Goldstone Commission reports on Gaza-war war-crimes

The Goldstone Commission, appointed in April by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that were committed during last winter’s Gaza war, has now presented its findings to the Council.
Regarding actions undertaken by the armed forces of the State of Israel, the report states,

    The Mission found that, in the lead up to the Israeli military assault on Gaza, Israel imposed a blockade amounting to collective punishment and carried out a systematic policy of progressive isolation and deprivation of the Gaza Strip. During the Israeli military operation, code-named “Operation Cast Lead,” houses, factories, wells, schools, hospitals, police stations and other public buildings were destroyed. Families are still
    living amid the rubble of their former homes long after the attacks ended, as reconstruction has been impossible due to the continuing blockade. More than 1,400 people were killed during the military operation.
    Significant trauma, both immediate and long-term, has been suffered by the population of Gaza. The Report notes signs of profound depression, insomnia and effects such as bed-wetting among children. The effects on children who witnessed killings and violence, who had thought they were facing death, and who lost family members would be long lasting, the Mission found, noting in its Report that some 30 per cent of children screened at UNRWA schools suffered mental health problems.
    The report concludes that the Israeli military operation was directed at the people of Gaza as a whole, in furtherance of an overall and continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population, and in a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed at the civilian population. The destruction of food supply installations, water sanitation systems, concrete factories and residential houses was the result of a deliberate and systematic policy which has made the daily process of living, and dignified living, more difficult for the civilian population.
    The Report states that Israeli acts that deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, that deny their freedom of movement and their right to leave and enter their own country, that limit their rights to access a court of law and an effective remedy, could lead a competent court to find that the crime of persecution, a crime against humanity, has been committed.
    The report underlines that in most of the incidents investigated by it, and described in the report, loss of life and destruction caused by Israeli forces during the military operation was a result of disrespect for the fundamental principle of “distinction” in international humanitarian law that requires military forces to distinguish between military targets and civilians and civilian objects at all times. The report states that “Taking into account the ability to plan, the means to execute plans with the most developed technology available, and statements by the Israeli military that almost no errors occurred, the Mission finds that the incidents and patterns of events considered in the report are the result of deliberate planning and policy decisions.”

Regarding actions undertaken by Palestinian armed groups, the Commission found,

    [T]he repeated acts of firing rockets and mortars into Southern Israel by Palestinian armed groups “constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity,” by failing to distinguish between military targets and the civilian population. “The launching of rockets and mortars which cannot be aimed with sufficient precisions at military targets breaches the fundamental principle of distinction,” the report says. “Where there is no intended military target and the rockets and mortars are launched into civilian areas, they constitute a deliberate attack against the civilian population.”
    The Mission concludes that the rocket and mortars attacks “have caused terror in the affected communities of southern Israel,” as well as “loss of life and physical and mental injury to civilians and damage to private houses, religious buildings and property, thereby eroding the economic and cultural life of the affected communities and severely affecting the economic and social rights of the population.”

Three Israeli noncombatants and ten Israeli soldiers were killed during the war. Of the Palestinians killed, more than 1,000 were noncombatants, including more than 300 children.
Here are the Commission’s conclusion and recommendations (reformatted by me for clarity):

    The prolonged situation of impunity has created a justice crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory that warrants action, the Report says. The Mission found the Government of Israel had not carried out any credible investigations into alleged violations.
    * It recommended that the UN Security Council require Israel to report to it, within six months, on investigations and prosecutions it should carry out with regard to the violations identified in its Report.
    * The Mission further recommends that the Security Council set up a body of independent experts to report to it on the progress of the Israeli investigations and prosecutions.
    * If the experts’ reports do not indicate within six months that good faith, independent proceedings are taking place, the Security Council should refer the situation in Gaza to the ICC Prosecutor.
    * The Mission recommends that the same independent expert body also report to the Security Council on proceedings undertaken by the relevant Gaza authorities with regard to crimes committed by the Palestinian side.
    * As in the case of Israel, if within six months there are no good faith independent proceedings conforming to international standards in place, the Council should refer the situation to the ICC Prosecutor.

What a fascinating road-map towards accountability.
Longtime JWN readers will know that I have long reflected and written about how the demands of peacemaking and the demands of seeking full accountability for past acts can best be reconciled. This is a very important case-study in this field.
Meantime, of course, if Pres. Obama is serious about his support for the human-rights agenda and for building a new, more constructive relationship with the UN, then he needs t get behind this process of holding both parties acountable.
Including, he should immediately signal to both Israel and Hamas that he will condition all future US aid to both of them on their compliance with these recommendations.

23 thoughts on “Goldstone Commission reports on Gaza-war war-crimes

  1. Jack

    So far in the online editions I have found a small article, slightly slanted, in the WAPO and absolute silence in the NYT and LAT. The BBC has an article. One would think the MSM would find this story of at least some importance.

  2. Jack

    I might add that, unsurprisingly, the WSJ (apparently the only thing the WSJ noticed at the UN was the fraud investigation of some contractors in Somalia)and the venerable CSM find the report not newsworthy as well. Meanwhile, the Globe & Mail in Canada finds it front page stuff (and , of course the Guardian does too).

  3. Donald

    The NYT has a fairly decent story on it–I don’t have the link handy.
    The Lehrer News Hour covered it, but in an appalling way. Gwen Ifill interviewed Richard Goldstone, acting in an ever so slightly skeptical fashion, but not too bad. Then she had Ambassador Oren on for “balance”. He trashed the report and the UN and praised Israel’s wonderful humanitarian record and gave an absurdly one-sided account of the history between the Gazans and Israel over the past few years (Short version–Israel ended the occupation and they bombarded us with rockets.) Nobody was there to challenge any of this and Ifill acted as though he was making a good case for dismissing the report. That was it. That’s apparently Ifill’s idea of balanced journalism.

  4. Jack

    I think I understand the strong pro-Zionist opinion in the US (mostly evangelical Christian), but why is the US MSM so strongly Israeli biased? Is it conviction, money, fear or what?

  5. Jack

    After Donald’s post, I did a further search and did indeed find a story in the NYT. It is hidden deep in the world section, with nothing on the front page. It comes right after a story about women only commuter trains in India and chicken feet in China. Bravo, NYT; an admirable sense of proportion. Incidentally, the story is pretty reasonable after one gets past the headline and lead paragraph which were obviously written by the editorial board and not the reporter.

  6. Donald

    I don’t normally defend the NYT, but on the paper copy the Goldstone story is on the front page and at the very top.

  7. bevin

    What is really interesting is the fact (see above) that all the usual suspects are engaged elsewhere today, as, all over the world, the Goldstone Report is being buried in slime by thousands of half trained liars for Zionism.
    Things have reached such a stage at the Guardian’s cif web site that they are beginning to fall over each other’s feet: such an orgy of misrepresentation, special pleading and naive fabrication has not been see for a while.
    Whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad. Then, having voluntarily dissociated their brains from reality, their victims lose all sense of proportion and balance.
    In such a state of mind was the government of Israel when it unleashed its military on the people of Gaza.

  8. Derick Schilling

    I haven’t had a chance to read the report in its entirety, but my sense is that its historical overview declines to consider whether the UN bears any responsibility for the tragedy of Gaza, i.e., whether UNRWA shouldn’t have tried to resettle its refugee population somewhere in the Arab world outside of Gaza, where the refugees (and their descendants) could presumably enjoy greater safety and opportunity.

  9. GDriver

    It is taken for granted that the Obama Government will not seek to protect alleged war criminals.
    Israel today stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Using civilians as human shields to terrorize the population, being one such horrific allegation.
    The U N Human Rights Commission report today recommends that the Security Council take this matter before the International Criminal Court.
    It is taken for granted that the Obama Government will not seek to protect alleged war criminals by allowing LOBBY GROUPS to exert pressure on it to use its VETO to frustrate international justice, the rule of law and democracy.
    That would be condoning war crimes, an act from which no Western government could completely recover.
    Obama is not likely to take America back 50 years. This is the 21st century and neocons and neozionists are minority groups that may be tolerated but must not be allowed disproportionate influence over the majority, either in the House of Representatives or in society as a whole.

  10. Donald

    Yes, Derick, the UN bears a heavy responsibility for not assisting Israel in its Palestinian relocation program.

  11. Shirin

    Derick, you have a great point. The UN should have facilitated Israel’s ethnic cleansing program right from the beginning.

  12. Derick Schilling

    So keeping hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees, and their descendants, in the overcrowded, underdeveloped, and dangerous Gaza Strip has been a good thing? Should the roughly three million Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia in 1945-46 have been kept in a series of camps strung out along the Czech-German border in Bavaria?

  13. Donald

    Yes, Derick, obviously one good ethnic cleansing justifies another, and looking back at historical events from the late 40’s, we should focus our moral outrage on those who did not do more to make sure that the victims of ethnic cleansing be placed in new homes so that they could not make trouble for the cleansers. Division of labor–one group creates refugees, and the UN resettles them and everybody is happy.
    Seriously, one might or might not fault the UN. I’d pay a lot more attention to the people who actually created the refugees in the first place, but that’s just me.

  14. Derick Schilling

    Donald, are you saying that the suffering Palestinian refugees have experienced from being kept in camps in Gaza instead of being resettled in say, the Nile valley, is justified by the trouble they’ve made for Israel (“the cleansers”)? And does “the people who actually created the refugees in the first place” include the various Arab leaders who thought waging war against the Yishuv in 1947-49 was a good thing?

  15. Shirin

    Of course Derick either assumes that the Palestinian refugees wish to be resettled away from their ancestral homeland, or else he believes that they should be forcibly resettled wherever the UN decides they can find room for them whether it is what they want or not.

  16. Jack

    If we want to consider UN errors (and earlier British errors), perhaps we should go back just a bit further and consider whether the UN erred in not relocating the Jewish refugees of WWII to a place that would not lead to constant warfare. Perhaps giving them a big slice of Germany would have been a better choice. Maybe we would be seeing a more peaceful Mideast with indigenous Jews and Arabs working out their problems with a lot less bloodshed and misery.

  17. Eurosabra

    The post-WW2 immigration to Israel of DPs and survivors in the period before the founding of the State of Israel was not really significant to providing useful population and manpower in the period 1945-48, and the “critical mass” of statehood was reached on the basis of the Eretz Israeli-born of the period 1918-1925. The British did in fact prevent Jewish immigration quite effectively all the way up until May ’48. “Holocaust”-origin manpower of the IDF was inadequately trained and shamefully wasted, as at Latrun, except for the few European-origin late 1930s refugees like Hannah Senesh who wound up in the British or British-supported other allied militaries (Free French, Czech, Polish) and later passed to the IDF. So overwhelmingly Eretz-Israeli born Jews were “given” a state partly as compensation for a European-induced disaster for the Jewish people, for which Europe has never forgiven the Jews, as Jack so eloquently illustrates. There was never a thought of resettling Jews–Central Europe’s coloureds, like Roma–anywhere in Europe with or without sovereign power, and in fact Patton and his ilk objected to DPs being housed in regular houses, lessening the housing options of German civilians. So Palestinians are not the only people deliberately kept in camps long after the relevant war.
    The State of Israel responded to the total ethnic cleansing by Egypt of the Jewish settlements of the Gaza area in ’48-’49 by clearing out some Arab settlements of the SW Negev (Falluja, Iraq al-Manshiya) after the war, because they had been used quite effectively as Egyptian strongpoints. Those displaced people in particular might have a claim to Israeli citizenship by succession to the Mandate, since they did not fall under the Absentee Property Law. However, they have never brought such a claim nor has one been brought on their behalf.
    Gaza was a very good thing for the Egyptian government’s program of harassing southern Israel from 1949-56, and only came a cropper because the IDF disproportionately harmed Palestinian-accented Egyptian-uniformed soldiers in ’56, both sides believing they were refighting 1948’s personal/tribal-war-to-the-death-for-each-and-all despite the uniforms of the nation-state to which each belonged, the international discussion and cease-fire, and the intervention of the British and the French. Orpaz’s “At the Bullet’s Tip” makes that point well, but who reads Israeli Hebrew literature of the 50s?

  18. Donald

    “Donald, are you saying that the suffering Palestinian refugees have experienced from being kept in camps in Gaza instead of being resettled in say, the Nile valley, is justified by the trouble they’ve made for Israel (“the cleansers”)? And does “the people who actually created the refugees in the first place” include the various Arab leaders who thought waging war against the Yishuv in 1947-49 was a good thing?”
    No to the first question. And no to the second. Various people and groups on the Arab side have plenty to feel guilty about, but Israel’s crimes are its own, just as, for instance, Hamas’s terrorist actions are its own. Hamas didn’t have to resist occupation by blowing up civilians–that was their own evil choice. I don’t go along with people on one side or the other who try to shove off the blame for the crimes of Side A onto Side B. You seem rather eager to do that sort of thing. You should stop.

  19. Derick Schilling

    Shirin, I do not know how many Palestinians would have chosen to remain in Gaza had Egypt, the Arab League, and the UN given them a choice, but it is my understanding that their choices were limited. I also believe that keeping hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza for decades has done nothing to help resolve the situation of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants. None of them are any closer to returning to their former homes inside Israel than they were six decades ago.

  20. Salah

    Eurosabra
    The post-WW2 immigration to Israel
    Eurosabra, you know why?
    Israeli was in need to educated Jews to holed an d start building their “country” structures, so they went to seduced the Arab Jews from Iraq and other Arab countries, most of them had educated and high level of experiences which far different from Jews spaciously in Eastern Europe when Jews was in some places no allowed to attend local schools.
    Some Iraqi Jews went to Israel and they got high ranking job as soon as been in Israel and names are very obvious at that times.

  21. Derick Schilling

    To state what must be fairly obvious by now, I do not consider the tragedy of the Palestinian refugees to be nothing more than an Israeli “crime.” Nor do I believe that every terrible event in history can be reduced to a “crime” that can be easily assigned to Sides A or B.

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