September 16, 2009

On a foundation of sand

Avi Bell doubts that the Goldstone report will result in any significant diplomatic damage to Israel however,

The situation in the wake of the Goldstone Report is reminiscent, to some degree, of the international uproar that erupted over the building of the security barrier, particularly the nonbinding ruling of the International Court of Justice demanding that Israel tear down all parts of it that encroached on the West Bank and compensate the Palestinians.

There were no practical implications regarding the judgment, but Israel suffered severely in world public opinion. Barring the unlikely scenario in which the Security Council agrees to turn to the ICC to investigate Israelis on charges of war crimes or crimes against humanity, the damage in this case will be of a similar scope.

And Ron ben Yishai looks at the military implications of the report:


Just as grave is the damage on the legal-military front. The report explicitly rules that the combat methods and armaments utilized by the IDF even prior to Operation Cast Lead, as well as during the campaign, are illegitimate, violate the Geneva Convention, and constitute a war crime. Should the conclusions be adopted by the Security Council and UN secretary general, this will constitute overwhelming de-legitimization to the methods and arms planned by the IDF for future combat should the Israeli home front be attacked with missiles from Lebanon, Syria, or Gaza.

Hence, this marks a first-rate achievement for terror groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas; it may encourage them to keep using the civilian population as a human shield.

Judith Apter Klinghoffer makes a similar argument.

Ben Yishai, also notes that this ruling, if followed might well tie America's hands when it comes to fighting its war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. This is something that the Obama administration needs to take into account when measuring its response to the commission. This is a point emphasized by Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren:

This is an independent judiciary of a democratic country. I think that, once you start establishing the precedent that democratic countries can't investigate themselves, I think you've got a problem.

I think this report creates a problem not just for Israel, but for all free democracies in the world. It's a victory for terror. It is a major setback for any country, democratic country that is having to face war against an un-uniformed terrorist organization in a densely populated civilian area. I don't think the United States would like to see a similar report mounted against its conduct of its operations in Afghanistan.

Elder of Ziyon points out specific problems with the report too. For example he notes that the Goldstone Commission made claims that betrayed an ignorance of international law. In other cases he produced videos that contradicted assertions made by the commission.

Melanie Phillips takes aim at other specific assertions of the Commission such as:

Then there is Goldstone's treatment of the mortar shelling of al-Fakhura junction in Jabalya next to an UNRWA school. This was the site of the infamous accusation by the UN that Israel had shelled the school itself, killing more than 40 civilians sheltering there. The UN eventually admitted that this was entirely false and the school had not been shelled at all. Israel had instead returned mortar fire at the street next to the school from where firing was still continuing, killing a small number of Hamas terrorists and an even smaller number of civilians who were standing near to the Hamas mortar position.

But Goldstone concludes:

Par 688... The Mission notes that the attack may have been in response to a mortar attack from an armed Palestinian group but considers the credibility of Israel's position damaged by the series of inconsistencies and factual inaccuracies.

So the fact that Israel was the victim of an incendiary libel by the UN, which said falsely that its school had been hit and inflated the number of casualties -- a lie that went round the world inciting hysteria and violence against Israel and Jews -- is totally ignored; instead Israel is pilloried for its (undoubtedly) chaotic response as it gradually pieced together what had actually happened.

Reading a number of Goldstone's statements, it's clear that he needed to reach certain conclusions and tailored his pronouncements on international law accordingly - whether or not these were correct reading of the law.

Unfortunately, in reports in the MSM, none of these doubts are raised. For example the Washington Post reports:

Israel's Foreign Ministry said the fact-finding mission lacked legitimacy because its mandate was biased against Israel and because it disregarded Hamas's strategy of using Palestinian civilians as cover during war. Israel refused to cooperate with Goldstone's panel or to allow its researchers to interview witnesses in southern Israel or Gaza. Researchers, however, were allowed into Gaza through Egypt.

This is a general rebuttal. The Post's reporter would not have had to dig too deeply to find problematic claims made in the report. Instead he took his role to be that of a mimeograph machine rather than a reporter.

The New York Times does worse:

The Israeli government said it was studying the report, but Gabriela Shalev, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, quickly rejected it, saying it failed to take into account that the operation was in "self-defense."

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said it had refused to co-operate with the mission, calling it biased from the start.

In Gaza, a spokesman for Hamas said it fired the rockets at Israel to try to defend itself. "We did not intentionally target civilians," said Ahmed Yousef, a Hamas adviser. "We were targeting military bases, but the primitive weapons make mistakes."

Palestinian armed groups have launched about 8,000 rockets and mortars into southern Israel since 2001. During the conflict, the report said, they killed 3 Israeli civilians and a soldier, and injured over 900 people.

I suppose that last paragraph might have been meant as a rebuttal to Yousef's claim, but an explicit rebuttal that Hamas considers all Israelis to be military targets was in order. Furthermore the Times reports:

The panel rejected the Israeli version of events surrounding several of the most contentious episodes of the war.

Israel's mortar shelling near a United Nations-run school in the Jabaliya refugee camp, which was sheltering some 1,300 people, killed 35 and wounded up to 40 people, the report said.

The investigation did not exclude the possibility that Israeli forces were responding to fire from an armed Palestinian group, as Israel claimed, but said that this and similar attacks "cannot meet the test of what a reasonable commander would have determined to be an acceptable loss of civilian life for the military advantage sought."

But on what grounds did Goldstone dismiss the Israeli claims? As Melanie Phillips pointed out, the initial claims against Israel - made by UN personnel - were disproved. So Goldstone accepted a libel instead of the results of an investigation.

There's more than a little chutzpah in Goldstone's recommendation then, that Israel must conduct an investigation within six months. Given the standards that he based much of his report on, the only legitimate investigation will reach the same conclusions he did, regardless of the facts.

Goldstone's daugher pathetically claims that her father is a Zionist, but if his concern for Israeli Jews is so great why was he uninterested in testimony about the terror they were under? More generally why, then, did he accept a mandate to defame Israel that was so blatant the even Mary Robinson refused the job?

Daled Amos and Israelly Cool! provide roundups of critiques of the report.

Crossposted on Yourish.

Posted by SoccerDad at September 16, 2009 4:39 AM
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Comments

The next Hamas attack will use chemical weapons. Of course this will not be mentioned let alone condemned. So rest assured that even so much as noting the attack will be deemed a war crime.

Posted by: Empress Trudy at September 16, 2009 9:05 AM

"Israel's mortar shelling near a United Nations-run school in the Jabaliya refugee camp, which was sheltering some 1,300 people, killed 35 and wounded up to 40 people, the report said".
..............................................
Good, thin the herd. Israel should not ever let the use of human shields stop it from targeting terrorists. If so-called civilians are killed, so be it. You want to support terrorists, you suffer the consequences. The arabs of gaza are hardly innocent. There are hardly any innocent muslim males in general anywhere.

Posted by: Laura at September 16, 2009 11:58 AM

The point is Goldstone for whatever reasons concern him, felt a need to lash out at Israel. There's no concern for procedural or substantiative fairness and that is evident even from a very partial reading of the report.

To call it chutzpah is the understatement of the year!

Posted by: NormanF at September 16, 2009 2:59 PM
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