Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Amnon Rubinstein: Goldstone's Unconscious Humor

The following is a translation by the author of the article.
The original Hebrew article is available online on Globes.
Goldstone's Unconscious Humor

By Amnon Rubinstein


It is not true that the Goldstone report is exclusively anti-Israeli. After having established that Israel is guilty of crimes against international law and (possibly) humanity, after advocating punishing it with and arsenal of all conceivable sanctions, it also chides the Palestinians for some inappropriate measures taken by them.

First, there is Hamas. Goldstone does not let them go Scot free. Thus he blames the Hamas for a grievous offense:
"The mission remains unconvinced that any genuine and effective initiatives have been taken by the (Gaza) authorities to address the serious issues of violation of international human rights in the conduct of armed activities by militant groups in the Gaza strip".
This refers to the shelling of southern Israel from Gaza in the eight years preceding operation "cast lead". But what does Goldstone have in mind when he chides the Hamas for not taking genuine and effective initiative against the militants who do not adhere to international human law? Does he refer to their failure to petition the local High Court of Justice to issue a writ of mandamus against the militants? Or does he have in mind the fact that the Hamas Solicitor General has failed to issue an indictment against the offending militants?

Judge Goldstone rebukes the Hamas again for their treatment of Fattah 'affiliates'. Goldstone finds that "such actions" – i.e. killing the Fatah detainees – "constitute serious violations of Human Rights or the Palestinian Basic Law". Again, one may ask: what went wrong here? Did the Hamas Supreme Court of Justice ignore the Palestinian Basic Law? Where was the Hamas attorney general? Goldstone is not content with slapping Hamas' wrist, he also reprimands the Palestinian authority:
"The Palestinian Authority continues to discharge a large number of civil and military service employees, or suspend their salaries, under the pretext of "non-adherence to the legitimate authority" or "non-obtainment of security approval" on their appointments, which has become a pre-requirement for enrolment in public service". In effect, this measure means the exclusion of Hamas supporters or affiliates from public sector appointment…. The Mission is of the view that the reported measures are inconsistent with the Palestinian Authority's obligations deriving from the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Palestinian Basic Law". In other words, the PA is obliged, by international law, to employ those who want to unseat them.
This surely is an uncontrollable outburst of surreal humor but it pales in comparison with another outburst.

Goldstone, after quoting heavily from Ha'aretz, Israeli jurists, B'tzelem and other Israeli human right NGO's, states.
"…the Mission received allegations that sources of criticism of actions by Israel during and following the military operations of December 2008-January 2009 from inside Israel were subjected to attempted or actual repression, and that the rights of freedom of association and expression for individuals and groups had been violated. In this regard, concerns were also raised about the denial of access to the media and to human rights monitors prior, during and after the military operations in Gaza".
The humor stems from the fact that the evidence of this repression was given by Israelis – including those who addressed Goldstone's committee. Israeli NGO's who complained about this repression of dissent appear almost daily – loud and clear – on Israeli newspapers and state – owned radio and television.

For some obscure reason, there is no parallel finding about suppression of dissent by Hamas. Indeed, the report should have a sub-heading - Eyeless in Gaza - lifted from John Milton and Aldous Huxley.

* * *

The humor stops where the report alleges actions of wanton brutality and killings by Israeli soldiers; even if only partially true, these cases should be a reason for sleepless nights for every law-abiding, humane Israeli. The IDF authorities state that they have investigated these allegations and, except for one case of looting, found no evidence of such war crimes. However, it is the opinion of this author that due to the severity of the allegations and the number of Palestinian civilians killed in the operation, Israel should re-investigate these thirty-plus cases and that this reinvestigation should be conducted by an independent body headed by an acting or retired judge of the Supreme Court. Such a body should be empowered to see army documents and make recommendations. This step is vital not because of Goldstone's ludicrous report, replete with its instances of unconscious humor, but because we, Israelis, must be doubly sure that no crimes were perpetrated by our soldiers. We should not be "eyeless in Gaza".
Prof. Amnon Rubinstein is a Professor of Law at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (Israel), a former Minister of Education and Knesset Member, as well as the recipient of the 2006 Israel Prize in Law [www.amnonrubinstein.org].

Crossposted on
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