Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict


DEIR YASSIN - startling evidence
About Maurice Ostroff

An open reply from Maurice Ostroff to the 18 SA Jews

who signed the article reproduced in the right hand column.


I don’t dispute your humanitarian motivation especially since your views are based on a report by the respected Professor John Dugard. But it is always sad when intelligent people express views with best intentions, but based on misinformation.


Intellectual honesty demands critical analysis of the accuracy of this report that stimulated your protest. For those of you, to whom facts which can be fully substantiated are important, the following information will be of interest. If however, you are not open to considering views which may differ from your own, don’t bother to read further.


Without questioning Professor Dugard’s sincerity, his sources are open to question.  It is a pity he didn’t consult the like of journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, who has an intimate knowledge of the Palestinian terrain. An award-winning journalist and television news producer, he has reported from the West Bank and Gaza Strip for more than twenty years. An insider with an intimate knowledge of the Palestinians, at one time he worked as editor of the PLO's newspaper Al Fajr.


Toameh told the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia on April 27, 2004 that the world receives an inaccurate picture of what happens in the Palestinian region. The PA’s tyrannical approach and control of the media creates an atmosphere of intimidation and fear among Palestinian journalists and foreign journalists allow themselves to be misled by some of their Palestinian consultants.


Toameh is certainly in a better position to assess the actual situation than short-term visitors who can’t speak Arabic and depend on Palestinians as guides and translators. He relates that when foreigners interview Palestinians through translators, the translators often mistranslate and even reprimand interviewees critical of the Palestinian Authority. 


There is another very disturbing aspect to Dugard’s report. His unbalanced mandate as special rapporteur on Palestine,  is limited to investigating only violations by Israel, not by Palestinians. He has been faithful to this mandate, presenting the case of a prosecutor determined to obtain a conviction while making no pretence of acting as a neutral investigator,


Your mandate is however, unrestricted and natural justice requires that unlike Dugard, you must examine and weigh all available evidence including the Palestinian provocations, which produce Israeli reactions.



The casualties to which you refer, did not occur in a vacuum. They were the tragic result of operations in reaction to attacks by Palestinians.  


The closures of crossing points only take place to avoid terror attacks like the one by the female suicide bomber who detonated a bomb at the Erez Crossing killing four Israelis and wounding 10. Hamas and the Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed joint responsibility



I am not aware of Palestinians seeking medical attention in Egypt as referred to by you, but last year some 80,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and 40,000 from Gaza came to Israel for medical treatment. All this despite the risk that occasionally bombs are discovered in ambulances at checkpoints and despite the history of two suicide bombers who arrived in Israel by ambulance and then blew themselves up at a hitchhiking station, killing 21 Israelis,  See


The real tragedy is that Palestinian extremists have deliberately prevented a thriving cooperative situation with Israel. See


Before the uprising, up to 100,000 Palestinians worked in Israel, A successful industrial zone was created at Erez employing about 5,000 workers in some 200 businesses half of which were Palestinian-owned. This was part of a larger Gaza Industrial Estate (GIE), slated to provide up to 50,000 jobs. A joint industrial zone was also planned south of Tulkarm intended to provide jobs for more than 5,000 Palestinians and additional areas were planned for Jenin and the Kerem Shalom area near Rafah in Gaza.


Unfortunately the GIE was forced to close when it became the target of deadly Palestinian attacks.


The self-destructive trend continues. Even as recently as last May, opportunities were lost when Gazan gunmen wantonly destroyed thousands of greenhouses and other projects left behind by the Jewish settlers who had been evacuated; projects that could have provided income for over 4,500 families.


* Bait Hanoun. Your reference to the November 2006 Beit Hanoun incident repeats erroneous information. The BBC, which cannot be accused of favoring Israel, reported the total damage as 18 killed and 40 wounded. Your source exaggerates this to 82 killed and 260 injured adding 279 homes plus other buildings destroyed, though even Palestinian sources reported only six adjacent structures damaged by the explosion.


Lacking in your letter is any reference to the fact that Israeli civilians are being bombarded daily by rockets fired by Palestinians from civilian areas into civilian areas (a double war crime). No international law prevents Israel from responding. In this instance shells aimed by Israeli artillery at a rocket-launching site hit the wrong target due to a malfunction. Human errors and malfunctions do occur, even in the most highly disciplined fields such as space exploration.


The reaction of IDF soldiers was described by Steve Linde in the Jerusalem Post, on November 8, 2006. He wrote: "Can you imagine how terrible the artillery troops who fired the shells at Beit Hanun yesterday must be feeling now? After serving in IDF Artillery, I can only say that this is every gunner's nightmare scenario: killing innocent men, women and children."


Linde points out that, in response to Kassam rocket attacks, gunners were ordered to "fire at the source" - which they did, firing a dozen or so shells. He adds that whereas the Kassams are intentionally fired at civilian targets, hoping for maximum casualties and damage, the troops who fired at Beit Hanun were targeting terrorists, not civilians. For the complete article see


*West Bank and the wall: The wall (most of it is wire, like any other fence) to which you object would not have been erected if it had not become necessary to prevent deadly suicide bombings and other terror. That it has been successful in preventing untold massacres must be balanced against the regrettable, temporary discomfort of some residents.


*Settlements, the Geneva convention and international law: Your claim that 40% of land held by settlements is privately owned Palestinian land, is contradicted by a recent admission by “Peace Now”, the most active opponent and monitor of settlement activity, that it has made serious mistakes. For example in regard to the largest settlement, Ma'ale Adumim, it made a 15,900% percent mistake. Rather than 86.4% claimed as Palestinian land, it now claims just 0.54% of that land as supposedly Palestinian. For more details see 


Similarly your claim that settlements are in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention has been contested by eminent jurists like the late Professor Julius Stone one of the twentieth century's leading authorities on the Law of Nations. See


With regard to other claims of illegalities I refer you to


Obstacles to peace:  

Incitement. Palestinians who are subjected to hate propaganda from their earliest years cannot be expected to think of peaceful coexistence. Any report on the situation is incomplete if it fails to address the continuing incitement by Palestinian state-controlled media which teach children to emulate suicide martyrs with video clips portraying happy child martyrs in the after-world and while hatred continues to be spewed daily in mosques and schools.


In a typical sermon on PA TV, Sheik Muhammad Ibrahim Al-Madhi, called for turning Jews and Christians into Ahl-Dhimma [protected second rate citizens] under Muslim rule. Note that the hate is directed at Christians as well as Jews.


Certainly you cannot be unperturbed by the indoctrination of infants as shown in the following  excerpt from an interview by Duaa Amer with three-and-a-half year old Egyptian girl, Basmallah, broadcast on Iqra TV


Amer: How old are you, Basmallah?

Basmallah: Three and a half.

Amer: Why don't you like them? (the Jews)

Basmallah: They are apes and pigs.

Amer: Because they are apes and pigs. Who said that about them?

Basmallah: Our God.


You can view a video clip of this interview at

and other examples of incitement at


The PLO and Hamas Charters. Nor can you justifiably ignore the inevitably of continued violence attributable to the PLO and Hamas constitutions. The official Palestinian Media Center web site confirms that promised changes to the PLO Charter have not yet  been made. Article 9 still declares plainly that armed struggle is not merely tactical, it is the overall strategy. Article 19 rejects the 1947 UN partition, thereby rejecting the Quartet’s proposed two-state solution and advocates destruction of the entire Jewish state. Article 20 unashamedly deems the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate null and void.


The Hamas charter emphatically rejects peace. Article 13 states that peaceful solutions and international conferences, contradict the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement and that the only solution is through Jihad.


Do you consider it possible to negotiate rationally with a party that generates hatred based on fantasies? For example the Hamas Charter states that freemasons, Rotary clubs, Lions and similar organizations stirred the French revolution (though the latter organizations did not even exist at the time), that they were responsible for World War I and the Communist revolution and that they formed the League of Nations. Hamas promises that these organizations will be obliterated when Islam takes control.


May I hope you will treat this letter in the constructive spirit intended to engage in serious dialogue and promote mutual understanding?  I respectfully suggest that it would be more productive to discuss how best to resolve the conflict than engage in mutual recriminations


Your considered response would be appreciated. Please use  the comment form below to contact me



Maurice Ostroff    



The original article
Mail and Guardian.

March 30 to April 4, 2007 Vol. 23 No. 13


We reject Israel's violations of international law


As Jews and South Africans, we have noted with deep concern the report of John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967. The report, published on January 29 2007, is currently under discussion within the United Nations Human Rights Council. It reveals substantial rights abuses by the Israeli govern- ment that we find abhorrent, par- ticularly in the light of the painful past of both the South African and Jewish people.


We believe these abuses are Indefensible and that there is an urgent need for Jews and all South Africans to speak out against these rights violations, in particular the following abuses highlighted by the report;


* Gaza: More than 400 civilians were killed in a five-month period in'ao06 and half of Gaza was with- out power for several months as a result of the destruction by Israel of the only power plant. Gaza is under an effective siege, meaning that the sick are unable to travel to Egypt for medical attention, the economy has beep devastated and more than

80% of the population lives below the official poverty line.


*In a particular six-day attack by Israel on Beit Hanoun, Gaza, 82 Pal- estinians were killed and 260 were injured. Furthermore, 279 homes were destroyed, as well as an 850- year-old mosque, public buildings, . electricity networks, schools and hospitals.


* West Bank and East Jerusalem: Israel continues to build a massive wall through the occupied territories, despite the conclusion of the International Court of Justice that the wall is illegal. This has grave humanitarian consequences for Palestinians living in areas enclosed by the wall. Furthermore, Palestinian Muslims are prevented from praying at the al-Aqsa mosque and Palestinian Christians are pre- vented from praying at the Church of the Sepulchre, as a consequence of the wall.


* Settlements in the occupied territories: Despite these being a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Israeli government continues to allow Jewish settle- ments in the occupied territories to grow. Forty percent of land held by Israeli settlements is in fact pri- vately owned by Palestinians.


We wish to emphasise these major Legal conclusions of the report:


* Israel has committed various war crimes and has violated a series of rights protected by inter- national law including the right to life, the right against discrimination, the right to freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and deten- tion, the right to freedom of movement and the right of children to protection.


*The international community, through the UN, has identified three regimes as inimical to human rights: colonialism, apartheid and foreign occupation. Israel's occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza contains elements of all three.


We call on our government to speak out against the continued violations of international law perpetrated by Israel and to use whatever diplomatic means possible to pressure Israel to desist


Secondly, we believe that it is the particular responsibility of members of the Jewish community, in whose name Israel purports to act, to reject Israel's unlawful conduct and to act to seek an end to these abuses.


Vanessa Barolsky, Paul Berkowitz, David Bruce, Erica Emdon, Adrian Friedman, Daniel Friedman, Steven Friedman, Sue Goldstein, Alan Horwitz, Damon Kalvari, Lee Klawansky, Lara Simone Koseff, Lance Levitas, Heather Jones Petersen, Rebecca Sher, Michal Singer, Raymond Suttner and Shereen Usdin


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