Thursday, April 28, 2011

Egypt gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan explodes

A pipeline carrying gas from Egypt to Israel and Jordan has exploded after an attack by an armed gang in the north Sinai area of Egypt.

A tower of flames shot into the air and forced the pipeline to be shut down, Egyptian security officials say.

It is the second such attack in a month on the pipeline, south of the town of el-Arish, just 30 miles (50km) from the border with Israel.

On that occasion, when gunmen planted explosives, they failed to detonate.

"An unknown armed gang attacked the gas pipeline," an unnamed security source told Reuters, adding that the flow of gas to Israel and Jordan had been hit.

Neighbouring Jordan depends on Egyptian gas to generate 80% of its electricity while Israel gets 40% of its natural gas from the country. Syria also imports gas from Egypt

Monday, April 18, 2011

World Bank president: 'One shock away from crisis'

from BBC News:

The president of the World Bank has warned that the world is "one shock away from a full-blown crisis".

Robert Zoellick cited rising food prices as the main threat to poor nations who risk "losing a generation".

He was speaking in Washington at the end of the spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Daniel Viflic, 16, injured in Hamas bus attack, dies

Read here...

Daniel Viflic had been in critical condition at Beersheba's Soroka Hospital since the school bus he was riding in two weeks ago was hit. He died of his wounds on Sunday evening.

Bus strike from Gaza - Assayag - April 7, 2011

...and here.

The [radar guided] missile hit the [school] bus just moments after (the bus) had dropped off the rest of the school children, wounding Viflic and the bus driver, who was moderately wounded by shrapnel wounds in his leg.

Viflic was a resident of Beit Shemesh and studied in a yeshiva there. When he was wounded, he was on his way to the western Negev to visit his grandmother [for Pesach].

Anti-Zionist conference to honor Helen Thomas

We’re delighted to announce that Helen Thomas, who spent her career questioning the powerful and speaking out against war and injustice, will be joining us in DC as a keynote speaker at the Move Over AIPAC Summit on Saturday, May 21. Register today to hear Helen speak!

You can send a message to Helen online that we will hand deliver along with a pink badge of courage to her at the Summit.

Readers of this blog are encouraged to send polite but frank messages to Helen Thomas which we trust will be delivered to her along with her pink badge of courage.

Who are the terrorists who murdered the Fogel family?

from the Jerusalem Post:

Itamar terrorist's uncle, an PFLP member, transported shooter in 2002 settlement attack in which wife and 3 children were killed.

Several Palestinians from the village of Awarta were arrested in recent days in connection with the brutal slaying of five members of the Fogel family in their Itamar home last month, the IDF and Shin Bet said on Sunday following the lifting of a media ban on the investigation.

The main suspects are Hakim Maazan Niad Awad, arrested on April 5, and Amjad Mahmed Fauzi Awad, arrested on April 10.

Hakem and Amjad Awwad, susepcts in Itamar murders
Aged 18, Hakim Awad is a high school student who has been linked by security forces to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group in his home village of Awarta.

In October 2010, he stabbed a number of youths during a personal feud with them, the IDF said.

His father, Maazan, is a PFLP member who served 5 years in a Palestinian Authority prison in the late 1990s for the murder of a female cousin and the burning of her body.

Awad's uncle, Jibril Awad, was a PFLP member who transported a terrorist to Itamar in 2002. In that attack, the wife and three children of Itamar security officer Boaz Shevo were shot dead in their home.

In 2003, Jibril Awad was killed in a firefight with the IDF.

Amjad Mahmed Fauzi Awad, a student, is of the same clan as the first suspect but is not directly related. He has links with the PFLP, according to security sources. Amjad worked in Israel for a period of time.

Suspected accomplices under arrest:

Salah Aladin Salim Awad, 31, of Awarta, is a PFLP member and Hakim's uncle. He is suspected of aiding and abetting the suspects in covering their tracks after the murders, telling them to burn their blood-soaked clothes, and sending the firearms they stole from Itamar to a friend in Ramallah.

Jad Avid, 31, of Ramallah, is suspected of hiding the firearms after receiving them from Salah. He was arrested in his home and the firearms were seized by the IDF.

Maazan Niad Awad, 43, of Awarta, is Hakim's father and a PFLP member.

Mahmed Saeed Awad, 26, is a PFLP member in Awarta who the suspects turned to with a request to procure firearms ahead of the Itamar attacks.

Who are the terrorists who murdered the Fogel family?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Israel's economy fueled by innovation

As opposed to those fueled by fuel.


Israel, a New Jersey-sized nation of 7.5 million people (1.7 million of whom are Arab) filed 7,082 international patents in the five years ending in 2007. By contrast, 28 majority-Muslim nations with almost 1.2 billion people — 155 times the population of Israel — were granted 2,071 patents in the same period.

Narrowing the comparison to the 17 Muslim nations of the Middle East from Morocco to Iran and down the Arabian Peninsula, the 409 million people in that region generated 680 patents in five years.

This means that the Arab and Iranian world produced about one patent per year for every 3 million people, compared with Israel's output of one annual patent for every 5,295 people, an Israeli rate some 568 times that of Israel's neighbors and sometime enemies.

The awarding of Nobel Prizes in the quantitative areas of chemistry, economics and physics shows a similar disparity, with five Israeli winners compared with one French Algerian (a Jew who earned the prize for work done in France) and an Egyptian-American (for work done at Caltech in California).

This phenomenon is manifested in other nations as well, where bad government begets poverty. Free South Korea, with 48.8 million people, filed 24,200 international patents from 2003 to 2007. The 24.5 million people in the North Korean slave state managed to produce 14 patents in the same period.

...(W)ealth isn't the sole explanation for this disparity in intellectual innovation. Saudi Arabia enjoyed a per capita income of $24,200 in 2010. Yet the Kingdom averages an anemic 37 patents per year compared with Israel's 1,416 per year — and there are 3 1/2 times more Saudis than Israelis, meaning that Israel's per capita output of intellectual property is 132 times greater than Saudi Arabia's.

Read the rest ....

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

David Irving U.S. speaking tour having difficulties

Not only has he had trouble finding venues, the racist groups supporting his tour are losing their long-standing meeting-places as well.

Israel FM Lieberman to be indicted

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is likely to be indicted for fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and intimidating a witness. Under Israeli criminal procedure, Lieberman is entitled to a hearing before the indictment is handed down.

Read here and here.

LA NPR Station Ends Planned Parenthood Ads

Jon Weiner reports that KPCC-FM in L.A. has stopped running ads for Planned Parenthood, citing the current push by House Republicans to end funding for that organization.

Program director Craig Curtis explained in a Friday memo to staff members that “given that the budget debate in congress is focusing today on abortion in general and Planned Parenthood by extension,” running the spots “might raise questions in the mind of the reasonable listener regarding our editorial and sales practices.”

NPR Station in LA Suspends Planned Parenthood Spots | The Nation

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Strange fruit of Gbagbo's refusal to honor election results

Partisans of both sides now slaughter innocents.

Tennessee's anti-science legislature

Tennessee passes a law that enables teachers to decide for themselves whether to teach the scientific or the religious right versions of human origins and global warming. Luck of the draw will determine whether children will be taught about evolution and the greenhouse effect, or about talking snakes and magic hair spray.

Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, said the bill’s intent is to promote “critical thinking” in science classrooms.

Critics contend it’s a shield to allow the teaching of evolution alternatives such as intelligent design and creationism.

Bill supporter Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, said that “since the late ‘50s, early ‘60s when we let the intellectual bullies hijack our education system, we’ve been on a slippery slope.”

“This is a common-sense bill,” Floyd said. “Thank you for bringing this bill to protect our teachers from the other intellectual bullies.”

Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, said when she was in high school, “we gave up Aqua Net hair spray” because of fears “it was causing global warming.”

“Since then scientists have said that maybe we shouldn’t have given up that aerosol can because that aerosol can was actually absorbing the Earth’s rays and keeping us from global warming.”
More here and here.

from Little Green Footballs - GOP Creationists Pass Anti-Evolution Bill in Tennessee

Friday, April 8, 2011

The West neglected Arab dictators to focus on Israel

That's true for both practical and ideological reasons, each of which reinforces the other. While reporters, diplomats and human rights activists are free to operate in liberal democracies, by definition, they cannot operate freely in dictatorships. When dictatorships portray themselves as anti-colonialist or anti-imperialist, and portray liberal democracies as colonialist and imperialist, the international focus on the alleged wrongs done by liberal democracies is a fun house mirror, confirming beyond doubt that up is down and down is up. But what is expedient for dictatorships can be expedient for the media and NGOs in particular, and the international community in general, only until the dictators' veils are torn away and the ugly truth revealed.

Nick Cohen makes that point well here: They Missed the Story | Standpoint.

...Daniel Patrick Moynihan composed an aphorism as he watched dictatorships pile opprobrium on democracies: "The amount of violations of human rights in a country is always an inverse function of the amount of complaints about human rights violations heard from there." Journalists, lawyers, academics and opposition politicians can investigate the injustices of democracies, and because they can investigate, injustice is kept in check. They cannot expose the greater atrocities of dictatorships because there is no freedom to report, and hence their greater crimes pass unnoticed...

The Arab uprising is annihilating the assumptions of foreign ministries, academia and human rights groups with true revolutionary √©lan. In journalistic language, it is showing they had committed the greatest blunder a reporter can commit: they missed the story. They thought that the problems of the Middle East were at root the fault of democratic Israel or more broadly the democratic West. They did not see and did not want to see that while Israelis are certainly the Palestinians' problem — and vice versa — the problem of the subject millions of the Arab world was the tyranny, cruelty, corruption and inequality the Arab dictators enforced.

Put this starkly, it sounds as if the charges of double standards and anti-Semitism habitually directed at liberal Westerners are justified. But liberal prejudice — "anti-liberal prejudice" is a more accurate description — is a process as well as an ideology. Dictatorial states and movements shepherded liberal opinion into a one-way street by exploiting the logistics of news-gathering.

No news organisation in the West could base their main Middle Eastern bureau anywhere other than Israel, for the simple reason that it was the only free country with a free press, an independent judiciary and a constitution. Researchers and diplomats, as well as reporters, could phone or visit Palestinians in the occupied territories, as indeed could anyone else. Crucially, in an age dominated by images, television crews could get pictures. I am not saying that the authorities do not harass foreign or Israeli correspondents trying to report the undoubted violations of Palestinian rights, simply that they can report from Jerusalem but cannot from Damascus or Riyadh.

Read the rest....

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Nation magazine still touting Helen Thomas

I received the following email solicitation from The Nation.  Do they really think that their top selling point is that they published a column by Helen Thomas criticizing other White House reporters?  (See highlighted section below.)  Is she what they see as a good example of what makes them a preferable alternative to the "mainstream media"?

From: The Nation Magazine
Sent: Thu, April 7, 2011 4:00:18 PM
Subject: Free Short-Term Subscription

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To introduce you to America's most independent magazine, we're holding open a short-term subscription to The Nation in your name--free. You can claim it by clicking here.

Based on past experience, there could be reasons you may NOT wish to accept.

For example, if you think that America's mainstream media are doing a good job of giving you all you need to know, you'd want to avoid a magazine that published an article by Helen Thomas titled "Lap Dogs of the Press," her assessment of reporters as White House cheerleaders.

Or if you're looking for a right-wing magazine, it's better to try Bill Buckley'sNational Review or Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard. If you want something trendy, try Vanity Fair.

But if you want a magazine that cuts through political fog, pulls no punches, curries no favors and isn't shy about naming the names of powerful miscreants, click here to try 4 issue of The Nation, free.

You don't have to take our word for it. We're willing to risk a few free issues to prove it. Try The Nation today. It's fast, easy and completely secure.


Michelle O'Keefe
Circulation Manager
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Norm Geras on Goldstone and expectations

The BBC website rounds up some Middle East press reaction to Richard Goldstone's rethink over Operation Cast Lead. Two comments from Arab papers:

The last chapter in the conspiracy started with Judge Goldstone succumbing to the Jewish-Zionist pressure on him and to the feelings of loyalty he has amid local and international conditions unfavourable to Israel.
One can only feel sorry for Richard Goldstone. His backtracking, under whatever compulsions [sic], is indicative of the fact that he has succumbed to pressure.

Marvellous, isn't it, how if a Jew is critical of Israel, her view is widely held to carry special authority for being the judgement of a Jew; but if he isn't critical of Israel, then you won't have to wait long for the suggestion, 'Well, what did you expect?'

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Democracy Now, Objectivity Later

On Monday, Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now interviewed Adam Horowitz and Lizzy Ratner regarding Judge Goldstone's recent reconsideration in a Washington Post column of some of most important findings of his report on the Gaza War. Horowitz and Ratner edited a recently published book of essays about the Goldstone Report, and continue to support its findings.

You can read a transcript of the Democracy Now interview at the link here: Judge Goldstone Retracts Part of His Report on Israeli Assault on Gaza, Leaves Rest Intact. I thought the following three questions (actually two questions, one statement), which Gonzalez asked in the order below and which formed the heart of his interview, were noteworthy.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And hasn’t the problem been from the very beginning that there was no cooperation whatsoever from Israel in terms of the initial investigation, or even in terms of the United Nations human rights investigation that has followed and came out with a report recently, Lizzy?

Gonzalez may believe that "the problem ... from the very beginning (was) that there was no cooperation whatsoever from Israel", but that contradicts Judge Goldstone's column in the Post which praised Israel's investigations of their own actions, and condemned Hamas' complete failure to investigate theirs. Gonzalez seems to be asking whether his guests agree with his view or with that of Judge Goldstone.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And it seems to be, here in the United States, his retraction of a portion of the report has gotten far more coverage than the original conclusions of his report when it first came out.

Gonzalez' guests are completely unable to confirm his question's assumption. The best they can muster is "I think that's true", and then change the subject. That's because neither Gonzalez nor his guests have actually studied the question of how much coverage the Goldstone Report and the Goldstone retraction stories have received.  Moreover, the Goldstone retraction story is a new one. Unless and until further developments occur, the story may well die. So the answer to Gonzalez' leading question may turn out to be that the issuance of Goldstone's report got much more press than his partial recantation of it. That's a problem with leading questions. They sometimes highlight weaknesses in the questioner's argument.  That brings me to the following.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And the claim that Israel really has gone after those rogue elements in the military who may have been involved in the targeting of civilians, that were not, quote, "part of Israeli policy," supposedly?

If anything highlights the fact that Gonzalez is arguing against Judge Goldstone, it is this bizarrely constructed question. Gonzalez' tendentious phrasing of what should be two simple questions (1. Has Israel investigated misdeeds by their troops in Gaza; and, 2. Were those misdeeds part of Israeli policy?) is so comically freighted with argumentation that it's barely intelligible as English. The icing on the cake is that he still feels it necessary at the question's end to add "supposedly", as if there could be any doubt as to what he thinks of Israel's, and now Goldstone's, "claims" that Israel did not target civilians. The complete failure on the part of Gonzalez or either of his guests to cite any evidence to back up this charge makes Gonzalez' argumentative phrasing all the more puzzling, and brings the weakness of their arguments into very clear focus.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with journalism that highlights Israeli misdeeds in Gaza. Such reporting is absolutely essential and should be supported wholeheartedly regardless of one's views on the subject.  But when interviewers deliberately distort news stories to argue their side of an issue they cross the line between advocacy journalism and mere advocacy. This is the problem with Fox News, and it's the problem with this Democracy Now interview. Democracy Now did not report on this story, they just used it as an occasion to promote a particular political view. Such overt argumentation may work to confirm the beliefs of their target audience (who knows -- it may even alienate some of their core audience with its clumsiness), but it clearly does nothing to bring out the facts, which is what journalists are supposed to do.

I don't expect to agree with Democracy Now on Israel, but I would like to see them do what they do better.

As bad as the interview's questions were, the answers were sometimes ludicrous. Horowitz made the following point in response to what aspects of the Goldstone Report Goldstone's column retracted.

(Goldstone, in his column) talked about one small point. He said that there was not a policy, an intentional policy, to target civilians. This was something that was mentioned in the report, but it was just one small issue.

Horowitz, incredibly, argues that the question of whether Israel targeted civilians as a matter of policy is a "small point". This argument is Horowitz' lead bullet point -- the one he came into the interview most prepared to say -- the one he thought most important. The question of whether either side deliberately targeted civilians as a matter of policy is precisely the main point and Horowitz knows it. If Goldstone had written a column stating that facts have come to his attention which confirm charges that Israel targeted civilians, Horowitz would rightly be arguing that that is a main point. Now that the facts belie such charges, Horowitz is forced to unconvincingly argue that the targeting of civilians is a "small point". That would really make quite a headline, wouldn't it? Adam Horowitz: Israeli targeting of civilians a 'small point' (Better than the headline I chose for this post? Maybe so.)

In fairness to Horowitz, he goes on to argue against the Gaza War in terms that would apply equally to military action in any populated area, specifically with respect to the inevitability of civilian casualties and to humanitarian issues deriving from damage to infrastructure. He is right to say that those really are important points which are fundamental to understanding both the causes and results of the Gaza War. When Hamas concealed weapons, combatants and command centers in populated areas and near essential infrastructure, and when they deliberately targeted Israeli civilians with missiles, they committed precisely the type of acts against which Horowitz argues. Hamas' shelling of Israeli civilians were the acts which Israel's counterattack addressed. Hamas' use of Palestinian civilians, including in schools and hospitals, as human shields, caused many of the civilian casualties. Hamas committed precisely the war crimes which created the humanitarian issues about which Horowitz is rightly upset, but he is unable to see that.

In her answers, Ratner echoes Horowitz' lead point, calling the retraction by Goldstone of charges that Israel deliberately targeted civilians a "modest retreat". While she minimizes the importance of the question of whether Israel targeted civilians, Ratner does not retreat from making that charge. The one specific case which she is able to cite as potentially indicating deliberate targeting of civilians by Israel is the horrendous shelling of a house which contained an extended family. According to reports, about 40 members of the al-Samouni family had been herded into their house in Zeitoun by Israeli troops to shelter them from harm. According to Israeli investigators, and now to Goldstone as well, that house was later shelled by the IDF as the result of a misread digital image, killing more than 20 and wounding many other members of the family. It was a horrible, deeply troubling, incident, but is was not a deliberate one. The Israeli investigation of this incident concerns breakdowns in communications between command centers and troops, failures of troops to follow approved procedures, flaws in imaging technology and negligence in its use. There is no reason that Israel would kill this family deliberately and such a charge does not comport with the facts. For one thing, Israel went to extraordinary lengths to prevent civilian casualties, to the extent that it severely limited what they were able to achieve with respect to fighting Hamas. Why on earth would they limit themselves where it really effected the outcome of the war, but arbitrarily target this group of civilians for attack where they stood to gain nothing?

Here's what Ratner has to say on it:

Goldstone says in his essay that an investigation by Israel shows that all that took place was a misreading of drone images. The officer who ordered the attack is being investigated. In fact, this (U.N.) Committee of Expert report that came out two weeks ago says they really can’t find any conclusive evidence, or they can’t really figure out what’s going on with the investigation. There’s a lot of conflicting information. It doesn’t seem like the officer is actually necessarily being investigated. It looks like—there’s conflicting information. Some information suggests that he didn’t know they were civilians; other information suggests that he was warned that there were civilians and ordered the attack anyway. So, you know—

Ratner's complaints, that the investigation is too complex and that results are uncertain, are strange ones. The facts of the al-Samouni case are complex and require a thorough investigation to untangle. The results of the investigation are uncertain because it has not been concluded. Does Ratner advocate that Israel reach a simple conclusion without conducting a proper investigation?

Ratner does not answer that question, or provide any evidence whatsoever to back her implication that the al-Samouni tragedy somehow indicates that Goldstone is now wrong -- that Israel did deliberately target civilians. Contrary to Ratner's implied argument, this troubling case tends to confirm that Israel did not intend to kill civilians. The procedures now under investigation in the al-Samouni case were designed precisely to hit military targets and to prevent civilian casualties. It is the failure of that procedure that is being investigated, not the success of a policy that would constitute a deliberate war crime.

All of this, of course, stands in stark contrast to Hamas. I recommend that readers click on the link to the Democracy Now interview transcript and see if they can find one reference to Judge Goldstone's statement that, where Israel did not target civilians, Hamas did. The interviewer and his guests completely fail to hold Hamas accountable for that, or for Hamas' failure to conduct investigations of their alleged war crimes. That, in itself, speaks volumes about their bias. As I stated above, the question as to whether civilians were targeted goes to the heart of whether war crimes were committed. That standard should be implied impartially to both sides, let the chips fall where they may.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Goldstone "Reconsiders" Goldstone

In a column in today's Washington Post, Richard Goldstone writes that he has "reconsidered" some of the findings and recommendations of his report on the Gaza War. That report, which was written under the aegis of the U.N. Human Rights Council, played a tremendous role in molding public opinion with respect to Israel in general and the Gaza War in particular. The report also caused great controversy among critics who charged that its findings tended to treat acts of rogue individual IDF soldiers as intrinsically reflecting accepted Israeli practices, that it treated accidental injury of civilians by Israeli attacks as intentional, and equated them with clearly intentional injury of civilians by Hamas, that it credulously repeated false charges against Israel made by unreliable sources, and that it inflated the count of civilian casualties.

Among those charges, the most shocking, and most damaging to Israel, was the Goldstone Report's charge that Israel deliberately targeted civilians in Gaza, a charge that was belied by the great lengths to which Israel went to avoid injuring civilians in combat situations, even where this significantly complicated matters. Israel went so far as to notify in advance residents of buildings or neighborhoods in Gaza targeted for attack. This notice took the form of airdropped leaflets, cell phone calls (!), and a practice Israel referred to as "knocking on the door". After the other form of notice had given civilians time to leave an area, Israeli forces signaled that bombing or shelling was imminent by dropping an inert shell or other device designed to make noise but do no damage. Goldstone, in his report, failed to address why Israel would go to such extraordinary lengths to avoid harming civilians and, at the same time, arbitrarily target other civilians for deliberate harm.   The report also failed to adequately contrast Israel's policies and practices with respect to avoiding civilian casualties with the fact that Hamas deliberately targeted non-military targets in Israel such as schools, hospitals, shopping malls, and other civilian areas with no warning whatsoever and at times when these sites would be expected to be their busiest.  The report also failed to adequately account for Hamas deliberate placement of Palestinian civilians in harms way as "human shields", a matter of Hamas policy that was both clearly evident (Hamas fired artillery from civilian neighborhoods and located their command headquarters in a hospital) and underreported by the news media and by human rights groups who purportedly want to reveal crimes against Palestinian civilians.  Hamas tried to kill civilians, whereas Israel did not.  That is the fundamental reason that the Goldstone Report was false and that is the fundamental reason that it was so destructive to Israel.

Now Goldstone says of this charge that:

The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.

The Goldstone Report also inflated Palestinian civilian casualties by relying on sources which claimed whenever plausible (and sometimes not) that combatant casualties were in fact civilians. This deception was demonstrated by comparing of a list of alleged civilian Palestinian casualties with a list of membership in Hamas' police forces and militias which revealed that a large number of the allegedly civilian casualties were not civilians at all. The same sources who gave such demonstrably false information to Goldstone's investigators were then credulously relied upon for other unverifiable information. Since the time of the report, Goldstone and those who support his findings have been put in the odd position of defending his inflated count of Palestinian casualties against criticism from Hamas. It seems that Hamas wants to give its combatant casualties credit more than they want to discredit Israel. In effect, Israel and Hamas pretty much agree on the combatant/civilian casualty ratio. Goldstone still defends his findings with respect to the civilian casualty count, but there is an internal contradiction in his reasoning. He first writes that

Israel’s lack of cooperation with our investigation meant that we were not able to corroborate how many Gazans killed were civilians and how many were combatants.
By that, Goldstone admits that the civilian count may be inflated, and defends that by blaming Israel's refusal to cooperate with his investigators. But, in the next sentence, Goldstone goes on to write that

The Israeli military’s numbers have turned out to be similar to those recently furnished by Hamas (although Hamas may have reason to inflate the number of its combatants).
Goldstone still claims his civilian casualty numbers to be correct, in spite of both sides in the conflict giving a much lower number. If Goldstone knows his casualty numbers are correct, and that both Israel's and Hamas' are false, how can he also say that, if his numbers are wrong, it's Israel's fault? Either he knows his numbers to be true or he doesn't. To make an internally contradictory defense of his figures calls the report's methodology and findings with respect to civilian casualties further into question.

By definition, both supporters and opponents of Israel's actions in Gaza have an interest in spinning the facts in their favor.  That those facts should be accurate and their source reliable are also givens.  Now that Goldstone has essentially renounced the worst of his original findings, and has called into question the reliability of others, those who rely on his original findings to make their case against Israel will have a number of options.  On the good faith side of the spectrum of possibilities, they can revise their conclusions and/or call for further investigation based on these new facts.  On the bad faith side of things, they can deride those who cite Goldstone's new findings as supporters of war crimes (such as here), claim without any evidence that Goldstone has somehow succumbed to pressure by "The Lobby" whose power evidently knows no limitation (such as here), and/or continue to accuse Israel of war crimes that Goldstone's revised findings no longer support (such as here).

The most important conclusions that everyone can take away from Goldstone revised findings are that a) Hamas has failed to investigate their alleged war crimes, b) those war crimes have been confirmed to be matters of policy, c) Israel has largely investigated their alleged war crimes, and d) those have largely found to be either false or matters of individual misconduct.  Hamas' bad faith and Israel's good faith with respect to investigating these allegations speak for themselves.  Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to hear what they are saying.

Read Goldstone's column here: Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes - The Washington Post

Friday, April 1, 2011

Blogger Russ Baker calls Libya rape charge anti-Qaddafi propaganda

Author and blogger Russ Baker has written a column alleging that Eman al-Obeidy's charge that she was gang-raped by pro-Qaddafi militiamen may be the product a propaganda campaign to drum up support for war. His column oddly fails to explain how this pro-war propaganda conspiracy managed to make Qaddafi's secret police brutalize and kidnap this woman before multiple television news cameras. He also offers no evidence whatsoever to refute her charges. He does, however, attempt to minimize their importance.

He writes:

(A)s awful as rape is, it is hardly uncommon anywhere in the world, and the fact that this story would get so much attention—and generate such a strong response—has to be viewed with restraint. It may not be true, and even if it is, why would it get this much publicity at this particular moment...

Contrary to what Baker's column implies, there is no mystery as to why this story got such wide coverage. The victim, after allegedly being kidnapped and raped by pro-Qaddafi militiamen, sought out a public forum where foreign media would be present. When she attempted to tell a hotel dining room filled with reporters the shocking details of what had happened to her -- in eloquent, passionate and entirely plausible terms -- secret police pounced on her, manhandled her, beat several reporters and arrested her. All of this happened before cameras which were able to record the regime's brazen brutality even in this public setting. The regime then issued a series of false, defamatory and contradictory refutations of her charges, none of which explained their behavior towards her, all of which highlighted the bad faith with which they were handling the matter. The victim has since disappeared. Baker fails to explain or even address her disappearance. More to the point, why does Russ Baker believe that such an amazing public display of brutality as this woman's arrest was should somehow have been ignored by the assembled press corp -- in order to avoid the appearance of being anti-Qaddafi?

Independent human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch have documented the brutal and arbitrary detention of rape victims routinely practiced under Qaddafi's rule. Now that Eman al-Obeidy has publicly accused Qaddafi's militias of rape, and the regime has kidnapped and slandered her, does Russ Baker think that she will fare better than the other rape victims who didn't publicly accuse the regime?

Russ Baker should be deeply ashamed of this column. While he has the right to oppose military action against Qaddafi, he should know better than to imply that Qaddafi's victims are merely dupes of Western imperialism, or, as he would have it, agents of "psyops–disinformation efforts designed to sway public opinion (by) the Pentagon and CIA". In slinging such a baseless charge against a rape victim who was seen being brutalized, he does his cause no good whatsoever. He would do better to call for her immediate release and an independent investigation of what happened to her and those who she was travelling with when the crime occurred. More importantly, by making such a charge in a widely read column, Baker gives aid and comfort to those who are currently holding Eman al-Obeidy prisoner. They may well use his logic to justify whatever they subject her too. In the name of opposing "psyops–disinformation efforts", he has become an unwitting agent of those used by the Qaddafi regime to justify their arbitrary brutality.

Baker writes of himself in his bio at Huffington Post that he "has a track record for making sense of complex and little understood matters..." In this column, he makes utter nonsense of a readily understandable matter. That can't be good for his track record.

Read Baker's column here: Libya Rape Charge: View With Caution � SpeakEasy

Are Islamists flocking to Egypt from other countries? They say yes.

Ibrahim Ali, an Egyptian lawyer who works with Islamist groups, has claimed that thousands of leading Islamists from around the world are preparing to return to Egypt in the next few days in light of the regime change. According to the Egyptian Al Masry Al Youm, Ali predicted that:

‘3000 leading figures of the Jama’a al-Islamyia and Egyptian Islamic Jihad groups will return to Egypt in a few days, as their names have been dropped from the “wanted” list maintained by Egyptian security forces.’

Read the rest here: Harry's Place: Thousands of leading Islamists set to ‘come back’ to Egypt – including from London


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