Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Why Does The Goldstone Commission Report Rely On Contradicting Testimony?

"I must say your lack of inquisitiveness boggles the imagination."
Richard Goldstone in another investigation in 1992

CAMERA notes the readiness with which the Goldstone Commision accepts unreliable testimony--in this case, the testimony in the tragic story of Khaled Abed Rabbo:

“The mission found Khalid and Kawthar Abd Rabbo to be credible and reliable witnesses. It has no reason to doubt the veracity of the main elements of their testimony. The Mission also reviewed several sworn statements they and other eyewitnesses gave to NGOs about the incident and found them to be consistent with the account it received.”

In an earlier article, CAMERA listed the numerous inconsistencies in the story Rabbo gave. Here are three:

Did Any Fighting Immediately Precede the Calls to Come Outside?

Was there fighting right before the Israeli army called on residents to leave their homes? Khaled Abed Rabbo’s account differs in different media outlets, one time saying there was no fighting, and another claiming “the shelling intensified.”

Time (Tim McGirk, Jan. 29): Residents of Jebel al-Kashif recall being warned by the Israelis through loudspeakers to evacuate their homes. “There was no fighting, so we weren’t too worried when the Israelis told us to leave,” Abed Rabu recalls.

McClatchy, (Dion Nissenbaum, Feb. 2): On Jan. 7, Abed Rabbo said, the shelling intensified, and they heard an Israeli soldier calling for people to come out of their homes.

Sydney Morning Herald (Jason Koutsoukis, Jan. 24): Souad Abed Rabbo [Khaled’s mother] was in her apartment on the edge of the Jabalya refugee camp near the Israeli border on January 7 when the call came from Israeli soldiers for everyone in the area to come outside.


What Did the Soldiers Do to the Ambulance Driver and His Ambulance?

The ambulance driver who said he tried to reach the Abed Rabbos seems to be a particularly unreliable source. In one media outlet, he claims Israeli soldiers backed his ambulance into his house, crushing it. In another, he left the scene and returned only to find the ambulance crushed under a demolished building. He also contradicts himself about what the soldiers did to him – did they beat him, order him to strip or just tell him to leave? Samiyeh al-Sheikh cannot get his story straight.

1) Time: The ambulance driver, Samiyeh al-Sheikh, who lives close by, said he heard shots and screams coming from Abed Rabu’s house. “But when I tried to go toward him, the Israeli soldiers beat me up. Then, with a bulldozer, the soldiers backed the ambulance against my house and crushed it like sand.”

2) McClatchy: Samieh al-Sheik, the ambulance driver who lived in an adjacent home, heard the shouting. Without thinking about what could be waiting outside, Sheik said he ran to his ambulance, turned on the emergency lights and drove towards the screams.

As he turned the corner and headed for Abed Rabbo’s home, Sheik said he came face-to-face with the Israeli tank unit. The soldiers ordered him to get out of the ambulance and told him to walk straight out of the neighborhood.

“I didn’t see what happened to the family that day because I couldn’t reach them,” said Sheik, who returned to find the ambulance crushed under a demolished building.

3) Irish Times (Jan. 26): Samih al-Sheikh, an ambulance driver, heard the Abed Rabbos screaming from his home, 60 metres away.

He started up the hill in his ambulance, in uniform, with the intention of helping them, but came upon two Israeli tanks.

The Israelis told me to get out of my ambulance with my hands up. The made me strip down to my underwear. They wouldn’t let me go to the Abed Rabbos,” he said.

4) In the Independent, Khaled says that an ambulance was held up due to poor road conditions, and says nothing about the army forbidding his neighbor to approach in his ambulance. Macintyre wrote: “Khaled Abed Rabbo said that there had been a delay before the ambulance could reach the building because the road from the west had been made impassable by the churning of the tanks.

The soldiers had in the end let the family leave on foot, he said.

He added that they walked two kilometres before finding a vehicle to take them to Kamal Adwan Hospital.”


What Do Palestinian Sources Say about the Abed Rabbo Sisters?

According to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency, the Abed Rabbo girls were not shot dead in cold blood as they wave white flags. Rather, the day of the incident, on Jan. 7 the agency reported, under the headline "Airstrike kills three sisters during supposed lull":

Israeli warplanes killed three Palestinian civilians on Wednesday afternoon during what Israel had earlier declared to be a unilateral three hour halt in its attacks on Gaza. . . .

Medics at Kamal Udwan Hospital confirmed that three sisters were killed by Israeli fire in the east of Jabaliya Refugee Camp. The sisters were identified as two-year-old Amal, four year-old Su’ad and six-year-old Samar. Others were injured, medics said.

Likewise, Palestinian Satellite Channel TV from Ramallah reported on Jan. 7:

The Israeli shelling of the northern strip has been renewed after the end of the three-hour truce announced by the occupation forces at noon. However, Israeli warplanes continued intensive overflights of Gaza. The sources noted that the Israeli warplanes carried out four air strikes on areas in northern Gaza. The sources added that the occupation’s planes bombarded areas in Jabaliyah, causing the martyrdom of three sisters. (Translated by BBC World Monitoring)

In yet another version of events, Palestinian medical officials told the Los Angeles Times that the girls were killed by a tank shell:

Palestinian medical officials said three sisters from the Abed Rabbu family – Suad, 6; Amal, 4; and Samar, 2 – were killed by an Israeli tank shell in Jabaliya.

Ha’aretz likewise reported:

The war returned in the evening. Electricity went out, and the water supply was disrupted. An artillery shell struck the Abed Rabbo home in the northeast Strip, killing three girls, aged 2, 4 and 6.

(Strangely, all of the accounts which attribute the deaths to either air strikes or tank artillery — and not to a cold blooded execution — state that three sisters, not two, were killed.)

Read the article for the other inconsistencies and conflicting accounts.

Now of course, Judge Richard Goldstone is in charge of this commission--and he is authorized to allow whatever testimony he deems credible. However, in a case where there are so many contradictions and inconsistencies, one would expect Goldstone to inquire into the reasons for the various discrepancies and explain why the account he accepts is credible.

He does not.

Another reason why the Goldstone Commission Report is not credible.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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