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Israel’s Dahiya Doctrine Undermines Its ‘Collateral Damage’ Claims In Gaza

by on Wednesday, December 30, 2009 at 9:55 am EDT in Middle East, World

It’s been a full year since Israel unleashed ‘Operation Cast Lead’ against the people of Gaza, leaving 1,400 dead (mostly civilians).  Israel and Egypt continue to blockade the 1.5 million inhabitants confined within the war-torn ghetto, restricting the flow of food, fuel, and other essential items, and thus making reconstruction and recovery virtually impossible.

The Guardian reports:

There is no uncontaminated water [in Gaza]; of the 40,000 or so newborn babies, at least half are at immediate risk of nitrate poisoning – incidence of “blue baby syndrome”, methaemoglobinaemia, is exceptionally high; an unprecedented number of people have been exposed to nitrate poisoning over 10 years; in some places the nitrate content in water is 300 times World Health Organisation standards; the agricultural economy is dying from the contamination and salinated water; the underground aquifer is stressed to the point of collapse; and sewage and waste water flows into public spaces and the aquifer.

Israel purposely destroyed Palestinian farmlands with tank bulldozers, wrecking 17% of it, and leaving 30% of it unusable.

Virtually none of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure has been rebuilt since the military escalation a year ago (as building materials have largely been denied entry from Israel’s blockade).  The Irish Times reports that:

Some 15,000 homes were damaged or destroyed during the offensive, displacing 100,000 Palestinians.

The UN estimates 3,450 homes need to be rebuilt, 2,870 homes require major reconstruction, and 52,000 need minor repairs.

The blockade has closed down 98 per cent of Gaza’s industries, while Israel’s offensive destroyed or damaged 700 private businesses, at a cost of $139 million. The war devastated agriculture, electricity and water purification and sanitation plants, health facilities and schools.

John Ging, director of operations in Gaza for UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, told the Guardian at the time of the military incursion, when the IDF repeatedly shelled civilian structures (including UN facilities):

Under international law, installations such as schools, health centres and UN facilities should be protected from attack. Well before the current fighting, the UN had given to the Israeli authorities the GPS co-ordinates of all its installations in Gaza, including Asma elementary school [which was shelled].

Considering that Israel has arguably the most sophisticated weaponry in the world, why were there so many civilian casualties?  Why did so much of the civilian infrastructure get annihilated (including entire residential neighborhoods, farmlands, schools, UN facilities, health facilities, electricity, water purification and sanitation plants)?  These questions lie at the very heart of the Goldstone Report.

A tired rhetorical tactic of Goldstone Report critics (including many of our own U.S. Congressmen) has been to re-frame the argument to a simple justification: “Israel had every right to defend itself against Hamas rocket fire.”

The truth of the matter is the Goldstone Report NEVER EVER criticizes Israel for launching a military operation against Gaza in retaliation of Hamas rocket fire.  In fact, the war crimes attributed to Israel are entirely focused on its deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure (as just described above).

Here’s distinguished South African jurist Richard Goldstone making this point to Bill Moyers:

BILL MOYERS: Let me put down a few basics first. Personally, do you have any doubt about Israel’s right to self-defense?

RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Absolutely not. And our approach to our mission and in our report the right of Israel to defend its citizens is taken as a given.

BILL MOYERS: So the report in no way challenges Israel’s right to self-defense-

RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Not at all. What we look at is how that right was used. We don’t question the right.


BILL MOYERS: What did you see with your own eyes when you went there?

RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, I saw the destruction of the only flour-producing factory in Gaza. I saw fields plowed up by Israeli tank bulldozers. I saw chicken farms, for egg production, completely destroyed. Tens of thousands of chickens killed. I met with families who lost their loved ones in homes in which they were seeking shelter from the Israeli ground forces. I had to have the very emotional and difficult interviews with fathers whose little daughters were killed, whose family were killed. One family, over 21 members, killed by Israeli mortars. So, it was a very difficult investigation, which will give me nightmares for the rest of my life. [..]

BILL MOYERS: What makes those acts war crimes, as you say?

RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, humanitarian law, really fundamentally is what’s known as the “principle of distinction.” It requires all people involved, commanders, troops, all people involved in making war, it requires them to distinguish between civilians and combatants.  […]

BILL MOYERS: You wrote, quote, the military operation, this military operation in Gaza, was a result of the disrespect for the fundamental principle of ‘distinction’ in international humanitarian law. So in layman’s language, the distinction between what and what?

RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Between combatants and innocent civilians.

BILL MOYERS: And you’re saying Israel did not do that, in many of these incidents.

RICHARD GOLDSTONE: That’s correct.

BILL MOYERS: Did you find evidence that that is deliberate on their part?

RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, we did. We found evidence in statements made by present and former political and military leaders, who said, quite openly, that there’s going to be a disproportionate attack. They said that if rockets are going to continue, we’re going to hit back disproportionately. We’re going to punish you for doing it. And that’s not countenanced by the law of war.

BILL MOYERS: So they were doing, on the ground, what they had said earlier they intended to do.

RICHARD GOLDSTONE: That’s correct.

BILL MOYERS: -so there was intention.

Israel’s Deliberate Intent: “The Dahiya Doctrine”

A key lesson taken away from Israel’s 2006 military escalation in Lebanon — where over 1,100 Lebanese civilians were killed, 915,762 displaced (25% of Lebanon’s entire population), and significant civil infrastructure was destroyed — became known to Israeli Officials as “The Dahiya Doctrine”.  Israeli Defense Forces’ Northern Command chief, Maj.-Gen. Eisenkot, described the doctrine to the press while actively serving in a senior command position (also transcribed into the contents of the Goldstone Report):

“What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on,” said Gadi Eisenkot, head of the army’s northern division.  Dahiya was a Hizbullah stronghold that Israel flattened in sustained air raids during a 34-day war with the Shiite group two years ago.

“We will apply disproportionate force on it (village) and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases,” Eisenkot told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

“This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved,” Eisenkot added.

The Goldstone Report quoted Major General (Ret.) Giora Eiland as having revealed (also in October of 2008 — less than two months before the Gaza offensive) that:

In the event of another war with Hizbullah, the target must not be the defeat of Hizbullah but “the elimination of the Lebanese military, the destruction of the national infrastructure and intense suffering among the population… Serious damage to the Republic of Lebanon, the destruction of homes and infrastructure, and the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people are consequences that can influence Hizbollah’s behaviour more than anything else”.

Israeli Leader, Col. (Ret.) Gabriel Siboni, also weeks before the Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, had this to say about Israel’s military plans:

With an outbreak of hostilities, the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively,and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy’s actions and the threat it poses. Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes. The strike must be carried out as quickly as possible, and must prioritize damaging assets over seeking out each and every launcher. Punishment must be aimed at decision makers and the power elite… In Lebanon, attacks should both aim at Hizbollah’s military capabilities and should target economic interests and the centres of civilian power that support the organization. Moreover, the closer the relationship between Hezbollah and the Lebanese Government, the more the elements of the Lebanese State infrastructure should be targeted. Such a response will create a lasting memory among … Lebanese decision makers, thereby increasing Israeli deterrence and reducing the likelihood of hostilities against Israel for an extended period. At the same time, it will force Syria, Hizbollah, and Lebanon to commit to lengthy and resource-intensive reconstruction programmes…

This approach is applicable to the Gaza Strip as well. There, the IDF will be required to strike hard at Hamas and to refrain from the cat and mouse games of searching for Qassam rocket launchers. The IDF should not be expected to stop the rocket and missile fire against the Israeli home front through attacks on the launchers themselves, but by means of imposing a ceasefire on the enemy

The Goldstone Report adds this paragraph on Israeli intent:

The Mission does not have to consider whether Israeli military officials were directly influenced by these writings. It is able to conclude from a review of the facts on the ground that it witnessed for itself that what is prescribed as the best strategy appears to have been precisely what was put into practice.

The Report concludes that Palestinian civilians and their non-military infrastructure in Gaza were NOT collateral damage in Operation Cast Lead; they were intentionally and deliberately targeted for destruction.

Which begs the question:  if the UN had insisted on forming its own fact finding mission to investigate the war crimes that had been extensively reported in Lebanon, could that undertaking have deterred Israel from pursuing the Dahiya Doctrine in Gaza?  The Israeli government had instead been permitted to appoint its own commission of inquiry, the Winograd Commission — whose findings were blasted by Amnesty International and other human rights groups for completely disregarding Israeli actions that could implicate its officials in war crimes.  The Independent said of the Commission’s findings:

The commission’s statement last night omitted any mention of civilian casualties in Lebanon – for which Israel faced widespread criticism during the war. Instead it contained a strong, if hawkish, message to the Israeli political and military establishment that its only hope of “peace or non-war” is if Israeli society and others in the region believe “Israel has the political and military capabilities… to deter… its neighbours.”

Israel obviously interpreted the Winograd findings along with the international community’s reluctance to pursue war crimes investigations as something of a green light for pursuing the Dahiya Doctrine in Gaza.  Let us hope that the Goldstone Report — which was resoundingly endorsed in October in a UN Human Rights Council Resolution — will help to serve as a deterrent against future crimes against humanity.

Max Blumenthal Attended Pro-Israel Rally In NYC Celebrating Gaza Attack

by on Monday, December 28, 2009 at 11:43 am EDT in Middle East, World

Max Blumenthal attended a Pro-Israel rally in New York City in celebration of the annihilation of Gaza (Operation Cast Lead).  He interviewed many of the rally attendees to get their perspective on what had just happened.

He reran this video on his blog today, under the title: ‘Gaza, Never Forget’ in memory of the Gaza massacre which began a year ago from yesterday.


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Goldstone To U.S. Congress: Your Resolution Condemning Gaza Investigation Is Rife With Factual Errors

by on Saturday, October 31, 2009 at 1:41 am EDT in Middle East, Politics, World

Steven Rosen, former director of foreign-policy issues at AIPAC — the right-winged Israel Lobby powerhouse — once told Jeffrey Goldberg:

“You see this napkin?” he said. “In twenty-four hours, we could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin.”

Well apparently, a ‘dirty napkin’ — of sorts — was passed around this week in the form of a new U.S. Congressional resolution condemning the Goldstone Report — the 574 page UN Human Rights Council’s investigative report on Israel’s Gaza incursion — which accuses Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes.   And the authors / signatories to the Congressional resolution are being taken to task on the factual merit of nearly each and every assertion within its contents.

You just gotta love this guy, Justice Richard Goldstone!  He has been directly involved in investigating some of the most horrific crimes against humanity over the last quarter century, and has been awarded some of the world’s most prestigious awards for his efforts.  He is not going to sit back and let a bunch of sleazy ‘lapdog’ U.S. politicians defame his work and his integrity as they pander to the Israel Lobby.

Goldstone’s response is apparently floating around Capitol Hill right now.  I got a copy (courtesy of Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard) which you can view below.  By the way, I’ve inserted the relevant parts of the Congressional Resolution before each of Goldstone’s responses so that you’ll understand what exactly he was responding to:


Calling on the President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the `Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’ in multilateral fora.


Here are some comments on this resolution in an effort to correct factual errors:


Whereas the resolution pre-judged the outcome of its investigation, by one-sidedly mandating the `fact-finding mission’ to `investigate all violations of international human rights law and International Humanitarian Law by . . . Israel, against the Palestinian people . . .particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression’;


That is why I and others refused the original mandate – it only called for an investigation into violations committed by Israel. The mandate given to and accepted by me and under which we worked and reported reads as follows:

“. . .to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 20089, whether before, during or after”.

That mandate clearly included rocket and mortar attacks on Israel and as the report makes clear was so interpreted and implemented. It was the report with that mandate that was adopted by the Human Rights Council and that included the serious findings made against Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups.


Whereas the mandate of the `fact-finding mission’ makes no mention of the relentless rocket and mortar attacks, which numbered in the thousands and spanned a period of eight years, by Hamas and other violent militant groups in Gaza against civilian targets in Israel, that necessitated Israel’s defensive measures;


This is factually incorrect. Chapter XXIV of the Report considers in detail the relentless rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and the terror it caused to the people living within their range. The finding is made that they constituted serious war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.


Whereas the `fact-finding mission’ included a member who, beforejoining the mission, had already declared Israel guilty of committing atrocities in Operation Cast Lead by signing a public letter onJanuary 11, 2009, published in the Sunday Times, that called Israel’s actions `war crimes’;


The member concerned, Professor Christine Chinkin of the London School of Economics, in the same letter, together with other leading international lawyers, also condemned as war crimes the Hamas rockets fired into Israel.


Whereas the mission’s flawed and biased mandate gave serious concern to many United Nations Human Rights Council Member States which refused to support it, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland;


The mandate that was given to the Mission was certainly not opposed by all or even a majority of the States to which reference is made. That is factually incorrect. I am happy to provide further details if necessary.


Whereas the mission’s flawed and biased mandate troubled many distinguished individuals who refused invitations to head the mission;


This too is factually incorrect. The mandate that had been rejected was the one I rejected. Mary Robinson, for example, has written in support of the mandate given to and accepted by me.


Whereas the report repeatedly made sweeping and unsubstantiated determinations that the Israeli military had deliberately attacked civilians during Operation Cast Lead;


The words quoted relate to the decision we made that it would have been unfair to investigate and make finding on situations where decisions had been made by Israeli soldiers “in the fog of battle”. This was a decision made in favor and not against the interests of Israel.
I do not consider that it is fair or just to label the findings as “sweeping and unsubstantiated determinations”.


Whereas in the October 16th edition of the Jewish Daily Forward, Richard Goldstone, the head of the `United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’, is quoted as saying, with respect to the mission’s evidence-collection methods, `If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.’;


What I had explained to The Forward was that the Report itself would not constitute evidence admissible in court of law and that investigators would have to investigate which allegations they considered relevant. That, too, was why we recommended domestic investigations into the allegations. The remark as quoted is both inaccurate and taken completely out of context.


Whereas the report, in effect, denied the State of Israel the right to self-defense, and never noted the fact that Israel had the right to defend its citizens from the repeated violent attacks committed against civilian targets in southern Israel by Hamas and other Foreig Terrorist Organizations operating from Gaza;


It is again factually incorrect to state that the Report denied Israel the right of self-defense. The report examined how that right was implemented by the standards of international law. What is commonly called ius ad bellum, the right to use military force was not considered to fall within our mandate. Israel’s right to use military force was not questioned.


Whereas the report largely ignored the culpability of the Government of Iran and the Government of Syria, both of whom sponsor Hamas and other Foreign Terrorist Organizations;


This is the first suggestion that I have come across to the effect that we should have investigated the provenance of the rockets. It was simply not on the agenda, and in any event, we would not have had the facilities or capability of investigating these allegations. If the Government of Israel has requested us to investigate that issue I have no doubt that we have done our best to do so.


Whereas the report usually considered public statements made by Israeli officials not to be credible, while frequently giving uncritical credence to statements taken from what it called the `Gaza authorities’, i.e. the Gaza leadership of Hamas;


This is a sweeping and unfair characterization of the Report. I hope that the Report will be read by those tasked with considering the resolution.


Whereas in one notable instance, the report stated that it did not consider the admission of a Hamas official that Hamas often `created a human shield of women, children, the elderly and the mujahideen, against [the Israeli military]‘ specifically to `constitute evidence that Hamas forced Palestinian civilians to shield military objectives against attack.’;


Again, this is an unfair and selective quotation taken our of context.


Whereas Hamas was able to significantly shape the findings of the investigation mission’s report by selecting and prescreening some of the witnesses and intimidating others, as the report acknowledges when it notes that `those interviewed in Gaza appeared reluctant to speak about the presence of or conduct of hostilities by the Palestinian armed groups . . . from a fear of reprisals’;


That Hamas was able to shape the findings or that it pre-screened the witnesses is devoid of truth and I challenge anyone to produce evidence in support of it.

Finally, I note that there is not a word to record that notwithstanding repeated pleas to the Government of Israel, it refused all cooperation with the Mission. Amongst others, I requested the views of Israel with regard to the implementation of the mandate and details of any issues that the Government of Israel might wish us to investigate.


He responded to just about every single point raised by the Congressional Resolution — effectively demonstrating how each was factually incorrect.  If this weren’t about crimes against humanity, I’d probably find this ‘dirty napkin’ episode hilarious.