New attack on the Goldstone report – it’s thwarting Israeli debate and reflection over Gaza

on 61 Comments

I wish Phil had been right yesterday when he said the New York Times just wants the Goldstone report to go away. At least then we could have avoided David Landau’s misguided piece of liberal hasbara that appears in today’s Opinion section. Titled "The Gaza Report’s Wasted Opportunity," the article opens a new, bewildering front of the Israeli attack on Goldstone – he is cutting off Israeli debate over Gaza. Landau:

Judge Goldstone’s real mandate was, or should have been, to bring Israel to confront this fundamental question, a question inherent in the waging of war by all civilized societies against irregular armed groups. Are widespread civilian casualties inevitable when a modern army pounds terrorist targets in a heavily populated area with purportedly smart ordnance? Are they acceptable? Does the enemy’s deployment in the heart of the civilian area shift the line between right and wrong, in morality and in law?

These were precisely the questions that Israeli politicians and generals wrestled with in Gaza, as others do today in Afghanistan.

It is possible, and certainly arguable, that the Israeli policymakers, or individual Israeli field commanders in isolated instances, pushed the line out too far.

But Judge Goldstone has thwarted any such honest debate — within Israel or concerning Israel. His fundamental premise, that the Israelis went after civilians, shut down the argument before it began.

Here Landau repackages the common Israeli line that their military is the most moral in the world (while convieniently hedging that if Israel is at fault so is the US!). But is it true that Israeli politicians and generals "wrestled" with these questions in Gaza? Go to the IDF’s website and read the conclusion to their internal investigation of the fighting:

The investigations showed that throughout the fighting in Gaza, the IDF operated in accordance with international law. The IDF maintained a high professional and moral level while facing an enemy that aimed to terrorize Israeli civilians whilst taking cover amidst uninvolved civilians in the Gaza strip and using them as human shields. Notwithstanding, the investigations revealed a very small number of incidents in which intelligence or operational errors took place during the fighting. These unfortunate incidents were unavoidable and occur in all combat situations, in particular of the type which Hamas forced on the IDF, by choosing to fight from within the civilian population.

Doesn’t seem like too much wrestling took place. Actually, it seems much more along the lines of Golda Meir’s quip – "it will be [hard] for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons." Ilene Cohen comments:

The war ended eight months ago. The argument "never began" months before Goldstone came on the scene. Report after report from Israeli and international human rights groups, and reports from IDF soldiers themselves simply recounting the ugly way they did business with ordinary Gazans–all of this generated no argument or discussion–only rapid dismissal of the reporting bodies and condemnations of them as "biased," anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist. You name it. There has been no argument, other than about trivial side issues.

But Landau doesn’t claim that it was only Israeli politicians and generals who struggled over these issues, but the Israeli populace at large:

This is regrettable, for the report could have stirred the conscience of the nation. Many Israelis were dismayed at the war’s casualty figures, at the disparity between the dozen deaths on the Israeli side and the thousand-plus deaths, many of them of noncombatants, in Gaza.

Many Israelis were profoundly troubled by this arithmetic even though they supported Israel’s resort to arms in the face of incessant violation of their sovereign border by Hamas’s rain of rockets.

I can’t say this is exactly how I remember it. I asked Rebecca Vilkomerson, who was living in Tel Aviv this past winter, if this fits with how she remembered Israeli society during the Gaza attack:

That one quote is on the one hand somewhat true but on the other hand, completely wrong. Something like 94% (or 97? can’t remember now) of the Jewish Israeli population supported the war. It is true that some of them were disturbed by the number of casualties–for example, Peace Now at first refused to protest the war but once the ground invasion started they joined the protests. and what is also true is that there were some major protests (10,000 in tel aviv the afternoon before the ground invasion, on that same day about 75,000 in a northern Palestinian Arab town that was mostly non-jewish protesters). Those are pretty big protests for a country that size, and every day there were many small protests all over the country. At the time I remember being very frustrated at how underplayed those protests were. The drive for consensus was so strong, and it felt like the undercoverage of the protests made it harder for those who were uncomfortable about the war to come out against it (the thrown eggs and spit probably didn’t help either). So there was a notable donut hole of an anti-war movement (especially if you "count" the Arab citizens, which most people don’t), but it was engulfed by a vociferous donut of almost violent war supporters (sorry for the weird metaphor). It is the height of cynicism now for Israel defenders to use these protesters as an argument for general Israeli consciousness during the war.

Vilkomerson also added a point similar to Cohen’s – "Plus, the Goldstone report is hardly the first. The Breaking the Silence report, which consisted entirely of soldiers’ testimonies, was equally attacked, and there is no one revered more than soldiers. So I don’t think the problem is the form of the report, the problem is that no one wants to acknowledge the truth."

Ah, to acknowledge the truth. So far, none of Goldstone’s critics have actually challenged the facts of his report, but instead attacked the messenger. Landau criticizes Goldstone for not accepting Israel’s own myths about itself. At what point can we actually discuss what Goldstone had to say?

61 Responses

  1. Dan Kelly
    September 20, 2009, 1:04 pm

    Nice pickup, Adam. Thank you.

  2. Richard Witty
    September 20, 2009, 1:06 pm

    The Landau piece was insightful, progressive, hopeful, effective.

    Your predictable trashing of it is the shame.

    You ignore the two important questions implied:

    1. Was it rational for Israel to respond to the Hamas rocket-fire militarily (I conclude YES, necessary in fact, and compelled by Hamas escalation UNTIL Israel responded militarily. I guess at some point they’d run out of weapons, but when?)

    While the left likes to state that the blockade or November 4 incident was the war-starting condition, the reality is that Hamas shelling was unilateral and escalatory, an initiation of war. (not a skirmish, not firecrackers).

    2. Was the manner that military response conducted in conformance with international law, and good moral judgement of sufficiency. (That Peace Now and Landau suggested was less clear. Even the military summary admitted errors, not crimes though.)

    The Landau piece suggested that Israel deserved scrutiny on its behavior, but that the compromised manner that that was accomplished diminished the strength of the conclusions.

    Its a truth. Best that you take that in, so that your or others dissenting comments are formed and presented in a way that can be heard.

    • Donald
      September 20, 2009, 1:53 pm

      The blockade on Gaza is an act of war. As for who started this latest shooting, I don’t actually think it’s useful, even though the left has a better case. But there’s always some excuse one side or the other can use to start killing. You defend it when it is Israel and some lefties do it for Hamas. You’re more alike than you’d acknowledge.

      As for —

      “The Landau piece suggested that Israel deserved scrutiny on its behavior, but that the compromised manner that that was accomplished diminished the strength of the conclusions.”

      That’s Zionist narcissism at work. A human rights investigator’s only obligation is to the truth–not to telling nice little watered down stories that self-worshipping Israeli liberals are willing to accept. You can argue about how to use the report and you’ve done that in earlier posts, but now you’re engaged in backtracking, attacking the report itself and not just how people might try to use it. Not at all surprising, I must say.

      And this will be the universal liberal reaction in the US, I’m afraid, where it’s okay to condemn Arab atrocities without any rationalizing and without necessarily condemning Israel at the same time, but where every condemnation of Israeli brutality must be accompanied by hedging and also blame for the Arabs.

      • Richard Witty
        September 20, 2009, 2:17 pm

        The blockade of Gaza is an act during war.

        There is a path to opening trade to Gaza, but it is not by accepting Hamas as a state, before it is a state.

      • Donald
        September 20, 2009, 2:32 pm

        The blockade is collective punishment, a war crime. I’d support Hamas doing what you suggested elsewhere, allowing the international community to monitor what comes in, but then I’d also support that for Israel–way too many weapons are making their way into that rogue state. I’m also skeptical of Israel allowing this to happen–part of the point of the blockade was to make Hamas look bad. Even Ethan Bronner in the NYT has said so–repeatedly. So Israel is guilty of a major crime with the blockade alone. They intend the civilian suffering.

      • MRW
        September 20, 2009, 2:36 pm

        What “war?“ The Israeli soldiers reported that they never once engaged in a battle with Hamas: they did not have one, single, solitary gun fight with a Hamas soldier; some of them lamented that they did not get the opportunity. As Norman Finklestein correctly pointed out on Democracy Now!: this was a massacre. Not a ‘war’.

      • Cliff
        September 20, 2009, 2:40 pm

        Witty, this is not a matter of ‘trade’ as in business and commerce. It is a matter of life or death. There was near universal condemnation of Israel by mainstream NGOs and the UN.

        Are you denying the humanitarian disaster induced by the seige?

        This is not simply a matter of Gazans not being able to make a living. It is about living.

        Hamas does not have to be treated like “a State” – it needs to be recognized as the elected body of the Palestinians. Furthermore, the first question you need to answer Witty is this:

        Do you believe the Palestinian people deserve human rights? Do you believe they should be allowed to live? Do you believe they should be allowed to live with dignity?

        You are always going on and on about mutual blah blah blah – however, the conclusions one will draw from your abstract imaginations is that the Palestinians do not exist. Meanwhile, the Israelis exist and furthermore, they are all delicate children and should be handled as such.

      • Richard Witty
        September 20, 2009, 3:04 pm

        Gazans are suffering.

        Hamas actions are a very large contributor.

        Better that dissenters work to find a path to improve Gazans lives, than to rant about a path that cannot come about by the pressure of dissent.

        The status of the relationship between Hamas Gaza and Israel is one of active armed conflict, not of normality. For the port to upon, that status has to change. And there are only three ways that I can see that happening.


        1. Declaration of Gaza as independent state
        2. Unification with PA
        3. Establishment of international body governing the port (without Hamas involvement)

        Each difficult for Hamas with its political and partisan goals. But, necessary if the Gazans are to restore.

      • Donald
        September 20, 2009, 3:14 pm

        Notice that in Richard’s description of the Gaza situation, Israel’s actions are just part of the background–something that cannot be changed or even discussed. Hamas (and their supposed leftist supporters) are the only ones with moral agency, the only ones that can save the Gazan people by changing their own behavior. To even mention that the same could happen if Israel changed its behavior is something that cannot be allowed mention–it indicates a lack of moral seriousness in Richard’s judgement, because morally serious people only hold Palestinians responsible for their actions. The implication is that Israelis are like children or unconscious natural forces that impose blockades–moral judgment is inappropriate, even silly.

        And for the record, I support Hamas unifying with the PA, though I somehow doubt that Israel would welcome this. Suggestion 3 also seems reasonable (though something that should also be imposed on Israel). Witty’s willingness to use coercion on Palestinians to modify their behavior is making me wonder if that’s the only language liberal Zionists like himself understand.

        I think suggestion 1 is offered in bad faith–one frequently sees people in the US urging that the West Bank and Gaza be treated separately, and I think the motivation behind this is “divide and conquer”. That’s what the US support for a Palestinian civil war was all about.

    • MRW
      September 20, 2009, 2:33 pm

      Was the manner that military response conducted in conformance with international law, and good moral judgement of sufficiency.

      That’s the goddam point. They came to the conclusion it wasn’t. The Goldstone Report says no: what transpired amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The report is 575 pages of thoughtful research and agony over the facts, written by four people with the training and skill to examine all elements.

      Landau is a journalist. His Op-Ed is mere inches of ink written over two days to bandaid the pus coming from the global reaction to it. His observations and opinion do not have the benefit of nine months of research and interviews. And you know what they say about opinions….

      • Richard Witty
        September 20, 2009, 3:18 pm

        Thankfully, the Goldstone report did convey that the answer to the first question was a Hamas violation of international law.

        And, that there were incidents in Israel’s conduct and extent of the war that demands reform.

        The Peace Now position.

        Not the position of the radical left or right. Not Adam’s position. Not Phil’s apparently (he hasn’t said yet). Not the position of the majority of posters here.

        Phil saw destruction, isolation, trauma in Gaza. (He can fill in anything that I’ve missed.) He didn’t bother to go to Sderot to determine the degree of trauma there, maybe insignficant, maybe significant.

      • Donald
        September 20, 2009, 3:25 pm

        ” the Goldstone report did convey that the answer to the first question was a Hamas violation of international law.

        And, that there were incidents in Israel’s conduct and extent of the war that demands reform.”

        This is funny–Richard W’s rewrite of Goldstone. Hamas “violates international law”, while “there were incidents in Israel’s conduct and extent of the war that demands reform”.

        You couldn’t satirize this if you tried–it’s perfect self-satire as it is.

      • MRW
        September 20, 2009, 5:29 pm


        The overwhelming majority of the report I’ve read so far is about Israeli war crimes. Overwhelming.

      • tree
        September 20, 2009, 5:47 pm

        Witty has admitted that he hasn’t and won’t read the report, but continues to comment on it as if he has.

    • Richard Witty
      September 20, 2009, 4:01 pm

      Discuss away.

      Just go further than the wishful thinking that by agitation alone among the converted that anyone’s attitudes or pallette of choices of actions will change materially.

      The point of the Landau piece was that the investigation was important, and the information derived was important, but the method of investigation and the subsequent presentation of facts as authority was flawed.

      It is still information, but with the flaws in method it does not reach the status of authority suitable for reliable legal or even emphasis of dissent.

      So for Phil to describe this article as tripe, is to describe his views as biased, a precedent for his views to be habitually referred to as tripe.

      The article is insightful, even if it is not the parroting rah-rah that you would want to be published a dozen times in the Times.

      HERE, that is not the case. The same content, the same story gets 15 headlines, with the presumption that the next repitetion adds meaning, and effectiveness to who knows what effort.

      Phil witnessed suffering, that he could not explain as justifiable, but didn’t (hopefully not negligently?) investigate further than his suppositions. His approach at complete and accurate reporting is exactly what is criticized by the Landau paper, so I would expect him to be defensive about it, and the method.

      Who wants to be called neglectful?

      Not the IDF, not Hamas, not the New York Times, not Phil Weiss.

      • Donald
        September 20, 2009, 6:41 pm

        I’d like to see 15 articles and another 15 pieces of commentary about the Goldstone report in the NYT from varying points of view, much more than I want to see Mondoweiss demonstrating the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the NYT. And to be fair, the NYT did publish an initial article that was good, and a piece by Goldstone himself that was somewhat insipid (I suspect he’s not very happy being labeled a self-hating Jew and various other things and don’t blame him a bit). Today’s piece was ridiculous, but it would be okay if it is accompanied over the next week or two by several other pieces from varying viewpoints, some of them Palestinian. Not likely. If one didn’t know how the NYT operated, this is what one would expect from the self-styled paper of record. A much respected judge of Zionist beliefs does a careful investigation and concludes Israel, one of our closest allies, was guilty of horrific crimes. It should be a media firestorm. It’s not. And really, given how biased our press corps tends to be on various issues, that’s not a surprise.

        So, unfortunately, the NYT is a rather cowardly establishment paper, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong and to see a vigorous debate conducted from all viewpoints in the pages of their op ed section.

      • Call Me Ishmael
        September 20, 2009, 9:47 pm

        Donald, I agree that it would be most appropriate for the NYT to print opinion pieces offering differing points of view, including those of anti-Zionists who don’t happen to be spokespersons for Palestinians or Arab nations. But I don’t expect to see it anytime soon because the NYT, like the Washington Post, is firmly in the hands of Zionists.

        Short of that, one would hope that the NYT might allow comments from readers attached to important pieces about I/P, such as the Landau article. (WaPo does this consistently, somewhat to my surprise.) While the NYT used to allow such comments occasionally, though carefully censoring those they found too little to their liking, even that small gesture to a diverse readership seems to be forbidden for any article relating to Israel in any way.

      • Tuyzentfloot
        September 21, 2009, 2:59 am

        Donald, if Goldstone’s article was insipid the first reason would be(or so I think), to pick his fights carefully. It’s a strategic choice. Better to have a single focus on the need for justice than to compromise it by insisting on the second message of, well, prosecution. It’s possible to disagree with this but it’s a reasonable choice.

        As for the interaction between NYTimes and lobby, I think there’s a tendency towards creating the wrong frame of reference – the wrong baseline.
        I like to refer to Chomsky/Herman’s propaganda model here, that news organisations have adapted to their environment and its pressures, pressures like fear and funding, adapted much more deeply than they’re aware of, as is normal in any culture. I would say it’s even entrenched in the rules of journalistic objectivity.
        A paper like the NYTimes exhibits ‘reasonable adapted behaviour’ but we would like ‘principled behaviour’. This result is compromised reporting. It will rarely take the form of flat out blocking information getting out. The jewish lobby thingy will exacerbate that but if you ignore the baseline, which is the propaganda model, then it’s as if all would be fine without the jewish lobby, or without the NYTimes being jewish. That’s exagerating a bit but to some extent I think this happens.

    • Citizen
      September 20, 2009, 5:16 pm

      Landau: “His fundamental premise, that the Israelis went after civilians, shut down the argument before it began.”

      What that Goldstone’s premise or his careful conclusion?

      • Oscar
        September 21, 2009, 8:55 am

        Citizen: it was patently obvious that the IDF targeted civilians during and immediately after the massacre. It wasn’t Goldstone’s “premise” and then he backfilled the premise with claims. As you said, it was a careful conclusion, not made easily given his ties to Israel and pro-Zionist beliefs. He’s being attacked in the most intellectually dishonest way because his team’s conclusions are irrefutable.

        If anyone had a “premise” it was Israel — that’s why they refused to cooperate with the investigation.

  3. potsherd
    September 20, 2009, 1:42 pm

    The treatment of the B’tselem reports and Breaking the Silence makes it all too clear that Israel was trying to shut down any debate before it could happen, not engage with it.

    And to shut down the organizations that might challenge its own whitewashed account, as well.

  4. Cliff
    September 20, 2009, 1:54 pm

    The context of the breaking of the cease-fire by Israel, was to goad Hamas into escalating rockets back to the usual levels. Then, they could get their pretext for war.

    This is classical State terrorism.

    And the MSM is a part of the tactic. They function as a propaganda arm, by not reporting honestly and thoroughly on the conflict. So when we hear about our ‘ally’ retaliating it is always in ‘defense’.

    We are not given a humanized picture of the Palestinians and their plight. Hence, why we are constantly surprised by blowback of any kind. History starts with when we shoot first, always in retaliation.

    Israel planned the Gaza war very carefully.

    And the culmination of reports, B’Tselem, AI, HRW, Breaking the Silence, and now the UN report all confirm the context for this war.

    Israel intended on softening Gaza by the blockade and then punishing the Palestinian population and destroying the civilian infrastructure. All in effort to convert the Gazans over to the PA.

    The UN report does not fit in with the Israeli narrative.

    Narratives must be debated.

    There is a chance for mutual humanization if first, we are honest. Without that honesty and recognition of the truth – then we will go in circles.

    These are not conspiracies. They are clear-as-day truths. However, the Israelis are steeped in ideology. They are occupying Palestinians. It’s not the other way around.

    • Citizen
      September 20, 2009, 2:56 pm

      Exactly, Cliff.

      As far back as March 2007 Israel had decided on attacking Hamas, and only negotiated the June truce because “the Israeli army needed time to prepare.”[See Uri Blau, “IDF Sources: Conditions not yet optimal for Gaza exit,” Haaretz (8 January 2009); Barak Ravid, “Disinformation, Secrecy, and Lies: How the Gaza offensive came about, Haaretz (28 December 2008] Once all the pieces were in place, Israel only lacked a pretext. On 4 November, while the American media were riveted on election day, Israel broke the ceasefire by killing seven Palestinian militants, on the flimsy excuse that Hamas was digging a tunnel to abduct Israeli soldiers, and knowing full well that its operation would provoke Hamas into hitting back.
      [ Zvi Bar’el, “Crushing the Tahadiyeh,” Haaretz (16 November 2008). Cf. Uri Avnery, “The Calculations behind Israel’s Slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza” (2 January 2009; link to

      Israel initiated the Gaza War as a pretexual war to strike fear in the hearts of all Palestinians; that turkey shoot was just the latest in a line of Israeli state terrorist actions masked as wars of self-defense, but actually purely bent on
      “educating” its perceived enemies by giving them a thrashing they wouldn’t forget–here’s the whole disgusting sequence and
      context, complete with footnoted sources:

      link to

      • Richard Witty
        September 20, 2009, 3:05 pm

        So, given that that was “common knowledge” and that Israel was looking for a pretext to teach Palestine a lesson, and any that would attack it, why did Hamas fall into the mud so carelessly?

      • Donald
        September 20, 2009, 3:20 pm

        “why did Hamas fall into the mud so carelessly?”

        Macho posturing, perhaps, or just stupidity. Governments and para-governmental organizations often blunder this way. Any use of violence by Palestinians, even in response to Israeli violence, will always be used by Israel as a pretext for more killing. They should know that.
        Still, armed factions often find it hard to accept that not shooting back is the better way to go.

        Israel being such a nation of gentle flower-waving pacifists, this is undoubtedly hard to understand.

      • Richard Witty
        September 20, 2009, 4:04 pm

        I’m glad you acknowledge the idiocy of their decision to shell civilians in December after the formal cease-fire ended, and the further idiocy of escalating that shelling UNTIL Israel responded militarily.

        You agree with Gideon Levy who severely criticized how Israel handled the cease-fire and aftermath, but also severely criticized how Hamas handled the aftermath. His word was suicidal.

      • Citizen
        September 20, 2009, 6:05 pm

        The actions of people resisting brutal occupation can be condemned as criminal and politically foolish, but those who offer no alternative have no moral standing to issue such judgments. The conclusion holds with particular force for Americans who choose to be directly implicated in Israel’s ongoing crimes — by their words, their actions, or their silence. All the more so because there are very clear non-violent alternatives – which, however, have the disadvantage that they bar the programs of illegal expansion that the US strongly supports in practice, while occasionally issuing a mild admonition that they are “unhelpful.

        November 4, when Israel violated the lull more egregiously with a raid into Gaza, leading to the death of 6 Palestinians and a retaliatory barrage of rockets (with no injuries): The raid was on the evening of the US presidential elections, when attention was focused elsewhere. The pretext for the raid was that Israel had detected a tunnel in Gaza that might have been intended for use to capture another Israeli soldier; a “ticking tunnel” in official communiques. The pretext was transparently absurd, as a number of commentators noted. If such a tunnel existed, and reached the border, Israel could easily have barred it right there. But as usual, the ludicrous Israeli pretext was deemed credible, and the timing was overlooked.
        What was the reason for the Israeli raid? We have no internal evidence about Israeli planning, but we do know that the raid came shortly before scheduled Hamas-Fatah talks in Cairo aimed at “reconciling their differences and creating a single, unified government,” British correspondent Rory McCarthy reported. That was to be the first Fatah-Hamas meeting since the June 2007 civil war that left Hamas in control of Gaza, and would have been a significant step towards advancing diplomatic efforts. There is a long history of Israel provocations to deter the threat of diplomacy.
        More in contex: Chomsky at: link to

      • Shingo
        September 21, 2009, 7:12 am

        “So, given that that was “common knowledge” and that Israel was looking for a pretext to teach Palestine a lesson, and any that would attack it, why did Hamas fall into the mud so carelessly?”

        Gee I dunno Ricahrd,

        Given that it was comong knowlegde that the Nazis would use any excuse to murder Jews in WWII, why did those heroic Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto (who we will always remember) fall into the mud so carelessly?

  5. liberalwhiteboy
    September 20, 2009, 2:12 pm

    SS Death Squads vs. Israeli Occupation Forces…Not a dimes worth of difference. Enough chatter…Let the war crime trials begin.

    • Shmuel
      September 20, 2009, 3:49 pm

      I have little sympathy for the IOF, but in the interest of some sort of historical accuracy, faced by a choice, which would you choose? I’d take the latter faster than you can say “targeted killing”.

  6. jimby
    September 20, 2009, 2:25 pm

    LANDAU: “It is possible, and certainly arguable, that the Israeli policymakers, or individual Israeli field commanders in isolated instances, pushed the line out too far.”

    I know he’s not joking but targeting schools and hospitals and using phosphorus bombs is well beyond the field commander’s parameters. It was done at top level. Witty, it is telling that you think this is “balanced”.

  7. Donald
    September 20, 2009, 2:26 pm

    “the article opens a new, bewildering front of the Israeli attack on Goldstone – he is cutting off Israeli debate over Gaza.”

    A good post, Adam, but it’s the sort of response we all should have expected. I’m guessing that if the NYT writes an editorial about the Goldstone report they will follow the same line, or maybe use Obama’s more direct attack. There’s really not much they can say otherwise–a revered human rights activist and judge, a Jewish supporter of Zionism on top of that, comes out and concludes that Israel is possibly guilty of crimes against humanity and targeted civilians. Well, gasp, that can’t be. It’s only the evil terrorists that do that–Israelis and Western governments in general can’t be evil in that way, by definition. It’s like talking about square circles–total nonsense. At most Western governments can have low-level grunts who get out of hand, or they might kill civilians through accident, something that should be looked into maybe, so there’s less of it next time the Evil Terrorists have to be bombed.

  8. Philip Weiss
    September 20, 2009, 2:50 pm

    this is a smart post, Adam, though I would add one wrinkle:
    It’s true that I have turned out to be wrong about the Times avoiding the subject. Now the Times is jumping in, as an advocate for the Israeli counteroffensive against the report. All its letters on the subject, now this piece of tripe from Landau.
    So while other papers have reported on the counteroffensive, the Times is channeling the counteroffensive

    • Richard Witty
      September 20, 2009, 3:09 pm

      Piece of tripe from Landau?

      Differ with elements of it, if you wish to make intelligent commentary.

      I think the Times is uniquely democratic on this issue, much much moreso than you.

      They publish widely on the issue. You publish much more narrowly.

      • Koshiro
        September 20, 2009, 5:02 pm

        It’s entirely valid to agree with the whole of it. And since it mistakes a report based on investigatons into actual military operations and their compliance with international law for some kind of gentle therapeutic session for Israel, “tripe” seems very much justified to me.

        The picture of Israeli society painted by Landau here is that of a very spoiled child – or a mental patient in heavy denial.

      • Koshiro
        September 20, 2009, 5:03 pm

        Arrrg. Disagree. Why oh why can’t I edit my posts here?

      • Mooser
        September 20, 2009, 9:33 pm

        Richard Witty, why on earth are you trying to engage a journalistic whore in a dialogue? You yourself said that Phil must have been brainwashed or bought by the Gazans when you read his post calling them (IMSMW) “ultimately civilised”.
        What possible points of contact can you have with a man like that?
        Why not just repeat that Phil Wiess is either bought or brainwashed by the Gazans, and so not worth paying any attention to?

        Or have you changed your mind about that? If you like, I can look up the specific posts in which you charged Phil with complete journalistic malfeasance. Better still, why don’t you refer us to them. I’m sure you are proud of them, since you have never retracted your charges of journalistic prostitution against Phil Wiess.
        Do you still hold to it?

      • Shingo
        September 21, 2009, 7:17 am

        “The picture of Israeli society painted by Landau here is that of a very spoiled child – or a mental patient in heavy denial. ”

        I’d opt for the latter.

        Here’s the latest pearl. Israeli Air Force Chief has said “We must stop S-300 delivery from every country that would want to defend itself from Israeli attack”.

        Just try to get your head aournd that one. Israel keeps insiosting it has a right to defend itseldf, but regards it as uacceptable for any other country to hace the same right.

  9. TimC
    September 20, 2009, 3:20 pm

    The NYTs cares more about fish mortality than Palestinian mortality: link to

  10. DICKERSON3870
    September 20, 2009, 3:31 pm

    ALSO SEE: Goldstone Reports Gaza War Crimes; Called “Self-Hating Jew” 5000 Times and Still Counting, by M.J. Rosenberg, 09/19/09

    (EXCERPT)…Read this piece* by Dan Fleshler. He did the math Goldstone has already been refered to as a SHJ 5,000 times.

    I’ll fess up. I’m an SHJ. I thought the Gaza war was everything Goldstone said it was and more. It’s hard to call it a war actually because the casualty numbers were so unbalanced…


    *FLESHLER PIECE – link to

    P.S. – Just wait until the um…er…well…how to put it delicately…uh…how to say it…er…um…dare not offend…looking for the right word…er…um…(burp), oh yeah… Just wait until the “Yid Gestapo”* gets through with Goldstone (and Obama). Character assassination is their specialty.
    *Brothers can you spare a slime (or two, or three, or… nauseam)?

  11. Cheryl
    September 20, 2009, 3:41 pm

    These were precisely the questions that Israeli politicians and generals wrestled with in Gaza, as others do today in Afghanistan

    Which others? Oh yes, the Americans. The Americans had to wrestle with the same concerns in Iraq, also. In fact, the Americans turned to the Israelis for guidance since the Israelis had so much experience in this kind of warfare. I took Landau’s line connecting America to Israel as his simple exercise in reminding the Americans to not take this any further because their plate was dirty. also.
    I remember Allan of Representative Lantos’ House International Relations Committee office meeting with us regarding Rachel Corrie’s death and the lack of a credible investigation asking us: You don’t think they intentionally killed her, do you?
    (Isn’t this Landau’s big question? You don’t think we intentionally killed them, do you?) Shocking. Shocking.
    Did they intentionally kill Tom Hurndall or James Miller? Did they intentionally bomb the U.N. school? Do the Israeli’s justify every action of this sort as in their national security? And, do we now have a government that wants to not look backward….so atrocities from Patrick Tillman’s death to Iraqi massacres are not looked at too closely.
    I remember thinking years ago that the greatest service the neocons provided to Israel was the the tying of America to a preemptive war in Iraq and thus the argument that America has done it too would always stop anyone in the U.S. from looking too closely at what their close ally Israel was doing….much of it on our dime.
    Brilliant Strategy.

  12. James North
    September 20, 2009, 4:28 pm

    I contend the Times is still nearly ignoring the Goldstone report. Landau’s piece ran on the bottom of the last page of the Week in Review. No news stories. No analysis. Still no editorial, although they found space for an “Editorial Notebook” about apple picking in upstate New York.
    Richard Witty has more courage than the entire Times. Richard is not afraid to address the report at length, and participate in a vigorous debate about what it means. I would rather have Richard on the Times editorial board, at least recognizing the report’s importance, than the ostriches who presently work there.

    • Richard Witty
      September 20, 2009, 5:19 pm

      What do you conclude from the report? Have you read it? (I haven’t and don’t expect to.)

      Do you conclude:
      1. The IDF was justified in everything that did, courageous, victorious
      2. The IDF needs reform
      3. Israel sucks

      And relative to Hamas:
      1. Hamas was justified in everything that it did, courageous, victorious
      2. Hamas needs reform
      3. Hamas sucks

      And which do you think I hold?

      • tree
        September 20, 2009, 5:44 pm

        (I haven’t and don’t expect to.)

        Not at all surprising, that. And yet you have the chutzpah to comment on the report. Why not read the report, instead of commenting on something of which you have no knowledge?

    • Richard Witty
      September 20, 2009, 5:26 pm

      And, which do you think Landau holds?

      I get that Phil and you and Adam are looking for this report to be the smoking gun, the culmination of what Phil saw in Gaza, the beginning of the change through increased emphasis on BDS.

      And, I observe that the last few months of postings has been oriented to the condemnation, the Israel sucks conclusion (without the Hamas sucks one).

      In contrast, I hope that the tone and emphasis would have been, and would return to “IDF is in need of reform”, and “Hamas needs to reform”.

      I see the BDS effort, and this as weapon in it, as warring by other means, forcing by the power of the threat.

      And, mostly driven by the lack of clarity in statement of goals, lack of thought and clarity in matching of means to goals, and largely driven by an attitude of deferrence to militant Palestinians as those that are fighting the fight.

      Again, my goal is that Israel reforms, and to that end I’ve written to my Congressional representatives to suggest that the state department and Israel take the report seriously, and make the reforms necessary so that in the next confrontation, the Israeli army is confidently disciplined to undertake their valid mission (assuming that it is a valid one) effectively and lawfully.

      • Elliot
        September 21, 2009, 12:14 am

        Richard, you wrote:
        “Again, my goal is that Israel reforms, and to that end I’ve written to my Congressional representatives to suggest that the state department and Israel take the report seriously, and make the reforms necessary so that in the next confrontation, the Israeli army is confidently disciplined to undertake their valid mission (assuming that it is a valid one) effectively and lawfully.”
        Good for you for taking the Goldstone report seriously.
        However, I think you are mistaken in believing that war can be clean and moral. What leads you to believe that wars can be waged between large groups of armed teenagers without war crimes inevitably happening?
        How convenient: sure, we can have a moral war. If that doesn’t work, we’ll make sure to ‘reform’ later.

  13. marc b.
    September 20, 2009, 5:01 pm

    Witty, you have ‘jumped the shark’.

    The Landau piece was insightful, progressive, hopeful, effective.

    Nonsense. It was childish, insulting, dishonest, shrill.

    ISRAEL intentionally went after civilians in Gaza — and wrapped its intention in lies. That chilling — and misguided — accusation is the key conclusion of the United Nations investigation, led by Richard Goldstone, into the three-week war last winter.

    First, there was no ‘war’. It was a premedidated armed attack on a civilian population held hostage by a hostile state. Israel planned the ‘war’ months in advance, in the midst of a successful ceasefire. It violated the ceasefire the day of the US presidential election in an effort to minimize press coverage, and it subsequently assassinated 70 police cadets gathered for a graduation ceremony. Israeli and Western MSM widely reported Israeli malice aforethought. Israel used civilians as ‘human shields’, a tactic it attributes to its Arab enemies as a symptom of their ruthlessness and inhumanity, in violation of international law and the rulings of its own supreme court. It used chemical weapons indiscriminately resulting in foreseeable and avoidable civilian casualties, a violation of international law. Its intent was to destroy civil society and punish Gazans for having the temerity to support their duly elected representatives, as it did in Lebanon 2 1/2 years earlier.

    The report has produced a storm of outraged rejection in Israel. Politicians fulminate about double standards and anti-Semitism. Judge Goldstone, an eminent South African jurist and a Jew, is widely excoriated as an enemy of his people.

    Brilliant. Landau smears Goldstone as a race traitor. What an insightful, progressive, hopefull, effective observation.

    The report stunned even seasoned Israeli diplomats who expected no quarter from an inquiry set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council, which they believe to be deeply biased against Israel. They expected the military operation to be condemned as grossly disproportionate. They expected Israel to be lambasted for not taking sufficient care to avoid civilian casualties. But they never imagined that the report would accuse the Jewish state of intentionally aiming at civilians.

    So responsible the Israeli leadership was fully prepared, chest puffed, chin ajut, to take their medicine, so long as criticism adhered to its internal expectations? And they anticipated that Israeli operations would be criticized as grossly disproportionate and indifferent to civilian casualties (violations of international law), but it was shocked that the “Jewish” state was accused of intentionally targeting civilians. Israel used civilians as human shields. Schools and medical facilities were bombed. White phosphorous caused civilian casualties. But this is not evidence of intent? Landau is an idealogue incapable of objective thought. He has predetermined that a “Jewish” state is incapable of such wrongdoing, so he ignores the facts.

    Israelis believe that their army did not deliberately kill the hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including children, who died during “Operation Cast Lead.” They believe, therefore, that Israel is not culpable, morally or criminally, for these civilian deaths, which were collateral to the true aim of the operation — killing Hamas gunmen.

    Who gives a [email protected] what the Israelis believe? The majority of Americans believed that Sadaam Hussein intended to use nuclear weapons against the US and was behind the 9/11 attacks. Their erroneous beliefs were the result of incessant propaganda. Israeli beliefs concerning the goals of ‘Cast Lead’ were similarly formed.

    Judge Goldstone’s real mandate was, or should have been, to bring Israel to confront this fundamental question, a question inherent in the waging of war by all civilized societies against irregular armed groups.

    This statement is unadulterated intellectual dishonesty. In Landau’s dusty, empty skull, Goldstone’s investigation should have been framed according to Israel’s needs? The Mission’s mandate was, in effect, to conduct a criminal investigation into the conduct of both Israel and Hamas. Am I to understand that the alleged criminal should be consulted in an effort to help stir [its] conscience?

    But Judge Goldstone has thwarted any such honest debate — within Israel or concerning Israel. His fundamental premise, that the Israelis went after civilians, shut down the argument before it began.

    Oh, woe to the Israelis, on the cusp of yet another watershed moment of self-discovery, peace on the horizon, and then a bucket of cold water poured on them by that spoilsport Goldstone. How many blows to its ego can the most moral country in the world absorb before it descends into cynicism and despair?

    What crap. Landau, you suck. The facts of the report are uncontroversial, and were reported widely in the MSM. Israel doesn’t agree with the conclusions reached after placing such facts into the proper legal, analytical framework. Who cares?

    • tree
      September 20, 2009, 5:39 pm

      Great comment, marc.

      From the Goldstone Report, page 18:

      51. The chicken farms of Mr. Sameh Sawafeary in the Zeitoun neighbourhood south of Gaza
      City reportedly supplied over 10 per cent of the Gaza egg market. Armoured bulldozers of the
      Israeli forces systematically flattened the chicken coops, killing all 31,000 chickens inside, and
      destroyed the plant and material necessary for the business. The Mission concludes that this was
      a deliberate act of wanton destruction not justified by any military necessity and draws the same
      legal conclusions as in the case of the destruction of the flour mill.
      52. Israeli forces also carried out a strike against a wall of one of the raw sewage lagoons of the
      Gaza Waste Water Treatment Plant, which caused the outflow of more than 200,000 cubic
      metres of raw sewage into neighbouring farmland. The circumstances of the strike on the lagoon
      suggest that it was deliberate and premeditated. The Namar Wells complex in Jabalya consisted
      of two water wells, pumping machines, a generator, fuel storage, a reservoir chlorination unit,
      buildings and related equipment. All were destroyed by multiple air strikes on the first day of the
      Israeli aerial attack. The Mission considers it unlikely that a target the size of the Namar Wells
      could have been hit by multiple strikes in error. It found no grounds to suggest that there was any
      military advantage to be had by hitting the wells and noted that there was no suggestion that
      Palestinian armed groups had used the wells for any purpose. Considering that the right to
      drinking water is part of the right to adequate food, the Mission makes the same legal findings as
      in the case of the Al Bader flour mill.
      53. During its visits to the Gaza Strip, the Mission witnessed the extent of the destruction of
      residential housing caused by air strikes, mortar and artillery shelling, missile strikes, the
      operation of bulldozers and demolition charges. In some cases, residential neighbourhoods were
      subjected to air-launched bombing and to intensive shelling apparently in the context of the
      advance of Israeli ground forces. In other cases, the facts gathered by the Mission strongly
      suggest that the destruction of housing was carried out in the absence of any link to combat
      engagements with Palestinian armed groups or any other effective contribution to military action.
      Combining the results of its own fact finding on the ground with UNOSAT imagery and the
      published testimonies of Israeli soldiers, the Mission concludes that, in addition to the extensive
      destruction of housing for so-called “operational necessity” during their advance, the Israeli forces engaged in another wave of systematic destruction of civilian buildings during the last
      three days of their presence in Gaza, aware of the imminence of withdrawal. The conduct of the
      Israeli forces in this respect violated the principle of distinction between civilian and military
      objects and amounted to the grave breach of “extensive destruction … of property, not justified
      by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly”. Israeli forces further violated the
      right to adequate housing of the families concerned.
      54. The attacks on industrial facilities, food production and water infrastructure investigated by
      the Mission are part of a broader pattern of destruction, which includes the destruction of the
      only cement packaging plant in Gaza (the Atta Abu Jubbah plant), the Abu Eida factories for
      ready-mix concrete, further chicken farms and the Al Wadia Group’s foods and drinks factories.
      The facts ascertained by the Mission indicate that there was a deliberate and systematic policy on
      the part of the Israeli armed forces to target industrial sites and water installations.

      Landau has either not read the report, or sincerely wishes to prevent anyone else from reading it, because the actions documented above have nothing to do with the “questions” that he claims are the most important ones to discuss:

      Are widespread civilian casualties inevitable when a modern army pounds terrorist targets in a heavily populated area with purportedly smart ordnance? Are they acceptable? Does the enemy’s deployment in the heart of the civilian area shift the line between right and wrong, in morality and in law?

      None of those targets described in the report quoted above were “terrorist”, unless one considers Palestinian chickens, water and sewage as “terrorist”. Perhaps thats the point of Landau’s criticism, to equate anything and everything Palestinian with “terrorists”, thus any action against anything Palestinian, no matter how obscene, can be “justified” as Israeli “defense”. Sad, very very sad.

      • marc b.
        September 20, 2009, 7:22 pm

        This really can become a bit surreal. The dishonesty is staggering. As a (not so) great man once said, “Facts are stupid things.”

      • Oscar
        September 21, 2009, 9:12 am

        Tree —

        Thanks for posting this excerpt from the Report. Richard Witty, I’m astonished that you haven’t even bothered to read the report and yet you try to comment knowingly on it.

        One thing’s for sure — it’s not going away completely. It will wind its way through the UN, and the Falk premise — that Israel is losing the war of legitimacy in the eyes of the rest of the world — will become even more prominent as the mindset of the world community.

      • potsherd
        September 21, 2009, 9:24 am

        Speaking of dishonesty, Ashkenazi spoke up again and again made the demonstrably
        false claim that the report “ignored Hamas rockets.”

        When you have proved yourself a liar, everything you say is suspect.

    • MRW
      September 20, 2009, 7:52 pm

      Wow! Loved your comment, Marc. Great job. This is a keeper.

  14. Richard Witty
    September 20, 2009, 7:33 pm

    So Marc,
    Where did you live in Worcester? I was also there in the mid-80’s. Chandler and June, near where Abbie Hoffman used to live.

    Is Ralph’s the bar in the railroad car?

  15. DICKERSON3870
    September 20, 2009, 8:42 pm

    “The (Old) Gray Lady” sho’ “ain’t what she used to be”!

  16. lyn117
    September 21, 2009, 12:59 am

    What the heck does Worcester have to do with anything? I mean, are we turning to debates on railroad cars?

    The Israeli armed forces have deliberately targetted civilians since before Israel was formed. They did so to establish a Jewish majority in Israel. It’s pretty clear that the primary reason they pounded Gaza and laid siege to it was to force its inhabitants, most of whom are refugees from the Israeli armed forces, to accept their permanent exile and Israeli domination of their land, as well as acquiescence to Israeli acquisition of parts of the West Bank. Here’s the real debate. Is it legitimate to target innocent civilians in order to establish and maintain a state as Jewish?

    However, if you want armchair debates, in fact the militants in Gaza (and the ones who broke the truce apparently weren’t Hamas) are members of the civilian population. During the Gaza offensive, the main reason they were fighting in civilian areas was because thats where the Israeli army had deployed. They go home to their families when they aren’t out training or whatever. Similarly, reservists in the Israeli military are absolutely militants. Going by Israeli rules, you could also include police or anyone who owns a gun – that covers a large section of the adult populaton of Israel. So if you want a debate, how about, “Are minor civilian casualties inevitable when a primitive militia pounds terrorist targets in a heavily populated area with primitive ordnance? Are they acceptable? Supposing the Hamas militants had entered Israel and began shelling buildings and some Israeli policemen or armed civilians came out to confront them, would the Hamas militants have been justified in shooting any Israeli woman or child who came out in the street (along the lines of Israeli military orders applied to Gaza residents) because the Israeli militants might fire at them? Would this deployment of the enemy in the heart of a civilian area shift the line between right and wrong, in morality and in law?

    Landau’s proposing an armchair debate over killing real people in mass numbers.

  17. eljay
    September 21, 2009, 8:15 am

    Richard Witty September 20, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    1. Was it rational for Israel to respond to the Hamas rocket-fire militarily (I conclude YES, necessary in fact, and compelled by Hamas escalation UNTIL Israel responded militarily. I guess at some point they’d run out of weapons, but when?)
    Richard Witty September 8, 2009 at 6:59 am
    I’m glad that you brought domestic violence as the model.

    If violence is occurring, you stop the violence first, but NOT by escalating violence.

    • LeaNder
      September 21, 2009, 9:04 am

      Yes, that’s it. I actually think the best thing is to ignore him. If consciously or unconsciously, his main goal seems to be to distract attention. Keep people busy.

      Legality and the war, thanks Uri:

      Moreover, one cannot ignore the conduct of Israel’s armed forces in the occupied territories and examine the Hamas rocket attacks in isolation. After all, there are two parties to this conflict. In the three years after Israel’s redeployment from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. And yet between 12 September 2005, the day Israel completed its “disengagement” from Gaza, and the 27 December 2008, the day Israel launched its air strikes, the Israeli army had killed approximately 1,250 Palestinians in Gaza according to data collected by the United Nations Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Leave a Reply