The forgotten factor that so skews Goldstone's mission

The absence of any reference to the Kassam rockets in the mandate of the UN's Fact Finding Mission does grave injustice to the Human Rights Council.

July 28, 2009 23:19
The forgotten factor that so skews Goldstone's mission

Goldstone in Gaza 248.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

In reviewing the documentation and resolutions of the Human Rights Council that serve as the mandate of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, the terminology used would give any objective observer the impression that Israel and Israel alone, unilaterally and indiscriminately, without provocation or justification, instituted a "massive.... military operation," "siege," "military aggression," "collective punishment," "massive and grave violations of human rights," "targeting of civilians and medical facilities and staff and the systematic destruction of Palestinian cultural heritage." One is led to assume that Israel suddenly attacked a peace-loving Gaza Strip for no reason and without any provocation, merely out of some insane desire to create suffering and loss among its Palestinian population. THERE IS NO reference to the Hamas terror organization that administers the area, or to its implacable hostility to Israel, and which, together with the Islamic Jihad and others, had for several years instigated hostilities, kidnappings and acts of pure terror against Israel's civilian population. The minimal lip-service call for "the end to the launching of crude rockets against Israeli civilians which have resulted in the loss of four civilian lives and some injuries" is couched in minimal terms, without any reference as to who fired the rockets or from where, as if completely unrelated to the main body of the resolution, and without the slightest hint as to the nature, intention, true effect and aims of the eight-year, indiscriminate barrage directed against southern Israel's population centers. The determination in the resolution that Israel's military attacks resulted in the "killing" (not, in this case, "loss of life") of "more than 900 and injury to more than 4,000 Palestinians" conveniently ignores the fact that over 900 of the Palestinian casualties were directly involved in fighting against Israel, either as Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters, acknowledged by the Hamas Web sites that honored their "martyrdom," or human shields forced by Hamas to participate in the hostilities. An additional misconception would be the false and misleading equivalence drawn between Israel on the one hand - a country whose southern citizens had been under constant armed attack and long-term indiscriminate rocket bombardment by a terror organization intent on instilling terror, a country that acted in self-defense against the perpetrators of the rocket fire - and, on the other hand, a group of terror organizations (Hamas and Islamic Jihad) that proudly and openly use and advocate the use of terror, brazenly undermining the norms of international humanitarian law in order to terrorize Israel's civilians and achieve their ideological objectives. The virtually complete absence, in the documentation serving as the mandate of the Fact Finding mission, of any reference to the Hamas/Islamic Jihad rockets and their effect on Israel's civilian population does grave injustice to the Human Rights Council, which purports to base itself on the accepted norms of human rights and international humanitarian law. The basic and customary norm prohibiting attack on or bombardment of towns, villages, dwellings or buildings which are undefended was laid down in article 25 of the 1907 Hague Rules respecting the laws and customs of war on land. Article 51 of Additional Protocol 1 of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions clearly determines that "The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack." The concept of terrorization as a tactic of war is addressed clearly in the same article, which states that "Acts or threats of violence the prime purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited." The Protocol goes on to prohibit attacks not directed at specific military objectives, or which employ methods or means that cannot be limited FROM ALL THIS, one may perhaps understand why the drafters of the resolution of the Human Rights Council went to such pains to downplay any reference to the Hamas/Islamic Jihad rocket bombardment of Israel's southern population - a bombardment that went on virtually without international concern for eight years, that exposed the one and a half million civilians in a radius of 40 km to daily terror. In this context it is utterly irrelevant to describe the rockets as "crude." The fact that many of them exploded in schools and kindergartens, in private homes and on moving vehicles is sufficiently indicative of the purpose of the weapon - to indiscriminately terrorize a large civilian population. The fact that at any given time of the day or night such rockets could explode anywhere, virtually without warning, renders irrelevant any discussion as to their destructive potential. In this context, "luck" was the only factor that prevented far greater casualties. The fact that Israeli municipal precautionary measures, bomb shelters and public warning mechanisms prevented a large number of casualties is equally irrelevant when considering the aims and purposes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The rockets were intended to strike civilian centers, schools, homes, shopping centers and so on. Launches were timed to affect a maximum number of civilians and create the greatest number of casualties. To all intents and purposes, all of southern Israel was, for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a military target. The "successful" outcome of this long-term bombardment was indeed the terrorization of Israel's civilian population in the south. The psychological effects of the bombardment have created thousands of casualties among all sectors of the population - young, old, infirm - who will require treatment for years to come. Children fear leaving their home; residents are afraid to walk in the streets or use public transport. These are only some of the ongoing effects of this terror campaign. Let's hope that the deliberate and long-term targeting of Israeli civilians, as well as the use of civilians and civilian installations by the Palestinian terror groups as shields will receive serious attention by the Fact Finding Mission, despite the fact that these matters are virtually ignored in the documentation describing the mission's functioning. The writer is a partner in the Law Firm of Moshe, Gicelter & Co. and served as former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry and ambassador to Canada.

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