli Navy. But, maybe I’ve missed something and you, as an ex-IDF soldier, can enlighten me on that.

      I don’t hate Israel, I hate Zionism because, by its very nature, it denies people their basic rights. It also fosters violence and destroys lives, creating frightened, angry and hateful people like yourself.

      I’ll say it again. I’ll say what I said under oath. You set it up, David, and I’ll be there to testify. You’d better check with your AIPAC friends first, however. Last I heard, they’re not too eager to give us any more publicity, lest their story about ‘terrorist Turkish cells’ on board the Mavi Marmara be exposed for the nonsensical garbage it really is.

      Please take a break, David. I’ve had my Israel Lobby propaganda limit for the day!


  9. Morris Schreibman April 7, 2011 at 12:08 am

    A request: this exchange is supposed to be about Justice Goldstone’s reconsideration of his conclusions re operation Cast Lead. I do not see that current dialogue about Mavi Marmara is relevant to that issue.


    • john abraham April 7, 2011 at 5:37 am

      Mr Screibman:
      My final comments on the Goldstone retraction until something new emerges from Mr. Goldstone himself.
      Please go to this morning’s Haaretz and read Gideon Levy’s opinion piece.
      It clearly states my point of view on the topic under discussion.
      And, hopefully,as Levy posits, Goldstone’s retraction does not give license or support for Israel to unleash a 2nd Cast Lead operation.

      • David April 7, 2011 at 6:06 am

        Mr Abraham, As we write, Hamas is beginning to escalate tensions on the Gaza border, They have been trying to dig tunnels into Israel and are launching rockets into Beer Sheva and Ashkelon. I ask you simply, how does israel address this theat. You do realize that these rockets are launched from population centers. In the rules of war, that makes these centers a legitimate target. It is up to Hamas to abide by the rules of engagement and not make their own people target of an Israeli response. As far as i am concerned, Hamas is 90% guilty of endangering the lives of their own people. As for Levy, he carries a guilty conscious when Palestinian lives are taken. What he fails to see is that they were NOT intentionally targeted. To bad Hamas does not carry that same guilty conscious.

        I also suggest that you consider the complexities of having to remove a threat of rocket fire for a densely populated urban area, turned combat zone.

        In Mr Abraham’s world, the people of Sderot, Ashkelon, Beer Sheva and Ashdo shold accept the rocket fire without a response. If Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy army, gets back in teh game, yuo can include Tel Aviv and Haifa.

      • Morris Schreibman April 7, 2011 at 8:03 am

        Mr.Abraham: I don’t know where you live, but I live in Herzlya, Israel and I have already made several entries and replies to various feedbacks to Gideon Levy’s piece this morning – my Ha’aretz feedback name is ‘Moshe ben Yitzhak’; you are most welcome to read my responses.

        Given you have declared your prior response to be your final response, I’ll conclude that you have caved to my arguments. But if you do change your mind, I think that David does make some valid points in his reply above and I would be interested in what you have to say to them.

  10. Morris Schreibman April 7, 2011 at 8:16 am


    The reason that I started checking Tikkun immediately after reading Goldstone’s reappraisal is that I wanted to hear what Michael Lerner has to say about this. I’m a little disappointed at Michael’s silence.

    Michael you felt that Justice Goldstone’s work was significant enough and courageous enough that you chose to give him an award. I assume you mean that you agreed with his conclusions. Now that he has publiclly reversed himself on the most critical conclusion of the entire report – and now states that Israel did not intentionally target civilians in operation Cast Lead – I’m very eager to here your thinking.

    I am particularly eager to hear if you believe that justice Goldstone has caved to social pressure and ostracism, or if you feel that his change was due to honest intellectual process and committment to justice.

    Thanks in advance.

    • David April 7, 2011 at 8:23 am

      Morris, You will not hear from Michael Lerner. I really think the Tikkun community, led by Lerner, is a little dismayed by the Goldstone’s Op-Ed column.

    • Gene St.Onge April 7, 2011 at 10:42 am


      I’ll get to your questions for me shortly. But, first, I want to make sure we are all clear on where Judge Goldstone stands at this point on the report, in light of his interview with AP about a day ago. This is from Jerry Haber at the Magnes Zionist:

      “To sum up how things stand now:

      Judge Goldstone stands behind a report that found Israel guilty of war crimes. After two years he has not changed his mind on that charge.

      Judge Goldstone stands behind a report that found Israel guilty of intentionally targeting civilian infrastructure. After two years he has not changed his mind on that charge.

      Judge Goldstone stands behind a report that called upon Israel to launch a public judicial inquiry. Two years later he still makes that call.

      Judge Goldstone is less inclined to believe, based on IDF investigations, that Israel was guilty of the crime against humanity of intentionally targeting civilians as a matter of policy, based on the evidence presented in the report. He is willing to consider the alternatives that faulty intelligence plus bad judgment was responsible for the al-Samouni family bombing, and that this deliberate attack may indeed be a war crime, should the commanding officer be found to have been negligent.

      Judge Goldstone has not expressed regret, apology, nor has he recanted the report. On the contrary he has “no reason to believe that any part of the report need be reconsidered at this time.”"

      So, to date, Goldstone has only recanted something that wasn’t in the report to begin with, i.e. that Israel, as a matter of policy, was responsible for targeting civilians in Operation Cast Lead! Indeed, short of having access to some internal, confidential, IDF memo(s) stating explicitly that this was IDF policy, the UN Committee was in no position to make this claim anyway.
      On the other hand, this doesn’t prove that there wasn’t such a policy.

      So, Goldstone appears to have tried, in a somewhat curious and clumsy way, to get back in the good graces of the government of Israel, and his Zionist friends in South Africa, by making a conciliatory gesture in his op-ed piece. Still left unanswered is what he meant by ‘new evidence’. I’m still waiting for an answer on this from you or anyone else. In the end, unfortunately, Judge Goldstone’s recent actions have only called his integrity into question and created more problems for himself. Meanwhile, the other 3 U.N.Committee members stand 100 % behind their original positions on the investigation and report.

      As for your questions regarding what Israeli reports I’ve read and why I would find them less credible than than eye-witness accounts, here are my responses. First of all, I have researched into what Israel has done to investigate the hundreds of charges against it for its actions in Operation Cast Lead. The Israeli government has claimed to have conducted some 400 investigations, and, of these, has opened 52 criminal investigations. Remember that none of this took place until the Goldstome Report was first issued and Israel felt pressured to conduct these investigations. More on that later. Anyway, of the 52 investigations, thus far only 3 have been submitted to prosecution: two have resulted in convictions while the trial of another is ongoing. Furthermore, since September of 2010, there has been a significant change in status in only two other cases; the alleged shooting and killing of Matar Abu Halima Muhammed and Hekmat Abu Halima, both teenagers, and; the killing of Majda and Rayya Hajaj. I won’t get into the details here. If you are interested, you can certainly follow up with your own research. In fact, if you haven’t read the Goldstone Report yet- or, at least, a summary of it – it would behoove you to do so, if you want to debate intelligently on the subject.

      Getting back to these investigations, that’s all that was available to the public at this time. Of particular interest to many of us, and to the Palestinian community in general, is the status of the investigation of the al-Samouni family killings to which Goldstone made reference. 24 were killed and 19 injured in this particular attack on the Wa’el al-Samouni house. Unfortunately, the Israeli government – or, more specifically, the Israeli Military Advocate General – is silent on the status if this case. There have been reports that military brass within the IDF have tried to suppress this investigation all along, which would explain why it appears to be stalled at this time.

      This brings me to the larger question here of what credibility can we expect from reports on Operation Cast Lead from Israel itself. The answer should be obvious, i.e. not much unless outside pressure, such as was provided by the Goldstone Report, is brought to bear on Israel. The IDF is no different than any other country’s military in this regard. Armies in combat situations make mistakes, particularly those that have occupied another people as long as Israel has occupied the Palestinian Territories. Their governments will typically do all in their power to shield them from accountability for their actions imposed from the outside. In the end, though, we have to rely greatly on the findings of independent bodies, such as the ICC, to secure a fair and just outcome. I know what you are thinking here, that all of these bodies have an anti-Israel bias, so we cannot expect that Israel will be treated fairly. Nevertheless, countries have to be subject to international laws governing behavior between nations, or ‘might is right’ will prevail and justice will die.

      • Morris Schreibman April 8, 2011 at 5:13 am

        Mr. St.Onge:

        I read the Goldstone Report as soon as it was released, I have the same general response and objections to it that many people have raised and with which you are most probably already quite familiar. I will not repeat them here. I will raise 2 issues about the Report that I find particularly distressing:

        1) The failure of the Goldstone commission to investigate the persistent and widespread reports that the entirety of the Hamas leadership spent the entire war in a bunker located under Shifra Hospital in Gaza City. This is clearly treating the hospital occupants as human shields and hence a war crime.

        2) The failure of the Goldstone commission to investigate persistent and widespread reports of summary executions of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel without any kind of due process whatsoever. According to some reports I read, the number of alleged collaborators executed by Hamas during operation Cast Lead exceeds the number of civilian deaths attributable to IDF actions. There should be no question that the number of Palestinian Hamas opponents who have been executed by Hamas since their takeover of Gaza exceeds the total number of Palestinians killed – combatants and noncombatants – during operation Cast Lead.

        I suggest that these are war crimes and/or crimes against humanity which far exceed in seriousness anything the Israelis could be accused of during Cast Lead, if only because these are the acts of a government against the people they are supposed to be governing.

        With respect to Israeli responses to the incidents raised by the Goldstone, just for example, check the document available at

        While this document does not speak to the question of the al-Samouni family tragedy, it does speak to several of the incidents raised in the Goldstone report. In each case it presents a detailed review of the incident as raised by the Goldstone report, and then provides the Israeli version of events. In each case I, at least, am satisfied with the Israeli response and see no obvious internal contradictions, nor obviously questionable claims. I leave you to your own conclusions here.

        We can argue all day and all night about issues of “transparency”, and I have no disagreement with the questions which you have previously stated in this exchange about any country’s ability to properly investigate itself. But I think the point here is that in response to Goldstone Report, Israel has chosen investigate and to respond to the allegations raised. And I think that more than specific incidents and episodes, it is the nature of the methodology and the quality of the investigation which has led Justice Goldstone to retract his most critical initial conclusion and to conclude that the IDF did not intentionally target Palestinian civilians as part of the strategy of Cast Lead.

        • David April 8, 2011 at 9:15 am

          You can argue all day and al night with Mr. St.Onge. No matter how much evidence you hold in front of him, he will be locked into his belief that the IDF intentionally targeted civilians. He continues to suggest that there was a policy to target civilians. Mistakes had been made during “Cast Lead ” with tragic outcomes, ad some soldiers acted outside fo official military doctrine, but as a whole the IDF conducted itself as bets as it could in an urban combat environment.. mean while, Hamas has no intention of investigating its own activities, but we knew that already.

          On another note, Mr Onge responded to a recent incident where a school bus in Israel was targeted. He blamed that incident on incitement by Israel. I really do not think
          Mr. Onge wants to go down the path of defending the intentional targeting of a school bus.

        • Gene St.Onge April 8, 2011 at 4:30 pm


          You and your friends may, indeed, have no problem with the fact that, after 2+ years since Operation Cast Lead and hundreds of allegations of criminal activity by the IDF (many as a result of the Goldstone Report)there have been only 2 convictions, but the rest of us certainly do!On one hand, you acknowledge the obvious, i.e. that you can never expect a government to fairly and completely investigate itself. I certainly wouldn’t expect my government to do so. But you seem to make an exception for Israel. Why is that??

          As for charges that Hamas used a hospital and its staff as shields during the attack, if there’s something to that then I agree that it should be investigated. I’ll tell you what I told David and I tell everybody. I’m no fan of Hamas, nor of any government based on religious doctrine. As for this charge, I, too, would like to see what the UN Commission, and particularly Goldstone himself, has to say about it.

          As for other charges against Hamas for killing collaborators, I’ve heard that this, indeed, may be the case. But this is beyond our topic of discussion. Nevertheless, if you want to propose an investigation into the general wrongdoings of Hamas, I have no problem with that – as long as we can also investigate the wrongdoings of Israel in its ongoing,brutal and oppressive treatment of the Palestinians. If we are going to clean house, let’s do a complete job of it, I say.

          Yes, Goldstone retracted something, i.e. the charge that Israel, as a matter of policy targeted civilians. Unfortunately, THAT CHARGE WAS NEVER MADE IN THE FIRST PLACE. Goldstone has, in the past couple of days, reiterated his support for the report to stand as is, however. This is all very telling of how much this whole affair has taken its toll on the poor judge. This once great jurist has been reduced to a worn down and confused shell of his old self. What a tragedy!

  11. David April 7, 2011 at 11:42 am

    I suggest you read this quote:
    “The 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.”

    In light of this quote, how you can in your suggest that there might have been an Israeli policy of intentionally targeting civilians. That is clearly your own bias coming out LOUD AND CLEAR

    With regard to the tragic deaths of the
    al-Samouni family, I suggest yoo read this quote:
    It was a tragic error as a result of an “erroneous drone interpretation of an image”
    You must really feel that the IDF is an army of war criminals who would purposely kill a whole families.

    Just an example of armies making terrible mistakes. On D day, the allied navy destroyed multiple coastal French villages while providing cover fire for the allied landing. Scores of civilians were killed in error. Mistakes are made in close combat. That is one of the man horrible facts of was and it happened in every war, no matter their purpose.

    What i find most disturbing about your post and the HRC is how the actions of Hamas are ignored. Sderot, Ashkelon, Beer Sheva, Ashdod were all hit by rockets. There was no military purpose to direct rockets towards those towns and cities. Why in the hell do you give Hamas a free pass?. I ask you and I really demand an answer. You really must despise Israelis if you think of them as a legitimate target.

    • Gene St.Onge April 7, 2011 at 12:22 pm


      In your rage you’re failing to read what I’ve written carefully. I said that there is no way to establish whether or not there was a policy of targeting civilians. That’s all I said in that regard. As for the your remarks about armies making tragic mistakes, you’re just reaffirming what I said. My own country, the US, is guilty of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a casualty of war. The IDF is not exempt from committing war crimes any more than is any other army from any other country. As for Hamas, the Goldstone Report covered that quite well, accusing it of targeting civilians as well, although on a scale that pales by comparison with what Israel is charged with. We weren’t discussing Hamas, that’s why I hadn’t mentioned them until now. contrary to what you, and the Lobby, think of me and my friends, we are not supporters of Hamas. In fact, we don’t support any religious states, Christian, Islamic, Jewish, etc.

  12. David April 7, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Yet you suspect that there is such a policy
    “So, to date, Goldstone has only recanted something that wasn’t in the report to begin with, i.e. that Israel, as a matter of policy, was responsible for targeting civilians in Operation Cast Lead! Indeed, short of having access to some internal, confidential, IDF memo(s) stating explicitly that this was IDF policy, the UN Committee was in no position to make this claim anyway.
    On the other hand, this doesn’t prove that there wasn’t such a policy.”
    Why is that?

    ” As for Hamas, the Goldstone Report covered that quite well, accusing it of targeting civilians as well, although on a scale that pales by comparison with what Israel is charged with. We weren’t discussing Hamas, that’s why I hadn’t mentioned them until now”

    That is just a piss poor excuse to ignore actions by Hamas. Might I suggest that Israel took better care to protect its own? Don’t forget Hamas had a policy of sending suicide bombers on buses and into cafes, specifically targeting civilians. Only Israel’s security measures brought that practice to a near halt. Just remember one thing, it is not the number, it is the intent. You fail to realize this. Additionally, living with the sound of whistling rockets daily is a source of serious trauma, just ask the residents of Sderot.

    Finally, “Cast Lead” would not have even happened had Hamas not publically declared that the cease fire would not be renewed:

    “GAZA | Thu Dec 18, 2008 7:29pm GMT

    GAZA (Reuters) – Hamas on Thursday declared an end to a six-month-old Egyptian-brokered cease-fire with Israel in the Gaza Strip, raising the prospect of an escalation in cross-border fighting”

    Doesn’t that cast doubt on Israel as the criminal aggressor?

  13. David April 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Just a FYI. Today a rocket shot from Gaza hit a school bus. Thankfully no one was killed.

  14. Gene St.Onge April 7, 2011 at 5:16 pm


    Hamas reacts to provocations, i.e attacks, by Israel. Do your homework and you’ll find this to be true. Israel ended the cease-fire, not Hamas. Israel’s mouthpiece, Mark Regev, even admitted as much at the time. I’ll refer you to the source of this if you don’t believe me.

    I’m weary from dealing with you. So I’ll just let Gideon Levy, who I KNOW you admire, take over here:

    “Goldstone has paved the path for a second Gaza war

    Anyone who honored the first Goldstone has to ask him: What exactly do you know today that you didn’t know then? Do you know today that criticizing Israel leads to a pressure-and-slander campaign that you can’t withstand, you ‘self-hating Jew’?

    By Gideon Levy

    All at once the last doubts have disappeared and the question marks have become exclamation points. Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu Al-Aish wrote a short book in which he invented the killing of his three daughters. The 29 dead from the Al-Simouni family are now vacationing in the Caribbean. The white phosphorus was only the pyrotechnics of a war film. The white-flag wavers who were shot were a mirage in the desert, as were the reports about the killing of hundreds of civilians, including women and children. “Cast lead” has returned to being a phrase in a Hanukkah children’s song.

    A surprising and unexplained article in The Washington Post by Richard Goldstone caused rejoicing here, a Goldstone party, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a long time. In fact, Israeli PR reaped a victory, and for that congratulations are in order. But the questions remain as oppressive as ever, and Goldstone’s article didn’t answer them – if only it had erased all the fears and suspicions.

    Anyone who honored the first Goldstone has to honor him now as well, but still has to ask him: What happened? What exactly do you know today that you didn’t know then? Do you know today that criticizing Israel leads to a pressure-and-slander campaign that you can’t withstand, you “self-hating Jew”? This you could have known before.

    Was it the two reports by Judge Mary McGowan Davis that led to your change of heart? If so, you should read them carefully. In her second report, which was published about a month ago and for some reason received no mention in Israel, the New York judge wrote that nothing indicates that Israel launched an investigation into the people who designed, planned, commanded and supervised Operation Cast Lead. So how do you know which policy lay behind the cases you investigated? And what’s this enthusiasm that seized you in light of the investigations by the Israel Defense Forces after your report?

    You have to be a particularly sworn lover of Israel, as you say you are, to believe that the IDF, like any other organization, can investigate itself. You have to be a blind lover of Zion to be satisfied with investigations for the sake of investigations that produced no acceptance of responsibility and virtually no trials. Just one soldier is being tried for killing.

    But let’s put aside the torments and indecision of the no-longer-young Goldstone. Let’s also put aside the reports by the human rights organizations. Let’s make do with the findings of the IDF itself. According to Military Intelligence, 1,166 Palestinians were killed in the operation, 709 of them terrorists, 162 who may or may not have been armed, 295 bystanders, 80 under the age of 16 and 46 women.

    All the other findings described a more serious picture, but let’s believe the IDF. Isn’t the killing of about 300 civilians, including dozens of women and children, a reason for penetrating national soul-searching? Were all of them killed by mistake? If so, don’t 300 different mistakes require conclusions? Is this the behavior of the most moral army in the world? If not, who takes responsibility?

    Operation Cast Lead was not a war. The differences in power between the two sides, the science-fiction army versus the barefoot Qassam launchers, doesn’t justify things when the blow was so disproportionate. It was a harsh attack against a crowded and helpless civilian population, among which terrorists hid. We can believe that the IDF didn’t deliberately kill civilians, we don’t have murdering soldiers as in other armies, but neither did the IDF do enough to prevent them from being killed. The fact is, they were killed, and so many of them. Our doctrine of zero casualties has a price.

    Goldstone has won again. First he forced the IDF to begin investigating itself and to put together a new ethics code; now he unwittingly has given a green light for Operation Cast Lead 2. Leave him alone. We’re talking about our image, not his. Are we pleased with what happened? Are we really proud of Operation Cast Lead?”

    Now we have Operation Scorching Heat, yet another vain attempt to bring the Palestinians of Gaza to their knees and praying for mercy – what Israel REALLY means when it says it wants peace.

    The Zionists, it seems, will never learn the lessons of history.


    • David April 8, 2011 at 6:27 am

      Sad is the person lecturing about Zionism to someone who grew up in a left leaning Zionist youth group. Most non Jews have such a shallow understanding of Zionism only because Jews are not supposed to have national aspirations. That honor only goes to Palestinians who did not even have a national identity until the Zionist movement was create by the great Theodore Herzl.

  15. David April 8, 2011 at 5:20 am

    Whoever shot tat rocket, knowingly aimed at a school bus. Hamas has been sending a daily barrage of rockets into Israel, but why would you care?

    BTW, your friend Levy has little or no credibility with the Israeli public. They know better. As a terrorist collaborator you have zero credibility as well.

    For someone with no ties to Israel/Palestine, you sure seem to invest a lot of time in this conflict. oe would think that Tibet would command some of your time as well.

    • Gene St.Onge April 8, 2011 at 9:37 am

      ‘Left leaning Zionist youth group’ sure sounds like an oxymoron to me! Does this mean your just a little bit racist rather full blown racist like your far-right leadership in Israel?

      The reason I care about this issue so much is that I have a natural passion for it and because Zionism has infected my own family, my wife’s son and daughter, who refuse to speak to either one of us because of our political views on the subject. They think their devotion is to Israel first and family second.

      This is just another example of how your Zionist ideology (pathology?) divides people and destroys lives!

      Oh, and what about the old Palestinian man that was attacked by your fighter planes a couple of days ago? Oh, that’s right, must have been part of a Hamas terrorist cell, since your IDF would NEVER target civilians!

      • David April 8, 2011 at 10:09 am

        Mr. St Onge

        Now Zionism is an infection or pathology to you. Here is a commonly known fact of history about the Zionist movement that has escaped you. Some of the first Zionists who started developing Israel were socialist founders of the kibbutz movement. I just wanted to help you along here.

        You know one of the criteria for be a bigot is plain ignorance, and your ignorance is shining through. No, I don’t say it to insult you, it is quite true. The problem here is that you one day woke up and discovered that fighting for Palestinian rights is the new cool. You educated yourself on the conflict through the racist literature of the Free Palestine movements. Call it a quickie education. Using the terms “pathology” and “infection” to describe a Jewish national movement sounds….well you know. I don’t have to spell it out for you. Are Jews merely just pathogens to you? Is that how you really feel. Come on out with it. I know what you want to say. It ahs been said before. I have seen how you press enough buttons in a bigot and their colors come shining through and through. Thanks for making it so…..easy.

        You would have made a “good German” in the 1930′s.

        And just note about IAF operations. Civilians should stay away for smuggling tunnels; it’s not good for their health. Hamas does nor care about civilian welfare.

  16. Gene St.Onge April 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm


    Have a nice life!

    Gene :-)

    • john abraham April 8, 2011 at 5:13 pm

      I’m glad you’re finally able to let it go.
      Your discussion of the issues were well reasoned, documented, etc. etc.
      But it became obvious that there would be no dent in the thinking of David and Morris.
      Some day, in the not too distant future, Palestine will have its own state. And it, along with Israel, will become part of a thriving Middle East.
      Keep up the great work!
      Shalom! Salam!

  17. Noga April 9, 2011 at 7:22 am

    “a bigger shoah [note: “Shoah” is the Hebrew word referring to the Holocaust]”

    Well, no.

    Shoah means disaster. And it usually comes with its own special verb: “Le-hamit shoah”, to bring upon someone or something a disaster. Hebrew speakers use it to describe a nuclear disaster (shoah garinit), ecological disaster (“shoah svivatit”) among other usages. The Holocaust, when brought up to by Hebrew speakers is always, always, always referred to as “Ha-Shoah”, THE Shoah, to differentiate from any other “shoah” (disaster).

    Seems to me that some commenters are determined to give this phrasing at this time a particularly sinister meaning. Why? Is it because you believe that Vilnai blurted out some secret plan, or wish, when all he did was use perfectly idiomatic Hebrew to warn Gazans that they should expect more disasters to befall upon them if they continue with their qassam violence directed at civilian targets? If so, what could account for such readiness to attribute the worst possible meaning to an Israeli politician’s use of such a phrase?

  18. Morris Schreibman April 9, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Well, this exchanged seems to be winding down, so I’d like to offer a few more comments in closing:

    Mr. St.Onge: Since you agree with me that Hamas should be prosecuted for the various war crimes/crimes against humanity in which they have been widely reported to have engaged, how would you propose this be done?

    I made reference to Hamas’ war-related atrocities because one of the things I do want to emphasize is that alleged Israeli war crimes get much more attention than any other country. I’d like to know, for example, if the following conflicts were ever investigated for war crimes and /or crimes against humanity:

    1) the 1971 Jordanian Civil War in which the Jordanian military is estimated – by Palestinian sources – as having killed between 20,000 and 40,000 Palestinians in one month with little concern or distinction for whether these Palestinians were armed. You may remember that war: that was the one where PLO militia men threw down their weapons and swam across the Jordan river and begged the Israelis for protection from the Royal Jordanian Army.

    2) the Lebanese Civil War where estimates as high as 100,000 Palestinians were slaughtered off in various armed confrontations, acts of genocide, etc.

    3) the expulsion from Kuwait of 250,000 Palestinians by the restored Kuwaiti government in the aftermath of the 1st Persian Gulf War in what clearly was an act of collective punishment in response to Yasser Arafat’s support for Saddam Hussein.

    Has there ever been any kind of investigation of any of these events for war crimes/crimes against humanity? And clearly, the severity and horror of these events is much greater than what happened in Cast Lead. Mr. St.Onge: you raised the question of whether any country would be capable of properly and honestly policing its own army and its own military actions, and I agree it is a valid question. But I also feel that if the world is going to start organizing war crimes investigations after every armed conflict, it has to do so equally and impartially. Clearly there is a double standard of judgment with respect to Israel and the rest of the world. And there can never be real justice when there are multiple standards of judgment. If you want Israel to investigate its actions in Cast Lead to your standards of accountability, transparency or whatever other standard you wish to impose, than that same standard has to be applied to the Palestinians, and for that matter every other country or national group. If you want Israel to take various criminal allegations seriously (not that it already does not), than Israel has to be judged on exactly the same level and by exactly the same rules as every other country. Even Justice Goldstone has now conceded that the UN Human Rights Commission is horribly biased against Israel.

    Finally, I also wish to refer to a statement you made earlier in this exchange to David:

    I don’t hate Israel, I hate Zionism because, by its very nature, it denies people their basic rights. It also fosters violence and destroys lives, creating frightened, angry and hateful people such as yourself.

    I regard myself as neither freightened, angry nor hateful and I dearly hope that I have not come across that way in this exchange. I don’t think that your statement is true about Israel nor Zionism: but it may have validity with respect to the Occupation. I don’t think any Israeli could possibly have imagined in 1967 that 44 years later we would still be occupying all of the West Bank and Gaza. All Israeli political polling for years has shown that the great great majority of Israeli Jews do not wish to be an occupying power and support the concept of land for peace. I came to Israel in 1997 (from San Francisco, where I subscribed to Tikkun and occasionally attended Tikkun events), completely supportive of the Oslo peace process and eager to make my personal contribution to that process. I eagerly accepted an invitation to teach a technical class in an area of my software expertise to a group of engineers from the Palestine Telephone company, and I would be happy to teach more classes to Palestinian engineers in the future – as long as I know that we are genuinely on the path to peace and coexistence. All that we (the great majority of Israelis) want is a genuine peace and secure borders. Give us that (and a uniform standard of judgment for all nations) and I think you will find that most of us Israelis are not at all hateful, nor frightened, nor angry.

    • David April 9, 2011 at 12:10 pm

      Morris, Once again this l fall on deaf ears
      If someone like Mr St Onge were to challenge Hama to the war crimes, he would never be given he invitation to participate on a flotilla indirectly sponsored by that very organization.
      The Arab world has been littered with atrocities directed at Palestinians and other Arabs, In 1982, as the world directed its anger at Israel for its “indirect involvement” in Sabra and Shatilla, the Syrian army surrounded the city of Hama and massacred between 10,000 and 20,000 of its own citizens. No one will know te react number because foreign journalist were kept away.
      As for a solution to the conflict, I agree with Morris, most Israelis would gladly give up the WB for a SECURE peace.

  19. Dusty April 16, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Its quite obvious that Israel was not deliberately and directly targetting civilians. If you look at the numbers killed-over 95% were male. If Israel were targetting civilians, rather than compbatents, the gender death ratio would be much closer to 50/50. The PCHR’s own data confims this. Additionally, many of those claimed by PCHR to be “civilians” were in fact hailed as “ martyrs” by Hamas, and feature martyrdom videos and photos on the web.. Others listed by PCHR as “civilians killed in Israeli raids” later turned out to be Fatah members killed by Hamas, which were used to “pad” the death rate.

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