There is no doubt about it. The Goldstone report about Operation Cast Lead (the Gaza war of 2008) is not about "justice." It is based on an investigation initiated with the most malicious intent, by a UN body, the UNHRC, that is obsessed with the mission of delegitimizing Israel. Its major conclusions were decided before there was any "investigation," and the investigation that was undertaken was a bad joke, consisting mostly of collecting Israel-bashing libels from anti-Israel NGOs. Judge Goldstone was enlisted in this nefarious project to provide a fig leaf of respectability for the "human rights" advocacy of countries like Libya and Sudan. He did not exercise the best judgment in accepting the charge and did not conduct a fair investigation.
The Goldstone report was meant to be, and will be, the centerpiece of a vicious PR campaign and UN propaganda persecution against Israel. It gives the usual sources many opportunities to rant about "Zionist war criminals" and "Zionist war crimes" and to attempt to force a UN Security Council condemnation of Israel. Alan Dershowitz has pointed out that Goldstone went beyond the various human rights organizations with his fantastic contention that the Israeli government diabolically planned in advance to murder Palestinian civilians and destroy civilian infrastructure. (see THE CASE AGAINST THE GOLDSTONE REPORT: A STUDY IN EVIDENTIARY BIAS).
However, it is time to say what everyone knows and will not admit. Israel's army probes of the Gaza war crime allegations are not going to satisfy many critics, nor will documents like the one issued recently by the Israeli government, and other reports that are either in preparation or submitted. The Israeli MAG (Military Advocate General) reported that they investigated X number of cases raised ( about 140 at this time) by the infamous Goldstone report and closed them. But the skeptics will dismiss it all as "Zionist propaganda" because they have been convinced, rightly or wrongly, that only an independent civilian inquiry will discover the truth.
Contrary to the impression that some people seem to have, the report presented to UN Secretary General Ban was not the final Israeli rejoinder to the Goldstone report. Israel is preparing a very long report that will be a point by point refutation:
The 40-page “letter” was delivered to Ban, explaining the independence of ’s legal system, and the efficacy of the justice system in the military.
Diplomatic officials stressed that this letter is not the IDF’s answer to the Goldstone Commission report. The IDF rebuttal is currently being completed, and will number more than 1,000 pages and will answer point-by-point all the allegations in the Goldstone Report The "40 page letter" referred to above may or may not be the 46 page document that is posed at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website - Gaza Operation Investigations - an update. That document details the structure and independence of the Military Advocate General's office and the Israeli investigation process, as well as giving finding regarding some of the cases.
These efforts, which impress Israel's friends, are not necessarily going to convince the the world, and do not change the fact that there were, and are, real problems that require both judicial and administrative or legislative remedies.
The problems are evident even in the handling of the rebuttal. According to Haaretz, newspaper, the letter sent to Secretary General Ban claimed that two IDF officers were disciplined for improper use of white phosphorus in one incident on January 15, 2009. But according to Haaretz newspaper, the IDF promptly denied that any officers were disciplined!
The Israel Defense Forces on Monday denied that two of its senior officers had been summoned for disciplinary action after headquarters staff found that the men exceeded their authority in approving the use of phosphorus shells during last year's military campaign in the Gaza Strip, as the Israeli government wrote in a recent report.
The report, which was a sensation for a day, seems to have vanished without a final resolution - either a clear official confirmation or a clear denial. This is not indicative of an orderly process of investigation, to say the least. If Haaretz is referring to the 46 page update document, there is indeed a report that officers were disciplined in section 100 and what is apparently the same report for the same incident is given in Section 108:
One of these incidents involved alleged damage to the UNRWA field office compound in Tel El Hawa.102 The special command investigation revealed that, during the course of a military operation in Tel El Hawa, IDF forces fired several artillery shells in violation of the rules of engagement prohibiting use of such artillery near populated areas. Based on these findings, the Commander of the Southern Command disciplined a Brigadier General and a Colonel for exceeding their authority in a manner that jeopardized the lives of others.
There is no mention of white phosphorus in that section. In Sections 118-120, the document states categorically that all IDF use of white phosphorus was found to be legal and there were no violations. The Haaretz article related an entirely narrative that is not taken from the document, and their source is not clear. The IDF denial that officers were disciplined for any reason that is quoted in Ha'aretz is also unexplained.
If we don't believe our own report, it is not likely that anyone else will believe it. If different branches of the IDF cannot ascertain whom the IDF punished and for what, there must be at least some procedures that require investigation and correction.
According to the report, about 150 cases were investigated and 36 were referred for disciplinary action. Details are not given for every case. In the entire Gaza operation, we are supposed to believe, almost nobody made serious errors in judgment. We are to believe that almost all the decisions were correct, even though soldiers died from friendly fire, and three little Palestinian girls, whom everyone admits were blameless, daughters of a blameless physician, Dr. Izzeldin AbuelAish, were killed by mistake..Those are three wrongful deaths that we can identify by name. Even the most pro-Israel enthusiast might think it is suspicious if the IDF says, "We investigated ourselves and we found ourselves almost blameless."
If all the IDF decisions were correct, then how did it happen that we waged an expensive and risky war, and at the end of the war there was a lot of destruction in Gaza, but the Hamas remained stronger than ever? It is unlikely that Israeli generals are war criminals as Goldstone charges, but nobody should get a prize for the planning and execution of the Gaza war. The Goldstone report or some similar kangaroo proceeding, should also have been foreseen by the planners since allegations of Israeli "war crimes" are not new. Even if there were no instances of criminal malfeasance, there was certainly a failure of decision making, and there errors of judgment and lapses in discipline. We all know about the graffiti left in Gaza by various IDF soldiers, and about the inciteful pamphlets initiated by fanatic rabbis and distributed by the IDF "through an oversight." What mechanisms were put into place to correct these problems?
We were assured, from the start, that the Gaza war would not be like the Second Lebanon war. Officers and government officials would not speak out of turn, and would not make pointless bellicose remarks. But pointless bellicosity continued long after the Second Lebanon war, and the Goldstone report used them as "evidence" against Israel. For example, In October 2008, just before General Eisenkott said, regarding Lebanon:
What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. […] We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases. […] This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved.”
This is the sort of primitive and needless bragging and bullying that used to characterize Arab leaders. It is in a class with the threats made by Gamal Abdul Nasser before the Six day war. Whatever policies the government adopts, they are not set by the IDF, and whatever military doctrines the IDF adopts, they are not more effective if discussed in public. Wars are not won by rhetoric. If the Israeli government wanted to warn the Lebanese against testing Israeli patience, there were other, more credible and more civilized ways to do it.
Even more pointless were the remarks of Eli Yishai, Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor. He said on February 2, 2009
Even if the rockets fall in an open air or to the sea, we should hit their infrastructure, and destroy 100 homes for every rocket fired.
We can point out that these remarks were made after the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead and cannot prove intent, though they might say something about general policy and state of mind They are not evidence surely, as Yishai didn't plan the operation. They were utterly pointless because unlike General Eisenkott, Yishai is not a military authority and is not in charge of military planning. He should stick to what he knows.
Perhaps the skill of Alan Dershowitz can convince friends of Israel that it is not illegal to call for destruction of homes, as he does so well. But if you require a Dershowitz or a Clarence Darrow to defend you and to produce an exegesis of your remarks in the manner of the Rashi and the Rambam, you are in trouble. Those who are not so well disposed to our cause will take the remarks literally. As the Israeli government had to be aware of the hostile international environment, what possible excuse was there for remarks such as these, intended evidently to garner support from Shas party voters. What is a minister of a religious party doing meddling in foreign policy and military strategy in public? Yishai probably knows even less about military strategy than he knows about industry, trade or labor. What purpose did these remarks serve?
At least some Israeli authorities have understood that an independent investigation is required. Col. Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, who headed the Military Advocate General's international law department during Operation Cast Lead called for an investigation, though she is apparently convinced that all is well in the best of all possible worlds:
"There is not necessarily a need for a commission of inquiry because we essentially know more or less what happened in terms of decision making, orders and targets," she said. "As for the top brass, we have the protocols of government meetings."
Nonetheless, she added, "We are now in a situation in which we need to give our friends - who don't want to see lawsuits filed against us in their own courts - the tools to do away such claims, along with other charges against us," she said.
"If they need a commission of inquiry then that's what we'll give them," she added. "I really don't think we have anything we need to hide."
It is not so clear that everything is under control and nothing can go wrong, as Sharvit-Baruch implied. If she had done her job right during the Gaza war, there might not have been a Goldstone report. Moreover, if everything is just fine, then how did it happen that her remarks, made in confidence to a closed forum, were published the next day in Haaretz? Leaks of this sort are the rule, rather than the exception. What sort of army cannot keep secrets?
Menachem Mazuz, Israel's outgoing government counsel (a title erroneously translated in English as "Attorney General") also explained why an independent investigation is needed:
"There is a danger here of a 'Serbianization' of Israel," even though the report on the Gaza war was biased and contains unsubstantiated conclusions, Mazuz said. "Therefore I believe that Israel has a clear interest in conducting a serious, expert examination that will deal with the report and produce an opposing report. It would be a serious mistake not to establish some sort of committee. We must remove the shame of accusing Israel of being a country that commits war crimes."
"Some sort of committee" is not enough. There must be a judicial committee of inquiry or judicial proceedings in regular courts regarding criminal allegations. The investigation or trials would not satisfy everyone. The Palestinians, notwithstanding the fact that they won't try any of their "alleged" war criminals and their supporters will continue to rant about Zionist war criminals, backed by the Arab world and degenerates like the Dutch socialite Greta Duisenberg. But friendly governments will at least have a solid basis to reject the Goldstone allegations and to combat the campaign of pseudo-legal war criminal proceedings being waged by Palestinians and their supporters.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi are opposed to a probe. But they are among the "suspects," because part of Goldstone's allegations, the most serious ones, claim that the Gaza operation was planned to harm civilians and to harm infrastructure in order to hurt civilians. Of course, intentional destruction of some infrastructure may have been done based on the doctrine that we must destroy "infrastructure" of terrorists. That is not criminal, but since terror groups do not have and do not need much infrastructure, it is probable that this doctrine is mistaken. But it is clear that suspects in a possible investigation should not be deciding whether or not to have an investigation.
A second investigation, non-judicial, is needed to examine the tactical and strategic and policy aspects of Operation Cast Lead. Before the next war, we must find out what really went wrong in Operation Cast Lead, and in the Second Lebanon War. Obviously, not all the lessons of the Second Lebanon war were learned, because in some respects the Gaza war was a repeat performance. This is true despite the great strides taken by the IDF in repairing itself, and despite the fact that both the Chief of Staff and the Defense Minister had been replaced, and nobody doubts the professional qualifications of the present incumbents. And the problem is not confined to military planning.
The two wars share too many negative characteristics in common: Both were long drawn out operations that generated a lot of destruction and civilian deaths on the enemy side, but did not inflict a decisive blow on the enemy. Both brought charges of Israeli "war crimes."
Israel's friends may be willing to help us, especially as the United States, Britain and others may be accused of similar war "war crimes" in Iraq and Afghanistan by the same coalition of terror groupies But friends can only help those who help themselves. And we need a real investigation, because there are real problems that exist regardless of the Goldstone report. The same sorts of problems have been dogging the IDF and Israeli government since the Yom Kippur War: poor intelligence, poor decision making, poor strategy, neglect of essential preparation, flaws in implementation. Israelis who do not believe me, should consider this example, which is easy to check. What is the status of the air raid shelters in your town. Are they all clean and ready? Were they all opened and ready for use when there was a drill?
After each war there is an "investigation" and we are assured that the problems will not recur, but they do. Condemning the Goldstone report is not enough. Friends of Israel have to understand that along with condemning the Goldstone report, we must call for independent inquiries.
What is more important than the last war or last wars, is the next one. The next Lebanon or Gaza war, if there will be one, is being planned according to the same formula: a long war of attrition featuring air and ground operations. The minister of religion and the minister of rabbit growing will issue bellicose announcements about grinding the enemy to dust and will be duly quoted in the media. The confidential remarks of every military official in closed door forums will make daily headlines. The network and media photographers and correspondents will have weeks to report about the real or imagined agony of innocent Lebanese civilians. The enemy will be able to generate a great deal of Pallywood and Hoaxbulla - dead bodies taken from morgues, staged ambulance emergencies, the same person losing a different home on different days. The anti-Israel lobby will have a PR festival, and Israel will accomplish no strategic objective other than to strengthen its enemies.
Well-meaning polemics against the Goldstone report, as bad as the report is, miss the point. It is always valid to ask for an independent civilian investigation of criminal actions when there are reasonable suspicions. Justice must be seen as well as done. When the military and civilian decision process has produced two catastrophic failures in a brief period, it is also imperative to hold a serious and probing technical and policy review as well. It is not unpatriotic to mount these investigations. It is common sense, good government and good Zionism.
There is no doubt that Israeli rescue teams have done us proud in Haiti. See for example Israeli aid to Haiti. Israeli disaster missions and humanitarian aid are always given without strings, and the people who do it do not do it in anticipation of cheap "PR" that will improve Israel's "image." Such disaster aid missions have been sent to numerous countries, in addition to ongoing projects that provide cardiologists and opthalmologists to needy patients in developing countries. It is what we do, because that is who we are.
There is no doubt that we want people to see who we are and what we do, but when Haitians were yelling "bravo Israel" Major Zohar Moshe insisted, "It is not about that, it is about saving lives." About 200,000 people are estimated to have perished in the Haiti earthquake. This is a huge catastrophe. To put it in perspective, it is nearly ten times as many fatalities as Israel has suffered in all of our wars in our entire history, and about 70 times the number of fatalities caused by the Jihadist terror attacks of 9-11-01 in the United States.
Regrettably, there are cynical, tasteless and obsessed people do not understand that it is inappropriate to play politics with a disaster of this magnitude. Those who insisted on pointing out that Arab countries did not give aid to Haiti might be disappointed to see a Reuters/IRIN item about Arab aid to Haiti, including a Jordanian field hospital send January 14. This is a world class disaster and everyone should be, and is, pitching in. .
On the other hand, any time is the right time to dump on Israel for some people, and anything we do can be held against us. A CBS blog trumpeted " Pennies for Haiti, Billions for Israel, Egypt, as if US aid to Israel is at fault for the miserable condition of the Haitian economy and society. At least two Israeli Op-eds used Israeli aid to Haiti as an excuse and springboard for discussing what they wanted to discuss, which was totally unrelated. Gershon Baskin whined shamelessly:
But what about the humanitarian disaster in our own backyard caused in a large part by our own doing? What about Gaza? More than 1.5 million people are living in total poverty, without sanitary drinking water, under an economic and physical siege, locked in what could easily be called the world's largest prison. While we ask to see in all of the gory details, all of the destruction including hundreds of corpses on the streets of Port-au-Prince, we wish to see none of the human suffering of our Palestinian neighbors in Gaza where we literally hold the keys to the end of their suffering.
Not only don't we see their suffering, we simply don't care. Doesn't the concept of tikkun olam extend to our enemies? (Not all of Gaza's 1.5 million people are enemies; many of them, perhaps even most of them would like to live in peace with us.)
What has all this to do with Haiti? Absolutely nothing. The only connection is one made by a perverse mind. And what has Gaza poverty to do with Israel? Not as much as you might think. Gaza was not a bustling and advanced part of the world before 1948 or before the arrival of the evil Zionists. The standard of living in Gaza was not better a hundred years ago, and the infant mortality rate was not lower. It was about 300 out of a thousand infants, many times higher than today. Gaza under Egyptian rule was certainly no better than it is today.Tikkun olam does extend to our enemies. IDF set up a field hospital to treat Palestinian victims during Operation Cast Lead (aka "Gaza War of 2008") and Israeli hospitals have been treating Palestinian patients from Gaza even in the worst of times. One of them, as Baskin might remember, tried to use Israeli generosity to blow up Soroka hospital. It really isn't Israel's fault that Palestinians voted for Hamas or that Hamas chose to launch rockets and mortars at our towns. Baskin claims that "we" don't care. Perhaps he speaks for himself. Perhaps he is telling us that he doesn't care either about the suffering of the Palestinians or the dead people in Haiti. To an observer, it looks like he is just using suffering as a device to advance a political agenda - a good "issue."
Yoel Marcus's effort in this direction was less perverse, but it was nonetheless artificial exploitation of a "hot news item" as a springboard for discussing what he wants to discuss.
Every time disaster strikes anywhere in the world, I am filled anew with admiration at how ready and willing we are to assist, and how speedy, effective, organized and wholehearted that assistance is.
We did not rush aid to Haiti because there is a Jewish community there. We went there for humanitarian reasons. As a nation that has experienced disasters and bereavement for generations, other nations' disasters do not leave us indifferent...
It is easier for us to organize rescue operations outside Israel than do all that is necessary to advance peace inside it and thus prevent deadly attacks on our home front..
Well yes. It is also easier to organize rescue operations outside Israel than to fix the road safety problem or the problem of Israeli homeless or any other problem that needs fixing, so the deaths of 200,000 Haitians and the Israeli relief effort can be used as a platform for discussing just about anything you like.
The Hamas got into the act too, forgetting their complaint (Gershon Baskin take note) that Gazans are all starving in the Israeli siege, and launching their own relief effort for Haiti, alleging that the Israeli attack on Gaza was similar to the earthquake in Haiti. Not even Judge Goldstone, imagined that Israel killed 200,000 people in Gaza.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti — "Tell me please, what day is it? Is it Wednesday?" whispered Franz Gilles, laying in his bed at the field hospital.
"No, it is Saturday," the Israeli doctor standing next to him replied.
Gilles seemed baffled. He turned around and mumbled, "Saturday, oh my God."
The 59-year-old administrative director of the Haitian tax authority spent the past four days buried under rubble, in what used to be his office, across the road from Port-au-Prince's devastated presidential palace. "It was like in a box, then the night came," he later said.
Local rescue workers tried to get Gilles out shortly after the massive, 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the Haitian capital on January 13, but to no avail. They left their equipment on the ground and went on to rescue others. But three days later, an Israeli rescue mission — part of a 200-member Israeli rescue and relief mission that flew in to Haiti on January 14 — came back to the building, after receiving information that someone was still alive in the building.
"We started looking around, using dogs and listening devices and then we found him," said Major Zohar Moshe, commander of the rescue force. Zohar's team was one component of the rescue mission Israel dispatched to Haiti, a detachment from the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command that includes engineering, medical, logistics and rescue experts.
This was their first chance to actually find someone they could help.
"I'm always optimistic. You have to be optimistic when you're on a mission like this," he said, as an Israeli military doctor climbed into the rubble to insert an intravenous liquid tube to Gilles arms.
The Israeli rescuers kept on working around the cavity in which Gilles was trapped, cutting through the debris that blocked the entrance. "We tried to talk with him, to keep him awake," said Captain Nir Hazut. "I told him, 'Do you know where we are from? We are from Israel.
Gilles, who all but lost hope to ever get out, replied: "I can't believe it. You came all the way from Israel to save me?" Then he asked for a cell phone to call someone in Israel and say thank you, but rescuers told him that he'd have a chance to do so once he was out from under the debris and safe.
It took more than seven hours of careful digging, and maneuvering through the piles of brick, wood and office stationery, but by day's end, Gilles was out. Bodies of his co-workers, who were not as lucky, were visible through the debris of what was once one of Haiti's main government office buildings.
As Gilles was taken out on a stretcher to the ambulance, the crowd waiting outside the building for hours, broke out in cheers. "Bravo," cried out one, and another led bystanders in cheers "We love Israel; we love Israel."
"It is not about that, it is about saving lives," said Major Zohar Moshe, covered in dirt and sweat after the rescue mission was over, "but it does make us very proud."
A few hours later, in the field hospital set up by the Israeli military, Gilles seemed exhausted, but the doctors said he that in a few days he would be just fine.
It is difficult to comprehend the scope of this tragedy or to imagine a government that is so negligent that it cannot provide and organize basic security and health facilties for its people. We are proud that Israel is saving lives in Haiti, but it would really be much better if it were not necessary.
PORT-AU-PRINCE - The Israeli field hospital in the earthquake-stricken Haitian capital reflects the streets of the city, fluctuating between despair and hope amid the looting, violence and stories of miracles. Each account takes on great importance against the background of the earthquake that devastated the Western hemisphere's poorest country.
A baby around 18 months old lies on a bed in intensive care. She was admitted with an open sore and a massive infection throughout her body. The respirator shakes her every time it forces air into her. She has already been resuscitated a few times, and the team is not optimistic.
In the children's ward, located in a tent, is a baby under a year old; someone left him here after he was pulled out of the rubble Sunday morning. He has open sores on his leg and does not make a sound except for a slight chirping when the doctor checks his leg. The doctors say he is in shock.
"His condition is stable and pretty good considering what he's been through. He'll get antibiotics and surgery on the leg - it's a rare case of survival; apparently he was in an air pocket," says Dr. Assaf Amit, who heads the children's emergency department. "When he came here his condition was life-threatening."
His parents aren't here - perhaps they are dead - but the Israeli nurses caress him and give him a warm bottle of milk. "Apparently it's genetic, the ability to survive - he was lying in the rubble without food for five days," says Gali Wiest, the delegation's head nurse.
"We were shocked by the sights, and the nurses here have to cope with providing nursing care - it's a third-world country," she says. "I have four children myself and I was an emergency-room nurse, but the sights here are very difficult and you need a lot of mental fortitude. We've already taken in 87 children, most in moderate to serious condition; there have been a few operations and amputations, and they keep coming."
Photo: Natasha Mozgovaya
But no one stays for long. The hospital has a two-week mandate - nothing compared to the time it takes to recover from complex injuries.
"We're all thinking about the fact that we discharge them into the street, in effect, because they have no home," says Dr. Avi Yitzhak. "But you have to make the right decision: Either you take in 40 people and treat them for two weeks or you try to save as many as possible to at least stop the primary injury."
Yitzhak immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia in 1991 and says he feels a special connection to the patients here. He says he knows the problems of practicing medicine in the developing world.
"There's no organized network of clinics here, there's nowhere to discharge them to and we have to treat as many people as possible, as long as it's still possible to save them," Yitzhak says.
"When I went out on rescue yesterday I saw what was happening in the streets, the bodies, the people who didn't know what to do. It's obvious that the work is very intensive and I assume that we could burn out at a certain stage. But for now we're full of energy and we're thrilled by our ability to help."
Willsmith Joseph, 9, had surgery Saturday to amputate his toes, which had developed gangrene. Sunday morning he was in a deep sleep in the children's ward. His older brother knelt beside him. They will have to leave before noon. The nurse gives him two packets of antibiotics and some acetaminophen and tries to explain in English when to take them.
"Where are you going?," I ask the older boy. "We have no place to go. To the tent encampment," he says. "Our house was ruined." Willsmith's face contorts in pain as he walks with his new crutches.
"Had we not amputated his toes the gangrene would have spread and he would have died within days," Dr. Yitzhak explains. "Yes, it hurts, and there's an infection, but he'll live. It's a drop in the ocean, and it's frustrating, but we have to do the maximum to help as many people as possible."
Most of the wounds are infected and neglected - some people were pulled out of the rubble after being trapped for a few days, others simply couldn't get to a hospital or were turned away. Max Darlene Azur, 29, came to the Israeli hospital with open wounds on both sides of her leg. For four days she shouted and writhed in pain in the town square. The bodies of two of her cousins were still inside her home.
"I was in my room, and the wall simply collapsed onto my leg. But now I feel much better," she says.
The hospital also had its first birth Sunday. Jeanne-Michelle was brought in with labor pains and delivered a beautiful boy, her fourth child. Jeanne-Michelle sits indifferent most of the time, but when she says her newborn's name - Israel - a broad smile spreads across her face. "I feel fine," she says. She will be discharged within a few hours, to make room for other deliveries.
"It's very symbolic," Dr. Dar Shir says. "In a place where even without the disaster infant mortality is among the highest in the world and most women don't give birth in hospitals, the best experts in Israel delivered her baby. It's very moving, and balances out a little the things that are happening here, and reminds us that a woman who is ready to give birth will do so even when there's an earthquake. It's what keeps the human race going. Of course it's a problem to discharge them under these conditions, but at least she delivered safely and both mother and baby are in excellent condition."
According to the field hospital's commander, Dr. Itzik Kreis, "Throughout the night we continued to deal with saving lives; we received a number of patients in very poor shape who needed surgery and intensive care.
Photo: Natasha Mozgovaya
"For now the other medical teams don't have the ability to provide more than first aid. We are focusing on saving lives," says Colonel Kreis. "Most of the injuries are a result of the earthquake, but in a few days the situation can change and regular patients will start to come in as well."
How to donate via Israeli organizations:
Foreign Ministry: Tel (+972) 2-659-4222
ZAKA: Online at https://www.zaka.us/haiti.asp Or via bank account: Zaka-International Bank of Jerusalem Branch # 30 18 Keren Hayesod, Jerusalem, Israel Account No: 300060134 Swift Code: JERSILIT
Magen David Adom: Magen David Adom Trumot Lakaribim Israel Discount Bank Branch # 151 Yad Eliahu, Tel Aviv Account No: 17926
Chanoch Marmory, former editor of Ha'aretz, discusses how he was taken in by the Pallywood Muhammad al-Dura fabrication. The supposed murder of Al-Dura by Israeli soldiers, broadcast around the world, sparked the major violence of the so called Second Intifada. Marmory He was not the only one who "bought" the Muhammad al-Dura fabrication. The IDF bought it too. And when I circulated, simply as a point of information, news of a reconstruction that showed that Israeli soldiers could not possibly have killed al-Dura, I was bitterly condemned as a Zionist propagandist. But it was all a lie, just as the "Jenin Massacre" was a lie, and just as the "Gaza Humanitarian crisis" is a lie.
The title "Purity of shame" - "Tohar Habusha" is a pun on a Hebrew expression for ethical conduct.
Today, when I know more about the way in which the Palestinians related their tragedy, and from across the years and experience accumulated during those years, I can openly accept even the film of German journalist Esther Schapira, "Al Dura - child, death and the truth". Today I know we bought that story too quickly, and cheaply.
It was on my shift, so you can certainly see self-criticism in what is written here. Nine years have gone by since then, and the personal memory of every detail has gone dull a long time ago. But the emotional turmoil caused in me by the scene of father and son, Jalal Mohammed A-Dura and young Muhammad, I remember well. Those were feelings of shame and anger.
In the face of every scene of horror, the emotional reaction of the journalist precedes the journalistic one.Muhammad A-Dura was then my son's age, and it was easy to identify with the pain of the father who had his child lying shot at his feet. But we had to pull together and act as journalists even if the redness of shame often covered the cheeks.
The important lesson the years of intifada had taught me is that there is no way to do real journalism with veiled eyes. And even when the purity of shame blurs the vision, it is forbidden to abandon, even under the most difficult of circumstances, the basic tools of the journalist – curiosity, skepticism and a critical approach. Later it became evident how well the Palestinian side would exploit the embarrassment and shame of journalists like me as a tool in its combat.
The contribution of a minute and a half video segment taken at the gunfire exchanges at Netzarim junction on September 30, 2000 was decisive in turning protest demonstrations over Ariel Sharon's visit at Har-Homa into a complete Intifada. The clip that reflected the story of a son's dying in his father's arms after the two were caught partially exposed in the heart of the gunfire scene was embarrassing and shocking and was taken at face value: The was son killed and the father injured in the exchange of fire – whether it be IDF fire or Palestinian fire.
Wonder for the meaning of the event evaporated completely after the then Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Boogie Yaalon and Major General Giora Eiland stated publicly that the child was shot by IDF fire, accidentally of course. Even when the IDF investigated and retracted to state that Al-Dura was killed by wild Palestinian crossfire, we did not return to it. Anyone who then tried to keep digging around this innocent case the case was seen as a madman or one with a political agenda - or both.
We've left the issue with a certain relief, especially when the blaze swept all the territories and the full resources of journalistic coverage. Today it is clear we should have been more skeptical about eye impressions, also that the eyes were of only one camera: the camera of Talal Abu-Rahma, questionably hot material from the front, where there are those who describe it as Pallywood – the Palestinian video drama industry.
In time it became clear how this market took hold in the world, and especially in Western Europe, what drew the European media to provide with relative comfort and with low risk, bloody stories from the intifada fields of battle to a mostly non-critical audience that is not particularly selective. It was easy for the Palestinians to sell stories to the foreign press, and it was easy for those stories to produce bold headlines.
In disproving at least one instance I was involved personally; in setting things straight in the story of Abu-Ali, a resident of the Jenin refugee camp during the days of "Operation Defensive Shield", which was given in the French magazine "Le Nouvel Observateur" the title: "My Nine children were buried under the rubble". Abu-Ali's house was indeed destroyed during the battle, but his children escaped and were found safe and sound. However, and despite this, the French magazine, which did a very sloppy job, avoided publicly retracting their words.
Today, when I know more about the way in which the Palestinians related their tragedy, and from across the years and experience accumulated during those years, I can openly accept even the film of German journalist Esther Schapira, "Al Dura - child, death and the truth" that was broadcast last night on "Mabat Sheny".
Today I know we bought that story too quickly, and cheaply. We were skeptical towards the IDF investigation, also because the army had a reputation of a body that suits investigative conclusions to its own needs. But from the moment when the army itself took responsibility for the case, we rid ourselves of it, while at the same time we showed impatience towards tests conducted by those perceived as obsessive. In the midst of the intifada there is no time for those who dig around in an old case, when events pile up on the table frequently.
Yair Atinger, the only one of the TV critics who referred this morning to the film that was broadcast last night, offers as a main lesson from it: "Do not believe anything that runs on the screen". I agree with his statement and his words that that "a picture, even a video image, may be the perfect lie, and effective television needs trusting viewers, not necessarily intelligent ones".
However I find it hard to accept Atinger's inclusion of the Al-Dura case into one package with Elvis legends and stories of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, i.e. in the category of conspiracy theories. If you take into account the fact that a minute and a half of photographic material created the great myth of the second intifada, a myth of the suffering, heroism and sacrifice, which generations of Palestinian children grow on, we should have made every effort to get at the truth of the affair. It was our job, to tell what exactly happened. And if not us, anyone who is willing to stick a pin in this myth should have been accepted openly. We had to try to distinguish between bothersome possessed people and meticulous researchers.
The question whether Muhammad Al Dura had indeed been shot by Israeli fire or if it was Palestinian gunfire will no longer get an answer. What happened there in the heat of battle could not be proven any more – especially given that the former Gaza Division commander, Brigadier General Yair Naveh, ordered the immediate destruction of all constructions located at Netzarim junction that were within firing distance of the outpost, and among them the wall that the father and son clung to during the shooting.
Either way, Esther Schapira manages to impress us with the contradictions she found in that video segment: the ground beneath the killed and the injured is without blood stains, fresh blood stains that emerge at the scene later, and blood stains on the video that pop up and disappear and change their location on the body of Muhammad as if they were a red rag he was holding in his hand.
Schapira presents the testimony of the sole witness, the cameraman Talal Abu-Rahma, who filmed for Charles Enderlin, a regular representative of the French network France 2, as false and fraudulent and baseless.She finds contradictions in his testimony that claims Al-Dura died before his eyes.According to him, he watched the continuous shooting from his car for about 45 minutes, took about 18 minutes of film, yet only submitted fragmented footage of one minute and a half of the father and son, when he could allegedly have shot continuously and had a charged battery in his hand.Abu-Rahma inexplicably interrupted the filming and his video did not capture the entire process of extracting the body, though he could have done so.
Schapira finds flaws with the father's version in regards to his own injury.With the aid of an Israeli doctor who treated him before, she proves that the scars he presented as caused in the Netzarim shooting incident were caused in mysterious circumstances for which he underwent treatment in Israel.Her hypothesis: body injuries such as those are caused by Hamas members as punishment for those who collaborated with the enemy, hence the question arising is even wilder: Has Hamas used the father and son forcing them to position themselves at the scene, so that the father will make amends for his crime against them?
Schapira presents the court verdict from a year ago, in which a French court accepted the appeal of Phillip Karsenty, a French Jew who has devoted most of his time to the rebuttal of the Al Dura story. After he claimed that the report Enderlin had broadcast was staged (Enderlin never stayed in Gaza during the shooting, but in Ramallah), France 2 filed a libel suit against Karsenty, and he was convicted initially. The courthouse of appeals did not ratify Karsenty's assertion, but ruled that it is not libelous.During the trial France 2 was forced to reveal the raw material taken before editing, and in a short piece that was not aired the boy, declared as dead, is shown to be moving his limbs.
Schapira does not settle for this. She creates a broader picture, of directing of injury scenes, of conflicting testimonies, of irrational scheduling, and finally raises a claim, relying on a face recognition expert, that the boy who was brought for burial that day at the mass funeral is not Muhammad Al-Dura, but another boy whose name is Rami Al-Dura, who was shot in his head or at least had a marking on him similar to a gunshot wound. From here, in her opinion, the possibility of raising the question if he is actually dead is open.
It is not clear who is this Rami Al-Dura, and under what circumstances was he killed.Esther Schapira makes it clear in the language: she does not claim that Muhammad Al Dura is alive.She just claims that he did not die during the video taking at the Netzarim crossing and that he is not the boy that was brought for burial during the funeral procession.This sounds like a fantastic option, but the whole scene is full of contradictions and inconsistencies. And there are those who made vast political capital from the funeral procession. Elvis case, then, it is not.
The Palestinian myth will remain strong even if there would be found clear cut evidence that the story of Muhammad Al-Dura was staged entirely.There will always be those who will argue that even if it is not clear what exactly happened there, the basic story remains as is: a helpless child was caught in Israeli fire and was shot deliberately.
Now that this film was presented to us, it is clear that what you see in the video shots of Talal Abu- Rahma is not the whole story. And possibly, it is an entirely different story. Suddenly, with considerable delay, the need returns to do another round on it, in an attempt to get at the truth.Now I have to know what really happened there. It's not a petty matter and not a question of professional honor. I must know who they are, and of course, who we are.
Tragedy struck the family of late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon again Sunday, when his son Capt. Asaf Ramon was killed in a crash while flying an Israel Air Force F16-A.
Ilan Ramon, Israel's first astronaut was one of seven crew members killed when the U.S. space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry on February 1, 2003.
Asaf Ramon's aircraft crashed near the settlement of Bnei Haver, in the rugged terrain of the Hebron Hills. The Israel Defense Forces carried out an aerial and terrestrial search of the area for some 90 minutes before locating the crash site.
IAF Blackhawk ("Yanshuf") helicopters carrying soldiers from 669, the Air Force's elite search and rescue unit, were the first to locate the plane, and they retrieved the pilot's body.
Asaf excelled in the IAF's grueling training course for pilots. In June he received a presidential honor and was given his pilot's wings by President Shimon Peres. He then joined the squadron in which the course's advanced training program is carried out.
The young pilot escaped another plane crash only half a year ago during a routine training flight.
The Air Force commander, Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, called an official inquiry and halted training in Israel's F-16 squadrons until further notice, the military said in a statement.
Ilan Ramon himself was a fighter pilot in the IAF, and the youngest to take part in Israel's 1981 air strike on Iraq's unfinished Osirak nuclear reactor. He was also the son and grandson of Holocaust survivors.
People in Israel had tracked Ramon's journey into space as a welcome distraction from the violence of the second intifada; they responded to his death with shock and grief.
Asaf Ramon was 15 when his father died; shortly afterward, he promised on a number of occasions that he would follow in his father's footsteps and serve as a pilot and possibly even as an astronaut in the future. he is survived by his mother, and his two brothers and sister.
Shortly before receiving his wings, Ramon told the IAF journal that, "It was important to me to mention my father and tell his stories, because I am proud of him and proud to be his son. But I also want people to know me as Asaf and not just as the son of the astronaut Ilan Ramon."
Sweden's Foreign Ministry on Thursday said a response by the Swedish Embassy in Israel to a report by the Aftonbladet news saying IDF soldiers killed Palestinians in order to harvest their organs does not represent the government's stance.
The embassy had stated that the report was "appalling". But the Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman said, "The embassy in Tel Aviv responded in accordance to Israeli public opinion, however the Swedish government is committed to freedom of the press."
She added that Israel had not issued an official complaint on the report.
Another Swedish government spokesperson, Anders Jorle said, "The Foreign Ministry would not have acted in the same way" as the ambassador.
The editor of Aftonbladet, Jan Helin, said, "It's deeply unpleasant and sad to see such a strong propaganda machine using centuries-old anti-Semitic images in an apparent attempt to get an obviously topical issue off the table." Helin called it an opinion piece raising questions of Israel in the context of a suspected link to Israel in that U.S. case. He denied any suggestion of anti-Semitism from his paper.
There was nothing in the presentation of the article to indicate that it was supposed to be an opinion piece rather than a factual article. The dodge of disseminating lies as facts and then claiming it is "opinion" is a common one, though some journalistic standards officially forbid such behavior. Helin now has the best of both worlds, since he can defend the libel as just "opinion" while at the same time insisting that it is a "topical issue" that should be discussed, implying that it is true or has some basis in fact. It seems the blood libel is always "topical."
If a person publishes an opinion piece stating that a Martian is impersonating the President of the United States, is it just nonsense or a topical issue that should be discussed? If I write that Holocaust survivors remember Jan Helin's father as a volunteer SS Einsatzgruppenfuhrer who participated in the Babi Yar massacre, I am after all just quoting a source, right? It doesn't have to be true. Is it an opinion piece or a topical issue? How about if I quote witnesses who insist they saw a homosexual orgy with the participation of Donald Bostrom, author of the article, and editor Helin, both dressed as Gestapo officers? How can the public be protected from random inventions of racists and sensationalists if every such claim can hide behind the defense of "opinion piece" and get the protection of "freedom of the press?"
"Legitimate criticism" of Israel reached new lows of depravity in Sweden when Sweden's leading daily newspaper revived the medieval blood libel accusation against the IDF. in a sensational article titled ""Our sons plundered for their organs"(Swedish article is here: aftonbladet.se/kultur/article5652583.ab). Based on this accusation, "Anti-Zionist" Web sites and e-mail lists are hurrying to circulate the "news" that the IDF kills Palestinian Arabs in order to extract their organs for transplants.
The reporter, one Donald Bostrom, assembled a farrago of unrelated stories about illegal organ trafficking from Israel, including a story about the arrest of a New York Jew engaged in selling kidneys contrary to Israeli law. He used hearsay and rumor from Palestinians about the fate of relatives killed during the Intifada:
I was in the area and worked on a book when I several times was contacted by UN staff who were concerned about the development. Those who contacted me felt that body theft actually took place, but that they were unable to act. On behalf of a television company, I then went around and spoke to a large number of Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza....
"'Our sons are used as involuntary organ donors,' relatives of Khaled from Nablus said to me, as did the mother of Raed from Jenin as well as the uncles of Machmod and Nafes from Gaza, who all had disappeared for a few days and returned by night, dead and autopsied. - Why did they keep the bodies up to five days before we can bury them? What happened to the bodies in the meantime? And why is the autopsy when the cause of death is obvious, and in all cases against our will? And why are the bodies returned at night?".
Evidently, the rumors spread due to ignorance of forensic autopsy procedures and Jew hate, encouraged by UN personnel. Bostrom described in detail the case of one Bilal Achmed Ghanian, 19, whose body was returned after autopsy after he was killed in 1992. It is probable, but unclear, that the victims were dead when they were evacuated. Of course, organs cannot be harvested from cadavers. Bostrom quoted an IDF denial and explanation that the autopsies were routine, but Bostrom implied that the denial is false:
The routine autopsy of killed Palestinians, as told by the army spokesman is not true in reality in the Occupied Territories. .
The use of rumor and hearsay, and more especially the unrelated material about illegal organ traffic, make it clear that Bostrom set out to intentionally libel Israel and the Jewish people. The Israeli ambassador lodged a strong protest, but this can hardly be a deterrent to people like Bostrom. If a similar report about Muslims had been published in a Scandinavian journal, wouldn't there be violent world wide demonstrations as there were after the Danish Muhammad cartoons?
Swedish Jews claim Bostrom is a known anti-Semite and AftonBladet has published similar articles. The Swedish Embassy in Israel has apologized, but a culture editor of Aftonbladet told Haaretz that the publication stands by the story and insists on an "international investigation" of the alleged nefarious Jewish activities.
The libel of organ stealing is not new and may have originated with Yasser Arafat himself. According to a 2002 Honest Reporting article:
the Islamic Association for Palestine reported that Yasser Arafat "has accused the Israeli apartheid regime of murdering Palestinian children and youths and extricating their vital organs for organ transplants."
It is one thing when racist Palestinian leaders make accusations of Jewish blood libel, but quite another phenomenon and much more ominous when they appear in a respected northern European "Nordic" country journal. It seems that there are no longer any real limits to what may be published under the guise of supposedly "legitimate criticism of Israel." A competing Swedish newspaper has published a horrified editorial.The liberal Sydsvenskan - southern Sweden's major daily ran an opinion piece of Mats Skogkär called "Antisemitbladet" (a play on the name Aftonbladet):
"We have heard the story before, in one form or the other. It follows the traditional pattern of conspiracy theory: a great number of loose threads that the theorist tempts the reader to tie into a neat knot without having been provided with any proven connection whatsoever..."
"Whispers in the dark. Anonymous sources. Rumors. That is all it takes. After all we all know what they [the Jews] are like, don't we: inhuman, hardened. Capable of anything," the opinion piece says. "Now all that remains is the defense, equally predictable: 'Anti-Semitism' No, no, just criticism of Israel."
The tale is not told in a cultural vacuum of course. The stories of Bilal Achmed Ghanian and the others are backed by a rich European tradition of "legitimate criticism" of Jews. They have joined the European pantheon of fraudulent blood libel martys, which includes numerous "saints" revered by the Catholic church for many years, such as Saint Andreas of Rinn , Saint Simon of Trent, and Saint Hugh of Lincoln. Aftonbladet has carried on in a more modern tradition of Nordic journalism, illustrated by the following twentieth century cartoon from the Westdeutchen Beobachter, also considered "legitimate criticism" by its defenders:
I thought there is little more to add on the Guardian videos accusing the IDF of war crimes during the Gaza operation, given what has already been written in ZioNation, in the Jerusalem Post by the indispensable Melanie Philips and more, and more. And more as these lines are been written, but apparently, there is more to add.
In the first video I was struck by the Guardian reporter's decision to go to the Israeli website 'Shavuz' for technical information about Israel's unmanned drones capabilities. Shavuz is Hebrew slang for 'worn-out' or over worked. The site serves primarily as a service for soldiers before enlisting and before rejoining civilian lives. It gives advices on jobs, and academic courses along with social interactions in forums, exchange of war stories, and other army life experiences. IT IS NOT a supplier of professional information on Israel's technological capabilities; there are plenty of other sites and publication for that, many of them in English. Using 'Shavuz' for information on technology is the equivalent of using the 'London Employment Help Center' for information on the electronics of the London Tube. It is simply ludicrous; unfortunately there is nothing here to laugh at.
Today, Sunday, an IDF officer whose troops fought in Gaza will present the conclusions of his personal investigation in the wake of testimony of soldiers in his brigade about incidents of killing of Palestinian civilians during Operation Cast Lead. The investigation reveals that in at least two of the incidents mentioned in the testimony, which raised a storm of public controversy, no Palestinian women were killed as had been claimed.
Two central incidents that were brought to light in the testimony, which Danny Zamir, the head of the Rabin pre-military academy presented to Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi, focus on one infantry brigade. Today the brigade's commander will present the findings of his personal investigation about the matter which he undertook in the last few day to Brigadier General Eyal Eisenberg, commander of the Gaza division,, and after approval, he will present his findings to the head of the Southern Command, Major General Yoav Gallant.
Light Finger on the trigger
Regarding the incident in which it was claimed that a sniper fired at a Palestinian woman and her two daughters, the brigade commander's investigation cites the sniper: "I saw the woman and her daughters and I shot warning shots. The section commander came up to the roof and shouted at me, ?Why did you shoot at them.' I explained that I did not shoot at them, but I fired warning shots."
Officers from the brigade suspect that fighters who remained in the lower story of the Palestinian house thought that he hit the the women, and from there the rumor that a sniper killed a mother and her two daughters spread.
Regarding the second incident, in which it was claimed that soldiers went up to the roof to entertain themselves with firing and killed an elderly Palestinian woman, the brigade commander investigation found that there was no such incident.
According to one of the officers, "The number of terrorists killed and the extent of arrests in "Operation Cast Lead" varied from brigade to brigade because the troops fought in different areas, and as part of the tradition there is always competition to show that your brigade is more combat ready. Nonetheless, the official evaluation has not yet begun and among field commanders there is a fear that troops will bring to light additional incidents that took place during the fighting.
An officer of an elite unit that fought deep in Palestinian territory in Operation Cast Lead told NRG Maariv, "There was a light trigger finger during operation Cast Lead without a doubt, and non-combatant ("uninvolved") civilians were killed without doubt. But there was no deliberate harm done to innocent civilians. I am fully convinced that there was no soldier who shot for no reason out of a desire for revenge. I don't know of any such cases.
Had the car containing 40 kilograms of explosives detonated shortly after 9:20 p.m. Saturday at the outdoor car park adjacent to Haifa's Lev Hamifratz mall, the death toll would have been shockingly high - the equivalent, the bomb squad said, of seven or eight suicide bombers. Fortunately, the device malfunctioned and was discovered before Palestinian terrorists could turn a night at the mall into a murder-filled nightmare.
The incident reminds us Israelis of what we are up against: an enemy whose main modus operandi is anti-civilian warfare, necessitating that we guard everything from schools and supermarkets to cinemas and hospitals.
Many observers are fascinated by how a largely tolerant Western society, the epicenter of Jewish civilization, manages to function in an environment of relentless belligerency. When those outsiders combine empathy with insight, they tend to judge Israel as a work-in-progress worthy of encouragement despite its multitude of imperfections.
But starry-eyed idealists - at home and abroad - hold Israel to a different standard: Do we conduct ourselves 24/7 as paragons of virtue unhindered by the character flaws that burden ordinary mortals? And when - surprise, surprise - we fall short of this yardstick, they denigrate us as being no better than our enemies.
HOW ELSE to evaluate the so-called testimonies of troops who served in Gaza, solicited and disseminated by Dani Zamir, founder of the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military preparatory course at Oranim Academic College outside Haifa? They allege that due to "loose rules of engagement" several Palestinian civilians were needlessly killed during Operation Cast Lead.
In one of the two most egregious cases, an IDF sharpshooter mistakenly shot a Palestinian mother and her two children. A soldier in Zamir's discussion group, however, felt the sharpshooter hadn't felt "too bad about it." In the second case, a Palestinian woman described as "elderly" was shot at 100 meters as she approached an IDF position (Was she suspected of being a suicide bomber? Zamir's testimonies don't say).
These "revelations" received three consecutive days of page 1 coverage in Haaretz, and were also featured in Friday's Ma'ariv, even though Zamir was disinclined to reveal the identities of his "witnesses." And whether the men who took part in his discussion session were aware their remarks would be publish as "testimony" is unclear.
Zamir's secular young people appeared perturbed by the presence of IDF chaplains in the field, and by the esprit de corps of the religiously observant soldiers.
While the BBC gave scant coverage to the attempted attack in Haifa, it played up Zamir's claims: "Israel troops admit Gaza abuses... including cold-blooded murder."
The International Herald Tribune led its Friday paper with "Grim testimony on Israeli assault: Soldiers report killing of unarmed civilians in Gaza." And London's matchless Independent splashed its entire front page with "Israel's dirty secrets in Gaza."
AS Post diplomatic reporter Herb Keinon noted in the Friday paper - alongside our own coverage of the allegations - Zamir is a man with an agenda. He was sentenced to 28 days in a military lock-up for refusing to protect West Bank settlers. Should the Kibbutz Movement deem him a worthy exemplar to prepare its youngsters for induction into the IDF?
Zamir's "witnesses" see themselves as virtuous upholders of liberal values, and the comrades-in-arms they criticize as religious fanatics, bloodthirsty and fascist.
More "revelations" are coming to light. Channel 10 unearthed a company commander who instructed his men as they were about to go into battle: "I want aggressiveness - if there's someone suspicious on the upper floor of a house, we'll shell it. If we have suspicions about a house, we'll take it down…If it is us or them, it will be them."
Gosh! How would Zamir have reacted to Gen. George S. Patton's famous line: "Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his…."
Zamir's uncorroborated claims help blur the distinction between "us and them." But we don't set out to kill innocents - and if we do, our society feels anguish. They set out to kill civilians - and when they fail, they're disappointed.