People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 40

October 04, 2009

Goldstone Report Says

Israel Terrorised Palestinians

Yohannan Chemarapally


THE retired South African judge, Richard Goldstone, submitted a 575 page report on behalf of the UN on September 15. The report has concluded that Israel �punished and terrorised� civilians in Gaza in its three weeks long war, code-named �Operation Cast Lead.� While summing up the report, Justice Goldstone said that there was enough evidence to show that Israel deliberately targeted civilians and used excessive force in a military assault against Gaza. �The mission concluded that actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly in some respects crimes against humanity were committed by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF)�, Goldstone said.




His report was the result of a six month long enquiry and will be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) shortly. The Palestinian Authority (PA) wants the UN Security Council to take up the matter on a priority basis. The report supports the finding of earlier fact finding missions led by other human rights groups and UN officials. Strong evidence of the IDF�s war crimes was provided in the document Breaking the Silence, containing testimonies from 30 members of the Israeli army who had participated in �Operation Cast Lead.� The Goldstone report has reiterated that Israel deliberately attacked civilians, failing to take precautions to minimise the loss of civilian lives. The report cited several instances in which IDF committed �grave breaches� of the Geneva conventions.

Goldstone recounted that the evidence that his team had gathered included first hand accounts of the �shooting of civilians holding white flags --- the deliberate and unjustifiable targeting of UN shelters --- and the killing of over 300 children whilst the Israeli army had at their disposal the most precise weaponry in the world.� The report said that Israeli troops committed the war crime of using Palestinian civilians as �human shields.� Many observers were, however, surprised that the Goldstone report also chose to mention that �Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes, as well as possibly crimes against humanity� by firing rockets into Israel. However, while the rocket firing from Gaza resulted in only three civilian casualties among Israelis, a hundred Palestinians were killed for every Israeli during the duration of Operation Cast Lead. Only four paragraphs in the seven-page summary of the Goldstone Report were devoted to the Palestinian violations.

While praising the Goldstone report, Professor Richard Falk, an eminent jurist and Special Rapporteur of the UN for the occupied territories, said that there was no need �to endorse the misleading main line of the Israeli narrative by assuming that Israel was acting in self-defence against a terrorist adversary.� The report does take note of the ceasefire called by Hamas prior to the first massive Israeli strike in November last year, that had led to a virtual cessation of the rocket attacks from Gaza. The major focus of the report was on the overwhelming force being used by Israel on a defenceless population and the deliberate targeting of civilians.

The report cited numerous instances of deliberate attack on civilians as well as civilian targets by the IDF. Particular mention has been made of the use of white phosphorous shells and high explosive artillery shells. The Goldstone report has characterised this as �violations of humanitarian laws.� The UN fact finding committee headed by Justice Goldstone has recommended that the UN Security Council should call on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to credibly investigate the charges within three months. If they failed to do so, the UNHCR should then refer the matter to the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor at The Hague within six months.

The Goldstone report also concluded that Israel�s invasion of Gaza was �a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.� Another important conclusion was that the economic blockade of Gaza by Israel in the years before the military attack amounted �to collective punishment intentionally inflicted by the government of Israel on the people of the Gaza Strip.� The spokesman for the Hamas led government in Gaza said that the report was further proof that Israel committed war crimes during the assault on the territory and called on the international community to �bring Israeli war criminals to trial.�




Israel has been steadfastly refusing to cooperate with the investigations into the war crimes in Gaza. Within 24 hours, the Jewish state rejected the findings of the Goldstone report.  �I�m surprised that Israel has so speedily read a 575 page report and so quickly rejected it,� Justice Goldstone told the media. The right wing Likud led government in Israel continues to insist that the UNHCR has an inherent anti-Israel bias. Motives were attributed to even Justice Goldstone, a practising Jew and a known supporter of the Jewish state. His family continues to have a strong association with the Zionist movement.

Goldstone and his three eminent colleagues who conducted the investigations said that their work was based on �independent and impartial analysis.� Justice Goldstone was the first prosecutor at The Hague for the ICC for the former Yugoslavia. Israel had refused permission for Goldstone and his colleagues to enter the West Bank and its own territory. Despite the international reputation Goldstone had gained as eminent jurist and anti-apartheid campaigner, Israel had refused him permission to enter Gaza. Goldstone and his team had to reach Gaza by crossing the Egyptian border. Witnesses from the West Bank were interviewed by the fact finding team in Jordan while Israeli victims of Palestinian rocket attacks were flown to Geneva to give their testimonies.

The inquiry looked not only on the Gaza war but also on the circumstances that led to the conflict and the current Israeli policies towards the trapped populace in the enclave. The report accuses Israel of many instances of the violation of international law as it tries to starve and humiliate the Gazans into submission. The Goldstone report has maintained that the ICC has the right to investigate individuals violating the laws of war. All the countries that have ratified the Geneva conventions, the report says, are duty bound to prosecute those responsible for war crimes.

After the release of the report, the Israeli government seems to be in damage control mode. A senior Israeli official in the prime minister�s office told the local media that the priority is �to avoid the slippery road which would lead Israel to The Hague.� Justice Goldstone has said the international community should be happy to be living in a world where there is no accountability for war crimes. Israel is of course hoping that its all-weather friend, the United States, will again bail it out of a tight situation and prevent the Goldstone recommendations from being referred to The Hague. True to form, the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said that Washington had �very serious concern with the mandate given to (the Goldstone team) by the Human Rights Council prior to our joining the Council, which we viewed as unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable.�




But there still could be danger lurking for those involved in the Gaza massacre. Private legal initiatives have already started in European countries against Israeli officials accused of war crimes. In 2005, an Israeli general, Doron Almog, was nearly arrested at Heathrow airport on the basis of a private prosecution based on an earlier Israeli military operation in Gaza. As the Israeli peace activist, Gideon Levy, wrote in Haaretz after the release of the UN report, �There�s a name on every bullet, and there is someone responsible for every crime. The Teflon cloak Israel has wrapped around itself since Operation Cast Lead has been ripped off, once and for all, and now the questions must be faced.�     

Calls for an international boycott of Israel are now being heard worldwide. Campaigns of the kind that were once initiated against apartheid South Africa are now being mooted against Tel Aviv. Famous international artists are refusing to perform in Israel. Film producers and directors have in recent times withdrawn their films from screenings at international festivals in Israel. Neve Gordon, an Israeli peace activist, wrote recently that the only way to counter the apartheid trend in Israel is through massive international pressure. Gordon, who teaches at the Ben Gurion University in Israel, has announced that he is now a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement formed by Palestinian activists in 2005. In 2008, a coalition of organisations from all over the world met in Bilbao, Spain and formulated a 10-point Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment campaign. The objective is to ensure that Israel respects its obligations under international law and the Palestinians are given the right of self-determination.

Recently, the Brazilian Parliamentary Commission on Foreign Relations and National Defence recommended that the country�s parliament should not ratify the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Mercosur and the State of Israel until �Israel accepts the creation of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.� Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay are members of the economic grouping which is the fifth largest in the world. Member countries are refusing to ratify the FTA with Israel which was signed in 2007. At the recent African Union summit held in Libya, its chairman Muammar Gaddafi made an impassioned speech calling on all African countries to sever diplomatic links with Israel. He accused Israel of having played a key role in destabilising the continent.

While swearing eternal fealty to the Palestinian cause, the Indian government is now one of Israel�s key strategic allies. Israel seems to be all set to dethrone Russia as India�s biggest defence supplier. India has sent an Israeli satellite, which the Arab world alleges is a spy satellite into space. The huge profits the Israeli military-industrial complex is making at the expense of the Indian tax payers is being used to subjugate and humiliate the Palestinians in the occupied territories.