How many would be alive today if Obama had not quashed Goldstone Report? ~ Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss.
The latest headlines say that President Obama has lost his patience with Israel over the wanton killings of civilians in Gaza. Obama made an “angry call” to Israeli prime minister Netanyahu yesterday, Kate Snow reported on NBC last night. “Obama gets tough with Netanyahu, for Gaza,” Haaretz says.
The White House’s readout of that phone call is frosty. Though containing the usual boilerplate about Israel’s right to defend itself, it twice spoke of Palestinian civilians.
The President also reiterated the United States’ serious and growing concern about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives, as well as the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza.
The obvious question raised by the president’s apparent horror with the scenes from Gaza is, Why did he quash the Goldstone Report?
Five years ago Israel undertook a very similar attack on Gaza. Maybe you don’t remember, but over nearly three weeks in December and January ’08-’09 it flattened Gaza, killing more than 1300, including nearly 400 children. The operation was called Cast Lead.
The death toll this time is over 1000, and we can only pray it won’t reach Cast Lead’s level.
Last week the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to investigate the Israeli offensive (and Palestinian militants’ actions too) for potential war crimes.
Deja vu all over again, but that happened last time, too. Cast Lead resulted in a UN Human Rights Council investigation and a scathing 400-page report nine months after the onslaught that accused Israel and Palestinian authorities of war crimes — the Goldstone Report.
That report mentioned Israeli “impunity” from consequences for its actions again and again. For instance:
The [investigative] Mission was struck by the repeated comment of Palestinian victims, human rights defenders, civil society interlocutors and officials that they hoped that this would be the last investigative mission of its kind, because action for justice would follow from it. It was struck, as well, by the comment that every time a report is published and no action follows, this “emboldens Israel and her conviction of being untouchable”. To deny modes of accountability reinforces impunity, and tarnishes the credibility of the United Nations and of the international community. The Mission believes these comments ought to be at the forefront in the consideration by Members States and United Nations bodies of its findings and recommendations and action consequent upon them.
The Goldstone Report even went so far as to call for universal jurisdiction — i.e., not just the International Criminal Court, but Country Joe Sixpack could indict Tzipi Livni for war crimes if she came to visit the Roman ruins there — so as to end Israel’s sense of having no accountability.
Obama didn’t care about that recommendation. He was not only silent about the Cast Lead onslaught in the weeks prior to his taking the oath of office in January 2009 (Israel did him the genteel service of ending the bombing before he put his hand on the bible), but once in office he repeatedly rejected the Goldstone Report’s findings and acted in the U.N. to do what Israel wanted, and toss the report in the East River. So Goldstone’s findings were blocked from any enforcement.
The officials who participated in the trashing of the Goldstone Report included Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes, Samantha Power, and Judge Richard Goldstone himself (who recanted portions of his findings after the South African Jewish community put his t-t in a wringer). These folks assured Israel’s impunity.
So lo and behold, it did it again. Slaughtered civilians. With worldwide outrage.
Which raises my question, How many would be alive today if Obama hadn’t trashed the Goldstone Report?
The head of the UN Human Rights Council agrees with me. Navi Pillay in the UN release last week: “All these dead and maimed civilians should weigh heavily on all our consciences. I know that they weigh heavily on mine,” she said, adding that efforts to protect civilians so far have been “abject failures”.
I’m glad that Obama has finally had a bellyful. But it will take more than one sharp phone call. Impunity is a powerful force. As the Goldstone report found, “the sense in the West Bank was one of a ‘free for all’, where any behavior was permitted for Israeli forces.”
Israel is now fearing Goldstone 2. Maybe this time Obama won’t stand in the way.
P.S. Impunity has led Israel to thumb its nose at international efforts to restrain it. Look at how it treated Brazil, after that country called home its ambassador for a consultation after condemning “disproportionate use of force” in Gaza. From the Washington Post:
“This is an unfortunate demonstration of why Brazil, an economic and cultural giant, remains a diplomatic dwarf,” Israeili Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said on Thursday, the Jerusalem Post reports. “The moral relativism behind this move makes Brazil an irrelevant diplomatic partner, one who creates problems rather than contributes to solutions.”
That insult wasn’t the worst that Israel had reserved for Brazil, however. In an interview with the Brazilian media, Palmor brought up the most humiliating moment in recent Brazilian history – this summer’s stunning World Cup semifinal loss to Germany.
“Israel’s response is perfectly proportioned in accordance with international law,” Palmor said in an interview with the Jornal Nacional TV show late Thursday. “This is not football. In football, when a game ends in a draw, you think it is proportional, but when it finishes 7-1 it’s disproportionate. Sorry to say, but not so in real life and under international law.”