By JOEL LEYDEN
Paltalk News Network
JERUSALEM - The UN Human Rights Council is, today, holding hearings on the Goldstone Report, which, according to the United Nations News Center, "found evidence that both Israel forces and Palestinian militants committed serious war crimes and breaches of humanitarian law, which may amount to crimes against humanity."
“We came to the conclusion, on the basis of the facts we found, that there was strong evidence to establish that numerous serious violations of international law, both humanitarian law and human rights law, were committed by Israel during the military operations in Gaza,” said the head of the four-person panel, South African Judge Richard Goldstone.
“The mission concluded that actions amounting to war crimes and possibly, in some respects, crimes against humanity, were committed by the Israel Defense Force,” concluded Goldstone.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed his support for reopening the debate on the report in a telephone call to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
A vote on the report in the Human Rights Council was initially postponed until March at the request of the Palestinian representative. Abbas has said he authorized the postponement in order to gain support for a vote to send the report on to the Security Council for action, which could include charges filed with the International Court of Justice.
Israel MK Danny Danon attacked the report, ripping up a synopsis of it, during a speech in the Knesset, Israel's parliament.
"Anti-Semitism has become a swear word even within this institution. MKs went to Durban in order to speak out against Israel," Danon said. "They found a loyal partner by the name of Goldstone. All 600 pages should be thrown into the garbage can of history."
The report effectively ignores Israel's basic right of self defense, makes unsubstantiated claims about its intent and challenges Israel's democratic values and rule of law.
At the same time it all but ignores the deliberate strategy of the internationally recognized terror group Hamas of operating within and behind the civilian population and turning densely populated areas into an arena of battle. By turning a blind eye to such tactics it effectively rewards them.
In the words of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the UN: "what we are witnessing here is a double war crime by Palestinian terrorists. That Hamas fires over 8,000 missiles at Israel civilian cities and towns and does so hiding behind the Palestinian population in Gaza, using men, women and children as human shields."
The report troubles many distinguished individuals, including former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who refused invitations to head the mission and concluded that the investigation was "guided not by human rights but by politics".
"The UN Human Rights Council and the Goldstone Report are either biased or mistaken in some of their fundamental accusations against Israel," said B'Tselem human rights group director Jessica Montell.
She said the council was wrong in its gravest accusations against Israel. These include the claim that Israel intentionally targeted the civilian population rather than Hamas and the "weak, hesitant way that the report mentions Hamas's strategy of using civilians [in combat]."
"There's no question that the HRC, which mandated the UN Goldstone Report, has an inappropriate, disproportionate fixation with Israel," she said. She added that the council was "a political body made up of diplomats, not human rights experts, which means that the powerful states are never going to come under scrutiny the way the powerless will. So China, Russia and the US will never have commissions of inquiry, regardless of how their crimes rank relative to Israel crimes."
The implications of the UN Goldstone Report are against what Israel is trying to achieve, which is peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians.
Ths Israel Foreign Ministry has stated that any action taken on this UN report, unfortunately, is going to have a detrimental effect on the peace process, if not, indeed, striking it a mortal blow. First of all, if Israel is trying to engage with the Palestinians to achieve something, it cannot be under constant attack by the very same Palestinians. Attacks today can be implemented with grenades or bullets or with words. And sometimes words - and we know this from history - can be more dangerous than bullets.
So the Palestinians, with all due respect, cannot hold sticks in both hands. They cannot just try and dialogue with Israel and talk about peaceful coexistence and a two-state solution and, on the other hand, keep attacking. Whether the attack is militarily, economically or politically, there is no difference. Today the attacks in the international arena, whether in New York or Geneva or anywhere else, are just as bad. Everything ties together in a campaign of trying to delegitimize Israel and to push Israel into a corner and create more pressure. This will not work.
But there is another implication here, which is, how this government of Israel or how any future government of Israel can have any flexibility in the future to make concessions to the Palestinians and take further risks. Israel has been taking enormous risks in the pullout of Gaza, in what's actually happening in the West Bank, where Israel removed more than two-thirds of the checkpoints and roadblocks and in trying to really push the Palestinian economy forward. And if, with all these risks, there is no reciprocity from the Palestinian side, but further attacks, there won't any basis here for continuing any dialogue with the Palestinians.
And this is something which is very, very important to realize because what Israel is trying to engage in with the Palestinians is difficult enough, complex enough, emotionally-laden enough, problematic enough, to add a real blow to any basis of trust with the Palestinians. In order to create a Palestinian state, which most Israelis now believe in, you need to have not only the trust of the leaders and the trust of the public, but also cooperation between the professionals, whether military or otherwise, on both sides. This, now, is nonexistent. Certainly the Palestinians, people in the Palestinian Authority, members of Fatah, who are the ones who are actually pushing Israel to do away with Hamas, are now trying to take us into international courts.
This is something which has global effect, especially at a time when the international community is engaged in a very bitter struggle against extremists, against fanatics, whether it's in Afghanistan, Kashmir, or any other place around the globe. So this is something which concerns each and every country, certainly all democracies, certainly all decent countries with the rule of law.
The Goldstone Report all but ignores the deliberate terrorist strategy of operating in the heart of densely populated civilian areas which dictated the arena of battle. Even when the Hamas terrorists mixed among civilians, the report rejects the notion that there was an intention to put the civilian population at risk.
The report also ignores Israel's extensive efforts, even in the midst of fighting, to maintain humanitarian standards. While it does, reluctantly, acknowledge Israel's "significant efforts" to issue warnings before attacks, it does not find any of these efforts to be effective.
While the report passes judgment against Israel, it seeks to absolve the Hamas of almost any wrongdoing. The word "terrorist" is almost entirely absent. IDF Soldier Gilad Shalit, now held incommunicado in captivity for over three years, was "captured during an enemy incursion" and the Hamas members that the mission met with in Gaza are thanked as the "Gaza authorities" for extending their full cooperation and support to the mission.
Even the thousands of terror rocket attacks against Israelis which prompted the Gaza Operation are given the most cursory treatment, and indeed the report indirectly blames Israel even for these by terming them "'reprisals".
"The Goldstone committee is a committee that was set up to find Israel guilty of crimes that were determined in advanced, and the committee's members did not let the facts confuse them," said Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Lieberman said the committee's conclusions were predetermined, and he accused its members of serving the purposes of utilitarian countries.
"The whole purpose of the report, from the moment the decision was made to write it, was to destroy Israel's image, in service of countries where the terms 'human rights' and 'combat ethics' do not even appear in their dictionaries," the foreign minister alleged. Lieberman went on to say, "I can say wholeheartedly, as can any man that examines the matter in an objective manner, that the IDF is the most moral army in the world, and it is forced to deal with the most vile terrorists, who set for themselves the goal of killing women and children, and hide behind women and children."
Israel President Shimon Peres said the report "makes a mockery of history" and that "it does not distinguish between the aggressor and the defender."
"War is crime and the attacker is the criminal. The defender has no choice. The Hamas terror organization is the one who started the war and also carried out other awful crimes. Hamas has used terrorism for years against Israeli children," said Peres.
"The report gives de facto legitimacy to terrorist initiatives and ignores the obligation and right of every country to defend itself, as the UN itself had clearly stated."
"The effect, if not the intent, of the Goldstone report will be to keep Israel troops in the West Bank longer," says Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz.
"President Obama was right when he said that 'the first job of any nation is to protect its citizens' The UN Goldstone report has made it virtually impossible for the Israel army to protect its citizens against rocket attacks from territory that is no longer militarily occupied."
Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with and asked the foreign ministers of France, Spain and the UK to ignore the Goldstone Report because it is "twisted, fraudulent, and tendentious, and encourages terror".
While the Goldstone Report is being debated in Geneva, the Israel government is focusing on the explosion that occurred at a Hezbollah member's house near Tyre, Lebanon this week illustrating Hezbollah's violation of UN Resolution 1701 that ended the second Lebanon War.
Israel Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon placed the UN Goldstone Report in clear perspective.
"This report not only takes away the right to self-defense from democracies, it gives this self-defense to the terrorists," said Ayalon.
"Because, as we speak, Hamas in Gaza is getting more ammunition and more equipment, making more terrorism plans and more fortifications, and is waiting to see the results in Geneva or in New York. And that could easily give Hamas and organizations like Hamas, whether it's Islamic Jihad or Al-Qaida or any other terror organizations, the tools to really continue hitting civilian targets and democracies with impunity basically, or without any recourse."