Third Party & Independents Archives

Why Obama Buried the Goldstone Report

For some reason the United States and the rest of the western world is doing their best to bury the Goldstone report on the war crimes of Israel and Hamas last year. The main argument I hear against the report is that Hamas’ launching of missiles at Israel from civilian areas made it necessary for Israel to kill civilians in self-defense. Let’s take a hard look at why the current US administration as well as a large portion of the “civilized” world is in search of reasons to justify the killing of civilians in self-defense.

Last month the Obama administration pressured Mohammed Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to drop their draft resolution endorsing the Goldstone report at the UN Human Rights Council. This was an attempt to prevent peace negotiations from collapsing again, but the actual fallout turned out to be quite strange. Obviously a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t, the US administration has been labeled as an agent of Israel for successfully pressuring Abbas to drop the Goldstone report. This also completely delegitimized Abbas who was arguably the best partner for peace on the Palestinian side yet. Then Obama gets attacked from the Israeli side when Anne Bayefsky from Israel Insider asks “Does President Obama plan to use the opportunity to extract concessions from Israel in exchange for putting the Goldstone report permanently to rest?” So now the US administration is “using” the Goldstone report “against” Israel as leverage by having Abbas suppress it until March, instead of dismissing the report outright because it’s obviously a complete falsehood.

Some critics go so far as to argue that this report is an attack on Israel’s right to self-defense and therefore an existential attack on the Jewish state itself. Yes, they’ve pulled the existential threat card again, so watch out Richard Goldstone; some Israelis have you on the same mental list as Iran. The Israeli government only brings up “existential threats” in order to justify doing nasty things and a complete denigration of the reputation of Richard Goldstone and anyone having to do with his commission’s report is already underway. It seems that the attempt to protect negotiations by preventing the Palestinian Authority from endorsing the report resulted in just the opposite; Israel and Palestine got more pissed as they both continued to cover their respective asses.

Unfortunately, we have a crystal clear picture of the problem when we look at how the Goldstone report is being handled within the international community. The truth is that it doesn’t matter how many members of the UN believe Israel has committed war crimes. Just the prospect of an official report condemning Israel’s actions is enough for Israel to threaten to take its ball and go home.

That ball is the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The ability of Israel to warp the global perception of a balanced report on war crimes committed by both Hamas and the IDF is proportionate to the international community’s desire for peace in Palestine. The more the UN Security Council members are desperate for progress in the sixty year knot that has entangled the entire region the easier it is for Israel to suppress the Goldstone report and its findings.

There are many critics of the Goldstone report, but most of them have been responding to the report without actually reading it. Among this group of seemingly illiterate critics is the United States House of Representatives and their embarrassing Resolution 867. Resolution 867 is a good summary of the many criticisms of the Goldstone report, but Richard Goldstone’s letter of response to this resolution is an even better summary of the misleading, incorrect and falsely characterized nature of these criticisms.

When it comes down to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 (badly in need of an update after WWII), specifically article 33, it must be said that Israel and Hamas have committed war crimes. Article 33 states that “No protected person (i.e. civilians; see article 4 of convention for definition of “protected persons”) may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.” Many would argue there’s a difference between the Nazis collectively punishing a village for hiding and supporting a resistance force as opposed to Israel collectively punishing civilians in Gaza for hiding, supporting and shielding a terrorist force. The differences, however, are only in perception.

Those protected persons referred to in the 4th Geneva Convention, whether sixty years ago in WWII or today in Gaza, supported the causes of their respective resistance/terror groups. The villagers punished by Nazis did everything they could to support those fighting for them and the civilians in Gaza did everything they could to support those fighting for them against Israel. If collective punishment against civilians is wrong then Israel and Hamas are responsible for carrying out war crimes. Hamas argues they have no choice but to attack civilians, so they have already openly admitted this is a standard tactic. Now we are seeing Israel do its best to justify the same. Is Israel not contending that they have no choice but to attack civilians? If Israel admitted that these military actions were wrong, but necessary, then fine, but Israel and the west is dangerously close to claiming that the killing of civilians by a democratic government in self-defense isn’t a war crime at all. Why should they be able to make that leap?

This inevitably leads us to the labels. The Israelis call Hamas and the Palestinian’s terrorists and the Palestinians call the Israelis Nazis. It’s worth taking another moment to hash this nonsense out. First of all, just because you are able to label a group of people terrorists doesn’t justify killing the members of their families (i.e. women, children and the elderly). Secondly, the terrorist label is easy to throw around these days and if any country uses the term for propaganda purposes, it’s the Israelis. It sure stood out when Isreal’s Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, explained how Israeli could never deal with Hamas because they are terrorists. It turns out that Tzipi Livni’s father, Eitan Livni, was the Chief Operations Officer for Irgun Zvai Leumi. Irgun was a Jewish terrorist organization before Israel was established that bombed the King David Hotel killing 91 people. Livni’s father organized that bombing mission as well as other operations, among them one that hung two British soldiers followed by the booby trapping of their bodies.

The widely known and heavily contested massacre at Deir Yassin may or may not have been complete propaganda, but there’s no doubt that millions of Arabs fled the newly minted Israel in terror with that destroyed town’s name on their lips. It could be argued that many Israeli “heroes” took part in terrorist actions intended to first eject Britain from Palestine and then ethnically cleanse the interior of Israel before they were attacked by outside countries. However you look at it, the British were thrown out and whole Arab villages ran in fear. Once the 1948 victory was complete, the Israeli “terrorists” became heroic “freedom fighters” within their new country.

Sir Gerald Kaufman , a member of Britain’s parliament, lost much of his family to the Nazi holocaust and he found many tales of Palestinian horror to be identical to his family’s experiences. No, the Israelis are not and they probably never will toss people into ovens in an attempt to physically eradicate their problems in an efficient assembly line process the way the Nazis did. However, walking into a Palestinian home and shooting a grandmother dead in her bed is exactly what happened to that British MP’s grandmother at the hands of Nazis. This comparison is hard to deny and the actions themselves are impossible to justify. Maybe it closes people’s ears when they hear a nation of Jews being labeled Nazis, but I don’t think they would be any less guilty of evil if we labeled Israel differently.

The Israeli government is democratically elected by a militaristic society that maintains deprived ghettos and carries out acts similar to oppressive regimes of the past such as South Africa, Iraq, Angola, Uganda, Cambodia, Indonesia; and yes, Nazi Germany. No need to pick bones, here. Call them what you like, but the Israelis are wrong and they are doing things that other governments have been condemned for in the past. They walk a fine line and they know it. Many believe that because Israel is fighting a nation of people that have democratically chosen to defend themselves with a “terrorist” army means disproportionate use of military force is justified and necessary for victory. In reality, however, we are finding that such disproportionate use of force is not justified and it keeps victory as well as peace far from anyone’s grasp.

The Goldstone report is part of a growing opinion that anti-terror campaigns and the “hammer vs. fly” style they are fought with are not only illegal, but they are at best useless and at worst compounding the problem. As a society, the west is realizing that not only don’t two wrongs make a right, but they actually keep the wrongs coming. Something Obama is probably considering right now with regard to his Afghanistan policy. In addition, many believe that the way we have fought the whole war on terror is a failure for us and a success for the terrorists. If you are curious how somebody could think this, then look into Thomas Ricks and his work. All of these opinions are valid and should be discussed and acknowledged, not suppressed and ignored.

But like I said, none of the war crimes committed by the Israelis and Palestinians will be successfully investigated. The world is so desperate for peace that we think it’s necessary to do anything to bring it about. Even allowing ourselves to be held hostage by two nations that have gone insane with an anachronistic biblical rage that nobody gives a damn about anymore.

Posted by Frederick S. Friedman at November 14, 2009 1:09 PM