Monday, February 1, 2010

Goldstone Gaza Report Slammed

The Goldstone Report on the behavior of the Israeli military in Gaza continues to come under fire for applying standards of conduct applied to no other nation involved in armed conflict. When a guy named Goldstone criticises the State of Israel, you have a man bites dog story. It's almost like a guy standing up in church and saying he's a Jew for Jesus. Now Richard Goldstone is a household word. He's a superstar. Unfortunately, the truth kind of got thrown off the train.

Alan Dershowitz is a man who got his name in the paper without being a flamboyant sellout. He laid out the case why the State of Israel should be considered innocent of war crimes. He makes a persuasive case that their restraint in dealing with an implacable foe is astounding. Dershowitz lays out the disparate treatment given Hamas and the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) as follows.

"According to the report, Israel used the more than 8,000 rocket attacks on its civilians merely as a pretext, an excuse, a cover for the real purpose of Operation Cast Lead, which was to target innocent Palestinian civilians -- children, women, the elderly -- for death. This criminal objective was explicitly decided upon by the highest levels of the Israeli government and military and constitutes a deliberate and willful war crime. The report found these serious charges "to be firmly based in fact" and had "no doubt" of their truth.

In contrast, the Mission decided that Hamas was not guilty of deliberately and willfully using the civilian population as human shields. It found "no evidence" that Hamas fighters "engaged in combat in civilian dress," "no evidence" that "Palestinian combatants mingled with the civilian population with the intention of shielding themselves from attack," and no support for the claim that mosques were used to store weapons."

Dershowitz studied the report and commented on it at length in a 49 page report that is available on line. In shorter form as well as at length, Dershowitz makes the case that Israel went to extreme lengths to avoid civilian casualties. Indeed, this policy was carried out in a manner that put Israeli soldiers at considerable risk.

Hamas by contrast operated out of civilian areas. It stored its weapons in mosques and dressed its combatants as civilians. This was done for military and propaganda purposes so that civilians would function as a shield for combatants.

Common sense and decency would dictate that two sides in a war would be judged by a single set of evidentiary standards. It was clear throughout the Goldstone report that this was not the case. To the contrary, motives were imputed to Israel that flew in the face of evidence. Additionally, concrete physical evidence of malfeasance by Hamas was repeatedly dismissed or minimised.

When Israel did hit civilians in the midst of hostilities, it was uniformly assumed to be deliberate. Yet when it was proven that combatants wore civilian attire and were in civilian areas, it was written off as unintentional. So frequently was evidence weighted and presented in this manner that it constituted a pattern.

When a judge decides a case, they are supposed to walk in to the courtroom with an open mind to both sides. One member of the Goldstone commission was Christine Chinkin. In a letter that bore her signature, she wrote the following even before she was appointed to the commission.

“The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable asthey are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to
rely on self-defence…. The killing of almost 800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and more
than 3,000 injuries, accompanied by the destruction of schools, mosques, houses, UN
compounds and government buildings, which Israel has a responsibility to protect under
the Fourth Geneva Convention, is not commensurate to the deaths caused by Hamas
rocket fire….Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defence, not least because its
assault on Gaza was unnecessary….As things stand, its invasion and bombardment of
Gaza amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.5m inhabitants contrary to
international humanitarian and human rights law…. [T]he manner and scale of its
[Israel’s] operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression and is contrary to
international law, notwithstanding the rocket attacks by Hamas.”

In a court of law, a judge who had weighed in against a defendant could be asked to recuse himself from the case. Goldstone himself dismisses this argument with the following tortured logic.

“This is not a judicial inquiry. If it had been a judicial inquiry, that letter she’d signed would have been a ground for disqualification.”

Goldstone in effect brings up the issue of jurist bias and dismisses it on a flimsy technicality.

Another major lapse was Goldstone's ruling that the questioning of witnesses would be televised. This provided a virtual assurance that any witness who contradicted the Hamas version of reality would expose themselves and their families to deadly retaliation.

In short, the disparate admission and weighting of the evidence as well as the prior bias of panel members compromised the Goldstone report from the beginning. Goldstone's decision to televise the proceedings marked him as a self promoter in a manner consistent with his prior career. The Weekly Standard paints him as a man who started off as a judge who enforced the apartheid laws and then saw which way the political winds were blowing and became an apartheid opponent when that was useful politically. The United Nations had a proven track record of preordained conclusions against Israel. Goldstone was indeed true to form in acting in a politically ambitious manner, steering the commission that bore his name to conclusions that would advance his political career.

Consider the following cases, in which the much lauded "anti apartheid activist" blocked the release of real anti apartheid activists, among them a 13 year old boy Ashley Rindsberg reports as follows in the Huffington Post.

"In the most poignant case, Goldstone ruled against the 1986 appeal of a 13-year-old boy who had been sentenced to jail for disrupting school as a protest against apartheid and increasingly draconian "emergency laws" used to preserve order and squelch opposition to the government. Goldstone, according to The New York Times, provided no comment to his decision to uphold the sentence of the lower court.

In a similar case that year, Judge Goldstone ruled against two appellants who had been convicted for possession of a cassette tape that had a recording of an interview with Oliver Tambo. Tambo, along with Nelson Mandela, was a founding member of the ANC Youth League and later served Secretary General of the ANC itself.

The case, brought before the Transvaal Provincial Division of the Supreme Court, on which Goldstone sat, centered on whether the two young men had attempted to disseminate the tape on behalf of the ANC, thereby violating the Internal Security Act No. 74 of 1982 -- a piece of legislation that some human rights scholars have called a crucial weapon in the regime's "arsenal of terrorism legislation."

Goldstone commented in that case that Mr. Tambo's opening words on the recording indicated "beyond a reasonable doubt that the cassette in question was published or disseminated under the direction or guidance or on behalf of the African National Congress," -- a fact that, in Golstone's opinion, was sufficient basis to uphold the convictions of the two young men."

It is not without cause that Goldstone is viewed as a shameless political opportunist. Accordingly, Goldstone's actions on the panel that passed judgement on Israel should be seen in the context of his political ambitions.

Fair minded people should look at the evidence excluded from the Goldstone report. They should look at who commissioned the report as well as the prior bias of its panelists. Anything commissioned by the United Nations should be suspect in our times. The Goldstone report is no exception. A fair and impartial commission is unlikely to be formed under UN auspices.

Meanwhile, as thousands die monthly in the Congo, Sudan and other trouble spots across Africa, the UN has no remedy. There was no respite from the Rwandan genocide for which the UN could have been thanked. The genocide in Cambodia was stopped when Vietnam invaded cambodia.

What does the United Nations do when they are sent to help refugees? Consider the following from the UK Independent.

"Teenage rape victims fleeing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being sexually exploited by the United Nations
peace-keeping troops sent to the stop their suffering.

Teenage rape victims fleeing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being sexually exploited by the United Nations peace-keeping troops sent to the stop their suffering.

The Independent has found that mothers as young as 13 - the victims of multiple rape by militiamen - can only secure enough food to survive in the sprawling refugee camp by routinely sleeping with UN peace-keepers.

Testimony from girls and aid workers in the Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp in Bunia, in the north-east corner of Congo, claims that every night teenage girls crawl through a wire fence to an adjoining UN compound to sell their bodies to Moroccan and Uruguayan soldiers.

The trade, which according to one victim results in a banana or a cake to feed to her infant son, is taking place despite a pledge by the UN to adopt a "zero tolerance" attitude to cases of sexual misconduct by those representing the organisation."

The evidence is clear. The evidence is overwhelming. The UN prostitutes nameless refugees. And it prostitutes men like Richard Goldstone, who will say anything to advance their careers. How sad for us all..

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