Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Will the Goldstone Report Force an Israeli Commission of Inquiry into IDF War Crimes in Gaza?

When the Goldstone Report was published, the initial reaction of the Israeli government and the IDF was to push back hard. After all, last summer they had managed to silence "Breaking the Silence," the IDF veteran group that published testimonies from IDF soldiers in the Gaza Op. Had Israeli society reacted to the BtS testimonies by establishing a Commission of Inquiry then, as called for by distinguished Israeli writers, intellectuals, Haaretz, and Nahman Shay, there would have been little fuss in the world over the Goldstone report. On the contrary, the Goldstone report would have been significantly altered, since Goldstone's recommendation was for Israel and Hamas to set up Commission of Inquiries. But Israel, like Hamas, is incapable of engaging in any significant self-criticism and has been incapable for decades. The Winograd Commission was forced upon the Olmert government by an unruly public; the Or Commission was set up to heal Labor's relations with potential Palestinian Israeli supporters. Nothing at all came of the interminable discussions of the latter; the former simply embarrassed Olmert. The last serious Commission of Inquiry dealt with the first Lebanon War, especially Sabra and Shatila. Sharon was burned by that one, but only temporarily. No, the only commission that managed to set into motion a political sea change was the Agranat Commission after the Yom Kippur War, and the conclusions of that commission, initially, were quite tame.

So why would the Israeli government – a very rightwing government, whose "leftwing" fig leaf (Ehud Barak) was almost detained in London this week for his responsibility for Israeli war crimes, and which feels no pressure by the Israeli electorate -- set up a commission to investigate Gaza? The answer is simple: to whitewash, to head off international repercussions, to rap a few knuckles, to buy time – in short, to kill the Goldstone report. With the US representative on the UN Human Rights Council calling for a commission of inquiry, and with European countries being able to hold court proceedings for IDF officers, there is growing pressure for Israel to do something on its own.

That is why even Bibi is considering setting up a commission, according to Haaretz. Or maybe not; the story was written by Barak Ravid, who is notorious for publishing spin and rumors.

My hunch is that if Bibi goes with a Commission of Inquiry, it will be one with a limited mandate and appointed by the government, and not an independent, judicial commission. Yet a commission is not likely and a serious commission is impossible. Bibi, who generally crumples under pressure, will feel the greatest pressure from his right. And I believe that he is genuinely upset, shocked, and amazed, that anybody questions the morality and the adherence to the code of ethics of the IDF. So even though there will be international consequences, it makes more sense for him to continue to conduct an international campaign against the report

In the meantime, Judge Goldstone told Christiane Amanpour that Israel intentionally targeted civilian building and installations. Israel, of course, argued that those installations were used to house weapons. But according to Goldstone, there was no evidence of weapons. Of course, had Israel cooperated with the Goldstone Commission from the beginning, the final report may have been somewhat different. Or not, after all, from what I have seen, much of the Goldstone report was known in real time back in January – there were few surprises. Still, the tone may have been a bit different, and Israel's version of the story may have had some effect. But Israel boycotted Goldstone, and now it may have to open its own commission.

More likely, it won't. And for those who think that the only way Israel can come to its senses is through external intervention and pressure, that has to be good news. I, for one, am grateful that Israel is sticking close to the script. Israel is a systematic violator of human rights, but unlike many other systematic violators, it is intensely sensitive to its international reputation. That is why the Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment campaign is so attractive. There is no other violator of human rights in the world that is more sensitive to world public opinion (and governmental opinion) than Israel.

And Judge Goldstone will not be silenced. I have now heard him speak several times. Listen to him speaking with Christiane Amanpour here He is an eloquent and persuasive spokesman against Israel's war crimes, and against the world's double standard of only punishing weak countries with no powerful friends, for human rights violations.

Thursday Update: I was right. Haaretz now reports that Bibi's strategy for dealing with the Goldstone Report is to argue that the report hurts the war on terror and the peace process.

Since there is no peace process, and the war on terror died with the Bush administration, that may prove to be a tough sell.


Y. Ben-David said...

Evleyn Gordon in the Jerusalem Post pointed out that 40% of the soldiers killed in Oferet Yetzukah were killed by "friendly fire". Thus, assuming that Goldstone and his gang are correct that the IDF (Jews being what they are) fired on civilian targets in Gaza without there being any military justification, then we must assume these friendly fire fatalities were deliberately done "for the fun it" as well.

Perish the thought that Israel should open an official investigation. The fact that Arab or other anti-Israel groups in England or other countries try to get IDF officers of political figures arrested is no reason for us to knuckle under to their "diplomatic" gangsterism.

Anonymous said...

'leftwing" fig leaf (Ehud Barak) was almost detained in London this week for his responsibility for Israeli war crimes' - This is bit of an exaggeration. There were calls for detaining him but never a seriously possibility, I think.

Eric said...

You forget that a logical consequence of the "most moral army in the world" is that it could only be maintained by the "most moral government in the word". A nation is lost when it believes its own propaganda.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating logic, there, YBD. So if an army accidentally kills a literal handful of its own, that's evidence that it didn't deliberately kill civilians.

I wonder if there were any "friendly arrow" incidents during the Mongol conquests. And maybe the Romans occasionally shot a catapult bolt in the wrong direction, so their suppression of the Jewish and Celtic rebellions were undoubtedly conducted in a completely humane way. Americans die in friendly fire incidents, so My Lai was just a mistake and the Tokyo firebomb raid was only meant to scare people.

Anyway, Goldstone didn't conclude that civilian targets were targeted based on his hitherto well concealed self-hating Jewish tendencies. He concluded this based on the evidence.


fiddler said...

The "war on terror" died with the Bush administration??? That's the first I hear. Wish it was true.

"The prime minister, they explained, fears that setting up an inquiry commission would imply that the probes now being conducted by the Israel Defense Forces are untrustworthy."

That's got to be the joke of the admittedly still young century.

Netanyahu's declaration that "referral to the ICC would sound the death knell of the peace process" is blackmail, plain and simple, the same Mafia tactics as in Gabi Ashkenazi threatening the PA that he won't approve of a second cellphone provider if they don't rescind their appeal to the ICC.
It seems the PA has caved in:

The logic of Netanyhu's assertion that the report "undermines the UN itself by gutting the legitimate right of self-defense" is that Israel can not defend itself other than by committing war crimes - and the US administration and the PA have just acceded to that view.

Anonymous said...

You might have something in common with Ahmadinejad.

Self hating jew!

Ibrahamav said...

As for co-operating with a mandate that was biased, Israel already did that once. I'm sure you recall the infamous trial concerning the security fence?

Israel co-operated and the judges decided that Israel would not be allowed to put up a defense.

Fool me once...

Jerry Haber said...

ibrahamav, israel did not cooperate with the ICC. They sent at the last moment a response but until then they deliberately boycotted the proceedings and did not send representatives to testify. Burgenthal, the American judge who did not vote with the others (but who acknowledged that parts of the fence were illegal) pointed out Israel's lack of cooperation.

Israel did not have to cooperate with Goldstone, but then should not whine about the report being one-sided (which is not.) The mayor of Sderot cannot criticize Goldstone for not paying sufficient attention to Sderot in the report, and then invite him to visit the town, after Israel barred his entry. (His commission did pay for Israelis from Sderot and elsewhere to fly to Geneva to give testimony.)

Is the Goldstone report biased? Well, if you are a perpetrator, the human rights reports against you are always biased. Israel, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Syria -- all of these cry foul when the human rights folks point to crimes.

Ibrahamav said...

Based on Goldstone's mandate fron the HRC, there was no reason for Israel to cooperate.

That Goldstone went outside his mandate may be fruitless as the HRC will likely only approve those portions charging Israel.

btb_london said...

I don't follow (or follow all to well) Ibrahov's logic.

A court finds someone guilty so another court is, ipso facto, illegitimate if a further offence is alleged.

There are many recidivists who would welcome the widespread success of such a defence - the rest of us will feel ever more afraid.