September 18, 2009

Reactions to the UN Gaza Report: Day 3

As I log onto the internet this evening, I see that various right-wingers continue fulminating over the UN’s recently-released Gaza Report.

Alan Dershowitz, for example, has written an especially vitriolic article in which he accuses one of the report’s authors, Professor Christine Chinkin, of being a “Hamas lackey.” Yes, that’s right, according to Alan Dershowitz, the UN report was coauthored by a Hamas lackey, one who clandestinely served as the terrorist group’s “advocate.” He bases this claim on the fact that Chinkin, along with twenty-six other academics, signed a letter in January claiming that Israel’s assault against Gaza violated international law. And that’s it, that’s his evidence.

Now it’s clear that the letter, which was published in The Times on January 11, is critical of Israel. But it’s equally critical of Hamas, as its final paragraph illustrates:

We condemn the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel and suicide bombings which are also contrary to international humanitarian law and are war crimes. Israel has a right to take reasonable and proportionate means to protect its civilian population from such attacks. However, the manner and scale of its operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression and is contrary to international law, notwithstanding the rocket attacks by Hamas.

So, far from proving that Chinkin is a Hamas lackey, the letter doesn’t even prove that she’s a Hamas sympathizer. Moreover, South African judge Richard Goldstone, who headed the Mission, has defended Chinkin’s integrity, calling her “an intelligent, sensible, even-handed person.” And Goldstone, let’s remember, is Jewish. And not only that, but, according to his daughter, he’s also an ardent Zionist who “loves Israel.”

In the same vein as Dershowitz, Gerald Steinberg, who heads the NGO Monitor, accuses the UN Mission of being a “kangaroo court” created “to find Israel guilty.” He complains that the report is based largely on “publications from politicized pro-Palestinian NGOs.” Steinberg never defines “pro-Palestinian” and he never explains why being pro-Palestinian is such a bad thing. (Does he think being anti-Palestinian somehow make one more trustworthy?) And he never explains why we should reject the testimony of Amnesty International, as well as such Israeli organizations as B’Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights, Magen David Adom, and Yesh Gvul, all of which are referenced in the UN report.

Steinberg, however, does offer an argument against Human Rights Watch:

Human Rights Watch is referenced 33 times, including the “Rain of Fire” report co-authored by Marc Garlasco. He was HRW’s “senior military expert” (until suspended on Monday after the exposure of his Nazi-memorabilia fetish), but his analyses are tainted by false claims and speculation masquerading as expertise. Goldstone’s long association with HRW essentially means that in this report, he is quoting his own highly problematic organization.

Not the most lucid argument, and he doesn’t elaborate upon it. But, if I’m understanding him correctly, he seems to be saying that the UN Report can’t be trusted because it references numerous Human Rights Watch reports, some of which were coauthored by a guy who collects Nazi memorabilia. One thing Steinberg fails to mention is that Marc Garlasco also collects American WWII memorabilia. And this kind of makes me think that maybe the guy isn’t a Nazi-sympathizer after all but rather—brace yourselves—a WWII collector. Yes, crazy deduction, I know.

Much more could be said in Garlasco’s defense. For instance, he stated in his 2008 book on war badges that WWII “was horrible and cruel, Germany lost and for that we should be thankful.” Moreover, he recently contributed to an HRW report that harshly condemned Palestinian militants for firing rockets into Israel.

But even if we threw out the HRW reports, even if we threw out a majority of the reports which the UN references, there would still be copious evidence that Israel committed numerous atrocities and war crimes in the recent Gaza War. Remember, going into the week, we had the testimony of, not just Human Rights Watch, but also Amnesty International and several Israeli human rights organizations. We even had the testimony of numerous Israeli soldiers. And now we have the United Nations and its extensively-researched 575-page report [.pdf].

The evidence is so overwhelming that people like Steinberg and Dershowitz have decided not to even deal with it but to instead resort to nasty smear campaigns. We can only hope that people will see through their propaganda and that those politicians and military leaders who perpetrated these horrendous crimes will finally be brought to justice.

2 comments:

Don Emmerich said...

Though I speak of "the Gaza War," I think Norman Finkelstein is correct in calling it "the Gaza Massacre." (I used the former term for strategic reasons, not because I think it's an accurate description).

As Finkelstein said on Wednesday’s “Democracy Now!”:

“There was no war in Gaza…There were no battles in Gaza. The picture is fairly clear. Israel flew about 3,000 sorties over Gaza. Every plane came back. None was damaged. None was downed. There was no fighting in Gaza. If you read the reports that were issued by the—the testimonies of the Israeli soldiers, the one consistent theme in all of the testimonies was they never met any Hamas militants, they never engaged in any battles. Some of the Israeli soldiers expressed exasperation: ‘We came here to fight. We’re not fighting anyone.’ There was no—there were no battles. There were no Hamas militants in the field. The basic fact was, as a couple of Israeli soldiers said—one of them said, ‘This was like PlayStation, a computer game.’ Another Israeli soldier said, literally—I’m quoting exactly, almost word for word—he said, ‘It was like a child with a magnifying glass burning ants.’ That’s what Gaza was like.”

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