Noam Schalit to testify before UN c'tee

UN investigators of Cast Lead to hear testimonies on Kassam threat by residents of Gaza periphery.

noam schalit 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
noam schalit 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Noam Schalit, father of captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, will appear before the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict in Geneva Monday. Schalit will testify before the committee on the kidnapping of his son by Hamas. The committee is scheduled to begin hearing two days of testimony from residents of the Gaza periphery on their life under the constant threat of Kassam rockets and mortar fire from terrorist groups inside the Gaza Strip. One of the Israelis who will be testifying before the committee is Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin. The former mayor of Sderot, Eli Moyal, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the committee will interview him by video conference. However, an official of the fact-finding commission in Geneva told the Post she could not provide the number or names of other Israelis who will be testifying. The testimonies on Monday and Tuesday are Israel's only opportunity to present its case to the committee headed by former South African judge and human rights expert Richard Goldstone, since the Israeli government has refused to cooperate with it. The mission was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, which has been notoriously biased against Israel. But Goldstone insisted on investigating the actions of both sides in the conflict, not just those of the Israeli side, and promised that his report would be fair. Moyal told the Post he would explain to the committee that the most serious damage to the residents of Sderot was not the physical damage to their homes and other buildings, but the emotional damage. "Eighty percent of the children in Sderot are suffering from post-traumatic stress," he said. "They lived on pills, didn't see the light of day and didn't play in the parks." The adults also suffered and about 20% of the town's residents, most of them in the higher economic strata, left for good, Moyal continued. "I saw my own neighbors pack up their things and leave. Had the shelling continued for another two or three years, Sderot would have become a ghost town." Moyal justified Operation Cast Lead, but said it came much too late. "The army should have struck in 2001, when the first rockets began to fall in Israel. That would have nipped the attacks in the bud." The former mayor added that although he supported a peace settlement, "we cannot stand by and see innocent civilians killed. Everyone who came to visit Sderot during the rocket attacks said we must defend ourselves. The attacks had to stop." He added that he disagreed with the government decision against cooperating with the Goldstone mission, even though he was skeptical about how fair it would be. "On the other hand, we should not leave a vacuum," he continued. "There will be a report one way or the other. We should testify under protest. That's what I intend to do, so that the mission members will know what I think."