From Maurice Ostroff
in response to the letter in the right hand column below
February 4, 2009
Dear Justice Chaskalson,
“What’s happening to the right to a fair hearing”
I refer to the document “Chaskalson and others speak out on inhumane destruction in Gaza”, posted on the SASHRIP web site on January 30.
As a former member of the Springbok Legion, an organization established by World War 2 veterans that became the first mass white movement to oppose apartheid in South Africa, I sincerely admire the courage you displayed in the Rivonia Trial and your involvement in so many other challenges against apartheid laws.
And while I am sure that your signature to the above document was motivated by the kind of humanitarian concerns that led you to oppose apartheid, I respectfully suggest that you would not have concluded that Israel is guilty of “inhumane and disproportionate collective punishment prohibited under international law” if the media had provided more balanced information.
Sadly, even highly respected members of mainstream media have been proven to display blatant bias and even distortions as in the Al Dura affair. Even Reuters and AP have pleaded guilty to egregious lapses as described on my web site at http://www.maurice-ostroff.org/?page_id=88 and http://www.maurice-ostroff.org/?page_id=15.
As happened in Jenin, many accusations against Israel have proved to be groundless and similar occurrences are now coming to light in the case of the Gaza operation. A recent report in the Canadian Globe and Mail confirmed that earlier damming reports, accusing Israel of firing shells into an UNWRA school, have been proven to be false. Contrary to reports, no one in the school grounds had been killed and UNRWA’s John Ging has admitted that Israel didn’t attack the school. You can read the full report at http://www.maurice-ostroff.org/?page_id=92
In view of the proven unreliability of the media, and in the absence of the results of an impartial investigation it is evident that Israel has been denied a “fair hearing”.
And as you stressed the importance of a “fair hearing” in your paper, “What’s happening to the right to a fair hearing” published in the Israel Law Review last year, I respectfully ask you, sir, to please reconsider your support for the unproved accusations by the 300 plus Jewish signatories, pending examination of the type of evidence you would require in a court of law.
It is also very difficult to understand why none of the more than 300 signatories, who profess to be knowledgeable and concerned about events in Gaza, considered it sufficiently important to protest the inhuman cold-blooded torture of the family of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. They have been tormented by being deliberately kept in the dark about his condition, and even his very existence, since June 2006.
As persons concerned about their fellow human beings, it would have been an act of human kindness were they to have appealed to Hamas to at least allow visits to Shalit by the Red Cross. (Article 70 of the Geneva Convention clearly states that Immediately upon capture, or not more than one week after arrival at a camp, every prisoner of war shall be enabled to write direct to his family and Article 71 stipulates that prisoners of war shall be allowed to send and receive letters and cards)
Zionist Federation and Chief Rabbi
South African Jewish Community on the Situation in Gaza,
January 7, 2009
The South African Jewish Community firmly supports the decision of the Government of Israel to launch a military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Bearing in mind the inevitable loss of life which occurs in every military conflict, we share with the citizens of Israel the heavy heart with which they have embarked upon this operation. Israel has done everything in its power to avoid the situation which it finds itself in, including the dismantling and evacuation of all Jewish Settlements in Gaza over 3 ½ years ago. Israel’s gesture of peace however, has been met by a barrage of thousands of missiles which have rained down upon the villages, towns and cities of southern Israel.
Hamas’ decision to fire, without provocation, approximately 80 rockets per day into Israel after the expiry of the recent cease fire forced the Government of Israel to take the necessary steps which ever civilised State is required to do in order to protect its own citizens from further terror and attacks. We hope that the Israeli Defence Force is able to carry out its mission with the minimum loss of life and casualties.
The Jewish Community of South Africa calls upon the South African Government as well as the ruling African National Congress Party (“ANC”) to act in a balanced and constructive manner towards the conflict in Gaza. We hope that the Government and the ANC use its special relationship with the Palestinian leadership to persuade them once and for all to enter into peaceful negotiations with Israel. These negotiations will hopefully lead to the fulfilment of what the South African Government and the ANC have repeatedly stated is the desired outcome for the region, namely the achievement of a two-State solution which allows Israelis and Palestinians to live peacefully side by side with one another.
The leadership of the South African Jewish Community understands that many citizens of South Africa have strong ties to participants in the Gaza conflict and we urge the communities in question to join the Jewish Community in ensuring that the conflict in the Middle East is not imported into South Africa and is not allowed to disrupt the excellent relationships which exist between all of the communities and peoples of South Africa.
Response by members of the South African Jewish community to a statement by the Jewish Board of Deputies, Zionist Federation and Chief Rabbi concerning Israel’s attack on Gaza
January 11, 2009
South African Jews condemn the Israeli attack on Gaza
January 29, 2009
Posted on the web site of South Africans Supporting Human Rights in Israel and Palestine (SASHRIP) http://www.sashrip.org/
South African Jews have issued a statement condemning the Israeli attack on Gaza. The statement is in response to a statement supporting the attack that was issued by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, South African Zionist Federation and Chief Rabbi, claiming to speak on behalf of the South African Jewish community.
If you are a member of the South African Jewish community and you wish to endorse this statement, please send an email by clicking here.
The Jewish Board of Deputies, Zionist Federation and Chief Rabbi have issued a statement titled “South African Jewish Community on the Situation in Gaza.” It claims that the “South African Jewish Community firmly supports the decision of the Government of Israel to launch a military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.”
We are members of the South African Jewish Community. While we recognise the existence of communal structures, we are distressed that they purport to speak for us and the many Jews who are uncomfortable with the destruction in Gaza, claiming one collective view for the entire community. Given the divergence of opinion within the community, their approach is irresponsible and we are forced to respond.
We are dismayed by the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli military in Gaza. So far over 750 Palestinians and 13 Israelis have been killed. Many of the Palestinian casualties are civilians — unarmed and uninvolved in any operations against Israel. We deplore all the lives lost whether in Sderot or Gaza. We are acutely aware that while parts of Southern Israel have lived under the constant threat of Hamas rockets, the residents of Gaza are experiencing significantly greater terror and destruction.
We strongly oppose the rockets Hamas has been firing into Israel before and during this bombardment. These have deliberately targeted civilians and we call on communities and groups vocal in their support for the Palestinians to condemn these, as we do.
As members of the Jewish community we recognise that Israel’s response is an inhumane and disproportionate collective punishment prohibited under international law. We also condemn the long siege Israel has inflicted on the people of Gaza and call for this to be immediately lifted to allow food, medical supplies, fuel, electricity and foreign aid to reach credible agencies in Gaza.
We call for an immediate ceasefire by both sides and lifting of the siege of Gaza. We also recognise that Gaza’s fate, in the minds of Palestinians and in reality, cannot be severed from the West Bank and that ending the occupation in the West Bank is a critical part of resolving tensions in the region.
Reaching a negotiated settlement between Israelis and Palestinians is an extremely difficult challenge as it is and the attack on Gaza moves us further away from this goal. We also call on the Jewish Board of Deputies not to exacerbate local tensions with statements that demonstrate a lack of compassion for Palestinian lives.
Alexei du Bois
Max G. Cohen
Sara B. Cohen
Timothy Fish Hodgson
Tessa Frootko Gordon
Gaili de Jager
Tessa de Kock
David Robert Lewis
Peter S. Rosmarin
Pamela dos Santos
Mara Jo Scop
Robyn Woods Shapiro
January 30th, 2009 | posted by SASHRIP
debate that has taken place between members of the South African Jewish community on the use of military force by Israel in Gaza, and the articles and correspondence in the South African media about this issue.
As South African Jews we wish to identify ourselves with the sentiments expressed in the statement by over 300 South African Jews entitled “Response by members of the South African Jewish community to a statement by the Jewish Board of Deputies, Zionist Federation and Chief Rabbi concerning Israel’s attack on Gaza”, condemning the excessive force that has been used by Israel.
Whilst we unreservedly condemn the firing of rockets at Israeli towns by Hamas, we consider Israel’s response which has caused widespread death, destruction and suffering in Gaza to be inhumane and disproportionate. 1300 Palestinian residents of Gaza and 13 Israelis have already lost their lives, in a conflict that is likely to inflame feelings in the region, and holds out little prospect for peace.
It is critically important that these recent events do not imperil relations between sectors of South African society, and vital that people of all faiths and none engage with the issues at stake rationally, in good conscience and with due regard to international law including international human rights law.
We fervently hope that the recent cease fire will hold, that obstacles to a lasting peace in the region will be removed, and that negotiations now take place with the necessary political will of all the parties concerned to secure a just and lasting peace.
Justice Arthur Chaskalson
Jules Browde S.C.
Dr Selma Browde
Geoff Budlender S.C.
Justice Carole Lewis
Gilbert Marcus S.C.
Professor Gill Marcus
Sir Antony Sher
Dr AnnMarie Wolpe