Update – 17 November 2009

With thanks to our guest contributor Jack Chrapot

Posted by Elly Shalev on 17 November 2009 at 5:45pm:

Comment on this article below

Whenever the subject of human rights comes up these days, I’m reminded of Marc Antony grieving over the body of his friend Caesar. My own grief – over the demise of the principle of the universal human rights of mankind – is a little different. This is more than simply a case of one set of flesh and bones being interred in the ground; rather this is a major calamity whose victims the world over will be manifold. 

It is also a little personal. I know the assassins. I have identified their front man. He is, like me, a Jew and a member of the legal profession. He likes to be regarded as an honourable man, this Sir Richard Goldstone.

You leave the sheltered confines of Jewish day school life and enter Melbourne University as a young law student in early 1967. On the first day of the first term you join the Jewish student’s society and a human rights group – natural choices for the son of Holocaust survivors and a staunch Zionist. It was more than just fashionable in those days to support the oppressed and the persecuted suffering under Apartheid, or under America’s discriminatory race laws, or languishing in a Siberian gulag or the abominable treatment of our own indigenous people. There were no political, racial or gender boundaries to human rights in those days.

Then, on a foggy night at the end of that first term, a war began that was to become a watershed in the history of your people once again threatened with annihilation. However, you are not immediately aware of the bittersweet legacies that victory might bring.

In those days, sovereign nations had a right to self defence. They were entitled to act when their citizens were attacked. If a terror group operated within and behind a civilian population, it was rightly identified as the transgressor. Such a tactic was called “a war crime” but when you spoke of “war crimes”, you knew that the accusation needed to be proven before the accused could be held responsible. The first requirement was evidence.

But these days, all of that has been turned on its head by the curious case of the outcome of the recently concluded Goldstone Commission and its treatment by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The UNHRC is a body headed by some of the world’s most extreme human rights abusers. It is apparently committed to upholding human wrongs in most parts of the world while it spends a great preponderance of its time attacking one nation. One of the major abusers is Sudan where half a million members of its black minority living in Darfur province have been murdered during this decade. Sudan is one of the leading voices within the UNHRC accusing democratic Israel of war crimes. Meanwhile, the killing within its own borders continues unabated.

In a Melbourne Age article published last month and entitled ”In the line of fire”, Middle East correspondent Jason Koutsoukis quoted Goldstone’s motivations for accepting the UN mandate to head his mission:
”I would have been acting against those principles and my own convictions and conscience if I had refused a request from the United Nations to investigate serious allegations of war crimes against both Israel and Hamas.”
”As a Jew, I felt a greater and not a lesser obligation to do so. It is well documented that as a condition of my participation, I insisted upon and received an even-handed mandate to investigate all sides, and that is what we sought to do.”

As a Jew, as a lawyer and as a human being, Goldstone had an obligation to act fairly and honourably in discharging his duty. Yet this man failed that test and instead, like those marginal Jews who collected taxes in mediaeval days, he did the bidding of his masters. For them:

• he accepted his commission after former High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, refused the invitation saying that it was “guided not by human rights but by politics”;

• he worked alongside a Mission member who had previously stated that Israel’s actions against Hamas attacks were acts of “aggression not self-defense”. Any self respecting leader of an investigation of such a grave nature would have demanded the removal of any person who destroys the credibility of the mission by prejudging the investigation;

• he refused to consider evidence from an expert in the field of asymmetrical warfare, Col. Richard Kemp, who said no army had ever done more than the IDF to protect the citizens of a country it attacked;

• he effectively ignored Israel’s right to self defence, made unsubstantiated claims about its intent and challenged Israel’s democratic values and rule of law;

• he ignored the deliberate Hamas strategy of operating inside populated areas turning them into battlefields. Hamas weapons were stored and fired at the heart of Israeli civilian territory from schools, mosques and hospitals;

• he repeatedly insisted that the Mission was not a judicial inquiry and could not reach judicial conclusions;

• he relied on eyewitness accounts of questionable nature and dubious integrity and then, after producing his report he told the Jewish Forward, “If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.”; and

• he failed completely as Moshe Halbertal, a professor of philosophy at the Hebrew University argues in The New Republic to offer any help in sorting out the real issues. “What methods can Israel–and other countries in similar situations–legitimately apply in the defense of their citizens? To create standards of morality in war that leave a state without the means of legitimate self-protection is politically foolish and morally problematic; but real answers to these real problems cannot be found in the Goldstone Report.”

Thus, despite his noble motivations, Goldstone simply produced a report which lacked both honesty and objectivity and contained within it an immense capacity for mischief.
Its most profound falsehood was the claim that his investigation was even handed. The head of the 57 member Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, boasted recently to Al Jazeera: “What I would like to put on record is that the OIC was the initiator of this process.”

Using its political clout, this bloc of nations and its allies, many of them dependent on Arab oil and support and many of them despotic ritual human rights abusers themselves, ensured that the section of the Report regarding Palestinian terror failed to gain mention in UNHRC’s recommendations which were accepted last week by the United Nations General Assembly. 

At roughly the same time as Israel fought against Hamas, other conflicts raged on the planet. The numbers are not clear but it seems that tens of thousands of civilians perished in the Congo, and in Sri Lanka where the army wiped out the Tamil Tigers the number of dead was also in the thousands and refugees from that conflict are now clamouring to enter our borders. Across the world on a daily basis, terrorism is responsible for civilian deaths, particularly in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. And they’re still dying in Darfur.

But the Jewish State alone is today being judged for the crime of self-defence (but using the Pastor Martin Niemöller principal, others will follow even if they don’t yet know it). By turning a blind eye to the tactics of Hamas, the UNHRC has ensured that more victims will follow – not just in the context of the Israel-Arab conflict but in numerous conflicts across the face of the earth where terrorists wage non-conventional warfare. Meanwhile, groups like Hamas are emboldened, Palestinian recalcitrance is given succour and the peace process comes to a standstill.

Jack Chrapot
Zionist Council of Victoria Executive Member and Legal Practitioner

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01 – Fred S

Thank you Jack Chrapot. It does represent my views.