My friend Dina Kraft, a former Northeastern colleague who now lives with her husband and two children in Tel Aviv, has written a harrowing first-person essay for the Los Angeles Times about life amid the violence that has broken out between Israel and Hamas. She writes:
I hadn’t prepared anything to take with us, such as pillows or even water. At first I (naively) thought we’d be back upstairs again within a few minutes after the Iron Dome missile-defense shield knocked down any rocket that might be overhead. This was Tel Aviv, in central Israel, considered far from the reach of projectiles from Gaza….
Someone took out a Monopoly game and some of the kids started playing. The adults tried to keep things light with nervous jokes. Neighbors swapped news from updates on Twitter and news apps. I thought about all the previous wars and tense times during which I had interviewed families in shelters on the northern border with Lebanon or along the southern border with Gaza, spoken to kids playing cards and other games, and how here I was, becoming part of that scene I had once covered.
The BBC is reporting that the fighting continues to intensify, with 119 people in Gaza and eight in Israel being killed since Monday.
I’m disappointed that editors at the Boston Globe decided they needed to balance Jeff Jacoby’s column on Richard Goldstone’s remarkable mea culpa regarding Israel’s conduct in the Gaza war with a piece arguing, in essence, that Goldstone didn’t really mean it.
Goldstone, a South African judge and diplomat, headed a U.N. investigation into the Gaza war several years ago, and concluded that Israel had committed war crimes against the civilian population. The so-called Goldstone Report has been a cudgel wielded by Israel’s enemies ever since.
So it was (or, rather, should have been) big news when the Washington Post published an op-ed by Goldstone last Friday in which he says that he and his fellow investigators were way too hard on Israel and not nearly hard enough on Hamas. And he credits Israel for investigating the report’s findings while criticizing Hamas for doing nothing. Goldstone writes:
Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.
Other than a brief Associated Press story that ran on Monday, today is the first time the Globe has addressed Goldstone’s turnaround. Jacoby characterizes the original Goldstone Report — hyperbolically, though not without cause — as a “blood libel,” and writes, “The Goldstone report did incalculable damage to Israel’s good name. Breathlessly hyped in the media, it accelerated the already frenzied international campaign to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state.”
The importance of Goldstone’s turnaround can’t be exaggerated. Yet running along with Jacoby’s column today is a piece by Nimer Sultany, described as “a civil rights lawyer in Israel and a doctoral candidate at Harvard Law School,” accusing Goldstone of giving in to pressure from fellow Jews and of making another Israeli incursion into Gaza more likely.
“The lingering question,” Sultany writes, “is whether Goldstone can look hundreds of Palestinian civilian victims in the eye and say he stood up for them in the face of severe Israeli and American criticism.”
Goldstone’s turnaround, of course, is not above questioning. As Sultany suggests, there have been reports that Goldstone had been ostracized by the South African Jewish community — although be sure to check out the correction at the bottom of this New York Times story. (The Times also reportedly rejected Goldstone’s op-ed before he shopped it to the Post, though Ben Smith of Politico says otherwise.)
Nevertheless, what Goldstone is saying now hasn’t received nearly enough attention from the media in general or from the Globe specifically. By running Sultany’s rebuttal on the same page as Jacoby’s column, the Globe opens itself up to criticism by those who have long believed the Globe is guilty of anti-Israeli bias.
Not the first time I’ve said this, but whenever a big international story develops, you can’t go wrong checking in on three news organizations with Boston roots that specialize in foreign coverage.
The most venerable is the Christian Science Monitor, whose commitment to serious journalism extend back more than a century. Now mostly online, the Boston-based news site has correspondents on the ground in Egypt and other stations in the Middle East. Here is a telling passage by Kristen Chick, who’s been covering the protests:
Reinforced, the crowd marched onto the bridge, gathering around two troop carriers the police had been forced to leave behind, along with several of their members. A crowd surrounded the policemen angrily, but some protesters pushed them back.
“This is a peaceful protest,” they yelled. “Don’t hurt them!”
A young policeman walked past, sobbing uncontrollably on the shoulder of a protester.
“It’s OK, you are our brother, you are with us now,” said the protester.
Reporting from Israel, the Monitor’s Joshua Mitnick finds that the Israeli government is anxiously watching what is unfolding in Arab states all around them.
You can follow the Monitor’s coverage of Middle East protests here.
Also well worth following is GlobalPost, the international news agency started by New England Cable News founder Phil Balboni and former Boston Globe foreign correspondent Charles Sennott. GlobalPost reporter Jon Jensen supplements his work with a video report (above).
In an attempt to get ahead of the story, Hugh Macleod considers whether Syria’s repressive regime could be the next to tumble. His conclusion: no, because President Bashar al-Assad has taken steps to spare his people from the grinding poverty that afflicts Egyptians.
You can follow GlobalPost’s coverage of the unfolding Middle East story here.
The most unconventional of the three is Global Voices Online, begun at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center a half-dozen years ago and dedicated to rounding up and synthesizing citizen journalism of all kinds.
Before the Twitter crackdown, Global Voices’ Ivan Sigal posted a fascinating compilation of tweets, blog posts and videos, including a harrowing scene of protesters falling off a water truck. And here is a comment from something called the Angry Arab News Service, in a piece written by Global Voices’ Amira Al Hussaini, reacting to yesterday’s speech by Egyptian President (at least as of this writing) Hosni Mubarak:
Mubarak is speaking live. He is digging a bigger hole for himself. He is insulting the protesters. HE said that he has been sympathetic to the poor all his life. Is that why billionaires surround you, you dictator?
Steven Erlanger of the New York Times weighs in with a must-read piece on the ethical and logistical challenges Israel faces in avoiding civilian casualties in Gaza.
The depth and nuance are striking, but what I like best about Erlanger’s analysis is his unblinking assertion that the cause of this war is Hamas’ years-long terrorist bombing strikes against Israel — something that may be obvious, but that tends to be obscured by protests against Israel’s “disproportionate” response.
Michael Paulson reports in the Globe that the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church is urging fellow Methodists to divest from companies that are supporting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
Despite renewed talk of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the hard reality is that Israel’s actions on the ground in the region, as well as Palestinian militant attacks on Israelis, place enormous obstacles in the way of progress toward peace.
So why does the conference propose punishing Israel alone? This is nasty business. Someone should ask Hillary Clinton, a Methodist, where she stands.