This writer's September 21, 2009 article titled "Goldstone Commission Gaza Conflict Findings and Reactions"
On April 3, 2009, a UN press release stated:
"The Human Rights Council (HRC) today announced the appointment of Richard J. Goldstone....to lead an independent (four-person) fact-finding mission to investigate international human rights and humanitarian law violations related to the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip....The team will be supported by staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights....Today's appointment comes following the adoption of a resolution by the Human Rights Council....to address 'the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip."
Established by the UN General Assembly on March 15, 2006, the HRC's 47 member states are "responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe."
As a former South African Constitutional Court justice, Goldstone is a respected jurist. He also served as chief prosecutor for the Yugoslavia and Rwanda tribunals and is a Hebrew University board member. As a Jew, he promised to be fair and even-handed, and "hope(s) that the findings....will make a meaningful contribution to the peace process....and will provide justice for the victims."
At the time, Israel refused to cooperate, Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, saying: "This committee is instructed not to seek out the truth but to single out Israel for alleged crimes." He then accused the Council of having "practically (no) credibility at all."
On September 15, the HRC released the Commission's 575 page report, titled Human Rights in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories: Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.
It covered Operation Cast Lead, the Gaza siege, the impact of Israel's West Bank military occupation, and much more including:
- events between the "ceasefire" period from June 18, 2008 to Israel's initiated hostilities on December 27, 2008;
- applicable international law
- Occupied Gaza under siege;
- an overview of Operation Cast Lead;
- the obligations of both sides to protect civilians;
- indiscriminate Israeli attacks on civilians resulting in many hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries;
- "the use of certain weapons;"
- attacking "the foundations of civilian life in Gaza: destruction of industrial infrastructure, food production, water installations, sewage treatment plants and housing;"
- using Palestinians as human shields;
- detention and incarceration of Gazans during the conflict;
- the IDF's objectives and strategy;
- impact of the siege and military operations on Gazans and their human rights;
- the detention of the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit;
- internal Gaza violence - Hamas v. Fatah;
- the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem;
- Israel's treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank, including excessive or lethal force during demonstrations;
- Palestinians in Israeli prisons;
- Israeli violations of free movement and access rights;
- Fatah targeting Hamas supporters in the West Bank, and restricting free assembly and expression;
- rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli civilians;
- repression of dissent, access to information, and treatment of human rights defenders in Israel;
- Israeli responses to war crimes charges;
- proceedings by Palestinian authorities;
- universal jurisdiction;
- reparations; and
- conclusions and recommendations.
A UN September 15 press release stated that the Mission concluded that "there is evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity."
Evidence presented was detailed and damning, resulting in the deaths of over 1,400 Palestinians, thousands injured, many seriously, and extensive damage or destruction of homes, businesses, factories, schools, hospitals, mosques, farmland, infrastructure, and various other targets unrelated to military necessity in violation of international law.
Operation Cast Lead disregarded the principles of distinction and proportionality:
- distinction between combatants and military targets v. civilians and non-military ones; attacking the latter ones are war crimes except when civilians participate in hostilities; and
- proportionality prohibits disproportionate, indiscriminate force likely to cause damage to or loss of lives and objects.
Israel willfully and maliciously violated international law by attacking 1.5 million people under siege, mostly civilians, indiscriminately and disproportionately, and continues to this day intermittently through incursions, bombings, expanding buffer zones preventing farmers from using up to 30% of their land, and other actions.
Unsurprisingly, the Commission concluded "that the Israeli military operation was directed at the people of Gaza as a whole, in furtherance of an overall and continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population, and in a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed at the civilian population. The destruction of food supply installations, water sanitation systems, concrete factories and residential houses was the result of a deliberate and systematic policy which has made the daily process of living, and dignified living, more difficult for the civilian population."
Unsurprisingly, Israeli officials condemned the report, dismissing it out of hand. President Shimon Peres called it "a mockery of history" and charged that it "fails to distinguish between the aggressor and a state exercising its right of self defense....The report legitimizes terrorist activity, the pursuit of murder and death. The report disregards the duty and right of self-defense...."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:
"The Goldstone report is a kangaroo court against Israel, whose consequences harm the struggle of democratic countries against terror."
Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, called the report "a dangerous attempt to harm the principle of self-defense by democratic states and provides legitimacy to terrorism. (It's) a cynical attempt at role reversal in blaming Israel for war crimes instead of terrorist organizations." He added that Israel would enlist the support of Western democracies in a campaign "to prevent turning international law into a circus."
Defense Secretary, Ehud Barak, said the report constituted "a prize for terrorism. The comparison between those who foment terrorism and its victims is unconscionable."
Because world outrage was audible and damning, Israel was forced on the defensive to explain egregious, unjustifiable crimes, damage control it's engaged in since with help from its usual allies - the dominant media, Washington, other Western governments, and an array of pro-Israeli zealots, some examples below.
On September 17, Washington Post writer Colum Lynch headlined, "US Rejects UN Proposal to Compel War Crimes Probes of Gaza Conflict," saying:
Ambassador Susan Rice "rejected a UN proposal to compel Israel and Hamas....to conduct credible investigations into war crimes during last winter's war in Gaza or face possible prosecution by an international prosecutor." In August, Washington blocked efforts for an emergency Security Council session to discuss Goldstone's findings.
In November 2009, the US House passed a non-binding resolution denouncing the Goldstone report (344 - 36), urging Obama and Secretary Clinton to unequivocally oppose it.
In September, calling the Goldstone Report flawed and biased, 30 Senators (Republicans and Democrats) wrote Secretary Clinton, saying it's "critical that the US continue to work very hard to block any punitive actions against Israel....whether at the Security Council or other UN bodies."
For over a half century, Washington vetoed dozens of Security Council resolutions condemning or censuring Israel for its actions, deploring it for committing them, or demanding, calling on or urging its leaders to end what international law calls crimes of war and against humanity.
Selected Media and Other Responses
On May 6, 2010, Israel's largest circulation newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, assailed Goldstone's "dark side" as a judge during South Africa's apartheid era, saying he "sentenced dozens of blacks mercilessly to their death." (Most) of them were found guilty of murder and sought to appeal the verdict," Goldstone saying in one verdict that society "demands that a price be paid for crimes it rightfully views as frightening." In another, that "the death penalty is the only punishment likely to deter such acts."
Goldstone maintained that he never discriminated against black defendants, and acted fairly even though he was morally opposed to the laws he was accountable to uphold.
Former South African Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson, a defender of apartheid victims, agreed, saying:
"It is absolute nonsense to say that Justice Goldstone took the side of the racist policies of the apartheid regime. He was one of a small group of judges who did their best to mitigate (its) harshness....and when we went to court to defend (its) victims....in criminal cases or to make claims on their behalf in the civil courts he was one of the judges that we hoped would hear our cases" because of his fairness.
In addition, President Nelson Mandela, a former victim, appointed him to a post-apartheid constitutional court. In 1991, he had him chair a human rights inquiry into the regime's abuses.
Nonetheless, Israel's Foreign Ministry welcomed the revelations, calling them "explosive PR material" to be distributed worldwide and used against him. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin called Goldstone a "man of double standards, (and that) Such a person should not be allowed to lecture a democratic state defending itself against terrorists...." Other Israeli officials expressed similar views.
On May 7, the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg labeled Goldstone a "Hanging Judge," calling him a man without a moral compass....intermittently principled (who) knew his....record would one day catch up with him."
The New Republic's Jonathan Chait called South Africa's apartheid "The Real Kind" and that Yedioth Ahronoth added "some texture to the portrait of Goldstone as a man....disinclined to make a brave, lonely stand against the prevailing currents."
Commentary's Jennifer Rubin implied Goldstone is a racist in assailing Tikkun and J Street's support. She then addressed "the endemic problem of the UN - they always get their man - i.e., Israel - because the 'investigators' are selected for the express purpose of dummying up evidence to defame and delegitimize the Jewish state. It's no accident Goldstone reached the conclusions he did, and it's no accident that the UN selected him."
The Anti-Defamation League called the "Goldstone Report (a) Grave Danger to Israel," saying it "undermines Israel's right to self-defense (in) calling on (him) to repudiate his report" in an open letter.
It accused him of "plac(ing) Israel and the Jewish people in significant danger (and) has become the major focal point for action by every anti-Israeli force in the world."
The Jewish Daily Forward's Nathan Guttman worried about the Report's damning findings and its "recommendation to refer the issue to the International Criminal Court if Israel refused to launch an independent investigation of its own." He expects "Jewish groups and pro-Israel activists (to) fight (the Report) in the public arena to ensure that its findings are not adopted as world public opinion," hoping for "a quick burial" of its revelations.
The pro-Israeli NGO Monitor accused Goldstone-supportive human rights NGOs of "fail(ing) to meet....fundamental ethical standards" for their bias, lack of objectivity and proper sources, and drawing predetermined conclusions. It accused Commission members for their lack of "competence, experience and expertise."
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) praised the Obama administration's "principled criticism of Goldstone('s) fact-finding mission." Weeks earlier, ZOA "condemn(ed) Goldstone's despicable anti-Israeli UN report, based on unsubstantiated testimony & perversion of legal norms."
Its president, Morton Klein, said: "The ZOA condemns this atrocious, new installment in the international effort to delegitimize Israel, using perverted and spurious norms of international law in order to invalidate Israel's elementary, fundamental right and obligation to defend its territory and its citizens. It is nothing less than an anti-Semitic, Israel-bashing, immoral piece of trash."
Shakespeare's Hamlet quote comes to mind: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks," here meaning those doing it know disturbing truths and wish to suppress them.
On November 5, 2009, the UN General Assembly, in support of the Goldstone Report, passed Resolution 10883 (114 to 18 with 44 abstentions) titled, "By Recorded Vote, General Assembly Urges Israel, Palestinians to Conduct Credible, Independent Investigations into Alleged War Crimes in Gaza," saying:
"By its decision, the 192-member Assembly endorsed the report of the world body's Geneva-based Human Rights Council('s) Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict....known as the 'Goldstone Report....' "
Israel, America, and 16 other nations opposed the resolution. Before the vote, Prime Minister Netanyahu said a Goldstone endorsement would legitimize Hamas, undermine the UN, and gravely harm the peace process.
The Shalom Center's Rabbi Brian Walt grew up in South Africa under apartheid. Indicating Jews in South Africa were proud of him, he praised Goldstone's dedication to the rule of law, saying "A commitment to human rights means a commitment to the human rights of all human beings and it must include those living in Israel, those living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank, and those living under an Israeli blockade in the Gaza Strip. We can't expect Israel or the members of our 'tribe' to get a 'pass' on human rights violations."
Alan Dershowitz's Unprincipled Israeli Support
Well-known for his one-sided Israeli support, Dershowitz raged in an article titled, "Legitimating Bigotry: the Legacy of Richard Goldstone," saying:
He "helped legitimate one of the most racist regimes in the world by granting the imprimatur of the rule of law to some of the most undemocratic and discriminatory decrees. Goldstone was - quite literally - a hanging judge" (by) affirm(ing) death sentences....physical torture....miscegenation and other racist laws with nary a word of criticism or dissent. He was an important part of the machinery of death, torture and racial subjugation that characterized Apartheid South Africa."
Those familiar with him know Dershowitz is a notorious bigot; a purveyor of myths, canards, and false logic; a misinterpreter of fundamental law standards; a believer in unique Jewish suffering, mindless of all others; an advocate for torture and targeted assassinations; and a committed Zionist and Israeli apologist who legitimizes its aggression, its worst crimes and abuses, and who believes that "international law, and those who administer it, must understand that (in times of war) the old rules" don't apply against "fanatical foes."
Further, "the laws of war and the rules of morality must adapt to (new) realities," - the same rationale former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales used for the Geneva Conventions, calling them "quaint and out-of-date," not applicable to Al Qaeda or the Afghan war. Dershowitz, of course, agrees.
He also defends preventive and preemptive wars, despite nothing in international law permitting them - law that under the UN Charter's Article 51 limits attacks to self-defense until the Security Council acts. In addition, under the US Constitution's Article I, Section 8, only Congress may declare war, not the executive.
Nonetheless, he called Article 51 "anachronistic, (a) mid-twentieth century view of international law" that doesn't consider the "nuclear annihilation" threat in justifying war on Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, Israel's 1981 Iraq Osirak reactor attack, and its unilateral right to prevent other regional states from acquiring nuclear weapons while it's maintained its own for decades.
In supporting Israel, Dershowitz believes its interests matter - not truth, equity, justice, or fundamental international law standards, applying to others, but not its unilateral right to do as it pleases, including suppressing its crimes - the last refugee of scoundrels caught red-handed and Dershowitz types who support them.
A Final Comment
On May 14, Jerusalem Post writer EB Solomont headlined, "Attorney seeks to bar Goldstone from US," saying:
A former US Justice Department official and "well-known American Jewish attorney (wants) American officials to bar (him) from entering the country over his rulings during South Africa's apartheid regime."
Neal Sher, a former AIPAC head, wrote Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano charging Goldstone with "moral turpitude," urging federal authorities investigate him.
He, however, has his own cross to bear, having been investigated for misappropriating funds from the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims. As a result, on September 5, 2003, the Jewish Forward reported that he was disbarred a year after admitting wrongdoing.
In contrast, Goldstone is a hero to millions worldwide for documenting horrendous Israeli crimes of war and against humanity. Long after Sher and his kind are forgotten, Goldstone will be remembered and honored.
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|Allen L. Jasson|