Israel enraged over UN report claiming war crimes in Gaza

Thursday, September 17, 2009 |  Israel Today Staff

Israel has good reason to have stopped cooperating with international investigations into its military activities, and to even try to prevent such probes from happening at all when possible. These "independent" investigations almost always conclude by accusing Israel of the most heinous wrongdoings in the most hostile language possible.

It is little wonder that these investigations ultimately come to such conclusions, considering that they typically accept Palestinian claims and accusations at face value, despite a gross lack of evidence.

That was again the case on Wednesday when a UN fact-finding mission headed by Richard Goldstone issued a report based on figures and testimonies provided by Gaza's Hamas rulers that accused Israel of "actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity" during its military incursion into Gaza earlier this year.

The 547-page report accused Hamas of the same for deliberately firing rockets into Israeli population centers during the month-long conflagration, but seemed to ignore the decade of Palestinian rocket fire that preceded Israel's reluctant and long-delayed commitment of major ground forces to solving the problem.

The Goldstone Commission demanded that Israel launch its own investigation into the charges contained in the report, and recommended that the International Crimes Court (ICC) in The Hague open war crimes proceedings against the Jewish state if it failed to comply within three months.

The report elicited frustration and anger in Israel over what has become a ritual of drumming up war crimes charges any time the Jewish state dares to militarily defend itself.

Israeli President Shimon Peres said the Goldstone Commission Report "mocks history and fails to distinguish between aggressor and those acting in self-defense."

Peres said Goldstone and his colleagues never would have come to such conclusions "had their children been living in Sderot, under the constant threat of Hamas rockets."

In a written statement, Peres reminded the UN that Israel fully withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and during the following three years tried to respond to mounting Palestinian aggression from the coastal territory with diplomacy, before finally concluding that it must go to war to defend its citizens.

A Foreign Ministry statement expressed "disappointment" that the UN had once again ignored Israel's right to self defense and had drawn erroneous and despicable conclusions about Israel's intentions based on nothing more than unsubstantiated claims.

Israeli legal experts said they don't expect the UN Security Council to adopt the commission's report, or for the ICC to actually open war crimes proceedings against the State of Israel, but warned that the report could form the basis of individual war crimes suits against Israeli military and political leaders.

The one bright spot of the report for Israelis was its insistence that Hamas release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. But even that section was marred by dubious language by referring to Shalit as a "prisoner of war," a form of captivity legitimate under international law.

Shalit's father, Noam Shalit, corrected Goldstone and his team by noting that "Gilad is not a prisoner of war. Gilad is an abducted person and a hostage."

Meanwhile, Goldstone's daughter, Nicole Goldstone, insisted in an interview with Israel's Army Radio that her father, a South African Jew who previously served as a Constitutional Court judge, "is a Zionist and loves Israel." She was adamant that her father would never try to harm Israel, and only agreed to be part of the commission to help Israel and its neighbors move forward toward peace.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev retorted in a later interview that the Goldstone Commission had done the exact opposite of advance peace. Armed with such a damning report, Israel's "peace partners" are certain to become even more uncompromising and extreme in their demands.

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