Goldstone commission sees evidence of ‘persecution’

on 28 Comments

When I visited Gaza last May-June, the destruction was so overwhelming and the sense of arbitrary punishment so high that I found myself using the word "persecution." It was clear to me that these people had been targeted as a people; the assault was an effort to diminish their life spirit in every way possible, including destruction of the family unit. What I saw reminded me of what I had heard about the Jews in Warsaw and in Germany and Austria in the runup to the Second World War. Those Jews were persecuted; and these Palestinians were too.

One of the surprises of the Goldstone report for the UN Human Rights Council is that it too talks of "persecution" as a recognized crime against humanity and says that Israel is likely guilty of this charge.


"Finally, the Mission considered whether the series of acts that deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of sustenance, employment, housing, and water, that deny their freedom of movement and right to enter and leave their country, that limit their access [to] a court of law and an effective remedy, could be considered persecution, a crime against humanity."

If you read the report– and I’m halfway thru–you see why they reached for this word. I will avoid mention of the killing of human beings. Other events plainly shocked the investigators. There is the case of the chicken farms that were "systematically flattened" by armored bulldozers, killing 31,000 chickens, 10 percent of the egg production for Gaza. Then there is the destruction of the Hamada Brothers flour mill, the only flour mill in the Strip–after the other two were forced to close for lack of supplies. The mill was warned on two occasions that it would be struck, and on each occasion the Hamadas called associates in Israel, where they are licensed to do business, and determined that no attack would be forthcoming. Though they evacuated their 50 employees. Then on the night of January 9 the mill was struck by several missiles and then by helicopters. The most important machinery was destroyed. The mill is still not able to operate, 9 months later.

The Goldstone mission found the Hamada brothers entirely credible. It asked Israel what was the purpose of the destroying the one mill that could produce the most basic staple of the Palestinian diet. The Israelis refused to respond. The commission concluded that the "wanton" destruction of the mill had only one purpose, to "put an end to production of flour in the Gaza Strip."

These are simple facts. They constitute a "grave" breach of international human rights law. These scenes were so shocking to the Goldstone mission that it extended its consideration of the Israeli persecution of Palestinians to the Israelis-only roads in the West Bank, and to the law that allows Jews from around the world to go there and take land from the Palestinians, with impunity.

How long can that impunity last? Our own country now seems to be standing with Israel in its disgraceful dismissal of this compelling report. Yet I am sure this cold account will be read for decades to come, as Jewish history.

When I was in Gaza, the persecution struck me as biblical, something that you read about in one of the horrifying stories of the Old Testament. The Goldstone mission saw the same Gaza I did.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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28 Responses

  1. Tuyzentfloot
    September 18, 2009, 3:44 am

    I looked up this earlier quote from Phil:”When I said that I was witnessing bondage out of the Bible, a friend I made in Gaza, Mond Mishal, a would-be graduate student, shook his head. “Don’t talk about the bible, or an old story. You must find a new metaphor. We are being experimented on. This is a human experiment,” he said.”

    That struck a chord. Jonathan Cook wrote a book on Palestine called “An Experiment in Human Despair”. One doesn’t measure despair in death tolls except maybe suicides. Indeed, one could pose the challenge to maximize human despair while killing nobody. Is it possible to achieve a 90% score of PTSD without killing? One can try. Abu Graib still was a bit amateurish, but how many people were killed there? A few hundred? Maybe less than 100. It could be made even less than that.

    Goldstone wrote an oped in the NYTimes which is terribly bland and safe about what happened, preferring to focus instead on the importance of the rule of law(pick your fights carefully). The opinionator lists reactions to the Goldstone reports, not a bad range link to opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com

    My newspaper(de Morgen) ran Goldstone’s piece too. It also ran a report on a visit of Gaza that stayed on the safe side concerning the Israeli actions – which generally means it still helps to reinforce some myths. Today there’s a strong interview with ex dutch prime minister Dries Van Agt. That one’s clear. This may give an idea of the state of affairs in a good msm newspaper like mine. It’s still a mixed bag on the I/P conflict but there’s a lot of improvement. There is the big gap between the defensive arguments the paper could summon up in hindsight to show they did report on a lot, and the statistics of how many readers understood what was going on thanks to the paper, because things that were reported were often so emasculated you couldn’t understand them.

    • Tuyzentfloot
      September 18, 2009, 7:16 am

      I hesitated, thinking the sarcasm bit was a bit over the edge, but Richard put me at ease. So, if Israel could only stop messing about and go for the full works, turn Gaza into a huge advanced Abu Ghraib, where everybody is turned into a mental wreck while putting great care in avoiding killings and suicides. Now if that doesn’t get an humanitarian prize I don’t know what will.

    • Tuyzentfloot
      September 19, 2009, 5:07 am

      Well, as a small followup, the content of the Goldstone report didn’t make the printed version yet in my paper. Instead a big article on Ahmadinejad denying the Holocaust. They’re not mincing words here. If you’d measure the effectiveness of the communication for this case the results would be good.

  2. Richard Witty
    September 18, 2009, 4:45 am

    I think Tuyzen’s point is a good one, that Israel is experimenting, floundering, on how to deal with its situation.

    And, it does go back to 1948.

    Israel finds the Hamas and resistance efforts frustrating. And, as frustrated facing relentlessly violently irritating terror and shelling, it acts out carelessly.

    I don’t believe that “persecution” is the accurate term. I wasn’t there. Phil didn’t go to Sderot, though I’m sure he heard at least some from people that had.

    And, he didn’t ask hardball questions of Hamas officials at the “press conference” that he attended. The list of questions that he presented here as being asked there, were softball ones, teed up on a baseball tee, not difficult spiraling curve balls.

    The conclusion of “persecution” addresses the second important question around Gaza.

    2. Was the Israeli response excessive? (Crimes during war)

    But, avoids the first.

    1. Was Israeli military response at all justified and/or necessary? (Provoked)

    And, then the flip side question, “Was Hamas resumption of shelling Israeli civilian towns necessary, effective?” And to answer that question “What was intended by Hamas resumption of shelling?”

    • LeaNder
      September 18, 2009, 8:37 am

      My answer for your question below: tit for tat? relying on one’s superior force on the Israeli side, not allowing themselves to be considered cowards on the Hamas side. Which is the general macho perspective, it surely doesn’t allow no response to Israel’s attack. Would Zionist have reacted differently at an earlier period?

      What exactly do you know about the initial incident that triggered it all?

      “Was Hamas(‘?) resumption of shelling Israeli civilian towns necessary, effective?” And to answer that question “What was intended by Hamas resumption of shelling?”

      In case it was meant to be a rhetorical question, here an alternative answer: The shelling was only to force Israel to overreact. After all they knew Israel’s “iron-wall-mindset”. So Hamas was the guilty part, while Israel was only acting defensive as a state should.

      I can see Israel’s dilemma. There is only one way if you do not want to communicate: force.

      • Richard Witty
        September 19, 2009, 2:24 am

        I fault Israel for missing opportunities.

        But, it is a state with the responsibilities of a state. Hamas is a militia, with no responsibilities except to agitate.

        I prefer the role of state accountability to an electorate, ethically.

        There are conditions where a resistance movement can function more ethically than a state, with more and more complete means of accountability to constituents and to international community. I don’t see it from Hamas, except very selectively for propaganda purposes.

        And, the left gullibly buys into those propaganda, and doesn’t either do the thinking towards making recommendations/criticisms of Hamas, or has biased objectives (not just errors in tactics).

    • Chaos4700
      September 18, 2009, 9:03 am

      Here’s a little metaphor to highlight the double standard Richard Witty employs:

      A black teenager in the inner city is driving from one part time job to another. A police officer pulls him over — you know, because he’s black and hey, most black man get incarcerated in the US at some point so he’s got to be up to something — and finds a bag of marijuana in the car.

      The cops impound the car, raids the family’s home and send the kid to jail. The family never gets the car back and some of their possessions go missing after the search, but no one bothers to follow up on that. When the kid goes before Judge Goldstone, he characterizes it as a “heinous crime” against the “rule of law” and gives the kid the maximum sentence.

      Meanwhile, a white suburban kid attends a racuous frat party. It’s a veritable buffet of intoxicants — booze all the way up to crack. There’s a hired exotic dancer for the party who is actually sexually assaulted by the guy.

      She goes to Officer Witty, but he’s friends with the kids dad and so he doesn’t pay the accusation any mind — seriously, look at her. She clearly underestimated the response she was eliciting for her choices so it’s her own fault. And after all, the kid was just “experimenting” and “floundering.” It won’t happen again, right? And anyway, it’s not like there aren’t more black kids who end up in jail. They’re the real problem.

    • Donald
      September 18, 2009, 10:56 am

      Another metaphor. In Richard’s eyes the Palestinians are the adults–they are the ones with the moral responsibility not to provoke a reaction from the Israelis, who are moral children in his eyes, not to be held accountable for their own moral decisions. The Palestinians are like a 2 foot tall adult and Israel is a seven foot tall toddler sitting on the adult. It is the adult’s responsibility not to further inflame the situation by pinching or gouging the giant toddler, or calling it names, and that’s also true of bystanders–we have no business saying “Hey, get off the guy you selfish jerk”, because we’re speaking to a two year old. You will hurt its feelings and make it mad. You expect a two year old to throw temper tantrums and impose blockades and bomb civilians and you expect adults to behave peacefully and not fire rockets.

      Once you see it this way, Richard’s stance actually makes sense–he just infantilizes the Israelis and regards the Palestinians as adults responsible for their own actions.

      • Citizen
        September 18, 2009, 5:23 pm

        And Uncle Sam, in your name and mine, coddles the giant toddler, gives the toddler
        anything toddler wants–even if it’s not good for Uncle Sam or the giant toddler.

      • Richard Witty
        September 18, 2009, 6:01 pm

        A ludicrous summary.

        You are accurate that I hold Palestinians to be adults, and to adult standards, and that their actions affect what occurs in the world in which they are responsible.

        You don’t believe that they are capable of bad judgement, or that their bad judgement can result in objectively bad consequences?

      • Donald
        September 18, 2009, 6:20 pm

        Nah, Richard, it captures perfectly your attitude.

        For my part, of course Palestinians are responsible for their own actions–Hamas is responsible for terrorist acts and for its part in the civil war, and Fatah is responsible for conspiring with the US to overthrow Hamas (something you never mention) and both are responsible for their human rights violations against supporters of the other party (you only ever mention Hamas’s crimes). I agree with you that the Palestinians should not use violence, though if they only used it against soldiers it would presumably be legal. I still think it’d be a mistake and when they use it against civilians, it’s a war crime or even a crime against humanity, just as the Goldstone report says.

        You, though, have this idiotic notion that Israelis can impose a blockade on 1.5 million Gazans, which is collective punishment, and then blame Hamas. So the Israelis commit the war crime and Hamas gets the blame. You also expect Palestinians to be nonviolent (though you wink at Fatah violence against Hamas supporters), but justify far greater Israeli violence against Palestinians. The only Israelis you criticize are the ones on the extreme right–but the vast majority of Israelis supported the Gaza War.

        My summary of your stance is almost exactly correct. Most Israelis (except the far right, which you don’t like) are like children in your view or that’s the implication. They commit war crimes for the same reason that toddlers throw tantrums–the Palestinians, who are adults, provoked the poor child. And lefties who advocate BDS are like sadistic adults who taunt an innocent child (though again, the child is allowed to impose a far worse blockade on Gaza). You have an infantile view of most Israelis, Richard. Or else an infantile view of morality yourself.

      • Richard Witty
        September 19, 2009, 2:32 am

        Donald,
        Look further, test your assumption about my attitudes, but not by a litmus test of some multiple choice question of yours.

        Test my views actually, from multiple perspectives of logic, not just my own.

        You misinterpret the assertion of reform and persuasion, to be equivalent to enabling.

        A better approach on your part, if you are sincere about desiring change to decency for Palestinians (objective, not just a successful condemnation), would be to clarify goals (we’re probably similar if not identical).

        Then inquire into a discussion of the most effective means to those goals.

        In setting goals, the punitive orientation will by definition be lessened, so that is a danger those that are fixated on BDS as chosen means, or suspend their ethical judgement in deferrence to the vanguard of the oppressed.

    • potsherd
      September 19, 2009, 3:24 am

      Hamas is more than a militia. It is a political party. It is the political party that happened to win the Palestinian parliamentary elections, overturned by force by Israel in the WB. It is the legitimate government of Palestine and the effective government of Gaza. As such, it has great responsibilities.

  3. Rehmat
    September 18, 2009, 5:45 am

    Words of wisdom from the “itchy Fox”:

    “I am shocked and distressed that the United States would not unilaterally dismiss it,” Abraham Foxman said after reading the latest U.S. statement on the report from State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley……(JTA)

    • Citizen
      September 18, 2009, 6:49 am

      Abe is mad that the cheerleader Bush Jr is gone and Obama isn’t shaking
      the old pom-poms enough.

      • ehrens
        September 18, 2009, 7:59 am

        Dear Citizen, I’m sorry to say that the Jewish Telegraph Agency reports that Susan Rice, Obama’s UN ambassador, has apparently found those pom-poms in John Bolton’s old desk. She has already slammed the Goldstone report:

        “We have long expressed our very serious concern with the mandate that was given” to the Goldstone commission by the U.N. Human Right Council “prior to our joining the Council, which we viewed as unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable.”

      • Oscar
        September 18, 2009, 8:12 am

        Note the key phrase ” . . . prior to our joining the Council . . . ” Why is it the U.S. all-of-a-sudden decided to join the Council on Human Rights . . . coincidentally, the day before the Goldstone Report was issued. Or WAS it a coincidence?

        Could be that the U.S. is muscling onto the Council of Human Rights to be able to protect our “best friend and only ally” in the region.

    • LeaNder
      September 18, 2009, 9:01 am

      The US obviously faces a problem considering the Iraq war. In a way America’s hands are bound if it doesn’t want to look a hypocrite. On the other hand who will finally disprove the: “we didn’t know tale”. Watch out for Iran, were again, we quite possibly didn’t know.

      America and International Court, anyone? And as far as suspicion against the UN goes it seems that the larger US-conspiracy-mind neatly merges with Israel’s description of the body. At least that’s what it felt like to me a couple of years ago watching US-web-conspiracy-circles. UN = evil forces pulling strings against the US land of the brave.

      Might makes right, is the basic rule, as our balanced chief realist knows. … Don’t waste your time on resistance.

      Nice avatar, ehrens. I am jealous + I am gone.

  4. Oscar
    September 18, 2009, 8:07 am

    Memo to Foxy: Yes, after reading the report, a lot of us are “shocked and distressed.”

  5. Ed_Frias
    September 18, 2009, 11:05 am

    Rehmat, Thousands march in Iran opposition protests.
    link to news.yahoo.com

    Rehmat doing everything to avoid talking about this.

    Opposition supporters poured onto main boulevards and squares, wearing green T-shirts and wristbands and waving green banners and balloons — the color of the reform movement. They waved their fingers in the air in V-for-victory signs along with pictures of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, chanting “death to the dictator.”

    Others chanted, “Not Gaza, not Lebanon — our life is for Iran” — a slogan directly challenging the government’s support for anti-Israeli Palestinian militants in Gaza and Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrilla. Some shouted for Ahmadinejad’s government to resign. Some women marched with their children in tow.

    • Chaos4700
      September 18, 2009, 1:47 pm

      Holy straw man, Batman! I haven’t seen Rehmat avoid any discussion — not that talking with you qualifies as a discussion.

      Do yourself a favor and go back to the right wing blog that sent you here. You’re getting nowhere with the propaganda and the personal snipes, bucko.

  6. Kathleen
    September 18, 2009, 11:25 am

    Not a mention of this report on the Round up for the week on the Diane Rehm show this morning. I guess Diane is lining up behind the other MSMers who did not report anything at all about this critical report.

    Right behind Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann (those oh so liberal talking heads) Chris Matthews, Katie Couric, Brian Williams (even had the chance to bring it up with Carter during his interview with Carter about racism) Not a whisper about this report out of these folks. The Diane Rehm show got right in line with the silence

  7. DICKERSON3870
    September 18, 2009, 11:15 pm

    RE: ” When I was in Gaza, the persecution struck me as biblical, something that you read about in one of the horrifying stories of the Old Testament.” – Phil

    SEE: “BBC Newsnight: The Rise of Israel’s Military Rabbis”
    VIDEO (Part 1) – link to youtube.com
    VIDEO (Part 2) – link to youtube.com

  8. DICKERSON3870
    September 18, 2009, 11:19 pm

    VIDEO (Part 1) – 7:37 minutes
    VIDEO (Part 2) – 4:37 minutes

    • DICKERSON3870
      September 21, 2009, 1:58 am

      ALSO SEE: “The rise of Israel’s military rabbis”, by Katya Adler, BBC Newsnight, 09/07/09

      (EXCERPT) Israel’s army is changing. Once proudly secular, its combat units are now filling with those who believe Israel’s wars are “God’s wars”. Military rabbis are becoming more powerful. Trained in warfare as well as religion, new army regulations mean they are now part of a military elite….
      …The military rabbis rose to prominence during Israel’s invasion of Gaza earlier this year. Some of their activities raised troubling questions about political-religious influence in the military. Gal Einav, a non-religious soldier, said there was wall-to-wall religious rhetoric in the base, the barracks and on the battlefield…
      ….But for the religious soldiers the West Bank is part of land given to the Jews by God. Gal Einav thinks many soldiers will refuse to close settlements down. The settlement issue could well tear the army apart, he told me, adding that most of his officers were settlers these days. “If it comes to a clash between political orders from Israel’s government and a contradictory message from the rabbis, settlers and religious right-wing soldiers will follow the rabbis,” he said….

      ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to news.bbc.co.uk

      P.S. – I recently read that over the last decade or two, fundamentalist Christian U.S. military chaplains (many with only mail-order or online religious degrees) have been replacing the the more traditional chaplains. As a consequence, nearly 90% of all U.S. military chaplains now identify themselves as evangelicals (as I recall). Get ready for the era of the ‘Holy Roller Wars’. The ‘God Squad’ might well make the ‘Inglorious Basterds’ look like ‘Boy Scouts’.

      • DICKERSON3870
        September 21, 2009, 2:34 am

        ALSO SEE: “Jesus killed Mohammed: The crusade for a Christian military”, By Jeff Sharlet, Harper’s, May 2009

        (EXCERPT)…Early that morning, a unit from the 109th National Guard Infantry dropped off their morning chow. With it came a holiday special–a video of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and a chaplain to sing the film’s praises, a gory cinematic sermon for an Easter at war. Humphrey ducked into the chow room to check it out. “It was the part where they’re killing Jesus, which is, I guess, pretty much the whole movie. Kind of turned my stomach.” He decided he’d rather burn trash…
        …Not long before, though, there had been a hint of trouble: a briefing in which his squad was warned that any soldier caught desecrating Islamic sites—Samarra is considered a holy city—would fall under “extreme penalty,” a category that can include a general court-martial and prison time. “I heard some guys were vandalizing mosques,” Humphrey says. “Spray-painting ’em with crosses.”…As dusk fell, the men prepared four Bradley Fighting Vehicles for a “run and gun” to draw fire away from the compound. Humphrey headed down from the roof to get a briefing. He found his lieutenant, John D. DeGiulio, with a couple of sergeants. They were snickering like schoolboys. They had commissioned the Special Forces interpreter, an Iraqi from Texas, to paint a legend across their Bradley’s armor, in giant red Arabic script. “What’s it mean?” asked Humphrey. “Jesus killed Mohammed,” one of the men told him. The soldiers guffawed. JESUS KILLED MOHAMMED was about to cruise into the Iraqi night.
        The Bradley, a tracked “tank killer” armed with a cannon and missiles–to most eyes, indistinguishable from a tank itself–rolled out. The Iraqi interpreter took to the roof, bullhorn in hand. The sun was setting. Humphrey heard the keen of the call to prayer, then the crackle of the bullhorn with the interpreter answering–in Arabic, then in English for the troops, insulting the prophet. Humphrey’s men loved it. “They were young guys, you know?” says Humphrey . “They were scared.” A Special Forces officer stood next to the interpreter–“a big, tall, blond, grinning type,” says Humphrey. “Jesus kill Mohammed!” chanted the interpreter. “Jesus kill Mohammed!” A head emerged from a window to answer, somebody fired on the roof, and the Special Forces man directed a response from an MK-19 grenade launcher. “Boom,” remembers Humphrey. The head and the window and the wall around it disappeared. “Jesus kill Mohammed!” Another head, another shot. Boom. “Jesus kill Mohammed!” Boom. In the distance, Humphrey heard the static of AK fire and the thud of RPGs. He saw a rolling rattle of light that looked like a firefight on wheels. “Each time I go into combat I get closer to God,” DeGiulio would later say…

        ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to harpers.org

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