Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 04/21/2011

From an email from DG:

1) Why did Goldstone reconsider?

Ethan Bronner and Jennifer Medina report in the NY Times, Past Holds Clue to Goldstone’s Shift on the Gaza War (h/t Gerald Steinberg)

To some degree this covers points initially left out by the reporting on Goldstone's changes. However it is still written from the premise that what's news is that Goldstone changed his mind, when the prejudice of the other three commission members was so blatant, that the idea that the commission could be objective was nonsensical from the start.

In 2009, he tried to do the same thing in the other country close to his heart: Israel. Mr. Goldstone, a Zionist who believes that political reconciliation will result when both sides face the unbiased rigors of international law, agreed to lead a United Nations inquiry into the war between Israel and Hamas, telling friends that the mission could make a real contribution to Middle East peace.  
The resulting report that bears his name accused each side of wrongdoing — deliberately making civilians targets. But the report not only failed to bring peace to the region and universal honor to its author. It also hardened positions and brought a storm of attacks on Mr. Goldstone, especially from within his community. 
If Bronner and Medina write that the report "hardened positions," isn't it also relevant that his reversal has done the same? The ADL report, referred to at the end (and reported on by Ha'aretz , Ynet and the Jerusalem Post too) mentioned that Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE - in whose media some of the cartoons appeared - are all membes of the OIC which referred the matter of Cast Lead to the UN Human Rights Council. The cartoons all presume Israeli guilt.

And of course the other three members of the panel had all prejudged Israel as guilty of war crimes during Cast Lead.

So the source of the investigation was a group of nations hostile to Israel, who include Sudan among its members and who deny that Sudan's leader is guilty of war crimes. The organization to which they referred it routinely criticizes Israel and has as its members some of the most repellent rights abusers in the world. And the actual panel contained three members who were impervious to contrary evidence. One had a belated show of integrity and he's the news story?

Further, Bronner and Medina report:

Mr. Goldstone persuaded the council’s president to agree that the mandate would not be limited to Israel. He believed that both Israel and Hamas could be prodded to change their ways.  
As he said in an interview with the newspaper The Forward: “I was driven particularly because I thought the outcome might, in a small way, assist the peace process. I really thought I was one person who could achieve an evenhanded mission.” 
Though later they acknowledge that the written mandate was not actually changed, that's less important than the fact that Hamas was barely mentioned in the report.

And it's also relevant that Mary Robinson, whom no one could accuse of being a Zionist, turned down the assignment to head the commission.

Towards the end, we read:

Israel has maintained that about 700 of the dead, which it put at 1,166, were combatants. Palestinian estimates and those of some human rights groups put the total at more like 1,400 and the number of combatants at only a few hundred.  
One area of disagreement was whether 250 police cadets killed on the first day should be considered fighters. Israel said yes; most others said no.  
In November, the Hamas interior minister, Fathi Hamad, told the newspaper Al Hayat that many of the dead were fighters: “It is a fact that on the first day of the war, Israel struck police headquarters and killed 250 members of Hamas and the various factions, in addition to the 200 to 300 operatives from the Qassam Brigades. In addition, 150 security personnel were killed.”  
The implication was that the 250 cadets were fighters and that the total number of militants killed amounted to about 700. Many sent Mr. Goldstone the update. 
This is problematic on a number of levels. Those very same "human rights groups" denied that the 250 cadets were fighters, so their numbers should be suspect. And Hamad's statement wasn't an "implication," it was an admission. And it was a news story that I believe the Times has ignored until now.

The article does a fair job of guessing some of the factors that weighed on Goldstone. However it leaves a number of substantial points and ignores the bigger story: why a lynch was covered so favorably.

2) The climate of hate

Isabel Kershner reported on the arrest of two teens in the murders of the Fogel family.

Early on there's a fascinating detail.

The Shin Bet emphasized that the attack had been planned and that days before the suspects had tried to obtain a gun through a Popular Front member in Awarta who refused to help. 
In November last year, Israel announced that it had arrested it's final security suspect in the "northern West Bank."

Effectively then, Israel had dismantled most, if not all terror groups. In other words organizations - in which individuals would work together - were effectively ended. This suggests that the Popular Front member was concerned enough about being caught that he refused to do anything to get himself back on a list.

So then what lead these two boys to commit their horrific crime?

It could have been their schooling, summer camp or even their entertainment.

The two murderers apparently had no established terrorist ties, but lived in a culture of incitement.

In a recent editorial, the Washington Post concluded:

A more practical approach would be for the administration to press both Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas to begin taking unilateral steps to lay the groundwork for two states. Mr. Netanyahu is said to be considering withdrawing Israeli troops from parts of the West Bank; the administration should embrace this idea and press for the maximum pullback. It should meanwhile pressure Mr. Abbas to begin talking to Palestinians about why peace with Israel is desirable and what concessions will be necessary — something he has never done. Such measures won’t rival the political breakthroughs underway elsewhere in the region, but they would offer something that two years of the Obama administration’s diplomacy has yet to achieve: tangible progress.
(emphasis mine)

Why is this suddenly an issue? It should have been front and center of peace process proponents since 1993 and it wasn't. Arafat and later Abbas were excused for not preparing their people for peace. Now a generation has been raised in a culture of hate and we see the results.

Contrast this with an observation from the science fiction writer Orson Scott Card (h/t Barry Rubin)

These soldiers are not the bloodthirsty monsters that the lies of Palestinian leaders claim they are. They avoid causing needless casualties -- even among the very people who openly rejoice when Israeli babies are murdered.  
They are, in other words, precisely the kind of civilized warriors that we expect American soldiers to be -- reluctant to kill, but implacable against legitimate military objectives; not motivated by hatred of the enemy, but rather by love of and loyalty toward their own people.  
There are probably Israelis who feel hatred for Muslims -- but I never met any. What I met were decent people who don't understand why so much of the world hates them for defending their homes and families against people who thirst for their blood. 
The one way hatred that led to the massacre of the Fogel family is ignored by Kershner, who quotes Mahmoud Abbas and the mayor of Awarta condemning the murders (in varying degrees of conviction). But these are the exceptions, not the rule in the Palestinian Authority and they are proclaimed for Western consumption not for the local population.

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