Posts Tagged ‘Richard Goldstone’

Top Ten Myths about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

June 19, 2010

Jeremy R. Hammond, Foreign Policy Journal, June 17, 2010

A Palestinian boy throws a stone at an Israeli  tank in the occupied West Bank.

Myth #1 – Jews and Arabs have always been in conflict in the region.

Although Arabs were a majority in Palestine prior to the creation of the state of Israel, there had always been a Jewish population, as well. For the most part, Jewish Palestinians got along with their Arab neighbors. This began to change with the onset of the Zionist movement, because the Zionists rejected the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and wanted Palestine for their own, to create a “Jewish State” in a region where Arabs were the majority and owned most of the land.

For instance, after a series of riots in Jaffa in 1921 resulting in the deaths of 47 Jews and 48 Arabs, the occupying British held a commission of inquiry, which reported their finding that “there is no inherent anti-Semitism in the country, racial or religious.” Rather, Arab attacks on Jewish communities were the result of Arab fears about the stated goal of the Zionists to take over the land.

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A Tale of Two Richards

March 6, 2010

By Nadia Hijab, Agence Global,  March 4, 2010

They hail from opposite parts of the globe, but they have much in common: Jewish; experts on and passionate defenders of international law; and pummeling bags for Israel and the Palestinian Authority. And the future of the law of war lies at the heart of the campaigns against them.

Richard Goldstone, whose international stature was cemented as chief prosecutor in the Yugoslavia and Rwanda tribunals, has been excoriated by Israel and its allies ever since his team submitted the report on the Gaza war requested by the United Nations Human Rights Council in September 2009. The steady stream of invective (the report is “full of lies,” and he has “used his Jewishness to jeopardize the safety and security of Israel” are just two of the milder attacks) has also targeted his family and taken a toll on the publicly stoic judge.

Richard Falk, professor emeritus at Princeton University and UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, has been attacked by Israel for years. But now, in a new twist, he is being hung out to dry by the Palestinian Authority in perhaps the unkindest cut of all.

The PA pummeling is more discreet. It has quietly suggested to Falk himself that he resign. One reported reason is that Falk can’t do his job because Israel will not allow him into the country — though this should, one would have thought, be all the more reason to defend him.

And the PA has asked the Human Rights Council to take Falk’s report off the March 22 agenda and “postpone” it to June, which the Council has done. The PA-appointed representative to the UN in Geneva insists that there are simply more important reports than Falk’s on the agenda — yet at the same time he says the PA has “many” reservations about the Falk report. The real reasons seem to be that the PA did not like the mention of Hamas in Falk’s report and his earlier criticism when the PA tried to “postpone” the Goldstone Report in September under pressure from Israel and the United States. A public outcry among Palestinians reversed that decision.

The attacks on Falk and Goldstone are hard for the two men to bear. And they tear at the very fabric of international law and the mechanisms put in place to uphold it. The Human Rights Council has stepped on a slippery slope by agreeing to postpone Falk’s report. Instead of listening to the PA (and Egypt) the Council should have backed its special rapporteur. If it does the unthinkable and relieves Falk of his duties because the PA does not want him, the system of independent special rapporteurs would be undermined, just as it would if the Council gave in to Israeli or American pressure.

Undermining the Goldstone Report would be an equally harsh blow to the human rights system. Several earlier reports have called for the application of international law to the Arab-Israeli conflict, including the International Court of Justice’s seminal opinion on the illegality of Israel’s separation wall in the West Bank. But the Goldstone Report has been published at a time when people are ready to listen, which is partly why Israel is fighting it with such ferocity and on so many fronts.

On one of those fronts, Israel is trying to change international law itself, as Israeli human rights advocate Jeff Halper reveals in an important article, “The Second Battle of Gaza.” Halper identifies the Israeli figures leading the campaign “to alter international law in ways that enable them — and by extension other states involved in ‘wars on terror’ — to effectively pursue warfare amongst the people while eliminating both the legitimacy and protections enjoyed by their non-state foes.”

No one is more aware of the dangers to international law than Palestinian human rights advocates. Their organizations have acted as a group to support the implementation of the Goldstone Report and to protect Falk and his role.

Last month, 11 Palestinian human rights groups wrote to the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressing dismay at the PA actions against Falk. His reports have provided “powerful instruments to advocate for Palestinian people’s rights” they said, urging Pillay to ensure that Falk enjoyed the highest level of support from her office. They also called on her to reinforce the independence of the special rapporteurs from UN member states so as to protect the UN’s own credibility.

More recently, 19 Palestinian groups wrote to PA president Mahmoud Abbas criticizing Falk’s treatment and pointing out the repercussions for the Palestinians’ internationally recognized human rights.

If the attacks on the two Richards succeed, the Palestinian cause will suffer and the world will be a poorer and more dangerous place — one in which the might of the strong is legally allowed to prevail against the rights of the weak.

Nadia Hijab is an independent analyst and a senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies.

Copyright © 2010 Nadia Hijab – distributed by Agence Global

Human rights policy under Obama

January 26, 2010

Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy in Focus, Jan 26, 2010

The Obama administration’s record on human rights has been a major disappointment.

In part because the Bush administration abused the promotion of democracy and human rights to rationalize its militaristic policies in the Middle East and elsewhere, the Obama administration has at times been reluctant to be a forceful advocate for those struggling against oppression. For example, Obama was cautious in supporting the ongoing freedom struggle in Iran, in part because he believes that more overt advocacy could set back what he sees as the more critical issue of curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He is also aware of how the history of U.S. interventionism in that country, overt threats of “regime change” by the previous administration, and the U.S. invasion of two neighboring countries in the name of promoting democracy could lead to a nationalist reaction to such grandstanding. (Despite this caution, however, the Iranian regime has falsely accused Obama of guiding the massive pro-democracy movement that is challenging the increasingly repressive rule in that country.)

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Family who lost 29 members in Gaza War: We envy the dead

October 19, 2009

By Amira Hass, Haaretz/Israel, Oct 18, 2009

Richard Goldstone visited the Gaza City neighborhood of Zaytoun in late June to tour the compound of the extended Samouni family, the subject of coverage here in recent weeks (“‘I fed him like a baby bird,'” September 17; “Death in the Samouni compound,” September 25). Twenty-nine members of the family, all of them civilians, were killed in the Israel Defense Force’s winter assault – 21 during the shelling of a house where IDF soldiers had gathered some 100 members of the family a day earlier.

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U.N. Body Backs War Crimes Charges on Israel, Hamas

October 17, 2009

By Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service News

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 16 (IPS) – The 47-member Human Rights Council (HRC) approved a resolution Friday endorsing war crimes charges against Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, as spelled out in a report by a four-member international fact-finding mission headed by Justice Richard Goldstone.

As expected, the United States threw a protective arm around Israel and voted against the resolution, along with some members of the European Union (EU): Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Slovakia, as well as Ukraine.

“The voting was predictable,” an Asian diplomat told IPS, pointing out that while Western nations voted against the resolution or abstained, most of the developing countries voted in favour.

The vote was 25 in favour, six against, 11 abstentions and five no-shows.

The Geneva-based Council not only endorsed the recommendations of the Goldstone report but also strongly condemned Israeli policies in the occupied territories, including those limiting Palestinian access to their properties and holy sites, particularly in occupied Jerusalem.

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UN: Israel ‘deliberately’ attacked Gaza civilians

September 16, 2009

Middle East Online, Sep 16, 2009


‘Violations of humanitarian law and human rights law’

‘Strong evidence’ of Israeli ‘willful killing’, torture, extensive destruction of property in Gaza.

UNITED NATIONS – A UN report Tuesday accused both Israel and the Palestinians of committing “war crimes” in the Gaza Strip, but particularly slammed Israel’s use of disproportionate force in the conflict.

The damning report found Israel violated international humanitarian law during its assault on the Gaza Strip eight months ago.

The four-member probe panel “concluded that actions amounting to war crimes and possibly in some respect crimes against humanity were committed by the Israel Defense Forces,” the head of the UN probe, former international prosecutor Richard Goldstone, told reporters.

Rocket firing by Palestinian resistance groups also amounted to war crimes “and may amount to crimes against humanity,” a seven-page summary said.

But only four paragraphs of the summary were devoted to Palestinian violations, and Goldstone, appointed in April to lead a broadened human rights probe into the Gaza violence, was more sharply critical of Israel.

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American Jewish groups must speak up over Gaza

April 20, 2009

It is a sensitive subject, but the movement for Gaza accountability needs full Jewish participation

Richard Silverstein

guardian.co.uk, Monday 20 April 2009 09.00 BS

    When Israeli forces left Gaza in January, they left behind 1,400 Palestinian dead, 4,000 homes destroyed, universities and government buildings flattened, and tens of thousands homeless. The Israeli and world press documented IDF atrocities including the indiscriminate use of white phosphorus in densely populated urban areas, the assault on United Nations humanitarian facilities, the shelling of civilian homes, and the shooting in cold blood of unarmed civilians.

    Israeli human rights groups have called for war crimes investigations of IDF actions. In the last few weeks, on-the-ground reports supported by eyewitness testimony have become available. They paint an even more damning picture. The attacks on UN facilities spurred the Palestinian Authority to call for a security council investigation. Officials announced they are investigating whether the international body has jurisdiction, but it seems likely that US opposition will doom such an avenue of redress.

    The UN human rights council has just appointed a distinguished jurist, Richard Goldstone, to head an investigation of both IDF and Palestinian actions in Gaza. The council made a wise choice in Goldstone, who served as chief prosecutor of the international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda: he has an impeccable record in his field and can be expected to issue a fair, balanced and thorough report.

    Last week, Judge Balthazar Garzon announced the investigation of six Bush-era officials for devising a scheme that justified torture of terror suspects. With this development, it became clear there was a new method to hold violators accountable for their alleged crimes, and I am certain activists are already preparing dossiers for submission. Earlier this month, an international assemblage of individuals announced the formation of the Russell tribunal on Palestine. Modelled on the Russell tribunal on war crimes in Vietnam, and named after philosopher and peace campaigner Bertrand Russell, it aims to bring to bear international law as a force for adjudicating and resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The tribunal will hear a legal case prepared by volunteer experts from around the world. A jury of respected individuals will hear evidence from both sides and announce its finding of guilt or innocence to the world.

    There is one important consideration that should encourage Israel to participate. If it truly believes Palestinian rocket attacks constitute war crimes, then it should vigorously make this point. The tribunal has already taken pains to point out that this is a part of its mandate: “Do the means of resistance used by the Palestinians violate international law?” However, I would imagine that Israel will not participate.

    While Israel’s savage assault against Hezbollah in Lebanon during the 2006 war generated an uproar, one wonders whether the massacres that occurred in Gaza crossed a moral threshhold. Can an effort to end Israeli impunity have real impact, both in terms of influencing world opinion and of impacting on Israeli behaviour? Israel has become an expert at wearing down its opponents, honing such skills during 40 years of occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The question is: what, if anything, can the peace community do differently this time?

    Each time the world witnesses another humanitarian tragedy resulting from Israeli military action, the outcry is louder. For example, the UN has never before entertained the possibility of investigating Israeli war crimes. The EU has informally made known that it intends to freeze a planned upgrade in relations with Israel and cancel of visit of Israel’s prime minister as an indirect result. American universities such as Hampshire College and church denominations such as the Presbyterians contemplate ever more seriously the issue of divestment. Gaza crossed a red line. Now, new methods of protest and new means of ensuring accountability must be devised.

    Horrors such as the Gaza war also breathe new life into movements like the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions initiative. Recently, Naomi Klein and Rabbi Arthur Waskow engaged in a provocative debate at In These Times about BDS. The Gaza war made Klein a believer. Recently, Rabbi Brant Rosen wrote words that many in the American Jewish community might find heretical, that BDS could be a legitimate expression “of a weaker, dispossessed, disempowered people”.

    There can be no doubt that horrors such as Gaza serve as moral ice-breakers in the psyche of diaspora Jews. Ideas that hitherto might have been taboo or “anti-Israel” become suddenly legitimate. As Israel drifts farther to the right, American Jews are challenged to respond morally. In this context, the forbidden becomes acceptable. Boycotts, divestment, sactions and war crimes investigations now appear tools through which to try to draw Israel back from the brink.

    No major American-Jewish peace group has called for a Gaza war crimes investigation. It is a sensitive subject among diaspora Jews. But if Israeli human rights organisations can make such a call, there is no reason why Americans should be afraid to do so. The movement for Gaza accountability needs full Jewish participation.

    My motivation in writing this is not to avenge the deaths of innocent Palestinians. Nor is it for pure justice. It is rather to bring Israel back from the brink. Like one of the slogans of the Israeli military during the Gaza war – “baal habayit hishtageya” (“the boss has lost it”) – Israel’s policy has verged on madness. Nor has it achieved its objective of pacifying Gaza or toppling Hamas. And isn’t one of the definitions of madness to repeat a behaviour even after it has failed, with the conviction that it will succeed the next time? When you see a loved one or family member descending into self-destruction, you reach out and help. My goal is to turn Israel away from the path of madness.