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Home arrow Blog arrow October 2009 arrow October 20, 2009

October 20, 2009
October 20, 2009: Back to The GOLD: Missions, Motivations,Discussions, Interjections: UPDATE: Oct. 21, Justifying War Crimes as Self-Defense LEADS
October 21, 2009
Justifying War Crimes as Self-Defense
By Britain Eakin for MIFTAH


Ever since the release of the Goldstone Report, I have been waiting to hear the words that often deflect attention away from the reality of the Israeli occupation and its state-sponsored violence against Palestinians. I finally heard them when Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz declared that the United Nations Human Rights Council decision to endorse the Goldstone Report is anti-Semitic. On this basis it was argued that the vote represents an attempt to deny Israel the right to defend itself, a right not denied to other nations engaged in the War on Terror.

Israel tends to turn to this strategy when all else fails, perhaps because the cry of anti-Semitism hits a nerve with the West that runs very deep. Not only does the West suffer from immense guilt about the Holocaust, but it also believes in the ideal that democracies have a right to defend themselves, creating a captive audience for Israel to draw support from. While this is a strategy that Israel has fallen back on repeatedly in the past, the reality on the ground in Palestine tells a very different story.

From a rational and human perspective, I can not comprehend Israel’s justification and overall policy of targeting civilians as self-defense. Gaza lies in ruins; its civilian infrastructure was deliberately targeted and destroyed by Israel during Operation Cast Lead. With the continuation of the Israeli-imposed blockade, there is little ability to rebuild or recover. The level of trauma inflicted was severe, the results of which will have dire consequences for generations to come. Yet the default response from the West is to point the finger at the rocket fire as the source of the Gazans’ misery, and not to take a closer look at Israeli practices in the Palestinian territories.

Palestinian militant groups have fired some 8,000 homemade rockets, mortars and projectiles into southern Israel since 2001 that have killed approximately 13 Israelis. The Goldstone Report condemned the firing of these rockets and rightly so, asserting that they constitute war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity. Yet during that same time period, Israeli forces killed thousands of Palestinian civilians in Gaza alone, including hundreds of children. Defensible or not, the violence that emerges from Palestine is an indication that something is very wrong with the way they are treated.

Yet the accusation of anti-Semitism is intended to distort the view of Palestine from the outside, including from Israel. The resulting sentiment is that virtually all Palestinians are terrorists and must be treated accordingly, and while some may feel that Israeli-imposed violence is unfortunate, it doesn’t seem that people see any other option. The rockets are certainly counterproductive, and one can’t deny they have a traumatic psychological impact on the people living in the areas where the rockets land. But Israel did have other options in dealing with the rocket fire and dealing with the de facto Hamas leadership. War was not the last resort.

During the six-month long truce preceding Operation Cast Lead, rocket fire from Gaza came to a near halt. Hamas further offered to extend the truce for 10 years, which seemed to indicate a willingness to engage with Israel constructively. Yet Israel broke the ceasefire on November 4th 2008 by killing six Hamas members and demonstrating a preference for military action and unwillingness to pursue diplomacy. If Israel is really seeking peace, why did it sideline the diplomatic option in favor of a military operation, particularly considering that the rocket fire has not been eliminated and Hamas has not been neutralized? If the ultimate aim was to stop the rocket fire and protect the citizens of southern Israel, they could have extended the truce.

Of course claims of anti-Semitism are one of Israel’s strongest deflective strategies, and labeling the UNHRC vote as such is intended to conceal Israel’s crimes in Gaza. Racism can not and should not be tolerated and there is no doubt that racism against Jews still exists in the world as it does against many other groups of people, including Palestinians. However in labeling the UNHRC vote anti-Semitic, Israel is undermining its own future and diminishing the possibility of a peaceful resolution by refusing to confront itself. There is only one conclusion I can draw from this – the Israeli government is not interested in negotiating a settlement with the Palestinians, but wants to impose peace on its terms only.

Yet their actions always speak louder than words, and a primary example of this is Israel’s refusal to stop building settlements. The settlement enterprise is a strategic initiative designed to fragment and divide the West Bank, swallow east Jerusalem and prevent a Palestinian state from emerging while incorporating the maximum amount of land possible into Israel. This is not secret information – it is available to those who seek it out and it is happening right now, slowly but surely. So while they publicly talk of peace and a two-state solution while showing a noble face, behind the scenes they are working steadily to negate it.

And so it goes with Israel’s claim that the UNHRC vote was anti-Semitic. As long as they can deflect enough attention away from their crimes in Gaza and their illegal practices in the occupied territories, they can continue to do as they please. Yet at some point they will have to realize that the security of their own people should not and can not come at the expense of another. Until Israel can come to terms with this, Israelis and Palestinians both will live in a state of insecurity. It seems justice for the Palestinians will be the last resort, only after all other options have been exhausted.

Britain Eakin is a Writer for the Media and Information Program at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at

 

Article: http://www.miftah.org/Display.cfm?DocId=20811&CategoryId=13




Goldstone leads, Zobgy cleans up and I interject:


My mission - and motivation
Oct. 18, 2009
By Richard Goldstone ,
THE JERUSALEM POST

Five weeks after the release of the Report of the Fact Finding Mission on Gaza, there has been no attempt by any of its critics to come to grips with its substance. It has been fulsomely approved by those whose interests it is thought to serve and rejected by those of the opposite view. Those who attack it do so too often by making personal attacks on its authors' motives and those who approve it rely on its authors' reputations.

Israeli government spokesmen and those who support them have attacked it in the harshest terms and, in particular my participation, in a most personal and hurtful way. The time has now come for more sober reflection on what the report means and appropriate Israeli reactions to it.

I begin with my own motivation, as a Jew who has supported Israel and its people all my life, for having agreed to head the Gaza mission. Over the past 20 years, I have investigated serious violations of international law in my own country, South Africa, in the former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda and the alleged fraud and theft by governments and political leaders in a number of countries in connection with the United Nations Iraq Oil for Food program. In all of these, allegations reached the highest political echelons. In every instance, I spoke out strongly in favor of full investigations and, where appropriate, criminal prosecutions. I have spoken out over the years on behalf of the International Bar Association against human rights violations in many countries, including Sri Lanka, China, Russia, Iran, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

I would have been acting against those principles and my own convictions and conscience if I had refused a request from the United Nations to investigate serious allegations of war crimes against both Israel and Hamas in the context of Operation Cast Lead.

AS A Jew, I felt a greater and not a lesser obligation to do so. It is well documented that as a condition of my participation I insisted upon and received an evenhanded mandate to investigate all sides and that is what we sought to do.

I sincerely believed that because of my own record and the terms of the mission's mandate we would receive the cooperation of the Israeli government. Its refusal to cooperate was a grave error. My plea for cooperation was repeated before and during the investigation and it sits, plain as day, in the appendices of the Gaza report for those who actually bother to read it. Our mission obviously could only consider and report on what it saw, heard and read. If the government of Israel failed to bring facts and analyses to our attention, we cannot fairly be blamed for the consequences. Those who feel that our report failed to give adequate attention to specific incidents or issues should be asking the Israeli government why it failed to argue its cause.

Israel missed a golden opportunity to actually have a fair hearing from a UN-sponsored inquiry. Of course, I was aware of and have frequently spoken out against the unfair and exceptional treatment of Israel by the UN and especially by the Human Rights Council.

I did so again last week. Israel could have seized the opportunity provided by the even-handed mandate of our mission and used it as a precedent for a new direction by the United Nations in the Middle East. Instead, we were shut out.

As I stated in response to a recent letter from the mayor of Sderot, I believed strongly that our mission should have been allowed to visit Sderot and other parts of southern Israel that have been at the receiving end of unlawful attacks by many thousands of rockets and mortars fired at civilian targets by Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza. We were prevented from doing so by, what I believe, was a misguided decision by the Israeli government.

In Gaza, I was surprised and shocked by the destruction and misery there. I had not expected it. I did not anticipate that the IDF would have targeted civilians and civilian objects. I did not anticipate seeing the vast destruction of the economic infrastructure of Gaza including its agricultural lands, industrial factories, water supply and sanitation works. These are not military targets. I have not heard or read any government justification for this destruction.

OF COURSE the children of Sderot and the children of Gaza have the same rights to protection under international law and that is why, notwithstanding the decision of the government of Israel, we took whatever steps were open to us to obtain information from victims and experts in southern Israel about the effects on their lives of sustained rocket and mortar attacks over a period of years. It was on the strength of those investigations that we held those attacks to constitute serious war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.

[MY Evening in Sderot Read more... ]
 

 

The refusal of cooperation by the government of Israel did not prevent us from reacting positively to a request from Gilad Schalit's father to speak personally to our mission at its public session in Geneva. No one who heard his evidence could fail to have been moved by the unspeakable pain of a parent whose young son was being held for over three years in unlawful circumstances without any contact with the outside world and not even allowed visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross. The mission called for his release.

Israel and its courts have always recognized that they are bound by norms of international law that it has formally ratified or that have become binding as customary international law upon all nations. The fact that the United Nations and too many members of the international community have unfairly singled out Israel for condemnation and failed to investigate horrible human rights violations in other countries cannot make Israel immune from the very standards it has accepted as binding upon it.

Israel has a strong history of investigating allegations made against its own officials reaching to the highest levels of government: the inquiries into the Yom Kippur War, Sabra and Shatila, Bus 300 and the Second Lebanon War.

Israel has an internationally renowned and respected judiciary that should be envy of many other countries in the region.

[Vanunu VS the Unjust Justice System of Israel Read more... ]

 It has the means and ability to investigate itself. Has it the will?

The writer led the UN-mandated Gaza Fact-Finding Mission established to investigate alleged crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead earlier this year. The mission released its 575-page report last month.

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1255694838474&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull



Washington Watch
Goldstone: Discussed, but Not Read

By Dr. James Zogby
Posted on Monday October 19, 2009

The Goldstone Report is back, taking center stage in a raging international debate. What is most troubling, is not the circuitous route the Report took on its way to the United Nations Security Council. Rather, it is the fact that those making the most noise about the Report have, I fear, either not read it or are deliberately distorting its contents for political advantage. In fact, it may well be that, by now, the Goldstone Report has eclipsed the Iraq Study Group Report as the most discussed, least read, document of the decade.

When it was first released by the UN Human Rights Council, reactions were predictable. Some U.S. officials dismissed it as “flawed” and “unbalanced”, while Members of Congress went further using shameful language to attack both the Report and its principle author. Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu also reacted, as expected, alternating between bullying ultimatums to end the “peace process”, and dire warnings that the Report posed an existential threat to the State of Israel.

Since they, too, stood accused by the findings of the Report, Hamas also initially denounced it, issuing a vile anti-Semitic diatribe directed at Goldstone himself.

For its part, the Obama Administration, not wanting the Report’s findings to become an obstacle to restarting Middle East peace negotiations, pressed the Palestinians and other parties on the Human Rights Council to postpone consideration. At that, Netanyahu declared victory, and the Palestinian side was thrown into convulsions, with serious charges of betrayal directed at the leadership.

It is distressing that the U.S. did not anticipate the impact that their pressure on the Palestinians would have. But miscalculations of this type are frequent since, although the U.S. keeps a watchful eye on internal Israeli politics, they rarely consider the internal Arab political dynamic—often with tragic consequences.

In any case, to calm troubled seas, the Palestinian President reconsidered, and, in concert with allies, brought the Goldstone Report back to the Human Rights Council and then on to the Security Council.

Now that it is back, not much has changed. Netanyahu, speaking in the Knesset last week, referred to the Goldstone Report as a “distorted report written by a distorted committee [that] undermines Israel’s right to defend itself. This report defends terrorism and threatens peace.” His Defense Minister, Ehud Barack, chimed in describing the report as “false, distorted, tenacious, and encouraging terrorism.” Enlarging on all this, AIPAC sent out talking points to their Congressional supporters calling Goldstone “biased and one-sided”, criticizing the report’s “findings and methodologies.” And a U.S. spokesperson dismissively said that the Palestinians had a choice to make between statehood and vindication, implying that they had made the wrong choice.

Still discussed, but not read.

I had the distinct honor to have lunch a few weeks back with Justice Richard Goldstone. I say honor because, not only was he the first Justice appointed by President Nelson Mandela to South Africa’s Constitutional Court, he is a legend in the human rights community for his work investigating and prosecuting war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Despite being in the center of a storm, he is a remarkably composed man. As a jurist, his words are weighed, his observations are precise, and his judgments informed.

As he has made clear in interviews, he expanded on the Human Rights Council’s limited mandate to include, in his investigations, not only the Gaza War, but the events leading up to that war, holding all parties involved accountable for their behavior.

In order to prepare the Report, Goldstone’s team spent considerable time in Gaza conducting a few hundred interviews, reading thousands of pages of reports, and conducting public hearings in the Middle East and in Geneva. In all, they investigated 36 specific events, providing an exhaustive narrative report on their findings, and then a review of applicable human rights law and conventions.

Many of the incidents covered in the report will be familiar to those who followed the December/January Gaza War. It examines, for example, the attacks on hospitals and mosques, and the widely reported killings of Gaza civilians. The Report also looks at incidents that are not so well known, several of which are covered in a section titled “Attacks on the Foundation of Civilian Life in Gaza: Destruction of Industrial Infrastructure, Food Production, Water Installations, Sewage Treatment, and Housing.” These include: the total destruction of the Al-Bader Flour Mill, the bulldozing and “systematic flattening” of the Sawafaery Chicken Farm (killing all 31,000 chickens), and the bombing of the raw sewage lagoons of the Gaza Water Sewage Treatment Plant causing 200,000 cubic meters of raw sewage to contaminate neighboring farmlands. These, the Report concludes, were not military targets, and were instead evidence of, “unlawful and wanton destruction, not justified by military necessity” and, hence, a war crimes.

Not only Israeli behavior was investigated, Hamas was also called to account for its violations of law, specifically with regard to the detention and treatment of Gilad Shalit, their indiscriminate bombing of Israeli citizens, and their repressive and deadly targeting of political rivals in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority was also found responsible for a range of human rights abuses, most especially, repression and violence against their political rivals in the West Bank.

Now that the report has been voted out of the Human Rights Council and forwarded to the Security Council, the gamesmanship continues. The Israelis will throw a another temper tantrum, the U.S. will attempt to dismiss the entire discussion as a false choice between human rights and peace, and the U.S. Congress will no doubt get into the mix in some unhelpful way. And the competing Palestinian parties will continue to see the Report as a club to use against one another.

I dare say that while its authors believed that the Goldstone Report would create a debate, they did not anticipate this firestorm. That it is back center stage is a good thing. But the problem remains. With all the political posturing and the heated debate, sadly, in all probability, the report will not be acted upon, nor will it be read. It should be, for there is much in it from which all sides can learn.

http://www.aaiusa.org/washington-watch

   
 
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