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January 12, 2010

Israel's Response to Goldstone Out in 2 Weeks

The Israeli daily Ma'ariv reports today that the Israeli army will publish its investigation concerning the Goldstone Report allegations of Israeli war crimes during last winter's Operation Cast Lead. The article states (CAMERA's translation):

An IDF report, including investigations of incidents described in the Goldstone Report concerning war crimes carried out during Operation Cast Lead, is unequivocal: The majority of the incidents that the report covered were based on distorted facts.

Many of the complaints that appeared in the Goldstone Report were already known to the IDF -- they were checked at length and found to be incorrect.

For instance, the Israeli report proves, with the help of aerial photographs, that the flour mill which was claimed to have been intentionally destroyed by the IDF, was destroyed in the course of combat. The report, which is for the moment a preliminary report, was distributed for now among government and army senior officials, and it will apparently be published in the coming two weeks. . .

CAMERA's analysis of the claims concerning the flour mill can be read here, an index of all our Goldstone related analyses is here, and a broader collection of critical analysis by various researchers can be found here.

Posted by TS at January 12, 2010 07:51 AM


As someone who cares deeply about Israel and follows the dishonest media coverage closely, I must state the obvious: Israel has the most stupid public relations people in the world. How stupid are the spokespeople for the government, IDF, etc.? Why do they take so long to respond to false accusations?

Seriously, they're going to respond in two weeks? They should have responded in full within a few HOURS after the report was issued.

Every other country denies dishonest accusations immediately. Israel sits and thinks about it for 3-6 months and then responds. It's idiotic.

Posted by: Reality at January 12, 2010 09:14 AM

Perhaps Reality judges too harshly. Israel's reactions to allegations of atrocities can certainly be vexing (e.g., Mohammed al-Dura). But its slow response in the face of inevitable critiism suggests that Israel takes these matters seriously. Israel should not (and cannot afford to be) viewed as taking such allegations too lightly. With vastly superior military means and strength, and the destruction of Palestinian infrastructure in a war like the one Hamas wages, the immediate denials we may crave are likely to be too close in time to the emotional (often staged and fraudulent) images and events depicted by Hamas for the denials to be meaningful from a PR standpoint. A response based on thorough investigation can only have more credibility regardless of its PR importance. But there's another important issue. Unfortunately, Israel cannot react as if Goldstone or the Palestinians are little boys crying "Wolf." Every allegation of war crimes carries with it a number of issues: what really happened? could it be a war crime? who is responsible? The commission of a crime requires a criminal. People in Israel who are charged with crimes have certain rights. And in order to be able to adequately investigate whether a crime has been committed, the state must have certain powers. Everything Israel says in responding to allegations of war crimes has potential impacts on those rights and powers, not to mention the interests of putative victims. PR is important, but to the exttent there must be a trade-off, it would seem that PR measures ought to take a back seat. Better still would be if the Israeli PR people could figuire out a way to assuage Reality's understandable frustrations. (In his debate with Goldstone, I thought it was effective when Dore Gold explained the various avenues to justice in Israel. It is a potent contrast to the culture of deceit and disrespect of humanity against which Israel must constantly struggle.)

Posted by: Ben at January 12, 2010 11:15 AM

Ben: No. People make nasty, exaggerated accusations towards Israel. Israel says virtually nothing. So the world believes it. Everyone accepts it. A handful of places like camera and independent blogs, most of which have small readerships of people who already care about Israel, immediately dispute the exaggerated reports. Yet the nonexistentent PR people who actually should work for Israel say nothing. Days, weeks or months go by. THe world already believes the anti-Israel charges. Done deal. And then FINALLY, when everyone has LONG accepted that the charges are true (especially since there are usually followup charges tossed on top), then FINALLY Israel issues some half-hearted report that even if it's true, no one bothers to care about because it's ancient history at this point.

Israel has the most stupid PR people in the history of western civilization.

Posted by: Reality at January 12, 2010 06:56 PM

Goldstone's mission was to 'find facts'; not to conduct a judicial enquiry or a develop evidence for a court of law.
The way this is normally done is to directly observe factual evidence on the ground, and to interview witnesses who have direct experience of the events being investigated. It would not be reasonable to consider hearsay evidence in the form of news reports or video footage (unless the actual photographer was available to give evidence).
Evidence given is quite often one-sided or indeed false. To counter this, anybody who has evidence to provide is invited to provide it. It is then the missions responsibility to weigh the evidence given and to reach reasonable conclusions.
Israel was invited to provide evidence but Israel refused to do so. As far as I am aware, the mission also gave Israel the evidence provided by others to comment on or refute, but Israel refused to do so.
So it may be that the report is one-sided, but this is entirely due to Israel shooting itself in the foot.
Even a simpleton would understand that Goldstone cannot provide direct comment on evidence that was not provided to the commission, and certainly not evidence that is hear-say.
The IDF investigation falls far short of the independent enquiry any sensible country would have conducted to refute the report - particularly in the light of Israel's refusal to contribute to the enquiry itself. I would be very surprised if the IDF report is taken seriously by any sensible observer. The report will,of course, be lauded by the Zionist lobby in Israel and the US.

Posted by: Tom at January 13, 2010 06:20 AM

To Reality: I probably don't need to state this, but I am not a PR expert. And I suppose you don't need to convince me that even a PR novice can identify flaws in Israel's handling of a variety of PR issues. I get your point, and I don't know enough about what makes Israel's PR wonks tick to have any confidence that the points I raised are legitimate. But they must make sense in any society where justice is so cherished as in Israel.

And to Tom: I gather you haven't read the numerous, compelling, thoroughly researched and supported critiques of the Goldstone Report published here over the last few months, or you did not understand them or believe them. And although the IDF report of its investigation has not yet been issued, you somehow know that that investigation "falls short of the indpendent enquiry any sensible country would have conducted to refute the report." That's a neat trick. Obviously, you don't need to see the report to know that it will fail your standards. Your comments amply demonstrate that you will not take the IDF report seriously precisely because you obviously are not a "sensible observer."

Posted by: Ben at January 13, 2010 05:09 PM

What Tom above is trying to say is that Israel is wrong, anything Israel says is wrong, and everyone who criticizes Israel is right, and that's that.

Posted by: Reality at January 13, 2010 11:04 PM

No I am not saying that Israel is wrong. I expressed the view that the Goldstone Report was probably one-sided simply because Israel's view was not heard. I was also pointing out that putting Dracula in charge of the Blood Bank (figuratively speaking) is unlikely to be seen as independent and unbiased. Additionally, elements of the Goldstone Report relate to policy matters - matters that cannot be investigated by an IDF enquiry.
Criticism of the report by individuals not party to an independent enquiry will not count for much.
Israel must have the legal moxie to debunk the report in a credible open enquiry. Why oh why did they not do this? Debunking the report with a credible enquiry would have been a major diplomatic coup.
I will say again - an IDF enquiry falls far short of what was needed.

Posted by: Tom at January 14, 2010 04:38 PM

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