ZOA PRAISES OBAMA ADMINISTRATIONS PRINCIPLED CRITICISM OF GOLDSTONE FACT-FINDING REPORT
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has praised the Obama Administration for taking a principled stance against what it rightly calls the deeply flawed Goldstone Fact-Finding Mission Report on the hostilities in Gaza during December 2008 and January 2009. (ZOA provided a detailed critique of the Goldstone Report last month, elaborating how the Report ignored all Hamas assaults upon Israel that led to Israels operations in Gaza; based its condemnation of Israel on unsubstantiated Palestinian testimony; claimed to find no conclusive evidence that Hamas used Palestinian civilians as human shields in the fighting; copied major, politicized distortions of international legal norms habitually made by anti-Israel NGOs; falsely reclassified Hamas personnel as civilian police in order to indict Israel for legitimate assaults upon these forces; and invented non-existent legal obligations of which it then proceeded to find Israel in breach).
Addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, the U.N. body dominated by human-rights abusing dictatorships that commissioned the Goldstone inquiry, Michael Posner, the new United States Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, stated:
we believe that the document is deeply flawed and disagree sharply with its methodology and many of its recommendations, including their extraordinarily broad scope
In engaging in discussions over this report, we must step back and take issue with the grossly disproportionate attention the Council pays to one country, Israel. When the United States decided to seek a seat on the Council, we stated our clear intention to address this lack of balance in the Council’s proceedings. We urge our fellow members to join us in firmly rejecting this double standard. This is a high priority for us, one which we believe needs to be addressed now. Israel is the only country that has its own agenda item at this Council. In the past 5 years, the Council and its predecessor organization, the UN Commission on Human Rights, have commissioned more than 20 reports on Israel, far more than [upon] any other country in the world. Since the Council was created in 2006, it has passed 20 resolutions on Israel, more than the number of resolutions for all 191 other UN members combined. The Council also has held 11 special sessions, 5 focused exclusively on Israel. This is unfair, and it prevents the Council from devoting adequate time and attention to many other situations around the world that deserve our attention. We hope that Council members will join us in approaching the important work of this Council in a new, constructive spirit that does not seek to vilify any particular UN member nation.
Second, we are guided by our commitment to the universal application of international law, including humanitarian law and human rights law, in assessing the findings and recommendations of this report, but that cannot be understood to imply a moral equivalence between Israel, a democratic state with the right of self-defense, and the terrorist group Hamas, that responded to Israel’s pull-out of Gaza by terrorizing civilians in southern Israel … Hamas, a terrorist group that has seized control of a territory, has neither democratic structures, nor an independent judiciary, nor willingness to examine its own violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. Nevertheless, this body should certainly demand from Hamas that it do so, as well as demand an end to Hamas’ deliberate targeting of civilians and its use of its own population as human shields
Third, a genuine commitment to the truth should compel this body to discuss the weaknesses of the report. Those weaknesses will appear clearer to those who actually have read the full report and understood its implications. The report makes extraordinarily negative inferences about the intentions of Israeli military commanders, senior political leaders, and the entire Israeli criminal justice system on the basis of a limited factual record and from those inferences draws condemnatory conclusions of law, treating accusations and inferences as fact. One example is the report’s call for UNGA to establish an escrow account to which only Palestinians could make compensation claims and which only Israel is required to fund. The report further calls on Israel to undertake a moratorium on the use of certain munitions; it makes no such demand of Hamas with regard to its use of indiscriminate rockets. These unbalanced recommendations taint many of the report’s suggestions for international action.
Another significant problem with the report is its failure to deal adequately with the asymmetrical nature of this conflict or assign appropriate responsibility to Hamas for its decision to base itself and its military operations in heavily civilian-populated urban areas. The conflict in Gaza is emblematic of a new kind of conflict in our world, where some of those engaged in combat use civilian spaces – schools, hospitals and religious institutions – to store weapons and as staging grounds for rocket attacks and armed combat. National militaries engaged in asymmetrical warfare must remain bound by humanitarian law, but it is a stark and tragic reality that terrorists systematically ignore these laws. Actions by terrorist groups that have the effect of employing civilians as human shields put enormous pressures on militaries that are trying to protect civilians and their own soldiers, an issue faced by many militaries today. Although the Goldstone report deals briefly with these issues, its findings of fact and law are tentative and equivocating.
We also have very serious concerns about the recommendations spelled out in this report, especially that these allegations be taken up by the UN Security Council and then possibly referred to the International Criminal Court (U.S. Response to the Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict: Statement by Michael Posner United States Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, September 2009).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, We applaud the principled and moral position adopted by the Obama Administration at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva which was critical of content and recommendations of the Goldstone Report. As ZOA has argued in depth, the Goldstone Report represents a perversion of international legal norms and whitewash of a genocidal terrorist movement, Hamas.
Among its many unconscionable flaws, the Goldstone Report proceeded on the entirely false basis and contrary to Article 6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that Israel is still occupying Gaza and thus legally responsible for a number of functions it has not discharged since completely withdrawing from that territory in 2005. It used as evidence the tainted and unproved testimony used by a host of anti-Israel NGOs; ignored evidence that contradicted a predetermined conclusion of Israeli wrong-doing, such as the routine use of human shields and perfidy, both war crimes, by Hamas; and treated terrorists as civilians and thus protected persons wrongfully targeted by Israel.
We strongly support and thank the Obama Administration for its opposition to the use of this Report to malign Israel and the criticisms expressed by Mr. Posner in the Human Rights Council.