THE HANDSTAND

AUGUST-OCTOBER2009

gaza and the goldstone report
Advanced Edited Version :
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/9/docs/UNFFMGC_Report.pdf

Rejecting attacks on the UN report on the Gaza conflict which had found strong evidence of human rights violations committed by Israeli forces, its main author has said the mission's efforts were not politically motivated.

"We will not address these attacks as we believe that the answers to those who have criticised us are in the findings of the report," Justice Richard Goldstein told the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

"I have, however, to strongly reject one major accusation levelled against the Mission; the one that portrays our efforts as being politically motivated," he added.

The report, which the Mission released at the UN headquarters on September 15 finds strong evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Israeli forces during the military assault that lasted from December 2008 to January 2009, and claimed more than 1400 lives.

The main recommendation of the Mission is for the Security Council to require Israel to report within six months on prosecutions it carries. If the relevant authorities fail in this task, the Council should refer the matter to the prosecutor of the ICC.(Hindustan Times)


Did Richard Goldstone Hide More Sinister Crimes in Gaza? Part 2 – DIME and Uranium Weapons

Peter Eyre Gaza, October 30, 2009, (Pal Telegraph) - Again we see a classic example of a UN investigation that only plays with the periphery of War Crimes committed by Israel whilst at the same time ignoring the more important horrific crimes carried out by the IDF.

Goldstone brushed aside the use of White Phosphorus and Flechette weapons and only touched briefly on DIME weapons. He totally ignored weapons containing Uranium components such as the four weapons shown in this photograph.

So let's look at DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) and how it works:

DIME bombs produce an unusually powerful blast within a relatively small area, spraying a superheated "micro-shrapnel" of powdered Heavy Metal Tungsten Alloy (HMTA). Scientific studies have found that HMTA is chemically toxic, damages the immune system, rapidly causes cancer, and attacks DNA. It cuts through victims with ease and for those lucky enough to survive such an attack the outlook is fairly grim. The fragments from such a weapon once embedded in the flesh of its victim will lead to cancer and can result in death as early as three months.

Two Norwegian doctors working in the Hospital in Gaza observed the unusual injuries of its victims like none
other they had witnessed before. One of the doctors had worked in such war zones for almost 30 years. This same statement was supported by Egyptian doctors who had also noticed the unusual injuries. Some of those doctors went into more detail with the following report: Norwegian doctor Mad Gilbert, the blast results in multiple amputations and "very severe fractures. The muscles are sort of split from the bones, hanging loose, and you also have quite severe burns." Most of those who survive the initial blast quickly succumb to septicaemia and organ collapse. "Initially, everything seems in order...but it turns out on operation that dozens of miniature particles can be found in all their organs," says Dr. Jam Brommundt, a German doctor working in Kham Younis, a city in southern Gaza. "It seems to be some sort of explosive or shell that disperses tiny particles...that penetrate all organs, these miniature injuries; you are not able to attack them surgically." According to Brommundt, the particles cause multiple organ failures. A footnote to these comments is that such fragments lead to an aggressive form of cancer.

In Goldstone's report it stated the following in Paragraph 49: While the Mission is not in a position to state with certainty that so-called dense inert metal explosive (DIME) munitions were used by the Israeli armed forces, it did receive reports from Palestinian and foreign doctors who operated in Gaza during the military operations of a high percentage of patients with injuries compatible with their impact. DIME weapons and weapons armed with heavy metal are not prohibited under international law as it currently stands, but do raise specific health concerns. One can see the extensive perforations of embedded fragments in this lady's face in Gaza.

One could ask the question why the investigation team didn't collect samples from the hospital or from its victims for testing in the laboratory. I am sure that these types of weapon are also banned under the Geneva Convention in regard to its usage in densely populated areas and the fact such weapons are totally indiscriminate and lethal. Again we see such matters swept under the carpet.

Now the big one - the issue of weapons containing uranium components. It was to be expected that Richard Goldstone would give an extremely brief reference to depleted uranium when his report said the following in Paragraph 49: The Mission received allegations that depleted and no depleted uranium were used by Israeli forces in Gaza. These allegations were not further investigated by the Mission!......I ask the question "Why on earth not"?

Could one ever imagine that one of the most experienced war crime investigators had, in a flick of his pen, written off something so serious? How such extremely serious allegations could be pushed to one side is beyond imagination. I myself provided my own submission to the team whilst in Geneva and highlighted the pictorial evidence of such explosions. I also advised them of the samples that had been recovered from Gaza for Prof Chris Busby and that had tested positive to both DU/EU with a clear indication of fourth generation dirty weapons.

We are already seeing the signs of such contamination in the birth defects of newly born babies in the Gaza Strip - Sound familiar? It is clear that Gaza will succumb to the same genetic damage as in the Balkans, Iraq and now Afghanistan. We can now expect significant changes in the health statistics in Gaza and when this occurs will anyone ask the question "What is causing this"?

Again we see the UN with it large broom either avoiding the issues or removing the evidence. They lied in the Balkans, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and now Gaza. We see a massive clearing of buildings bombed by the IDF and the rubble being taken away for crushing to re surface the roads and streets in the Gaza Strip. This is an indespicable act that violates the UN's own policy in regard to possible contaminated sites. Instruction to their own staff clearly states the procedures required prior to any attempt to clear such sites. Now they have failed to address any possible DU investigation and totally disregarded their own safety regulations. The resultant aftermath of this blatant act will now cause secondary contamination to occur not only within the Gaza Strip but also in adjacent Israel, Egypt, Jordan and further afield.

We will now leave the weapons and look at other aspects of this deeply flawed report. I note with interest a strong emphasis on the holding of Gilad Shalit and the comments raised in paragraph 77: "The Mission is of the opinion that, as a soldier who belongs to the Israeli armed forces and who was captured during an enemy incursion into Israel, Gilad Shalit meets the requirements for Prisoner-of-war status under the Third Geneva Convention. As such, he should be protected, treated humanely and be allowed external communication as appropriate according to that Convention. The ICRC should be allowed to visit him without delay. Information about his condition should also be provided promptly to his family".

I am sure that many concerned parents and families in Palestine would appreciate the same concern and respect in regard to the many Palestinian male, female and juniors held indefinitely by the Israeli Government. We must all be aware of the weekly ritual carried out by the families of those held in captivity without charge or trial who with great passion continue to hold their own special vigil and ask the same questions. Their loved ones are certainly not given the same treatment as Shalit and therefore this aspect of the report is totally out of context. In paragraph 86 of the report it stated: It is estimated that since the beginning of the occupation, approximately 700,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been detained by Israel.

According to estimates, as at 1st June A/HRC/12/48 page 28 2009, there were approximately 8,100 Palestinian 'political prisoners' in detention in Israel, including 60 women and 390 children. Most of these detainees are charged or convicted by the Israeli Military Court System that operates for Palestinians in the West Bank and under which due process rights for Palestinians are severely limited. Many are held in administrative detention and some under the Israeli "Unlawful Combatants Law".

What is ironic here is the fact that the long running atrocities carried out by the Israelis on the people of Palestine has for many years been very well documented. It did not, in some respects, warrant such a mission to highlight some of those atrocities when the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations had already done a magnificent job in reporting them over a long period of time. We can appreciate that this investigation was primarily for events just prior to Cast Lead and during the conflict. However, one must point out that this continued intimidation, oppression and humiliation as report by that Mission had so much to do with the retaliatory action taken by Palestinians.

Letters to the Secretary-General from The Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN are described as follows: "Identical letters sent to the President of the Security Council and the President of the General Assembly. The purpose of these letters is to constitute a basic record of the crimes perpetuated by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem".

These letters are sent almost weekly and are very well documented on their webpage:
http://www.un.int/palestine/letters09.shtml. They stem back to September 2000 up to the current time and one can almost feel the frustration of the author at continuously writing these very accurate reports to no avail. As you can see from the extract below they now number 342 and when you add to this the hundreds of UN Resolutions passed against Israel that have been totally ignored it is painfully obvious that the Secretary - General and the United Nations has no power whatsoever.

This letter is in follow-up to our previous 342 letters to you regarding the ongoing crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, since 28 September 2000. These letters, dated from 29 September 2000 (A/55/432-S/2000/921) to 3 August 2009 (A/ES-10/459-S/2009/401), constitute a basic record of the crimes being committed by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian people since September 2000. For all of these war crimes, acts of State terrorism and systematic human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people, Israel, the occupying Power, must be held accountable and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

I should be grateful if you would arrange to have the text of the present letter distributed as a document of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly, under agenda item 5, and of the Security Council.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Dr. Riyad Mansour
Ambassador, Permanent Observer
of Palestine to the United Nations

To be continued........................

- Peter Eyre, Middle East Consultant

:: Article nr. 59551 sent on 30-oct-2009 20:33 ECT

www.uruknet.info?p=59551



Ha'aretz 21 October:
President Peres on Wednesday harshly condemned the Goldstone report and told the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice that, "It is outrageous that a respected institution like the United Nations provides a platform to spread lies and stories about Israel." Rice promised that the United States will continue to stand by Israel as a loyal friend in the fight against the Goldstone report.


October 20, 2009 "HA'ARETZ --- The author of a damning report on Israel's winter offensive against Hamas in Gaza, Richard Goldstone(Goldstein), has said that Foreign Minster Avigdor Lieberman does not want there to be an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Goldstone, a South African Jurist, made the claim in a
conference call on Sunday with 150 U.S. rabbis from left-leaning organizations. He was speaking in reference to an Israeli assertion that the report would harm peace talks. "That just is a shallow, I believe, false allegation," he said. "What peace process are they talking about? There isn't one. The Israeli foreign minister doesn't want one at all."

Lieberman, a right-winger, has drawn fire for criticizing Israel's past efforts in seeking a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Goldstone's report accused both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during the 3-week campaign, but mainly focused on alleged Israeli offenses. It set off an uproar in Israel, and Israeli officials have largely dismissed it as biased.
In the conference call - which was cosponsored by the Ta'anit Tzedek Jewish Fast For Gaza; Rabbis for Human Rights, North America; and the Brit Tzedek Rabbinic Cabinet - Goldstone reiterated the allegation in his report that Israel deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians. "There is one thread running through, and that was to punish the people of Gaza," he told the rabbis. "It was a collective punishment. I don't believe that sufficient distinction was made between civilians and combatants."

The UN investigator, who has also served as chief prosecutor for the world body of war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, rejected statements that Hamas militants were in close proximity to witnesses the probe interviewed in Gaza, which is ruled by the Islamist militant group. "Let me immediately refute with every conviction I can muster the mischievous and untruthful suggestion that there was any Hamas presence anywhere near the places near where we interviewed witnesses," Goldstone said. "It just isn't true - had it been so, I would have found it completely unacceptable."
 


GAZA, Oct 1 (KUNA) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called on international representatives at the UN headquarters in
Geneva, not to sign the Goldstein Progress Report on Israeli practices in Gaza....

AND IF THAT IS NOT ENOUGH HE LATER PROPOSED:

ISRAEL'S Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed his government to draw up proposals to amend the international laws of war after a damning UN report on its war in Gaza.

The security cabinet did not, however, discuss calls overnight made by ministers for an internal investigation into the 22-day offensive at the turn of the year that killed some 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, an official said.

"The prime minister instructed the relevant government bodies to examine a worldwide campaign to amend the international laws of war to adapt them to the spread of global terrorism," his office said.Israel was dealt a heavy diplomatic blow with the adoption by the UN Human Rights Council of the report that accused both Israel and the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip of war crimes. Israel's closest allies, the United States, Britain and France urged it to investigate war crime allegations raised by the fact-finding missions headed by Richard Goldstone, a former international war crimes prosecutor.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak backed Mr Netanyahu's call for a diplomatic campaign, saying that Israel should propose changes in the international laws of war "in order to facilitate the war on terrorism" Agence France-Presse.October 21, 2009

UN Body Adopts Goldstone Report

By Thalif Deen

October 20, 2009 -- -UNITED NATIONS (IPS) - The
47-member Human Rights Council (HRC) approved a resolution Friday endorsing war crimes charges against Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, as spelled out in a report by a four-member international fact-finding mission headed by Justice Richard Goldstone.

As expected, the United States threw a protective arm around Israel and voted against the resolution, along with some members of the European Union (EU): Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Slovakia, as well as Ukraine."The voting was predictable," an Asian diplomat told IPS, pointing out that while Western nations voted against the resolution or abstained, most of the developing countries voted in favor. The vote was 25 in favor, six against, 11 abstentions and five no-shows.

The Geneva-based Council not only endorsed the recommendations of the Goldstone report but also strongly condemned Israeli policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), including those limiting Palestinian access to their properties and holy sites, particularly in occupied Jerusalem.

Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies told IPS the US vote -- and its obvious pressure on governments dependent on US political, financial or military support -- "indicates just how out of step the administration of President Barack Obama is on this issue. There is a clear double-standard, once again, in the US position between Ambassador Susan Rice's recognition of the primacy of accountability for war crimes in the case of Darfur and Sudan, regardless of any potential impact on future peace talks, while rejecting accountability in the case of Israeli actions in Gaza," she said. She added thatthe US administration claims to base its foreign policy on a commitment to international cooperation and the rule of law.

It is unfortunate that on the question of war crimes against innocent civilians in Gaza, the United States is continuing its longstanding pattern of Israeli exceptionalism, said Bennis, author of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer."If Washington remains unwilling to hold Israel accountable for its violations, the potential for a new US position in the world -- one in which the United States is respected instead of resented, welcomed as a partner instead of feared -- will be impossible," she added.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, strongly supportive of Israel, said his organization was "outraged, but far from surprised" by the Council's endorsement of the Goldstone report. Describing the resolution as one-sided, Foxman said the vote only proves the Council's "unwavering and biased focus on all things related to Israel."
"We express profound appreciation to the United States and the five other nations which showed their commitment to principles of fairness and moral responsibility by voting against this resolution," he added.

An overwhelming majority of developing countries in the Council, along with Russia, supported the resolution: Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia.

The abstentions came from Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Uruguay.

The five countries that skipped the voting were Angola,
France, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar and Britain.

Naseer Aruri, chancellor professor (emeritus), University of Massachusetts, told IPS it remains to be seen how Israel and the Obama administration will react to the adoption of the Goldstone report."The latter action will expose Israelis to possible arrests and criminal prosecution under the principle of universal jurisdiction, when traveling abroad," he noted. He said the Goldstone report recommends that both Israel and Hamas bring their accused to justice. "If they don't, they could be facing prosecution in the International Criminal Court and it could signal a major diplomatic defeat for the Obama administration," Aruri said.

"If Obama uses more vetoes in the Security Council to protect Israel from the international scrutiny, he would be placing his country in moral jeopardy," he declared.

Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies said Washington also must take into account its own complicity and potential liability in war crimes during "Operation Cast Lead," the code name for the 22-day Israeli military attacks on Gaza last December.Violations of the US Arms Export Control Act, which narrowly constrains Israel's use of US-supplied weapons and military equipment, must be investigated thoroughly and violators held accountable, she added.

"The significance of the Goldstone report overall is not because it exposed war crimes that had not been known before; the significance lies in the comprehensiveness of the assessment, certainly, but most of all in the breadth of the recommendations," Bennis said. She said it is almost unprecedented for a UN human rights report to move so broadly to identify obligations and responsibilities under international law -- not only for the alleged perpetrators, but as well for virtually all relevant United Nations agencies, as well as for individual governments. It was particularly so in invoking universal jurisdiction, and most especially in defining obligations and recommendations for global civil society.

She said the reversal of the earlier withdrawal of the report from consideration at the Human Rights Council reflects the significance of the issue not only among Palestinians inside the OPT, inside Israel and among the diaspora, but as well in international civil society. "It was that pressure that forced the Palestinian Authority to reverse its wrong-headed rejection of the report," Bennis added.

Aruri said the government of Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, whose term of office expired 9 January, had succumbed to pressure being exerted by Israel and the United States to defer all discussion of the Goldstone report until next March.

Nearly two weeks later, however, Abbas succumbed to a different kind of pressure, this time exerted by Palestinians, Arabs and various members of the UN Human Rights Council.A broad coalition succeeded in getting Abbas to rescind his earlier position. Undoubtedly, Abbas -- who was widely condemned in Palestinian circles, including being accused of treason -- could not withstand the pressure, especially that which included credible calls on him to resign, Aruri added.

In a statement issued Friday, Amnesty International said the resolution recommends that the UN General Assembly, the next body which is able to consider the Goldstone report, do so during its current session. "Amnesty International urges the Assembly to demand that both Israel and the Hamas de facto administration in Gaza immediately start independent investigations that meet international standards into alleged war crimes, possible crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international law reported during the conflict," the statement added.

All rights reserved, IPS - Inter Press Service (2009).

Gaza Report: Abbas the mole in the Middle East

Palestinian President Abbas Faces Uproar for Aiding US-Israeli Derailment of UN Report on Gaza Assault and has emerged as the 'mole' or the one who betrayed the Palestinian cause.Palestinian outrage continues over the Palestinian Authority’s decision to back the postponement of a Human Rights Council vote on the Goldstone investigation into Israel’s assault on Gaza. The move reportedly came after heavy American and Israeli pressure.Mahmoud Abbas was for a long time now suspected to be on the side of the Zionists and was one of the main actors in the Fatah coup against the Hamas parliamentary majority. With his shooting down of the Goldstein report, his role is made crystal clear: He is a major obstacle to Palestine's freedom.

Rashid Khalidi, who is a Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University said to the online magazine Democracy Now that calls for Abbas resignation as President of the PA is resounding across Gaza and the West Bank. He added that the calls for his resignation is also coming from the President's own party, Fatah.

There has been several claims that Abbas is a member of the Freemason Fraternity, a group linked to the shadowy 'Illuminati' which is said to be involved in deep control of major governments across the world. He is also said to have been behind the blockade of Palestine Organization Liberation (PLO) founder Yasser Arrafat by the Zionist army and could have played a role too in the 'elimination' of Arrafat.Now that the masque has fallen and Abbas is seen as the 'agent' of the Zionists from Tel Aviv, will the Fatah and the PA remain dormant and accept being headed by a person who seem to be against a Palestinian state?In Gaza streets in recent days, there has been posters calling Mahmoud Abbas a traitor. Yet the prospect of a change of leadership is minimal due to the fact that the pro-Israeli lobby within the Fatah is strong and they would want to keep Abbas on top in order to help "Israel' achieve its agendas.This until yet another major 'betrayal' by Abbas.


Obama joins Netanyahu in Shielding Israel from War Crimes Charges

By Jean Shaoul

October 19, 2009 "
WSWS" -- The United Nations Human Rights Council has endorsed a report into Israel’s 22-day assault on Gaza in December and January, accusing Israel of war crimes. Israel’s premier, Binyamin Netanyahu, predictably denounced the report as biased against Israel and unjust and insisted that he would not allow any Israeli officials to face trial for war crimes. The Obama administration echoed Israel, calling the report unbalanced, and said that its adoption would damage the possibility of resuming talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The talks are a necessary fig leaf for bringing the Arab regimes on side against Iran.

The report by South African Judge Richard Goldstone said the war was “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself and to force upon it an ever-increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”
It recommended that the UN Security Council demand that Israel conduct an investigation into the military’s conduct, and that it refer the findings to the International Criminal Court (ICC) if it fails to do so within six months. Some 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, including 400 women and children were killed, at least 5,000 people injured, and 21,000 homes destroyed, as well as much of the vital infrastructure. On the Israeli side only 13 people died, several as a result of “friendly fire.” Goldstone also called on countries that are signatories to the 1949 Geneva Conventions to use their “universal jurisdiction” to search for and prosecute those responsible for war crimes.

With help from the White House, Netanyahu mounted an international campaign of bullying and intimidation to oppose the report, get the vote deferred until March and ensure that the Security Council—dominated by the US and the European powers that hold the power of veto—does not refer the case to the ICC. Netanyahu demanded that Mahmoud Abbas, the nominal president of the Palestinian Authority (PA)—his term of office expired last January—oppose the report, with threats that he would call off talks with the Palestinians. In reality, Netanyahu has made it abundantly clear that his government is not interested in reaching any agreement with the Palestinians. He has refused to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank, and intends to continue building in East Jerusalem. Just two weeks ago, Foreign Secretary Avigdor Lieberman said in a radio interview that there was no chance of achieving a settlement with the Palestinians any time soon, and anyone who thought otherwise “doesn’t understand the situation and is spreading delusions.”
Israel also warned Abbas that it would refuse permission for a second cellular telephone company in the West Bank, a crucial issue to the PA and Palestinian commercial interests. Israel has held up the delivery of essential telecommunications equipment at their ports and failed to deliver the radio frequency as agreed last year. Without this, Wataniya Telecom, jointly funded by Qatari and Kuwaiti investment funds, which has already made a considerable investment in the project, has threatened to withdraw, forcing the PA to repay an estimated $300 million invested in licensing and infrastructure fees and $200 million in expenses.

This has precipitated a major crisis for Abbas. Under intense pressure from Tel Aviv, Washington and Arab governments, he called for a postponement of a vote on the report—weakening his already tenuous position resulting from his subservience to Israel and his support for the repeated assaults on Hamas and Gaza. According to Lieberman, the PA actually “pressured Israel to go all the way” in Operation Cast Lead last December. Abbas’s meeting a few weeks ago with President Barack Obama and Netanyahu, despite Israel’s pointed refusal to halt settlement construction, discredited him even further. His decision to prostrate himself once again before Israel has set off a chain of events that he is powerless to control. The Palestinians were furious and came out onto the streets in protest. Even elements within the PA and Fatah, Abbas’s own party, spoke out against him in an effort to rescue their own abysmal reputations. Bassam Khoury, the PA’s economy minister, resigned and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad felt obliged to say, “We mustn’t give up the opportunity to go after those who committed war crimes during Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip.”
Ahmed Jibril, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told Abbas to “go home,” and the council of Palestinian organisations in Europe called on him to resign. Nabil Amr, a former Palestinian ambassador to Egypt and aide to Abbas, also criticised Abbas. In response, the PA immediately withdrew its security forces protecting his Ramallah home. A few years ago, Amr was seriously injured in an attempted assassination.

In Hamas-controlled Gaza, people threw shoes, a sign of profound contempt, at hundreds of posters branding Abbas a traitor. For the first time, an Israeli Arab party, Balad, intervened in internal Palestinian politics and called for Abbas to be sacked. Syria cancelled an official visit by Abbas to Damascus.Abbas’s attempt to backtrack on the vote was met with derision.

Netanyahu also demanded that Israel’s allies fall in line. When Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that Britain would abstain in Friday’s vote, Netanyahu berated him on the telephone. In the event, both Britain and France did not abstain: they simply absented themselves from the vote.In an interview with the BBC, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband justified their position by saying that the British and French governments had been “in the middle of detailed discussions with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel about three key issues—the establishment of an independent inquiry, humanitarian aid to Gaza and the restart of the peace process.” “The vote was called in the middle of those discussions and we thought it right to continue with our work on the three fundamental issues so that could really contribute to a reversal of what is a dangerous spiral of trust and mistrust in the Middle East,” he said.

The US led a block of just six nations voting against the report on the 47-member council. Three of these were east European states dependent upon on Washington’s goodwill. Twenty-five voted in favour, 11 abstained.

After the vote, Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote a joint letter to Netanyahu proclaiming their recognition of Israel’s “right to self-defence,” but urging Israel to take a more conciliatory stance towards the Palestinians and Gaza so as not to upset relations in the Middle East. They invited Netanyahu to come to Europe for talks.They pleaded with Netanyahu to hold “an independent and transparent investigation of the events in Gaza, whose results were shared with us,” to “facilitate increased access to Gaza,” for a “halt to settlement activity in occupied territories” and “negotiations on the basis of parameters recalled by President Obama in his speech to the UN.”

Israel’s destabilising of the PA comes at a time when there are mounting tensions between the Palestinians and Israeli extremists in East Jerusalem. The PA has accused Israel of seeking to “Judaise” East Jerusalem, and of allowing right-wing zealots into the al-Aqsa mosque complex, known as Haram al-Sharif to Muslims and Temple Mount to Jews, while denying access to Muslims. This was the flashpoint that sparked the Intifada in September 2000.Thirty people were injured in fighting between Palestinians and right-wing Israelis at the end of September. Since then, there have been sporadic clashes as Palestinians feared that Israeli extremists were seeking to enter the complex.

Last Friday, Hamas called for a “day of rage,” while Fatah had called for a strike and peaceful protests in support of the mosque. The Islamic Movement, a political organisation based in Israel, had urged Muslim citizens of Israel to flock to Jerusalem to “defend al-Aqsa.”Israel deployed thousands of extra police and maintained their recent policy of allowing only female worshippers and men over the age of 50 into the mosque area. While the Old City remained calm with many shops closed, violent clashes broke out between masked Palestinian youths and police in full riot gear in Ras al-Amoud, in East Jerusalem, and at the Qalandia checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

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Family who lost 29 members in Gaza war: We envy the dead

Amira Hass | Ha’aretz

18 October 2009

Richard Goldstein visited the Gaza City neighborhood of Zaytoun in late June to tour the compound of the extended Samouni family, the subject of coverage here in recent weeks (”‘I fed him like a baby bird,’” September 17; “Death in the Samouni compound,” September 25).

Twenty-nine members of the family, all of them civilians, were killed in the Israel Defense Force’s winter assault – 21 during the shelling of a house where IDF soldiers had gathered some 100 members of the family a day earlier.

Salah Samouni and the owner of the house that was shelled – Wael Samouni – took Goldstone around the farming neighborhood, showing him its devastated homes and uprooted orchards. In a telephone conversation this week, Salah described how he had shown Goldstone a picture of his father, Talal, among the 21 killed in the house. He told the Jewish South African judge and head of the United Nations inquiry team into Operation Cast Lead, that his father “had been employed by Jews” for nearly 40 years and that whenever he was sick, “the employer would call, ask after his health, and forbid him to come to work before he had recovered.”The Samounis were always confident that, in the event of any military invasions into Gaza, they could always manage to get along with the Israeli army. Until 2005, before Israel’s disengagement from the Strip, the Jewish settlement of Netzarim was located right next door, and several family members worked there from time to time. When the joint Israeli-Palestinian patrols were active, Israeli soldiers and Palestinian security officials sometimes asked the Samounis to “lend”

them a tractor to flatten a patch of land or repair the Salah al-Din Road (for example, when a diplomatic convoy needed to pass through).

While Samouni family members worked on their tractors, gathering sand, the soldiers would watch them.

“When the soldiers wanted us to leave, they would fire above our heads. That’s what experience taught me,” recalls Salah Samouni, who lost a 2-year-old daughter in the IDF attack, along with uncles and both of his parents. The older men of the family, among them his father and two uncles who were killed by IDF soldiers on January 4 and 5, worked in Israel until the 1990s in different localities, including Bat Yam, Moshav Asseret (near Gedera) and the “Glicksman Plant.” They all believed that the Hebrew they had learned would assist and if necessary save them during encounters with soldiers.

As was reported here last month – on January 4, under orders from the army, Salah Samouni and the rest of the family left their home, which had been turned into a military position, and moved to the other, the home of Wael, located on the southern side of the street. The fact that it was the soldiers who had relocated them, had seen the faces of the children and the older women, and the fact that the soldiers were positioned in locations surrounding the house just tens of meters away, instilled in the family a certain amount of confidence – despite the IDF fire from the air, from the sea and from the land, despite the hunger and the thirst.On the morning of Monday, January 5, Salah Samouni walked out of the house and shouted in the direction of another house in the compound that he thought other family members were still in. He wanted them to join him, to be in a safer place, closer to the soldiers. Nothing prepared him for the three shells and the rockets the IDF fired a short time later.

“My daughter Azza, my only daughter, two and a half years old, was injured in the first hit on the house,” Salah told Haaretz. “She managed to say, ‘Daddy, it hurts.’ And then, in the second hit, she died. And I’m praying. Everything is dust and I can’t see anything. I thought I was dead. I found myself getting up, all bloody, and I found my mother sitting by the hall with her head tilted downward. I moved her face a little, and I found that the right half of her face was gone. I looked at my father, whose eye was gone. He was still breathing a little, and then he stopped.”When they exited the house – injured, confused, dazed, fearing the fourth shell or rocket would soon land – determined to get themselves to Gaza despite the soldiers’ shouts from nearby positions to go back, they believed only corpses remained in the house. They did not know that under the dust and rubble in one large room, nine family members remained alive: the elderly matriarch and five of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren – the youngest of whom was three years old, the eldest 16 – along with another kinsman and his son. They had passed out, some of them beneath corpses.

When they regained consciousness, 16-year-old Ahmad Ibrahim and his 10- year-old brother Yakub saw the corpses of their mother, four of their brothers and their nephew. Mahmoud Tallal, 16, had lost his toes; bleeding, he saw that his parents – Tallal and Rahma – had been killed. Three-year-old Omar, Salah’s son, was buried unconscious under 24-year-old Saffa’s dead body, explaining why they hadn’t found him during the terrible moment of panic as they left the house. Ahmad Nafez, 15, recalled how when little Omar woke up and pulled himself out from under the corpse, he spotted his grandfather Tallal and started shaking him, crying: “Grandpa, Grandpa, wake up.”

The previous day Amal, a nine-year-old girl, had witnessed soldiers bursting into her home and killing her father, Atiyeh. She had taken shelter in her Uncle Tallal’s home and together with other family members was moved to Wael’s house. She did not know that her brother Ahmad was bleeding to death in his mother’s arms, in another house in the neighborhood.

The children found some scraps of food in the kitchen and ate. Later, Ahmad Nafez told his relatives how Ahmad Ibrahim had gone from corpse to corpse – his mother, his four brothers and his nephew among them – shaking them, hitting them, telling them to get up. Perhaps from the blows, Amal regained consciousness, her head bloody and her eyes rolling in their sockets. She kept crying out “water, water,” said she wanted her mother and father, and beat her head on the floor, her eyes rolling the whole time.

It is too dangerous to remove the shrapnel embedded in her head – that is even what the doctors at a Tel Aviv hospital say. Now everything hurts her and will continue to hurt her: when it’s cold, when it’s hot, when she’s in the sun. She will not be able to concentrate on her studies.

No one can reconstruct how the hours passed for them in Wael’s bombarded house; some remained in a state of exhaustion and apathy.

The first to recover was actually Shiffa, the 71-year-old grandmother.

On the morning of Tuesday, January 6, she realized that no one was coming to rescue them anytime soon. Not the soldiers positioned just meters away, not the Red Cross nor the Red Crescent nor other relatives. Perhaps they didn’t even know they were alive, she concluded. Her walker had been bent and buried in the house, but she managed to leave with two of her grandchildren – Mahmoud (his legs bleeding) and little Omar. 

They hobbled out and started walking – along the silent street, among the vacated houses, realizing some were occupied by soldiers. “The Jews saw us from above and shouted to us to go into the house,”related Shiffa. That was when they were walking down the street and passed by her sister’s home. They went inside, but didn’t find a living soul. The soldiers – firing into the air – came in after them.

“We begged them to let us go home. ‘Where is your home?’” they asked.

She told them “over there” and pointed east, toward the home of one of her sons, Arafat, located closer to Salah al-Din Road. The soldiers let them continue on. “We saw people coming out of Arafat’s house and Hijjeh’s house. Everyone was a bit injured and the soldiers were shooting overhead.” 

At Hijjeh’s house she found everyone crying, each with his own story of those dead or wounded. “I told them what had happened to us, how everyone had fallen on everyone else, in heaps, the dead and the wounded.” She remained there with the rest of the injured for another night. Omar remembers this house fondly: He was given chocolate there. 

Only on Wednesday, January 7, did the IDF allow Red Cross and Red Crescent crews to enter the neighborhood. They attest that they’d been asking to enter since January 4, but the IDF would not let them – whether by shooting in the direction of the ambulances that tried to get closer or by refusing to approve coordination. The medical teams, which were allowed to go in on foot and had to leave the ambulances a kilometer or a kilometer and a half away, thought they were going to rescue the injured from Hijjeh’s house. But then the grandmother told them about the wounded children who remained behind, among the dead, in Wael’s house. The medical team set out to rescue them, totally unprepared for the sight they found. 

On January 18, after the IDF left the Gaza Strip, the rescue teams returned to the neighborhood. Wael’s house was found in ruins: IDF bulldozers had demolished it entirely – with the corpses inside. 

In a general reply to questions from Haaretz regarding the behavior of the military forces in the Samouni family’s neighborhood, the IDF Spokesman said that all of the claims have been examined. “Upon completion of the examination, the findings will be taken to the military advocate general, who will decide about the need to take additional steps,” the spokesman said.

Salah Samouni, during the telephone conversation, said: “I asked [Richard] Goldstein to find out just one thing: Why did the army do this to us? Why did they take us out of the house one at a time, and the officer who spoke Hebrew with my father verified that we were all civilians – [so] why did they then shell us, kill us? This is what we want to know.”

He feels that Goldstein, in his report, lent the victims a voice. He did not expound on his frustration upon learning that the debate on the report had been postponed, but sought a way to describe how he feels nine months after the fact. “We feel [we are] in an exile, even though we are in our homeland, on our land. We sit and envy the dead.

They are the ones who are at rest.”