In December of last year, Israel launched an invasion of Gaza, purportedly in response to rocket fire launched from Gaza by Hamas militants. When a cease fire was finally declared after about a month of fighting, 1,300 Palestinians were killed, many of them innocent civilians, and 13 Israelis were killed, including 10 soldiers and 3 civilians. A just released U.N. report, headed by South African Justice Richard Goldstone and compiled without the support or participation from Israel, concluded that there is evidence to support the claim that both the Israeli military and militant Palestinian groups committed war crimes and, possibly, crimes against humanity. Following the release today, the Israeli government began a diplomatic effort to ensure that the report will not be presented before the United Nations Security Council and possibly to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where Israeli leaders could face prosecution. According to Haaretz:
On the diplomatic front, following the report's release, [Prime Minister] Netanyahu, [Foreign Minister] Lieberman, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will telephone many of their counterparts around the world. They will stress that the Goldstone report is one-sided, that it rewards terrorism and that it sets a precedent which will make it difficult for any country in the world to defend itself against terror...
"It will be a long diplomatic and legal campaign," said a senior Israeli staffer handling the Goldstone report. "We will invovle our friends from around the world, especially the United States, to prevent Israel's isolation," he said.
Israeli officials have called the report "one-sided" and accused the United Nations Human Rights Council of "regularly and routinely condemning Israel." Israeli officials prefer to launch investigations into war crimes and human rights abuses internally, and have issued reports claiming Israeli soldiers acted in accordance with international law. A Hamas spokesman also called the report unbalanced and completely misrepresenting reality, according to the Haaretz article linked to above.
While both sides of this conflict have demonstrably committed repugnant acts of violence, many of which could amount to war crimes, the latest invasion of Gaza leaves no doubt that the Israeli military had a direct policy of targeting civilians, private property, and essential infrastructure, including hospitals, water and sewage systems. According to a press release put out by the United Nations regarding the report:
The Mission found that, in the lead up to the Israeli military assault on Gaza, Israel imposed a blockade amounting to collective punishment and carried out a systematic policy of progressive isolation and deprivation of the Gaza Strip. During the Israeli military operation, code-named "Operation Cast Lead," houses, factories, wells, schools, hospitals, police stations, and other public buildings were destroyed. Families are still living under the rubble of their former homes long after the attacks ended, as reconstruction has been impossible due to the continuing blockade. More than 1,400 people were killed during the military operation.
Significant trauma, both immediate and long-term, has been suffered by the population of Gaza. The Report notes signs of profound depression, insomnia and effects such as bed-wetting among children. The effects on children who witnessed killings and violence, who had thought they were facing death, and who lost family members would be long-lasting, the Mission found, noting in its Report that some 30 percent of children screened at UNRWA schools suffered mental health problems.
This is what top Israeli leaders are trying to keep from being presented to the U.N. Security Council: a report by the world's most reputable international organization that condemns not only Israeli actions, but also Palestinian tactics in the latest conflict. It is time that Israel stop leaning on the United States to hide the fact that it has committed serious crimes against humanity and that it had a direct policy of targeting Palestinian civilians, public buildings, and private property, not to mention water and sewage systems needed to maintain life.
Interesting debate from January 8, 2009 about the Israeli offensive in Gaza.