Israel is missing the boat here. Attacking Goldstone is not going to win the day. The only way they can actually rebut the challenges in the Goldstone report is with FACTS. They need to present facts about their attacks, the reasoning for the attacks, the intelligence (if any) gathered prior to the attack, the proportionality of the attack, etc.
If they are dreaming that somehow they will be able to ignore the presentation of facts as a counterweight to a 600 page report filled with information, they need to wake up. It is also in the interest of objective justice that they present counter-evidence. There can be no acceptance by Israel of crimes by its own soldiers. Their investigations can avoid the bias that Goldstone permitted in his research, but they need to be authentic investigations with real outcomes – whether the parties are innocent or guilty.
The problem for Israel now is that Goldstone doesn’t want his efforts wasted. He has decided that this report should not end up in the dustbin of history. In light of this, he had his daughter provide Israeli newspapers with a heartwarming tale about his Zionism and her passionate love for Israel. After buying his bona fides as a good Zionist and Jew (she mentioned he was visiting her for Rosh Hashanah), today Goldstone wrote an op-ed in the NY Times (so that a certain US President would be certain to see it) in which he stands by the objectivity of his committee and actually justifies their flawed mandate. Then he presses hard for international bodies, the International Criminal Court and the UN Security Council, to take steps that follow his report’s recommendations.
I assume Goldstone is doing this because he realizes that Israel is going to use all diplomatic tools at its disposal to try to bury this report. They do have some good points to make. The original mandate from the UN Human Rights Council was deeply flawed because it placed the blame on Israel prior to the investigation and it limited the dates under the committee’s purview just to the war itself, thus depriving any serious discussion of the environment and causes leading up to the war. While the report restricted itself to those date limitations, the commission had no problem attacking Israel on subjects that are unrelated to Gaza, which is very odd. Also, the report accepted the testimonies of Palestinians even as it admitted that they might have felt threatened, which leads to some absurdities like the claim that the Commission didn’t know to what extent Hamas combatants intermingled with civilians.
There are many other points that Israel could raise in objection to the report including the fact that apparently Israel’s Foreign Ministry did provide Goldstone with a 160 page report about the war and its origins, a report he apparently ignored in his report. Also, there is today’s story in Yediot Aharonot told by a Sderot man who decided to testify before the Commission, and felt the judges were not really attentive as was proven by Goldstone’s falling asleep as this Israeli was testifying.
But countering claims such as these is not the reasons that Goldstone is taking an offensive posture regarding his report. He’s doing it because the biggest argument Israel is going to make, and it will be made behind closed doors, is that if Israel is going to be held to the standards laid out in this report and if the conclusions (i.e. war crimes) are upheld by a serious organization like the Security Council, then every member of NATO and especially the three superpowers, USA, Russia and China, need to be concerned because they are guilty of at least the same actions as Israel in their wars, and probably to a much greater degree of culpability than Israel.
Now here is Goldstone’s chutzpah. Until I read this, I was on the fence because I had not read much about him. Now I have lost all confidence in him. He is talking about ways to punish Israel (he also mentions Hamas, but as you will read, he is focused on Israel):
The International Criminal Court and the exercise of universal jurisdiction by other countries against violators of the Geneva Conventions are among them. But they all share one overarching aim: to hold accountable those who violate the laws of war. They are built on the premise that abusive fighters and their commanders can face justice, even if their government or ruling authority is not willing to take that step.
Pursuing justice in this case is essential because no state or armed group should be above the law. Western governments in particular face a challenge because they have pushed for accountability in places like Darfur, but now must do the same with Israel, an ally and a democratic state.
Failing to pursue justice for serious violations during the fighting will have a deeply corrosive effect on international justice, and reveal an unacceptable hypocrisy.
Did you read that? The crimes of Darfur are like Israel’s in Gaza.
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 Israel’s obligation to take all feasible measures to minimize harm to civilians.
This he compares to Darfur!!!
And then he compares, as he does in his report, Hamas to Israel:
Unfortunately, both Israel and Hamas have dismal records of investigating their own forces. I am unaware of any case where a Hamas fighter was punished for deliberately shooting a rocket into a civilian area in Israel â€” on the contrary, Hamas leaders repeatedly praise such acts. While Israel has begun investigations into alleged violations by its forces in the Gaza conflict, they are unlikely to be serious and objective.
In his report he claims they aren’t equal and Israel still controls Gaza.
Goldstone appears to have a difficult time differentiating between defensive and offensive actions, between targeting of civilians and targeting of combatants that results in the death of civilians, between those who seek to fight in this way and those who did what they could to avoid fighting in this way. For example, his report actually acknowledges the small warning bombs that Israel dropped on building to inform the inhabitants to flee before attacking the buildings…and calls these precautionary measures which not only warn the civilians but also the combatants hiding among them…a crime.
He concludes with righteousness and indignation:
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.
Yes. This is why Israel has to respond with facts, to prove that few of the hundreds of civilians died “needlessly.”
The world will now have to decide what to do. It could certainly put Israeli leaders and army commanders on trial for Gaza and using the methodology Goldstone used, they will find these soldiers and politicians guilty of war crimes. After all, if as a judge you know that an enemy is hiding among civilians but continue to blame the side trying to avoid civilian casualties that they are guilty anyway when civilians are hurt, then there is no defense here. This also means, however that there is nothing an army can do to protect its country’s civilians other than to do nothing. You apparently just have to let the Hamas bombs keep falling on your head without much recourse to protecting your own population.
The Israelis claim to have tried to minimize civilian casualties, but they had to deal with the Hamas fighters hiding among civilians. This is what the world will have to decide. Is Goldstone right or is Israel right? Because if this logic pertains to Israel, it also pertains to Russia, China, NATO and especially the United States.
War is impossible, according to Goldstone, between a group and a state. He knows Hamas uses certain tactics such as mingling with civilians, but then dictates that this does not absolve the country fighting in these impossible circumstances of not hitting the civilians. This philosophy actually provides cover for Iran’s Israel strategy of bleeding it slowly from Lebanon with Hizbullah and from Gaza with Hamas. They can bleed Israel as small guerrilla groups, but Israeli responses have to be so cautious as to be virtually sterile – an impossibility in war.
I do believe those little despotic countries running the show at the UN Human Rights Council finally have the West by the balls.
It took a Jewish judge to put them in this beneficial position, with Israel as the punching bag. God praise the shill.
There are conclusions that can be drawn from this. The first is that maybe I was wrong that Israel should have left Gaza. Had it remained, then as a belligerent occupation under the auspices of UNSCR 242, they could have stayed there indefinitely just like in Judea and Samaria. Of course, extrapolating from this, it may be that leaving the West Bank will be militarily impossible. If there are attacks from there and Israel responds, it will be accused of war crimes again.
The second conclusion is the other possibility, which is that I was right to support the Israeli departure from Gaza, but I was also right to wish that any time Palestinians attacked Israel, there would have been a robust Israel military response instead of the constant diplomatic and media appeals for the rockets to stop. That would have prevented a large scale incursion by Israel and would have prevented Hamas from gaining the time they needed to prepare for this war.
The third conclusion drawn from this situation is that giving the Palestinians a “cease fire” was a grave error because it enabled them to plan for the war and improve their resources, as they did with the increased range of their rockets.
I’ll bet there are lots of people, people close to the centers of power, up tonight in Beijing, Moscow, Paris, London and Washington, DC, cursing Israel, cursing the Palestinians, cursing Goldstone, cursing the UN and cursing the Human Rights Council. There are also some people in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem who are doing the same. All of these people are wondering one thing: how to escape an impossible situation?