Israel expected to boycott UN Gaza mission

Mission head, Jewish South African Justice Richard Goldstone, feels he can be "evenhanded, impartial."

Judge Goldstone 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy )
Judge Goldstone 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy )
Israel is not expected to cooperate with the high-level UN fact-finding mission appointed to investigate alleged war crimes committed by Israel in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. A formal decision on the matter still has to be taken by the Foreign Ministry, but ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Jerusalem Post that "this is not a fact-finding mission, but a sad farce." Respected South African judge Richard Goldstone, the former UN chief prosecutor for war crimes in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, was named on Friday to head the investigation ordered by the Human Rights Council in January. But Palmor noted that the Human Rights Council doesn't deal with human rights, but rather acts according to a political agenda dictated by non-democratic states. "The aim of the committee is not to seek out the truth but to single out Israel for its alleged crimes that the council has already determined Israel is guilty of," Palmor said. According to the mission's mandate, the investigation should focus on Palestinian victims of the three-week operation against Hamas infrastructure in Gaza. But Goldstone, a Jewish former justice of the South African constitutional court, said his team would investigate "all violations of international humanitarian law" before, during and after the conflict that ended on January 18. "It's in the interest of the victims. It brings acknowledgment of what happened to them. It can assist the healing process," he told reporters in Geneva. "I would hope it's in the interests of all the political actors, too." Martin Uhomoibhi, the council president, explained the apparent contradiction by saying the mission had always intended to evaluate the proportionality of Israel's response, which requires that acts of both warring parties be examined. "I am confident that the mission will be in a position to assess in an independent and impartial manner all human rights and humanitarian law violations committed in the context of the (Gaza) conflict," he said in a statement. Israel boycotted previous council investigations, including one led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, calling them biased. The delegation headed by Goldstone also includes British professor of international law Christine Chinkin, Pakistani lawyer Hina Jilani and retired Irish Army Col. Desmond Travers. Goldstone said he was "shocked, as a Jew," to be invited to head the mission. "It adds an additional dimension," said Gladstone, who is on the board of governors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "I've taken a deep interest in what happens in Israel. I'm associated with organizations that have worked in Israel. And I believe I can approach the daunting task that I have accepted in an evenhanded and impartial manner."