February 19, 2010
Number 02/10 #06
This Update opens with some comment on a story that has had little coverage in Australia, – a scandal within the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority involving a top aide to President Mahmoud Abbas named Rafik Husseini allegedly using his position to solicit sexual favours. The details are reported here and here.
Some have argued that a sex scandal might be seen as a sign of increasing political normalcy in Palestinian society, but Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh sees precisely the opposite in the official reaction to the scandal. He points out that the PA reaction to the story was to blame Israel for concocting the scandal and accusing the whistleblower, a former intelligence agent and anti-corruption activist, of being a collaborator with Israel. Abu Toameh argues that the tendency to blame Israel for anything negative, even a videotape of a high official apparently coercing sex from a female constituent, is both common across the Arab world, and exactly the sort of thing that drives Palestinians into violence and a refusal to make peace. For his complete analysis, CLICK HERE. Meanwhile, Nina Rosenwald comments on the lack of media interest in the “Fatahgate” story.
The remainder of this Update features some new revelations about the UN’s Goldstone Commission which so controversially investigated the fighting in Gaza early last year. The revelations concern Col. (ret.) Desmond Travers, an Irishman who was the only member of the four-member Commission with any military background, and who, it turns out, like other members of the Commission, has exhibited extreme bias against Israel. Among other things, he said Israel had no right of self-defence because Hamas only shot “something like two rockets” at Israel, accused Israeli soldiers of deliberately murdering in cold blood both Palestinian children and Irish peacekeepers, made bizarre claims about Israel’s supposed technological capabilities, and refused to believe photos showing the storage of weapons in mosques by Hamas, while being completely credulous to Hamas claims. For all of these new revelations from the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, CLICK HERE.
Finally, American law professor Alan Dershowitz explores the implications of these new revelations for the Goldstone Commission as a whole. He takes on the absurdities of Travers’ charges and says the Colonel seems to be bent on revenge for the fictitious “Irish peacekeepers” he claims where “taken out and shot” by Israel. He also points out the revelations about Col. Travers come after revelations about the other commissioners showing that every single one of them arrived with an agenda, contradicting their claim to be neutral “factfinders”. For Dershowitz’s full argument, CLICK HERE. Israeli columnist Evelyn Gordon has more details refuting Travers’ claims that only “something like two” rockets were fired into Israel in the month before Israeli military action was launched – it was actually more like 400.
Readers may also be interested in:
- Another comment on Goldstone’s effects on international law from American journalist Benny Avni.
- Both the Palestinian Authority media and Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad glorify a Palestinian who died trying to stab an Israeli soldier.
- Some Israeli pundits look at the first year in office of the Netanyahu government here and here. Netanhyahu’s latest speech, dealing extensively with Iran, is here.
- Israel (along with Denmark) is set next year to inaugurate the world’s first complete infrastructure set-up for electric cars. More here.
- A Kuwaiti newspaper is fined for reproducing the International Herald Tribune with a pro-Israeli advertisment in it.
- Libya apparently bans most Europeans from visiting.
- Christopher Hitchens on the latest controversy involving Amnesty International for its support of a pro-Taliban group. More comments on NGO problems from Noah Pollack. Plus, Evelyn Gordon comments on the real victims of the biases of NGOs, such as the millions raped, murdered and mutilated in the Congo, but largely ignored.
- A concerning report about rising antisemitism in Britain.
- A noted Marxist intellectual, Moshe Postone, takes on antisemitism, often expressed through hatred of Israel, on the left. An additional comment on Postone’s views is here.
- Some interesting comments in current US debates about antisemitism and anti-Zionism from columnist David Frum and blogger Eric Fingerhut.
- With respect to the controversy in Jerusalem over a new Museum of Tolerance to be built on a car park inside an old Muslim cemetery, a revelation that the Supreme Muslim Council in Palestine wanted to build a commercial centre on the same site in 1945.
- Some Israeli reaction to the revelations about the Dubai assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, which many are blaming on Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, here and here. For those who didn’t see it in today’s Australian, Melanie Reid of the Times of London had some blunt comments on the whole saga.
by Khaled Abu Toameh
Hudson.org, February 16, 2010 5:00 AM
This is the kind of stuff that drives a young Palestinian man or woman to take a gun or a knife and kill the first Jew he or she meets on the street:
By telling Palestinians that the sex scandal is an Israeli “conspiracy” to weaken Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and force him to make political and territorial concessions, the Palestinian leaders are generating still more hatred among Palestinians against the Jewish state. Only a few dared to demand an inquiry into the sex scandal or cases of financial and administrative corruption revealed by former Palestinian intelligence official, Fahmi Shabaneh.
Blaming Israel and the Jews for everything that goes wrong has long been the accepted norm in the Arab and Islamic world. This is how Arab dictators divert attention from the real problems at home. If the economy in an Arab country is bad, then it’s because of Israel and the Jews. If there is no democracy and stability, then its Israel’s and the Jews’ fault, too.
Rafik Husseini was caught with his pants down in the bedroom of an Arab woman and, of course, it’s the Jews’ fault. Never mind that he was caught red-handed soliciting sex from the woman by members of his own security forces, who also filmed him while he was bad-mouthing Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. Instead of responding to the charges made by Shabaneh, the Palestinian Authority rushed to accuse him of “collaboration” with Israel. The official Palestinian version is that the Israeli government had recruited the whistle-blower to incriminate Abbas because of his refusal to return to the negotiating table with Israel.
So what if Shabaneh has all the evidence to prove that he was acting on direct instructions from his boss, Tawfik Tirawi, former head of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service. And so what if Abbas knew about the sex scandal more than a year ago, when Shabaneh presented him with all the material he had collected during his work as head of the anti-corruption unit in the Palestinian security forces? If anything, the “Fatahgate” scandal shows that the Palestinian leadership is not different from the rest of the Arab world’s dictatorships. Under these regimes, the authorities often seek to discredit critics and political opponents by accusing them of working for the Israeli enemy.
Instead of coping with charges of corruption, Arab rulers and governments find it easier to direct a blaming finger at Israel. This anti-Israel incitement has resulted in the emergence of an entire generation or two of Arabs and Muslims who are convinced that Jews are behind all evils and should therefore be fought against or even eliminated.
When a young Palestinian man or woman hears that Israel has decided to “defame” and “discredit” the Palestinian leadership by exposing one of Abbas’s top aides, Rafik Husseini, while he’s lying naked in the bedroom of a Palestinian woman, he or she will start thinking how to strike back.
Since the scandal broke out in late January, several Palestinian leaders and Abbas aides have repeatedly gone public to condemn the purported Israeli conspiracy.
Shabaneh was a great Palestinian intelligence official until he decided to speak out against rampant corruption in the Palestinian Authority in general and Abbas’s bureau in particular. Shabaneh worked for the Palestinian security services for over 15 years, during which time his bosses praised him for his loyalty, charisma and outstanding work.
But now the same Shabaneh has become, in the eyes of Abbas and his spokesmen, an Israeli spy and traitor who deserves capital punishment. As long as Shabaneh kept his mouth shut, he was okay. He was so much appreciated that less than two years ago Abbas promoted him to the job of commander of the General Intelligence Service in the Hebron district, home to one-third of the West Bank Palestinians.
The Palestinian Authority’s claim that the Israelis are behind the latest sex scandal in Ramallah should be seen in the context of the campaign of incitement that began under Yasser Arafat against Israel and Jews, and what dictators use to “change the subject” at home.
Dore Gold and Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi
Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs
Published February 2010
Col. (ret.) Desmond Travers was one of the four members of the UN Fact Finding Mission that produced what is widely called the Goldstone Report. The Mission investigated Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip between December 27, 2008 and January 18, 2009. Travers joined the Irish Defense Forces in 1961 and retired after forty years. As the only former officer who belonged to Justice Richard Goldstone’s team, he was the senior figure responsible for the military analysis that provided the basis for condemning Israel for war crimes.
After following his repeated public appearances with the other mission members in July 2009, and especially in light of his most recent interviews, serious flaws have now become evident in the methodology he followed, in his collection and processing of data, and in the conclusions he draws. In the past, the flaws in the Goldstone report, and especially its lack of balance, have been criticized by the London Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Economist, but the fundamental problems of its military analysis have not been fully addressed. In the material presented here, this becomes evident in four specific ways:
1. A Fundamental Bias against the Israel Defense Forces
During the Mission’s collection of testimonies from Palestinian psychologists in the Gaza Strip, Travers asked them straight out to explain how Israeli soldiers could kill Palestinian children in front of their parents. In an interview with Middle East Monitor, on February 2, 2010, he asserted that in the past Israeli soldiers had “taken out and deliberately shot” Irish peacekeeping forces in Southern Lebanon. Both of these statements by Travers are completely false. It should be stressed that one of the most vicious and unsubstantiated conclusions in the Goldstone Report is the suggestion that Israel deliberately killed Palestinian civilians.
While Travers assumes the worst of intentions on the part of the Israel Defense Forces, he praises Hamas for their cooperation with the Mission. When he was asked about Hamas intimidation that affected the Mission’s inquiries, he replied that that there was “none
whatsoever.” Yet the Goldstone Report itself noted in Paragraph 440 that those interviewed in Gaza appeared reluctant to speak about the presence of Palestinian armed groups because of a “fear of reprisals.” He rejects the notion that Hamas shielded its forces in the civilian population and does not accept the idea that Israel faced asymmetric warfare.
2. False Information Reported About Weapons Systems
Travers comes up with a story that the IDF had unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) that could obtain a “thermal signature” on a Gaza house and detect that there were large numbers of people inside. Incredibly, he then suggests that with this information that certain houses were “packed with people,” the Israeli military would then deliberately order a missile strike on these populated homes. The primary technical problem with his theory is that Israel does not have UAV’s that can see though houses and pick up a thermal signature. More importantly, Israel used UAV’s to monitor that Palestinian civilians left houses that had received multiple warnings, precisely because Israel sought to minimize civilian casualties, a fact that Travers could not fathom, because of his own clear biases.
3. Completely Inaccurate Data
Travers rejects that Israel began military operations against the Gaza Strip on December 27, 2008 as an act of self-defense in response to Hamas rockets. He bases this idea on a “fact” that he presents that in the month prior to start of the war, there were only “something like two” rockets that fell on Israel. Israeli military sources found that there were in fact 32 rockets fired from Gaza at Israel over three days alone–between December 16 and 18, 2008. He adds to his analysis that at this time Hamas sought to extend the tahdiya, or lull arrangement–which he called a cease-fire. Yet the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades of Hamas announced on December 17 that the lull would come to an end two days later and would not be renewed. The head of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus, Khaled Mashaal, announced the end of the lull on December 14. To say that Hamas wanted to continue the lull is a complete distortion of events.
In his Middle East Monitor interview, Travers states that he “only came across two incidents of where there was an actual combat situation” – the exchange of fire between Israel and Hamas. Because he minimizes the possibility that Israel was engaged in real combat in the Gaza Strip, it follows that he naturally conclude that Israel was essentially attacking non-combatants during Operation Cast Lead.
4. Lack of Professionalism in Conducting Thorough Investigations
Travers relies on his own prejudices when he looks into the question of whether Gazan Mosques had been militarized by Hamas and turned into weapons depots. In an interview with Harpers, published on October 29, 2009, Travers makes a sweeping generalization: “We found no evidence that mosques were used to store munitions.” He then dismissed those who suggested that was the case by saying: “Those charges reflect Western perceptions in some quarters that Islam is a violent religion.” How many mosques did Travers investigate? He admits that the Mission only checked two mosques.
Of course, Israel produced photographic proof that large amounts of weapons were stored in mosques, like the Zaytun Mosque. In a subsequent interview, Travers rejected the Israeli proof: “I do not believe the photographs.” He described the photographs as “spurious.” Travers appears to be bothered by proof that contradicts the conclusions he reaches on the basis of a very limited investigation. In early 2010, Colonel Tim Collins, a British veteran of the Iraq War, visited Gaza for BBC Newsnight and inspected the ruins of a mosque that Israel had destroyed because it had been a weapons depot. He found that there was evidence of secondary explosions cause by explosives stored in the mosque cellar. Travers clearly did not make the effort that Collins made.
In his questioning of Palestinian witnesses in the Gaza Strip, Travers does not ask the questions that a military advisor should raise. He did not ask those giving testimony if they were member of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam units of Hamas and were combatants. He also failed to ask them straight out if their homes had been used to store munitions, like Grad rockets. Instead, his questions reflected his ideological bias.
Travers most recent interview also had a disturbing additional element. When addressing the role of British officers in defending Israel’s claims, Travers suddenly adds: “Britain’s foreign policy interests in the Middle East seem to be influenced strongly by Jewish lobbyists.” Travers implies that British Jews have interests that differ from Britain’s own national interests and that Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government is influenced by these considerations. This statement, unless corrected, places Travers is a position in which his views are suspect of being motivated by anti-Semitic prejudices. Even without this last statement, he clearly emerges as an individual who is not qualified to take part in any serious fact-finding mission and the U.N. should not seek his services in the future. Given his statements, Justice Richard Goldstone should repudiate Col. Travers and completely reject the conclusions that he reached as a result of his work.
Huffington Post, February 12, 2010
When Irish Colonel Travers eagerly accepted an appointment to the Goldstone Commission, he was hellbent on revenge against Israel based on paranoid fantasies and hard left anti-Israel propaganda. He actually believed, as he put it in a recent interview, that “so many Irish soldiers had been killed by Israelis,” with “a significant number who were taken out deliberately and shot (in southern Lebanon.)” This is of course complete and utter fantasy, but it was obviously part of Colonel Travers bigoted reality.
Travers came to the job having already made up his mind not to believe anything Israel said and to accept everything Hamas put forward. For example, Israel produced hard photographic evidence that Gaza mosques were used to store rockets and other weapons. Other photographs taken by journalists also proved what everybody now acknowledges to be true: namely that Hamas, as its leaders frequently boasted, routinely use mosques as military munitions depots. When confronted with this photographic evidence, Travers said “I don’t believe the photographs.” Of course he doesn’t since they don’t comport with his politically correct and ideologically skewed worldview. This is what he had previously said about why he didn’t believe that Hamas used the mosques to store weapons:
“We also found no evidence that mosques were used to store munitions. Those charges reflect Western perceptions in some quarters that Islam is a violent religion….If I were a Hamas operative the last place I’d store munitions would be in a mosque. It’s not secure, is very visible, and would probably be pre-targeted by Israeli surveillance. There are a [sic] many better places to store munitions.”
But that is exactly what Hamas did, despite Travers’ insistence on paraphrasing Groucho Mark’s famous quip, “Who are you going to believe? Me, or your lying eyes?”
Most disturbing, however, was Travers’ categorical rejection of Israel’s claim that it attacked Gaza only after enduring thousands of anti-personnel rockets intended to target Israeli civilians, mainly schoolchildren. In fact, Hamas rockets hit several schools, though fortunately the teachers had dismissed the students just before the rockets would have killed dozens, perhaps hundreds, of them. This is what Travers said about Hamas rockets.
“Hamas rockets had ceased being fired into Israel and not only that but Hamas sought a continuation of the ceasefire… and Israel said no.”
Travers then claimed that Hamas had fired no rockets at Israel in the month leading up to the Israeli invasion:
“…the number of rockets that had been fired into Israel in the month preceding their operations was something like two. The Hamas rockets had ceased being fired into Israel and not only that but Hamas sought a continuation of the ceasefire. Two had been fired from Gaza, but they are likely to have been fired by dissident groups, [i.e. groups that were violating a Hamas order not to fire rockets].”
Again, Travers’ rendition defies the historical record and tells us more about Travers than it does about what actually provoked Israel into finally taking action to protect a million civilians who were in range of the thousands of Hamas rockets that had been fired at its civilians. In fact Israel complied with the cease fire under whose terms Israel reserved the right to engage in self-defense actions such as attacking terrorists who were in the process of firing rockets at its civilians.
Just before the hostilities began, Israel offered Hamas a carrot and a stick: it reopened a checkpoint to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. It had closed the point of entry after the checkpoint had been targeted by Gazan rockets Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, also issued a stern, final warning to Hamas that unless it stopped the rockets, there would be a full-scale military response.
This is the way Reuters reported it:
“Israel reopened border crossings with the Gaza Strip on Friday, a day after Prime Minister warned militants there to stop firing rockets or they would pay a heavy price. Despite the movement of relief supplies, militants fired about a dozen rockets and mortar shafts from Gaza at Israel on Friday. One accidentally struck a house in Gaza, killing two Palestinian sisters, ages 5 and 13.
Despite the opening of the crossings, the Hamas rockets continued–not none, not “something like two,” but many–and Israel kept its word, implementing a targeted air attack against Hamas facilities and combatants.
Not surprisingly, Travers said that he “rejected…entirely” Israel’s claim that its “attack on Gaza was based on self-defense.” Instead, he compared Israel’s attack on Hamas to the unprovoked Fascist bombing of “Guirnica.”
Travers has repeatedly claimed that “no substantive critique of the [Goldstone] report has been received.” This is an out and out lie. I have read dozens of substantive critiques and have written a 49-page one myself (www.alandershowitz.com/goldstone.pdf.) The truth is that Travers has studiously ignored and refused to respond to these critiques. And of course he blames everything on “Jewish lobbyists.”
Nor was Travers the only member of the commission with predetermined views and an anti-Israel agenda. Christine Chinken had already declared Israel guilty of war crimes before seeing any evidence. Hina Jilani had also condemned Israel before her appointment to the group, and then said that it would be “very cruel to not give credence to [the] voices” of the victims, apparently without regard to whether they were telling the truth. And then there is Richard Goldstone, who told friends that he too took the job with an agenda, which he says was to help Israel! Why any reasonable person would pay any attention to a report written by four people who had prejudged the evidence and came to their jobs with agendas and biases is beyond comprehension.