Last night a few of us headed down to the London School of Economics to hear two of Richard Goldstone’s United Nations “fact” finding team into Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.
The event was entitled The Goldstone Report and the Peace Process.
Considering the importance of the event it should have started on time but the Chairman and four speakers strolled in 15 minutes late so reducing the event’s length from 90 to just 75 minutes.
Retired Colonel Desmond Travers and Professor Christine Chinkin were both on the Goldstone panel but Chinkin had already signed a letter to the Times condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza.
Chinkin’s mere presence on the investigation team was, therefore, a breach of Article 6 (Right to a fair trial) of the European Convention of Human Rights as she is obviously not “impartial”.
Karma Nabulsi also spoke. She is an ex-PLO negotiator and very personable but a one trick pony. For Karma peace can only come through “justice” and “justice” for her means the return of the Palestinian refugees to Israel.
She asked: “What is wrong with the refugees returning to Israel?”.
Where does one start, Karma! It’s the equivalent of the UK opening its borders to 60 million non-EU nationals.
Then there was Ami Ayalon. He was the “Israel voice”. He is ex-Shin Bet . Shin Bet is Israel’s internal security service, like our MI5. He also used to be a Labour Member of Israel’s Parliament.
He said Israel has a duty to defend its citizens but that he was against Israel invading Gaza because, as the Hamas website says, Hamas will take the fight to its own civilian areas.
Ayalon felt Israel did not have the tools to do this without causing harm to Palestinian civilians. Instead he had proposed a plan with Sari Nusseibah where there should be a new “law of return” for the settlers who wish to move back West into Israel proper and who should be compensated accordingly.
As decent a left-wing Israel voice as Ayalon was it would have been more interesting to hear from someone from Kadima, the party that took Israel to war. Now such a person runs the risk of arrest as soon as they step off the plane at Heathrow, so we will never be allowed to hear from them.
But back to Colonel Travers who left some of us in utter disbelief by the end.
Travers was Goldstone’s munitions expert. He started off by saying that “the great preponderance of the damage that was done in Gaza was done by conventional weapons”.
Travers then took us through the deadly propensity of White Phosphorous, a non-conventional weapon which was used as a smoke-screen by Israel to shield its soldiers from Hamas fighters. Travers admits that the use of WP is not illegal and that all armies use it but he felt it should be banned worldwide “even for battlefield use”.
As he explained: “WP is a highly toxic chemical that needs no initiator to ignite, all it needs is oxygen. If it is deprived of oxygen it remains dormant and active. WP that was dumped in the Irish Sea after Wolrd War Two broke away from its moorings and came ashore and ignited on an Irish beach 50 years later. The fumes cause sickness as they are highly toxic and people with as low as 10% surface area burns will die becuase it attacks the central nervous system.”
Then he said: “Children in Gaza were attracted to the smoke because of its pleasent almond smell.”
Now, I am no chemist but at first glance these two chemicals also seem highly deadly and my hunch is that had Israel used either of them then accusations of war crimes would still be heading its way.
Then Travers moved on to the use of DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive): “To be very honest about it we found no evidence of DIME being used. There is anecdotal evidence. Whether it was or it wasn’t used it puts the victim at risk of cancer and is very difficult to trace and remove.” (Note the caveats.)
He also said he wished to see Tungsten and Flechette shells removed from the armies of the world.
But for the denouement of his presentation he said: “In Gaza munitions were dropped to achieve deep penetration, perhaps tunnel systems or underground caches and this suggests strongly that those munitions were comprised of hardened warheads which might have logically been hardened by radiological devices or depleted uranium or uranium devices and if so there are toxic consequences. It might have happened and if it has happened there is a responsibilty on the international community to make sure Gaza doesn’t deteriorate further and it is in a terrible situation already.” (How many more caveats!)
I had my doubts about the Goldstone Report but I kept an open mind that Israel might well have done things beyond international law. Now, after hearing, Professor Chinkin and, particularly, Colonel Travers I am even less inclined to trust its findings, eventhough I have not read the report in full.
Professor Chinkin has little credibility as an objective judge and Colonel Travers’ accusations that Israel used non-conventional weapons applies, on his own admission, to every other army in the world so then why is only Israel under investigation?
Below you can see Colonel Travers in full flow last night as filmed by Jonathan Sacerdoti. Note how in response to Jonathan Hoffman’s question about the possibility of weapons being stored by Hamas in mosques he admits that he visited only 2 out of the 14 mosques destroyed by Israel in Gaza and found no evidence of munitions having been stored there because, in his view, it just isn’t a secure place to store them.
Get that: He visited just two! What about the other 12, Colonel? Did Hamas not allow you into them by any chance?
The event was a perfect show of the amateurish way that the Goldstone Report, which could have the affect of sending Israeli soldiers and politicians to prison, was put together.
The United Nations, itself, loses even more credibility by endorsing the report.