Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

An open response to Judge Goldstone re the UN Mission's report on Gaza - Part 1

DEIR YASSIN - startling evidence
About Maurice Ostroff

From Maurice Ostroff                                                                   September 18, 2009


Dear Judge Goldstone,

Part 1 - The evidence

I feel it important to address some glaring shortcomings in your 500 plus page report, but as it took several months to prepare the report, it is impossible to respond effectively in a period of days. I shall therefore do so in several parts, each dealing with a different aspect.  I trust you will find this more convenient than receiving one very lengthy all-embracing document.


In this Part 1, I address the question of the nature of evidence presented and the manner in which it was dealt with as well as available evidence that was ignored.


At a press conference last April you said that submissions from all relevant persons would be sought and taken into account. This statement was encouraging in that it recognized the duty of a FACT-FINDING mission, to actively seek out and examine all possible evidence even when not readily available and even when contradicting preconceived opinions.


Sadly, the report falls short in meeting these ideals. For example, the matters raised in the professionally prepared document submitted by a group of fifteen eminent Australian lawyers deserved to be addressed seriously in your report and your readers deserve the courtesy of being provided with an internet address where the contents of this serious document can be viewed. e.g


Similarly the two serious memoranda from Take-a-pen with their links to concrete evidence   deserve more than a mere mention in a footnote.


Indeed, your report states simply that the Mission mostly reviewed the allegations made in reports by the Government of Israel, by private individuals and organizations and by NGOs that are listed only in a footnote. (Note the use of the word "allegations') 


Your Mission has patently arrived at its conclusions and made far-reaching recommendations in the full knowledge that it has not pursued all the available evidence despite the danger that conclusions based on incomplete information have, in many cases, led to disastrous consequences such as sentenced prisoners who have been pardoned on production of evidence unavailable earlier. These unfortunate episodes are excusable where there were no indications of withheld evidence at the time sentence was passed, but in this case, you are fully aware of available evidence that you have not examined.


It is difficult to understand why, despite your acknowledgment at the press conference that the Mission would be heavily dependent on advice on military aspects, you ignored recommendations to invite Colonel Richard Kemp the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and an adviser to the UK cabinet, who has expert knowledge of warfare in conditions similar to that in Gaza. He does not even earn a mention in your report.


Even if you disagree with Colonel Kemp's authoritative views, your responsibility to provide an educated balanced report imposes a duty to at least advise your readers of their existence, so that they can judge for themselves. Failure to even mention the existence of opinions on the Cast Lead operation of an expert of Colonel Kemp's stature suggests suppression of evidence. If your esteemed panel has judged Colonel Kemp's views as irrelevant or unimportant, the least your readers and the HRC to whom you are reporting are entitled to receive is an explanation of your reasons.


Intellectual honesty requires that, in evaluating evidence about situations they have never personally experienced, non-military investigators should not ignore key practical military aspects like those enumerated by experts like Colonel Kemp.  The credibility of your report would certainly have been enhanced had you referred to his undeniable remarks that the battlefield - in any kind of war - is a place of confusion, chaos and fast-moving action.


Your report has sadly ignored the context explained by Colonel Kemp that in the type of conflict that the IDF fought in Gaza and in Lebanon, and that Britain and America are still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, these age-old confusions and complexities are made one hundred times worse by the fighting policies and techniques of the enemy.   


Islamist fighting groups study the international laws of armed conflict carefully and they understand it well. They know that a British or Israeli commander and his men are bound by international law and the rules of engagement that flow from it. They then do their utmost to exploit what they view as one of their enemy's main weaknesses.


Their very modus operandi is built on the correct assumption that Western armies will normally abide by the rules, while these insurgents employ a deliberate policy of operating consistently outside international law.


Civilians and their property are routinely exploited by these groups, in deliberate and flagrant violation of international laws or reasonable norms of civilized behavior.


Protected buildings, mosques, schools, and hospitals are used as strongholds. Legal and proportional responses by a Western army will be deliberately exploited and manipulated in order to produce international outcry and condemnation.


Hamas' military capability was deliberately positioned behind the human shield of the civilian population. They also ordered, forced when necessary, men, women and children from their own population to stay put in places they knew were about to be attacked by the IDF. Israel was fighting an enemy that is deliberately trying to sacrifice their own people, deliberately trying to lure you into killing their own innocent civilians.


And Hamas, like Hizbullah, is also highly expert at driving the media agenda. They will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.


When possible the IDF gave at least four hours' notice to civilians to leave areas targeted for attack. The IDF dropped over 900,000 leaflets warning the population of impending attacks to allow them to leave designated areas. The IDF phoned over 30,000 Palestinian households in Gaza, urging them in Arabic to leave homes where Hamas might have stashed weapons or be preparing to fight.


Many attack helicopter missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were cancelled if there was too great a risk of civilian casualties in the area. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza, even though delivering aid virtually into your enemy's hands is to the military tactician normally quite unthinkable.


Surely Colonel Kemp's summation that by taking these actions the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare, deserved a mention and a link. e.g.


The relative importance placed by the panel on different aspects of the evidence may be gauged by the close attention it paid to a lengthy presentation by Israeli witness Shir Hever, as seen on your webcast, who said almost nothing about the Gaza operation and instead of being asked to keep to relevant matter, was encouraged to go into great detail about irrelevancies like conscription laws in Israel.  Professor Chinkin found this subject so important that she asked him to elaborate on how the legal system in Israel responds to these conscription laws that have no relevance whatsoever to the Cast Lead operation. Evidently, the Mission considered time spent listening to these irrelevancies, more important than addressing the views of Colonel Kemp.


Your mission also 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.  It is incongruous that your report refers to unjustified fears that Israel may penalize witnesses despite the well known freedom of activists and the media to severely and even viciously criticize the Israel government, in marked contrast to the widely known strict control of the media and the vicious punishment of dissenters in Gaza.


In these circumstances I believe that your fact-finding mission was remiss in failing to exert every effort to obtain their evidence by all possible means including offering anonymity and protection.  Such witnesses could be readily traced from the abundance of textual and visual evidence available on the Internet demonstrating how Hamas behavior left the IDF with no alternative but to react as it did. 


The video presentations I sent to the Mission contain details of Palestinians who fled from Hamas describing the abuse of hospitals and ambulances, a named member of the Hamas legislative council boasting on TV about the use of civilian shields and examples of the continuing blatant incitement in mosques and schools. One cannot but be disappointed that none of this highly relevant information was followed up by the Mission.

See   and


I believe you will agree that it is desirable to avoid the impression that your mission has imposed its subjective opinion of the evidence it received, This can be easily avoided by placing all memoranda that you received in an archive on a web site accessible by the public, as is done for example by the UK Parliamentary  Committees (See )


Your considered response will be appreciated



Maurice Ostroff



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