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[06 May 2011]

MPPM DENOUNCES CAMPAIGN TO DISCREDIT THE GOLDSTONE REPORT AND ACQUIT ISRAEL OF WAR CRIMES COMMITTED IN AGGRESSION AGAINST GAZA

Following publication, on the Washigton Post of April 1st, of a letter from Judge Richard Goldstone, to withdraw statements contained in the report of the Fact-Finding Mission to the conflict in Gaza, who he had chaired, we have seen a disinformation campaign with the clear aim to confuse public opinion, discredit the report and whitewash the crimes committed by Israel.

After the partial withdrawal by Goldstone, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Israel is exonerated of any errors in Operation Cast Lead and that the report should be set aside, but forgetting that the withdrawal of Goldstone, not subscribed by other members of the Mission, concerned only to one of the thirty-six claims against Israel, that which stated that the Israeli armed forces had deliberately targeted civilians, and that based on the testimony of the Israeli army itself!

It also lacks rationality the attempt to equate the responsibilities of Israel and Hamas, confounding the aggressor with the attacked and ignoring the glaring difference in means between the two parties and the huge disproportion of the losses and damage inflicted.

The MPPM denounces this move and recalls the facts that continue to justify the requirement that Israel be held accountable for the consequences of its aggression against the people of Gaza.

In April 2009, in the aftermath of the Israeli aggression against Gaza, which caused the killing of more than 1,400 Palestinians and the destruction of many houses, social facilities, businesses and infrastructure, the Council for Human Rights appointed a United Nations Fact Finding Mission to the Conflict in Gaza, which produced a document that became known as "Goldstone Report."

This mission was composed by the renowned South African Justice Richard Goldstone, who chaired, by lawyer Hina Jilani, of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, by Professor Christine Chinki, of the London School of Economics and Political Science, and by the retired Irish Colonel Desmond Travers, who integrated several missions of UN peacekeepers in Lebanon and the former Yugoslavia and is an expert in international humanitarian law.

The mission was intended to investigate alleged violations of human rights and humanitarian law (according to the Geneva and the Hague Conventions on war crimes), in accordance with international law, in the Palestinian territories, particularly in the Gaza Strip, during Operation Cast Lead, that is, during the Israeli military attack against Gaza between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, or in the immediately preceding or subsequent period..

After deep reflection, taking into account the situation he had lived in South Africa during apartheid (Goldstone was born in 1938 and was a judge in the Transvaal Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of South Africa), having been associated with organizations that worked in Israel and also his concerns about peace in the Middle East, he decided to accept the nomination for the position. He stressed, however, that  he would determine the responsibilities of both parties.

However, the Israeli government refused to cooperate with the investigation, accusing the Council for Human Rights of being prejudiced against Israel and therefore it would not be possible to produce a free report.

Hamas also commenced by rejecting the report, although later on has adopted it, insisting that its conclusions were accepted by the international community.

The report, submitted on September 15, 2009, concluded that both sides have committed violations of the laws of war, accusing both the Israeli military and Palestinian militants of war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. As a result, it recommended that the parties should proceed with an investigation to determine liability and, failing that, they should be accused before the International Criminal Court.

The main points of the report on Israel are the following:

1) The blockade of Gaza since 2007 constituted a flagrant violation of Israel's obligations as an occupying power;

2) The Israeli attack on Gaza was characterized by a disproportionate use of force and was intended, as a response to rocket attacks by Palestinians, to humiliate and terrorize an entire civilian population, radically reducing its economic and work capacity and depriving them of means of subsistence;

3) Israel systematically and deliberately targeted civilians in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention;

4) Israel intentionally attacked with a missile the al-Maqadmah mosque when, during the day, there were praying 300 men and women, causing 15 dead and 40 wounded. It has been proven that the mosque had not been used either to launch rockets, or storage of ammunition, or to serve as a shield to combatants;

5) When in Zeytuna, five men left home to fetch firewood, they were shot by an Israeli plane, which then attacked the house, killing all the 21 family members (Al-Samuni), including women and children;

6) The Israeli forces attacked the Al-Fakhura school in Jabaliya refugee camp, where 1,300 people were refugees, killing 35 and wounding 40;

7) The Israeli army killed Abd Rabbo family members, a man, two women and three girls, without the house where they were in constituted any danger:

8) The Israeli forces used white phosphorus against the UN agency in Gaza, against the Al-Quds Hospital and against Al-Wafa Hospital;

9) The Israeli soldiers used Palestinians as human shields and tortured detainees.

For Hamas, the report points out the following:

1) The Palestinian armed groups have committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity for launching rockets on Israel;

2) The Palestinian armed groups have caused psychological trauma on the civilian population living in the area within reach of the rockets;

3) The abuse and deaths of members of Fatah can be considered as serious violations of human rights;

4) It was not proved that Palestinian militants had put civilians in areas where the rockets launched from nor that their military wear civilian clothes,

5) It was not also proved that the Palestinians would use mosques to military purposes, or as shields for military activities, which clearly contradicts the information released by the Israeli security services;

6) The report criticized the handling of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and demanded his release.

On 16 October 2009, the Council for Human Rights approved the Goldstone report, with 25 votes in favour, 6 against and 11 abstentions. Although the report criticized both sides, it was strongly attacked by the Israeli government and many Jewish groups, who consider it hostile to Israel. Hamas also denied that they had committed war crimes. Goldstone himself was personally attacked as biased, unfair and partial, in that it said that as a Jew, he had a special obligation to participate in investigations.

On April 1, 2011, Goldstone retracted in the Washington Post, saying that "if I knew at the time what I know now the report would have been different," with regard to the Israeli government's policy of deliberately targeting civilian targets. And that Israel, unlike Hamas, had carried out internal investigations on the facts appointed. On April 14, the three remaining members of the Mission criticized the withdrawal of Goldstone in that regard, upholding the validity of the report and saying that both Israel and Hamas had not carried out satisfactory  investigations on the alleged war crimes.

"There is no justification for any requirement or expectation that the report be reconsidered, in that nothing substantial has been reported that change in some way, the context, the evidence or conclusions of that report."

It seems clear that Judge Richard Goldstone has been subject to severe pressures to contradict one of the essential aspects of the Report that, together with the other three elements, he had concurred.

By the way, and as to civilian targets, it is amply demonstrated that the Israeli soldiers targeted civilians with small arms (Human Rights Watch) and deliberately attacked ambulances and rescuers trying to evacuate wounded, causing the deaths of people who could have been saved (Amnesty International).

Nor are there any doubts that Israel intentionally struck the civilian infrastructures. 58,000 houses were destroyed or damaged, 6,300 of which completely, as well as 280 schools and kindergartens. Six universities were completely destroyed, 1,500 factories and workshops were also destroyed, as well as many official buildings, water and sewage facilities. 80% of the crops and a fifth of the cultivated area were destroyed. The destruction also included 30 mosques, 74 police stations and the only flour mill operating in Gaza. Also damaged were 16 hospitals and 43 health care facilities (Norman Finkelstein data from the Goldstone report).

 
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