Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Goldstone show-trial



by Melanie Phillips


In the wake of Israel's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza at the turn of this year, the UN's satirically named 'Human Rights Council' set up what purported to be an objective, fact-finding commission of inquiry under Richard Goldstone, former chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and a judge of the South African Constitutional Court.


The degree of objectivity on this Commission can be gauged from the mandate it was given by the UNHRC, which announced it was dispatching an urgent, independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Council, to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression, and calls upon Israel not to obstruct the process of investigation and to fully cooperate with the mission.


So this 'objective' inquiry had been told before it was even established that the guilty party in Gaza was Israel, designated by the UN as the 'occupying power'; that it was guilty of 'aggression' and 'violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law'; and that the Palestinians of Gaza were the victims of this Israeli aggression.


 Israel, of course, no longer occupies Gaza. Nor was it guilty of aggression: it was instead defending itself against the aggression of Hamas who had fired some 6000 rockets at Israeli citizens. Nor did it commit any violations of international law and human rights: it was Hamas who did so repeatedly -- not just against Israel but also the Arab inhabitants of Gaza who were used as human shields and mass hostages – and then made false accusations against Israel of committing such violations, falsehoods promulgated as true by the UN.


But the aggression and human rights violations committed by Hamas – the cause of the conflict – weren't even to be considered by this objective, fact-finding Commission. Having been set up on the premise that Israel was guilty, it was directed to gather evidence to support the conclusion that had already been reached. As the Queen in Alice might have said, 'verdict first, evidence afterwards'. Unless Goldstone has torn up the terms of his mandate, his Commission will possess all the objectivity of the show-trials of Stalin.


Publication of this kangaroo court's report is imminent. There are even suggestions swirling today that it is to be published tomorrow – on the Jewish sabbath, when neither Israel nor the Jewish world can properly respond. That would be entirely in keeping with the malevolent racism and cynicism of this entire operation.

Goldstone himself is utterly compromised by accepting the terms of this rigged mandate which is an affront to justice. As Eye on the UN reports, although he claims to have changed this mandate through informal conversations, this is a load of hooey:


 Goldstone, a lawyer and former judge, knows full well that he has no jurisdiction or authority to change the mandate either alone or in informal conversation with anyone. His claims to the contrary, therefore, are a serious ethical and legal breach both to the critics who have accused him of assuming a position tainted from the outset, and to the Council itself.


Now look at the objectivity of the other members of the Commission. Like Goldstone, Ms Hina Jilani and Col Desmond Travers signed a letter last March stating that events in Gaza had 'shocked us to the core' and calling for an investigation into 'crimes perpetrated against civilians by both sides.' So all three have already declared Israel guilty of such crimes – and as for the other side, their abuses lie outside the Commission's scope.


Now look at the fourth member of this objective 'fact-finding' Commission, Christine Chinkin, Professor of International Law at the London School of Economics.


Last January, she signed a letter in the Times which stated: 'Israel's bombardment of Gaza is not self-defence - it's a war crime.' It went on: 'The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable as they are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to rely on self-defence...Israel's actions amount to aggression, not self-defence'. Instead, 'its invasion and bombardment of Gaza amounts to collective punishment of Gaza's 1.5m inhabitants contrary to international humanitarian and human rights law'.


The letter also referred to 'the killing of almost 800 Palestinians, mostly civilians'; yet Israel's official breakdown of Palestinian casualties in Operation Cast Lead showed the vast majority of Palestinians killed were terrorists:


            According to the data gathered by the Research Department of the Israel Defense Intelligence, there were 1166 names of Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead. 709 of them are identified as Hamas terror operatives, amongst them several from various other terror organizations. Additionally, there are 162 names of men that have not yet been attributed to any organization.  Furthermore, it has come to our understanding that 295 uninvolved Palestinians were killed during the operation, 89 of them under the age of 16, and 49 of them were women.


Israel has also published an authoritative justification of its actions in Gaza under international law. In other words, the letter signed by Chinkin (and other lawyers) was a deplorable farrago of bigotry and ignorance, derived from the boilerplate hostility towards Israel which is now the orthodoxy amongst the British intelligentsia.

Nevertheless, 19 British lawyers and academics have now signed an open letter to Chinkin calling upon her to disqualify herself from the Commission on account of her extreme bias. They write:


         Judge Richard Goldstone, as head of the mission, promised at the outset that it would be impartial. Impartiality requires that fact-finders be free of any commitment to a preconceived outcome. Because you expressed yourself on the merits of the issues prior to seeing any of the evidence, you cannot be considered impartial.


         ...As a professor of international law at the London School of Economics, you must recognize that your actions have given rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias. As colleagues in the law and academia, each of us committed to fairness and the principle that justice must be seen to be done, we are disappointed that you have refused to step down. Your continued participation necessarily compromises the integrity of this inquiry and its report.


Now look at the witnesses who gave 'evidence' at this show trial.  As NGO Monitor has detailed, many of those chosen to provide testimony in hearings held in Gaza and Geneva were officials from radical NGOs with long histories of anti-Israel campaigning – including Al Haq, the Alternative Information Center (AIC), and the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP). 


One of the most influential of these NGOs, Human Rights Watch, has a long history of making misleading or false accusations against Israel. As NGO Monitor observes:


              Since the end of the Gaza conflict, HRW has issued multiple pseudo-research reports alleging Israeli 'violations' and 'war crimes.' These narrowly focused publications (on highly contested topics: white phosphorous , drones , and white flags ) were designed to maximize the NGO's public relations campaign, and to advance the Durban Strategy of isolating Israel, despite a complete lack of evidence and substance. After pages of irrelevant details, the claims of 'war crimes' remain unproven.


Indeed, there is simply no evidence for them. They are smears. But Goldstone himself was actually a member of the HRW board, only resigning from it after his inquiry began. During the 2006 Lebanon War, when HRW was making a series of highly tendentious claims about Israel's alleged human rights abuses Goldstone sprang to HRW's defence. How then can he be an objective assessor of its evidence to his own Commission?  NGO Monitor observes:


•Human Rights Watch played a central role in the formation of the Mission, and in       promoting the anti-Israel bias.The appointment of Goldstone, who was a member of HRW's board and made numerous statements in support of HRW's campaigns on Israel, reinforced this link. A number of HRW 'research reports' were published during this period in order to provide more ammunition to Goldstone and his colleagues.


•... The NGO submissions to the Commission, including from Diakonia and the International Commission of Jurists, consisted largely of emotive and anecdotal remarks, pseudo-legal and –technical rhetoric, and tendentious and irrelevant conclusions.


•... Seven political Israeli NGOs, funded by European governments and the NIF, submitted a joint statement, unsupported by credible evidence, claiming that Israel acted 'punitively]' and 'deliberately and knowingly shelled civilian institutions.'


•Although the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is not listed among the witnesses, PCHR's website claims to have provided the Commission with 75 minutes of testimony. PCHR was the logistical coordinator of the Arab League's flawed Gaza investigation, and its publications consistently lack credibility and use the façade of research.


•In each of these aspects, the Goldstone Mission has violated the London-Lund guidelines for fact-finding committees, including objectivity, transparency, neutrality, and professionalism.


A profoundly biased commission having reached its conclusion before it even started finding out the 'facts', working to a mandate which declared Israel guilty and gave Hamas a free pass and required evidence to support this malicious falsehood, evidence which it has sought amongst witnesses who overwhelmingly had a history of extreme anti-Israel hostility: unless Richard Goldstone really has managed to change the terms of his mandate, ignored the malice of his witnesses and other commissioners, suppressed his own clearly expressed prior positioning and somehow produced a fair and balanced report, it looks like we are about to witness the next blood libel against Israel wrapped in the spurious mantle of legal and UN authority.


If so, it will set in train a new orgy of libellous Israel-bashing, inflaming not just the Arab and Muslim world to yet more genocidal terror but also inciting western public opinion to even more aggression against Israel and the Jews, and notching up yet another victory for the forces of darkness that now threaten the entire world.



Melanie Phillips

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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