The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today endorsed the report of the Goldstone Commission that identified probable war crimes and and crimes against humanity committed by Israel and by some Palestinian armed groups during last winter’s Israeli assault on Gaza.
That report from AFP tells us that,
- 25 of the council’s 47 members, led by the Arab and African states, voted for the resolution. Six, including the United States, voted against while 16 others either abstained or did not vote.
The resolution calls for the endorsement of “the recommendations contained in the report” produced by a fact-finding mission led by international war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone to probe the 22-day conflict.
It also “calls upon all concerned parties including United Nations bodies, to ensure their implementation.”
It was tragic that the US voted against the HRC resolution. However, it seems likely the Goldstone report will now be considered by the Security Council at the session it will be holding on the matter next week.
The world– and especially perhaps the majority-Muslim countries of the world– will be watching closely to see that the US does not cast a veto there.
The fact that the HRC took up the Goldstone report once again, and that it endorsed its main findings and recommendations, marks a double setback for Israel’s current, extremely rightwing government, which had fought tooth and nail to quash or bury it.
In the first instance, the HRC’s decision to take up the report once again this week was due to the fact that the PLO leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, which ten days took its own– quite clearly Israel-spurred– action to bury the report, was forced by the overwhelming strength of Palestinian public opinion to reverse that policy.
In the second instance, the fact that the report won such strong endorsement in the HRC marked a notable setback for the campaign Netanyahu waged against it there.
Netanyahu and his coalition partners– many of whom are even more extreme than he is– have been riding high in recent weeks. They had completely bypassed all the efforts of the Obama administration to win a freeze on the construction of new (illegal) Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank. They had persuaded Obama to force Abbas into a humiliating three-way meeting along with Netanyahu and Obama, despite Abbas’s previously oft-stated refusal to meet with Netanyahu in the absence of a settlement freeze. The actions of extremist, government-backed Israeli settler organizations to penetrate, settle, and excavate deep inside areas of Palestinian East Jerusalem were accelerating full-steam ahead.
Oh, Netanyahu must have been feeling so happy… Especially at his ability to keep the Obama administration completely off his back.
Not so fast, Mr. Netanyahu.
Right now, Pres. Obama and his most senior military and diplomatic advisers are meeting in prolonged, solemn session to reach some extremely serious decisions about the deployment of reinforcements for, and the mounting threats to, the many scores of thousands of US and allied troops who are deployed deep into the heart of many very distant portions of the Muslim world.
And Netanyahu, the prime minister of a small country of some seven million citizens, thinks his government’s interest in colonial expansion should necessarily trump the rights of the Palestinian residents of the occupied West Bank and Gaza, the strong concern that the world’s more than one billion Muslims have in the wellbeing of Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, and the safety and security of the US and allied troops who are deployed throughout the Muslim world?
He’s been dreaming– and pursuing– some dreams that are extremely hazardous to international peace and stability.
But now, there are some signs that the extent of Netanyahu’s colonialist over-reach is becoming more clear, including to decisionmakers here in Washington; and that it may, finally, be meeting its limits here.
In one of my early reactions to the Goldstone report last month, I noted that many of the folks who have wanted to bury or set aside Goldston’s recommendations about winning accountability for past actions in Gaza said they wanted to do so “in the interests of peacemaking; that is, the interests of the future rather than the past.”
However, I also noted that Gaza’s 1.45 million people face conditions of horrendous inhumanity and stress in the present; and that those conditions continue, day by day by day.
The prime interest of everyone concerned about relieving suffering in the Israeli-Palestinian theater should therefore surely be on lifting Israel’s quite inhumane siege of Gaza. A siege that is, as Godlstone noted, itself an instance of quite illegal collective punishment.
I gather that last night, at a dinner hosted by the American Task Force on Palestine, Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. Jim Jones, told attendees that “All three of the crossings between Israel and Gaza should be opened.” (HT: Gene Bird)
Those are the crossings through which goods, and a small number of people, flow. Since it is still, under international law, the occupying power in Gaza, Israel has direct responsibility for the wellbeing– we could even say, the normal human flourishing– of the residents of Gaza. So obviously, those gates should be opened.
Winter approaches, but the Gazans haven’t been able even to rebuild their homes, businesses, and basic infrastructure after the destruction Israel wrought last winter.
Gen. Jones can tell an audience that “the gates should be opened.” But the US government continues to provide immense, and in many fields quite unequalled, benefits to the government of Israel– in the military, economic, diplomatic, and many other arenas.
So when will we see the Obama administration start to apply some strict accountability to Israel’s government regarding lifting the siege of Gaza?
Deeds, not words, please. On all aspects of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking and the protection of Palestinian– along with Israeli– rights.