16 September 2009

Goldstone report: verdict first and all else as expected

This post about some responses to the Goldstone report is not intended to be a comprehensive review of the responses, just a general impression with some personal touch. As expected, we are not doing too good and not looking too good, continuing to ignore some of the less pleasant aspects of reality.

Obviously, part of this post headline is stolen from the post by Soccer Dad: Verdict first - investigation afterwards, that I had already quoted and am quoting again:

It's safe to assume that, like Kofi Annan's report, the conclusion of Justice Richard Goldstone's report is predetermined. When one considers things like a commission member who has already decided that Israel has no right of self-defense, that the commission is accepting phony numbers as testimony and that a (former) UN appointee assumes that serving in the IDF is tantamount to committing a war crime it's reasonable to conclude that regarding Israel, the UN is dedicated to obtaining a conviction not the truth.
So, yes, the report nailing Israel to the proverbial wall wasn't a big surprise. The following could be a surprise, though: Goldstone's daughter: My father is a Zionist and loves Israel. Somewhat funny, somewhat sad...

There are (and will be more) different responses and echoes following the report. Some of them pretty strange, like this comment by our own legal beagle:
The Goldstone Commission Report on the Gaza conflict will cause Israel serious political damage, but is unlikely to lead to any tangible consequences, Avi Bell, an expert in international law and laws of war at Bar-Ilan University, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Serious political damage, but no tangible consequences... go figure. Does the learned professor mean by tangible consequences something like Richard Goldstone flying his B-52 to bomb Tel-Aviv? Otherwise I am at loss trying to get any sense of that prophesy. Anyway, I like it more when Avi Bell deals with the issue professionally, in the framework of what he really digs. Like in his article INTERNATIONAL LAW AND GAZA: THE ASSAULT ON ISRAEL'S RIGHT TO SELF-DEFENSE.

The official, indignant and rather forceful responses, are as expected - typically a knee-jerk reaction, intended for unquestioning consumption by the believers and immediate rejection by the other side.

Foreign Ministry, though, opened a site dedicated to the Gaza war, which is a good move. However, in some instances the terse style of the site is self-defeating, like in this case:
Why hasn't Israel cooperated with international investigations into the Gaza Operation?

There have been dozens of International inquiries into events in the Gaza Operation, and Israel has cooperated fully with almost all of them.

Only in those instances where it seemed clear beyond any doubt that the initiative was motivated by a political agenda and not concern for human rights, did Israel decide not to cooperate.

Unfortunately the Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission (the "Goldstone Mission") was one of these.
Does somebody in the Foreign Ministry really think that military-style statements like this one are going to play havoc within the anti-Israeli camp? Somebody must think again then...

The really troubling part of the official response is this one:
Israel said Wednesday it would not appoint an independent inquiry into its conduct in the Gaza Strip war, rejecting a key recommendation from an explosive U.N. report that accused the Jewish state of war crimes.
As usual, our officialdom does what it does best: disregard anything negative to Israel in public opinion we consider too bothersome to address. Too bad.

And the issue is not hopeless, here is a good example: I rather liked Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg short analysis of Goldstone report, although the headline of the article (Goldstone's kangaroo court report) is a bad start for a legal opinion brief, but it's probably on the conscience of the on-line editor and not the esteemed professor. In any case, professor Steinberg shows multiple deficiencies in the report, and there should be no doubt that a team of seriously-minded lawyers, with some support from IDF and the government, could have turned the tide the other way, at least where the legalese is concerned. Surely we have enough lawyers in this country to spare for such a task? Some, perhaps, will agree to do some pro bono work...

And no, I am under no illusion that the Human Wrongs Council will suddenly change its perennial anti-Israeli tune and roll over, I am not that naive. However, saying this, it was a mistake to leave the field wide open for the anti-Israeli crowd to frolic in and to produce tons of one-sided and hearsay-based paperwork . And we'll pay for it, the strange opinion of professor Bell notwithstanding.

Now a point or two about the other side. It is really educational to read the key recommendations of the report. After nine points of dos and don'ts addressing Israel, only two humble requests to the Palestinian side:
a.Palestinian armed groups should respect international law.

b.The groups holding Gilad Schalit should release him or at least recognize his status as a POW.
How about asking whether the whole report (and, incidentally, the Cast Lead operation) could have been avoided if the "Palestinian side" respected international law and didn't kidnap Gilad to start with?

And how about giving a few minutes of undivided attention to Col. Richard Kemp, when he talks about the efforts IDF takes to minimize the unavoidable collateral damage? And when he says that IDF did more to safeguard civilians than any other army.

Another question: when dealing, as UN HRC loves to, with real or perceived Israeli war crimes, how about addressing the proportionality issue in cases like the latest mishap in Afghanistan, where coalition troops succeeded to kill about 40 bystanders in one bombing?

And if all else fails and you still are unsure about the issue of objectivity, compare the above figures of a single bombing result with one of the sources Mr. Goldstone and his committee so frequently use and rely upon in their conclusions: one Marc Garlasco:
Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at the emergencies program of HRW, estimates that at least 87 civilians were killed in 42 drone attacks. “Israel’s targeting choices are unacceptable and unlawful,” he declared at a press conference in East Jerusalem, “especially [considering] that UCLAV provide the most precise platform in the military arsenal, and that Israel is the world leader in drone technology.”
Compare the numbers, folks, compare the numbers. And if even this is not enough, have a look at the way Garlasco defends the US Army:
Garlasco explained the calculus of civilian deaths in high value targeting to the television news program 60 Minutes this way, "Our number was 30. So, for example, Saddam Hussein. If you're gonna kill up to 29 people in a strike against Saddam Hussein, that's not a problem. But once you hit that number 30, we actually had to go to either President Bush, or Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld." Garlasco told the interviewer that prior to the invasion of Iraq, he personally recommended 50 high-value targets -Iraqi officials for air strikes, but, according to Garlasco, none of the targets on his list was actually killed. Rather, "a couple of hundred civilians at least" were killed in strikes he recommended. Garlasco defended the efforts made by the American military to minimize civilian casualties, "I don't think people really appreciate the gymnastics that the U.S. military goes through in order to make sure that they're not killing civilians."
If you are still not impressed by mental gymnastics Garlasco is displaying to blame one target of his exercises and to protect another, nothing will impress you. And nothing will shutter your belief in impartiality of the Goldstone burlesque. And his UN HRC overlords, whose touching attention to Israel is beyond belief.

Well, for those that want to see some of the half-full glass: "The UN is of the dictators, by the dictators and for the dictators". By Dick Stanley. How true.