Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Goldstone Report

Just say it isn’t so, and the truth of Israel’s brutal assault on the unarmed civilians of Gaza is erased… like it never happened.

Judge Richard Goldstone, of South Africa led the United Nations Human Rights Council fact-finding mission to investigate war crimes committed in Gaza last winter by both Israel and Hamas. His credentials include a U.N. investigation into the war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and the genocide in Rwanda. He led an inquiry into the war crimes in Kosovo and had uncovered Nazi war criminals hiding in Argentina. He was an excellent choice and universally respected.

Yet, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, in his speech to the United Nations, was visibly angered with Richard Goldstone in spite of the fact that he is Jewish, a member of the board of the Hebrew University and a Zionist. While Goldstone accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes most of the indictment was directed toward Israel. Unable to tolerate the least criticism of anything Israel does, Netanyahu declared the report biased and unjust. Israel, he said, only acted in self-defense. “We warned them to get out, that the bombs were coming.” He was obviously speaking for the American audience. The delegates of the U.N. knew better. There was no place for the Palestinians to go. Israel had sealed the borders, locking in 1.5 million people in one of the most densely populated corners on the globe.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu’s claim of innocence was enough for 344 members of the House of Representatives to vote to kill the Report. And, as always, our State Department condemned the report as being unfair to Israel. Only 37 brave souls were more committed to the facts than to their AIPAC supporters and stood up for a through investigation of last winter’s one sided war against the people of Gaza.

Goldstone defended himself with Bill Moyers, “The only thing they can be afraid of is the truth. And I think this is why they’re attacking the messenger and not the message.” He reported that a “war” waged on an entire population was collective punishment against a people under occupation and that Israel had used its army, navy and air force to blast mosques, hospitals, schools, factories, water plants and sanitation facilities. Goldstone accused Israeli soldiers of shooting unarmed civilians who posed no threat, of shooting people whose hands were shackled behind them, of firing on ambulances and destroying thousands of homes.[1] He explained:

One thing one cannot say about the Israeli Defense Forces is that they make too many mistakes. They’re a very sophisticated army. And if they attack a mosque or attack a factory, and over 200 factories were bombed, there is just no basis to ascribe that to error. That must be intentional.

I don’t accept that the destruction of the food infrastructure is necessary to fight terrorism from Gaza.

I saw the destruction of the only flour-producing factory in Gaza. I saw fields plowed up by Israeli tank bulldozers. I saw chicken farms, for egg production, completely destroyed. Tens of thousands of chickens killed. I met with families who lost their loved ones in homes in which they were seeking shelter from the Israeli ground forces. I had to have the very emotional and difficult interviews with fathers whose little daughters were killed, whose families were killed. One family, over 21 members, killed by Israeli mortars. So, it was a very difficult investigation, which will give me nightmares for the rest of my life.

All in all, Gaza was left devastated: 22,000 buildings bombed, 1400 killed, many of them children, (Israel lost 13 including those who died by “friendly fire), thousands wounded, children traumatized and parents feeling helpless to protect them. Goldstone saw its aftershock. I wonder how many of our representatives who voted to declare his report irresponsible had been there to see anything.

It is amazing how certain we are of the things we know so little about. But, our 344 representatives had AIPAC to guide their vote so there was no need for an investigation. Netanyahu had already declared Israel innocent. Israel using "disproportionate force" and "deliberately targeting civilians"? Please, just say it isn’t so.

Thomas L. Are
November 24, 2009

[1] See Bill Moyers Journal, October 23, 2009.