“If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
The pro-Israel Twittersphere, Facebook, blogosphere and the Israeli Prime Minister have been ablaze today with news of, and reactions to, a Washington Post op-ed by Judge Richard Goldstone, the eponymous author of the UN report into Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip in December 2008.
You may recall that this report was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, and, as Goldstone says himself, its purpose was: “…to ensure accountability for improper actions, not to second-guess, with the benefit of hindsight, commanders making difficult battlefield decisions.”
Yet, the report, completed in just a few weeks, whose job was to find “facts”, miserably failed to do so to an extent which meant that its recommendations found that Israel and Hamas may have committed war crimes.
The most libellous conclusion of the report was that Israel had deliberately targetted civilians. Hamas’ actions were given a few paragraphs whilst several incidents were used to show that Israel had acted illegally or potentially illegally.
The report has since been used by every Israel and Jew-hater, every left-wing Hamas groupie, the governments of both friendly and hostile nations and the worldwide media to back up their claims that Israel is a rogue criminal state that targets civilians, uses munitions illegally, uses civilians as human shields.
Very few people have read the report but thousands uses it as an accusatory instrument with which to bash Israel.
Indeed, in the UK, the position of visiting Israeli politicians and soldiers has been precarious because the law of Universal Jurisdiction, currently under review, was being wielded with the comfort of knowing that alleged Israeli war crimes were imminent because of this report.
It is a great source of succour and smugness to the BDS organisations who would Boycott, Sanction and Disinvest from Israel.
In other words, the report whose findings were rejected by Israel and its supporters, had become a weapon of Israel’s enemies who could quote the fact that the UN itself regarded Israel as a war criminal.
The Goldstone Report had become, therefore, a form of modern Blood Libel used by people who had never read it to accuse Israelis of crimes.
Let’s now dissect Goldstone’s supposed retraction and see what he actually said rather than what Israel supporters (and I include myself in that group) would wish that he said or favourably interpret what he said to match their own views, opinions and bias. In doing so let’s try to avoid too much bombast or self-righteous cooing.
So it begins.
We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.
Goldstone’s opening statement is already disingenuous. Of course we know more. This is because instead of the rush to judgement commissioned by the UNHRC, a body dominated by an anti-Israel block, Israel has painstakingly investigated the plethora of incidents reported by Goldstone and by Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.
We don’t know more because the truth has come to light by some miracle, it has come to light because Israel took time and proper juridical care to investigate, to recommend, to prosecute and, indeed, to rebut.
Israel would have investigated anyway. It was not coerced or shamed into it.
Hamas, on the other hand, did nothing except flatly deny any and every accusation against it.
This is supported by the next paragraph in the article:
The final report by the U.N. committee of independent experts — chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis — that followed up on the recommendations of the Goldstone Report has found that “Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza”while “the de facto authorities (i.e., Hamas) have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.”
Our report found evidence of potential war crimes and “possibly crimes against humanity” by both Israel and Hamas. That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying — its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.
Yet Hamas never really figured in the aftermath of the Report, all focus was on Israel. Why? Because “it goes without saying” that Hamas are criminals, according to Goldstone. We all know they are terrorists so there’s not much point going after them. So put Israel under the microscope and see what dirt you can dig up.
But it is precisely the behaviour of Hamas that the Commission should have emphasised and pursued in the international courts.
Surely any commission with a brief from what is supposed to be the word’s premier Human Rights watchdog should be persecuting the self-evident criminals. It should be challenging those countries that support it. It should purge its committees and councils of those that fund and support these criminals.
Instead, all we get is a shrug of the shoulders and a “what do you expect”.
But from Israel they expect a whole lot more and are prepared to pursue Israel, if necessary, in the world court, to damage its reputation, to assist the delegitimisers and effectively to connive with Hamas and other groups whose whole raison d’etre is the destruction of Israel.
The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.
So let’s read this statement from a world renowned Judge and Human Rights prosecutor.
His commission “had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion”. In other words guilty until proven innocent.
This is part of the basis of this commissions findings; because they could not prove the accused was innocent, he must be guilty. What court in the world operates on this principle? This from one of the world’s top practitioners of international jurisprudence. Here he is actually writing that he agreed to go along with his team of predisposed Israel-bashers and find that Israel was guilty until proven innocent. This is beyond belief.
Now he gives us an example of why he and his commission would come to such a piece of legal claptrap.
For example, the most serious attack the Goldstone Report focused on was the killing of some 29 members of the al-Simouni family in their home. The shelling of the home was apparently the consequence of an Israeli commander’s erroneous interpretation of a drone image, and an Israeli officer is under investigation for having ordered the attack. While the length of this investigation is frustrating, it appears that an appropriate process is underway, and I am confident that if the officer is found to have been negligent, Israel will respond accordingly. The purpose of these investigations, as I have always said, is to ensure accountability for improper actions, not to second-guess, with the benefit of hindsight, commanders making difficult battlefield decisions.
But the sentence I have highlighted above is exactly what the commission did not do. It jumped to the conclusion that this and many other actions merited little investigation because it was so patent that Israel had acted criminally.
All the commission needed to say, (since there was a commission, however much I deplore the fact) in this case and all others where evidence was sparse or lacking was something like this:
“The Fact Finding commission recommends that Israel explains Action X and reports back to the the UN in order to mitigate accusations of war crimes.”
I’m no international lawyer, but it does seem to me that if you and your cronies have a predisposition of antipathy to Israel you are going to assume that the incident cited above was a deliberate act and not a tragic accident of war.
So the very actions and conclusions of this supposedly objective and non-partisan commission lead to the patently biased nature of its findings. If it had been the USA or NATO who bombed the al-Simouni house in Afghanistan or Libya no-one would accuse them of war crimes and the immediate conclusion would be that this is an accident of war.
It is instructive to note two stories running this weekend on the BBC News website. The first is entitled Libya air raid ‘killed civilians’. The second ‘Libya: Coalition air strike near Brega kills rebels’.
Seven civilians died and 25 were hurt in a coalition air strike on a pro-Gaddafi convoy in eastern Libya, a doctor there has told the BBC.
Nato officials told the BBC they were making inquiries “down our operations chain to find out if indeed there is any information on the operation side that would support this claim”.
At least 10 Libyan rebels are reported to have been killed when a coalition plane enforcing the no-fly zone fired on their convoy between Brega and Ajdabiya late on Friday night.
And the Libyan government was quick to try to use some UN medicine on the Coalition:
Spokesman Moussa Ibrahim … condemned recent coalition air strikes as “a crime against humanity” and said there had been civilian casualties in one attack on Thursday.
Of course, no-one would take seriously the accusations of the Libyan government, right? After all, they are now an outlaw regime who kill civilians indiscriminately, fire at ambulances and rape dissidents.
So why should Goldstone have put so much weight behind the statements of Hamas, the Gaza government who kill civilians indiscriminately, use ambulances to convey combatants to and from the battlefield and use human shields?
The tragic deaths reported above came about because of the fog of war. No-one will prosecute anyone after the Coalition investigates these incidents. The UN General Assembly will not have an emergency session where hysterical Arab states condemn the US and the UK.
Goldstone is critical that Israel has taken so long. Does the Judge not know how long criminal cases take to investigate? And let us remember that Goldstone himself says here that Israel is investigating 400 incidents. 400! No wonder it takes a long time to conclude.
Goldstone’s little shindig was concluded in the blink of an eye in comparison.
Now here’s a biggy:
I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.
This is legal speak for saying that the conclusions were wrong. Not just al-Simouni but the whole shebang.
Once again, Goldstone is saying, “if only we had waited for the Israeli investigations’ conclusions instead of the rush to judgement and condemnation in the UN’s kangaroo court system specially reserved for one state, Israel’s actions would have been vindicated’.
Just a second; that’s not what he said exactly. He does not say Israel has been vindicated, he just wished he had had the Israeli evidence. In fact, some of the incidents in the Report have led to criminal prosecutions in Israel, proving that Israel is as capable of investigating itself as any democracy. Yet, it is the only democracy that is treated by the UN as if it were a criminal entity, not to be trusted or given any credence whatsoever.
Israel’s lack of cooperation with our investigation meant that we were not able to corroborate how many Gazans killed were civilians and how many were combatants. The Israeli military’s numbers have turned out to be similar to those recently furnished by Hamas (although Hamas may have reason to inflate the number of its combatants).
Now Goldstone is really having a laugh, as we say in the UK. Since he later admits that the UNHRC is ‘skewed’ in its bias against Israel, and, given the fact that anyone in his or her right mind can see that the UN and especially the UNHRC is obsessed with bashing Israel at every opportunity, and making up a few opportunities of its own (remember Durban I and II?), then how can he expect Israel to have agreed to co-operate with a body that is so biased?
This is like asking the defence lawyer to co-operate with the prosecutor to find a guilty verdict against the accused. In effect, Israel took ‘the 5th’; it refused to speak in what it saw as an enterprise predisposed to find it guilty.
Goldstone is actually crticising Israel for not co-operating with his commission, a tool of the very UNHRC that he is himself condemning!
Goldstone now tries to protect his own reputation:
The purpose of the Goldstone Report was never to prove a foregone conclusion against Israel. I insisted on changing the original mandate adopted by the Human Rights Council, which was skewed against Israel.
So if he knew it was biased, why did he not decry it to high heaven rather than accept his role in some misguided belief that ‘as a Jew’ and a ‘Zionist’ he could mitigate the level of attack he appears to have anticipated.
Surely, his job should have been to expose the UNHRC for what it was, accuse it of bias, produce evidence and prove that any commission investigating Israel was either going to have already made up its mind, and in at least one case of a commission member, already published their antipathy to Israel. Thus demonstrating that such a commission was invalid and its conclusion illegitimate.
Goldstone did not do this.
I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.
Disingenuous once again. Who’s he kidding. if I knew that this was not going to happen, surely, the venerable Goldstone would know.
Some have charged that the process we followed did not live up to judicial standards. To be clear: Our mission was in no way a judicial or even quasi-judicial proceeding. We did not investigate criminal conduct on the part of any individual in Israel, Gaza or the West Bank. We made our recommendations based on the record before us, which unfortunately did not include any evidence provided by the Israeli government.
Even if Israel had co-operated, it would self-evidently not have had time to prepare a proper defence of its actions. This is so patently true, given the unwarranted haste with which the commission was formed, that Goldstone must know that what he is writing is utter BS.
The commission’s ‘recommendations’ were so strongly worded, so accusatory and so reliant on flawed evidence taken from a people who are unreliable witnesses, given the nature of the regime under which they live, that to say they were just ‘recommendations’ is disingenuous in the extreme.
Goldstone knew full well how his ‘recommendations’ would be received. He knew full well that Israel would be condemned before the ink was dry and that he was adding to the avalanche of delegitimisation of a state fighting a callous and immoral enemy.
The Goldstone Report, in effect, portrayed Israel as being at least as criminal as Hamas. The result was that Israel’s public and international reputation, such as it was after years of similar tactics against it, was brought to a level whereby a democracy with an army dedicated to following and observing international law in the most difficult and dangerous of circumstances, was further criminalised and delegitimised by what amounted to a malicious prosecution by the UN, a body supposedly dedicated to protecting Human Rights and promulgating democracy.
Now we have Goldstone in Cloud-Cuckoo-Land:
Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case.
Well you don’t say.
But what is the true crime here is that the UN has actually encouraged Hamas as a result of this report because it can clearly see that by provoking Israel to defend itself and thereby increasing the chances that some errant Israeli soldier will commit a crime, it can act with impunity and get the whole weight of world opinion against Israel and orchestrated by the UN.
Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.
If you are so concerned about this, Judge Goldstone, why don’t you get off your judicial butt and do something about this? Op-ed’s in worthy newspapers will not change anything. Recanting and telling the truth about Israel will.
I continue to believe in the cause of establishing and applying international law to protracted and deadly conflicts. Our report has led to numerous “lessons learned” and policy changes, including the adoption of new Israel Defense Forces procedures for protecting civilians in cases of urban warfare and limiting the use of white phosphorus in civilian areas.
There is some truth in this. But this is surely the point; had the commission questioned Israel’s actions with regard to WP and highlighted incidents worthy of investigation rather than draw the unwarranted conclusions that it did, the Report would have been tolerable.
At first, I did not believe the WP stories. After closely reading reports I concluded that Israel’s use was always legal but perhaps, in some cases, unwise or even cavalier. In other words, it did not always use WP as a last resort.
However, I was not a soldier in Gaza risking my life against an embedded enemy. Battlefield decisions that have adverse consequences on civilians must be investigated and procedures tightened up if necessary. Given the recent deaths caused by Coalition bombing in Libya, maybe NATO will be forced to revise its procedures.
Regrettably, there has been no effort by Hamas in Gaza to investigate the allegations of its war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.
Simply put, the laws of armed conflict apply no less to non-state actors such as Hamas than they do to national armies. Ensuring that non-state actors respect these principles, and are investigated when they fail to do so, is one of the most significant challenges facing the law of armed conflict.
So what is the UN doing about it? Why is there not a UN force to Gaza to stop rockets? Could it be due to the Arab and Muslim block in the UNGA, the UNHRC and just about every other body, commission or group which falls under the UN auspices?
Only if all parties to armed conflicts are held to these standards will we be able to protect civilians who, through no choice of their own, are caught up in war.
So who’s holding Hamas to them?
In conclusion, did he recant? Well, you know what, I think he came about as close as he could. I see no claims in this article that he believes the Israeli government or any of its ministers or any army commander committed a war crime in Gaza.
If the author of the Goldstone Report goes public and says it is flawed, that he trusts Israeli investigations and their conclusions, that he is satisfied that criminal cases are being investigated and prosecuted according to Israeli and international law, then clearly, Israel has no case to answer, never did have a case to answer and the Report should be condemned to the waste basket of history.
I am sure that slowly emerging from the woodwork will be a lot of Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, NGO’s, far-lefties, journalists etc. who will claim that Goldstone has recanted because:
1. He is a Jew and has reverted to type or
2. He has been got at by Mossad or
3. He is suffering from a mental illness or
4. What do you expect from a Jew or
5. He has been bribed by a wealthy Jew or AIPAC or AJC or UJIA
Others will simply say that there are other members of the team who have not recanted, the Report stands.
Others will just ignore it. Last time I looked, Al Jazeera were keeping stum.
Even the BBC have produced a pretty fair assessment. But I don’t see it on their home page?
And now, Israel’s detractors can no longer wave the Report and shout ‘war crime’.
Is the damage done? Only if we don’t give this retraction publicity.
So start shouting about it. Tweet it, Facebook it, email it.
Goldstone should hang his head in shame. He was a patsy, all right. And now he knows it for sure.
Yesterday, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that disciplinary action had been taken against a number of army officers and soldiers for their conduct during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip between December 2008 and January 2009.
Following Israel’s campaign to severely reduce the power and potential of the Hamas regime to attack targets in Israel using daily rocket fire, the United Nations condemned Israel and then launched a fact finding mission headed by South African judge, Richard Goldstone.
Israel refused to assist with the Goldstone enquiry on the grounds that it was quite capable of conducting its own investigations. Members of the team that put together the report had announced their view that Israel had committed war crimes even before they began their investigation.
The report found Israel and Hamas probably guilty of war crimes and insisted that both Israel and Hamas conduct their own investigations. Nevertheless, the UN seemed intent on indicting Israel and tainting the Israeli government of the time and the Israeli Army with accusations of war crimes.
Israel rejected the Goldstone report on the grounds that it was factually inaccurate, one-sided, did not take full account of the asymmetric nature of the conflict or the gross violations of the rules of armed conflict, the Geneva Convention and just about every international and civilised code of conduct by Hamas.
Notwithstanding Israel’s rejection of the report and the UN’s singling out, yet again, of Israel for condemnation when countries such as Sri Lanka do not merit any similar international condemnation or investigation despite strong evidence of state sanctioned war crimes, Israel had already begun its own internal investigation of its own conduct, and this has now led to both a change in its rules of engagement in the West Bank and the indictment of a number of its soldiers.
Some of the incidents reported by Goldstone and investigated by the IDF have led to indictments but the Ministry report stresses:
the report of the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict (i.e. the Goldstone Report) was published in September 2009, presenting 30 specific incidents related to the IDF, most of which were already familiar to the IDF and were in various stages of examination prior to the report’s publication.
It is interesting to note that the Goldstone Report took mere weeks whilst the IDF has taken over a year. This is comparable to any similar investigation carried out by the United States or Great Britain, for example.
When the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal broke in April 2004, convictions took place in January 2005 of Charles Graner and Lyndie England when the documentary evidence was a lot more clear cut and had taken place outside of any military conflict. It was not until March 2006 that the investigations and convictions were concluded. It should be noted that there was no call for a UN enquiry.
The UK launched a second major enquiry into the Iraq war in June 2009. One year later, this is still ongoing and it will be 2011 until it is completed.
The Goldstone Report effectively began in April 2009 and delivered by September. The IDF has understandably taken a little longer than the rush to judgement required by the UN and delivered by Goldstone. Apparently its investigations are ongoing.
The specific of the indictments of IDF soldiers are as follows:
1. Complaint by Majdi Abed-Rabo:
An investigation into a claim that a Palestinian man was used as a “human shield” was opened by the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division, in accordance with the investigative policies of the IDF, which require that a criminal investigation be opened regarding claims of this kind. (my emphasis)
However, when you look at what actually happened, it is doubtful that any other army in the world would indict:
The investigation found that a battalion commander authorized the sending of a Palestinian man into a house (adjacent to his own) sheltering terrorists, in order to convince them to exit the house. The battalion commander, not present on the scene, authorized the order following reports that the Palestinian man asked the soldiers if he could do this so as to prevent the destruction of his house if a battle were to transpire.
The Military Advocate General indicted the battalion commander because he deviated from authorized and appropriate IDF behavior, and the Israeli Supreme Court jurisdiction regarding the use of civilians during operational activity, when he authorized the Palestinian’s request to enter the house.
2. Complaint by the Hajaj Family:
The original investigation into the incident was based on a claim, which also appeared in the Goldstone Report, that fire killed two women on January 4, 2009, in the neighborhood of Juhar Al-Dik. It was claimed that the women were part of a group of civilians, some of whom were carrying white flags.
This was one of the most notorious incidents until now only reported from the Palestinian side. There was enormous scepticism amongst supporters of Israel who could not believe such a thing could happen.
After reviewing the evidence, the Military Advocate General ordered that an IDF Staff Sergeant be indicted on charges of manslaughter by a military court. This decision is based on evidence that the soldier, who was serving as a designated marksman, deliberately targeted an individual walking with a group of people waving a white flag without being ordered or authorized to do so.
Well, apparently it did. You shoudl note the last sentence where the report says that the soldier was indicted for firing on individuals with a white flag without being ordered to do so.
This may seem an indictment in itself; why should any officer ever require that his men would shoot at someone carrying a white flag? The answer is simple and damns Hamas as much, or even more than it dams the IDF soldier responsible. The reason is that there were documented incidents recorded by the IDF of Hamas operatives forcing civilians to leave houses carrying a white flag whilst they hid amongst or behind them. One such video can be seen here, for example:
This explains the last sentence quoted in the report above and why an IDF soldier might have to shoot at someone with or behind a white flag. However, thi scannot condone the actions and hence the indictment.
3. Ibrahim Al-Makadma Mosque
The report explains that initial investigations could show no air strike on this mosque. Several independent reports insisted that the mosque had been hit and this provoked further enquiry. The air strike was in fact near to the mosque where a a Hamas operative was firing rockets. As a result of the air strike shrapnel penetrated the mosque injuring people inside. It should be noted that the operative himself was not concerned that he was operating near a place of worship where people were gathered.
Again, look at NATO reacting to one of its strikes that went wrong.
But Israel acts thus:
The investigation also showed that the officer who ordered the attack had failed to exercise appropriate judgment. Therefore, the Chief of the General Staff ordered that disciplinary actions be taken against the officer, and that he would not serve in similar positions of command in the future. The officer also stood trial for negligence before the Commander of the Ground Forces Training Center, Brig. Gen. Avi Ashkenazi, who rebuked him for his actions.
The Military Advocate General decided that the attack did not violate international laws of warfare because the attack did not target the mosque, rather it targeted a terror operative, and when the attack was authorized, no possibility of harming civilians was identified. According to this assessment, the Military Advocate General decided that legal measures were not necessary.
Finally, the report reminds us:
It should be noted that the IDF conducted the operation after eight years in which Hamas fired thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians living in the southern communities surrounding the Gaza Strip. Despite the fire and the injuries suffered by Israel, Israel practiced a policy of restraint for a long period of time. Since Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip, the terrorist organization has implanted its military system and terrorist infrastructure in the heart of urban areas while using the population as human shields. Operation Cast Lead was limited in the scope of fire and forces used. IDF soldiers operated in crowded urban areas while Hamas made deliberate and cynical use of the Palestinian population, creating a complex security situation. Hamas operated from within civilian homes, schools, kindergartens, mosques, hospitals and UN facilities while the population in the Gaza Strip was made hostage.
Israel has acted and continues to act no differently and perhaps to even more stringent rules than most western democracies in similar circumstances.
The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has recently released information which casts serious doubt on the bona fides of one of the members of the Fact Finding Mission led by Judge Goldstone and which led to the production of the Report which accused Israel of directly targeting civilians and deliberately destroying civil infrastructures contrary to the rules of war.
The member in question is Colonel (ret.) Desmond Travers. As the JCPA tells us:
Travers joined the Irish Defense Forces in 1961 and retired after forty years. As the only former officer who belonged to Justice Richard Goldstone’s team, he was the senior figure responsible for the military analysis that provided the basis for condemning Israel for war crimes.
The JCPA report slams Travers’s methodology and accuses him of bias.
During the Mission’s collection of testimonies from Palestinian psychologists in the Gaza Strip, Travers asked them straight out to explain how Israeli soldiers could kill Palestinian children in front of their parents. In an interview with Middle East Monitor, on February 2, 2010, he asserted that in the past Israeli soldiers had “taken out and deliberately shot” Irish peacekeeping forces in Southern Lebanon. Both of these statements by Travers are completely false. It should be stressed that one of the most vicious and unsubstantiated conclusions in the Goldstone Report is the suggestion that Israel deliberately killed Palestinian civilians.
This is rather like the ‘when did you start beating your wife’ question which bases the question on an assumption that assumes the guilt of the defendant.
When he was asked about Hamas intimidation that affected the Mission’s inquiries, he replied that that there was “none whatsoever.” Yet the Goldstone Report itself noted in Paragraph 440 that those interviewed in Gaza appeared reluctant to speak about the presence of Palestinian armed groups because of a “fear of reprisals.” He rejects the notion that Hamas shielded its forces in the civilian population and does not accept the idea that Israel faced asymmetric warfare.
Only a craven idiot could come to the conclusion there was no Hamas intimidation or that civilians were not used as human shields or that the warfare was not asymmetric. A craven idiot or someone so biased that his place in the mission not acceptable.
The report continues:
Travers comes up with a story that the IDF had unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) that could obtain a “thermal signature” on a Gaza house and detect that there were large numbers of people inside. Incredibly, he then suggests that with this information that certain houses were “packed with people,” the Israeli military would then deliberately order a missile strike on these populated homes. The primary technical problem with his theory is that Israel does not have UAV’s that can see though houses and pick up a thermal signature. More importantly, Israel used UAV’s to monitor that Palestinian civilians left houses that had received multiple warnings, precisely because Israel sought to minimize civilian casualties, a fact that Travers could not fathom, because of his own clear biases.
The case against Travers appears to be growing. The entire JCPA report is well worth a read. It highlights inaccuracies in data and lack of professional conduct.
The clincher :
In an interview with Harpers, published on October 29, 2009, Travers makes a sweeping generalization: “We found no evidence that mosques were used to store munitions.” He then dismissed those who suggested that was the case by saying: “Those charges reflect Western perceptions in some quarters that Islam is a violent religion.” How many mosques did Travers investigate? He admits that the Mission only checked two mosques.
Of course, Israel produced photographic proof that large amounts of weapons were stored in mosques, like the Zaytun Mosque. In a subsequent interview, Travers rejected the Israeli proof: “I do not believe the photographs.” He described the photographs as “spurious.” Travers appears to be bothered by proof that contradicts the conclusions he reaches on the basis of a very limited investigation. In early 2010, Colonel Tim Collins, a British veteran of the Iraq War, visited Gaza for BBC Newsnight (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/ 8470100 .stm, 20 January 2010) and inspected the ruins of a mosque that Israel had destroyed because it had been a weapons depot. He found that there was evidence of secondary explosions cause by explosives stored in the mosque cellar. Travers clearly did not make the effort that Collins made.
And now the punchline:
Travers most recent interview also had a disturbing additional element. When addressing the role of British officers in defending Israel’s claims, Travers suddenly adds: “Britain’s foreign policy interests in the Middle East seem to be influenced strongly by Jewish lobbyists.
So the UN chose someone who believes the Jewish lobby conspiracy theory and that a cabal of Jews is directing UK foreign policy in the same way that Channel 4 came to a similar conclusion with no evidence whatsoever.
The UN Human Rights Commission chose their four mission members very well because the UNHRC is front-loaded with countries that seek to demonise and delegitimise Israel and then to cover their tracks by choosing ostensibly impeccable mission members to do a hatchet job on Israel. When the names were first put forward Israel could see that the mission would be biased and its conclusions were foregone. But now the document is out there to add to the litany of lies, half-truths, prejudice and propaganda that passes for justified criticism of Israel.
Yesterday the UN General Assembly approved the Human Rights Council sponsored Goldstone Report recommendations.
The Report found that Israel and Hamas may both have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
Israel refused to cooperate with the fact-finding mission because it believed that those doing the fact finding had already made up their minds that Israel (and not Hamas) had committed war crimes. The report, therefore, was biased from the start.
The report itself focused almost entirely on perceived Israeli infringements whilst barely mentioning Hamas at all. The weight of the report was firmly against Israel with accusations of disproportionality, deliberately targeting civilians and even attacked the Israel Supreme Court and its justice system, acknowledged to be one of the very best and most impartial in the world. In other words, Israel was accused of the very things it prides itself as not being.
The HRC decision to recommend to the General Assembly was made by a rag-bag of dictatorships and human rights offenders including Libya and Egypt. The HRC and, indeed, the UN General Assembly have proved to be obsessed with condemnations of Israel whilst overlooking gross injustices and crimes elsewhere in the world which dwarf even the worst accusations against Israel.
Any country which has such accusations against it must surely respond to the recommendations which would be to set up an independent body to investigate the findings of the report.
Israel (that is the IDF) had already begun and completed a number of investigations even during the conflict and these investigations are ongoing. Israel considers itself to be as capable as any Western democracy in investigating alleged crimes that it or its citizens are accused of making.
But the problem Israel has in agreeing am independent internal investigation is that it gives legitimacy to a UN and an HRC that comprise members whose sole obsession is to paint Israel as the fount of most of the evil in the world whilst ignoring the crimes of other UN members including Security Council members Russia (Chechnya, South Ossetia) and China (Tibet).
But there is some confusion about what any investigation should investigate. Goldstone did not seem to be concerned with named soldiers as much as the state itself in the areas of: proportionality including inter alia the extent of destruction to civilian infrastructure, illegal weapons use and rules of engagement including white flag infringements.
In other words it is state policy that is in the dock although, in theory of course, individuals in government and senior officers could be held accountable within Israel or abroad.
Israel has already stated that it will allow no IDF officer to be prosecuted abroad. If Israel does not hold internationally credible investigations it seems we will shortly be in a position where Israeli politicians and soldiers will be unable to travel to Europe, for example, for fear of arrest. There have already been attempts by pro-Palestinians in Britain to have Israeli politicians arrested.
So what is the ‘opportunity’ in my title. Well it is this: both Israel AND Hamas have been asked to carry out credible investigations. Despite the absurdity of a terrorist organisation investigating its own terrorism, here’s the opportunity: if Israel complies, however hard that bitter pill is to swallow, and if the conclusions of such an investigation are accepted, then there will be no need for the International Criminal Court to issue warrants or whatever it is they do. But as Hamas surely won’t investigate themselves then they will be subject to such actions and their gross violations laid bare, even in absentia, perhaps.
Is this too much to hope for? Well, the first question is: is there any way that Israel could ever satisfy the international community that their own investigations are fair when that same community is so clearly bent on the destruction of Israel and the glorification of its enemies? Probably not.
Then there is the issue of interpretation of international law. Proportionality, which lies at the heart of the accusations against Israel, depends on who is doing the proportioning. If you are a Human Rights NGO or you are predisposed to be anti-Israel for whatever motivation, then your interpretation of what is proportional will be different to that of Israel itself which is fighting an existential war against forces which are fanatically committed to its destruction and who use all and every means to further their genocidal war against Israel and the Jews. I speak of Hamas, Hizbullah AND Fatah (the latter who are seen as moderates but whose intentions ultimately are the same – destroy Israel, destroy Jewish culture and blot out and annihilate Jewish history in the Holy Land).
Israel’s definition of proportionality will depend on its interpretation of the level of threat posed by Hamas and the methods Hamas used to wage war from within a civilian population and to exploit that population and all its instruments mercilessly and cynically.
So it is likely that any putative independent Israeli investigation’s conclusions will not be accepted by an Israel-hostile world. But as I have argued before, it is still worth doing for Israel’s sake because the Goldstone Report despite its many flaws does ask serious questions about the conduct of asymmetric warfare (although it does not properly give weight to the challenge of such warfare) and an independent investigation is necessary for Israel’s moral health and will also bring to the fore some of the most important questions we face: how do you fight an enemy which hides behind the sick, women, children and the elderly; how do you fight an enemy prepared to sacrifice itself and its own civilians; how do you fight an enemy that has a cult of death; how do you fight religious fanatics; how do protect the innocent under such circumstances; what value do you put on your own life and the life of your fellow soldiers and civilians when compared to the lives of the enemy and its civilians with whom you have no quarrel.
The laws of warfare and human rights have developed apace since World War II. They were framed for a very different world order. That doesn’t make those laws any less valid, but it does mean that interpretation of them has to be nuanced and contextual. If the UN and the HRC are not even-handed when it comes to investigating nations then the HRC and the UN should be held in contempt. Sadly, as flawed as the UN is, a world without it and the opportunities it provides for dialogue among nations and even enemies, would be a lot worse.
Honest Reporting has started a petition to urge the UN Security Council to reject the UNHRC resolution which recommended the findings of the Goldstone Report.
The video cam be seen here http://www.honestreporting.com/a/UNHypocrisy.asp
It reveals what we all should know: the UNHRC is no longer a Human Rights advocate but a political tool in the hands of Israel’s enemies.
Please sign this petition.
Although we all know that the United States will veto the resolution anyway, it is important for the UN to understand that their constituency are not prepared to stand by whilst the UN and its instruments are used to wage political warfare against a single state whilst ignoring the gross crimes of other countries, especially those who obscenely are members of the UN Human Rights Council.
The 500+ page Goldstone Report, produced for the UN Human Rights Council by Judge Richard Goldstone and a distinguished group of Human Rights advocates, came to some damning conclusions about Israel’s conduct of its assault on Hamas in the Gaza Strip between December 2008 and January 2009. The report also criticised Hamas.
The report found that Israel and Hamas were probably both guilt of war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. The report was endorsed by UNHRC and will be sent to the UN Security Council for recommendation to be considered by the International Criminal Court.
Israel refused to co-operate with the Report on the grounds that some of the fact-finding members who were to produce the report had already decided in advance that Israel had committed war crimes and were, therefore biased. Israel and its supporters also saw the move to condemn it as yet another attempt by the UNHRC to delegitmise the State of Israel and pillory it internationally. The UNHRC’s activities have been disproportionately focused on Israel in the past and Israel sees the UNHRC as an instrument of its enemies and detractors.
Indeed, supporters of Israel like myself, have focused on the injustices and bias of the reporting of Operation Cast Lead, the manipulation of the world media and world opinion by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and the virtual free pass that Hamas and its seven year rocket attack on Southern Israel have received. The Goldstone report was seen by me and those of like opinion as yet another tool with which to bash Israel and whitewash the murderous and genocidal Hamas terrorists. This was a new opportunity to further advance Israel’s pariah status in the world.
By focussing on the one-sided nature of the report and the extraordinary moral equivalence which persists in the corridors of the UN and elsewhere between Hamas’s attempts to destroy Israel and Israel’s attempts to defend itself, we have to be careful about dismissing the findings of the Report out of hand.
Although it may be unfair that Israel is once again singled out and it may be galling that most of the nations voting in the UNHRC to recommend the Report have themselves human rights records which are far worse than even the most partisan interpretation of the report, nevertheless, Israel must investigate every allegation and every criticism of its conduct because that is the only moral and, indeed, politically expedient route to take. Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dan Meridor has told Ha’aretz “[he] thinks Israel should establish its own independent committee to investigate Israel Defense Forces activity in the Gaza Strip during last winter’s Operation Cast Lead.”
If Israel can rebut the accusations then it should find the means to do so via a truly independent internal investigation. Just how it does that and what would be considered fair and independent by the outside world is hard to say, but, it is important for Israel itself to make the investigation and to act on any findings. Not because that’s what the UN requires but because Israel must preserve its own moral compass, it must prove primarily to itself that either it is guiltless or if it is not, then how to remedy and rectify its transgressions.
Of course, the Report calls on Hamas to do the same, to investigate its own conduct. This is ludicrous; terrorists do not have a conscience or moral scruples. For Hamas ALL is justified in their Jihad against Israel and, indeed, against the Jews. They have no regard or respect for International Law except to use it to beat Israel with. Their objection to the report was that it confused aggressor with victim – on that score they were dead right, except the aggressor was Hamas and the victim Israel.
The question Israel has to address now is whether there own aggressive act of self-defence, to destroy or disable Hamas before it could pose an existential threat to Israel, was conducted not just according to International Law but Israeli Law and customary law; was their strategy morally and ethically sound, could they have achieved the same goal with less destruction and fewer casualties.
For those whose default position is ‘Israel: evil, rabid, colonial, apartheid, illegitimate, expansionist, American proxy state. Palestine: freedom fighters, oppressed, impoverished victims of injustice and dispossession’, no accounting by Israel will ever be enough; they just want Israel destroyed and look no further than that goal, the consequences of which would be far worse than the status quo.
For those of us with a more temperate view and who have Israel’s and, indeed, the Palestinians’ long-term well-being at heart, Israel must bite the bitter bullet and formulate its own investigation into Operation Cast Lead which avoids accusations of whitewash from all but its bitterest enemies.
A new website has been created which systematically dismantles the findings of the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead.
The report accused Israel of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in its offensive against Hamas in Gaza in December 2008-January 2009.
Hamas got off lightly.
Now the Israeli Defense Force and individual officers and members of the government of the day may be accused of war crimes and subject to arrest and trial in the International Court of Justice if the UN finds cause to recommend further action.
This new website – www.goldstonereport.org is an intelligent and well-argued and meticulously documented analysis which exposes the lies, bias and bankrupt forensics of the report.
I urge you to read it.