Goldstone challenges US over Gaza report

Goldstone challenges US over Gaza report

Judge Richard Goldstone told Al Jazeera on Thursday that he is still waiting for the U.S. to back up its claim that his report on the war in Gaza has a number of flaws.

“The Obama administration joined our recommendation calling for full and good-faith investigations, both in Israel and in Gaza, but said that the report was flawed,” Goldstone told Al Jazeera.

The UN commission chairman said that if Washington points out the flaws, he would be ready to respond. “I have yet to hear from the Obama administration what the flaws in the report that they have identified are. I would be happy to respond to them, if and when I know what they are,” he said.

Israel’s attacks will lead to its isolation

Israel has been dealing one blow after another to the rest of the world. While China has still not recovered from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s absence from the reception at its Tel Aviv embassy – a serious punishment for China’s support for the Goldstone report – France is licking its wounds after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “vetoed” a visit by the French foreign minister to Gaza. And Israel has dealt another blow: Its ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren, will boycott the conference next week of the new Israel lobby J Street.

China, France and J Street will somehow get by despite these boycotts, Turkey will also recover from the great vacationers’ revolt, and we can expect that even the Swedes and Norwegians will recover from Israel’s loud reprimands. But a country that attacks and boycotts everyone who does not exactly agree with its official positions will become isolated, forsaken and detestable: North Korea of today or Albania of yesterday. It’s actually quite strange for Israel to use this weapon, as it is about to turn into the victim of boycotts itself.

Israel strikes and strikes again. It strikes its enemies, and now it strikes out at its friends who dare not fall exactly in line with its official policies. The J Street case is a particularly serious example. This Jewish organization rose in America along with Barack Obama. Its members want a fair and peace-seeking Israel.

That’s their sin, and their punishment is a boycott. [continued…]

‘U.S. to stand by Israel in the fight against Goldstone report’

President Peres on Wednesday harshly condemned the Goldstone report and told the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice that, “It is outrageous that a respected institution like the United Nations provides a platform to spread lies and stories about Israel.”

The Goldstone report accuses Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian militants of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during their Dec. 27-Jan. 18 conflict in the Gaza Strip.

The report also calls on the UN Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, which could prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes.

“The United Nations provides a stage for Ahmmadinejad, who threatens to annihilate Israel, and lets him stand judge,” continued Peres. “This is nothing short of ridiculous.”

Rice promised that the United States will continue to stand by Israel as a loyal friend in the fight against the Goldstone report. [continued…]

U.S., EU pile on pressure for Israel to create own panel on Gaza op

The United States and a number of important EU countries are pressing Israel to establish an independent commission of inquiry into the findings of the Goldstone report on last winter’s Gaza offensive.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicholas Sarkozy, for example, have written a letter on the subject to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and messages have been sent through diplomatic channels, in phone calls and in Netanyahu’s meetings with senior American and European officials, said a senior official in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu has yet to take a stance in debates in the cabinet and security cabinet on the issue, let alone decide on the matter. No decision is expected in the next few days, according to a source in the Prime Minister’s Bureau.

The main supporters of establishing a commission are Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, while the main opponents are Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai. [continued…]

Hamas: investigate attacks on Israeli civilians

Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip should promptly implement the recommendations of the Goldstone report on Gaza by conducting credible investigations into serious laws-of-war violations by Palestinian forces, Human Rights Watch said in a letter sent October 20, 2009, to Prime Minister Ismail Haniya.

The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, led by Justice Richard Goldstone, called on Hamas and Israel to investigate within six months alleged violations of the laws of war by their respective forces. The report said that Palestinian rocket attacks against Israeli population centers should be investigated as war crimes. The UN Human Rights Council voted on October 16 to endorse the recommendations of the Gaza report. [continued…]

Why we report on ‘open’ societies

Responding to Robert Bernstein’s NYT op-ed

Human Rights Watch was saddened to read in The New York Times on October 20, 2009 that its founding chair, Robert L. Bernstein, feels he must “join the critics” of our work on Israel. We fundamentally disagree with Mr. Bernstein’s views.

Human Rights Watch does not believe that the human rights records of “closed” societies are the only ones deserving scrutiny. If that were the case, we would not work on US abuses in Guantanamo Bay, police abuse in Brazil, the “untouchables” in India, or migrants in South Africa. “Open” societies and democracies commit human rights abuses, too, and Human Rights Watch has an important role to play in documenting those abuses and pressing for their end.

Human Rights Watch does not devote more time and energy to Israel than to other countries in the region, or in the world. We’ve produced more than 1,700 reports, letters, news releases, and other commentaries on the Middle East and North Africa since January 2000, and the vast majority of these were about countries other than Israel. Furthermore, our Middle East division is only one of 16 research programs at Human Rights Watch. The work on Israel is a tiny fraction of Human Rights Watch’s work as a whole.

It is not the case that Human Rights Watch had “no access to the battlefield” after the Israeli operation in Gaza in January 2009. Although the Israeli government denied us access, our researchers entered Gaza via the border with Egypt and conducted extensive interviews with victims, eyewitnesses, United Nations officials, local authorities, and others. As in war zones around the world, we also visited attack sites, analyzed ballistics evidence, photographed wounds, and examined autopsy and other medical reports.

Mr. Bernstein brought his concerns about our work on Israel to a full meeting of the Human Rights Watch Board of Directors in April. The board unanimously rejected his view that Human Rights Watch should report only on closed societies, and expressed its full support for the organization’s work.

Human Rights Watch stands fully behind the work we have done on Israel and around the world. [continued…]

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