Monday, September 21

The War in Gaza and Goldstone Report

The Goldstone Report has come out on Operation Cast Lead - the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) military operation against Hamas terrorists in Gaza. The report damned Israel and certainly not with faint praise.

The severity of this report against IDF human rights abuses and the horrific destruction of infrastructure and the killing of innocent civilians are indisputable in Gaza. In a military operation of this nature this is expected. The report accuses Israel of war crimes. What was also expected is Israel's condemnation of the report and this has caused a flurry of diplomatic activity seeking worldwide support for the IDF and justification for the wanton destruction and carnage in Gaza.

Despite irrefutable proof of the use of white phosphorous against innocent people, IDF remains in denial.

A large proportion of the blame for the Goldstone Report findings must be laid on Israel. Israel refused to cooperate and refused the commission investigators entry into Israel. Much damage was caused to homes in towns in southern Israel but relatively few deaths and injuries. Perhaps an explanation for this was the discipline of the citizens who sought shelter in security rooms when sirens were sounded every time there was Qassam rocket fire targeting Israel. The Palestinians, on the other hand, had no recourse whatsoever to any protection from Israeli military activity. As stated in the Goldstone Report many were even used as human shields by Hamas during the hostilities.

The Israeli government made up its mind that the UN sponsored commission was biased. One of the world's most eminent judges, Richard Goldstone, a South African Jew, whose positive connections to Israel is well-known, cannot be called unfair or biased in his own right. He even stated that he regrets that Israel's attitude towards the investigation was negative and uncooperative. This had influenced the commission's findings.

What went wrong? Israel's attitude towards the investigations was negative. Israel had prejudiced the investigation by not cooperating even though it was invited to participate.

In an investigation of any kind a law court accepts evidence from all sides - the defense’s witnesses as well as the prosecution's witnesses before the judge weighs out the evidence and decrees a ruling. The judge arrives at a ruling based on the evidence presented to him. However, if there is insufficient evidence presented from the one side, the ruling is based on the evidence made available from the other side and conclusions are drawn as well as judgment. Judgment is passed if there is overwhelming evidence to justify it.

Israel refused to cooperate with the Goldstone Commission stating that it was biased from the start. The reason for this is that Israel regards UN sponsored commissions as being automatically prejudiced to Israel. Israel therefore felt that it was under no obligation to cooperate with any UN body focusing on the Gaza operation.

Judge Goldstone even expressed his great disappointment with Israel for denying the investigators entry into Israel to investigate what happened in Sderot and other areas affected by Hamas terrorist Qassam rocket fire.

Why did Israel not cooperate in this by allowing victims of Hamas terror to give evidence to the Goldstone commission? This resulted in most of the evidence coming from Gaza which the Palestinians, who had suffered from the merciless IDF actions, had supplied. The commission had carte blanche there. The massive destruction of buildings and 1300 Palestinians killed was emphasized to the commission. Apart from that, there was no lack of Palestinian witnesses willing to give evidence.

On the Israeli side there was an uncomfortable silence and lack of information as well as cooperation. A grave mistake was made and this was evident in the result of the Goldstone Report. This report was the result of the evidence made available and that Israel refused to cooperate.

Surely had Israel cooperated, the report would have been less damning of Israel. The often quoted epithet that "Israel has the most humane army in the world" does not wash down anymore in international forums nor does the justification of “unavoidable collateral damage” because of Hamas gunmen hiding themselves amongst the civilian population. The automatic Israeli reaction to the report shows shallowness, lack of knowledge and self-righteousness that is a similar reaction to a criminal in denial after having been found guilty of a heinous crime despite the irrefutable evidence made available in court to prove his guilt.

Now the "fun" begins as the Netanyahu-Lieberman Government sends its diplomats scurrying all over the world in a desperate bid to justify Israel's action and to refute the Goldstone Report findings.

This could have been avoided and it is doubtful if this intensive diplomatic activity will change attitudes.

The reason for Operation Cast Lead is well known. The motive was to end the Hamas firing of Qassam rockets into Israeli towns. Hamas was warned to cease their terrorist acts against Israel or else they will pay a heavy price. The warning went unheeded.

It must be noted that the unilateral Israeli disengagement from Gaza without any agreement was a massive error on Israel's side. There was no attempt by the Palestinian rulers in Gaza to build residential areas or develop the area vacated by the settlers. Instead it became a haven for Hamas terrorists to fire Qassam rockets into Israel. The Goldstone Report did not make much mention of this.

The purpose of the Goldstone Report was to investigate human rights violations and not to seek justification for it as Israel would have desired.

Another question that arises is whether Hamas will also be held accountable for the deaths of Israeli civilians and damage caused by their Qassams any less than Israel.

According to an article by Justice Richard Goldstone published in International Herald Tribune (18th Sept 2009), the Goldstone Report findings was concerned with the suffering of civilians because of hostilities of the war. Surely this is applicable to both sides - the IDF and Hamas terrorists who both stand accused of human rights abuses of both Israeli and Palestinians.

Both sides ought to be brought to the International Court of Justice at The Hague for accountability. The excuse that Hamas is not accountable is unacceptable! It was elected to rule Gaza by a majority in elections. Its human rights record even towards its own people is poor.

Hamas has broken every rule on human rights. The holding of Gilad Shalit in captivity without a chance of release or communication with his family is a severe violation of the Geneva Convention rules. It should also be part of the Goldstone Report as well which is so concerned with human rights abuses in war time. Operation Cast Lead was also launched as a response for the release of Gilad Shalit. The campaign failed and with it any hope of an early release.

This highly emotionally charged issue of the Goldstone Report resulted in severe criticism from Israel and as mentioned earlier in this article it was expected.

However, if one examines the report in its entirety without sentiment and in straight legalistic terms, it is a reasonable finding despite the immense difficulties involved in its compilation and lack of Israeli cooperation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Analysis: Blocking the truth behind the Gaza war