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Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

AN OPEN LETTER TO AP REPORTERS

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About Maurice Ostroff

 

An open letter from Maurice Ostroff

To  AP reporters, Alexander G. Higgins, Frank Jordans and Steve Weizman

.
May 21, 2009 
 
Dear Messrs. Higgins, Jordans and Weizman
 
Your May 20 article, distributed worldwide
"Prosecutor: Gaza probe goes on without Israeli OK"

While AP's stated mission of providing accurate, balanced and informed news is in the main achieved, it is regrettable that your above story falls short of this worthy aim.

I refer to your statement that Israel refuses to cooperate with the UN investigation because it regards the probe as "intrinsically flawed" due to the UN Human Rights Council's anti-Israel track record and I trust that, on further consideration, you will agree that this statement misinforms your readers, albeit unintentionally, by being incomplete.  It omits readily available, critical information that would enable readers to assess the merits of Israel�s concern about the HRC's record..

Your readers deserve to be told the undeniable facts about the blatantly prejudiced nature of the HRC resolution that established the investigation. If they are to understand your report they need to know that in response to a question at a press conference on April 16, the President of the HRC, stated unambiguously that there had been no widening at all of the narrowly defined mandate of the mission.

He said categorically "There is a mandate, if you look at OP 14 [operative paragraph 14 of HRC resolution S/9-1], that spells out the mandate."  (The emphasis is mine)

OP14 states that the HRC decided "..to dispatch an urgent, independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Council, to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression, and calls upon Israel not to obstruct the process of investigation and to fully cooperate with the mission."

O
n reading the text of OP14, no reasonable person would expect any entity to subject itself to an investigative  mission whose results have been clearly anticipated in its mandate. The HRC has very openly decided in advance that ONLY Israel has committed violations and it denies the mission authority to look into possible violations by anyone else. It does not call for investigating the casus belli and does not even make the pretence of adhering to the convention of referring to violations as "alleged",  until proved. Only Israel is called upon not to obstruct the process of investigation. Other parties to the conflict are evidently exempted from this requirement. All this apart from the error of referring to Gaza as occupied territory. Gaza is no longer occupied by Israel.
 
In placing the entire blame on Israel, the HRC ignores the fact that at a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minster Ahmad Abu al-Gheit, no less than the PA chairman himself, Mahmoud Abbas, publicly stated on PA TV that Hamas was responsible for the Cast Lead violence. (A transcript is available from Palestinian Media Watch).

May I hope that you will live up to AP's mission of providing balanced news by telling your readers why Israel considers the probe to be "intrinsically flawed"?

Sincerely
Maurice Ostroff


AP's original article
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hj4Q2pdqZHVVfQcbXxokISeln93QD98A6TIG2

Prosecutor: Gaza probe goes on without Israeli OK

By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS � 15 hours ago

GENEVA (AP) � A U.N. investigation into possible war crimes in Israel and Gaza will go ahead with or without Israel's cooperation, the chief investigator said Wednesday.

Israel regards the probe as "intrinsically flawed" because it was ordered by the U.N. Human Rights Council, which has an anti-Israel track record.

But Richard Goldstone, a veteran prosecutor of war crimes in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, said he wants his team to bring a balanced approach to the January conflict and was upset that Israel has turned a deaf ear to his appeals for cooperation.

"I'm disappointed, and the members of the mission are disappointed, that we've had no positive response from the Israeli government," said Goldstone, a Jew with close ties to Israel.

He said the team wanted to start in Israel, visit the southern part of the country and town of Sderot, which was hit repeatedly by Palestinian rockets, and then enter Gaza "through the front door."

Goldstone says the team will travel to Gaza through Egypt if the Jewish state bars them.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who met with the investigators in Geneva on Wednesday, said he would press Israel to let Goldstone in.

"I expressed my strong support for his mission," Ban told The Associated Press. "I told him that I had discussed with the Israeli government, particularly President Shimon Peres."

He said he had urged Peres to extend his full cooperation for the mission.

"I have not yet received a reply directly (from the Israelis), but I am going to continue to discuss this with them," Ban said.

Israel has been at odds with the 47-nation U.N. Human Rights Council since its creation three years ago. It refused to cooperate with an earlier Gaza probe the council assigned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu to head.

Israel has objected to the current investigation because the team has been instructed only to investigate alleged abuses by Israelis, though Goldstone says he will examine conduct by both sides.

"We think that the mandate is intrinsically flawed and defective and therefore this commission will never be able to do a proper job, whatever good intentions its head may have," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Wednesday in Jerusalem.

He would not say whether the U.N. team members would be allowed to enter Israel.

The council has a large contingent of members from Islamic countries, and Israel regards the Geneva body as biased.

Israel launched its offensive against Gaza on Dec. 27 in a bid to halt eight years of rocket fire into its southern territory and deal a heavy blow to the Hamas militant group.

The three-week operation killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians, according to Palestinian officials and human rights groups. It also destroyed thousands of homes and heavily damaged Gaza's infrastructure.

Israel says the death toll was lower than that and most of the dead were Hamas militants. It blames Hamas for the civilian casualties, saying the militants used schools, mosques and residential areas for cover. Thirteen Israelis were killed during the fighting.

Middle East warfare presents a new challenge to Goldstone, a trustee of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who over the years has "taken a deep interest in Israel (and) in what happens in Israel."

Goldstone, an opponent of apartheid in his native South Africa where he served as a justice of the South African Constitutional Court, was named in 1994 to be U.N. chief prosecutor for war crimes in former Yugoslavia and genocide in Rwanda.

He has been widely credited with being impartial, letting the chips fall where they may.

Goldstone said the team was still making contacts and didn't have a travel schedule yet, but needs to finish its field work by the end of June.

The independent team includes Christine Chinkin, professor of international law at the London School of Economics; Hina Jilani, a human rights advocate from Pakistan; and Desmond Travers, a former officer in the Irish Armed Forces with expertise on international criminal investigations.

Associated Press writers Frank Jordans in Geneva and Steve Weizman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Copyright � 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
 

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