Good start on Goldstone, Michael Posner

Michael Posner, who’s the US’s Assistant secretary of State for Human Rights, Democratization, etc, spoke about the Goldstone Report at the UN Human Rights Council today. He called on Israel, as well as Hamas, to,

    utilize appropriate domestic [judicial] review and meaningful accountability mechanisms to investigate and follow-up on credible allegations…”
    “If undertaken properly and fairly, these reviews can serve as important confidence-building measures that will support the larger essential objective which is a shared quest for justice and lasting peace,” he said.
    … Posner reiterated Washington’s view that the Council paid “grossly disproportionate attention” to Israel, but said that the U.S. delegation was ready to engage in balanced debate.

But is the US also ready to withhold all its economic, political, and military support from either of these accused parties that fail to carry out thorough investigations into the facts alleged by Goldstone, I wonder?
Before Posner was appointed to his present position in February he was the president of an excellent organization called Human Rights First– formerly, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. So he must know Judge Goldstone pretty well from the work both of them did in the 1990s.
Also, HRF has done some great work on various Middle East-related issues, including Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and Israel-Palestine. I imagine it would have been hard for Posner to stay in his present job if he’d been forced simply to throw the Goldstone Report into the trash-can.
Goldstone did, it is true, call firstly on the relevant state authorities on both sides to carry out credible and rigorous investigations into the war crimes and crimes against humanity that he alleged. But he also requested the international community– in the form of the UN Human Rights Council and the Security Council– to remain seized of the matter and to ensure that those investigations take place.
So let’s wait and see.
As I wrote here a couple of weeks ago, it’s right to recognize that there’s some tension between the future-oriented demands of peacemaking in any situation of ongoing conflict and the backward-looking demands of the whole quest for “accountability”.
I think Posner has done a good job in arguing how the carrying out of credible investigations by the two national authorities can itself be a step that builds confidence. (Much better than the attempt Susan Rice made, to argue that the demands of accountability should simply be jettisoned altogether.)
However, my expectation that this government in Israel will want to ‘build confidence” in the way Posner suggests– or indeed, in any of the other ways it’s been requested to do so by the Obama administration– is very low, asymptotic to zero.
And meanwhile, as I noted in that earlier post, Israel as occupying power continues, day after day after day, to impose on Gaza’s people living conditions that are extremely inhumane and continue to constitute, as Goldstone argued, a quite illegal pursuit of collective punishment on all 1.5 million of them.
So set aside questions about “the past” and “the future” for a moment.
What is Washington doing to end that illegal behavior, which is being carried out on a continuing basis in the present by that state that is so heavily dependent on our generosity, Israel?
I guess to me, as a US citizen, that’s the most burning issue. At this point, I’m not sure how much it’s worth for Pres. Obama to try to get either the Israelis or the Palestinians (or other Arabs) to undertake “confidence-building steps” toward the other.
But what I do know is that it’s the US itself that now needs to build the confidence of the vast majority of the people in the world in the integrity and fair-mindedness of our government, which continues to cling onto its long-held role as the dominant mediator in this conflict.
That’s why we need to see the US both doing effective follow-up on Goldstone and– even more urgently– taking concrete actions to lift Israel’s inhumane siege of Gaza.

19 thoughts on “Good start on Goldstone, Michael Posner

  1. Joe in Australia

    The USA also sends aid to Egypt, which has also closed the passes between its territory and Gaza. Wouldn’t sanctions against Egypt be just as effective as those against Israel?

  2. Donald

    “Posner reiterated Washington’s view that the Council paid “grossly disproportionate attention” to Israel, but said that the U.S. delegation was ready to engage in balanced debate.”
    This is both stupid and hypocritical and it doesn’t bode well for the US as a participant in a “balanced” discussion. Israel received “grossly disproportionate attention” because it committed a grossly disproportionate fraction of the war crimes and also because they refused to cooperate in the investigation. If they wanted more attention paid to the Hamas rockets, they have only themselves to blame.

  3. bevin

    “Goldstone did, it is true, call firstly on the relevant state authorities on both sides to carry out credible and rigorous investigations into the war crimes and crimes against humanity that he alleged.”
    The relevant State authorities on both sides are Israel. Gaza is occupied territory. It has no government. The locally elected authorities are not recognised by Israel or its allies. Many of its members are detained, without charge or trial, by Israel.
    The attempt to equate the position of Hamas in Gaza, with that of a sovereign state is farcical: the fact that the US and its satellites go through the motions of pretending that which is evidently not so, is simply a comment on the gullibility of the populace and the utter corruption of the media who go along with this evil, fictitious narrative.
    Things have reached a very bad state when, before calling Israel to account for a catalogue of war crimes, without precedent since the Wehrmacht marched east of the Polish border, it is felt necessary to genuflect piously before the fiction that the community now called Sderot has been under continual bombardment at the hands of Hamas.
    Every child in the middle east knows better. And when every child knows better than the Assistant Secretary of State, the state is in deep trouble. History is ruthless with those who are guided by myths and lies.

  4. Derick Schilling

    “Things have reached a very bad state when, before calling Israel to account for a catalogue of war crimes, without precedent since the Wehrmacht marched east of the Polish border”
    That comparison is so clearly false that I am forced to conclude one of two things about its author: either he (or she) is not in their right mind, or is a deliberate falsifier. Since bevin’s prose, while overheated and often cliched, is intelligible, I am left with the second explanation, and thus moved to call you out. Sir (or Ma’am), I am giving you the lie direct.

  5. Darryl

    Helena: Could you specify what “great work” you think Human Rights First has done on Israel/Palestine?
    To my knowledge HRF has never conducted any human rights research in the country. I have only seen statements that, curiously, condemn Israel’s enemies for violating human rights or IHL while merely reminding Israel of its legal obligations (http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/middle_east/israel/hrd_israel.htm; http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/media/hr/2009/alert/384/index.htm; http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/media/ij/2006/statement/84/index.htm). It is difficult to see how any rigorous fieldwork would support such lopsided conclusions.
    Of course HRF’s record on the conflict is not necessarily very predictive of Posner’s actions in Geneva. Far more telling is his boss’ statement that “the effort is going to be to keep [the Goldstone report] in Geneva” [http://www.state.gov/g/rls/2009/129643.htm].

  6. Joe M.

    You seem to have missed this quote by you rbuddy posner:
    At Tuesday’s council meeting in Geneva, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Michael H. Posner criticized the report and rejected the suggestion that it be taken up by the Security Council.
    “We disagree sharply with many of the report’s assessments and its recommendations and believe it to be deeply flawed,” Posner said. “If this standard were applied in every conflict situation around the world where there are alleged violations, then the role of the Human Rights Council would be dramatically different.”
    http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1117728.html

  7. Titan

    Even B’Tselem came against the Goldstone report, but you wouldn’t see our Iranian paid blogger report that. I assume when the pressure is on Iran her handlers are frantically demanding that she deflects every possible discussion away from the shameful and crazy Mullas and towards Israel.
    [From HC: I’m leaving the above, quite untrue and completely slanderous, references to myself up here for now because they demonstrate the depths of rudeness and desperation to which diehard defenders of the pro-Israeli status quo like “Titus”/”Titan” etc have been driven by this year’s revelations about Israel’s gross violations– in many policy areas– of the most basic norms of international law and human decency. Titus, the entire blogosphere is open to you. Please cease and desist from coming to my tiny corner of it with your slanderous venom. ~HC.]

  8. kassandra

    Ah, another gentleman from the wide expanses of Arkansas heard from . . .
    There is no rebuttal to the Goldstone Report up on the BTselem site. All references on google are quoting a Jerusalem Post story. And even the JPost story seems to have wanted the IDF to do an investigation first.
    Well, the IDF did “investigate” itself, and here is BTselem’s response to that report:
    http://www.btselem.org/english/gaza_strip/20090423_response_to_idf_investigation_of_operation_cast_l
    Here is just two quotes from BTselem’s response:
    “Soldiers fired deliberately at Palestinian civilians who did not endanger the soldiers lives, including people who held white flags. . .” “At least 14 civilians, seven of them children, were killed by the use of white phosphorous.”
    Is BTselem going to deny their previous report now? The winds of Hasbara seem to be blowing. . .

  9. kassandra

    Joe in Australia, Since you seem to know the difference between Haredi and Charedi, you should know that the border and one crossing between Egypt and Israel is 95% controlled by the Israeli, via a system of agreements and treaties.
    In essence, the US sends US tax dollars to Egypt to control the border for Israel. The so-called aid money that goes to Egypt should in reality be counted with the aid sent to Israel, as it is entirely dependent on Egypt submitting to Israel.
    See this story in the World Herald Tribune
    “Congressional sources said US military aid would be dependent on improvement is Egyptian security cooperation with Israel. . .”
    http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/WTARC/2008/ss.egypt0596_10_10.asp

  10. J K

    Interesting, Titus. Not the idiotic slander against Helena, but the accurate and dismaying statement about B’tselem’s director’s stupid criticism of the report. She says “Israel has only itself to blame that it took the Human Rights Council to tell [Israel] what it should have done eight months ago.” Perpetuating, as she does, the ludicrous, terrifying, premise that Israel does not intentionally target civilians is a major part of this Israeli problem. “They who have put out the people’s eyes, reproach them of their blindness.” Give me an honest Mordechai Gur (or Ze’ev Schiff), who knew that the only answer to the question of whether Israel targets civilians is “Be Serious!” (of course it always has) and “And how!” over such worthless “liberals” any day. Even Helena errs in calling the report’s evidence- based conclusions mere “allegations.”

  11. Joe in Australia

    There is no difference between “Charedi” and “Haredi”. They’re two transliterations of the same word. Which, amusingly, ought to be translated as “Quaker”.
    the US sends US tax dollars to Egypt to control the border for Israel …
    Well, then. The Israelis are imposing a blockade for their own interests, but Egypt is only doing so because it is a puppet of the Zionist-aligned government in Washington. This makes it all the more important to focus on Egypt first. The Israelis might well keep blockading Gaza even after US funds are stopped, but Egypt has no intrinsic reason to blockade the Palestinians. Once the US stops sending tax dollars to Egypt the blockade will come down.

  12. kassandra

    Good point, Joe. Once the US stops sending tax dollars to Israel, the zionist regime will be swept into the sea.

  13. Salah

    the zionist regime will be swept into the sea.
    This statement reflect some one he did not understand what the Zionists project all about in heartland of Arab/ Muslim world.
    It took years and years of support, now US and its western alliance came together to heartland of Arab/ Muslim to expand what they started 100 years ago.

  14. الصهيونية = العروبة

    مردوخ هو من استراليا. ماذا كان يكتب أن أساء لك؟

  15. Salah

    الصهيونية = العروبة
    اولا العروبــة كلمة مليئة بالمعاني تأريخيا و وطنيا وهي تمثل امة وحضارة عريقة لها اشراقات واضافات الى الحضارات .
    العروبة لم تخلق بالزيف والكذب والدجل انما اخذت معناها ومضمونها من حضارة متجذرة على ارضها ولم تطلق على لقطاء ومجرميين لفظتم مجتمعات غريبة .
    الغباء ان واحد لا يعرف اللغة العربية ويكتب بغباء وعدم معرفة والادهى مليئ بالاكاذيب

  16. Salah

    “Ben Gurion declared. ‘Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it’s true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been antisemitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations’ time, but for the moment there is no chance. So, it’s simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army. Our whole policy is there. Otherwise the Arabs will wipe us out.’ ” [Nahum Goldmann, The Jewish Paradox, p. 99]

  17. الصهيونية = العروبة

    الغباء ان واحد لا يعرف اللغة
    ومن الواضح أن أعرف ما يكفي ليكون مفهوما ، التي هي أكثر من التمتمة بك!
    على أي حال ، للإجابة على سؤالك ، فإن معظم الأميركيين نتفق مع مردوخ. سيئة للغاية بالنسبة لك ، والصديق.

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