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Judge Richard Goldstone
A U.N. investigator who accused Israel of war crimes was misled by false witnesses and Palestinian misinformation, charged the chief medical officer of an Israeli army brigade that was previously falsely accused of committing a massacre.
“You have let yourself be misled by fabrications made by either terrorists or even doctors. … Did you by any chance try to validate any of these invented and inciting details? Well you didn’t!” wrote David Zangen, an Israeli reservist officer and physician.
Zangen, in an open letter published in Israel’s Maariv newspaper, was addressing South African Judge Richard Goldstone, who penned a U.N. report that claimed both Hamas and Israel were guilty of war crimes during the Jewish state’s defensive war in Gaza last December and January.
Goldstone’s report claimed Israel deliberately targeted civilians during the Gaza conflict, which started after Hamas refused to extend a cease-fire. The terrorist group instead launched a rocket offensive against Israeli population centers.
The U.N. report equated Israel, which worked to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza, to Hamas, which utilized civilians as human shields and fired rockets at Jewish cities from Palestinian hospitals and apartment buildings.
During the Gaza war, Israel sent hundreds of thousands of text messages and placed tens of thousands of calls warning local Palestinians of incoming attacks against Hamas’ military infrastructure in Gaza.
Zangen’s letter questioned specific details of Goldstone’s report that, Zangen alleged, relied heavily on faulty witnesses without corroborating their testimony.
As an example, Zangen cited a section of Goldstone’s report that stated Israel killed 24 Palestinians and wounded 40 others during a battle the U.N. claimed struck a school run by the international body located in the Jabaliya refugee camp.
The Israel Defense Forces, however, said it only fired on targets next to the school after terrorists first shot at Israeli troops. The IDF said 9 Hamas members and 3 noncombatants were killed in the ensuing fighting.
After rampant media reports claiming Israel struck the school and killed dozens, the U.N. eventually concluded no deaths occurred within the school building itself. Also eyewitness testimony from local residents affirmed Hamas fired mortars from a location close to the school and that none of those who had taken refuge in the school were killed.
Zangen, however, noted Goldstone “went back to get testimony only from the same people who spread the blood libel of bombing the school” and that the U.N. report cited high Palestinian casualty counts that cannot be verified and do not jibe with news media footage of the scene.
Wrote Zangen: “Did you by any chance try to validate any of these invented and inciting details? Did you look at the Al-Jazeera or BBC reports from the same very date of the event? Did you try to validate your ‘factual findings’ conclusions by getting at least emergency room charts on the people admitted to their trauma department on this very day? Did you go over the IDs of the ‘dead’ people and the place or cemetery where they were supposedly buried? Well you didn’t!”
Zangen is no stranger to false Palestinian accusations. He served as the chief medical officer of an IDF brigade that fought in a famous anti-terror operation in 2002 in the northern West Bank city of Jenin.
Immediately following the operation, claims of a massacre were made by the Palestinian leadership, which spoke on U.S. and international news channels of upwards of 500 civilians killed and thousands wounded, but it was later determined 56 Palestinians, mostly gunmen, were killed, and 23 Israeli soldiers died in the battle.
Media accounts, documentary evidence and investigations by several international humanitarian organizations quickly proved there was no massacre.
Still, charges against Israel persisted. One popular documentary, entitled “Jenin, Jenin,” was screened internationally. The film, by Palestinian producer Muhammad Bakri, claimed Israel committed war crimes during the 2002 battle.
That film featured several “witnesses” describing “brutality” by the IDF, claiming Israel attacked and killed “many, many” Palestinians with tanks, planes and snipers, although the documentary never lists the exact number of Palestinians killed.
But a film by Pierre Rehov, “The Road To Jenin,” apparently disproves many of Bakri’s claims. Zangen was featured in Rehov’s documentary.
One charge in “Jenin, Jenin” was that Israel fired 11 missiles at a Jenin hospital, leveling the facility while patients were inside, and later wouldn’t allow emergency personnel to access the area. Hospital manager Dr. Mustafa Abo Gali tells Bakri’s audience, “The whole of the west wing was destroyed. Fighter planes launched their missiles every three minutes.”
But in “The Road to Jenin,” Rehov also interviews Gali, who shows the filmmaker the extent of the damage – a small hole on the outside of a building, with the entire west wing intact. Rehov also provides aerial images of the hospital on the last day of the Jenin incursion showing all sections of the hospital standing normally.
With regard to Bakri’s claim that ambulances weren’t able to reach the area, Zangen described to Rehov how Israeli soldiers treated many wounded Palestinian fighters, including members of Hamas. Rehov even cut to a scene of an Israeli soldier authorizing Gali in person to receive any medical supplies he needs for the Jenin hospital.
Zangen said “Jenin, Jenin” used deceptive filmography techniques to create the myth of a massacre. He cited one scene of a tank heading toward a crowd. The scene then blacks out, falsely suggesting the people were all killed, said Zangen. Also, the filmmaker, who Zangen says was not on scene at any time during the battle to get footage, deceptively juxtaposed images of Israeli tanks and snipers taking aim with pictures of Palestinian children.
In his letter to Goldstone, meanwhile, Zangen expressed hope the South African judge would learn from the experience of false accusations in Jenin:
“Please, Judge Goldstone, you should really be careful when such straight liars serve as the basis for your report. I am sure that you mean well, but being an eyewitness both to the events in Jenin and to the subsequent media and initial false U.N. reporting, I do understand what happened to you. How a person of such stature and integrity could become associated with such a faulted report.”