Richard Goldstone’s much anticipated fact-finding report on Operation Cast Lead is scheduled to be released prior to the start of the UN Human Rights Council’s next session on September 14. The report is likely to direct disproportionate criticism at Israel and its military for its conduct during the Operation.
After all, the Goldstone Commission’s original mission was “to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying power, Israel, against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression.” One of the members of the Goldstone Commission, Christine Chinkin, even signed a letter earlier this year condemning Israel for committing war crimes. Knowing that the Commission had already reached it conclusion, Israel refused to participate in the investigation.
The Human Rights Council is the successor to the UN Human Rights Commission, which sponsored the infamously anti-Semitic Durban Conference in 2001. So far, the Council seems determined to carry on tradition with its biased and unjustified focus on Israel.
It is only part of a full-fledged assault on Israel since it responded to Hamas rocket attacks last December with Operation Cast Lead. Groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been publishing reports accusing Israel of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity and urging the International Criminal Court (ICC) to exercise jurisdiction. The Arab League commissioned an “Independent Fact Finding Committee,” headed by John Dugard, accusing Israel of the same and imploring the ICC to prosecute Israelis. Dugard is also working with organizations to petition South African courts to prosecute Israelis.
Israel has attempted to refute many of the misleading and inaccurate claims with its own report, reminding the public that Hamas — whose charter states “there is no solution to the Palestinian problem except Jihad” — launched nearly 3,000 rockets and mortar shells at Israel in 2008 alone, and that it stored weapons in schools, mosques, U.N. facilities, and homes, while using medical facilities and ambulances for military purposes during Operation Cast Lead. Israel also provides extensive evidence that Hamas used “human shields,” whereas Amnesty and the Arab League concluded there was no evidence of such tactics. (Please go to YouTube and type in “Fathi Hamad” to draw your own conclusion.)
Israel also details how it used extreme care to avoid civilian casualties, employing a comprehensive warning system that included distributing millions of leaflet warnings in Gaza and systematically checking and cross-checking targets to avoid striking civilians. And the IDF refused to strike Shifa hospital, where Hamas established its main headquarters, because of the risk of civilian collateral damage.
Israel is still in the process of conducting its own investigations into allegations of wrongdoing, examining approximately 100 complaints, including 13 criminal investigations. The investigations are then subject to review by the Military Advocate General (MAG), who is independent from the IDF command hierarchy, and then subject to further review by the Attorney General and then the Supreme Court of Israel. If there is sufficient evidence for an indictment, then the MAG Corps will proceed with prosecutions in the Military Courts. For anyone who thinks that the process is rigged or that Israel cultivates a “culture of impunity,” consider that from 2002 through 2008, 1,467 criminal investigations were opened into alleged soldier misconduct, 140 indictments issued, and 103 defendants convicted.
Despite propaganda from critics, Israel’s internal integrity is well respected internationally. In fact, the National Court of Spain recently rejected universal jurisdiction over previous incidents in Gaza because Israel is investigating the matters itself, and its system is sufficiently independent and impartial. The ICC and South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority should follow their lead and remove themselves from the political fight. Don’t expect the Goldstone Report to reach the same conclusion.