February 5, 2010

In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict

Following the release of Israel’s report to the UN on Friday in which the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) essentially looked into their own behaviour during operation Cast Lead, in which over 1400 Palestinians were killed following the Israeli military assault just over a year ago, MEMO contacted one of the four co-authors of the Goldstone report, Colonel Desmond Travers, for an exclusive reaction to the Israeli report.

According to an article by Rory McCarthy in the Guardian, 1st February, one of the few incidents the report looked into, in its mere 46 pages, was the Israeli destruction of the Al-Badr flour mill. Following Israel’s report which “stated there was no evidence of an air strike” on the mill and that they “specifically denied it was hit by an air strike”, McCarthy drew attention to the UN mine action team who had reached a contrary conclusion and stated that there clearly was evidence that Israel had attacked the mill from the air with precise munitions, a conclusion backed up by photographic evidence. As McCarthy says, “this evidence directly contradicts the findings of the Israeli report” and he states “It is not clear why Goldstone did not use evidence from the UN team in his report.”

MEMO put that question to Colonel Travers who explained that, at the time of the Goldstone fact-finding mission, they were not aware of the existence of the UN mine team’s findings but that, in any event, the findings of both are essentially in agreement that Israel employed an air-strike against the mill and so it would not have made any substantial difference to the outcome of the Goldstone Report anyway. Travers therefore stands by the Goldstone reports findings in which it was stated that the attacks were “intentional and precise” and “carried out for the purpose of denying sustenance to the civilian population.”

Furthermore, Colonel Travers raised the very reasonable question, “Why among all of the incidents investigated by the Goldstone Report did the Israeli authorities select this one? This is particularly interesting, when it is quite obvious that the mill was struck by two air delivered munitions: one a bomb probably launched from a combat aircraft and the other a missile launched from an attack helicopter. Both occurred following telephone warnings.” Indeed it does seem strange that out of so many incidents that they could have chosen to investigate, (36 incidents were specifically investigated by the Goldstone team) they chose this one; particularly as it again raises questions as to their motivation behind destroying that particular civilian target in the first place. It does seem more than coincidental that having destroyed the only working flour mill in the area and refusing to allow it to be rebuilt by way of the ongoing siege, Gazans are now forced to buy their flour from Israel at extortionate prices. Outcomes such as this must surely bring into question Israel’s original motivation for attacking Gaza in the first place.

MEMO also asked Colonel Travers about his response to the BBC Newsnight programme in which Tim Collins had stated his opinion that there had been mosques that were used to store munitions in Gaza, thus implying that Israel had the right to target them in their military assault on the region. To this Colonel Travers responded, in an earlier interview with MEMO, that given Collins’ reputation as a distinguished soldier with an impressive military career, “His speculation about a mosque being a repository for materiel a year after is therefore a lapse of good judgment in my opinion. His comments are so much in breach of good evidentiary procedures that I’m sure he knows he lapsed. To serve the propaganda interests of one belligerent over another ill serves his otherwise fine reputation.” Furthermore, he stated, “Collins made statements he knows to be unsound. He has to know. He’s a decent soldier, he has to know this is drivel!”

For the full interview with Colonel Travers on the BBC report visit: “Gaza is the only gulag in the Western hemisphere; maintained by democracies; closed-off from food, water, air” says Colonel Desmond Travers, co-author of the Goldstone report, in an exclusive MEMO interview.