U.S. ambassador discusses Settlements, Goldstone, Peace process, Iran (plus commentary)

Posted: November 4th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »
ambassador James Cunningham

ambassador Cunningham

U.S. ambassador to Israel, Mr. James B. Cunningham, gave today a short lecture at the Tel Aviv University on “U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East: One Year into the Obama Presidency”. Mr. Cunningham said that the Administration has “a sense of urgency” in trying to bring the renewal of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and emphasized several times that “time is not on our side” and that “the status quo is not sustainable”.

The ambassador admitted though that the task of bringing the parties back to the negotiating table “has proved to be very difficult”, and that the administrating is currently looking for “new ways”. Among the reasons for the current standstill Mr. Cunningham mentioned the situation created by the Goldstone report. He also noted that with regards to the settlement issue, the response the administration got from the Israeli government “is less than we hoped for”. Read the rest of this entry »


My own war crime: personal reflections following the Goldstone Report

Posted: October 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: this is personal, war | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »
Israeli artillery during operation Grapes of Wrath, 1996

Israeli artillery during operation Grapes of Wrath, 1996

When the Goldstone report was first mentioned in this blog, one of the readers asked me what is it exactly that makes me think that the IDF could have committed war crimes in Gaza. I was asked the same question in an e-mail exchange I had with Prof. Richard Landes, who is a passionate advocate of the Israeli point of view, and naturally, extremely critical of Goldstone.

In both cases I replied that my answer was based on what I learned from the media: That includes cases that the IDF itself confirmed, like as the white phosphorus bombing, and others where the Palestinians’ account of events seemed reliable; there were also numerous reports that the IDF “eased up” its fire-opening procedures during operation Cast Lead; and there were other, more subtle indications, such as a high rate of friendly fire casualties and a low rate or enemy fire casualties – which might, but not necessarily, indicate a policy of “shoot first, then ask questions”. None of this is solid evidence, of course. But the same goes for the people criticizing Judge Goldstone’s report – they also based their opinions on second hand information (at best).

More than anything, it seems to me that the discussion regarding the Goldstone report drifted very quickly from the legal sphere of war ethics and laws to pure propaganda: those who wanted to criticize Israel jumped on the opportunity to attack it, and Israel’s defenders automatically responded. It looks as though the Allen Dershowitzs of this world never even considered the possibility that Israel – let alone the IDF – could have committed a crime. At best, they thought, there might have been some “mistakes”, but never ever something intentional. This was their assumption before reading the report, and this is the conclusion they reached after reading it – if they ever bothered reading it at all.

(There is something absurd about whole debate regarding “war crimes”, because moving civilian population into an occupied territory, as Israel does for more than forty years, is a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention, but the Goldstone report deals with a different crime: widespread killing of uninvolved civilians, either by intension, or as collateral damage, when ways to avoid or substantially reduce this damage were available.)

This is what separates the two sides and at the same time shapes their approach to the Goldstone report: Israel’s defenders don’t believe such things could have happened, while those who attack Israel think that it could, and probably did. As for me, as I said, I don’t know for sure what happened in Gaza, but I’m certain in one thing: the IDF has no problem in attacking civilian targets on purpose, and it did so on numerous occasions. The reason I know this is simple: I did it myself. Read the rest of this entry »