The Independent reports that a United Nations fact-finding inquiry has found that Israel committed war crimes during its attack on Gaza last winter, as did the Palestinian Hamas. The lion’s share of blame in the report, however, falls on Israeli forces, which stand accused of planning out a disproportionate use of force, the punishing of a civilian population, and reckless disregard for civilian lives– all of which are war crimes in international law. The report suggests that some Israeli actions may have gone beyond being mere war crimes to being crimes against humanity. The report will go to the UN Human Rights Commission, which will likely accept it. The findings could in theory drag Israeli officials before the World Court in the Hague, though in practice this outcome is highly unlikely.
Both the Israeli government and Hamas rejected the report as biased, which is a pretty good indication that it is even-handed.
Both rightwing Israeli news sources and Aljazeera English are convinced that the report is so many words on paper and that it will have no effect.
I disagree. Amnesty International has endorsed and defended the conclusions of the report, and Human Rights Watch has also been a supporter of Justice Goldstone. Even the British House of Lords debate on this issue last May displayed a determination that there be no double standard and that Israel be held accountable for any crimes it committed– likewise Hamas.
Israel’s continued inhumane blockade of the people of Gaza and its drive to further colonize the Palestinian West Bank, as well as its tendency to launch wars at the drop of a hat, are increasingly making it an international pariah and impelling a boycott movement, especially in Europe but also Canada. The recent World Council of Churches resolution in favor of some boycotts is also a bellwether. (Nor can such boycotts be avoided by Jewish nationalists’ attacks on the academic freedom of boycott proponents such as Neve Gordon; or by Stern Gang character assassination tactics deployed against US academics who protest the policies of the Israeli rightwing.)
Israel is deeply dependent on trade and technological sharing with Europe, and the Goldstone report will give a fillip to the boycott movement. It will also cast a long shadow on future Israeli wars on its neighbors and how they are perceived, as Aluf Benn argues in Haaretz.
The report will color how Israeli politicians’ demands for a military attack on Iran are viewed internationally, and it weakens the position of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is defying President Barack Obama by committing to build more Israeli housing on Palestinian land in the West Bank at a time when the US has called for a settlement freeze in preparation for restarting peace talks.
No Israeli official publicly presents a plausible end-game for Gaza and the West Bank. You can’t just go on economically strangling 4 million people for decades. Unlike other world conflict situations, Israel is not striving to incorporate the Palestinians as citizens (unlike the case in Sri Lanka, which wants the Tamils as citizens, or in Tibet, where China wants the Tibetans as citizens). In contrast, Israel is keeping the Palestinians stateless, and stateless people have no property or human rights. It is governments that guarantee rights. For those lacking citizenship in a real country, the only glimmer of justice that ever appears is in the form of blue ribbon commissions. Hence Justice Goldstone’s report.
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