Stewart Mills (NSW) responds to Peter Hartcher’s “Israel feels tarnished as critics apply apartheid tag” SMH 17Nov09 PUBLISHED November 18, 2009

The Sydney Morning Herald: LETTER: “Context would give a more balanced view” by Stewart Mills, 18 November 2009
ARTICLE: “Israel feels tarnished as critics apply apartheid tag” by Peter Hartcher, 17 November 2009

Peter Hartcher’s reflection on the Goldstone Report fails on a number of accounts.  Hartcher firstly repeats the government of Israel spin that vilifies the United Nations calling it an “international resolution factory”.  Secondly he fails to give any context for why the rockets were fired.  He gives no mention of the decades long struggle for Palestinian people to be given equal rights as citizens of the land; the thousands of Palestinians in Israeli jails or who have who have lost loved ones due to 60 years of war; or failure for there to be a resolution for the refugees of the 1948 and 1967 wars.

Hartcher fails to acknowledge Richard Goldstone’s personal journey of discovery during his fact finding mission.  Goldstone has been extensively interviewed following his tour by progressive Jewish groups such as Tikkun.  Goldstone cannot be faulted for his unquestioning support for Israel’s security and legitimate right (and moral obligation) to self-defence.  However, Goldstone, by visiting Gaza and interviewing Israelis by phone and in Geneva (given Israel denied him permission to enter Israel) concluded each of the 36 incidents they identified demanded formal investigation by Israel and Hamas.

Goldstone speaking at Brandeis University (at the same time as Australia was voting against his report) listed the attack on a mosque during a service by a missile as one of the most compelling.  He said the missile came through the front door killing 21 people.  He said that even if there was ammunition stored there (which they had no evidence for this) what military advantage did Israel gain by firing during a service?  Why was such an action not conducted at night when there was no service. Goldstone said this attack cries out for an investigation.

Similarly Goldstone remarked that bombing and completely demolishing  schools such as the American School at Gaza cried out for investigation.  What made this attack even more unfathomable was the American School at Gaza was the centre of anti-Hamas teaching.

Goldstone also called for Israel’s attack on the UNRWA compound with white phosphorus again for investigation.  Goldstone said it was a miracle there was not greater destruction given the UN compound housed 1000s of litres of fuel.  The collective punishment of Palestinians by bulldozing greenhouses, farms and destroying sewage treatment works – all had no military advantage – purely punitive.

Hartcher in his conclusion misrepresented, Izzat Abdulhadi, head of the Palestinian delegation to Australia. Such was my disbelief with what Hartcher had presented that I called the Palestinian delegation to find out for myself.  The Head of the Palestinian general Delegation informed me that despite a 30 Minute interview Hartcher, failed to mention the Palestinian General Delegation’s overall disappointment (and not satisfaction as Hartcher represented) with Australia’s stance on Israel and its rejection of the Goldstone Report.

Let’s hope that Herald journalists can go on trips to Gaza and West Bank in addition to Israel in future to help present a balanced perspective of this conflict.

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