Toronto Star | 20Sep2009 | Orest Slepokura
Letter to Editor

“Shining a light on Israeli aggression in Gaza”
The Editor:

Re: “Shining a light on Israeli aggression in Gaza,” the Toronto Star, 20 September 2009.

Haroon Siddiqui twice takes “our” media to task for its failure to adequately describe the full extent of Israel’s destruction of the Gaza Strip during its 22-day assault last winter; they “spared us” all of the grisly details, as it were. 

Such damning information may, of course, be found elsewhere, thanks to the Internet; specially by those who are no longer passive consumers of “news.” An attentive reader nowadays will be  mindful of not only what's in the news, but also of what’s been left out of it.

James Baldwin once described a writer’s capacity for listening thus [The Evidence of Things Not Seen, p. 95]:  “[A] writer is never listening to what is being said, he is never listening to what he is being told.  He is listening to what is not (italics) being said, he is listening to what he is not (italics) being told, which means that he is trying to discover the purpose of the communication.”

What, according to Baldwin is true of writers, is now also true for millions of readers in this age of the Internet. Which explains why trust in the veracity of mainstream media ranks generally low. Their sins of omission in reportage, which speak to "the purpose of the communication," are often glaring; failure to adequately report on Israel's assault on Gaza being a salient example.

Orest Slepokura

Toronto Star | 20Sep2009 | Haroon Siddiqui

Shining a light on Israeli aggression in Gaza

So, Stephen Harper and his ministers were defending possible war crimes and crimes against humanity, while Michael Ignatieff and senior Liberals were staying mostly mum. And much of our mainstream media were averting their gaze from, or excusing, the possible crimes.

Now, no less an authority than Richard Goldstone, former chief prosecutor with the war crimes tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, says that the three-week Israeli onslaught on Gaza eight months ago amounted to "war crimes and possibly, in some respects, crimes against humanity."

Releasing his report Tuesday, he said: "As a Jew with a long-standing affiliation with Israel, it's obviously a great disappointment to me, to put it mildly, that Israel behaved as described in the report."

His four-member United Nations panel found that both Israeli and Palestinian groups committed war crimes, the latter by rocketing Israeli civilian areas. But the panel reserved its harshest judgments for Israel: Its Dec. 27-Jan. 18 attack was "directed at the people of Gaza as a whole," not just at Hamas militants (as Israel claimed).

In fact, Israeli operations were "carefully planned in all their phases as a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability."

Israel was following its Dahiya Doctrine – "the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations."

Goldstone has pronounced Israel guilty of:

Goldstone urged the UN Security Council to ask both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to hold transparent investigations and report back in six months.

Failing that, the council should turn the matter over to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

Israel had boycotted the panel and refused it entry into Israel. Panellists entered Gaza via Egypt for inspections and interviews. They went to Jordan to meet Palestinian Authority officials from the West Bank. They heard testimony from Israelis, including some victims of Hamas attacks, by flying them to Geneva.

[W.Z. 2014.07.28: Lisa Hume has noted that the link to the 575-page UN report referred to below is broken and has provided an alternate link to this report at:  .]

The 575-page report (Adobe Reader required) – based on 188 interviews, 10,000 pages of documentation, 1,200 photographs and satellite imagery – is not easily dismissed. But Israel and its defenders are trying, with a smear campaign:

What else would you expect from a report done for the anti-Israeli UN Human Rights Council? Where was the need for a UN inquiry when Israel has conducted more than 100 of its own?

The former South African Supreme Court and Constitutional Court judge is not easily cowed into silence. "It is grossly wrong to label a mission or to label a report critical of Israel as being anti-Israel." He urges "fair-minded people" to read the report for themselves. (Go to the UN website,, and search for the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict.)

Goldstone's report is a condemnation not only of Israel but also its apologists in Canada, including the media. The latter are now busy burying the report under an orchestrated avalanche of negative reaction without ever properly reporting its contents.

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