Many Gazan families cope with life in the remains of homes bombed out by the Israelis. (Mel Frykberg/IPS)
RAMALLAH, occupied West Bank (IPS) - When internationally renowned linguist, philosopher and political analyst Noam Chomsky was barred from entering the occupied West Bank, he joined a chorus of Jewish intellectuals savaged by the Israeli government for outspoken criticism.
Chomsky, a strong proponent of Palestinian rights, tried to cross into the occupied Palestinian West Bank from Jordan on Sunday to deliver a speech at Birzeit University near Ramallah.
He was held for several hours and interrogated as to why he was only giving a speech in the Palestinian territories and not in Israel, and then turned away.
“I find it hard to think of a similar case, in which entry to a person is denied because he is not lecturing in Tel Aviv. Perhaps only in Stalinist regimes,” Chomsky told the Israeli daily Haaretz.
Several years ago Norman Finkelstein, a respected American academic and political analyst, was interrogated for a number of hours at Ben Gurion International airport before he was refused entry by Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet. Finkelstein believes he was targeted due to his harsh criticism of Israel for its war on Gaza.
Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, was expelled when he tried to enter Israel in 2008.
“I was leading a mission that had intended to visit the West Bank and Gaza to prepare a report on Israel’s compliance with human rights standards and international humanitarian law,” said Falk.
But it appears the Israeli government and the Israel lobby have reserved their most vituperative attacks for South African Justice Richard Goldstone who was appointed by the UN to investigate war crimes during Israel’s devastating assault on Gaza from December 2008 to January 2009.
The Israelis refused to cooperate with his investigation and prevented him from entering Gaza from Israel. He had to enter via Egypt.
Goldstone, an internationally respected jurist, served as the chief prosecutor of the UN, International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
His criticism of Israeli war crimes committed in Gaza provoked Israeli apologists to accuse him of being a “hanging judge,” relating to a number of black South Africans who were sentenced to death under his rulings.
However, Goldstone argued that under prevailing South African law at the time when a murder had been committed in a gratuitous manner with no mitigating circumstances judges had no option other than to sentence the guilty to death.
Former South African Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson who defended victims of the apartheid policies leaped to Goldstone’s defense.
“It is absolute nonsense to say that Justice Goldstone took the side of the racist policies of the apartheid regime. He was one of a small group of judges who did their best to mitigate the harshness of apartheid and when we went to court to defend victims of apartheid in criminal cases or to make claims on their behalf in the civil courts he was one of the judges that we hoped would hear our cases.”
Former South African president Nelson Mandela, arguably one of Africa’s finest liberation heroes, thought highly enough of Goldstone to appoint him to post-apartheid South Africa’s newly-established constitutional court.
Mandela had previously appointed Goldstone chair of inquiry into human rights abuses committed by South Africa’s various political factions in 1991.
One of Goldstone’s chief criticisms of Israel’s military operation in Gaza was its deliberate and wanton destruction of civilian infrastructure with no specific military purpose.
Goldstone stated, “None of the Israeli responses have even said a word about the property destruction, the bulldozing of agricultural fields, the bombing of water wells and the bombing of sewage works that caused a huge spill over a huge area. There has been no attempt to justify that.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report last week backing Goldstone’s investigation despite Israeli claims that its forces only destroyed civilian property when armed Palestinian groups were using the facilities.
HRW’s 116-page report, “I Lost Everything: Israel’s Unlawful Destruction of Property in the Gaza Conflict” documents 12 separate cases during its invasion last winter dubbed “Operation Cast Lead” in which Israeli forces extensively destroyed civilian property, including homes, factories, farms and greenhouses, in areas under their control without any lawful military purpose.
“Almost 16 months after the war, Israel has not held accountable troops who unlawfully destroyed swathes of civilian property in areas under their control,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW.
HRW further documented the complete destruction of 189 buildings, including 11 factories, eight warehouses and 170 residential buildings — roughly five percent of the total property destroyed in Gaza — leaving at least 971 people homeless.
Satellite imagery corroborated eyewitness accounts that Israeli forces destroyed many structures after establishing control over an area and shortly before Israel announced a ceasefire and withdrew its forces from Gaza on 18 January 2009.
Israeli forces were following the “Dahiyeh Doctrine” established after Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon when a Hizballah stronghold in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh was almost completely razed by the Israeli military.
“What happened in the Dahiyeh quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on,” said Gadi Eisenkot, head of the Israeli military’s northern division. “This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved,” he added.
Israeli leader Col. (Retd) Gabriel Siboni, stated the following, weeks before the Israeli military’s attack on Gaza: “With an outbreak of hostilities, the [Israeli army] will use force that is disproportionate to the enemy’s actions and the threat it poses. Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes.”
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