Tag Archives: white phosphorous

Goldstone Report debate shambles

Goldstone's fact finding team: (l to r) Hina Jilani, Richard Goldstone, Professor Chinkin, Colonel Travers

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.

Ami Ayalon - ex-Shin Bet

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.”

But, apparently, there are two alternatives to WP: Red Phosphorous and Titanium Tetrachloride

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.

White Phosphorous

Howzat, Israel?

I was thinking how many ways there might be to try to delegitimise Israel. Loads I thought. In fact there are as many ways to delegitimise Israel as there are to get out in cricket:

1) Israel is in breach of UN Resolutions (LBW)
2) Israel is in breach of international law (caught)
3) Israel doesn’t want peace (run out)
4) Israel ethnically cleansed the Palestinians (bowled!)
5) Israel isn’t a democracy (timed out)
6) Israel is an apartheid state (interfering with play)
7) The Jews have no right to a state being just a religious group (hit wicket)
8) The Jews were never expelled by the Romans, so they can’t return to the Middle East (stumped)
9) The once oppressed Jews are now the oppressors (handled ball)
10) Israel acts like the Nazis did (hit ball twice)
11) Israel is guilty of war crimes (obstructing the fielder).

It is number 11 I find intriguing. When all else fails there is always the old accusation of war crimes. When a country has to go to war, then the most easily made accusation is that a country has not just killed, but has actually intentionally targeted innocent women and children.

Breaching UN resolutions is bad, ethnic cleansing is terrible, apartheid is vile but killing innocent woman and children on purpose is just despicable. And Israel stands accused of them all. Has another country ever been accused of such evil?

The latest accusation was that Israel used white phosphorous illegally during Operation Cast Lead. It is illegal to use white phosporous in a built up place like Gaza for obvious reasons. It is highly dangerous and will burn a victim’s skin right through. Not even water will stop it burning.

It should not have been used and two senior Israeli army officers were reprimanded. But it seems the orders to use white phosphorous did not come down from high. The officers took the decision themselves.

Israel has always come clean when it was in the wrong. For example, Ariel Sharon was sacked on the recommendation of the Kahane Commission after the Sabra and Shatila massacres in Lebanon in 1982.

White phosphorous is legal in all other circumstances of war. America has been allegedly using it in Afghanstan. The smoke from the phosphorous acts as a smokescreen shielding soldiers and that is why America has used it and why Israel used it in Gaza. Israeli soldiers were able to carry out successful operations against Hamas because of it.

But it seems that from now on all of Israel’s wars will be carried out against terrorists in built up areas. That is how Hamas has chosen to fight. The days of the 1967 and 1973 wars being fought in the skies or in the vast open desert are over. So what is Israel to do? If it uses white phosphorous it will be accused of committing a war crime, if it doesn’t then Israeli soldiers will be gunned down more easily.

It is a terrible Catch 22 but there has never been an intent to target innocent civilians, unlike Hamas suicide bombers. There is a big difference.

A country will undoubtedly make mistakes in war and Israel has made many in the heat of a battle (Israel even lost four of its own soldiers to friendly fire during Cast Lead). It has also had to go to war on many occasions to defend its citizens. Eventually on the balance of probabilities the international community will catch some Israeli soldiers out, as it has finally done (albeit on Israel’s admission).

Every war is by definition a war crime as civilians will always tragically be killed but Israel is the only country persistently accused of war crimes and consistently hounded for them. Sanctions against Israel are constantly called for, the latest being by Liberal Democrat Lord Phillips, and its politicians and soldiers are put under threat of arrest by an international warrant like no other country’s politicians.

Some countries are accused of starting illegal wars and war crimes (America and Britain), others are accused of both of those and much more (Israel).

There is only one time when Israel will not accused of everything under the sun, and that is if it ever loses a war. Then, for once, the international community might not be so outraged.