Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Problem with Goldstone

I was all ready of be in favor of the Goldstone Report. I believe in transparency, and was pained by some of the accusations made against Israeli troops. I also believe Israel is too quick to dismiss the U.N and does itself a disservice by regularly crying discrimination.

Then I read the executive summary of the report. (It’s about 30 pages long; I have not yet tackled the full 575 pages.) I was appalled.

The first and most fundamental problem is the mandate of the investigation, which reads as follows: “to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.”

The highlighting is mine. This decision to allow the commission to investigate the context of the operations led to an overreach that cost the mission its credibility. In describing its methodology, the report says, among other things:

The Mission also analysed the historical context of the events that led to the military operations in Gaza between during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009 and the links between these operations and overarching Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
As a result, the commission reviewed
  • The closure, or blockade, of Gaza (omitting, however, Egypt's role in keeping one of the entrances to the territory closed);
  • Israel's detention of Palestinian prisoners, noting that 700,000 have been detained since the beginning of the occupation, but failing to note that this is a 32-year time span;
  • Israel's settlement policy, noting that "if all the plans are realized, the number of settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory will be doubled." I disagree with the settlement policy, but this statement is far beyond the scope of the humanitarian and human rights law questions of the Gaza operation, and its inclusion, not to mention the breathlessly threatening tone, is prejudicial to Israel.
I do believe that, as Israeli Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog suggested, Israel should have cooperated with the Goldstone commission. Then it would have had a chance to fight the accusations on their substance as opposed to fighting a long battle over the process.

No comments: