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.