I am probably going to raise the ire of a good number of readers by insisting that there must be an Israeli investigation of Operation Cast Lead
(AKA the 2008 Gaza War) as the Goldstone mission report insists. The rest of you may be confused when I claim that no Israeli investigation can counter the charges of the Goldstone report, or undo the damage that Goldstone has done to Israel and to international war crimes law. The investigation must be done for Israel's sake, not for Goldstone's sake.
Beyond all its irregularities, the Goldstone report made one claim that cannot be refuted: That Israeli policy and war tactics were deliberately designed to kill civilians. It can't be refuted because it is not logical or based on any facts. Like medieval accusations of well poisoning or the blood libel
, it is obvious that the persons making the accusation already have all the information needed to refute it, and simply ignore it because of malevolent mendaciousness. The man claims your sister is a lady of easy virtue. But you have no sister, and he knows it! Goldstone's report
1211. Statements by political and military leaders prior to and during the military operations in Gaza leave little doubt that disproportionate destruction and violence against civilians were part of a deliberate policy.593
In a real report, one might expect that reference 593 would include the statements by political and military leaders that left no doubt etc. Instead, the footnote (like much of the Goldstone report) simply references a report by an anti-Israel NGO:
Highlighting the pattern of military actions targeting civilian shelters and shelter seekers, the Habitat International Coalition concludes: ďThe official statements that accompany these actions [Ö] seem to reflect a presumption that any source of brutality against the indigenous inhabitants would convert the victims into agents of the attackersí preferred outcome: defeat of resistanceĒ (submission, cited, p. 40).
One unsupported conclusion is used to support another and the Hamas terrorists, who seized power illegally, are elevated to the dignity of "resistance.
The Goldstone report further states:
The operations were carefully planned in all their phases. Legal opinions and advice were given throughout the planning stages and at certain operational levels during the campaign...[T]he Mission concludes that what occurred in just over three weeks at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 was a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize 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.
Goldstone's "proof" is that the operation was planned. Planning and asking of legal opinions in any military operation are evidently valid evidence that civilian casualties resulting from that operation must have been planned. Goldstone evidently believes that nothing can even go wrong in any military operation and everything always occurs exactly according to plan. Presumably, legal advice was asked before soldiers left obnoxious graffiti and vandalized Palestinian property. Before each little girl was killed, the lawyers were called in to certify that killing the little girl was not against international law.
The death of Israeli soldiers by friendly fire was also presumably part of the plan according to Goldstone, , also approved by IDF legal counsel, as was the constant rain of rockets on Israeli towns and cities - civilian targets - by the Hamas "resistance." One wonders what book of military history Judge Goldstone and his fellow committee members read. Military planning is a famous oxymoron, of course. Nothing ever goes according to plan.
Judge Goldstone and his colleagues produced no Israeli military order that called for terrorizing civilians, because there was no such order. That is just about the only evidence they could find that could prove that civilian deaths were deliberate. They had to have known several facts that prove conclusively that terrorizing civilians and causing civilian deaths could not have been part of any Israeli plan. If the IDF had wanted to kill civilians, it would have been much more effective to bomb a few neighborhoods at random in Gaza city and Jebalya refugee camp, which would have killed many many thousands in a few hours with no need to expose ground troops to danger.
If terrorizing civilians was part of the IDF plan it was certainly wrong to drop leaflets warning civilians to get out of danger zones and to shoot noisemaker devices at targets as warnings. The Goldstone mission also had to have been aware that the IDF was under tremendous pressure to end the Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli cities, and that the IDF understood that terrorizing Palestinian civilians would not deter the Hamas "resistance" from launching rockets. Israeli planners were well aware of the inevitable outcry that would ensue from any Israeli military operation, whether there were real or imagined "massacres," as in Jenin in Operation Defensive Shield. Only if they were demented would planners have deliberately targeted civilians and invited the wrath of Goldstone, the UN and international organizations. .
The claim that the IDF or the Israeli government had a deliberate policy of harming civilians is therefore malicious nonsense. There are no additional facts that any Israeli investigation or any other investigation could unearth that would "disprove" it, because the claim doesn't depend on any facts. In the same way, those who made the blood libel accusation knew that Jews are forbidden to consume any sort of blood and especially human blood. They knew the accusation had to be false, and Goldstone knows this accusation is false. Those who believe this claim do so because they are evil and uninterested in truth. Proving that this or that incident described by the Goldstone mission did or did not occur, or that this or that officer was or was not guilty of war crimes, could never erase the terrible false accusation that Israel deliberately set out to kill civilians.
Nonetheless, Israel must conduct one or more types of independent civilian judicial investigations into the war. The first must be a tribunal that investigates every complaint, including the incidents mentioned in the Goldstone report, to determine the truth, exonerate the innocent and punish any wrongdoers. I cannot think of any valid objections to such a procedure. It is useless to pretend that in every military operation everything is done precisely right, nobody is hurt who should not be hurt, there are no errors, no possibility that any soldier or officer is in fact a criminal or made a grievous error in judgment, and there is no room for improvement. That is not the same as claiming that the entire Israeli government and general staff are diabolical war criminals who intended to kill babies and women for no reason.
A second investigative commission should be instituted, not for hearing Palestinian complaints or examining the findings of the Goldstone report, but in order to find general problems and to ensure that administrative and legal mechanisms are put in place that prevent the recurrence of the same defects. Israel has a bad habit of investigating only wars and incidents in which the IDF clearly did not function correctly: The Kahan commission investigated the Sabra and Shatila massacre, the Agranat commission investigated the tragedy of errors that led to the Yom Kippur war. The Winograd commission investigated the Second Lebanon War. Nobody investigated the Six Day War. Perhaps if there had been a thorough investigation, the disasters of the Yom Kippur war would have been avoided.
Needless to say, every military is averse to such investigations, but they are even more averse to losing wars. The same is certainly true of governments and leaders. However, mistakes are not a luxury that Israel can afford. Some of the Cast Lead problems were documented here.
Some of the questions, big and small, about Operation Cast Lead that need to be investigated:
* Given that any Israeli operation that did not wipe out the Hamas would be declared a victory by the Hamas, was it wise to undertake such an operation, on a limited scale, without a commitment to wipe out Hamas? After all, if the Hamas regime had not survived, there would be no Goldstone report and the Palestinian "eyewitnesses" would have told very different stories. Was the decision not to eradicate the Hamas when there was an opportunity to do so justified? How was it made and who made it?
* In his book, Hitpahkchut ("Wising up"), journalist Dan Margalit claims that a major failure of the Israeli information apparatus and particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was the failure to make foreign journalists and decision makers aware of the reality of living under Hamas rocket terror, a nightmare that no country would tolerate, and one that the UN did nothing whatever to stop. This failure should be investigated. In point of fact, it seemed that the story of Sderot was told mostly by private organizations like The Israel Project and the Sderot Media Center. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs did almost nothing to make people aware of the reality of Sderot.
* Were the particular policies pursued by the government in reaction to the Hamas takeover of Gaza and the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit correct and are they achieving their objectives?
* During the war, was the IDF Spokesperson's unit up to the job of responding in real time to claims with documented evidence? For example, the claim that the IDF shelled an UNRWA school was met with several different stories that kept changing. For example, an IDF shell killed the daughters and a niece of Soroka hospital doctor Izzeldin Abu al-Aish, a longtime peace advocate. An investigation claimed that there was firing from the house. But IDF knew that civilians, children were in the house. Was due case exercised? Was the tank crew informed that there were civilians in the house? How can such cases be prevented in future?
* Complaints of denial of access to medical care and to medical care personnel have repeated themselves in several IDF operations. It would seem necessary not only to investigate the individual complaints but to discover ways and means of improving access to medical care for civilians.
* Soldiers left behind them obnoxious graffiti and vandalism in Gaza houses. This is evident not just from the Goldstone report but from footage shown on Israeli television. These did not in any way contribute to military objectives and were needlessly embarrassing, to say the least. Evidently nobody was punished. Has IDF instituted any measures to ensure that this phenomenon does not recur? Vandalism during IDF operations has been documented on film by Israeli camera crews in the past, but there doesn't seem to be a concerted effort to root out the phenomenon.
* Rabbis distributed inappropriate religious material. Evidently some rabbis also delivered inappropriate sermons casting the war as a religious war. Some of those responsible were caught and punished, but if any thought has been given to preventing a recurrence, IDF has not revealed it to anyone.
* NGOs, including Israeli NGOs, and soldiers and journalists, including a head of a military academy, Danny Zamir, made false accusations based on hearsay evidence. While there is certainly freedom of speech in a democracy, the democracy has no obligation to pay the salaries of such people or to keep such soldiers in the army. While soldiers are serving they should not be making irresponsible accusations and should be reporting actual problems to the correct authorities. Zamir still has his post for some reason. No steps have been taken to discipline soldiers who spread false rumors. On the one hand, there is apparently no satisfactory and impartial mechanism for reviewing such complaints without making them public. On the other hand, no mechanism seems to exist for controlling or punishing such behavior.
There is quite a bit to investigate, but we didn't really need Judge Goldstone to tell us that. If anything, Mr. Goldstone's report makes it much more difficult to advocate an investigation, since no Israeli politician would want to be suspected of siding with Goldstone.
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Replies: 7 Comments
I agree with Ami that Israel should conduct its own investigation and I'm sure Ami will agree with me that however honest and objective such a tribunal would be, that Israel's critics will dismiss out of hand any findings cast reasonable doubt on the allegations made by the various NGOs accusing Israel of war crimes.
Lynne T, Thursday, November 5th
Debate of the Year: Gold vs. Goldstone
War Crimes in Gaza or UN Crimes Against Israel?
Amb. Dore Gold and Judge Richard Goldstone
will discuss the UN Report on war crimes in Gaza
Brandeis University, Thurs., Nov. 5 at 5 p.m., EST
See live webcast at http://www.brandeis.edu/streaming/index.html
For additional info, see
Brittany, Sunday, November 1st
The only two things Israel needs to investigate is one; why did it Take Israel so long to respond to Hamas aerial attacks on their cities, and two; when Israel finally did respond, why did Israel pussyfoot around and waste the opportunity to kill a lot more of the Hamas enemy? The only way bullies learn their lesson is to get their ass kicked. A scorched earth policy of leveling gaza would have been appropriate.
James Just, Tuesday, October 27th
I concur with Ami on this, Israel needs to conduct its own investigation and learn the lessons of this outbreak of violence. There is a virtuous circle of Culture-Strategy-Policy-Performance Management that needs to be applied and for Israel to examine whether its current defensive and national cutlure is appropriate in relation to the actual threats emanating from Gaza and elsewhere. If Israel committed no crimes then it has nothing to fear from conducting such an open investigation. In fact the refusal to do so supports the concept that there is something to hide.
Having said that I do have garve concerns that UNHRC and other operate in an environment and apply criteria that take little or not considerationof the realities of war. The fact is that despite all the planning any army may undertake the actual battles do not run according to plan, principally because the other side isn't party to the plan. Equally in the confusion and stress of battle systems and plans break down. All parties behave irrationally - soldiers misinterpret civilian actions - civilians remain or return to properties that are in the midst of the battle. Even worse irregular forces habitually operate in and around civilian centres simply because of the protection that it affords them.
The Goldstone report provides some indication of possible crimes, but its greatest ommission, which echoes the comments of many pundits, is that it fails to suggest any other credible alternative to massive military intervention to end the continuing rocket fire, which is itself a crime.
It is simply not good enough of the UNHRC or any other body to sit back and witness an assault from one territory upon another in silence and then complain when the initial victim retaliates.
I find it strange that the UN expects Israel to faciliate UN activity in the region while abusing its position. While Israel of course should subject itself openly to the criteria expected of any developed state, I believe that it should reconsider its entire relationship with the UN in light of this latest piece of hypocrisy. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the elected representativesof the Palestinian people to manage their own affairs including their engagement with adjacent nations. Palestine will never develop into a mature nation state unless its nationals learn to take responsibility for their collective acts. If the civilian popualtion support and provide for the military forces in Gaza then they are complicit in the military action and the concept that by virtue of not carrying a weapon or wearing a uniform a civilian is somehow deserving of special protection is not sustainable. It has often been said that by being subject to national service all Israelis are defacto military personnel, then by electing Hamas the Gazans are also party to the decision to prosecute war and must be take responsibility for their decisions, regardless of how stupid they may appear to outsiders. The alternative is the continuing infantilisation of that nation.
Rod Davies, Monday, October 26th
Commission members did not ask the interviewed Palestinians questions about the activities of Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip, which could be classified as war crimes or that were potentially dangerous to innocent Palestinians. Furthermore, there was no serious consideration of Palestinian "friendly fire" incidents, and we can only guess how many Palestinian civilians were killed or wounded by Palestinian fire.Reports issued by the Palestinian terrorist organizations themselves detailed the fighting in a way that often contradicted the Palestinian witnesses. In addition, the witnesses hid vital information from the commission regarding the presence of armed terrorists or exchanges of fire in their vicinity.
For more facts that back up this article and my statement visit, http://jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DRIT=1&DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=442&PID=0&IID=3086&TTL=Blocking_the_Truth_of_the_Gaza_War
Brittany, Sunday, October 25th
Hi im errol im filipino and i work here in saudi arabia. i just wanted to say that how great is GOD to us and to his people Israel. Muslims really hate Israel and how the youths here in a khobar eastern region has destroy restaurant beacuse of their taught that it support israel namely the starbucks beacuse of the logo that it was Esther the jewish queen of persia. I wonder why they think like that. Im not a jew but i really believe that GOD is with israel from his promise to isaac and jacob. Truelly GOD has given Israel the promise land. No matter what they do or say against Israel they will never win. As long as Israel remember the GOD that take them out from the land of egypt. And im happy to know that Israel has invented things that help the world that arabs or muslims doesnt know. I wonder how they would feel if they only knew that some of the things they are using are made from Israel. Well i was contented to post blog here. Bcoz im here in muslim land where they claimed to be holy while not actually. Some day i will vist the Temple of GOD which is in Israel. GOD Bless Israel. see ya next time.
Final Errol Villarino, Wednesday, October 21st
I disagree strongly. Its not Israel that needs to sit in the dock but rather its accusers with their abysmal human rights records. Who are they to accuse Israel of genocide when they have violated human rights on a massive scale? Israel has the procedures to hold its officials accountable. The same cannot be said for those who hold Israel to a standard imposed upon no other country in the world. Israel owes its accusers, with their baseless motives, nothing.
NormanF, Tuesday, October 6th
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