I was reading this account from Reuters of the way that Obama’s ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, today tried to sideline and bury the important report of the Goldstone Commission.
Firstly, she brushed aside the report’s recommendation that the Security Council should remain actively involved in the follow-up efforts to win accountability from the accused perpetrators of atrocities on both sides during Israel’s December-January assault on Gaza.
- Rice said the focus should be the future.
“This is a time to work to cement progress toward the resumption of (Israeli-Palestinian peace) negotiations and their early and successful conclusion,” she said.
At first blush this looks like a classic “peace versus justice” dilemma, of the kind I’ve written about extensively in my work on conflict termination and the “justice” issues deriving therefrom.
But then I thought there is already a very, very long history of Palestinians having their “justice” claims brusquely pushed aside in favor of the promise of a future, western-led peacemaking effort… And throughout the past 61 years those efforts have never, ever led anywhere.
So today, the Palestinians are once again asked to forget about their past grievances, and to focus on a promise of some kind of a future peace settlement that, if the past is any kind of a reliable guide, may well prove quite illusory.
Lost in all this, however, is the situation of the Palestinians– in Gaza, but also elsewhere– in the present.
Is there anything the US could do about this?
Of course there is! And it’s not only the case that the US could do something to help the Gazans in the present– the US also should be doing a whole lot more than it has to date to alleviate the harm that they continue to suffer on a daily and continuing basis, since it has enormous leverage over the government of Israel.
But Washington has used not one iota of that leverage to force Israel to open Gaza’s borders up for the passage of the freight that the Strip’s 1.4 million people sorely need in order to conduct a normal, safe, and dignified life.
Winter is approaching in Gaza, where it can bring rain and some bitterly cold winds. And despite all the representations that various do-gooders have made since the parallel ceasefires wet into effect on January 18, Israel has not allowed into the Strip any of the most basic construction materials that are needed to repair the extensive damage that the IDF caused during last winter’s war, in many cases quite intentionally, to housing, schools, factories, and public infrastructure.
So maybe now is not the time to pull together a huge series of international court cases to look into the atrocities of the past. (Or maybe it is.)
And maybe we should give the US-led diplomacy one last chance to build a better future. (Or maybe not.)
But if we look only at the continuously unfolding present, then if the US does nothing to force Israel to open Gaza’s borders to the passage of vitally needed freight, then Washington will be directly complicit in the additional harms that Gaza’s people will suffer this winter.
(Meantime, in today’s statement, Rice criticized the mandate of the Goldstone Commission, and she criticized its policy recommendations. But I don’t think she questioned any of its actual findings. And those findings surely stand as the best draft we have to date of the historical record of who did what to whom in the Israel-Palestine theater in the time of the 2008-09 Gaza War. Even just as a record, the work of the Commission will be invaluable– and it can provide the basis for all kinds of court cases in the future.)