Sunday, 27 September 2009

A critical review of the Goldstone Report


The UN Human Rights Council will debate the report prepared by a mission headed by Richard Goldstone this week in Geneva.
The report investigated the Gaza conflict.
There is a resolution to send the issue to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

No matter that this report was damned even before its genesis into an official United Nations Mission.

Richard Goldstone said that he accepted his role "because my fellow-commissioners are professionals, committed to an objective investigation".

Mission member, Christine Chinkin, pre-judged Israel's actions in Gaza to be war crimes. In a letter to the Sunday Times, she and other signators, said that Israel's actions against Hamas attacks were 'acts of aggression, not self defense', thereby pre-judging the investigation before it began.

Mary Robinson, no great friend of Israel, refused to head the UN Mission saying that it was "guided not by human rights but by politics".

The UN Mission failed to include the statistics of over seven thousand rockets fired indiscriminately into Israeli civilian areas over an eight year period. It failed to include the Israelis killed and injured, and the tens of thousands terrorized during this pre-Gaza conflict period.
They considered that their brief only applied to the subsequent conflict, thereby divorcing the significance of the background and build up to events in the Gaza Strip. Doing so, radically reduced the justification of Israel's defensive measures.

This also flies in the face of the official brief given to the Mission by the President of the UN Human Rights Council who, on 3rd April 2009, instructed the Committee 'to investigate all violations of international law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations conducted in Gaza from 27.11.08 to 18.1.098 whether before, during, or after.

The Committee decided to focus primarily on events after 19 June 2008 when a ceasefire was agreed. They did not reason to consider the intensive and continuous rocket and mortar attacks that had created the situation in which Israel was forced to take action to protect its citizens.
The Committee was supposed to take into serious consideration the credibility and reliability of witnesses, verify sources, and cross-reference relevant material and information. This they failed to do.

The Committee did not attempt to identify the individuals responsible for the commission of offences. Neither did they pretend to reach the standard of proof applicable in criminal trials. Yet they stated, from their one-sided and dubious eyewitness testimony that they had found 'significant elements of crimes'.

Their significant elements of proof were derived and reliant on testimony given by witnesses under the watchful eye of Hamas handlers and not in private and closed environments.
Goldstone admits, in his report, that 'there was a certain reluctance by the persons interviewed in Gaza to discuss the activities of armed groups.'
I bet there was! But why didn't Goldstone and his fellow-commissioners demand to interview witnesses free from Hamas intimidation?

Goldstone's observations provide a glimpse into the dangers faced by those speaking against the regime in Gaza.
Goldstone's failure to address the issue of Hamas intimidation undermines the very basis of his conclusions.

None of the witnesses were asked questions relating to Palestinian terrorist activities in civilian areas, location of weapons. This supports the case that they were party to a biased political campaign and not a neutral, fact-finding, mission.

Even when Hamas terrorists mixed with the civilian population, the UN Mission rejects the notion that there was any intention to deliberately put civilians at risk.

In Gaza, the UN Committee investigated thirty six incidents. Let me highlight one of them.

Khaled Muhammad Abd Rabbo reported the deaths of two of his children on 7th January 2009. Their house is in Jabaliya near the Israel border. He claimed that he saw no armed Palestinian activity in the area. he further claimed that Israeli tanks took position near his house. He said that soldiers, using a megaphone, caled residents to come out of their houses. His family came out holding a white flag and one of the soldiers got out of a tank and fired at his children for no reason.

Contrary to the claims of Abd Rabbo, Palestinian sources reported on armed Palestinian acitivites in the area of his house and on an exchnage of gunfire between Palestinian and IDF forces.

At the time Khaled claimed his children were killed four other Palestinians were killed nearby. They were Ibrahmim Abd al-Rahim Sulieman, an Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade terrorist, Shadi Issam Hamad, a terrorist belonging to the PFLP, Muhammad Ali al-Sultan and Ahmad Adib Faraj Juneid, both Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade terrorists.

The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade report on the incident reveals information about the echange of fire between the IDF and the terrorists in the area where Khaled Abu Rabbo's children were killed.
He, however, did not tell the UN Commission about this exchange of fire.
The possibility exists that his children were killed by Palestinian gunfire as no autopsy took place.

For Goldstone, it may be inconceivable that someone would blatantly lie about the death of his children.
There is , however, a known factor in this area that people prefer to advance the Palestinian nationalist cause by glorifying the death of children by turning them into martyrs. True, his children were tragic victims, but a place in history is preferable to the truth in Palestine.

Goldstone, however, reported Abd Rabbo's account as fact - and also as a war crime committed by Israel.
A second glaring incident reported by the UN Human Right Mission against Israel involved statements given by Wali and Salah al-Samouni.

They described the shelling of Wali's house where the extended al-Samouni family had taken shelter. They told the committee that, on 5th January 2009, Israeli helicopters fired a missile at them as they left the house. This was followed by more missiles fired at the house. After the incident the wounded went down Salah a-Din Street and were refused medical aid by the IDF soldiers who fired shots over their heads to frighten them away.

They claimed that there had been no armed Palestinians and no activity around the house. Salah al-Samouni told the UN members that, "Everyone is a farmer. I swear to Allah that everyone is a farmer".

The UN Mission questioned him about damages caused by the IDF to his house, to the surrounding area, even down to statistics as to the size of the agricultural area destroyed by the IDF.

The UN Mission did not ask about the identity of the dead Palestinians in this incident. Nor did they ask about the possibility that they may have been terrorist operatives. It did not challenge their claim that there were no armed Palestinians in the area, despite the reports at the time both by both Palestinian terrorist organisations and by the IDF about exchanges of fire in the immediate area.

The UN Mission, headed by Goldstone, did not press witnesses about his claim that soldiers did not provide medical attention, in contradiction given by a female member of the family who had told the B'tselem NGO that soldiers had given them medical aid.

A simple examination of freely available Palestinian sources shows that both Wali and Salah al-Samouni hid important details from the Committee which could shed light on the event.
At least three members of the family were affiliated with the Islamic Jihad. Tawfiq Rashad Hilmi al-Samouni, who was killed on 5th January, was an Islamic Jihad terrorist. A Palestinian leaflet depicts a picture of an armed Muhammad Ibrahim al-Samouni with the caption "He along with mujahadin Walid Rashad al-Samouni, blew up a tank, causing the deaths of a number of Zionists on the first night of the war south of the Zeitun neighbourhood."

The family insist that there was no Palestinian terrorist activities near the house and that the nearest activity was at least a mile away and that was limited to firing rockets into Israel.

Islamic Jihad reported, however, that its fighters had fired an RPG at an Israeli tank and had opened fire on the enemy. At 1.20 a.m. an Islamic Jihad engineering unit detonated a 50 kg. bomb near an Israeli tank by the Al-Tawhid mosque near the house od Wali al-Samouni.

At 6.30 a.m. the Islamic Jihad engineering unit detonated another bomb near an IDF infantry unit. According to another official statement, one of its operatives, Muhammad Ibrahim al-Samouni was killed in fighting in the area.

Yet, according to the UN Goldstone Report, these ' innocent farmers' and their family were deliberately targeted and killed by Israel and this amounts to a war crime.

My colleague. Maurice Ostroff, has been able to conduct an unsatisfactory email correspondence with Richard Goldstone.

Ostroff questioned why Goldstone did not call epert witnesses and he quoted Colonel Richard Kemp, C.B.E. , former Commander of British forces in Afghanistan who praised the IDF as "having made more effort to reduce civilian casualties and deaths than any military force in history".

These measures included dropping over 900,000 leaflets over Gaza warning residents to move to safe areas in advance of military actions. The IDF also sent thousands of SMS text messages and over 30,000 phone calls to Gazan households urging them in Arabic to leave homes where Hamas may have stashed weapons or be preparing to fight.

Each day the IDF declared a three-hour cease fire in order to allow over one thousand five hundred trucks of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.
This only stopped temporarily whenever Hamas targeted the crossing points.
The UN Mission dismissed these measures as 'ineffective'.

Despite Kemp's expertise in urban warfare against terrorists and insurgents in places such as Basra and Fallujah in Iraq and in Afghanistan, the Goldstone Committee to today refuse to consider calling him to give evidence as a professional witness.

Other submissions and evidence have been sent either directly to Goldstone and to the UN Human Rights Council. Many clearly show blatant war crimes perpetrated by Hamas. All have been summarily swept aside by the Goldstone Committee.

Goldstone told Ostroff that time restraints have prevented him from broadening his scope to include those who can shine a different light on his Committee's conclusions.

While the report paased judgment against Israel in respect to almost every allegation it seeks to absolve Hamas of almost any wrongdoing. The word 'terrorist' is almost entirely absent. Thousands of rocket attacks against civilian centers in Israel receives only token mention and are termed 'reprisals'.

In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council received so-called evidence from Shawan Jabarin, director-general of Al-Haq, a Ramallah-based MGO.

As with many Palestinian representatives, Jabarin wears two hats. he is also a leader of the PFLP terrorist organisation which does not shy away from acts of murder and attempted murder. This organisation denies the most fundamental human right - the right to life.

Goldstone received his statements, but not people like Colonel Richard Kemp. Goldstone reportedly slept when a Sderot NGO group showed video of Israeli children being traumatised by falling Hamas rockects on their schools and playgrounds.

And so, the Goldstone Report returns to Geneva this week.

Is Goldstone so naive as to imagine that although his findings 'do not pretend to reach the standard of proof applicable in criminal trials' that his colleagues on the UN Human Rights Council, with their ulterior motives, and others out to get Israel, will not fuel a judicial campaign against Israel especially as he has given Israel six months to respond to his biased report or face the potential of being dragged to the International Criminal Court at The Hague?

Israel has already investigated over one hundred allegations of wrongdoing with twenty three cases still pending. These efforts were deemed insufficient by his Commiteee.

On the other hand, no investigation can be expected to be conducted by either Hamas or the Palestinian Authority. Neither can we expect a non-state party such as Hamas to be held to accountability, or to be brought to trial for proven war crimes.
Today it is Israel on the altar of political bias. Tomorrow it will be American and Britain.
On 17 September, 2009, an Afghan Presidential Panel claimed that thirty Afghan civilians were killed in a US airstrike.
Will we see the UN Human Rights Council investigate the military activities of Coalition forces fighting Al-Qaida and the Taliban in the civilian areas of Afghanistan as Obama decides to increase his strikeforce there?

Last week, Sir Jock Stirrup, the UK Chief of Staff visited Israel. It was whispered in his ear that what the Israeli IDF and leaders face today can comfortably apply to British forces and politicians next.

The American and British forces in both Iraq and in Afghanistan use the same weaponry, the same tactics, when fighting their terrorist enemy in their urban warfare. Their enemy also uses the same human shield and tactics in these fields of operation.

Western countries have a vested interest in protecting Israel and containing the fall-out of the Goldstone Report.

No comments: