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Update – 19 October 2009

Posted by Emily Chrapot on 19 October 2009 at 4:05pm:

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On Friday, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) endorsed the Goldstone Report by a vote of 25-6. The United States, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Ukraine opposed the resolution, while Britain and France declined to vote. Russia and China were among those that voted in favour of the resolution.

The Goldstone Report will now be passed on to the UN Security Council, where the Israelis can expect strong action against them unless they carry out an internal investigation into war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. Nevertheless, the United States, Britain and France – all permanent members of the UN Security Council – are likely to veto the progression of the report (see more). Additionally, Russia has also made it clear to Israel that despite their endorsement, they would oppose a discussion on the report at both the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court in Hague.

The endorsement of the report has yielded many disgruntled comments, but perhaps the most telling comes from the report’s author himself, Richard Goldstone, who was unhappy with the wording of the resolution because it did not include any condemnation of Hamas. He declared, “this draft resolution saddens me as it includes only allegations against Israel. There is not a single phrase condemning Hamas as we have done in the report (see more).”

Goldstone had already begun backing away from the report to Jewish audiences as early as last week. In an interview with Jewish Forward he acknowledged that “we had to do the best we could with the material we had. If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven”. He declared that it was no more than “a road map” and that it contained no actual “evidence” of wrongdoing by Israel (see more). Such an about face by Goldstone has sparked suspicion by Alan Dershowitz that Goldstone adheres to Yasser Arafat’s perfected art of double-speak, whereby Arafat would use “bellicose language when addressing Arab audiences and more accommodating language when address Western audiences” (see more).

The repercussions of this report and the UNHRC’s endorsement of it are enormous. Even if it does manage to get vetoed at the Security Council, the damage has already been done. Perhaps Israel does need to launch an investigation that is open and transparent, but let us not forget that Israel has already carried through on such promises when allegations of army misconduct swirled around earlier in the year. But the world cannot set this double-standard where one set of rules apply to Israel and another set of rules apply to everyone else.

The harsh response from members of the Israel government has been quite telling. Israel’s Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz dubbed the UN backing of the report as anti-Semitic. While I may not go that far, he declared, “This is an anti-Semitic attempt to decide that what is allowed for the United States in Afghanistan, Russia in Chechnya and Turkey in North Iraq isn’t allowed for Israel” (see more). Interior Minister Eli Yishai stated, “six thousand to 7,000 rockets were fired at Israel. Nor the Americans, the British, nor the French would be willing to accept that one rocket be fired at them” (see more).

But if the argument of a self-defensive war from Israeli officials is not enough, then you must watch this video of a speech by Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, who addressed the special session on the Goldstone report.

He stated, “the trust is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy’s hand is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable.” Colonel Kemp finished by declaring, “I say this again: the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”

For the final word on this issue, please read today’s fantastic editorial in the Australian entitled ‘A poisonous outcome: The Goldstone report has damaged the UN’s credibility’.

In other news, for those of you who missed out, the Australian had a field day with articles attacking Israel on Saturday; for a second I thought I was reading the Age!

Apart from a nice article about visiting spokesman for the Prime Minister Mark Regev entitled ‘Mark Regev in bid to promote peace’ there are two awful articles entitled ‘Extremist days in Jerusalem’ by John Lyons and ‘Palestinians pay price for army action’ taken from The Times. They reminded me of Jason Koutsoukis’ three-day expose on the settlements, which focussed mainly on a minority within a minority of Israelis, and made them the sole-representatives of Israeli society.

The main article (which I believe reads much more like an Op-Ed), entitled ‘Occupation liability for Israel, US’ is by Stephen Walt, of Mearsheimer and Walt’s ‘The Israel lobby’ fame. The article is a thinly veiled attempt to once again place the blame of all regional affairs squarely on Israel, and explores Turkey’s decision to suspend a multinational air exercise involving the US, Israel, Turkey and other NATO forces.

The article is filled with inaccuracies, which is not surprising considering the worked of Mearsheimer and Walt has been heavily discredited in many circles.

Walt claims that ‘critics argued that Turkey’s armed forces should not be collaborating with the same air force that had pummelled the defenceless Gazans last northern winter’. In saying this, Walt completely ignores the fact that this was a war of self-defence. Next, he will be telling us that Hamas is nothing more than a boy scout group!

But perhaps the part that I find most insulting to his reader’s intelligence is when he declares, “because Israel continues to occupy the West Bank and Gaza and refuses to allow the Palestinians to have a state of their own, it faces continued resistance from groups such as Hamas, including the firing of rockets at Israeli towns”. Finally, a mention of Hamas rockets, though I am not quite sure I am buying his argument that the Israelis have brought this upon themselves.

Mr. Walt was perhaps too busy promulgating historically inaccurate theories about the creation of Israel to realise that not a single Jew resides in Gaza anymore (except for Gilad Shalit, who is being held there against his will), therefore ending the so-called “occupation”. And please let’s not even start with the ridiculous claims that it is Israel that is preventing the Palestinians from having a state of their own. 

Finally, Walt makes reference to the fact that Israel’s “pariah status” within the region “reduces its strategic value”. He believes that this is why Israel could not participate in the 1991 or 2003 wars with Iraq. This is sheer stupidity. Does anyone believe this drivel about Israel ending the occupation so that it could participate in other country’s wars? 

Of course, I am not surprised that in talking specifically about Turkey, Walt did not see it fit to mention the latest drama with Turkey, which centres around a television series depicting Israeli soldiers as brutal murderers. The show airs on Turkish State-sponsored television and shows Israeli soldiers shooting a young girl in the chest, steamrolling a tank through a crowded street and lining up a firing squad to shoot Palestinians (see more).

Despite this, it is not all bad news between Israel and Turkey, with reports today stating that Israel is negotiating with Turkey to import water (see more).

I am heading off to Israel for a month on Thursday, so please direct any advocacy related issues to the ZCV Executive Director, Ginette Searle at gsearle@zionismvictoria.org.au. Watch this space over the next few weeks as we will be having some very interesting guest contributors filling in for me!

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