The Goldstone report’s title, Human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, reveals its leanings. Since Gaza is also a part of Palestine, “other occupied Arab territories” can only refer to Israel proper.
The UN commission was composed of professional human rights advocates, none of whom were experienced in military or anti-terrorism realities. To cover that glaring gap, the commission included one Colonel Travers, a human rights activist with no meaningful wartime experience.
The fact that the Goldstone commission received the “full support” of the Hamas government (page 6) despite its nominal mandate to investigate Hamas’ crimes suggests that the terrorist group was assured of slap-on-the-wrist treatment.
The official Palestinian participant in the hearings, Muhammad Srour, was arrested in Israel immediately thereafter on security grounds. The Goldstone commission heavily relied on the testimony of terrorists from both the Hamas and PA sides.
The conclusions were predetermined by limiting the inquiry to the events following the July 2008 ceasefire (page 7). During the ceasefire, naturally, relatively few rockets were fired at Israel until the December escalation. As a result, Palestinian war crimes—indiscriminately launching 8,000 rockets at Israeli population centers over the last nine years—are only sketched in the report.
The UN commission set an incredibly high standard of criminal behavior: “restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms relating to Israel’s strategies and actions in the context of Israeli military operations (page 7).“ Certainly, all military operations involve certain restrictions on rights and freedoms, and any army could be condemned with such a sweeping inquiry. Conspicuously, the commission chose not to investigate numerous violations of Israeli human rights by Palestinians, including a prohibition on visits to Palestinian-controlled areas by Jewish Israeli citizens.
While accusing Israel of war crimes, the Goldstone report states explicitly that it does not “pretend to reach the standard of proof applicable in criminal trials (page 9).” In the same paragraph, the commission explicitly abrogates presumption of innocence for institutional bodies such as IDF or Israel, reserving the principle to individuals. The result of this approach is that Israel is blamed by default for all injuries to human rights in Gaza, whether she is culpable or not.
The commission is out for affirmative action. Israel is guilty not only of restricting cargo supplies to Gaza, but also of “not provisioning” enough fuel and electricity (page 10).
The Goldstone report accuses Israel of depriving the Palestinians of agricultural land (page 10) by establishing a buffer zone along her border with Gaza, despite the fact that the desert there is unsuitable for open-air agriculture, that Palestinians engage in very little farming in other areas of Gaza, and that they destroyed the excellent greenhouses left to them after Israel’s withdrawal from Gush Katif. In the same paragraph the report describes Palestinian losses from the Israeli-imposed reduction of their fishing zone as “severe,” despite the easily verifiable fact that fishing provides Gaza with negligible economic input. The report ignores the one obvious reason for limiting the fishing zone: Iran passing arms to Hamas on the open seas.
The commission spouts accusations without even bothering to substantiate them. The blockade “weakened the capacities of… water and other public sectors to react to the emergency.” In fact, Israel was supplying the enemy population with water the whole time.
The Goldstone commission takes for an axiom a highly debatable point that “Israel continues to be duty-bound under the Fourth Geneva Convention… to ensure the supply of foodstuff, medical and hospital items and others to meet the humanitarian needs of the population of the Gaza Strip without qualification (page 10).” Despite certain unresolved technicalities, Israel ended her occupation of Gaza four years ago, and like any other sovereign state is under no obligation to open her borders for cargo transit to any other country. In several conflicts—such as Iraq and Afghanistan—waged by NATO members, the occupying power never supplied food and medicines “without qualification” or in unlimited quantities. Under such an axiom, Israel is already guilty of any number of crimes against humanity, no investigation needed.
The UN commission sets an odd standard of credibility: consistence. It accepted an NGO’s “percentage of civilians among those killed” over Israel’s official information because the NGO’s figures “are generally consistent (page 10).” Voicing “very serious concerns” over those figures, the commission did not mention that even the NGO’s figures are incredibly low by the real-life standards of military operations. The commission paid no attention to the fact that, unlike Israeli intelligence, the NGOs have no way of identifying particular victims as militants or civilians, and rely necessarily on Hamas’ figures. Naturally, Hamas counts many dead terrorists as civilians.
The Goldstone report names attacks against Gaza’s government buildings as Israeli war crimes (page 11). Without any arguments, the commission rejects the Israeli position that the government buildings were actually Hamas strongholds. To that end, the report changes the terms: while Israel says she was bombing “Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure,” the commission asserts that the buildings made no “effective contribution to military action.” By this standard no building should be harmed, because at the time of the Gaza operation Hamas mounted no effective military action at all.
The commission even finds criminal the Israeli attack on Gaza’s policemen, despite their status as active and armed Hamas members (page 12). In a twist of logic, the commission trumpets the fact that Gaza police were “a civilian law-enforcement agency.” Clearly, that does not preclude policemen from fighting on Hamas’ side during war. The commission adds that scores of the Hamas policemen killed in Israeli strikes on December 27 did not take part in the hostilities. No wonder, because they were killed in the opening minutes of the operation and had no time to join the fighting. Counting the 240 policemen killed as civilians rather than Hamas militants tilts the ratio of civilian casualties.
The Goldstone report almost lovingly refers to Hamas as “an armed group (page 12),” despite its official designation by most Western states as a terrorist organization. “It may be that the Palestinian combatants did not at all times adequately distinguish themselves from the civilian population,” says the report about Hamas terrorists in civilian clothes firing rockets from urban areas.
The Goldstone commission found no evidence that Hamas “forced civilians to remain within the vicinity of the attacks.” But what about numerous videos of civilians crowded on rooftops of houses used by Hamas? Here comes the qualification “forced.” The commission does not know whether the civilians were forced to the vicinity or remained there of their own volition. Whatever the case, according to the idealistic law espoused by the commission, such targets should be spared. The shocking part is that Israel indeed spared the enemy holdouts protected by human shields.
The commission found no evidence that Hamas used mosques for military purposes (page 12). What about the numerous videos of explosions in mosques after IAF attacks which confirms that they were used for storing weapons? Israel did not cooperate with the commission, Youtube, where such videos are posted, is not one of the report’s sources of evidence, and their Palestinian interlocutors certainly did not provide the videos.
The commission found no evidence that Hamas used hospitals for military action. Here again is the qualifier, “military action.” The report does not dispute that Hamas virtually occupied Shifa Hospital for its command personnel. But lacking the depth of a typical police investigation, it cannot establish that the Hamas officials used hospitals for planning rather than hiding. The report ignores that even hiding constitutes a part of military operations.
By fighting in urban areas, Hamas committed no war crime but simply “unnecessarily exposed the civilian population of Gaza to danger.” It was therefore Israel that committed war crimes by shelling those urban areas. But did Israel not, through phone calls and leaflets, warn the residents to flee? The commission discounts these efforts because they were “not specific and thus credible” to Gazans (page 13). It is left to the reader to wonder how much more specific an army can be than calling an enemy resident and telling him to flee the targeted area. But Israel further warned the civilians by dropping light charges on the roof (“roof-knocking”) before bombardment. Unable to ignore the credibility of such warning, the report turns it into a criminal attack on civilians. Never mind that an attack is normally understood as a potentially lethal endeavor, and the warning charges caused no injuries.
The Goldstone commission took the long-disproved accusations for granted (page 14). It notes the attack on an UNRWA compound—which never happened in the first place, as IDF fought in the compound’s vicinity—and matter-of-factly mentions the phosphorus shells. Left out of the report is the important fact that the shells were used for smokescreens, warning, and illumination, rather than to effect casualties. The report itself implies that there was fighting rather than an attack on an undefended compound when it states that the attack went on for hours.
The Goldstone report transforms highly moral Israeli operations into crimes (page 14). In case of Al Wafa Hospital, IDF warned residents by phone calls and leaflets, but the residents did not flee. Instead of blaming Hamas for hiding behind human shields, the commission asserts the ineffectiveness of the warnings. IDF then—necessarily—burned nearby buildings to smoke Hamas officials out of the hospital along with the patients. That mildest form of military operation caused no injuries, but was cited as a grave crime, an attack on a hospital. The commission’s choice of sources—mostly related to Hamas—and its lack of investigative capabilities, ensured that it “found no evidence of military action” from the hospital.
This underscores the Goldstone report’s inherent bias. Hamas is a terrorist organization which does not document its actions. The commission was unable to find evidence that Hamas conducted military operations in civilian buildings; thus, Hamas remains blameless. On other hand, Israeli actions against civilian buildings are documented, and can only be excused on the grounds that Hamas was operating from them. No such exculpatory evidence was made available to the commission. In other words, the fact that the commission lacked real investigative capabilities allowed Hamas to come out almost unscathed, but stripped Israel of all justification for her actions in urban areas.
The Goldstone report explicitly denies urban attacks the test of proportionality, which places its authors to the left of the most liberal military theorists. “The firing of at least four mortar shells to attempt to kill a small number of specified individuals in a setting where large numbers of civilians were going about their daily business… cannot meet the test of… an acceptable loss of civilian life for the military advantage sought (page 15).” Since terrorists are always few and civilians are always nearby, the suggested guideline precludes anything but hand-to-hand combat, and delegitimizes any normal military actions, such as those of US Marines in Fallujah, Iraq.
The Goldstone report demonizes IDF. Not only did the Jews deliberately shoot Palestinian civilians, but we also assembled them in specific houses before shelling those houses; the soldiers shot Palestinian civilians waving white flags, and refused to allow ambulances in to evacuate them (page 16).
By concentrating on a few isolated incidents and ignoring overwhelming evidence that IDF went out of its way to save Palestinian civilians, the Goldstone report gives the impression of Jewish brutality. By this standard, every army, after every war, could be prosecuted for war crimes.
The Goldstone report deliberately lays the ground for civil lawsuits against Israel. While conceding the possibility of a mistake in bombing a house, the report proclaims the “state responsibility of Israel for an internationally (intentionally?) wrongful act” (page 16). It remains to be explained how a mistake made in the fog of war may be wrongful, much less intentional.
The Goldstone commission did not hesitate to make up the law. While accepting that white phosphorus and flechette bombs are legal, the report calls for banning them; unable to condemn Israel for their use, it pronounces Israel’s use of them reckless—presumably, criminally reckless (page 17). For evidence, the commission relied on doctors’ testimonies, without meeting the non-existent victims of the alleged phosphorus attacks. When there is no evidence whatsoever, the commission just lists allegations, such as the allegation that Israel used depleted uranium and DIME explosives (page 17). While not necessarily untrue, as both the IDF and the US Army need to test those weapons, unsubstantiated allegations have no place in official findings.
The UN commission makes significant decisions on military matters (page 17). During the Gaza campaign, just as in her other wars, Israel bombed civilian infrastructure to turn the hostile population against Hamas. That tactic proved useful, as indeed the respective populations were dissatisfied with Hezbollah and Hamas. Business owners often finance terrorist organizations through protection taxes, and constitute a powerful domestic lobby which can usefully be turned against Hamas by the bombing of their businesses. The report, however, calls the bombing “wanton,” thus militarily unnecessary, and thus a war crime. The commission is not bothered by the sheer disproportionality of declaring the destruction of a flour mill a war crime.
The UN report relies extensively on anonymous and otherwise non-credible testimonies by Israeli soldiers, collected by ultra-left groups (page 18). IDF’s own investigations have proven those testimonies false, and the ultra-leftists did not press on. Those include reports of the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields. Ironically, while the commission found no evidence of Hamas’ widely reported use of human shields, it dwells on IDF’s fictitious use of the same.
The Goldstone commission finds fault with Israel for merely arresting Palestinian suspects because “the facts gathered indicate that none of the civilians were armed” (page 20). That is pure fantasy because the commission lacks any means to ascertain whether particular individuals were armed on a particular day nine months ago. Here again the commission confuses the issue at hand: being armed is a sufficient, but not necessary prerequisite to being arrested. IDF arrested Palestinian suspects for intelligence-gathering reasons rather than to intern them as enemy fighters.
The Goldstone report protests innocuous facts. Thus, Israelis are found guilty of placing detainees near artillery locations (page 20). The report is silent on exactly how near. Israelis are accused of strip-searching male detainees—by no means an unreasonable measure if the report insists that only armed Palestinians should be detained. Israel is accused of not providing detainees with shelter—an obviously impossible task for a fighting army. Addressed to a Western audience, the report stresses that they were left in the open air in January. In Gaza, however, the weather is comfortable at that time of year. The report further claims that Israel did not provide the detainees with water, which raises the question, how did they survive?
The Goldstone commission employs an extremely expansive interpretation of war crimes. Every violation of their highly moralistic principles, whether enshrined in the Geneva Conventions or implied in the minds of the commission members, is declared a war crime. Simple transgression exists no more. Thus, the report declares humiliating treatment of detainees a war crime (page 20). By such an impossibly high standard, any army in the world is a bunch of war criminals.
The Goldstone report decries the absence of due process specifically for those detainees who were freed after interrogation, and their arbitrary detention. In practice, arrests of suspicious civilians in wartime are unavoidable. Allowing them due process would actually prolong their detention. For example, a sufficient number of public defenders could not be found for hundreds of simultaneously arrested Palestinians. Instead, Israeli interrogators speedily sifted through them, releasing most of the detainees very quickly. Due process is not generally applicable in wartime, when the occupying power is entitled to establish military tribunals.
The Goldstone commission reports clear and verifiable lies. “Insufficient supply of fuel for electricity generation had a negative impact on the operation of hospitals, on water supply to households, and on sewage treatment (page 22).” Except for a short period, however, Gaza’s generation facilities were running at full capacity, and Israel supplied the hostile territory electricity through power grids with only nighttime reductions, and even those amounted only to a small percentage. At no time did the hospitals cease operating, in full or in part, because of fuel shortages. The report implicitly recognizes this when using the vague formulation, “negative impact.”
The report lays blame for the alleged shortages on Israel, but not on Egypt, which allowed no fuel supply whatsoever through its border with Gaza. Water supply was not significantly affected, if only because Israel supplies water at sufficient pressure to reach Gaza’s typical one to three-story buildings without pumping. Elsewhere, the report acknowledges the near-absence of sewage treatment facilities in Gaza, and the Hamas government could not have run so low on fuel as to be unable to run pumps on its two sewage-treatment plants.
The report apparently blames Israel because she is an occupying power in Gaza. The occupation hinges on Israel occupying the West Bank. But occupation of a part of enemy’s territory cannot be construed as occupation of its entire territory. It is universally recognized that during WWII Germany occupied part of France, but the Vichy territory remained independent. Similarly, despite the alleged occupation of the West Bank, Israel cannot be said to occupy Gaza.
The Goldstone report further blames Israel for rising unemployment in Gaza. But in fact unemployment remained stable during the ceasefire period which the commission undertook to investigate. Unemployment jumped mostly when Israel closed her import and labor markets to Gazans years ago—but then, Israel like any sovereign country is entitled to close her border to anyone. So it’s not that Israel caused unemployment in Gaza, but that she rescinded a benefit of employment she had extended to Gazans previously.
The Goldstone report accuses Israel of nothing less than poisoning the Palestinians, “80 percent of the water supplied in Gaza did not meet the WHO’s standards for drinking water (page 22).” Only a careful reader would note that the water in question is not supposed to be drinkable. Israel supplies Gaza with the highest quality water from Kineret while Jews consume desalinated water. But Gazans, just like most other people in the world, are expected to boil their tap water before drinking it.
The Goldstone report’s choice of words comes close to blood libel. In a passionate voice, the commission writes, “Hospitals and ambulances were targeted by Israeli attacks (page 23).” The unmistakable impression is that bloodthirsty Israelis went after sick Palestinians, mercilessly bombing ambulances marked with red crosses. These attacks were in fact very few, and always on the basis of reliable intelligence. The report fails to mention that Hamas openly bragged of extensively using the Red Cross/ Red Crescent ambulances and UNRWA vehicles to transport militants and weapons.
The Goldstone commission does not hesitate to invent issues. It notes with “concern” the “long-term health impact” of white phosphorus, which has no such impact whatsoever (page 23).
The Goldstone report claims that Israel destroyed 280 schools and kindergartens in Gaza. One page earlier, the total number of destroyed houses is put as 3,354. It is rather unusual for schools and kindergartens to number 9% of all buildings in any urban area. The number of 280 is uncritically adopted from Hamas sources, which conjured it by claiming that mini-kindergartens operated in private homes. The number of 3,354 houses destroyed contradicts the fact that in February Hamas had already paid compensation to all owners of destroyed houses, which amounted to merely $12 million.
Without blaming Israel directly, the report stresses that female employment opportunities in Gaza remain inferior to men’s (page 24). In context, the impression given is that the Jews are responsible for that, too.
The report admits that Israel allowed increased entry of humanitarian cargo into Gaza during the war, but claims the amount remained insufficient (page 24). But then how did the Gazans live on lower amounts of aid for years? The report plays with the meaning of “sufficient.” It notes the occupier’s obligation to allow the relief schemes, as Israel has indeed done. Relief means mitigating life-threatening hardship rather than providing for a comfortable life. Judging by the fact that Gazans are not dying from malnutrition or a lack of basic medicines, the relief schemes allowed by Israel were fully adequate.
The Goldstone report reaches a higher pitch when accusing Israel of crimes against humanity, crimes on par with those of the Germans or Sudanese (page 24). The crimes consist of a “series of acts that deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of sustenance, employment, housing and water, that deny their freedom of movement and their right to leave and enter their own country, that limit their access to a court of law and an effective remedy.” It defies common sense to declare such trivial and short-term offenses a crime against humanity. Nor are the accusations factually correct. For sixty years, Gazans have received their sustenance from UNRWA rather than any productive efforts; such humanitarian supplies were not disrupted. Only a small percentage of the Gazan population worked at the bombed factories and was thus affected by Israeli actions. Israel, the alleged criminal, supplies Gaza with all of its water needs—free. Gazans can and do migrate through the Egyptian border; Israel, like any sovereign country, is not obligated to issue transit visas to any foreigners. Enemy detainees are universally denied access to national courts, especially when their detention is rather brief.
The commission pointedly equates IDF with Hamas, describing them as “armed forces” and an “armed group,” respectively (page 25). While ostensibly coming out in favor of better treatment for Gilad Shalit, the report actually benefits Hamas: Shalit is described as a POW rather than a kidnapped person. Hamas, therefore, is legitimized as an official army entitled to taking and keeping prisoners.
Speaking of Hamas, the Goldstone report avoids the term “war crimes” (page 26). The report calls the wholesale murder of Fatah loyalists by Hamas a “serious violation of human rights.” Mentioning Hamas’s murder of criminals who escaped from bombed jails, the report is quick to provide a mitigating detail: some of the murdered criminals were drug-dealers.
Despite the mandate to investigate the Gaza conflict, the commission dealt extensively with the West Bank. The report voices an outright lie about massive killings of Palestinian protestors in the West Bank by IDF during the Gaza operation (page 27). In fact, the West Bank was remarkably quiet, both due to the West Bankers’ distaste for Gazans and Fatah’s police efforts. Nearing blood libel, the report alleges that IDF opened sniper fire on rioting crowds. While the report claims that the Israeli government fails to investigate killings of Palestinians by “settlers and security forces,” the opposite is true; exacting investigations are opened after every shooting, even those that result in no casualties.
The Goldstone report also plays with the term “detention” when claiming that over the years Israel has detained 700,000 Palestinians (page 27). The figure, wildly inflated in any case, seems to include questioning sessions at the border. The commission calls the terrorists in Israeli jails, “political prisoners,” an evident jab at Israel’s designation of them as “security prisoners.”
The Goldstone report decries Israeli arrests of Hamas officials (page 28), though terrorist affiliation is a standard crime in any Western country. The commission found that the arrests discriminated against Hamas members “based on political beliefs” rather than terrorist activities.
Further on in the Goldstone report, Israel develops into the root of all evils. Israel restricts Palestinian freedom of movement with the separation wall, which actually separates Israel from Palestine (page 29) as any nation is entitled to separate itself from its neighbors. But Israel is also declared guilty of providing IDs to Palestinians so that they can enter the Jewish state. The report additionally finds fault with Israel for issuing work permits to Palestinians; presumably, the hostile aliens should enjoy free labor movement. Among other “restrictive policies,” the report names family reunion laws which do not allow Israeli Arabs to bring an unlimited number of relatives from countries at war with Israel. The report espouses demands harsher than the Saudi peace initiative when it lambastes Israel for refusing the right of return to Palestinian refugees—an issue entirely unrelated to the report’s purpose. Some charges must have been taken verbatim from Palestinian propaganda: “Palestinians are denied access to areas expropriated for the building of the Wall and its infrastructure, for use by settlements, buffer zones, military bases, and military training zones.” Naturally, people cannot live on the wall, but the Arabs often live just meters from it. The areas are not expropriated, but besides a few disputed parcels belong to Israel. As for the buffer zones, Jews are denied access to them, too, which is the nature of border buffer zones across the world. The commission did not even bother to verify the obvious inaccuracies; there are no large military bases or training zones behind the Green Line. The report implies that all settlements are set on expropriated land and must be removed, though in fact almost all the settlements sit on empty, untitled land.
The Goldstone report does not shrink from verifiable lies. “During and following the operations in Gaza, Israel deepened its hold on the West Bank through an increased level of expropriation, an increased number of house demolitions, demolition orders and of permits granted for homes built in settlements, and increased exploitation of the natural resources in the West Bank (page 29).” In truth, no piece of land in the West Bank was expropriated during that period, next to no demolitions took place, no permits were granted for construction in the settlements, and there are no natural resources in the West Bank worthy of exploitation.
The report transcribes the wildest Palestinian fantasies, such as Israeli plans to build 73,000 homes in the West Bank (page 30). The commission is undeterred by the simple calculation that building so many homes would double the existing built-up area, clearly an absurd proposition at a time when housing in the settlements grows by mere 0.2% a year. The report claims that “building of 15,000 of these homes has already been approved,” a transparent and verifiable lie.
The Goldstone report denigrates Israeli suffering and justifies the rocket attacks from Gaza (page 31). Israelis “reportedly” suffered more than 1,000 wounded, though a higher official figure is readily available. The qualification, “…918 of which were injured during the time of the Israeli military operations in Gaza” can only be intended to justify terrorism.
The Goldstone commission manages to turn to Arab advantage even the fact of Israeli suffering under thousands of rockets fired from Gaza (page 33). In this case, the Jews are guilty of not providing rocket shelters in the illegal Bedouin camps which dot the state land in the Negev. Never mind that the Bedouins live in a sector of the Negev different from the coastal axis taken by rocket squads firing at Sderot, Ashdod, and Ashkelon. In practice, only a handful of the 8,000 rockets fell in the areas squatted by Bedouins.
The commission does not shrink from statistical tricks, as may be seen on page 34. It notes Israeli racism in that “Of protesters brought before the Israeli courts, it was the Palestinian Israelis who were disproportionately held in detention pending trial.” But just a couple of paragraphs before, the report acknowledges that Gaza protests in Israel were manned predominantly by Israeli Arabs. Naturally, the Arabs constituted also a wide majority of those detained at the protests. By insisting on the right to peaceful assembly, the commission glosses over the fact that many of the protests were anything but peaceful, but were rather all-out riots.
Concerned that the Israeli government can avoid ICC’s prosecution by conducting its own investigation, the Goldstone report launches a preemptive assault on the Israeli investigation system on page 36. This system “does not comply with internationally recognized principles of impartiality and promptness in investigations.” The commission offers no solution to the problem of every state’s inherent partiality to its soldiers. As for the promptness, just a paragraph earlier the report decries IDF’s investigation, which was completed within two weeks, as too short. Asserting that “the Israeli system overall presents inherently discriminatory features that make the pursuit of justice for Palestinian victims very difficult,” the commission does not relate that Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism have little chance of suing Hamas in Gaza courts.
Discussing reparations, the Goldstone report only mentions those due from Israel. Thousands of Jewish victims of Palestinian terror are less deserving.