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JEWS FOR JUSTICE FOR PALESTINIANS

We need to talk to Hamas

If we cared about peace we would be talking to Hamas

The west has a unique opportunity to help end the Gaza stalemate. But it suits us to turn a blind eye

In his house in the Gaza Strip last month, a senior Hamas minister was explaining to me that the movement needed to modernise its policies when the lights suddenly cut out, as they so often do under Israel’s siege of the territory. Ghazi Hamad’s disembodied voice rumbled on in the pitch black.

Shortly after that, Hamas, which governs Gaza, published what is effectively the first revision of its charter since it was founded 30 years ago. Most significantly, Hamas has for the first time put on paper its commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The movement, it said, was ready to discuss “a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along 1967 lines”.

The policy reforms should have opened the prospect of an end to the west’s boycott of Hamas, in place since 2007, and hope too of an end to Israel’s economic blockade. Two million Gazans, mostly refugees, are today locked behind walls and fences and deprived of bare essentials – not least electricity, which is now cut to four hours a day or less. The International Red Cross warned this week that the electricity crisis was pushing Gaza to the point of “systemic collapse”.

But the international community is once again leaving Gaza in the dark about when its torment will end. Both the US and Britain have made clear they believe that nothing significant has altered in Hamas’s position. A Foreign Office spokesman said: “They must renounce violence, recognise Israel and accept previously signed agreements.”

True, what Hamas means by its new “General Principles and Policies Document” is still murky, particularly as it still holds out the possibility of a Palestinian state in all of historic Palestine. And it has published the changes now as a strategic move to secure its own survival.

After 10 years of a crippling economic siege Hamas is struggling to govern. It desperately needs money – not least to pay for fuel – and it needs Egypt to open its crossing into the Sinai. In return, both Egypt and Arab paymasters demand that Hamas show moderation.

This squeeze on Hamas, however, gives the west a unique opportunity to end the stalemate over the boycott, especially as the movement is at present adhering to a ceasefire, and has gone a long way towards meeting international demands.

After 10 years of a crippling economic siege Hamas is struggling to govern. It desperately needs money – not least to pay for fuel – and it needs Egypt to open its crossing into the Sinai. In return, both Egypt and Arab paymasters demand that Hamas show moderation.

This squeeze on Hamas, however, gives the west a unique opportunity to end the stalemate over the boycott, especially as the movement is at present adhering to a ceasefire, and has gone a long way towards meeting international demands.

Obviously, the only rational response if we really cared about peace would be to start talking to Hamas and push it to moderate further. If we continue to reject its overtures it will have no incentive to offer more, and the rejectionists in Gaza will win.

It is significant that the Hamas paper was published soon after the election of a former military chief and hardliner, Yahya Sinwar, as the movement’s leader in Gaza. A prisoner in Israel for 22 years, and a fluent Hebrew speaker, who negotiated with Israel over the Shalit prisoner exchange in 2011, Sinwar could bring a new voice to the table. He would also have the clout internally to bring some of Hamas’s own critics on board. Hamas is being increasingly challenged by Salafi jihadists whose popularity is small but growing in Gaza, and who accuse Hamas of too much moderation.

The uncomfortable fact is that the west is only too happy to leave the people of Gaza inside their prison; it suits us to do so. We don’t care about blighted lives, or about whether the electricity is on six hours or four hours or if there is none at all. Our governments just want to leave Gaza blocked off from view so we don’t have to face up to the painfully difficult problems it poses – many of our own making, not least the boycott of Hamas.

It was after all the US, 10 years ago, that insisted on Palestinian elections, hoping the moderates of the PLO would win. Instead Hamas came to power on a wave of anger after the failure of flawed peace efforts. The west then took the view that in Palestine democracy counted for nothing, and as punishment the boycott began.

By accepting that Hamas has met at least some of the west’s conditions, we would be forced to consider talking to its representatives, clashing with Benjamin Netanyahu, who has no wish to change the status quo. Keeping Gaza boxed in while he extends his illegal settlements across the West Bank and Jerusalem, suits the Israeli prime minister just fine.

On the Gaza streets there is no expectation of any change, only predictions of a new war. After interviewing the Hamas minister I visited a Rafah girls’ school, speaking to a class of 17-year-old English students. Of the class, six had lost family members in the 2014 war. Their teacher had lost her husband and her father.

Yet here they were, bright-eyed, clutching English textbooks, and speaking of their ambitions to be doctors, social workers or journalists. The courage and resilience of the Gazan people is also hidden from view by the boycott and what they call the “apartheid wall”.

Before I left the school the girls put questions to me, including, “What does Britain know about us?” and “Why doesn’t Britain help us?” One offered her own answer: “I believe they think we live under a stone.”

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Twitter censors what Israeli State Attorney asks it to

At Israel’s request, Twitter is blocking Israelis from viewing certain tweets published overseas. Similar take-down notices have been sent to other international online platforms, the Justice Ministry confirms.

Israeli authorities are taking steps to block their own citizens from reading materials published online in other countries, including the United States.

The Israeli State Attorney’s Office Cyber Division has sent numerous take-down requests to Twitter and other media platforms in recent months, demanding that they remove certain content, or block Israeli users from viewing it.

In an email viewed by +972, dated August 2, 2016, Twitter’s legal department notified American blogger Richard Silverstein that the Israeli State Attorney claimed a tweet of his violates Israeli law. The tweet in question had been published 76 days earlier, on May 18. Silverstein has in the past broken stories that Israeli journalists have been unable to report due to gag orders, including the Anat Kamm case.

Without demanding that he take any specific action, Twitter asked Silverstein to let its lawyers know, “if you decide to voluntarily remove the content.” The American blogger, who says he has not stepped foot in any Israeli jurisdiction for two decades, refused, noting that he is not bound by Israeli law. Twitter is based in California.

Two days later, Twitter sent Silverstein a follow-up email, informing him that it was now blocking Israeli users from viewing the tweet in question. Or in Twitter-talk, “In accordance with applicable law and our policies, Twitter is now withholding the following Tweet(s) in Israel.”

The tweet is still available from American and non-Israeli IP addresses, but viewed from Israel, it looks like this:

[The offending Tweet, BREAKING: Israeli Judge Accused of Sexually-Abusing Daughter, Investigated in Secret,  is here]

Because I am writing this from Israel, I am legally forbidden from telling you what Silverstein’s original tweet said. I can’t even tell you the specific legal reason why I can’t tell you what I can’t tell you.

What I can say is that as the use of military censorship in Israel has become less common and less sweeping over the years, authorities are increasingly using court gag orders to control the flow of information in the country. Often times those gag orders cover the very existence of the gag order itself.

+972 has seen Twitter’s correspondence with Silverstein, but not the Israeli Justice Ministry’s specific request of Twitter. Justice Ministry spokesperson Noam Sharvit denied, however, that Israel demanded any concrete action of Twitter in Silverstein’s case, only that it “brought the violation of the gag order to the company’s attention.”

A page on Twitter’s website explaining the practice of “withholding” content stresses its commitment to being as transparent as possible about its censorship. The company notes that it has partnered with Lumen to make “requests to withhold content” themselves available to the public.

The database of take-down notices provided by Lumen and Twitter, however, does not include the publication of a single request that either mentions or originates from Israel or the Israeli government. Therefore, it is impossible to know with absolute certainty exactly what the Israeli request entailed.

Facebook, on the other hand, provides public data about the number of requests to restrict content in Israel “alleged to violate harassment laws, as well as content related to Holocaust denial.” Facebook says it restricted 236 pieces of content in Israel in the second half of 2015, the most recent period for which data is available.

Israeli legal authorities censoring information published inside Israel’s geographic and legal jurisdiction might seem like standard practice, albeit morally and ethically objectionable. Attempting to block information published overseas, however, is more akin to the type of censorship we’re used to hearing about in countries like China, Turkey, Syria, and Iran.

In most countries where internet censorship is most prominent, the practice is most commonly associated with the suppression of political dissent and attempts to control the free flow of information, upon which democracy and healthy political debate are fully dependent. Those who want to circumvent internet censorship, however, have an array of technical options for accessing blocked content.

This development also comes as the Israeli government has declared non-violent political activists as a high-priority target. Earlier this week, the public security minister and interior minister announced their intentions to deport foreign anti-occupation and BDS activists, and make Israeli citizens whose political activism includes nonviolent tactics like boycotts, “pay a price.”

Most of the public discussion surrounding internet censorship in Israel in recent months has focused on alleged Palestinian incitement to violence, which, at least at face value, can be interpreted to be a matter of public safety. Enforcing a gag order, however, is the state attempting to control the flow of information, plain and simple.

Which is not to say that there are not legitimate uses of gag orders, for instance, to protect minors and victims of certain crimes. According to the Israeli Justice Ministry spokesperson, Silverstein’s tweet indeed included information that could be used to identify a minor who was the victim of a sex crime.

In a more general sense, however, when a state has demonstrated its willingness to use gag orders and censorship to cover up its own crimes (the Bus 300 Affair and evidence of extrajudicial killings exposed by Anat Kamm) and to stifle legitimate free speech that challenges an undemocratic military regime, it becomes a moral imperative to fight all forms of censorship.

One recent and unfortunate example of how gag orders and censorship can be used to obfuscate justice, and at the very least give the impression of a coverup, is the shooting deaths of two Palestinian siblings by Israeli security contractors at the Qalandia checkpoint in late April of this year.

Palestinian witnesses said that the two, who were said to have knives in their possession, posed no immediate threat to the Israeli guards or police officers stationed at the checkpoint. Israeli authorities, however, have refused to release CCTV footage of the shooting, and placed a sweeping gag order on the investigation and the identity of the suspects. On August 2, the gag order was once again extended until August 31 — 126 days since the shooting.

It may have been possible to justify the original gag order, which was supposed to last only one week, with investigatory considerations. More than four months later, however, it is hard not to question what it is police have to hide.

***

Asked how many take-down requests have been sent to overseas social media platforms, the Israeli Justice Ministry spokesperson responded:

The Cyber Division, works, among other activities, with various internet providers to remove content that violates Israeli law, including the terms of use of the providers themselves. The division acts against forbidden content like the publication of pedophilia content, incitement to violence and racism, and publications that violate judicial or statutory gag orders. It should be noted that in the terms of use of most providers, the providers themselves declare that they comply with state orders. As part of the division’s activities, a number of providers have been approached in recent months with requests to remove such content, in various cases.

Asked whether it has also sent international media outlets requests to block certain content from Israeli readers, the Justice Ministry spokesperson said: “there have been such requests in the past which were sent to foreign providers, also including [publications] that were published in Israel.”

By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam
August 05, 2016

Twitter wrote to me this week, asking me to censor a tweet I had posted saying that Israeli judge, Shamai Becker had been accused of sexually assaulting his daughter. Their request originated from a demand by the Israeli attorney general that Twitter censor the tweet because it allegedly violated a gag order in the case.

I told Twitter that I would not do so because the tweet was a truthful report based on Israeli media*. I argued that Twitter should not censor the tweet because the government of the State of Israel had no right to extend the jurisdiction of Israeli law either to me or to U.S. companies.

Twitter replied earlier today with this disappointing message:

Dear Twitter User:

This is a follow-up to our correspondence, dated August 2, 2016, regarding your Twitter account, @richards1052.

In accordance with applicable law and our policies, Twitter is now withholding the following Tweet(s) in Israel.

Follow Tikun Olam @richards1052
השופט שמאי בקר חשוד בביצוע עבירות מין בבתו. צא”פ הוטל על זהותו

http://ln.is/com/3wDGc

9:40 AM – 18 May 2016

BREAKING: Israeli Judge Accused of Sexually-Abusing Daughter, Investigated in Secret
.השופט שמאי בקר חשוד בביצוע עבירות מין בבתו. צא”פ הוטל על זהותו For the past year, the Israeli police have been investigating charges against Israeli magistrate judge, Shamai…
linkis.com
17 17 Retweets 7 7 likes

For more information about withheld content, please review our Country Withheld Content policy page: https://support.twitter.com/articles/20169222.

We cannot provide legal advice. You may wish to contact your own attorney about this matter.

Sincerely,

Twitter

Twitter calls this “withholding” its content. I know what I call it: censorship. They have permitted themselves to be intimidated by the State of Israel, whose officials refuse to honor freedom of expression and the press. They have dragged Twitter down to the low level of Israel.

Imagine this scenario: you are a public figure in your country and the police arrest you for a serious crime. Your lawyers obtain a gag order forbidding the media in your own country from associating your name with the charges. Then your lawyers approach the foremost legal officer of the State and demand that he use the full weight of the state to enforce domestic law in a foreign country. And the State, on your behalf, bullies a foreign company into doing so. I hope you can see the absurdity of this hypothetical case.

This is a slippery slope. Imagine every tin-pot dictator (or even a lowly street-sweeper) in the world finding hundreds or thousands of tweets which accuse him of crimes or misdeeds. The dictator succeeds in obtaining the judgment of a court that silences the media in his own country. After that, the State’s leading lawyer tells Twitter that they must censor all content that violates the laws of that country.

Twitter’s decision offers a field day for Erdogan or al-Sisi or Xi Jinping. They can now go to town cleaning up all the objectionable content on Twitter. And it could involve not just foreign leaders, but any average citizen who can avail himself of the laws of his land in this fashion. Anyone may object to anything tweeted about them. As long as you can get your nation’s legal officer to take up your cause, Twitter will have no recourse because this decision sets a precedent they can’t ignore.

Here’s another analogy to consider: Israeli media are not legally responsible for what readers post in the talkback section. This is also the case under U.S. law. But the Israeli attorney general is, in effect, arguing that Twitter is directly liable for whatever any of its users tweet which violates Israeli law. If Haaretz isn’t responsible for a comment posted which violates Israeli law, then why is Twitter?

* Serious affair court system trying to hide, Ynet, in Hebrew.The judge is not named. Google translation

 

The doctor who dared to come out against a torturous law

mohammed-allan-1024x576

The mother of Mohammed Allan, a Palestinian prisoner who is on a long-term hunger strike, holds a portrait of her son during a rally calling for his release, Be’er Sheva, Aug. 9, 2015. AFP

Doctors who would forcibly insert a tube into someone’s stomach should be boycotted and ostracized, in Israel and abroad.

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz, 13 August 2015

And then he appeared like a beam of light in the darkness, the least likely person. In a place where there were no people, he was a person: Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman. Looking like a Soviet bureaucrat, an anesthesiologist by specialty, he, of all people awakened the most anesthetized organ in Israel – the conscience – and proved that things can be different.

It is hard to remember when a labor leader last acted this way in Israel; when a person who is not a member of the ethics committee went beyond the realms of salaries and private medical services. When someone dared come out against the law. The Israel Medical Association turned briefly into Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, conscientious objection suddenly became a legitimate weapon. Without pathos and without beating around the bush, this courageous and moral physician, who once staged a hunger strike himself, announced that the IMA would not lend its hand to torture and its members would not force-feed hunger-strikers and would not enforce the law that the Knesset had passed. The law? Eidelman noted that in China, for example, doctors torture people according to the law. Bravo, Eidelman.

His statement made the darkness more prominent. Suddenly, it emerged how many collaborators the occupation has and how many agents of evil fulfill their functions without an Eidelman to stop them. How labor unions could have protested and should protest, how unions should have instructed their members to stop collaborating and refuse to do so.

It’s not only the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces, the settlers and their people; the entire society is involved. The engineers, the contractors, the architects and the builders on stolen lands, the bankers and those that trade in the money gained from exploitation. Those who quarry the natural resources in the occupied territories – endless areas of life in which people are involved in the occupation and act like they are innocent. And, of course, the lawyers: Just imagine Eidelman as head of the Israel Bar Association, instructing its members to stop cooperating with the grotesqueness called military courts. A dream. Almost the end of the occupation.

A few more Eidelmans, and reality will change. Eidelman proved that it’s possible. The rest have proven how contaminated and inured they are. They have shown why opponents of the occupation abroad should boycott all segments of the society, not only the settlers.

The doctors are also contaminated. Hunger striker Khader Adnan told me this week in Nablus how the jailors who sat in his room at Assaf Harofeh Hospital and ate shawarma and pizza as his condition deteriorated, cuffed his hand and foot to his bed. There are doctors who permitted this, there are doctors who did not put an end to this lack of humanity in the hospital of which they have charge. They shirked their mission.

There are doctors in the Shin Bet who have trained and train torturers and there are doctors in the Israel Prison Service who are prepared right now to establish “emergency rooms” in the prisons for force-feeding. The horror show of moving Mohammed Allaan from one hospital to another, perhaps to “change atmosphere” or perhaps to force-feed him in a hospital whose director is a brigadier general in the reserves, did not raise enough protest. Doctors who would forcibly insert a tube into someone’s stomach should be boycotted and ostracized, in Israel and abroad, them and their superiors. No research projects, no conferences, no in-service training, no membership in the IMA.

In recent months, two Palestinian hunger-strikers have grabbed international attention. Some cheered the freedom fighters, whose hunger strikes were intended purely to bring about their release from detention without trial. In Israel, their cases were brought up only with regard to the risk to the state’s image were they to die. No one asked why they were striking. Perhaps their struggle was just? Perhaps they should be admired for their determination and their sacrifice?

All means were legitimized to prevent “image damage.” We’ll push a feeding tube into them and foster the image of the state. And then came Eidelman and destroyed this distorted moral

source

Read the darn thing

see also Verdict: balanced report, unbalanced reaction


Rear Admiral John Kirby, taking questions, 2014. Photo from US Defense Department

US says UN Security Council should disregard ‘biased’ Gaza report

State Department says report, which accused Israel of possible war crimes, is intrinsically unfair

By i24 news
June 24, 2015

The United Nations Human Rights Council report on last summer’s war in Gaza should not be brought to the Security Council for a vote or used by the UN for other work, the United States said Tuesday.

Dismissing the report as having a “clear bias” against Israel, State Department spokesman John Kirby said Washington viewed the report, which accused both Israel and the Islamist group of possible war crimes, as intrinsically unfair.

“[W]e challenge the very foundation upon which this report was written, and we don’t believe that there’s a call or a need for any further Security Council work on this,” Kirby said during a press conference. “We reject the basis under which this particular commission of inquiry was established because of the very clear bias against Israel in it.”

The UNHCR is slated to examine the findings of the report on June 29 and may vote in favor of sending it to the Security Council for further action. Kirby had already iterated on Monday that the US would not take part in that endeavor.

The US does not “support any further UN work on this report,” Kirby said regarding whether it should be forwarded to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

“We’ve made very clear what our issues were at the time about the use of force and we made very clear to the Israeli government our concerns about what was happening in that conflict,” he added. “We have an ongoing dialogue with the government of Israel on all these sorts of matters; that dialogue continued and continues.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday rejected the report’s finding and slammed the UN Human Rights Council for spending “more time condemning Israel than Iran, Syria and North Korea put together.”

“Israel does not commit war crimes, but rather defends itself from a terrorist organization that calls for Israel’s destruction,” the PM said.

American jurist Mary McGowan Davis, who headed the independent United Nations probe into the events of last summer’s war in Gaza, has said that the investigation’s report would have looked different if Israel would have cooperated with it.

In an interview with Israeli daily Haaretz, McGowan Davis said that if Israel would have co-operated with the investigation, “we could have met with Israeli victims and seen where rockets landed, talked with commanders, watched videos and visited Gaza. We talked to a lot of witnesses but of course an investigation needs to be as close to the scene as possible and it would have looked different.”

Israel refused to co-operate with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) probe, harbouring grave misgivings about the commission’s impartiality.


Think U.N. Gaza ‘War Crimes’ Report Is Biased? Read It First.

By J.J. Goldberg, Jewish Forward
June 23, 2015

When the shouting dies down and folks take the time to read the actual content of the United Nations report on last summer’s Gaza war — all 183 pages plus side documents — you might see some very red faces in the world of pro-Israel activism.

Well, maybe you won’t. The leaders and friends of Israel’s current governing coalition aren’t in the habit of admitting mistakes, especially where Palestinians are involved. But this one will be hard to dodge.

Israeli officialdom and its boosters greeted the report’s June 22 release with a chorus of outrage. They claim it “accuses Israel of deliberately killing civilians,” denies Israel’s right to defend itself, “barely mentioned” Hamas and even “has blood on its hands for allowing the murder of Jews.” None of that is in the report.

What it does contain is a host of questions about the Israeli military actions that led to the deaths of around 2,200 Palestinians, a large proportion of them civilians. It questions whether Israel’s military goals of stopping rocket and mortar fire and tunnel infiltration, goals it admits were legitimate, necessitated all of the actions that caused the massive civilian suffering.

It reads harshly at times, but the events it describes actually happened. Given the numbers killed and left homeless, it’s appropriate to recall. The finger-pointing is actually rather mild, relative to the magnitude of the suffering. And make no mistake: the finger points in both directions.

The report notes that “the threats to the security of Israel remained all too real.” It describes at length the rocket and mortar fire from Gaza, as well as Hamas’s terrifying tunnels into Israeli territory. It describes Israel’s casualties, including children killed, wounded and emotionally scarred. And it charges that the firing of rockets without guidance systems in the direction of civilian residential areas by “Palestinian armed groups” was a blatant violation of international law.

But it cites dozens of cases where Israel’s response might not have been “proportional” to the threat. International laws of war dictate that a military action should be proportional, not to the harm suffered, but to the achievement of a “legitimate military goal.” The investigators studied 15 specific residential buildings out of the thousands that Israel shelled. It found evidence of a military target in nine of them. In the other six it couldn’t find evidence of a military target, raising the suspicion that the building was a purely civilian facility, suggesting that the attack violated international law. Since Israel didn’t cooperate with the investigators, and didn’t allow them entry to Israel or Gaza, the report urges Israel to answer the question of what it was aiming at in each case.

The report praises Israel’s efforts to warn residents by leaflet and telephone to flee before buildings were attacked, even at the cost of losing the element of surprise. However, it claims Israel’s practice of “roof-knocking,” dropping light munitions to warn residents before bombing, was ineffective.

It also raises an explosive question of whether Israel’s top leaders should be culpable for failing to change tactics in midsummer once the high civilian toll of its bombings became clear.

What will evoke the most discomfort and even outrage for many is the report’s lengthy series of grim eyewitness accounts of civilian deaths (“I found the decapitated bodies of my uncle and daughter…”) and destroyed homes. A handful of killings are documented that the report flatly says violated international law, notably a civilian shot twice after falling down wounded, caught on video.

But the report’s most direct, unequivocal allegation of illegality — stripped of “may,” “could” or “should” — involves “executions” of suspected collaborators by “Palestinian armed groups” (its collective term for the military wings of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and several smaller groups). The report describes in detail the arrest, torture and summary execution, often in public, of several dozen suspects, “with the apparent knowledge of the local authorities in Gaza,” the report’s term for the Hamas government. These flatly violated “both international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” along with “Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” and “article 3 common to the 1949 Geneva Conventions,” the laws of war.
The report quotes the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority — or, as it terms it, the Ministry of Interior of the State of Palestine — as condemning the executions as “illegal.” In what’s either wry humor or clueless diplo-speak, it says the State of Palestine intends to investigate Palestinian violations and impose justice as soon as it regains control of Gaza.

The report also notes allegations by witnesses that Israeli troops used Palestinians as human shields, forcing them to enter buildings before the soldiers in case of booby traps. One specific case is cited. On the other hand, it notes that Palestinian armed groups made an apparent practice of using human shields by sending civilians to the roof of targeted buildings “to ‘protect’ the house” — one specific case is cited, but others are suspected — “in violation of the customary law prohibition to use human shields.”

Israel condemned the report as biased from the moment it was first commissioned by the U.N.’s human rights council last July, during the heat of the war. The council has a long history of obsessively focusing on Israel and ignoring far more glaring human rights violators. It’s been responsible in the past for such miscarriages of justice as the 2009 Goldstone Report, which baselessly accused Israel of intentionally targeting civilians in the three-week Gaza incursion known as Operation Cast Lead. Israel refused to cooperate with that inquiry, whose chair, South African judge Richard Goldstone, eventually repudiated many of his own commission’s findings.

The council’s initial choice to head the latest inquiry was Canadian academic William Schabas, a longstanding, vehement critic of Israeli behavior. But Schabas quit the inquiry last February following revelations that he’d done paid consulting work for the Palestine Liberation Organization, a conflict of interest. His replacement was a retired New York state judge and onetime Brooklyn federal prosecutor with a reputation for fairness, Mary McGowan Davis.

The report produced by McGowan Davis and her fellow commissioner, veteran U.N. human rights expert Doudou Diene of Senegal, seems to have caught some Israelis off-guard. Where the Goldstone Report was dismissed out of hand, the Foreign Ministry says it will “study” the new one, despite the bias of the council that commissioned it. Some officials are quietly telling reporters it may have been a mistake to continue snubbing the investigation after Schabas resigned, rather than cooperating so McGowan Davis could hear Israel’s side. Indeed, some warn the report’s relative balance will make it harder to ignore the harsher allegations as they move through international bodies and tribunals.

Israel released its own report on the war a week before the U.N. document came out, on June 14, in an apparent attempt to preempt and blunt the expected the U.N. attack. Simultaneously, a pro-Israel organization in Europe released a report by a so-called High-Level International Military Group, comprising 11 retired generals and diplomats from around the world, headed by a former German chief of staff and head of NATO command. They visited Israel for several days in May and concluded that Israel “not only met a reasonable international standard of the laws of armed combat, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard.”

Neither of those reports, however, addressed the specific incidents and patterns that McGowan Davis questioned.

It remains to be seen whether and how Israel will address her questions regarding the military necessity of its actions.

The Palestinians have initiated action against Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and McGowan Davis urges Israel to co-operate. But the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over a country that properly investigates and punishes its own crimes. The ball is in Israel’s court. For the rest of us, step one would be to read the darn thing.

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