Dugard Issues False Claims About Gaza Hospitals

John Dugard, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur or investigator on Israel who once deemed Israeli policies worse than South African apartheid, has found new platforms for his anti-Israel vitriol since leaving his U.N. post over a year ago. This past winter he served as chairman of the Arab League Independent Fact Finding Committee, whose hefty 254-page findings about Israel’s December 2008 fighting were presented to the Arab League in April and cited today in Dugard’s Op-Ed in the International Herald Tribune. (The Tribune, published by the New York Times, no longer has its own Web site, so the Op-Ed appears on the Times’ site.)

Dugard writes today that during Israel’s three-week operation,

[s]ome 3,000 homes were destroyed, as were many government buildings, schools, universities, mosques, hospitals and factories. [Emphasis added.]

Several investigations — including one by the Arab League Independent Fact Finding Committee (I.F.F.C.), which I chaired — have found considerable evidence that serious crimes were committed in Israel’s offensive.

The I.F.F.C. reached its conclusions on the basis of the facts above, the testimony of witnesses of cold-blooded killings by Israeli soldiers, the use of weapons designed to cause the maximum suffering and evidence that strongly suggested that Israel had made no serious attempt to distinguish between civilians and military targets.

Yet Dugard’s very own I.F.F.C. report contradicts his Op-Ed claim that hospitals were destroyed during the fighting! Citing a World Health Organization document,  Page 42 of the I.F.F.C. report mentions damaged, but not destroyed, hospitals:

The WHO reported that during the conflict over half (15 of 27) of the hospitals in the Gaza Strip were damaged. Of the 15 hospitals damaged, nine were PMOH facilities. The Al-Wafah Rehabilitation Hospital managed by an NGO, and the Fatah General Hospital were also damaged. The Al-Quds Hospital, managed by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society was damaged severely to the extent that all of its patients were evacuated to another hospital (the Al-Shifa hospital). [Emphasis added.]

Besides WHO and I.F.F.C., other international and Palestinian sources also confirm that while there were damaged hospitals in the Gaza Strip, none were destroyed. The January 22-23 report by the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (“Field Update On Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator”) reports that four days after the cease-fire, hospitals were running at full capacity to treat the wounded. Though the OCHA report mentions repairs at Al-Quds hospital, which was also accepting patients just days after the fighting ended, it does not report that there were any destroyed hospitals. 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.

Furthermore, the Palestine Red Crescent Society Emergency Appeal (Jan. 19, 2009) also notes damage to the Al Quds hospital, but does not report on one destroyed hospital. Outlining the overall medical situation in the Gaza Strip immediately after the fighting, the appeal states:

The heavy bombardment in the area of PRCS branch in Gaza City resulted in tremendous material loss in the Al Quds hospital, and the eight storey administrative building, which had to be evacuated and is no longer in use.

It’s hard to know what’s more lamentable. The fact that the South African professor of law negligently or deliberately misrepresents his own findings. Or that he says that “The I.F.F.C. reached its conclusions” about alleged Israeli war crimes based on “the facts above,” i.e. the false claim that hospitals were destroyed. Or that the so-called independent Arab League committee also relied on debunked “testimony of witnesses of cold-blooded killings by Israeli soldiers.” Regardless, the International Herald Tribune owes its readers a correction. Stay tuned for developments.

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