April 4, 2011

Why the UN Should Not Rescind the Goldstone Report

From the Associated Press:

Israel is launching an international campaign to push the United Nations to rescind a scathing report on Israeli war conduct in Gaza two years ago, after the report's author backtracked from key allegations against the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet he had ordered the diplomatic offensive in response to the new admissions from international jurist Richard Goldstone, who wrote in The Washington Post at the weekend that his most serious accusation against Israel—that it deliberately targeted civilians—appeared to be wrong. He said that in hindsight his report would have been very different.

Mr. Netanyahu said Mr. Goldstone’s comments vindicated Israel’s wartime conduct and that the report, which accused both Israel and Hamas militants of possibly committing war crimes, should be scrapped. (AP)

As I’ve already explained, Richard Goldstone has only retracted one of the claims of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.  One.  Writing in the Washington Post, he stated that he now believes Israel’s January 5 missile attack against a home containing around 100 members of the al-Samouni family “was apparently the consequence of an Israeli commander’s erroneous interpretation of a drone image” (Washington Post). 

Despite what’s being claimed, Goldstone has not retracted the Fact Finding Mission’s claim that many Israeli soldiers deliberately targeted civilians during Cast Lead.  Rather, he has simply stated that he doesn’t believe that Israel “intentionally targeted civilians as a matter of policy.”  But the Mission never claimed that Israel had a policy of intentionally targeting civilians. 

So, to repeat, Goldstone has only retracted one of the Mission’s allegations against Israel, that the above-mentioned missile strike was a deliberate attack against civilians.  The other members of the Mission—Hina Jilani, Desmond Travers, and Christine Chinkin—have not retracted any of their allegations against Israel. To the contrary, since the publication of Goldstones op-ed, both Hina Jilani and Desmond Travers have come out and reaffirmed their support for the Missions findings (Middle East Monitor, Haaretz).

Even if we excise this one allegation from the Goldstone Report, Israel still stands accused of committing numerous crimes.  Here is a list of some of the charges made by the Mission, none of which either Goldstone or the other members of the Mission have retracted:

1) On several different occasions, Israeli soldiers intentionally attacked civilians.  According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, such attacks amount to war crimes. 

2) Israel deliberately attacked Gaza’s civilian infrastructure, including factories, farms, homes, mosques, hospitals, water treatment installations, and a sewage treatment plant.  Most of these attacks had no military purpose and thus constitute war crimes. 

3) Israel tortured many Palestinian detainees, a war crime.

4) Israel’s shelling of al-Fakhura junction in Jabalya was an indiscriminate attack, a violation of international humanitarian law. 

5) Israeli political and military leaders ordered soldiers to use disproportionate force in response to rocket attacks, a violation of international law. 

6) IDF soldiers repeatedly used Palestinian civilians as human shields, a violation of international law. 

7) Israel’s attacks against the Palestinian Legislative Council and Gaza’s main prison “constituted deliberate attacks on civilian objects,” a violation of international law.

8) Israel’s December 27 killing of 199 police officers “failed to strike an acceptable balance between the direct military advantage anticipated” and “the loss of civilian life,” a violation of international law. 

9) Israel repeatedly failed to take feasible precautions to protect civilians, a violation of customary international law.

10) Israel has refused to allow a sufficient amount of humanitarian goods to enter Gaza, a violation of international law and a possible crime against humanity. 

11) Israel violently, often lethally, suppressed protests in the West Bank, a violation of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. (UN Fact Finding Report [.pdf])

Unless sufficient evidence can be produced showing why the Fact Finding Mission’s arguments for such charges are ill-founded, there’s absolutely no reason for the UN to take Benjamin Netanyahu’s advice and rescind the Mission’s Report. 

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