Saturday, October 24

The Goldstone Report and Self-examination

The Goldstone Report has caused reverberations throughout Israel as well as in the Diaspora. As expected, the report is viewed as being biased with a positive tilt towards the Palestinian side.

The accusations against Israel committing war crimes against the Palestinians are unfair in as far as Israel's intentions are concerned. These intentions were to neutralize Hamas terrorist activity against Israel's citizens. There is no doubt that innocent Palestinians had suffered many losses - fatalities, injury and destruction of property.

Much of this was due to the cruel use of innocent Palestinians as human shields behind which Hamas terrorists hid. This was achieved by Hamas force and threats to annihilate Palestinian families who do not provide shelter for Hamas terrorists. Verification of Israel’s claims that it had avoided injuring innocent Palestinians needs clarification.

Hamas and its terrorist allied groups are irregular militants who do not abide by any Geneva Convention Laws of warfare. Their cruel practices and manipulations paid dividends as far as the Goldstone Report findings are concerned. The UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) had interviewed Palestinian witnesses and based its findings on their statements.

There were no Israeli witnesses and this was a severe tactical error on Israel's part. Israel never allowed UN investigators to interview victims of Qassam missiles. The reason being, according to Israel's view, that the UN investigators are biased against Israel and therefore had no right to come to Israel to investigate victims of Qassam missiles and Hamas terror as it would have no influence on the outcome of the report in their (Israel's) view. This attitude is open to debate.

At least, if Israel would have been more accommodating, testimony of Israeli witnesses could have been placed on record, even if the UNHRC was biased towards Israel. The testimony would have been documented as evidence from the Israeli side. The Netanyahu coalition surely exhibited shortsightedness in this regard.

The detailed accounts of reputed crimes against Palestinians committed by the IDF are questionable. The possibility of the tragedies suffered by innocent Palestinians could be because of Hamas hostile activity against Israel's citizens over the past 8 years. It is always easy for an uninvolved party to pass judgment on so-called human rights abuses or war crimes. The question that one is tempted to ask is how would any sovereign country react against terrorists who threaten its population at every opportunity? Did the US treat the Iraqis with kid gloves when their soldiers were threatened on Iraqi soil or for that matter the Afghanis?

Always lurking in the background is Israel's credibility. Israel is an occupying power no matter how one views it. This is certainly a factor. It weakens Israel's standing amongst the world of nations. While there is talk of freezing settlement activity in order to create an atmosphere more conducive to peace negotiations, Israel has been expanding settlements and even building new ones. Surely if Israel was serious in accepting the two-state solution as PM Netanyahu had stated recently, albeit with severe limitations, then gestures of freezing settlement activity would be a move in the right direction.

On the other hand, Hamas is very intransigent irrespective of whether Israel is an occupying power or not.

There has been unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005, and Hamas is in control there. Hamas showed no signs of improving the situation for their citizens. All they did was instill hate for Israel, demonizing the Jewish people and moving closer to the destructive Hezbollah-Iranian camp. They encouraged terrorism against Israeli citizens and did not show any inclination to become part of a peace process or a desire for responsible government which is the least they owe their people.

The Goldstone Report did not denigrate Hamas for the initiation of the Gaza War for which it was responsible but only stated in passing its minuscule responsibility for war crimes committed.

In conclusion, the Goldstone Report stated that Israel committed war crimes against the Palestinians while Hamas is let off rather lightly.

The recommendations of the Goldstone Report are that both parties to the conflict institute a commission of enquiry on the allegations of committing war crimes. Israel is prepared to do this but not Hamas. Hamas-ruled Gaza is not a sovereign state where the rule of law prevails. Hamas glorifies terrorist activities against innocent Israelis and its policies clearly support the non-recognition of Israel and its total destruction. How can the Goldstone Report even recommend that Hamas institute an enquiry into war crimes that it had committed? It will never happen. Does this mean that Hamas will land up in the International Court of Justice accused of war crimes? This is most unlikely. Hamas does not represent a state. There is no rule of law in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Opponents of the Hamas regime are tortured and even murdered. How can this evil band of terrorists be held accountable for anything? The Goldstone Report glibly overlooked Hamas responsibility for the Gaza War and intense suffering of the Palestinians for which it was clearly responsible.

This has placed the eminent Judge, Richard Goldstone, in the ingenious situation of being a protégé of Hamas which was certainly not his intention. It seems as if he was manipulated by the UNHRC

Human Rights Watch insisted that Hamas should launch a "credible investigation" into serious violations by its fighters during Operation Cast Lead. Even if this were an option, Hamas would say that Israel is responsible for war crimes against Palestinians and this would automatically absolve Hamas from any responsibility for war crimes against the Palestinians. There is no way that Hamas, with their band of terrorists and potential suicide bombers will institute a commission of enquiry into war crimes against both Israelis and Palestinians especially the former.


Some ministers want
A sham investigation,
Without defining responsibility
And without uncovering
The army’s actions.
That will not reduce
The pressure.

What is needed is a
State investigation committee,
Headed by a Superior Court judge,
To hear testimonies
From soldiers and Gaza residents,
In public and in the presence
Of international observers.

For the Israeli government
That is the lesser evil.

Ad published in Haaretz, October 23, 2009


Stewart Mills said...

Shimon Zachary,

The Goldstone report has generated a lot of controversy. Sadly this is due more to paranoia, misinformation and disinformation than the actual contents of the report. This controversy is part-and–parcel of the information wars that is characteristic of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

What people misunderstand is that the mission was designed to idemtify if there was a prima facie case to recommend both sides conduct breaches of international law. What is ironic is that it took 262 pages of evidence to establish prima facie grounds that Israel should investigate such breaches whereas it only took 19 pages to establish a prima facie case for the Palestinians to investigate such breaches of international law.

I will be the first to condemn any group from firing rockets into Israel; just as I will be the first to argue that it does not serve Israel's intersts to mishandle military operations in Gaza (and then try and deny wrong-doing, blame the other or in this case try and vilify Richard Goldstone).

When will we learn that violence from either side does not bring about a peace that we all seek.

Stewart Mills
Sydney, Australia

bav said...

we must look at the facts