The recent release of the UN study headed by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone is a watershed of sorts in the diplomatic history of Israel. An ardent supporter/friend of Israel with family living in Israel, Goldstone’s report is sober yet scathing regarding Israel’s actions in Gaza. The report details not just the slaughter of civilians but the seemingly planned destruction of civilian infrastructure that could, in no way, be considered militarily related (unless the futile goal was to make the bombed civilians turn against Hamas). The report also unequivocally condemns Hamas for the war crime of firing on civilian populations in Israel, and likely for that reason, both Israel and Hamas were finally able to agree on one thing, their condemnation of the report.
Further, the report goes on to describe Israeli governmental censorship efforts as well as government efforts to suppress dissent within Palestinian Israeli populations (obvious Muzzlewatch concerns) . Perhaps most importantly, the report goes into detail describing the effects of the occupation in the West Bank as well as the siege of Gaza. This contextualization is particularly damning and frequently completely missing from mainstream analysis. The fact that such a high profile report seamlessly includes this context is refreshing from the point of view of those working to stop the occupation, and conversely, quite galling for those who seek to keep the status quo.
The war crimes committed by Hamas, are deplorable and also described in the report, but they are also placed within the context of a people trying to fight occupation. Israel’s actions are allowed no such context. Israeli maximalist existentialist fears, whether heartfelt delusion or cold eyed cynicism, are simply not treated. Thus most of the responsibility, as it should be, is placed on the shoulders of Israel, whose firepower, and the resulting death toll, utterly dwarfed that of Hamas. (One is left to conclude, logically, that a government seeking to protect the citizens of Sderot and Ashkelon, as it should, would do so by ending the illegal siege of Gaza, not by making life even more intolerable for people who would, like Jews or anyone else in the same situation, fight back.)
Part of the report that is rather intriguing concerns the status of Israeli governmental investigations into Cast Lead incidents. The report’s conclusions essentially say that absent any credible Israeli investigations, (within six months of the release of this report), that the matter then be taken up with the security council with the possibility of criminal prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The release of the report, on the eve of an Obama photo-op with Netanyahu and Abbas in New York City, will make things uncomfortable for all concerned because there is no way to explain away Israeli actions, nor US support for those actions nor the weakness of the PA in helping the situation in Gaza or in gaining any real concessions from Israel.
Predictably, the usual suspects have been working overtime to smear any and all that might be associated with the report. Obviously, the UN is an easy target for such people, unfortunately, Goldstone, himself, is a tougher nut to crack. His “friend of Israel” bone fides are iron clad as his probity in investigating war crimes in Rwanda and Yugoslavia. Goldstone has personally, notwithstanding vicious inuendo (see below) responded forcefully to any claims of bias, or vile claims of “self-hatred.” Even stating that it probably would have been an even harsher report without him. One thing Goldstone would have liked to have been different is that he would have preferred it if Israel would have cooperated with the inquiry. Nevertheless you get little gems such as this from Israel Today’s Dan Margalit:
“The liberal anti-Semitism strides delicately, appoints a hostile commission and finds an obsequious Jew, to dance to the tune of the Gentile landowner……The role was assigned to Richard Goldstone, and he met the expectations fully.”
The UN report was completed with the full NON-cooperation of Israel, which only made matters worse as the PA and Hamas did fully cooperate. Much of the post mortem analysis by those “pro-Israel” focused on trying to undercut the legitimacy of the authors, or on how Israel might have better spun this story, or how Israel should have cooperated with the UN so as to have better spun the story or how Israel should have done its own thorough, non white washed investigation. Indeed, in Israel, save for Haaretz, as Uri Avnery notes, almost all the media response has revolved around everything but the substance of the report. Avnery says, spin and lack of Israeli governmental cooperation is understandable given the unambiguous evidence for the crimes.
In the US, we have an interesting mix of mainstream press responses, George Bisharat in the LA Times, pointing out the importance of this report, David Landau in the NY Times (mostly talking about spin issues). AIPAC, the ADL and their ilk have squandered no time, using erroneous factual claims and dubious logic, in trying to misdirect focus to false issues of anti-Semitism, hatred of Israel, simple bias, etc.
Something is different now, however, the evidence is so stark, the investigators so vetted and the investigation so comprehensive in establishing the context of Cast Lead, that there is now, some little hope , that there will be actual consequences for the massacre. At the very least, this has put the US in an interesting position because if the case does come up before the security council regarding initiating the ICC, the absolutely assured US veto will be at the cost of very real Israeli concessions.
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