In an apparent effort to direct attention away from the content of the Goldstone report which studied the conduct of the Israeli Defence Forces and Hamas in the war on Gaza a year ago, the Israeli government has described the report as anti-Semitic. The UN Relief and Works Agency reports that the houses of 325,000 people were destroyed or damaged during the war.
Israel's war against Goldstone
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said: "We face three major strategic challenges: The Iranian nuclear programme, rockets aimed at our civilians and Goldstone." He was referring a report by the highly regarded South African judge, Richard Goldstone, the Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, now generally known as the Goldstone report. In an apparent effort to direct attention away from the content of the Goldstone report which studied the conduct of the Israeli Defence Forces and Hamas in the war on Gaza a year ago, the Israeli government has described the report as anti-Semitic. The Goldstone report is "simply a type of anti-Semitism," the Israeli Information Minister Yuli Edelstein told Ynet. Israel's political leadership claim there is an anti-Semitic trend which blames the victims of Palestinian rockets for the war crimes documented in the United Nations report. The website Mondoweiss highlighted one section of the report which connected the Israeli strategy employed in Gaza to the operations of the Israel Defence Forces in the war in Lebanon in 2006. The report said: "The military operations from 27 December to 18 January did not occur in a vacuum, either in terms of proximate causes in relation to the Hamas/Israeli dynamics or in relation to the development of Israeli military thinking about how best to describe the nature of its military objectives. "A review of the available information reveals that, while many of the tactics remain the same, the reframing of the strategic goals has resulted in a qualitative shift from relatively focused operations to massive and deliberate destruction. "In its operations in southern Lebanon in 2006, there emerged from Israeli military thinking a concept known as the Dahiya doctrine, as a result of the approach taken to the Beirut neighbourhood of that name. Major General Gadi Eisenkot, the Israeli Northern Command chief, expressed the premise of the doctrine: What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. [...] We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases. [...] This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved. "After the war in southern Lebanon in 2006, a number of senior former military figures appeared to develop the thinking that underlay the strategy set out by Gen Eiskenot. In particular Major General (Ret) Giora Eiland has argued that, in the event of another war with Hizbollah, the target must not be the defeat of Hizbollah but 'the elimination of the Lebanese military, the destruction of the national infrastructure and intense suffering among the population-. Serious damage to the Republic of Lebanon, the destruction of homes and infrastructure, and the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people are consequences that can influence Hizbollah's behaviour more than anything else'." The report went on the cite Col (Ret) Gabriel Siboni who also advocated the use of disproportionate force against Hizbollah and said that this "approach is applicable to the Gaza Strip as well." Meanwhile, in a surprising move on Capitol Hill in Washington where the Israeli government's policies generally receive uncritical support, a number of members of the US Congress along with religious groups and lobbying organisations, sent a letter to President Barack Obama expressing their concern about the "collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip" resulting from the siege imposed by Israel and Egypt. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported: "Hamas on Monday sharply criticised Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak's defense of his country's expanded fortifications on its border with the Gaza Strip. "The Egyptian government has faced rising domestic and regional criticism since a report first published by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said Egypt was building an underground steel barrier along the Gaza border to curtail smuggling through tunnels under the border. " 'Mubarak's remarks defending the steel wall are an address on the blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,' Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri told reporters in Gaza City. "The Egyptian president's statements 'contradict his earlier remarks that he would not allow the starvation of the Palestinian people in Gaza,' al-Masri accused. "On Sunday Mubarak marked the national annual Police Day holiday by declaring: 'Fortifications along our eastern border are a work of Egyptian sovereignty, and we refuse to enter into a debate with anyone [about them].'" VOANews reported: "The Israeli blockade of Gaza has been going on for 30 months. The UN Relief and Works Agency, which cares for one million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, says the territory is receiving only 20 per cent of the goods it got before the blockade was imposed. "UNRWA says the ongoing blockade of Gaza's borders has caused the private sector to collapse and unemployment and poverty to rise to unprecedented levels. "The agency is renewing its appeal for $323 million to assist Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the West Bank throughout 2010. UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza, John Ging, says $250 million of the appeal will be used to sustain basic subsistence levels in Gaza. " 'Access to those billions that have been pledged, $4.5 billion were pledged in Sharm El-Sheik [in 2009], will replace the need for much of the aid, the humanitarian assistance we now are appealing for because the recovery and reconstruction will generate tens of thousands of jobs,' said Ging. 'It will put the private sector back to work. Remember 100,000 have been made unemployed in this past two and a half years. And, the money will be, as I say, put to productive use,' he said. "The United Nations reports the houses of 325,000 people were destroyed or damaged during the war that erupted between Israel and Hamas militants more than a year ago. An estimated 20,000 people continue to live in temporary housing." Deutsche Welle said: "A Belgian official has protested an Israeli decision denying him entry into the Gaza Strip, calling it 'unacceptable'. "Israel barred Belgian Cooperation and Development Minister Charles Michel from entering Gaza, saying the visit would only legitimise the Islamist Hamas movement which currently controls the territory. " 'These kinds of visits can only strenghten Hamas and give it legitimacy,' Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said in a statement. 'We allow humanitarian assistance to enter Gaza, including food and medication, but we will not allow political visits that bolster Hamas.' "Private Belgian television channel RTL-TV reported Michel would take the matter to the European Union."