Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsWar Crimes

Goldstone report unfair to Israel

It was hardly a fact-finding mission; political considerations made its conclusions of war crimes by Israel preordained.

September 18, 2009|Jeremy Sharon | Jeremy Sharon is a researcher and writer based in Jerusalem. He has worked at a number of Israeli think tanks and served in the IDF Spokesperson's Unit.

WRITING FROM JERUSALEM — U.S. Army Gen. George S. Patton once wrote that "battle is an orgy of disorder." This statement rings especially true now as Western nations continue to fight against enemies whose primary tactic is to sow as much confusion and disorder on the battlefield as possible.

Unfortunately, the just-released report of the U.N. Human Rights Council -- the so-called Goldstone mission report -- on Israel's three-week Operation Cast Lead in Gaza earlier this year seems to have ignored this modern-day phenomenon entirely. In so doing, it has endorsed tactics of unlawful guerrilla movements the world over that purposefully endanger the lives of their own civilians in order to protect themselves from attack.

The Goldstone mission -- named for lead investigator Richard Goldstone -- was, from the outset, skewed against Israel. Its mandate prejudged the outcome of the "fact-finding" mission before any facts had been found, stating that "violations of international human rights law ... by the occupying power, Israel," would be looked into. Some of the four investigators were not neutral arbiters either. Professor Christine Chinkin of the London School of Economics, one of the four, signed a Jan. 11 letter to the Sunday Times of London before the Israeli operation had concluded, accusing Israel of war crimes.

In an attempt to balance the report, the mission did conclude that Palestinian rocket fire into Israel constitutes war crimes. But this is largely irrelevant because the extent of the charges against Israel is so much greater and more damning.

The political bias of the mission was borne out in the report, which, despite its 575 pages, failed to find conclusive evidence of Hamas' extraordinary use of civilians and civilian infrastructure for military purposes.

For example, the report makes no mention of the recorded incidents of Palestinian rocket fire from school premises during the operation, despite video evidence.

The mission also failed to find evidence of Palestinian forces using mosques to store rockets and explosives and said so in the report. But the Israel Defense Forces made public many videos showing Israeli air force strikes on mosques in which huge secondary explosions can be seen following the initial attack, testifying to the presence of rocket stores in the mosques.

The report also fails to mention that the Palestinian forces recruited children to conduct combat-support operations. A Jan. 9 report in an Arabic-language paper in Israel included an interview with Khaled, a child from Gaza. He said: "We the children ... are fulfilling missions of support for the [Hamas] resistance fighters, by transmitting messages about the movements of the enemy forces or by bringing them ammunition and food."

The Palestinian forces utilized the civilian infrastructure of Gaza so completely that IDF soldiers and commanders could never be sure that people usually considered to be noncombatants were not participating in the hostilities, and that installations typically considered to be of a civilian nature were not being used to stage attacks on them. Without this crucial context, it is impossible to understand the dilemmas faced by the IDF during the operation or the reasons why injury to Gazan civilians and damage to civilian infrastructure were incurred.

Further, the report's accounts of some incidents are dubious. For example, in its investigation of the shelling of Al Quds Hospital in Gaza City, the commission astonishingly concluded that it was unlikely that there was any armed presence in any of the hospital buildings at the time. Yet the report itself cites a Newsweek article in which a Palestinian witness stated "resistance fighters were firing from positions all around the [Al Quds] hospital." An article in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera corroborates this, quoting a resident of the neighborhood saying, "The Hamas gunmen had taken refuge mainly in the building that houses the administrative offices of Al Quds" and that "nurses were forced to take off their uniforms

The mission also claims it found no evidence to suggest that Palestinian armed groups forced civilians to remain within the vicinity of the attacks. But in the Corriere della Sera article, Gaza residents explicitly stated that Hamas fighters forcibly prevented them from leaving their houses and shot at Israeli forces from the same locations, telling them that they should be happy to die together with the "holy warriors."

The egregious omission or airbrushing of such information is not a matter of incompetence. These details simply contravened the political agenda of the mission, and so the investigators either overlooked them, declared them to be irrelevant or found them to be inconclusive.

The lasting legacy of the Goldstone report will be to have emboldened terrorists and illegitimate guerrilla forces at the expense of armies seeking to protect the innocent from the deliberate and murderous attacks against them. By refusing to call Hamas to account for the manner in which it deliberately endangered its own people, terrorist groups everywhere and their leaders can rest assured that they will not have to pay the consequences for such gross abuses of the laws of war. Instead, the Goldstone panelists decided to hamstring a democracy that had suffered more than 10,000 missile attacks on its citizens and to send the message that self-defense is not legitimate.

Capitulation in the face of terror is the order of the day from the Goldstone mission.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|