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The Blue & Gray Press | May 21, 2018

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No Impact After Retraction of Israeli Atrocities: Israeli image permanently tarnished by U.N. Report

By MATT GELLER
Staff Writer

In 2009, a group of legal experts headed by Richard Goldstone, a judge from South Africa, released a report concerning possible war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas during the 2008 war in the Gaza strip that was dubbed by Israel “Operation Cast Lead.”

The report, which was published at the behest of the U.N. Human Rights Council, shocked the world by alleging that Israel had intentionally targeted civilians during the offensive.

Although the report condemned both Hamas and Israel for committing possible war crimes, the international backlash was directed almost exclusively against Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces.

However, on Friday, April 1, Goldstone wrote a letter of retraction for the Washington Post. He revealed that he no longer believes that Israel’s killing of civilians was intentional, saying, “We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-2009 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the 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.”

He cited a report by a U.N. committee of independent experts that was chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis, which has helped to shed light on the events that transpired during the war.

The report cited over 400 investigations by the Israeli government into operational misconduct by Israelis during the war, while “the de facto authorities (i.e., Hamas) have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.”

In the original report, Goldstone pleaded with both sides to investigate any illegal activities that their side may have committed during the conflict, but it is his opinion that “Israel has done this to a significant degree; Hamas has done nothing.”

Goldstone continued his retraction by citing inconsistent behavior by the Human Rights Council, which he claims has a historic bias against Israel. It was his hope that the McGowan-Davis report would help lead to more evenhanded rulings by the Human Rights Council, which he feels has yet to adequately condemn Hamas  for war crimes that they have committed.

He dismissed the idea that Hamas should not be held to the same standard as Israel because they do not represent a nation.

To be sure, Hamas is an Islamic fundamentalist group that has declared the destruction of Israel to be its ultimate goal. Religiously they cannot accept a Jewish state, and they have repeatedly expressed their desires to destroy not just the government of Israel, but to ensure that a Jewish community will not exist in the land. They refuse to recognize the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank because they view them as too permissive of a Jewish existence in the land of Israel. Hamas doe not make their contempt for Jews living in Israel a secret, as they celebrated in the streets when a Jewish couple and three of their very young children were murdered in cold blood in their homes.

Hamas’ response to the report was to salute the perpetrators of the crimes, while the Human Rights Council did nothing to condemn the act or Hamas for their reaction.

Goldstone concluded his letter by citing positive changes that the original report did help to bring about. Including new procedures utilized by the Israelis in conducting urban warfare, as well as investigations conducted by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank into possible crimes that they too might have committed. He also expressed his belief that all combatants, whether they be state or non-state actors, be held to the same standards of international law.

While it is admirable that Goldstone was willing to write this letter in the face of the new evidence provided by the McGowan-Davis report, it is my belief that unfortunately, this will do little to affect the international attitude toward Israel.

As I write this, the Human Rights Council is preparing six formal condemnations against Israel, the largest number of condemnations ever published in a single session. It is unfortunate not only because this is potentially a brazen miscarriage of justice, but also because it further politicizes an organization that should be acting on behalf of all of the world’s citizens, and has an amazing potential to improve the quality of life for all humanity.

Goldstone’s words may reverberate around the world, and in turn the response to Israel by the international community might become less Pavlovian, but it is unlikely that Hamas will be pressured to change it’s mission and cease and desist attacks against civilians.

Comments

  1. Laila

    What did these 400 investigations find? How many people were actually held accountable for misconduct? The issue is not a Jewish State being anathema to Hamas, or Jews being in Israel. Rather, the issue comes down to the treatment of the Palestinians and the land grabs and the disproportionate military campaigns that have targeted them on Israel’s quest to expand their “Jewish State”. It is ethnic cleansing, and if an Arab government were doing it, it would be referred to as such. The loss of innocent lives is reprehensible during conflict, and Hamas should be taken to task for that, but Israel’s role should not be diminished, especially since they have killed a much higher number of people. Also, without the abysmal treatment of the Palestinians, Hamas would probably have never existed or been able to take control of Gaza. Gaza is an impoverished open air prison thanks to Israel. Intolerance breeds intolerance and desperation breeds radicalism. The argument that civilians have not been targeted by the Israeli government just because they looked into 400 cases is simply fallacious. If anyone needs proof that Israel has targeted civilians, they don’t need to look any further than the 2006 war with Hizbollah. How many cluster bombs were dropped in agricultural civilian areas? Millions, most of which were dropped in the last 3 days when a cease fire was eminent. So many,in fact, that there were estimated to be 1 million unexploded cluster bombs after the war. And what was targeted first in the country? Basic infrastructure such as water and sewage treatment plants, fuel stations, electric plants, schools, hospitals, and roads. Israel tried to justify this by saying they would drop leaflets warning areas before they bombed them, however, they had destroyed the roads that would allow people to leave. Israel should suffer the image blow after their actions, even if Goldstone has revised his position, because the manner in which they have conducted themselves has been criminal and rarely questioned by the American public.

  2. Matt

    Laila,

    To answer your questions, and to respond to your comments, currently 12 Israeli soldiers have been indicted and are currently in court. And as far as Hamas hating Israel for political reasons, that has been demonstrated time and again to be false. They are a religious group in a similar vein as Hezbollah. If it weren’t, why would Hamas be an Arabic acronym for “Islamic Resistance Movement”? And why else would Hezbollah mean “Party of G-d”? The simple fact is, these are two groups simply cannot accept a non-Muslim controlled state in an area of land that was once controlled by Muslims. This ideology stems from the WAKF, a religious doctrine that dates back to the crusader era.

    As far as ethnic cleansing is concerned, I can assure you that that is not the case. Otherwise, Israel would have gotten rid of it’s 1.7 Arab citizens a long time ago. As a person who used to live there, as well as teach in an elementary school that taught both Jews and Arabs in the same classroom, I can assure you that Israel has no desire to get rid of Arabs. They have full rights in Israel, they are represented in parliament, there are Arab supreme court judges, and they serve in the military, but unlike other citizens, they are not conscripted. The same cannot be said for Hamas or Hezbollah. Hassan Nazrallah has made his hatred of all Jews, not just Israelis public knowledge, “If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli.”

    As far as Israel’s role being diminished, I would say that internationally it gets taken to task far more than any other country in the world. To date, 47.8% of the UNHRC’s written condemnations have been against Israel, worldwide there are calls for divestment, sanctions, and in many places, war. While I agree that the treatment of Palestinians may be at times deplorable, a lot has been done in the last several years to improve relations. This may not yet result in peace between the two nations, but a poll conducted by the Jerusalem post shows that nearly 2/3 of Israelis support a bi-national agreement. And if you have been in the West Bank as I have, you will see that there are many areas controlled solely by the Palestinian Authority, and they are entirely autonomous.

    Hamas exists because it is ideologically opposed to the Palestinian Authority, whom they consider too secular and too willing to sit down and make peace with Israel. Currently, a civil war between Fatah (the PA) and Hamas is raging, and as we speak, the Palestinian people are not one. This has nothing to do with Israel, and everything to do with how the Palestinians want to move forward. Gaza has become what it is because Hamas is more interested in using building materials like concrete to build bunkers and bases, rather than streets, schools, and hospitals. It is an unfortunate situation, but I defy you to find another government that would act with the restraint that Israel has acted with. If this were the United States getting attacked our reactions would be much more severe. (Just look at the fine job we have done along with our allies in Afghanistan and Iraq.)

    The 2006 campaign against Hezbollah was a mistake, and the Israeli public took Daniel Halutz, the chief of staff, to task. He was removed, as well as Ehud Olmert. The reason they were removed is because Israel is a democracy, and people in that government are held accountable. There are no Arab democracies, and none of the combatants on the other side were held accountable. The IDF does not target civilians, but fighting urban warfare is difficult, and Hamas firing rockets from hospitals, ambulances, and garbage trucks doesn’t help either. Hamas and Hezbollah do not discriminate between soldiers and civilians, they want them all dead. Israel on the other hand, does not. 400 investigations may not bring anyone back, but it is infinitely more than Hamas will ever conduct, because they are not interested in peace, or any peacful co-existence. They are concerned only with the destruction of Israel.