An open response to Judge Goldstone’s interview with Bill Moyers on PBS

October 23, 2009

An open response from Maurice Ostroff to Judge Goldstone’s interview with Bill Moyers

Dear Judge Goldstone,

I refer to your October 23, interview with Bill Moyers and in particular to your statement to him that you have not seen nor read any detailed response in respect of the incidents on which you reported.

I find this very surprising as in my several open memoranda to you and to the mission; I specifically addressed several incidents on which you reported. To quote just two examples of many, in my email of September 26, I wrote,

“Paragraph 9 of the Report deals at very great emotional length with the unfortunate shooting of Amal, Su’ad, and Samar, daughters of Abed Rabbo, and accepts, without any attempt at corroboration, testimony that they walked out of their house carrying white flags to find an Israeli tank. The Report describes two soldiers sitting on top of the tank, one eating chips, the other eating chocolate. One cannot but wonder how the witnesses in the tense circumstances were able to distinguish what the soldiers were eating. Without warning, the report says, a third soldier emerged from inside the tank and started shooting at the three girls. All very incriminating, creating an emotional picture of callous Israeli soldiers eating chips and chocolate while a third mows down innocent children carrying white flags. It is not inconsequential that none of these types of emotional descriptions are used when Hamas’ infractions are mentioned.

BUT! Most importantly, the writers of this Report failed in their bounden fact-finding duty to check the accuracy of the information they purveyed. With just a little attention to detail, they would have read the report by Palestinian News Agency Ma’an and MECA – the Middle East Children’s Alliance, that the unfortunate girls were killed in collateral damage from an attack by Israeli planes. No tank, no soldiers eating chocolate (or chips), and no white flags are mentioned. I trust you will agree that the Report must be amended to correct this and other inconsistencies.

The Report repeatedly declares that civilians were intentionally killed by the IDF, inferring that the Mission members, with no battle experience, possess superior intellectual powers that enable them to determine whether, in the heat of battle, a soldier has acted in self defense or with criminal intent. And, as the Mission places importance on intent, it is remiss in ignoring the openly declared intent of the rocket launchers to kill as many civilians as possible, the openly declared intent of the Hamas Charter to destroy Israel, and the Hamas declaration that it is not bound by international rules.

I did not misquote your statement on Al Jazeera. The interviewer asked you about a mosque incident mentioned in the report, adding a leading rider, “…and what it demonstrates about Israeli conduct in the war.” You then described how a mosque was shelled during prayers with the deliberate intention of killing innocent civilians, implying that this was typical of IDF behavior. All of this was based on your unequivocal acceptance of oral testimony by dubious witnesses.

This is where the incident in Rafeh, to which I referred, is absolutely relevant. The battle in the mosque on August 14 in which 22 people were massacred [by Hamas] is well-founded, positive proof of Israel’s allegations that mosques are and were used for military purposes and storage of weapons. Instead of alleging that the mosque you spoke of to Al Jazeera was shelled with deliberate intention to kill civilians, at the very least your Report should have mentioned the motivation, namely the use of mosques for military purposes. The gathering in the mosque was as likely to be a military planning meeting as a prayer meeting.

In fact Col. (res.) Jonathan Halevi has reported that the mosque was used to recruit operatives, and that several known terrorists who were operating from the mosque were killed in this attack, including Ibrahim Moussa Issa al-Silawi, an operative in the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. According to the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website, Ibrahim “received his love of jihad and hatred for the Zionist enemy with his mother’s milk.” He was a Muslim Brotherhood operative and had close relations with Nizar Riyyan, a senior Hamas terrorist operative. Other known terrorists killed in this operation included Omar Abd al-Hafez Moussa al-Silawi; Sayid Salah Sayid Batah; Ahmed Hamad Hassan Abu Ita; Muhamad Ibrahim al-Tanani; Rajah Nahad Rajah Ziyyada and Ahmed Assad Diyab Tabil.

No doubt if you had been aware of this critical information, you would have investigated it thoroughly. It is too important to ignore even at this late stage.

May I look forward to your serious consideration of the above highly relevant concerns?”

Maurice Ostroff

Judge Goldstone on proportionality during the interview

RICHARD GOLDSTONE: -… And then there’s a question of proportionality. One can, in war, target a military target. And there can be what’s euphemistically referred to as “collateral damage,” but the “collateral damage'” must be proportionate to the military aim. If you can take out a munitions factory in an urban area with a loss of 100 lives, or you can use a bomb twice as large and take out the same factory and kill 2000 people, the latter would be a war crime, the former wouldn’t.