Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 04/14/2011 (Goldstone Goes From 'Respected Zionist' to 'Jew')

From an email from DG:
1) Chinkin, Travers, Pilay: our original bias was correct

The New York Times reports 3 U.N. Investigators Reject Goldstone’s Shift on Gaza War

Three members of the United Nations panel that investigated Israel’s Gaza war two years ago rejected on Thursday an essay by the fourth, former chairman Richard Goldstone, which retracted key conclusions, especially that Israel had deliberately targeted civilians.  
The three, Hina Jilani of Pakistan, Desmond Travers of Ireland and Christine Chinkin of the London School of Economics, issued a statement to The Guardian newspaper in London saying that any attempt to backtrack on their report amounted to yielding to outside pressure and would deprive the victims of justice. 
The reporter, Ethan Bronner, adds helpfully:

Mr. Goldstone, who is Jewish and South African, said that Israeli military investigations, while slow and incomplete, were showing him that civilians were probably not targeted. Meanwhile, he complained, Hamas has conducted no internal investigation of its firing of rockets at Israeli civilians, continues to launch them and the United Nations Human Rights should make a point of condemning it.  
He added, “I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.” 
No longer is Goldstone "respected" or "esteemed," but he is Jewish. And the fact that he was Jewish was used before to affirm the seriousness of the charges; now it's being used to show that his retraction may not have sincere.

The article continues:

The biggest complaints Israel and its backers had about the Goldstone Report was that it accused Israel of aiming to kill civilians and that it was too soft on Hamas. 
It wasn't too soft on Hamas. It barely mentioned Hamas.

And the major complaint was that the Goldstone commission accepted false testimony and drew erroneous conclusions. In fact it mostly seemed like the point of the report was to confirm the previously held prejudices of its members.

Members like Christine Chinkin, who is a professor at the Libyan funded London School of Economics. Chinkin signed a letter at the beginning of Cast Lead accusing Israel of committing war crimes.

Desmond Travers, the "military" expert claimed that "something like two rockets" had been fired by Hamas against Israel, not the thousands that were.

Hina Jilani declared that Israel was depriving Palestinians of their basic human rights.

Surely the records of the other judges are more relevant to Bronner's article than the fact that Goldstone is Jewish.

This paragraph is telling:

Just as Mr. Goldstone referred in his essay to a follow-up report led by retired New York State Judge Mary McGowen Davis, so do his three colleagues but with a very different conclusion. Mr. Goldstone argues that the follow-up notes that Israel has begun 400 probes into wrongdoing into the military campaign it dubbed “Cast Lead,” and much has been learned. His former colleagues say, by contrast, that of the 400, only three have been submitted for prosecution and only two have led to minor punishments. 
To the other three judges the fact that Israel has only acted on three cases is significant. In other words they believe that the accusation is the same as a conviction.

Bronner concludes:

The three conclude by saying that pressures had been applied to all members of the panel but unlike Mr. Goldstone, they had not yielded. They say, “Had we given in to pressures from any quarter to sanitize our conclusions, we would be doing a serious injustice to the hundreds of innocent civilians killed during the Gaza conflict, the thousands injured, and the hundreds of thousands whose lives continue to be deeply affected by the conflict and the blockade.  
“The report has triggered a process that is still under way and should continue until justice is done and respect for international human rights and humanitarian law by everyone is ensured.” 
The claims of Jilani, Chinkin and Travers are offered without rebuttal. And again it is without any reference to their biased records.

2) Hamas's record

Given the unsurprising refusal of Jilani, Chinkin and Travers to rethink their report, I think it's important to recall that there is photographic and video evidence that Hamas launches its attacks from civilian areas.

Despite that when Israel strikes back, it takes great care to avoid civilian casualties, as Hamas's own record keeping attests.

But then the Goldstone commission and report was never about judging Israel fairly.

3) What about Syria?

Strong editorial in the Washington Post outlining the administration's strong words and inaction on Syria.

Mr. Obama has called the violence “abhorrent,” and a White House statement on Tuesday said that it was “outrageous.” But the administration has not repudiated the Assad regime; instead, Ms. Clinton, who two weeks ago referred to Mr. Assad as a “reformer,” this week suggested that “Mr. Assad and the Syrian government must respect the rights of the Syrian people.” Does that seem likely? 
No action has followed the administration’s words, although steps are readily available: sanctions against those carrying out the repression; referral of Syria’s behavior to the U.N. Security Council for a resolution of condemnation; withdrawal of the ambassador dispatched to Damascus last year. All these would be blows against a regime that is Iran’s closest ally in the Middle East; that supplies Hamas and Hezbollah with missiles to fire at Israeli cities; that destabilized Lebanon’s pro-Western government with a string of murders; and that tried to secretly build a nuclear reactor with the help of North Korea. 
The cause for action would seem overwhelming — and yet the administration hesitates, seemingly because it fears that Mr. Assad’s downfall would trigger chaos, sectarian war or the rise of an even worse regime. Such thinking does a disservice to the brave Syrians who keep taking to the streets in spite of the regime’s gunmen. Let’s hope they keep proving the experts wrong.

4) What about Iran?

The administration is trying to show it is concerned about Iranian influence.

U.S. officials say they don't see Iran as the driving force behind popular revolts against longtime U.S. allies in the Mideast, and caution they have no concrete evidence that Iran is providing or preparing large-scale financial or military support to opposition elements in Bahrain or Yemen. Rather, the White House has worried that protracted political turmoil could provide an opening for additional influence by Tehran, whose nuclear ambitions are a concern to the U.S. and its allies in Europe and the Middle East. 
So far, an administration official said, Iranian "aspirations far outpace their ability to project their influence into these places." 
By disclosing intelligence about Iranian involvement, the U.S. appears to be trying to put Tehran on notice that it is under close surveillance in Washington. "We're keeping an eye on these activities," another Obama administration official said.

5) What's Qaddafi's line?

Apparently the rebels have it.

A team led by a Libyan-American telecom executive has helped rebels hijack Col. Moammar Gadhafi's cellphone network and re-establish their own communications. 
The new network, first plotted on an airplane napkin and assembled with the help of oil-rich Arab nations, is giving more than two million Libyans their first connections to each other and the outside world after Col. Gadhafi cut off their telephone and Internet service about a month ago. 
That March cutoff had rebels waving flags to communicate on the battlefield. The new cellphone network, opened on April 2, has become the opposition's main tool for communicating from the front lines in the east and up the chain of command to rebel brass hundreds of miles away.
According to the article this hasn't changed the military balance of power, but it's still a neat story.

6) Nice essay 

Middle East Mindset by Mark Silverberg

Sixty-three years after Israel's establishment, Arabs who fled or left mandatory Palestine in 1948, and their descendants, who now number over five million, continue to live in the refugee camps of Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. There, they are enveloped with hatred for Israel, while being used by their Arab brethren, and given "permanent refugee status" by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA], where they are promised that one day they will return to their homes in "Palestine" [Israel]. At the entrance to the UNRWA-funded Aida Refugee Camp, established in Bethlehem in 1950, and where an estimated 3,000 Palestinians live, there is a gigantic key on which is written in English and Arabic: "Not for Sale." What is not for sale is all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea -- that is, all of Israel -- which, they unapologetically state in their "moderate" Palestinian Charter, must never be abandoned in any peace agreement. On almost every house one can see graffiti showing an undivided Palestine. 
As no Israeli government could allow an influx of millions of hostile Palestinians into its country, Israel's refusal to allow a complete "right of return" has become a useful pretext for continuing the conflict. The longer Israel can be used as a scapegoat, the better it serves Arab interests by re-directing their citizens' rage away from their own oppressive, corrupt and crushing governance. For this reason, at Taba (2001) and at Annapolis (2007), the Palestinian leadership, supported by the Arab and Muslim world, and rejected Palestinian statehood on more than 95% of the West Bank and Gaza rather than recognize Israel as a Jewish state and forego its "right of return." Even the Fatah Revolutionary Council, the ruling PLO Authority in the West Bank, has declared: "No to Israel as a Jewish state, no to interim borders, no to land swaps;" and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad refused to sign a meeting summary with the Israelis that accepted the concept of two-states-for-two-peoples.

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