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Justice in Gaza - Richard Goldstone

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Scurrilous Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 11:13 AM
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Justice in Gaza - Richard Goldstone

"I ACCEPTED with hesitation my United Nations mandate to investigate alleged violations of the laws of war and international human rights during Israels three-week war in Gaza last winter. The issue is deeply charged and politically loaded. I accepted because the mandate of the mission was to look at all parties: Israel; Hamas, which controls Gaza; and other armed Palestinian groups. I accepted because my fellow commissioners are professionals committed to an objective, fact-based investigation.

But above all, I accepted because I believe deeply in the rule of law and the laws of war, and the principle that in armed conflict civilians should to the greatest extent possible be protected from harm.

In the fighting in Gaza, all sides flouted that fundamental principle. Many civilians unnecessarily died and even more were seriously hurt. In Israel, three civilians were killed and hundreds wounded by rockets from Gaza fired by Hamas and other groups. Two Palestinian girls also lost their lives when these rockets misfired.

In Gaza, hundreds of civilians died. They died from disproportionate attacks on legitimate military targets and from attacks on hospitals and other civilian structures. They died from precision weapons like missiles from aerial drones as well as from heavy artillery. Repeatedly, the Israel Defense Forces failed to adequately distinguish between combatants and civilians, as the laws of war strictly require.

Israel is correct that identifying combatants in a heavily populated area is difficult, and that Hamas fighters at times mixed and mingled with civilians. But that reality did not lift Israels obligation to take all feasible measures to minimize harm to civilians.

Our fact-finding team found that in many cases Israel could have done much more to spare civilians without sacrificing its stated and legitimate military aims. It should have refrained from attacking clearly civilian buildings, and from actions that might have resulted in a military advantage but at the cost of too many civilian lives. In these cases, Israel must investigate, and Hamas is obliged to do the same. They must examine what happened and appropriately punish any soldier or commander found to have violated the law."

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Scurrilous Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 03:23 PM
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1. Disgrace in The Hague - Gideon Levy

"There's a name on every bullet, and there's someone responsible for every crime. The Teflon cloak Israel has wrapped around itself since Operation Cast Lead has been ripped off, once and for all, and now the difficult questions must be faced. It has become superfluous to ask whether war crimes were committed in Gaza, because authoritative and clear-cut answers have already been given. So the follow-up question has to be addressed: Who's to blame? If war crimes were committed in Gaza, it follows that there are war criminals at large among us. They must be held accountable and punished. This is the harsh conclusion to be drawn from the detailed United Nations report.

For almost a year, Israel has been trying to argue that the blood spilled in Gaza was merely water. One report followed the other, with horrifyingly identical results: siege, white phosphorous, harm of innocent civilians, infrastructure destroyed - war crimes in each and every report. Now, after the publication of the most important and damning report of all, compiled by the commission led by Judge Richard Goldstone, Israel's attempts to discredit them look ludicrous, and the empty bluster of its spokespersons sound pathetic.

So far they have focused on the messengers, not their messages: the researcher for Human Rights Watch collects Nazi memorabilia, Breaking the Silence is a business and Amnesty International is anti-Semitic. All cheap propaganda. This time, though, the messenger is propaganda-proof. No one can seriously claim that Goldstone, an active and ardent Zionist, with deep links to Israel, is an anti-Semite. It would be ridiculous.

Although there were some propagandists who actually tried to use the anti-Semitism weapon against him, even they knew this was farcical. One had to hear the moving interview that Goldstone's daughter Nicole gave to Razi Barkai on Army Radio Wednesday, to understand that he is in fact a lover of Israel and its true friend. She spoke, in Hebrew, of the mental anguish her father experienced and of his conviction that, had he not been there, the report would have been much worse. All he wants is an Israel that is more just, she explained.

Neither can anyone doubt his legal credentials, as a top-level international jurist with an impeccable reputation. The man who found out the truth about Rwanda and Yugoslavia has now done the same regarding Gaza. The former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague is not only a legal authority, he is also a moral authority; therefore complaints about the judge won't hold water. Instead, it is time to look closer at the accused. Those responsible are first and foremost Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Gabi Ashkenazi. So far, incredibly, none of them has paid any price for their misdeeds.

Cast Lead was an unrestrained assault on a besieged, totally unprotected civilian population which showed almost no signs of resistance during this operation. It should have raised an immediate furor in Israel. It was a Sabra and Chatila, this time carried out by us. But there was a storm of protest in this country following Sabra and Chatila, whereas after Cast Lead mere citations were dished out.

It should have been enough just to look at the horrendous disparity in casualties - 100 Palestinians killed for every Israeli - to shake the whole of Israeli society. There was no need to wait for Goldstone to understand that a terrible thing had occurred between the Palestinian David and the Israeli Goliath. But the Israelis preferred to look away, or stand with their children on the hills around Gaza and cheer on the carnage-causing bombs."

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shira Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 03:36 PM
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2. Point / Counterpoint: A letter to Richard Goldstone
Edited on Thu Sep-17-09 03:39 PM by shira

Counterpoint to:

Justice in Gaza
For the equal application of international justice, the perpetrators of serious violations must be held to account."
Richard Goldstone
The New York Times
September 17, 2009

Dear Dr. Goldstone,
You have just published one of the most damning condemnations of Israel in the country's modern history. Apart from accusing Israel of war crimes, severe human rights violations, and possibly crimes against humanity, you have shown contempt for Israel's widely respected judicial system (respected even by Israel's Arab neighbors) as well as for the level of freedom and civil liberties enjoyed by its citizens.

Please be aware, Dr. Goldstone, that few in Israel will argue, least of all I, that there is much to criticize in Israel. Israel has never claimed to be a perfect society (which society is?), and in fact, nowhere is there more criticism of Israel than within Israel itself. Self-criticism has been defined here as a national pastime.

The commission of inquiry that you led was established by the United Nations Human Rights Council, an organization described in The London Times as "an international body utterly lacking in credibility or balance" and whose actions were unsupported by the European Union, Canada, Japan, and Switzerland. So we thought we knew what to expect from your investigation.

It was therefore quite interesting to read in The New York Times your explanation of the proceedings that led you to produce and publish such a report.

You accepted the leadership of the commission with "hesitation" you say, because "the issue is deeply charged and politically loaded." That is very true, and a good starting point. You then explain: "I accepted because my fellow commissioners are professionals committed to an objective, fact-based investigation."

But even you, Dr. Goldstone, must admit that there are grave doubts about the accuracy of that statement, particularly since one of your fellow commissioners, Christine Chinkin, published her very clear opinions against Israel before joining your team. Apparently, there was not a single person on your team to propose the Israel view for consideration, yourself included.

Would you have considered including on your team British army colonel Richard Kemp, who has declared: "I don't think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza"?

You write that repeatedly, the Israel Defense Forces failed to adequately distinguish between combatants and civilians, as the laws of war strictly require. Well I challenge you to find one single country that has strictly distinguished between combatants and civilians in any war.

There is nothing strictly accurate about war, even with its most modern weapons. Your discussion of "precision weapons" such as "missiles from aerial drones as well as from heavy artillery" shows a remarkable lack of understanding about the nature of war. You really should have had Colonel Kemp on your team.

One of your more incredible statements in your New York Times article relates to you being "unaware of any case where a Hamas fighter was punished for deliberately shooting a rocket into a civilian area in Israel."

Dr. Goldstone, this statement of yours could hardly be more ridiculous. It is like saying that you are unaware of any case where Adolf Eichman ever punished one of his subordinates for harming Jews.

If Hamas had actually punished their people for attacks against Israeli citizens there would have been no Gaza campaign, there would be no closure of the Gaza Strip, and the territory could have flourished economically. The attacks against Israeli civilians, Dr. Goldstone, are at the very core of the Gaza problem.

But actually your statement that has left us most aghast is:

"Failing to pursue justice for serious violations during the fighting will have a deeply corrosive effect on international justice, and reveal an unacceptable hypocrisy. As a service to the hundreds of civilians who needlessly died and for the equal application of international justice, the perpetrators of serious violations must be held to account."

It is difficult to fathom, Dr. Goldstone, that you truly believe that your commission has applied "international justice" equally to Israel in Gaza, as it is being applied elsewhere in the world. Have you ever heard of Chechnya, Tibet, Darfur, Congo, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan? And the list is virtually endless.

Let's be honest. Israel has been singled out disproportionately for opprobrium by your commission and by the organization that sent you. Equal application of justice was as far from the commission's minds as it could possibly be.

But hypocrisy, on the other hand, was apparently not, and seems to have played a central role in the commission's proceedings.

Your daughter, Nicole, who announced in an interview that she expects to host you at her home in Toronto for Rosh Hashana, has described you as "a Zionist who loves Israel."

Dr. Goldstone, if you are a friend of Israel, then we most definitely do not need enemies.
Wishing you a pleasant Rosha Hashana in Toronto, and especially a reflective Yom Kippur.

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