Monday, January 25, 2010

Israel's Rebuttal of The Goldstone Report Coming Soon

The New York Times last week gave a preview of what to expect from Israel's rebuttal of the Goldstone Report.

The overall goal of Israel's response is to address the main overall claim of the report that Israel deliberately targeted civilians.

Among the particular charges that Israel will refute:

One concerned the destruction of Gaza’s sole flour mill. The Goldstone report asserts that the Bader flour mill “was hit by an airstrike, possibly by an F-16.” The Israeli investigators say they have photographic proof that this is false, that the mill was accidentally hit by artillery in the course of a firefight with Hamas militiamen.

The dispute is significant since the United Nations report asserts that “the destruction of the mill was carried out for the purpose of denying sustenance to the civilian population,” an explicit war crime.

A second finding concerned the destruction of a wastewater plant, leading to an enormous outflow of raw sewage. The Goldstone report contended that it was hit by a powerful Israeli missile in a strike that was “deliberate and premeditated.” The Israelis say they had nothing to do with that plant’s collapse and suggest that it may have been the result of Hamas explosives.

One of the problems with the report is that while it claimed to be nothing more than a 'fact-finding mission' it was both handled as and perceived as more than that. As a result, there are over 32,000 websites and blogs that trumpet the claim that Goldstone and his group "found Israel guilty of war crimes".

And how many websites trumpet that Goldstone "found Hamas guilty of war crimes"?
Just over 200.

But Israel is more concerned with how the report reflects on them than on Hamas--and even groups that criticize Israel think Goldstone went too far:

While many here think that the Goldstone report failed to expose of the practices of Hamas, they are more concerned about their own army’s conduct. Still, virtually no one in Israel, including the leaders of Breaking the Silence and the human rights group B’Tselem, thinks that the Goldstone accusation of an assault on civilians is correct.

“I do not accept the Goldstone conclusion of a systematic attack on civilian infrastructure,” said Yael Stein, research director of B’Tselem. “It is not convincing. But every incident and every policy has to be checked by an independent body because the military cannot check itself. They need to explain why so many people were killed.”

We can only hope that once the Israeli response comes out, Goldstone will finally stop claiming that there is no criticism of his report that deals with the content of his report.

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