After his famous article earlier this year on Gaza, Judge Richard Goldstone has written a new op-ed, this time seeking to defend Israel against charges of apartheid.
There are numerous problems with Goldstone’s piece, but I want to highlight two important errors. First, Goldstone – like others who attack the applicability of the term “apartheid” – wants to focus on differences between the old regime in South Africa and what is happening in Israel/Palestine. Note that he does this even while observing that apartheid “can have broader meaning”, and acknowledging its inclusion in the 1998 Rome Statute.
As South African legal scholar John Dugard wrote in his foreword to my book Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, no one is saying the two situations “are exactly the same”. Rather, there are “certain similarities” as well as “differences”: “It is Israel’s own version of a system that has been universally condemned”.
Goldstone would appear not to have read studies by the likes of South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council and others, who conclude that Israel is practicing a form of apartheid. The term has been used by the likes of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Jimmy Carter, and Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem.
Goldstone’s second major error is to omit core Israeli policies, particularly relating to the mass expulsions of 1948 and the subsequent land regime built on expropriation and ethno-religious discrimination. By law, Palestinian refugees are forbidden from returning, their property confiscated – the act of dispossession that enabled a Jewish majority to be created in the first place.
As an advisor on Arab affairs to PM Menachem Begin put it: “If we needed this land, we confiscated it from the Arabs. We had to create a Jewish state in this country, and we did”. Within the “Green Line”, the average Arab community had lost between 65 and 75 per cent of its land by the mid-1970s. Across Israel, hundreds of Jewish communities permit or deny entry according to “social suitability”. Goldstone’s claim that there is merely “de facto separation” rings hollow.
“If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.” Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak, February, 2010.
In his latest act of atonement, Judge Richard Goldstone claims that those who assert Israel practices a form of apartheid, make this accusation in order to “retard rather than advance peace negotiations.” The discrimination that Palestinians face is neither intentional nor permanent, he says.
[In the West Bank] there is no intent to maintain “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.” This is a critical distinction, even if Israel acts oppressively toward Palestinians there. South Africa’s enforced racial separation was intended to permanently benefit the white minority, to the detriment of other races. By contrast, Israel has agreed in concept to the existence of a Palestinian state in Gaza and almost all of the West Bank, and is calling for the Palestinians to negotiate the parameters.
So, according to Goldstone’s way of thinking one could say that to the extent that Palestinians have to suffer living inside a system of Israeli oppression that looks like apartheid, it’s their own fault because they have so far failed to negotiate the terms for their own release. They’re like prisoners who keep on flunking in front of the parole board. (Let’s not raise the awkward question about what exactly they did in order to deserve being thrown in prison in the first place.)
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, is quick to use Goldstone’s rejection of the Israel-apartheid equation in order to advance his own organization’s agenda.
Those who invoke this false analogy to advance BDS, lawfare, and other forms of political warfare against Israel, have been named and shamed by the former South African judge who helped end apartheid and who was also critical of Israeli policies. This is a fatal blow to the BDS movement and the apartheid analogy.
I wonder whether NGO Monitor advisory board member, Alan Dershowitz, now shares Steinberg’s enthusiasm about Goldstone? Only last year Dershowitz compared Goldstone with the Nazi war criminal, Joseph Mengele.
Gideon Levy writes:
All at once the last doubts have disappeared and the question marks have become exclamation points. Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu Al-Aish wrote a short book in which he invented the killing of his three daughters. The 29 dead from the Al-Simoni family are now vacationing in the Caribbean. The white phosphorus was only the pyrotechnics of a war film. The white-flag wavers who were shot were a mirage in the desert, as were the reports about the killing of hundreds of civilians, including women and children. “Cast lead” has returned to being a phrase in a Hanukkah children’s song.
A surprising and unexplained article in The Washington Post by Richard Goldstone caused rejoicing here, a Goldstone party, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a long time. In fact, Israeli PR reaped a victory, and for that congratulations are in order. But the questions remain as oppressive as ever, and Goldstone’s article didn’t answer them – if only it had erased all the fears and suspicions.
Anyone who honored the first Goldstone has to honor him now as well, but still has to ask him: What happened? What exactly do you know today that you didn’t know then? Do you know today that criticizing Israel leads to a pressure-and-slander campaign that you can’t withstand, you “self-hating Jew”? This you could have known before.
Was it the two reports by Judge Mary McGowan Davis that led to your change of heart? If so, you should read them carefully. In her second report, which was published about a month ago and for some reason received no mention in Israel, the New York judge wrote that nothing indicates that Israel launched an investigation into the people who designed, planned, commanded and supervised Operation Cast Lead. So how do you know which policy lay behind the cases you investigated? And what’s this enthusiasm that seized you in light of the investigations by the Israel Defense Forces after your report?
You have to be a particularly sworn lover of Israel, as you say you are, to believe that the IDF, like any other organization, can investigate itself. You have to be a blind lover of Zion to be satisfied with investigations for the sake of investigations that produced no acceptance of responsibility and virtually no trials. Just one soldier is being tried for killing.
Electronic Intifada reports:
As Palestinians were preparing for their weekend this Thursday afternoon, all of a sudden barrages of Israeli artillery fire and air raids by warplanes struck several regions of the Gaza Strip. Five Palestinians were killed and about thirty more injured.
Israeli shells struck farm land, homes, a mosque and an ambulance, and the injured were evacuated to al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Kamal Adwan hospital in northern Gaza and the Abu Yousif al-Najjar hospital in southern Gaza.
At the admissions department at al-Shifa hospital, Muhammad al-Madhoun, a journalist, told The Electronic Intifada how he was injured by a huge explosion as he sat at a relative’s home in the al-Saftawi neighborhood in northern Gaza.
“All of a sudden, we heard an explosion and saw pillars of smoke. Then I felt I had a big strike on my head, then I saw nothing and put my hand on my back to find blood. I fell down on the floor and awoke to find myself at the hospital,” al-Madhoun said, surrounded by medical staff.
Sources at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City said that they received six injuries earlier this afternoon; among them were two women and several children.
The Iron Dome missile defense system on Thursday successfully intercepted for the first time a Grad rocket that was fired at the Israeli city of Ashkelon from the Gaza Strip.
Iron Dome’s success Thursday marks the first time in history a short-range rocket was ever intercepted.
According to reports from the area, the interception could be seen in Israeli towns near northern Gaza. The second Iron Dome battery was positioned in the area of Ashkelon over the weekend, in addition to a battery already placed north of Be’er Sheva.
Following the attack on the bus, in which a 16-year-old boy was seriously wounded and the bus driver was hurt moderately, a barrage of 15 rockets and mortars were fired at southern Israel, most of them hitting open areas.
Ahram Online reports:
Palestinian crossings official Raed Fattouh, who coordinates entry of goods between Israel and Gaza, said that Israeli authorities are prohibiting the passage of at least 700 goods into Gaza.
In a press statement Wednesday morning, Fattouh made clear that the Israeli Occupation Forces are preventing 50 per cent of Gaza imports to pass due to excuses that are unsubstantiated and unconvincing.
Fattouh pointed out that most of the prohibited material belongs to the building and construction sector, which increased the housing problem in the strip that had been piling up for four years.
The Washington Post reports:
The democratic uprisings that have swept through the Middle East will make it harder for Israel to reach a peace deal with Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said this week.
That stance puts Netanyahu at odds with others here, including his defense minister, who say the changes in the region add urgency to Israel’s pursuit of a peace accord. It will also dampen expectations that Netanyahu will use a visit to Washington next month to outline any bold new ideas about breaking a negotiating impasse.
“Any potential deal with the Palestinians has to account for the tremendous instability in the region,” Netanyahu said in an interview at his Jerusalem office. “The majority of the Israeli public wants to be sure those concessions don’t endanger Israel’s security.”
Netanyahu has always struck a cautious line on relinquishing more of the West Bank to Palestinian control and has long insisted on the need for strong security guarantees, such as maintaining an Israeli military presence in the disputed territory of the Jordan Valley, part of territory that Palestinians want for a future state. But the tumult in Jordan and Egypt makes him even more cautious about making concessions, a senior Israeli official said.
Al Jazeera reports:
Israeli troops have stormed Awarta village in the northern West Bank, arresting more than 100 women as they hunted the killers of an Israeli family from the illegal settlement of Itamar, officials said.
The military also used bulldozers to destroy Palestinian houses in a northern farming village east of Tubas, in an area under Israeli control, according to Palestinian security officials.
In Awarta, hundreds of troops entered the village shortly after midnight on Thursday and imposed a curfew after which they began rounding up women, many of whom were elderly, local council head Tayis Awwad told the AFP news agency.
They continued to carry out house-to-house searches through the night, he said.
The women were taken to a military camp where troops took their fingerprints – and DNA samples – before most were released, said the Palestinian sources.
John Dugard writes:
In an op-ed in the Washington Post Richard Goldstone, former South African Constitutional Court judge and Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, expresses misgivings about the central finding of the UN Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission Report on the Gaza Conflict of 2008-9 (named after its chairman, “the Goldstone report”) that Israel’s indiscriminate attacks on civilians were intentional.
The op-ed makes strange reading.
It states that the Goldstone report would have been a different document “had I known then what I know now” but fails to disclose any information that seriously challenges the findings of the Goldstone Report.
It claims that investigations published by the Israeli military and recognised by a follow-up UN Committee Report chaired by Judge Mary McGowan Davis, which appeared in March, “indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy”, but the McGowan Davis report contains absolutely no such “indication” and instead seriously questions Israel’s investigations, finding them to be lacking in impartiality, promptness and transparency.
Goldstone expresses “confidence” that the officer responsible for perhaps the most serious atrocity of Operation Cast Lead (Israel’s codename for its assault on Gaza) — the killing of 29 members of the al-Samouni family — will be properly punished by Israel despite the fact that the McGowan Davis report provides a critical assessment of Israel’s handling of the investigation into this killing.
Finally he claims that the McGowan Davis report finds that Israel has carried out investigations “to a significant degree”, but in fact this report paints a very different picture of Israel’s investigations of 400 incidents which have resulted in two convictions, one for theft of a credit card, resulting in a sentence of seven months imprisonment and another for using a Palestinian child as a human shield which resulted in a suspended sentence of three months!
In short, there are no new facts which exonerate Israel and which could possibly have led Goldstone to change his mind. What made him change his mind therefore remains a closely guarded secret.
The Associated Press reports:
South African jurist Richard Goldstone said Tuesday that he did not plan to seek nullification of his highly critical U.N. report on Israel’s 2008-2009 offensive in the Gaza Strip and asserted that claims to the contrary by Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai were false.
The 2009 Goldstone report initially concluded that both Israel and Hamas had committed potential war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during three weeks of fighting. The findings that Israeli forces had intentionally fired at Palestinian civilians triggered outrage in Israel and a personal campaign against Goldstone, who is Jewish.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Goldstone said that Yishai had called him on Monday to thank him for an op-ed piece published Friday in The Washington Post in which the judge wrote that new information had come to light that made him rethink his central conclusions.
Goldstone said, however, that he never discussed the report with Yishai in the telephone conversation. Israeli leaders have called for the report to be retracted since it was issued in 2009.
“There was absolutely no discussion about the Goldstone report on the call,” the jurist said in a telephone interview from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
Goldstone said he thanked Yishai for calling and “stated that my concern was to work for truth, justice and human rights.”
Goldstone did confirm that Yishai had invited him to visit Israel and that he had accepted but would be unable to travel to the Jewish state until July.
“I ended the conversation by expressing my love for Israel,” Goldstone said, adding that Yishai spoke in Hebrew which was translated for the judge.
Here’s a circle that should never have been closed.
The Goldstone Report, once credited with having provided a hefty shove as Israel veered towards pariah status, is now being held up by Israelis as having unintentionally demonstrated why, when the need arises, Israel will be able to launch Cast Lead Two and once again chant: “we have no choice” — no choice but to slaughter hundreds more Palestinians.
The New York Times reports:
Israel grappled on Sunday with whether a retraction by a United Nations investigator regarding its actions in the Gaza war two years ago could be used to rehabilitate its tarnished international image or as pre-emptive defense in future military actions against armed groups.
The disavowal, by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge who led a panel of experts for the United Nations, appeared in an opinion article in The Washington Post. He said that he no longer believed that Israel had intentionally killed Palestinian civilians during its invasion of Gaza.
Many here considered the article truly significant. Commentary came in a flood, ranging from gracious praise to vindictive indignation. Some cited the message of Proverbs 28:13 that whoever confesses and renounces his sins “finds mercy.”
Still, the question remained whether the harm the Goldstone report caused — the ammunition it gave to those who view Israel as a pariah state and question its right to exist; the campaigns that have stopped some Israeli officials from traveling abroad for fear of arrest for war crimes — could be undone.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that Israel would work “to formulate practical and public diplomacy measures in order to reverse and minimize the great damage that has been done by this campaign of denigration against the State of Israel.”
A number of officials said that while the blow to Israel’s name had been great, the renunciation of the harshest conclusion would help in the future.
“The one point of light regards future actions,” Gabriela Shalev, a law professor and most recently Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said on Israel Radio. “If we have to defend ourselves against terror organizations again, we will be able to say there is no way to deal with this terror other than the same way we did in Cast Lead.”
“If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document,” Judge Goldstone wrote in the Washington Post. But it matters little what kinds of revisions Goldstone would now make; the most significant thing is that he is perceived as having disavowed some of his own conclusions.
The political impact of the report always had more to do with the identity of its author than the report’s contents. Thus the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict quickly became known simply as the Goldstone Report. It’s supposed authority derived not from the fact that it had been produced by independent international fact-finding mission under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Council — what mattered more than anything else was that Goldstone was Jewish and a Zionist.
Israel — the theory went — would be forced to sit up and pay attention if a humanitarian rebuke came from such an impeccable source. But on the contrary, Goldstone ended up being elevated to the status of presenting an existential threat to the Jewish state, on a par with Iran.
He has now effectively disarmed himself.
Israel, long enamored with the notion that its soldiers have higher moral standards than any other military force, has been quick to declare that it has been vindicated. The Goldstone Report itself has ended up better serving those who want to sustain Israel’s sense of victimhood than in being the cause of any change in Israel’s behavior.
There’s a lesson here: don’t attach too much attention to a 500-page report that few people have read, or to the ethnicity or ideology of the messenger. The reason Gaza changed the world’s view of Israel was largely thanks to on-the-ground reporting — not a report — and it came from the voices and faces and presence of young journalists who were describing what they saw, as it happened.
Al Jazeera shone the brightest spotlight on Gaza — in his report, Goldstone did little more than reiterate what we already knew.
The Palestine Papers reveal:
On October 2, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council was widely expected to pass a resolution supporting the Goldstone Report, the UN’s probe of war crimes committed during Israel’s war in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.
The Council instead agreed to delay a vote on the report until March 2010, following major reservations expressed by the Palestinian Authority, the United States and Israel.
A UNHRC endorsement of the report would have brought Israeli officials one step closer to prosecution before a war crimes tribunal, an event many Palestinians were anxious to see.
But, as The Palestine Papers reveal, the Palestinian Authority apparently sacrificed a potential victory for Palestinian victims in exchange for favorable assurances on negotiations from the United States and, they hoped, from Israel.
What will they come up with next? The campaign to discredit Judge Richard Goldstone, his fact-finding commission and the report that now bears his name seems to reach new heights every week. The latest installment in this high-drama farce has been the revelations about Goldstone’s record during apartheid-era South Africa, and the implication that his report can therefore be disregarded. The mind reels at the intensity of attempts by Israeli officials and others to do everything to dodge the real questions of accountability, policy and justice that have been lingering inconveniently since Operation Cast Lead. But inconvenient questions do tend to linger, and the attempts to deploy an ever-thicker smokescreen usually only draw more attention to what may be hidden behind it.
And yet, the recent attacks on Goldstone have been helpful in re-introducing into public discourse what is perhaps the most important question of all: moral responsibility. How must individuals behave when faced with injustice? What do we expect from our judges, public servants and elected officials? And what do we expect from ourselves? The focus on Goldstone’s past, far from enabling us to escape the lingering questions of Cast Lead – and other questions that must trouble anyone seeking justice – actually serves to throw them into sharp relief.
So here are some complementary questions about justice and those involved in its disservice. And mind you, these questions were not drawn from a far-away past, but from the here-and-now. It is the present that will determine our future – and to what extent justice will be a part of it.
Consider this: What is the reader’s moral judgment of a law that allows some people to reclaim past ownership rights but denies the same rights to others? This is the question today in Sheikh Jarrah.
How just do we deem the conduct of legal advisers who approve the evacuation of longtime indigenous residents from the center of a thriving city, enforcing almost complete separation between the hundreds who have moved in and the thousands who were displaced? This is the question today in Hebron.
What do we think of military commanders who collectively punish more than a million human beings, systematically answering their nutritional needs with provisions that keep them just above a state-secret “red line”? This is the question today in Gaza.
A new attack on Judge Richard Goldstone is the latest effort in a campaign to direct attention away from his allegations that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza. In this instance though, questions about Goldstone’s record as a judge in apartheid South Africa are overshadowed by the Jewish state’s own role in helping support the racist policies of one of the cruelest regimes of the 20th century.
The Israel-South Africa alliance began in earnest in April 1975 when then-Defense Minister Shimon Peres signed a secret security pact with his South African counterpart, P.W. Botha. Within months, the two countries were doing a brisk trade, closing arms deals totaling almost $200 million; Peres even offered to sell Pretoria nuclear-capable Jericho missiles. By 1979, South Africa had become the Israeli defense industry’s single largest customer, accounting for 35 percent of military exports and dwarfing other clients such as Argentina, Chile, Singapore, and Zaire.
High-level exchanges of military personnel soon followed. South Africans joined the Israeli chief of staff in March 1979 for the top-secret test of a new missile system. During Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the Israeli army took South African Defense Force chief Constand Viljoen and his colleagues to the front lines, and Viljoen routinely flew visiting Israeli military advisors and embassy attachés to the battlefield in Angola where his troops were battling Angolan and Cuban forces.
There was nuclear cooperation, too: South Africa provided Israel with yellowcake uranium while dozens of Israelis came to South Africa in 1984 with code names and cover stories to work on Pretoria’s nuclear missile program at South Africa’s secret Overberg testing range. By this time, South Africa’s alternative sources for arms had largely dried up because the United States and European countries had begun abiding by the U.N. arms embargo; Israel unapologetically continued to violate it.
As for Goldstone’s record as “a hanging judge”, this is what he told the Jewish Chronicle:
“During the nine years I was a trial judge from 1980 to 1989, I sentenced two people to death for murder without extenuating circumstances.
“They were murders committed gratuitously during armed robberies. In the absence of extenuating circumstances the imposition of the death sentence was mandatory. My two assessors and I could find no extenuating circumstances in those two cases.
“While I was a judge in the Supreme Court of Appeal from 1990 to 1994, all executions were put on hold. However, automatic appeals still continued to come before the Supreme Court of appeal. We sat in panels of three and again, in the absence of extenuating circumstances, some of those appeals failed.”
He added: “It was a difficult moral decision taking an appointment during the Apartheid era. With regard to my role in those years I would refer you to the joint public statement issues in January by former Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson, the first Chief Justice appointed by President Mandela, and George Bizos, Nelson Mandela’s lawyer and close friend for over 50 years.
In their statement, Chaskalson and Bizos wrote:
Not every judge appointed during the apartheid era was a supporter of apartheid. There were a number among them, including Goldstone, who accepted appointment to the Bench in the 1970s and 1980s in the belief that they could keep principles of the law alive. They included Michael Corbett, Simon Kuper, Gerald Friedman, HC Nicholas, George Colman, Solly Miller, John Milne, Andrew Wilson, John Didcott, Laurie Ackermann, Johann Kriegler and others.
There is a considerable body of evidence that they discharged their functions with courage and integrity. This is recognised in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which observed that “there were always a few lawyers (including judges, teachers and students) who were prepared to break with the norm”. Commenting on such judges, it says “they exercised their discretion in favour of justice and liberty wherever proper and possible . . . and [the judges, lawyers, teachers and students referred to] were influential enough to be part of the reason why the ideal of a constitutional democracy as the favoured form of government for a future South Africa continued to burn brightly throughout the darkness of the apartheid era”.
Goldstone was one of those judges. For instance, his decision in the case of S v Govender in 1986 that no ejectment order should be made against persons disqualified by the Group Areas Act from occupying premises reserved for the white group, without enquiring into whether alternative accommodation for such persons was available, was a blow to the apartheid regime and contributed substantially to that legislation becoming unenforceable in parts of the country.
As a judge of the Constitutional Court he concurred in the finding that the first draft of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa passed by the newly elected Constituent Assembly did not comply in certain respects with the 34 constitutional principles agreed to by the negotiating parties at Codesa.
He was the founding chairperson of the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro), which looks after prisoners who have been released; he exercised his power as a judge (not often used by other judges) to visit prisoners in jail; he insisted on seeing political prisoners indefinitely detained to hear their complaints; and he intervened so as to allow doctors to see them and where possible to make representations that their release be considered.
After the release of Nelson Mandela he played an important role in persuading his colleagues on the Bench to accept the inevitable changes that were likely to take place in the political and judicial structures.
Former president FW de Klerk, with the concurrence of the then-president of the African National Congress, Nelson Mandela, appointed Goldstone as the chairperson of the commission to investigate what became known as hit-squads or third-force organisations within the army and the police.
His reports exposed high-ranking officers, who were obliged by De Klerk to resign, and other members of the security forces, and he made findings that police had unlawfully shot at unarmed protesters and recommended that they be charged with murder.
Threats to his life were made, and his name was on the hit list produced in court as part of the state case against the killers of Chris Hani in 1993.
Meanwhile, yesterday was a good day for Israel as it was invited to join the mostly white, Eurocentric, rich nations’ club, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Nothing better expresses the apartheid mentality at the heart of Zionism than Israel’s preference to belong to international organizations that are defined by exclusion rather than inclusion.
As Aluf Benn writes today in Haaretz:
Israel has always sought to become a member of international organizations where the Western bloc of nations enjoys a clear advantage. In the vast majority of UN institutions, for example, Israel is isolated and does not belong to any geographic group. So it can’t elect or be elected. But there are no Arab countries in the OECD and the only Muslim member is Turkey, which yesterday voted in support of the unanimous acceptance of Israel into the group.
Joining the OECD bolsters the approach of Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who consider Israel “a villa in the jungle” – a small island of Western values and development in an Arab and Muslim sea. Now we’re in the club and the Palestinians, Egyptians and even the Saudis aren’t. They’re not even on the waiting list. In the OECD they can’t bother Israel with decisions condemning the occupation.
“Sighs of relief will have been heard in Israel’s London embassy on Friday morning as it emerged that Britain’s Liberal Democrat party had failed to capitalize on a surge in pre-election opinion polls,” Haaretz reported.
Cleggmania might have proven to be short-lived — or at least not translated well in a parliamentary system that disregards the size of the vote. Still, I’d says those breaths released in relief should probably have been held in. An Israeli nightmare might still come to pass: Foreign Secretary Nick Clegg in a coalition government. As of Friday afternoon, that outcome is still in the cards.
But why should Israel be so afraid of Britain’s newest political star?
“Clegg is bad news for Israel,” one official here said. “His party is running on a human rights platform, and the atmosphere is hostile to Israel. We remind the Liberal Democrats of South Africa during apartheid. Even if Clegg decides not to take the foreign portfolio, the very fact that Liberal Democrats sit in the cabinet is likely to mean trouble for us.”
Israel’s Lieberman-run ministry of foreign affairs might make a mockery of diplomacy, but it should never be faulted for its bluntness: Good for human rights; bad for Israel. There’s a slogan to remember!
On Tuesday, a headline for Haaretz declared:
Jewish lobbying sways EU against support of Goldstone Gaza report
The article said:
Members of the European Parliament have backtracked from their plan to pass a resolution demanding implementation of the Goldstone report, in response to pressure from European Jewish leaders, Haaretz has learned.
After leaders of all the major EP parties had agreed on the wording of a draft demanding implementation of the controversial document – which accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza last year and proposed prosecuting Israeli officials in the International Criminal Court – the European Union’s legislative body was scheduled to vote on the measure Wednesday.
But Tuesday, leaders of the parties backed away from the draft, after the president of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, warned them that adopting it would seriously harm EU-Israel ties.
“It appears inconceivable that while the United Nations itself hasn’t yet officially adopted this report, the European Parliament, in this motion for a resolution, calls for and demands its implementation,” he wrote in a letter sent to the heads of major EP parties.
The joint motion for the resolution was removed from the plenary session’s agenda after the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) blocked it.
“The European Jewish Congress played an important role in blocking the legitimization of the Goldstone report,” an official from the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
That was Tuesday, but this is what actually happened on Wednesday:
Despite an intensive lobbying effort on the part of European Jewish groups, the European Parliament has endorsed the Goldstone report, the UN’s official investigation into the bombardment of the Gaza Strip in January 2009, a report that accuses Israel of war crimes and calls for the prosecution of Israeli officials in The Hague.
In a 335-to-287 vote splitting the house between left and right, MEPs backed a joint resolution from the centre left, far left, Greens and Liberals calling on the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and the bloc’s member states to “publicly demand the implementation of [the report's] recommendations and accountability for all violations of international law, including alleged war crimes.”
The report also said:
On Tuesday afternoon, the level of lobbying had reached such an extent that Irish socialist MEP Proinsias de Rossa, the chair of the chamber’s Palestinian Legislative Council liaison delegation, sent around his own email encouraging deputies not to buckle under the pressure.
“You are being bombarded with mails at present seeking to undermine your support for the the Goldstone Report in the vote tomorrow,” he said.
“Tomorrow’s vote is a test of the credibility of this parliament’s commitment to human rights irrespective of political considerations,” he continued. “The joint resolution is a fair and balanced position negotiated by all the main political groups. I appeal to you to support it.”
Imagine a similar turn of events in the US Congress. Just imagine…
(I guess it’s about as easy as imagining Congress including any socialist representatives or a Palestinian liaison group.)
To hear it from the Israeli press you’d think that the British government can now make changes to the law simply by having the prime minister write an op-ed.
Last December an arrest warrant was issued for former Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, when she was expected to arrive in Britain. According to Haaretz she no longer needs to fear getting hand-cuffed for alleged war crimes — at least not on trips to the UK:
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced on Thursday plans to stop politically-motivated campaign groups from securing arrest warrants for visiting foreign officials. In a March 3 editorial in the Daily Telegraph, Brown wrote, “Britain will continue to take action to prosecute or extradite suspected war criminals – regardless of their status or power… But the process by which we take action must guarantee the best results. The only question for me is whether our purpose is best served by a process where an arrest warrant for the gravest crimes can be issued on the slightest of evidence.”
Under the current system, British magistrates are obliged to consider an arrest warrant case presented by any individual. Gordon Brown said he will instead propose that only one government department, the Crown Prosecution Service, evaluate the merits of any case brought under international law.
This move follows an uproar last December when Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni canceled a trip to London because a pro-Palestinian group secured an arrest warrant for alleged crimes committed in Gaza. A statement from Livni’s office praised the new changes proposed by Brown and said that “the British legal system has been abused by cynical elements in the United Kingdom.”
From London The Times presents a very different story:
Britain risks a showdown with Israel today when the Government signals it is in no hurry to ease the threat of arrest for visiting politicians and generals.
Ministers will announce a consultation on the principle of universal jurisdiction, under which private citizens can secure arrest warrants for offences such as war crimes committed abroad.
The Government had promised swift action when the Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni cancelled a trip to London last year after a magistrate issued a warrant for her arrest for alleged war crimes in Gaza when she was Foreign Minister.
The issue caused embarrassment for the Government, which promised to remedy the matter quickly. Today’s announcement, however, means that the issue will not be resolved until well after the election, expected in May. When The Times reported last month that a Cabinet split could delay the issue could be delayed for months, Ms Livni threatened to travel to Britain and “take the bullet” as the only way of shaming the Government into action.
After the disclosure that agents suspected of acting for Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, used fake British passports to enter Dubai and kill a Hamas commander, however, the balance of diplomatic power has shifted.
The delay is a victory for Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, who has argued that the legal point at stake is too important to rush.
Since the British government just voted in support of a UN General Assembly resolution calling on Israel to fully investigate allegations of war crimes committed during its war on Gaza, maybe they should quietly tell the Israelis that the proposed changes on universal jurisdiction aren’t going to happen if Israel keeps running away from the Goldstone report.
The National reports:
Two unrelated diplomatic upsets have underlined growing impatience with the behaviour of the Israeli government among western countries that are traditionally supportive.
Backing from the European Union and Australia in the United Nations to sustain the issue of Israel’s alleged war crimes in Gaza more than a year ago has coincided with controversy over Israel’s apparent use of western passports in the assassination of Mahmoud al Mabhouh, a Hamas official, in Dubai.
Support for an Arab resolution last Friday at the UN – most EU countries voted in favour while others and Australia abstained – gave Israel and the Palestinians five more months to report back on progress in their respective investigations of war crimes alleged in a report by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge.
For those of us who view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as being an issue of injustice, there’s plenty of reason to believe no resolution is in sight simply because justice is one of the weakest among the principles governing world affairs. To this extent, Israeli leaders can feel confident in their sense of impunity.
But there is another line Israel crosses at its peril: where its actions conflict with the commercial interests of its allies. Israel can be a moral liability but it cannot be a financial liability.
US taxpayers have every reason to feel that Israel, as the largest single recipient of US foreign aid, is already a massive financial liability. Even so, since most of those tax dollars get plowed straight back into the US defense industry, Washington is unlikely to become more attentive to the concerns of ordinary American citizens than it is to the interests of its corporate sponsors.
Nevertheless, there is now reason to think that with the murder of Mahmoud al Mabhouh in Dubai, Israel crossed a line that strains the limits of Western tolerance. Western governments would have paid scant attention to this event were it not for one egregious error by Mossad: its flagrant disregard for the integrity of foreign passports.
For many international travelers from Western countries, a passport might seem like nothing more than an obligatory document of no extraordinary value, yet in many ways these carefully bound and embossed permits are the lubricants of globalization. Swift passage through immigration control is one of the things that keeps the wheels of business turning smoothly.
But anyone traveling to the Middle East on an EU or Australian passport will now face a new level of scrutiny from immigration officers intent on blocking the passage of Israeli assassins.
Dubai’s police chief Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim announced on Monday that any travelers suspected of being Israeli, even if they hold passports from another country, will now be barred from entry into the UAE.
Asharq Al-Awsat reports that any foreign traveler visiting Lebanon who has a Jewish name will now be placed under surveillance.
Major General Wafiq Jizzini, director general of the Lebanese Public Security, said: “When someone comes to Lebanon on a foreign passport and the name of his family indicates that he is of Jewish origin, the border center sends the information to the central information office at the General Directorate of the Public Security. Afterward, the directorate observes this person who would have already registered his address in Lebanon. Both the visiting person and the one who receives him at the airport are observed.”
Israeli leaders such as Israel’s minister of industry, trade and labor, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who still regard the Dubai murder as a victory for Israel, have further reason to question that conclusion as fallout from the operation has now reached the United Nations General Assembly.
On Friday, the only countries willing to side with Israel in opposing a resolution that makes a renewed call for the investigation of war crimes committed during Israel’s war on Gaza, were the United States, Canada, Micronesia, Nauru, Panama, and Macedonia.
Australian government sources informed the Sydney Morning Herald that there was a direct connection between the UN vote and the Dubai affair:
Britain, France and Germany have all recently expressed anger at Israel after their passports were caught up in the Dubai plot.
One Department of Foreign Affairs source told the Herald there was no doubt the decision to abstain was intended as a sign to Israel not to take Australian support for granted.
“A number of things made it easier for us to switch our vote,” the source said.
“Firstly, the Americans helped the Palestinians to soften the wording of this resolution compared to the last one. Secondly, a number of other countries had indicated that they were toughening their own positions on Goldstone. But there is no question that the debacle surrounding our passports being used in Dubai helped to make up the government’s mind to abstain. The final decision was taken late on Friday, Australian time, just a few hours before the vote.
“Our pattern in the past has been to vote with the US when it comes to Israel, to show as much support for Israel as possible.
“We were also aware that the UK’s decision to vote in favour of the resolution was influenced by the fact that so many of their citizens had been caught up in the Dubai assassination.”
Israelis would do well to remember that even among their most effusive supporters, an allegiance to business invariably trumps all others.
Think of Gaza as a hospital patient whose lips have been stitched closed. Israeli doctors point to an IV drip and say: “Look. We are taking great care to make sure the patient stays alive.” American consultants suggest that it would really be better to remove a couple of stitches so that a tube can be inserted in the patient’s mouth. It would look much more humane. Right.
The United States has suggested to Israel that easing the Gaza blockade would help counter the fallout from the Goldstone report on alleged war crimes during Operation Cast Lead a year ago.
Friday, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is expected to present a report to the General Assembly on the implementation of the report’s recommendations by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The U.S. message on the blockade was relayed last week when a Foreign Ministry delegation met in Washington with senior officials from the State Department and the White House. Much of the meeting dealt with steps that Israel could take to help the United States and others block the Goldstone report and prevent it from reaching the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Heading the Israeli delegation was the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director for international organizations, Eviatar Manor. The delegation met with officials including the U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, Michael Posner, and President Barack Obama’s adviser on human rights, Samantha Power.
At The National, Tony Karon wrote:
The former US president Jimmy Carter set off a firestorm in 2006 when he said that Israel would have to choose between maintaining an apartheid occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and a two-state peace agreement with the Palestinians. That Mr Carter brokered Israel’s most important peace treaty with an Arab country was immaterial; he was branded an enemy of Israel, an anti-Semite and even a Holocaust-denier.
Israel’s friends in the US reacted out of instinct, knowing that an association with apartheid – South Africa’s erstwhile system of racial oppression – would bring international condemnation and isolation. But there was no word of protest from that quarter last week when Israel’s defence minister said what Mr Carter had. “If, and as long as between the Jordan (River) and the (Mediterranean) Sea there is only one political entity, named Israel, it will end up being either non-Jewish or non-democratic,” warned Ehud Barak, speaking at Israel’s annual Herzliya security conference. “If the Palestinians vote in elections it is a binational state and if they don’t vote it is an apartheid state.”
Which, of course, is exactly what Mr Carter was arguing. The former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert warned in November 2007 that without a two-state solution, Israel would “face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights”, which it would be unable to win because American Jews would not support a state that denies voting rights to all of its subjects.
Haaretz reports that the UN is likely to to refer the findings of the Goldstone report to the International Court of Justice in The Hague:
A decision to bring the report on last year’s Gaza war before the court would follow a debate in the UN General Assembly over Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s response to the document last week.
Assembly president Ali Abdussalam Treki announced on Saturday that member states were drawing up a plan of action over Ban’s answer to the report, in which retired South African Judge Richard Goldstone accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes.
Treki, a senior Libyan diplomat, did not give a target date for a debate by the assembly – but the tone of his press release implied that he would push for a full discussion of the issue, diplomats said.
From The Guardian:
The savage attack Israel unleashed against Gaza on 27 December 2008 was both immoral and unjustified. Immoral in the use of force against civilians for political purposes. Unjustified because Israel had a political alternative to the use of force. The home-made Qassam rockets fired by Hamas militants from Gaza on Israeli towns were only the excuse, not the reason for Operation Cast Lead. In June 2008, Egypt had brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement. Contrary to Israeli propaganda, this was a success: the average number of rockets fired monthly from Gaza dropped from 179 to three. Yet on 4 November Israel violated the ceasefire by launching a raid into Gaza, killing six Hamas fighters. When Hamas retaliated, Israel seized the renewed rocket attacks as the excuse for launching its insane offensive. If all Israel wanted was to protect its citizens from Qassam rockets, it only needed to observe the ceasefire.
While the war failed in its primary aim of regime change in Gaza, it left behind a trail of death, devastation, destruction and indescribable human suffering. Israel lost 13 people, three in so-called friendly fire. The Palestinian death toll was 1,387, including 773 civilians (115 women and 300 children), and more than 5,300 people were injured. The entire population of 1.5 million was left traumatised. Across the Gaza Strip, 3,530 homes were completely destroyed, 2,850 severely damaged and 11,000 suffered structural damage.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, tending to the needs of four million Palestinian refugees, stated that Gaza had been “bombed back, not to the Stone Age, but to the mud age”; its inhabitants reduced to building homes from mud after the fierce 22-day offensive.
War crimes were committed and possibly even crimes against humanity, documented in horrific detail in Judge Richard Goldstone’s report for the UN human rights council. The report condemned both Israel and Hamas, but reserved its strongest criticism for Israel, accusing it of deliberately targeting and terrorising civilians in Gaza. The British government did not take part in the vote on the report, sending a signal to the hawks in Israel that they can continue to disregard the laws of war. Gordon Brown’s 2007 appointment as a patron of the Jewish National Fund UK presumably played a part in the adoption of this pusillanimous position.
One year on, the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated areas on earth, continues to teeter on the verge of a humanitarian disaster. Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza, in force since June 2007, restricts the flow not only of arms but also food, fuel and medical supplies to well below the minimum necessary for normal, everyday life. Reconstruction work has hardly begun because of the Israeli ban on bringing in cement and other building materials to Gaza. Thousands of families still live in the ruins of their former homes. Hospitals, health facilities, schools, government buildings and mosques cannot be rebuilt. Nor can the basic infrastructure of the Gaza Strip, including Gaza City’s sewage disposal plant. Today, 80% of Gaza’s population remain dependent on food aid, 43% are unemployed, and 70% live on less than $1 a day.
From The Times:
Israel has reprimanded two senior army officers who were responsible for firing white phosphorus artillery shells at a UN compound during last year’s offensive in Gaza.
In the first admission of any wrongdoing the Israeli military found that Brigadier-General Eyal Eisenberg and Colonel Ilan Malka were guilty “of exceeding their authority in a manner that jeopardised the lives of others”.
The Israeli report was in response to a damning UN investigation into the Gaza war, which concluded that both Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group, had committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity and which called on both sides to investigate the conduct of their forces.
An Israeli defence official said that its internal investigation could lead to further disciplinary action against soldiers involved in the 22-day offensive. The two officers disciplined yesterday were served a mild reprimand and had a “note” placed in their personal files noting their involvement. One defence official described the punishment as a “slap on the wrist.”