Sunday, September 20, 2009

Goldstone's Report

The Goldstone report commissioned by the UN Human Rights body to look into charges of violations arising from Israel's latest 'panzerschlacht' in Gaza has finally been presented. 3 paratroop brigades and 5 armored brigades, the IAF and the Israeli Navy took part in a three week 'hoo-hah' in Gaza over the end of last year and first two weeks in January. 'Operation Cast Lead' was a 'reaction' to a newly re-started 'barrage' of homemade rockets flying out of Gaza. It was also, allegedly, intended to attack HAMAS and punish the Gazans for supporting them. The Israelis claim it was a spur-of-the-moment result of frustration and anger at Palestinian recalcitrance and ungratefulness. The Palestinian authority remained mute during the operation and kept a clamp on any West Bank protest. Attempted censorship and spin failed, largely due to an active internet presence by Gazans who got numerous reports with real-time video and photos out while the operation was underway. 'Cast Lead' came to an abrupt sort of end after an Israeli news program featured a Gazan doctor, who worked in an Israeli hospital, described on-air how a tank shell, bursting in his home, had just killed his two teen-aged daughters and a niece.

The Goldstone Report - 500+ plus pages reads like a litany of grievances that would warm the heart of any former Sonderkommando. If there is one thing the Israelis have learned besides 'never again', it's how to do things as well as other persecutors did. And the reaction in Jewish circles around the world bears witness that the 'big lie' - perfected by Goebbels ministry of propaganda - is not a strange thing to 'Israelis' living in less violent parts of the world.

The Israeli government has responded to the Human Rights body, from day one, with a barrage ranging from 'blatant anti-semitism' to 'we're investigating human rights abuses ourselves'. But no matter the variety of the message - the underlying one is 'we reject this report and we want everybody  else to reject it as well'. The US of course was first off the mark, with it's 'concerns' about 'fairness' in the report. No doubt the 'fair-minded' Canadians will maintain their 100 percent opposition to any HRC report involving Israel. The Israelis are careful not to address the salient points made by the report's defenders: the Chairman is an eminent jurist of the Jewish faith (whose wife claims the report was 'moderated' by his participation); the Israelis had an opportunity to partake in the formation of the investigation - they didn't. They were offered an opportunity to appear to present their side, they chose not to. The Israelis actively tried to interfere with the commissioners by barring access to and through Israeli controlled territory. It's easier, and certainly more self-serving ,   to just charge the world with anti-Jewish bias.

Some of the charges in the report are still fairly evident - the on-going blockade of Gaza by land and sea, for instance. Israeli jets bombed 'smuggling tunnels' again to-day and Israeli tank fire killed two 'terrorists' near the Gaza wall. This siege has been exacerbated by the destruction of food sources - flour mills and chicken farms were purposefully destroyed - a sewage lagoon was breached, it contaminated adjacent farmland. Water wells and purification plants were bombed and the only soft drink factory in Gaza was destroyed. To this day building materials, to repair or reconstruct hundreds of homes and public infrastructure allegedly deliberately destroyed by Israeli forces, are embargoed. Even if they weren't, the only two concrete/cement making plants in Gaza were also bombed to destruction.

A major part of the commission's work was aimed at investigating charges that the IDF had deliberately targeted civilians. The findings are that there appear to have been instances where charges under the Geneva conventions might be warranted. That in some situations it appears that IDF forces were instructed to 'be rough' with Gazan civilians and property and that some soldiers may have taken the roughness to extremes.

The commission also investigated Israeli use of new types of weapons (and some regulated types) particularly in settings where civilians were known to be. It found that IDF forces may have deployed some weapons such as white phosphorus, in contravention of the Geneva convention. In general the principal of 'proportionality' was examined, as it applied in Gaza earlier this year. Again the IDF, for all their protestations of innocence, were found wanting.

The report leaves an opportunity for the Israelis to investigate and address these findings. But it concludes with the statement of the intention to proceed to charges before the International court if Israel does not clean its own house. The report is also supposed to be presented to the Security Council of the UN, a move the US and Israel are working hard to block. This could lead to more 'ineffective' sanctions on Israel. But even these sanctions are bit of a 'damoclean sword' for the fair fellows of the middle east. It's hard to point fingers at Iran, when one's own pot is perhaps even sootier. Besides, the Iranians tend to comply with the UN - at least sometimes, and if only indirectly. The middle eastern 'good guys' stopped complying shortly after they accepted the UN mandate for the State of Israel. Add to that the possibility of some Israeli commander on holiday getting charged and hauled into a Hague court.

So Goldstone's report becomes another part of the myth. It's a changed world from the days when little David was fighting off a Goliath of Arab states. Perhaps it's those beatings Goliath gets on a regular basis that has the world wondering why 'little Dave' has never been able to carry-through on peace with its neighbours when it's had so many chances, and so much strength, to do so. The recent problems with Hamas are re-casting David as the robust giant pestered by a galling little Goliath - and being every bit the bully the  original Philistine  'invader' was. If anybody is 'in danger' to-day it's Palestinians - Goldstone's report demonstrates this. It may be myth, but it's not the myth Israelis want to hear.

No comments: