This week in Israel: Goldstone concedes a mistake, social workers end their strike, doctors start one, a Palestinian engineer is accused of terror, the state warns against Egyptian vacations, and more
Richard Goldstone, the South African judge who headed the U.N. Human Rights Council investigation into the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict, admitted to having made some mistakes in his eponymous report. His turnaround prompted what one writer for Haaretz called Israelis’ “peculiar glee” and “choral fugues of we-told-you-so.” Indeed, the judge’s admission in the Washington Post that Israel did not intentionally target civilians during the 2008-2009 Gaza war elicited front-page headlines, political cartoons, and a wide variety of opinion pieces. Maariv echoed the stereotypical guilt-inducing Jewish mother in a headline that read “Now He’s Sorry.” “Richard Goldstone isn’t worthy of forgiveness, or even of compassion,” wrote one analyst. “No statement or action can undo the immense damage that Goldstone’s blood libel inflicted upon the Jewish people,” wrote another. Yedioth Ahronoth’s Alex Fishman wrote “Goldstone is an exceptionally courageous man.” But to some, Goldstone was kind of right the first time: “The killing of civilians is a crime—even if it wasn’t part of a policy, it was part of the occupation. And I don’t need Judge Goldstone to tell me that.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the Goldstone report to be thrown into “the dustbin of history.” Goldstone countered that would be going too far.
The day after the shooting of Israeli actor and director Juliano Mer-Khamis, his Freedom Theatre in Jenin, West Bank, was plastered with his image and the words: “Juliano Mer-Khamis, Shaheed [Martyr] for Freedom and Culture.” Mer-Khamis also posthumously helped Israeli headline writers come up with tasteless puns. The first part of his last name consists of the same two letters as the Hebrew word for “bitter” (mar), giving rise to the Yedioth headline “His Bitter End” (Sofo Hamar) and the Maariv headline “Bitter Assassination” (Hisul Mar/Mer).
An anti-tank missile fired from Gaza hit an Israeli school bus near the border Thursday, wounding a 16-year-old boy and the driver, who were the only ones left on the bus at the time of the attack. Israel began shelling Gaza shortly afterward, Palestinian militants fired dozens of rockets and mortar shells on the Negev, and the Iron Dome missile defense system made history by intercepting a rocket in the Ashkelon area for the first time. Speaking from New York, where he met with President Barack Obama this week, Israeli President Shimon Peres said the bus attack was “another example of how Gaza has turned into a terror state.”
Israel’s social workers have gone back to their jobs after a 23-day work stoppage that ended last week. Public-sector doctors held a two-day warning strike this week, but the possibility of another extended labor stoppage, like the four-and-a-half month doctors’ strike of 2000, remains a threat. Yedioth ran a clippable “Guide to the Strike”—complete with dotted lines and scissor icon—noting which services were off-limits (elective surgery, outpatient clinics) and which would still be accessible (emergency care, maternity wards, dialysis, and cancer treatments). “I’m worried that if they don’t take care of me, I could lose my vision in my left eye,” 70-year-old Moshe Filer of Kibbutz Sasa in the Galilee told the paper as he awaited word on planned surgery. It could all turn out for the best: Burial society and funeral home directors said that during the 2000 strike, mortality rates fell when doctors stayed home.
Palestinian engineer Dirar Abu Sisi, director of the Gaza Strip’s sole power station, said he was abducted during a visit to Ukraine in February and brought to Israel. He was indicted this week on charges of terrorist activity after spending nearly 40 days in Israeli custody. Abu Sisi is accused of helping Hamas improve the range of its rockets and the armor-penetration capability of its anti-tank missiles; no word from Israel on the circumstances of his Feburary 19 disappearance. The Shin Bet security service is referring to Abu Sisi as Hamas’ “father of the rockets,” but Haaretz military correspondent (and Tablet Magazine contributor) Amos Harel warned that this nickname “should be regarded with some skepticism,” as Israel and Hamas wage information warfare. Abu Sisi’s wife, Veronica, who has charged on Israeli TV that Ukrainian officials were involved in his abduction, is threatening to sue Israel and Ukraine over what she said was an illegal arrest.
Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine, the British fashion gurus known for bluntly telling people how bad they look, came to Jerusalem and appeared on Channel 10. One woman’s outfit was “like a smorgasbord of terribleness.” But their biggest gripe about Israel is that only religious women wear dresses.
Over the weekend the Israel Air Force killed three Hamas militants Israel said were planning to kidnap Israeli tourists in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Israel has issued a travel warning for Sinai, with defense officials saying the security situation there has deteriorated since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February. Although worldwide tourism to Egypt has dropped by up to 90 percent since then, the country is generally a popular Passover vacation spot for Israelis, many of whom are apparently intent on taking advantage of their week off from work to reverse the biblical exodus.
Fred Karger is a gay, Jewish Republican, and he’s running for president. His plan is to embarrass the Mormon GOP frontrunner, Mitt Romney, and get the church to drop its support for gay-marriage bans.