Click here for more about the Mission headed by Judge Richard Goldstone
Fom Maurice Ostroff
To the UN Fact-finding mission into Israel's
Cast-lead operation in Gaza
August 26, 2009
I feel compelled to write to you again, firstly
because of the August 14 Hamas attack on the Ansar Allah group in a Gaza mosque, secondly because of a disturbing Palestinian
TV show on June 19, glorifying the brutal lynching of two Israelis in October 2000 and thirdly because of Gilad Shalit’s
My main concern is that your Mission may arrive
at its conclusions based only on the available evidence despite some evidence having been withheld by witnesses who have withdrawn
due to fear of retribution.
Conclusions based on incomplete information have
led in some cases to disastrous consequences. For example, one reads of tragic circumstances in which accused persons sentenced
to prison on the basis of evidence available at the time of the trial, have been pardoned and released later, on production
of evidence unavailable earlier. These unfortunate episodes are perhaps excusable where there were no indications of withheld
evidence at the time sentence was passed. But your mission knows that some witnesses have withdrawn because of fears of retribution
and the very reason for their withdrawal raises a red flag, indicating that their evidence could be critical.
In these circumstances I believe that your
fact-finding mission is obliged to exert every effort to obtain their evidence by all possible means including offering anonymity
and protection. By definition, fact-finding implies a pro-active search for all
factual information including evidence that may not be readily accessible, so that the totality of the circumstances can be
examined in context.
If the IDF’s actions are to be understood
in context, the abundance of textual and visual evidence available on the Internet indicating how Hamas behavior left the
IDF with no alternative but to react as it did, deserves in-depth investigation. The
video presentations I sent to you a while ago, contain some of this evidence. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx-CW3UKoIg&feature=related and
Nor can newspaper reports be ignored that confirm
allegations of Hamas behavior that provoked the IDF responses that are being criticized.
In the Sydney Morning Herald of January 26, 2009, Muhammad Shriteh , an ambulance driver described how combatant Hamas
operatives forced ambulance drivers to transport them. He said that he coordinated with the Israelis before picking up patients
so they would not shoot at them and added that the more immediate threat was from Hamas, who would lure the ambulances into
the heart of a battle to transport fighters to safety. He also said that Hamas operatives made several attempts to hijack
the Al-Quds Hospital's fleet of ambulances. These tactics obviously made it impossible for the IDF to avoid civilian casualties.
Hamas and the other terrorist organizations
often use ambulances for military purposes. For example, on May 24, 2004, Israel 's Channel 10 TV broadcast a videotape photographed
by Reuters showing two UNRWA ambulances arriving at the site of an exchange of fire between the IDF and terrorist operatives,
one clearly marked with a red cross and flying a UN flag. The ambulances evacuated two terrorist operatives wearing uniforms
and an armed wounded operative, also in uniform.
On January 22 the Italian daily Corriere della
Sera carried the headline “The boys of Hamas used us like targets.. Islamic
militants prevented them from leaving the house and shot from inside the houses.”
A Gazan woman said that practically all of the tallest buildings in Gaza had been struck by Israeli bombs because they
had rocket launchers on the roof or else were being used by Hamas as observation points. She also said that Hamas even set
some rocket launchers close to the large UN depot that later went up in flames. In addition, according to the article, when
the Gazans barricaded themselves inside their houses to keep Hamas operatives out, the operatives would use force to beat
down the doors and windows.
The report also tells of Gazans speaking about
rocket fire from the roofs of private houses and about Hamas operatives who sought shelter in a hospital.
The massacre in the mosque
The withdrawal of witnesses whose testimony would
not please Hamas is readily understandable in view of the retribution inflicted by Hamas on all who disagree with them. The
attack on the Salafi Jund Ansar Allah group in a mosque is one of many examples. It resulted in 22 people killed, (or massacred
in the words of Mahmoud Abbas), including an 11-year-old child, and 125 badly wounded,
The cruel executions have continued unabated:
from June 2007, when 25- year-old Mahmoud Abbas’ and others were ruthlessly bound and thrown to death from tall buildings;
through September 2008 when Salafi-jihadis Army of Islam was destroyed and up to the latest attack on the Ansar Allah group.
Unfortunately the absence of testimony about
weapons stored in mosques, hospitals and schools, the firing of rockets from schools and the blatant use of human shields,
as well as the number of victims who were allegedly killed by Israelis -- but who in fact were felled by fellow Palestinians
-- deprives you of essential information that would enable you to reach valid conclusions.
In seeking the truth, the unfortunate refusal
of the Israel government to cooperate with your Mission should not deter you from studying documents available from an Israeli
source. The Israel Foreign Ministry web site contains a comprehensive document “The Operation In Gaza: Factual And Legal
Aspects” containing information essential to an understanding of the Cast Lead operation. http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Hamas+war+against+Israel/Operation_Gaza_factual_and_legal_aspects_use_of_force_Hamas_breaches_law_of_armed_conflict_5_Aug_200.htm
The continuing dehumanization.
In view of Judge Goldstone’s statement
during an Al Jazeera TV interview that dehumanization of the other is an essential component of every horrific group crime,
whether in Rwanda or elsewhere, your attention is again drawn to the incitement that continues unabated in Gaza and the PA,
contrary to Oslo agreements and the Road map.
For example, as
recently as June 17, the official PA TV broadcast a performance featuring a Hamas teacher and Fatah students in which Fatah
boasts of committing more terrorist acts against Israelis than Hamas. The capture of Gilad Shalit is praised and the October
2000 savage murder and mutilation of two Israeli reservists is lauded as an example
to be emulated. See http://vodpod.com/watch/1826092-abbass-fatah-brags-about-anti-israel-terror-defensemiddle-east-israel-news-israel-national-news
Your report will obviously be incomplete if
it fails to deal in-depth with the role played by this continuing stoking of the fires of the conflict. It can be confidently assumed that had there been no incitement, there would have been no Kassam rockets
and consequently no need for the Israeli action in Gaza.
Would it not have been a great
achievement if your mission had been able to emulate former President Clinton’s rescue of the journalists from custody
in North Korea by bringing Gilad Shalit back to his family?
Indeed, it is very disappointing
that you missed the opportunity while meeting with his captors in Gaza, to at the least try to obtain some tangible evidence
of Shalit’s condition. His incommunicado incarceration is a blatant, deliberately cruel crime against humanity that
continues to cry out for the immediate attention of your mission, appointed as it was, by none other than the UN Human Rights
By way of contrast, Palestinian
prisoners in Israel enjoy visitation rights, including conjugal visits, access to telephones, newspapers, television and radio
broadcasts, lawyers' visits and even academic studies at state expense.
The continued mental torture of
Shalit’s family compounds the crime immeasurably. What greater torture can there be than tormenting parents with 24/7
anxiety for three years about whether their son is dead, and if alive in what condition?
To compound the heinous crime, Hamas recently organized a parade in which children in IDF uniform masqueraded as Gilad
Shalit reading a letter in Hebrew, telling the jeering crowd, how he misses his parents.
No human being with a conscience
can fail to protest this diabolical cruelty.
I hope you will find the above
comments useful in your deliberations and I look forward to reading a balanced constructive report that will contribute towards
a peaceful solution to the conflict in this region, leading to greater happiness for Israelis and Palestinians alike.