A staggering, doom-laden interview published by Haaretz with an Israeli television journalist suggests that the full truth of what happened in Gaza 4 years ago was suppressed not only when the United States and its author stomped the Goldstone Report– which alleged deliberate targeting of civilians– but suppressed by Israelis too. Shlomi Eldar was Gaza correspondent for Channel 10 news. Here is what he saw and could not live with but put in “an envelope” and has never published, awaiting a commission of inquiry that never has come:
“I came into possession of shocking material. The kind of material that sends you to a psychologist. I have never shown it. Children who were shot. Piles of bodies of civilians… I came into possession of material about very grim events relating to the idea that Israel was deliberately ‘going crazy.’ Testimonies, images and much more. So many people were killed there.”
Reflect that this was a slaughter initiated by a centrist government now perceived as center-left in Israeli politics. Reflect that a story that Eldar did report, a documentary called “Precious Life” about Israelis working to treat a Gaza infant born with an immune deficiency, was written up at great length by Tom Friedman in the New York Times, with a lecture to his readers that if they were going to criticize Israel, they should watch this video about the “real Middle East” so as to be “constructive.”
Haaretz: “Shlomi Eldar reflects on the live television report that profoundly changed the way he sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” (Thanks to Annie Robbins.) Excerpt:
What, in your estimation, will happen in Gaza in terms of the next Israeli government?
I will surprise you by saying that Netanyahu behaved very responsibly toward Gaza throughout his term of office. In Operation Cast Lead, Olmert wanted to restore to himself the lost honor of the Second Lebanon War. He went on the rampage in Gaza. After Operation Cast Lead, when I was making my film, I came into possession of shocking material. The kind of material that sends you to a psychologist. I have never shown it. Children who were shot. Piles of bodies of civilians. In contrast, in Operation Pillar of Defense hardly any ambulances arrived at hospitals. People were killed, but there is absolutely no comparison.
…………….Is it true to say “there is no partner”?
I revealed a few years ago that Meshal wanted to talk to Olmert and sent him messages via [Shin Bet chief Yuval] Diskin. Olmert not only refused, he failed to inform the top ranks of the defense establishment and led the country into an operation in Gaza. So maybe Meshal was a partner, but today I’m not sure he is. Can I make a comprehensive peace with him today, with the condition of Palestinian society? The answer is no.
So it’s a lost cause. There is no solution.
You are right: there is no solution. There is no solution because, even if there were Palestinian unity, Israeli society today is not ready to pay the price of peace. We are incapable of evacuating even one settler outpost, so how will we be capable of doing more?
Did the process you underwent, from being someone who photographed the “Welcome to Gaza” sign to being a friend, almost a member of the family there, make you despair or give you hope?
There was a period when I had hope.
And it ended?
Today I have no hope. That is the general feeling of the whole Israeli public, both on the right and the left.
You are in a state of despair.
Yes. Something bad is happening here: politically, in policy and especially in the realm of social welfare. Israeli society is turning into a dangerous place. Things are not going to be good.
You are very reserved.
I maintain reserve all the time.
As a defense mechanism?
What does it defend you against?
I safeguard myself, and I need to safeguard myself against a host of things. I will tell you something I have never told anyone, and I hope I will not regret telling you. During Operation Cast Lead I came into possession of material about very grim events relating to the idea that Israel was deliberately “going crazy.” Testimonies, images and much more. So many people were killed there. I took it all and put it in an envelope. I told Reudar Benziman, who was CEO of Channel 10 News at the time, what I had. He told me, “Work on it.” I told him I couldn’t. Because that’s the truth − I couldn’t. If I had verified what I heard, I would not be able to live with it. I couldn’t have evoked the “rotten apples” metaphor. I still have the material in a closed room. I didn’t give it to anyone. When there was talk about a commission of inquiry, I said I would be ready to give them the material − let them check it out, not me. I’m not touching it. I’m not capable. I can’t. I, too, understand my limits.