The United Nations "fact-finding" mission headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone issued a report last month accusing Israel of violating international law and committing war crimes while largely absolving Hamas' conduct during last winter's Gaza war.
Despite a significant body of evidence to the contrary, the Goldstone panel said it "did not find any evidence to support the allegations that hospital facilities were used by the Gaza authorities or Palestinian armed groups to shield military activities and that ambulances were used to transport combatants or for other military purposes."
But the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reports that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas says Hamas ignored Palestinian suffering during the war and commandeered ambulances for military use.
"When the [Israeli] aggression took place, [Hamas] leaders in Gaza and abroad said: 'We don't care if Gaza is erased,' " Abbas said in an October 13 speech at the Arab American University in Jenin. "All they care about is that the Hamas movement continue[s] to exist."
Abbas added that senior Hamas leaders Ismail Haniya and Khaled Mishal belittled Palestinian suffering in Gaza.
"Yet the Hamas movement is alive and well," Abbas said. "The Hamas movement was hiding under the domes [of mosques]. The Hamas leaders – and I say this for the first time – fled to the Sinai in ambulances, leaving their people to be slaughtered. Then they say: 'We put up resistance.' "
On September 16 (the day after the U.N. issued the Goldstone report), Palestinian Media Watch re-released a series of reports it has issued dating back to last year about Hamas' use of civilians to shield military operations in the war against Israel. These include the following from the May 20, 2009 edition of Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, a Palestinian newspaper associated with Abbas, about Hamas' use of ambulances as military vehicles:
"The [Palestinian] Health Ministry stated yesterday that Hamas militias had raided 46 ambulances, donated by Arab states during the recent aggression on the Gaza Strip, of the medical equipment that they contained…and used them as military vehicles to arrest civilians, after painting [the ambulances] black. The Ministry's director of public relations and information, Dr. Omar Nasr…said that medical equipment removed from the ambulances was expensive. He demanded that the Hamas militias declare, courageously and openly, what had become of the thousands of tons of medical equipment which had been brought into the Gaza Strip as assistance for the Palestinian people."
As it comes under scrutiny, the Goldstone report looks increasingly like an exercise in Israel-bashing and whitewashing Hamas' brutal subjugation of its own people. Read more here about how the Goldstone report largely ignored the many ways in which Hamas' conduct of the war brought death and suffering to Palestinian civilians.