The Goldstone rumor mill

From the Goldstone Report:

50. The Mission investigated several incidents involving the destruction of industrial infrastructure, food production, water installations, sewage treatment plants and housing (chap.XIII). Already at the beginning of the military operations, el-Bader flour mill was the only flour mill in the Gaza Strip still operating. The flour mill was hit by a series of air strikes on 9 January 2009, after several false warnings had been issued on previous days. The Mission finds that its destruction had no military justification. The nature of the strikes, in particular the precise targeting of crucial machinery, suggests that the intention was to disable the factory’s productive capacity. From the facts it ascertained, the Mission finds that there has been a violation of the grave breaches provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Unlawful and wanton destruction which is not justified by military necessity amounts to a war crime. The Mission also finds that the destruction of the mill was carried out to deny sustenance to the civilian population, which is a violation of customary international law and may constitute a war crime. The strike on the flour mill furthermore constitutes a violation of the right to adequate food and means of subsistence.

This paragraph is notable for a number of things. It accuses of Israel deliberately targeting the flour mill. From that it divines that the purpose was to “deny sustenance” to the residents of Gaza. And from there it concludes that Israel violated international law.

The Goldstone Commission compiled and analyzed the satellite imagery it used as part of its investigation.

Al Badr flour complex
The Al-Badr Flour Factory of Sudaniyya appears in the satellite imagery to be composed of multiple building sites situated along the north side of El-Bahar Street. Based on the
detailed assessment from the imagery, the only visible damages detected to the factory
complex are to the southernmost building which was severely damaged along the southeastern side. The damages appear to have occurred between 16 and 18 January 2009. Within the immediate 500m vicinity of the factory complex there are a total of 43 detected damage sites, including 33 destroyed or severely damaged buildings. The majority of this identified damages occurred between 10 and 18 January 2009. There are clear indications in the imagery of extensive IDF tank movement and related damage to both buildings and vegetation cover in this area during the last three days of the conflict. It is probable, given the damage signatures, that the majority of damage in this area was caused by intense IDF ground fire. It is important to note that because of the angle of satellite imagery acquisition, it is possible that severe damage to the north and eastern side of the flour factory buildings has not been detected. See figure 14 for satellite image damage overview of Al Badr flour complex.

This analysis suggests that there was more damage to the factory than was visible due to satellite imagery. Why didn’t anyone photograph the building from the ground?

While this analysis observes that there was “extensive IDF tank movement,” it doesn’t suggest any reason for that movement. Were the tanks in the area arbitrarily or for some military purpose? The Goldstone report attributed Israeli military activity in the area to a nefarious plan to destroy the sole source of flour to Gaza. Is there any evidence in the satellite imagery to suggest that conclusion? No. But then, as Elder of Ziyon observed, Goldstone apparently was not drawing conclusions from available evidence.

UNITAR, based on a time sequence of satellite images, finds that all the damage seems to have occurred a full week after Goldstone’s “credible witnesses” said it was strafed by multiple air attacks – while the IDF was on the ground, fighting. And damage on the upper floors done by Apache helicopters would presumably be visible on satellite images.

The satellite imagery as analyzed by the UN indicated that the mill was attacked by tanks and ground fire. There’s no evidence that Israel attacked the facility from the air. And yet the Goldstone commission, with no support, simply declared the eyewitnesses as “credible.”

Still, there’s something missing from UNITAR’s analysis. The analysis discusses the movements of the IDF as if the IDF operated in a vacuum. Its observation of the destruction that occurred with in 500m of the mill raises the question: why there?

The recently released Israeli report provides some answers that the UN and Goldstone were incurious about.

167. In the course of the operation, IDF troops came under intense fire from different Hamas positions in the vicinity of the flour mill. The IDF forces fired back towards the sources of fire and threatening locations. As the IDF returned fire, the upper floor of the flour mill was hit by tank shells. A phone call warning was not made to the flour mill immediately before the strike, as the mill was not a pre-planned target.

168. Several hours after the incident, and following a report about fire in the flour mill, the IDF coordinated the arrival of several fire engines to fight the fire.

169. The Military Advocate General reviewed the findings and the records of the command investigation and other materials. In addition, the Military Advocate General reviewed the information included in the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Report, as well as the transcript of the public testimony of Mr. Hamada to the Fact-Finding Mission.

170. Taking into account all available information, the Military Advocate General determined that the flour mill was struck by tank shells during combat. The Military Advocate General did not find any evidence to support the assertion that the mill was attacked from the air using precise munitions, as alleged in the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Report. The Military Advocate General determined that the allegation was not supported in the Report itself, nor in the testimony to the Fact-Finding Mission by Rashad Hamada,who had left the area prior to the incident in response to the IDF’s early warnings.Photographs of the mill following the incident do not show structural damage consistent with an air attack.

171. The Military Advocate General found that, in the specific circumstances of combat, and given its location, the flour mill was a legitimate military target in accordance with the
Law of Armed Conflict. The purpose of the attack was to neutralize immediate threats to
IDF forces.

172. The Military Advocate General did not accept the allegation in the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Report that the purpose of the strike was to deprive the civilian population of Gaza of food. In t is regard, he noted the fact that shortly after the incident, the IDF allowed Palestinian fire trucks to reach the area and extinguish the flames, as well as the extensive amount of food and flour that entered Gaza through Israel during the Gaza Operation.120

173. Although the Military Advocate General could not conclusively determine that the flour mill was in fact used by Hamas’s military operatives, there was some evidence of such use. The Military Advocate General noted that Mr. Hamada testified before the Fact-Finding Mission that after the operation he found empty bullets on the roof of the flour mill. This could not have been the result of IDF fire, since – as was evident from the
findings of the command investigation – the IDF forces which occupied the mill’s
compound three days after the incident did not occupy the roof of the mill, where they
would have been exposed to enemy fire.

174. Accordingly, the Military Advocate General found no reason to order a criminal
investigation regarding the case.

Unlike the Goldstone report, the IDF’s report is specific about what happened. When the IDF didn’t know something, it didn’t speculate. Of special note are the following facts 1) The IDF was in the area responding to enemy fire 2) that the IDF made sure that fire equipment got to the mill and 3) Israel supplied flour to Gaza (a point made with greater detail by CAMERA), which disproves the libel of Goldstone that Israel sought to deprive Gazans of sustenance.

Israel Matzav addresses a charge made by the Guardian that Israel dropped a 500 pound bomb on the mill. The views of the roof of the mill taken by the IDF after the attack show fire damage, but no hole in the roof that would be consistent with an aerial bombing.

Reviewing this incident only reinforces my view that Judge Goldstone and his confederates were a lot more interested in reaching conclusions that condemned Israel than in uncovering the truth.

In his interview with the Forward Goldstone said:

“We couldn’t use that report as evidence at all,” Goldstone said. “But it was a useful roadmap for our investigators, for me as chief prosecutor, to decide where we should investigate. And that’s the purpose of this sort of report. If there was an independent investigation in Israel, then I think the facts and allegations referred to in our report would be a useful road map.”

This prompts the reporter to observe.

Nevertheless, the report itself is replete with bold and declarative legal conclusions seemingly at odds with the cautious and conditional explanations of its author. The report repeatedly refers, without qualification, to specific violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention committed by Israel and other breaches of international law. Citing particular cases, the report determines unequivocally that Israel “violated the prohibition under customary international law” against targeting civilians. These violations, it declares, “constitute a grave breach” of the convention.

I have no doubt that Goldstone would reject the IDF’s investigation as insufficiently independent. But it is clear the IDF was more cautious and careful in its investigation than Goldstone was. Goldstone mixed rumor and innuendo with incomplete information in order to find Israel guilty. If the point of Goldstone’s commission was to discover the truth, the IDF has more than answered its charges. The problem is that the commission’s job was to convict Israel. I hardly think that the UN will accept the inconvenient truths of the IDF’s report.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.

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I'm a government bureaucrat with delusions of literacy.
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