Andrea Levin of Camera responds to Jimmy Carter's attempt to apologise "for any words or deeds that may have upset the Jewish community". Carter said he was offering an Al Het, a prayer said on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement which signifies a plea for forgiveness. This is a response from Andrea Levin Executive Director of CAMERA
Dear President Carter:
We at CAMERA have been outspoken in our criticism of the many factual errors and distortions about Israel in your book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, as well as in various Op-Eds and media appearances. We've been greatly concerned that false allegations you've made damage Israel, promoting misunderstanding, enmity and prejudice against that nation and its people.
It is against this backdrop that we sincerely welcome your recent letter to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in which you ask forgiveness from the Jewish community for statements that may have stigmatized Israel. As you may know, in Judaism the process of repentance also entails action to reverse any harm caused.
In this spirit, we urge you to join your promising words with concrete actions to redress troubling false statements you have made only recently about the Jewish state. In a Nov. 6, 2009 Op-Ed in the International Herald Tribune entitled "Goldstone and Gaza" you made false and exaggerated charges concerning the UN's Goldstone report on the Gaza conflict. You referred erroneously to the "destruction" of 40,000 homes in Gaza and claimed "several hundred thousand homeless people suffered through last winter." You refer to the "destruction of hospitals" and claim the Gaza Strip is "surrounded by an impenetrable wall." You claim "the Goldstone committee examined closely the cause of deaths of 1,387 Palestinians who perished. . . "
All these statements are factually false and contribute to inflaming negative perceptions of Israel. Efforts to redress the errors via communication with IHT editors failed with their saying you have refused to correct the false statements. We do hope you'll set the record straight and affirm your commitment to undo any wrongful stigmatizing of Israel. Below is the factual detail corroborating our concerns
about the errors made:
• Israel did not destroy 40,000 Palestinian homes.
Al Mazen Center for Human Rights, a pro-Palestinian NGO, recently issued a report called "Cast Lead Offensive in Numbers" in which it found that 2,632 houses were destroyed beyond repair and 8,522 were assessed as repairable. The latest UN figures are 3,600 homes beyond repair and 2,700 homes that sustained major damages. The Goldstone Report provides additional sources including the Palestinian NGO, Al-Dameer-Gaza, that cites 2,011 civilian and cultural premises as destroyed, of which 1,404 were houses that were completely demolished and 453 partially destroyed or damaged. Even the Arab League's report on Cast Lead states: "Over 3,000 homes were destroyed and over 11,000 damaged." There is no credible report that comes near your charges.
•There was no "destruction of hospitals."
Along with the World Health Organization and the Arab League, other international and Palestinian sources confirm that while there were hospitals damaged in the Gaza Strip, none were destroyed. The January 22-23 report by the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that four days after the cease-fire, hospitals were running at full capacity to treat the wounded. The report states:
Hospitals continue to function at full capacity as many injured patients remain hospitalized, with the result that hospitals have been unable to resume regular services such as elective surgery. Post-surgical physiotherapy is provided in Shifa hospital. Most repair work to the Al Quds Hospital in Gaza City, which was shelled on 15 January, has been completed and the facility is now functioning again.
• "Several hundred thousand" people were not made homeless, spending the winter in tents and caves and under plastic sheets.
A January 21-27, 2009 report by the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs, issued just days after the end of the Gaza fighting found that
"Tens of thousands of Gazans remain homeless, with most staying with relatives or other host families." A Jan. 16-20, 2009 report, also by OCHA, stated: "As of late 20 January, 18,035 people remained in 30 shelters, down from 29,421 people on 19 January." Thus, the U.N.'s figure for those displaced last winter is one-tenth or less of the number you posit. Of those displaced, most stayed with relatives and not in tents, caves or plastic sheets.
• Gaza is not "surrounded by an impenetrable wall."
While a concrete and steel wall does separate Gaza from Egypt, a fence made of metal wire, posts and sensors separates Israel from the Gaza Strip. The fence has been penetrated many times, including when Palestinian gunmen crossed into Israel and kidnapped Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit and killed two of his comrades.
• The Goldstone Report did not examine "closely the cause of deaths of 1,387 Palestinians."
The report identified by name only a small fraction of the 1,387 reported fatalities, and certainly did not "closely" examine the "cause of deaths" of that total. Again, we hope your conciliatory words are indicative of a true change of heart in which Israel is no longer subjected to unwarranted and false criticism. We urge you to take the concrete step of correcting the wrong and distorted statements about Israel in your recent column in the IHT.
Thank you for considering this request and, perhaps, setting the stage for a new beginning.