Ehud Barak arrest threat; Goldstone Gaza crime report
by fairleft2, Tue Sep 29, 2009 at 12:15:10 PM EDT
"I've known him well. He has deep emotional and intellectual links to Israel but he also has a professional attachment to the rule of law. If he can be attacked as biased against Israel, then anyone on the planet is susceptible to that attack." -- Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, on Richard Goldstone
While a human rights group was attempting to have Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak arrested (see news below the fold), Judge Richard Goldstone, Head of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, today presented his group's final report on war crimes during the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict to the UN Human Rights Council:
Head of the fact finding mission, South African Justice Richard Goldstone, criticized Israel for not cooperating with the mission and strongly rejected accusations that the investigation was politically motivated.
He described a number of incidents in which Israeli forces launched direct attacks against civilians with lethal consequences. With one exception, he said there was no military objective or advantage that could justify the attacks.
"The mission found that the attack on the only remaining flour-producing factory, the destruction of a large part of the Gaza egg production, the bulldozing of huge tracts of agricultural land, and the bombing of some 200 industrial facilities, could not on any basis be justified on military grounds. Those attacks had nothing whatever to do with the firing of rockets and mortars at Israel," Goldstone said. "These attack amounted to reprisals and collective punishment and constitute war crimes."
The mission found the repeated firing of rockets and mortars into southern Israel by Palestinian armed groups from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip constituted war crimes that may amount to crimes against humanity.
To clarify what the report recommends, Foreign Policy in Focus states:
The core of the recommendations is that Israel itself conduct an impartial inquiry into the allegations made against it, or face a Security Council referral to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Admittedly, given experience of the Israeli Defense Forces' strategic reserve supply of whitewash kept in hand for just such occasions, the mission recommends that the Council set up an international commission to monitor the Israeli inquiry. The same applies to Hamas.
Excellent commentary below by Richard Falk, professor emeritus in international law at Princeton University and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (in quotes in the passage), who now reluctantly supports international boycotts of and disinvestment from Israel:
The Israeli Gaza operation and the Goldstone report represent a turning point. Both have had "a very strong political impact on the Palestinian solidarity movement around the world, which is essentially a successor to the (South African) anti-apartheid campaign that was also waged globally."
The Arab-Israeli conflict is thus "reaching a new phase that'll be shaped less by the military and the violent dimensions of it but more by the symbolic and the normative dimensions of law and morality."
Therefore, overwhelming Israeli military superiority may no longer do. Israel will face increasing calls for an economic boycott, disinvestments and economic pressure.
Does [Falk] support such calls?
"I'm not normally in favour but, under the circumstances, I'm reluctantly in favour."
His overall assessment:
"Israel seems completely unwilling to allow a viable Palestinian state ... The expansion of Jewish settlements, a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention; the blockade of Gaza, a collective punishment prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention, that endangers the entire population of 1.5 million that includes 53 per cent children; and the changing of the character of East Jerusalem by making it difficult for Palestinians to stay there and encouraging a much greater residential Jewish population" - all seem designed to scuttle any real solution.
What of the argument that Israel does not have a peace partner?
"It's partially true that there's neither Palestinian unity nor acceptable Palestinian representation.
"But that's partly a consequence of Israel's own actions - its refusal to treat Hamas, democratically elected, as a real political actor, rather than dismissing it as a terrorist group. For decades that was done in Northern Ireland, preventing a negotiated resolution."
As for the Palestinian Authority, "its limited capacity is partly a result of Israel's own attempts to co-opt it, which it has been somewhat successful in, but that undermines the P.A.'s ability to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians."
And add to Falk's commentary the following comment by The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, which provides us a historical perspective on the attack on Gaza, which was only the latest of a decades-long crime spree:
It is important to note that Operation Cast Lead [the attack on Gaza] was not an isolated event. Although it was the most brutal single offensive in the history of the occupation, Israel's actions during Operation Cast Lead were the manifestation of longstanding illegal practices in the occupied Palestinian territory. The majority of the crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead - including, inter alia, the direct targeting of civilians, the extensive destruction of civilian property, indiscriminate attacks, and the use of human shields - have become an almost routine feature of the occupation.
Yet despite the documentation of such crimes, neither the State of Israel nor individuals suspected of committing war crimes, have been held to account. It is now over nine months since Operation Cast Lead, and no effective investigations have been conducted. Regrettably, this lack of accountability, and the resultant climate of impunity, has been a longstanding feature of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory. Neither the State of Israel, nor individuals suspected of violating international law, have ever been brought before a court and tried in accordance with the norms of international law. PCHR firmly believe that this lack of accountability serves to encourage further violations of international law and to undermine the respect for the rule of law itself. International law codifies extensive provisions designed to protect civilian populations, and to preserve fundamental human dignity. However, in order for the law to be relevant, it must be enforced. History has shown that as long as individuals are granted impunity, they will continue to violate the law: innocent civilians will continue to suffer the horrific consequences.
Finally, news of an attempt in England to arrest Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak for war crimes. Barak had wanted to but now may not be able to attend a major British Labor Party conference:
Palestinians seek UK arrest of Ehud Barak
By GREGORY KATZ (AP) - 35 minutes ago
LONDON -- Palestinian rights groups have asked a British court to issue an arrest warrant for Israeli defense chief Ehud Barak, who is in the country to meet with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other officials.
Tayab Ali, who is representing the Palestinian groups, said papers filed with London's City of Westminster Magistrates Court accuse the Israeli defense minister of violating the Geneva conventions and committing war crimes while directing the Israeli winter offensive against the Gaza Strip.
A U.N. investigation into the attack concluded earlier this month that the conflict, which claimed about 1,400 Palestinian and 13 Israeli lives, was marked by war crimes on both sides.
"We think anybody suspected of war crimes should be brought to justice," said Ali.
The suit was brought by the Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza City and Ramallah-based al-Haq, who scrambled to put together a case against Barak when they found out he was going to Britain, according to the Mezan Center's Mahmoud Abu Rahma. Abu Rahma said he hoped to take advantage of Britain's principle of universal jurisdiction, under which alleged war criminals can be tried in domestic U.K. courts. . . .
Lawmaker Martin Linton, the chairman of Labour Friends of Palestine & the Middle East, said his party should not be giving a platform to a man he said was "implicated in accusations of war crimes."
"He should be answering to the U.N. and not addressing a drinks party," Linton said before a planned protest at the hotel. . . .
Barak is the latest Israeli official threatened with arrest over war crimes charges abroad.
In 2005, Doron Almog, a retired general, dodged arrest by staying on aboard his plane at London's Heathrow airport after a tip-off that police were outside to arrest him. The Israeli jetliner flew him straight back home, and the warrant was eventually dropped for procedural reasons.
The war crimes allegations stemmed from his role as commander of the Israeli army in Gaza in 2002, when Israeli forces destroyed 59 houses in Gaza that Israel said were used by militants and Palestinians said belonged to civilians.
The potential arrest has inspired one Israeli legislator to say it should go along with the Goldstone report demand that Israel conduct an independent investigation into possible Israeli war crimes during the Gaza conflict:
MK Shai: Goldstone, Barak Prove Need for Gaza Inquiry
Reported: 20:20 PM - Sep/29/09
MK Nachman Shai of Kadima, a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that the potential arrest of Defense Minister Ehud Barak in London Tuesday, which he considered a direct result of the Goldstone panel report on Operation Cast Lead, showed the need for Israel to set up its own commission of inquiry into the IDF's actions during the war.
"It's not an easy decision to make, and there would be much hesitation, especially since the IDF is already investigating the operation. However, in order to prevent increased attempts by international groups to act against us, and for other reasons, it would be a good idea for Israel to itself investigate Operation Cast Lead, and present its own findings to the world," Shai said.