Goldstone Report Weekender: Weiss profile; Ratner on Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish; and Siegman discusses ‘delegitimizing Israel’

Israel/Palestine
on 29 Comments

As you probably know by now, our book The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict has hit stores. Media attention has started to pick up, so even if you can’t make it to Busboys & Poets in DC this weekend to see Phil, Laila El-Haddad and Phyllis Bennis, there is still plenty you can catch up on over the weekend.

Yesterday, Tablet ran a profile by Michelle Goldberg of “idiosyncratic and influential anti-Zionist blogger” Philip Weiss. Here’s a tidbit:

Weiss first became interested in Israel in the run-up to the Iraq war. “I felt there was some element of Jewish organizational life that was behind this war because it was good for Israel,” he says. The notion that the neoconservatives spoke for American Jews horrified him, and it imbued him with a sense of responsibility to speak out as a Jew. As he dove into books about Jewish and Middle Eastern history, he came up against what he saw as the essential conflict between Zionism and American liberalism—which, after all, defines itself precisely by its refusal to privilege any race or religion. Liberal Zionists are used to holding these ideas in uneasy tension. Weiss could see nothing but stark dissonance. “I don’t believe in the necessity of a Jewish state,” he says. “Most Jews disagree with me, and that is sort of the heart of my crisis.”

Also yesterday, The Nation published a wonderful piece by our co-editor on The Goldstone Report, Lizzy Ratner. In the article she recounts her relationship with Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, and takes a look at Gaza two years after Cast Lead.

From “Two Years After Gaza“:

Now, two years have passed, and Dr. Abuelaish is suing the state of Israel. He is asking for the apology he never got and for damages, which, he said, would go to the foundation he started in memory of his daughters. He did not want to sue. He still believes in peace and rapprochement. But he wrote in an e-mail, “I was forced to go to the court as I did not find any open minds, ears, or hearts from the Israeli government. I did my best for about two years to settle it peacefully. Unfortunately [I] did not succeed.”

That Dr. Abuelaish did not succeed should distress anyone with the slightest bit of empathy. And it should disturb anyone who cares seriously about human rights, peace and basic justice. Because if Dr. Abuelaish can’t find open minds, ears or hearts in the Israeli government—Dr. Abuelaish, who has continued to look for the best in Israel even after his daughters’ deaths, who has both prominent connections and international stature, who was nominated for a Nobel Peace prize—then who can? What about all the other victims whose stories are not as famous but are no less harrowing?

Certainly there are plenty of them: parents like Khaled and Kawthar Abed Rabbo, who watched a soldier gun down their daughters, Souad and Amal, ages 7 and 2, as they left their house, white flags waving; or women like Abir Mohammed Hajji, who lost her husband, young daughter and unborn baby during a days’ long odyssey to find refuge during the invasion. More than 300 Palestinian children died during those twenty-two days, and hundreds of adult civilians lost their lives. Another 5,300 Palestinians were seriously wounded.

In the wake of Cast Lead, there have been efforts to bring some kind of justice to bear for these victims. The Goldstone Report, the convulsive United Nations document that found that both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes during the Gaza conflict, provided mechanisms for aiding and acknowledging the many civilians who lost lives, relatives, limbs and livelihoods in the war. These mechanisms included prosecution of perpetrators and compensation for victims—and helped earn the report the unmitigated condemnation of the Israeli government. And yet, while the Goldstone Report has been vehemently denounced by the likes of Alan Dershowitz and Benjamin Netanyahu as an attack on Israel’s legitimacy, its mission is far more simple and nowhere as sinister: it is to induce Israel, as well as Hamas, to take accountability, claim responsibility, for the many, many people who lost their lives in a torrent of disproportionate force—all in the hopes of preventing that disproportionate force in the future. Call it a roadmap to end impunity.

Be sure to read the entire thing here.

Finally, Alternet has excerpted Henry Siegman‘s chapter from the book. It is titled “Discrediting Goldstone, Delegitimizing Israel“:

The report does omit one salient set of facts from its discussion of the history and circumstances of Operation Cast Lead. But it is an omission that works to Israel’s benefit by failing to explore evidence that might have called the legitimacy of even a less lethal Gaza offensive into question.

The historical background to Israel’s Operation Cast Lead is not limited to the rocket assaults on Sderot; that is only part of the story. It must also include the role Israel played from the very outset of the Palestinian elections in 2006, which resulted in Hamas’s defeat of Fatah.

For all the talk of Israel as “the only democracy in the Middle East,” its government set out to undermine and subvert by violent means the outcome of that democratic election. In collaboration with the Bush administration, it mobilized, armed, and funded the Gaza militia commanded by Muhammad Dahlan, at the time Abu Mazen’s security adviser, in order to overthrow the newly elected Hamas government. When this plot failed, as detailed in Vanity Fair, and Hamas preempted the Israeli- and U.S.-sponsored putsch, Israel sealed off Gaza with the aim of destroying its economy and impoverishing its population. The expectation was that the suffering it is inflicting on Gaza’s civilians would turn them against Hamas.

Israel’s claim that Operation Cast Lead was its only way of ending Hamas’s assault on Israeli civilians was given the lie by Brigadier General (Res.) Shmuel Zakai, former commander of the Israeli Defense Forces’ Gaza division.

As reported in Haaretz on December 22, 2008, just five days before Operation Cast Lead, Zakai charged Israel’s government with having made a “central error” during the tahdiyeh, the six-month period of relative truce between Israel and Hamas. He argued that Israel had failed “to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians of the Strip. . . . When you create a tahdiyeh, and the economic pressure on the Strip continues . . . it is obvious that Hamas will try to reach an improved tahdiyeh, and that their way to achieve this is resumed Qassam fire. . . . You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they’re in, and expect that Hamas will just sit around and do nothing.”

The truce, which began in June 2008 and was due for renewal in December, required both parties to refrain from violent action against the other. Hamas had to cease its rocket assaults and prevent the firing of rockets by other groups such as Islamic Jihad (Israel’s intelligence agencies acknowledged that this had been implemented with surprising effectiveness), and Israel had to put a stop to its targeted assassinations and military incursions. This understanding was seriously violated on November 4, when the IDF entered Gaza and killed six members of Hamas. Hamas responded by launching Qassam rockets and Grad missiles. Even so, it offered to extend the truce, but on condition that Israel end its blockade. Israel refused. It could have met its obligation to protect its citizens by agreeing to ease the blockade, but it didn’t even try. It cannot be said, therefore, that Israel launched its assault to protect its citizens from rockets. It did so to protect the continuation of its strangulation of Gaza’s population.

This, too, is part of the history of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. Its omission from the Goldstone Report no more compromises its findings that both Israel and Hamas are guilty of war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity than the omissions that so distressed Israel’s government.

If these pieces have piqued your interest, you can find out where you can buy The Goldstone Report here. If you already have the book and want to help spread the work you can follow it on Twitter, Facebook and even better leave a review on the website of your choice – we’re told it really helps!

About Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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29 Responses

  1. Jim Haygood
    January 21, 2011, 5:12 pm

    ‘The historical background to Israel’s Operation Cast Lead … must also include the role Israel played from the very outset of the Palestinian elections in 2006, which resulted in Hamas’s defeat of Fatah.’

    This is a vital point. Had Hamas assumed office as an elected, legitimate government, it would have had to clean up its militant image, assume the responsibilities of civil government, and restrain rocket attacks from its territory– or else face legitimate countermeasures from Israel and the international community.

    Instead, Israel and the US took the arbitrary, destructive course of nullifying the election, destabilizing the territory, and placing it under siege. Algeria nullified an election in 1991 when an Islamist party won, and the baleful results ramify to this day. The US/Israeli decision to nullify the Gaza election was an equally grave, disastrous decision, which deprived Gaza’s people of their vote, and the elected government of its recognition.

    Five years later (as of next Tuesday), Gaza remains under siege — effectively a collective punishment for choosing the ‘wrong’ party in a ‘free’ election!

    Under the circumstances, it’s a stretch for the two principal perpetrators of this scorched-earth policy to describe themselves as democratic. What Gaza’s plight reveals is that the US and Israel are ‘managed democracies’ — if an unacceptable electoral result is likely, various remedies are applied: a candidate mysteriously withdraws or is disqualified; voters are threatened or bribed; vote count problems develop; voting results are overruled or changed on higher review; or, in the gravest extreme, lethal force is applied, personally or collectively, to nullify the result.

    Democracy ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.

  2. piotr
    January 21, 2011, 7:41 pm

    I am not sure if Israel and USA are managed democracies.

    Internally, there surely exists manipulative elites, but who is doing the managing?

    To the degree that Israeli policies makes sense, they strive to create as ethnically pure Jewish space between Mediterranean and Jordan as possible. No other goals can be squared with what they do. But it does not mean that it really makes sense even from such a vicious point of view. After all, Palestinians do not go away. In part because they CANNOT. For all its might (relative, but sufficient) Israel cannot win because of some laws of physics (note to G..d: you suck!).

    One of the more puzzling efforts in making Palestinians vanish consisting of researching the issue if they exists at all and publishing proofs that they do not. We create our own reality!

  3. Psychopathic god
    January 21, 2011, 9:05 pm

    excellent assessment, Jim Haygood.

    Quite astonishing that Dr. Abu Laish is suing Israel.
    Is Israel in a box: it can’t possibly compensate a high profile person like Izzeldin because that would admit culpability.

    Wonder if Abu Laish would have gone away quietly if Israel had tossed him a bone? Doubt it. And, for above reason, Israel cannot do even that.

  4. cogit8
    January 22, 2011, 4:01 am

    this is off topic, but I thought it would be of interest to all: it concerns the real objectives behind the latest zionist security project in the West Bank. Our tax dollars are at work creating the next . . . hell-hole:

    link to mideast.foreignpolicy.com

    • Potsherd2
      January 22, 2011, 10:27 am

      And this is all about the US refusal to persue a real path to Palestinian independence instead of the “peace process” designed to lock in place an Israeli-surrogate regime in the WB.

      It’s all about sustaining the repression by risking Palestinian lives instead of the IDF, and shifting the burden of bad PR from the IDF to the Palestinian police state.

      You can never go wrong with the rule: Israel wants it, it must be bad.

  5. clenchner
    January 22, 2011, 9:55 am

    I’m glad Phil got the profile on Tablet. I enjoy Tablet. They have diverse views.
    and
    I notice that ten years ago, JVP was a tiny blip, along with other nonentities struggling to get noticed on the far margins of Jewish life. Tomorrow, R. Villkomerson, head of JVP, is invited to speak at Bnai Jeshurun in NYC along with other Jewish leaders. This is the warm embrace of institutional Jewish life. This is the breaking down of the doors keeping alternative voices out. Now what?
    First, the thread of conversation around the utter blindness of ‘the Jewish community’ needs to end. There are disagreements, not utter blindness. Non and anti-Zionist voices are noticed and taken account of in ever more quarters.
    Second, despite acts of censorship and muzzling, ever more platforms are opening up – from Tablet to BJ to the Forward to the New York Review of Books. So the trope of ‘they silence the opposition, hear our voice’ must necessarily change as well to reflect that.
    For these reasons – and many more – the Jewish opposition to the status quo should be more responsible in word and deed. Start acting like a steward of what IS important about Judaism, Jewish heritage, and Jewish political influence. It might still be largely a minority view, but one with a seat at many tables. Stop acting like you still just want to be heard, and more like you want to persuade.
    The boundaries have shifted. Celebrate victory and mature.

    • MRW
      January 22, 2011, 4:22 pm

      Start acting like a steward of what IS important about Judaism, Jewish heritage, and Jewish political influence.

      Hunh? There are books and venues galore doing this, not to mention rabbis in synagogues.

      The success of Mondoweiss is because of what its doing.

  6. yourstruly
    January 22, 2011, 12:52 pm

    Isn’t the goal of us Anti-Zionists/pro-Palestinian Jews to strive for more than the self-satisfaction of merely being heard by the Jewish establishment? Isn’t it to educate the public as to the reality of the I/P conflict and to the dangers that our government’s unconditional support for the settler-entity pose, not only to national security but to the survival of life on earth? And then isn’t our goal to encourage the American people to pressure our government into changing its ME policies – so that there be justice in Palestine? What about peace in the ME? Without justice for Palestine, no peace in the ME, and without peace in the ME, whither the world? Isn’t this the lesson of at least the past century?

  7. jon s
    January 22, 2011, 1:40 pm

    Yourstruly,
    Your use of the term “settler-entity”: is this some sort of denial-of -reality mode, where you can’t bear to write “Israel”?
    Support for Israel (sorry, the settler-entity…) threatens the survival of life on earth? Isn’t that a bit exaggerated?
    And finally -I know I’ve said this before- Israelis and Palestinians can have either justice or peace, not both. I’m for peace.

    • tree
      January 22, 2011, 2:45 pm

      And finally -I know I’ve said this before- Israelis and Palestinians can have either justice or peace, not both. I’m for peace.

      How very white of you. If you are for peace over justice, then I guess it wouldn’t bother you much if all the Israeli Jews were deported from Israel? That would be peace over justice. Oh wait…. That would mean that the injustice would harm you, right?

      You aren’t for justice OR peace, jon. You just want to retain your privilege. Its OK by you if Palestinians get stuck with the injustice. They can live as untermenschen as long as they don’t upset your peace by struggling for more.

    • yourstruly
      January 22, 2011, 3:43 pm

      settler-entity as in a land where only settlers matter and where the indigenous people, those that haven’t been forced into exile, are not even recognized for who they are, Palestinian, being called Israeli Arabs, instead. And no exaggeration, not unless one hasn’t thought through the implications of Israel” (&/or its U.S. ally) making war on Iran. And once again, no justice for Palestine, no peace in the ME.

    • Potsherd2
      January 22, 2011, 3:44 pm

      Israelis and Palestinians can have either justice or peace, not both

      It’s easy to say that, jon s, when yours is not the side that will have to suffer the injustice.

    • MRW
      January 22, 2011, 4:24 pm

      And finally -I know I’ve said this before- Israelis and Palestinians can have either justice or peace, not both.

      Really. Sez who? You? Justice begets peace.

    • MarkF
      January 22, 2011, 5:54 pm

      I disagree. My dad received reparations from Germany after the Holocaust. Was this not a part of justice? Was he “at war” with Germany as he lived his love here in the U.S.? No, he was not.

      If Holocaust survivors can receive justice and make peace with Germany, Israel can provide justice and Palestinians can make peace with Israelis – provided there’s justice.

    • pjdude
      January 22, 2011, 7:01 pm

      that is a logical fallacy of false dilemma. they can have both. the reason you say they can’t have both is you assume that Israel must get everything ti want and that is true for Israel to get that both aren’t possible.

      if though this were true I would take justice over peace

      supremus totus lex. si ullus es supremus lex illic est haud lex

      above all the law. if any are above the law there is no law

      • jon s
        January 23, 2011, 4:25 am

        I admit that I used a rather strong formulation -either justice or peace.
        Of course if a peace agreement is totally unjust, towards either side, it’s no good.
        What I don’t agree with is the assumption that only Israel will benefit from peace, and the Palestinians alone will suffer from injustice. In any future peace agreement both sides will have to compromise and make concessions which they make regard as unjust. The diehard extremists on both sides will reject the compromises and pursue perfect justice. Hopefully the majorities will prefer to make painful concessions, comforted by the hope that achieving peace is more important.
        Pjdude, the alternative to peace is bloodshed. Have you ever been in a war, seen one up close?

        • pjdude
          January 23, 2011, 8:00 am

          I admit that I used a rather strong formulation -either justice or peace.
          Of course if a peace agreement is totally unjust, towards either side, it’s no good.

          unjust by that I assume you mean not getting what one wants. the sad fact is your pretend everything equal. some times justice demands one get nothing

          What I don’t agree with is the assumption that only Israel will benefit from peace, and the Palestinians alone will suffer from injustice.

          No I’m not assuming that. but the it is true of the peace you want

          In any future peace agreement both sides will have to compromise and make concessions which they make regard as unjust.

          not really we could just use the ISrael version of negioatations and just make demands

          The diehard extremists on both sides will reject the compromises and pursue perfect justice.

          perfect justice I guess by that you mean palestinians getting their rights. No your lie of perfect justice is fraud. any stripping, negating, or limiting of a person’s rights for anothers wants is not jsutice. that is something the thugs of ISrael need to learn

          Hopefully the majorities will prefer to make painful concessions, comforted by the hope that achieving peace is more important.

          compromise as an ISraeli who the hell are you to talk of compromise. one who has never given up anything yet demnads other give everything. the compromise you demand is one where the palestinian give up their rights so you can get away with crimes

          Pjdude, the alternative to peace is bloodshed. Have you ever been in a war, seen one up close?

          No i have never seen war but I have seen the scars it leaves behind. funny really you who has seen the horrors of war wrought from your faith’s own greed can’t understand why war can be needed where as I who have only seen the effects its left on those I care can. I know death and probably come closer than you ever have. when you have had a knife at your thought and had you life flash before your eyes you get a pretty good apreshation for life. there are things more important than life however. when one is demanded to give up their fundemental rights has a human being for the sake of peace war is much better choice. You make the choice between peace and justice because you know justice is not on your side. the longer you deny it the worse it shall be.

  8. Linda J
    January 22, 2011, 1:41 pm

    Adam, did you know Goldstone himself was at Stanford in the last week? Sketchy report here: link to paloalto.patch.com

  9. Justice Please
    January 23, 2011, 3:56 pm

    It’s nice that Tablet did a piece on Philip. But Michelle Goldberg is very disingenious on at least one topic. She writes:

    “What’s outrageous is the imputation of a unified Jewish agenda to all these disparate figures”

    Philip never ever implies a “unified” Jewish agenda. That’s bullshit, playing the anti-Semitism card.

    What’s more, Goldberg seems to not fully trust Phil’s rummaging around in the Jewish part of the U.S. power structure:

    “Though his voice can be reflective, he seems to enjoy pulling wild ideas from the fever swamps and giving them a respectful airing. He’s particularly interested in Jewish power, manifestations of which he diligently catalogs.”

    Fun thing is, Goldberg does exactly the same catalogueing: She’s also writing extensively on a part of the U.S. power structure, except it is the Christian part:

    link to amazon.com

    So, according to Michelle Goldberg, when Philip is doing the job of a good sociologist and is looking at who are the people who have power, he is a “crank”. But when she’s doing it, it suddenly becomes respectful journalism?

    Fuck that double standard.

    • annie
      January 23, 2011, 4:15 pm

      “What’s outrageous is the imputation of a unified Jewish agenda to all these disparate figures”

      justice, i took her to task in the comment section for the very same thing.

      any conversation about jewish influence in the US drives the uberzios crazy and this is why they’re afraid of phil. (check the link for some funny stuff)

      • Justice Please
        January 23, 2011, 6:05 pm

        Annie, I couldn’t read at your link for more than one minute, sorry. Stupidness abound :-)

        And yes, many (most?) people are conditioned to think “Jewhating!” if the Jewish part of the power structure is debated. That’s what we get if we basically teach people to think only in predefined patterns (like “Jews are persecuted and who talks about what they do must be racist”)

        Logic, critical thought and the scientific method seem to be extinct from large swaths of this earth, unfortunately.

        Oh, and did Goldberg reply to you? I can’t find an “Annie” in the comments section at her site…

        • Philip Munger
          January 23, 2011, 6:30 pm

          I wouldn’t identify Michelle Goldberg as an Uber Zionist. I met her in 2008, when she came to Alaska to cover Palin for the Washington Independent, IIRC. Had her over for dinner with some other reporters. We hit it off, and have corresponded a bit since, mostly on Palin-related stuff. I’ve kept up with her work, and this article was a bit outside her regular subject matter.

          The article disappointed me, though, in the way she seemed to willingly strait-jacket herself into a shallow take on how Phil Weiss has gotten to where he and this blog now are. She may be job hunting.

        • annie
          January 23, 2011, 6:30 pm

          justice, i didn’t notice her participation in the comment section there. i did check out some of the other articles @ tablet, none of which had over 10 comments. there’s a style to the kinds of comments on that article, very angry and loose on facts and allegations. phil drives them wild.

          ;)

        • annie
          January 23, 2011, 7:01 pm

          i agree with you about the uberzio reference philip. i was directing it to the responses to her article, not her. and i did think the article was an all round win which i mentioned in the other thread here when phil first linked to it. there was a lot about the article i liked.

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