Israel slams, PA praises UN report

Likud: If investigators lived a day under rocket fire, they would have written a very different report.

Judge Goldstone 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy )
Judge Goldstone 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy )
Israeli officials from across the political spectrum on Tuesday slammed the report of the UN Goldstone Commission alleging that Israel committed war crimes in Operation Cast Lead, while the Palestinian Authority praised the findings. "The mandate of the mission and the resolution establishing it prejudged the outcome of any investigation, gave legitimacy to the Hamas terrorist organization and disregarded the deliberate Hamas strategy of using Palestinian civilians as cover for launching terrorist attacks," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement distributed by Israel's mission to the UN in Geneva. The Foreign Ministry statement added that the report was "a shameful chapter in the history of international law regarding the right of nations to defend themselves." "Notwithstanding its reservations, Israel will read the report carefully," said the Foreign Ministry, noting that the IDF had already examined more than 100 allegations regarding the conduct of its forces during the Gaza operation, resulting in 23 criminal investigations. Yossi Levy, spokesman for the ministry, told Army Radio, "We reject any comparison between a democratic country defending itself and a terrorist organization." A senior ministry spokesman said that "the commission wrote the ruling in advance in Geneva, looking for evidence to increase Israel's international illegitimacy." Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev echoed Levy's reaction, telling Army Radio that the report was "political and one-sided." "It's a sad day when they make such baseless accusations against us," she said, adding, optimistically, that Israel had "good friends" in the United Nations Security Council, in addition to the US, that would listen to its side of the story. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said the committee's conclusions were "two-faced" and reflected a "double standard" and an outrageous asymmetry. "The same UN that allows the president of a country to announce on a [UN] podium its aspiration to destroy the State of Israel, has no right to teach us about morality," Rivlin said. Kadima MK Otniel Schneller accused the Goldstone Commission of encouraging terrorism and another war in the Middle East. He said that Israelis should be proud of the ethical behavior of the IDF. "The same day that the democratic United States assassinated an arch-terrorist in Africa, the UN report encouraged terror in the Middle East," Schneller pointed out. The Likud also released a statement slamming the UN investigation. "If the investigators lived for a single day under the rocket fire that residents of the South endured for nearly eight years, they would have written a very different report about the defensive operations of Cast Lead," said the party. The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, said the findings "confirmed" allegations that Israel had committed "war crimes" against the Gaza Strip population. The PA said that it would demand that Israeli civilian and security officials responsible for the war be brought to trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The PA also welcomed the charges against Hamas, saying the movement was also responsible for "atrocities" against Palestinians. Hamas did not issue an official response. However, a Hamas legislator in the Gaza Strip expressed astonishment because the report had failed to distinguish between the "aggressor and the victim." While the Knesset largely condemned the conclusions, Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka attacked Defense Minister Ehud Barak and top IDF brass. "The report hold accountable to international law those responsible for war crimes in Gaza, mainly the defense minister, chief of staff, commanders of the operation and those who gave them instructions and directives to harm the civilian population and infrastructure, in order to achieve political goals," said the chairman of the Israeli Arab party. Nine Israeli human rights groups called on the government to take the report seriously and not to reject its "legitimate" findings from the outset. "It's clear that the finding of the report, compiled after collecting information and testimonies from Palestinian and Israeli victims, join a long series of reports showing that Israel's actions during the fighting in Gaza, and those of Hamas, violated the rules of war and human rights," said the groups in a statement. Meanwhile, Noam Bedein, one of six Israeli civilians who testified before the Goldstone Commission, blasted the investigation's report for equating the actions of Israel and Hamas, saying it was "disgusting," Israel Radio reported. According to the radio station, Bedein said that Goldstone fell asleep when he was shown clips of Sderot children running for their lives after hearing a Color Red rocket warning siren.