Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Goldstone Report: US Is Playing With Fire As Report May Be Claiming First Victim

It started out looking promising--containment seemed to be the goal of the US:
[I]t appears all but certain that the report accusing Israel and the Palestinian faction Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity will not reach any binding international forums.

...But in the days following the release of Goldstone’s report, it became clear that in the arm-wrestling contest between international rights organizations and the established Israeli-American diplomatic bond, the latter wins easily.

...But by September 18, three days after the report’s release, the State Department declared Goldstone’s findings unfair toward Israel — citing the lack of equal scrutiny stressed by others. Notably, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly did not challenge any of the report’s specific findings of human rights violations by Israel or Hamas.
I suppose that last line should have been a clue--the US concern is not with the problems with the findings of the report, but with lack of evenhandedness.

So it is not surprising to find that the US is backtracking on that original story and is actually eager to bring the report before the UN Human Rights Council:
White House: Official ‘misspoke’ on Goldstone report

The White House says an official "misspoke" when he said the Obama administration would not allow the Goldstone report recommendations on Israel's conduct in the Gaza war to reach the International Criminal Court.
A top White House official told Jewish organizational leaders in an off-the-record phone call Wednesday that the U.S. strategy was to "quickly" bring the report -- commissioned by the U.N. Human Rights Council and carried out by former South African Judge Richard Goldstone -- to its "natural conclusion" within the Human Rights Council and not to allow it to go further, Jewish participants in the call told JTA.
So the US wants to 'quickly' bring the report to its "natural conclusion" within the Human Rights Council is that supposed to be reassuring, especially coming from the country that thought it would be a swell idea to attend Durban? [see Israel Matzav: Obama flip flops on Goldstone, throws Israel under the bus] If the point is to not allow the report to go further, why be a party to further discussion at the UNHRC? Susan Rice did not explain what the US would do, should there be a recommendation to bring the report to the ICC.

As it is, the ICC may already have a foot in the door:
ICC may try IDF officer in wake of Goldstone Gaza report

A senior prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague said Monday that he is considering opening an investigation into whether Lt. Col. David Benjamin, an Israel Defense Forces reserve officer, allowed war crimes to be committed during the IDF's three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip this winter.

The officer - a dual citizen of Israel and South Africa, where he was born - served in the Military Advocate General's international law department, which authorized which targets troops would strike before and during the operation.

Newsweek magazine released an interview Monday with ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina in which he said he is convinced his office has the authority to launch an investigation into Benjamin's actions.

The ICC has until now refrained from trying IDF officers, as it lacks authority to do so, since Israel is not a signatory to the 2002 Rome Treaty that founded the court. South Africa, however, did sign the treaty, so the ICC is authorized to indict its citizens.

Moreno-Ocampo's remarks are in line with the recommendations of a UN fact-finding commission on the Gaza war headed by South African justice Richard Goldstone.
The Newsweek article points out the problems with the case--both in its own terms and the overall implications:
The case itself may be hard to substantiate; Benjamin told NEWSWEEK he was out of the country during most of the Gaza operation and had no role in its planning. Still, the dual-citizenship issue could set a dangerous precedent for Israel and the United States, which also rejects ICC jurisdiction. If the court can investigate an Israeli with South African citizenship, why not an American with Mexican citizenship? "The implications for the U.S. are potentially very troubling," says Michael Newton, an international-law professor at Vanderbilt University. But even more so for the fledgling court, which is still struggling to establish legitimacy.
The story of the Goldstone Commission Report has not been getting the big headlines, due in part to the domestic stories, but as the position of the US vis-a-vis the report becomes clearer, that may change.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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