Just as Spain's National Court decided to shelve a phony war crime investigation of a 2002 Israeli air strike in Gaza, a group of lawyers and military experts assigned by the United Nations Human Rights Council continued its phony investigation of "the grave violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip."
The UN Human Rights Council is a scandal. It's a successor to the defunct UN Human Rights Commission. Both organizations have a long history of singling out Israel for condemnation and of ignoring real human rights abusers by the world's worst offenders, several of which dominate the Human Rights Council and it predecessor.
As Hudson Institute scholar Anne Bayefsky recently noted: "The Council has adopted more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than all the other 191 U.N. member states combined.... The more time the Council spends demonizing Israel, the less likely it becomes that it will ever get around to condemning genocide in Sudan, female slavery in Saudi Arabia, or torture in Egypt."
The very mandate that authorized the Gaza investigation reveals its bias against Israel. The council has already concluded, without any pretense to an investigation, that Israel is guilty of "grave violations of human rights... due to its... military attacks."
It has also concluded that the Gaza Strip "remains occupied," despite Israel having ended its occupation and having removed every single soldier and settler in 2005. Moreover, the Council's current president has limited the scope of the investigation to "violations committed in the context of the conflict that took place between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009." Those are the dates of the Israeli response to more than seven years of rocket attacks by terrorists operating behind human shields in Gaza. During the period prior to 27 December 2008, Hamas and its terrorist allies fired thousands of rockets and mortar shells into civilian areas of Israel, killing, maiming and traumatizing Israeli women, men and children. But these attacks that provoked Israel's self-defense military actions are excluded from the investigation, according to the mandate and its interpretation by the president of the council. It would be as if the UN convened an investigation of the United States and terrorism but limited the investigation only to actions taken after September 12, 2001.
The very idea of the UN Council conducting an "independent" or objective investigation of Israel is preposterous. It would be as if an all white Mississippi court were investigating a black man's self-defense in response to years of lynchings by whites and limiting its investigation to the event following the lynchings. There is simply no way of an investigation conducted under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council and be fair. Its history of bias and bigotry should not be legitimated by men and women of decency who care about real human rights.
That is why it was so surprising and disturbing to see a good man like Richard Goldstone agree to head the investigation team appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. Goldstone is a South African who fought against Apartheid and led an important investigation into the causes of violence there, ultimately blaming the government itself for instigating violence through a "third force." Would he have succeeded if his commission had been limited to white members only, and if its mandate of his investigation was limited to the black violence and excluded the white violence that provoked it? Would he have been willing to lend his good name to legitimate the bad history of all white Apartheid courts? What if he were a black lawyer, deliberately selected by the all white court to be an "Uncle Tom" precisely because he was black?
Goldstone was selected to head this investigation precisely because he is Jewish. Let there be no mistake about that cynical reality. I don't blame the UN Council for selecting a Jew to legitimiate its kangaroo investigation of the Jewish state, but I wonder why a man like Goldstone would allow himself to be used in this manner. Does he not realize how he is being played? How his distinguished reputation is being exploited in the interest of bigotry? Oh yes, Goldstone will be "even-handed". That is precisely what the Council wants: equivalent condemnation of Israel and Hamas for unequivalent actions.
Hamas admits -- indeed boasts -- that it has committed multiple war crimes: first it boasts about firing rockets at Israeli school children; it fires its rockets primarily at times when Israeli children are on their way to and from school; it has hit several kindergartens, elementary schools and playgrounds (fortunately, the children had been sent home); it celebrates every civilian death and injury it causes. Targeting civilians is a war crime.
Second, Hamas boasts of hiding behind human shields, which is also a war crime. A prominent Hamas legislator has boasted of the fact that Hamas:
"...[has] formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: 'We desire death like you desire life.'"
Third, since Hamas is the elected government of Gaza, every rocket attack from Gaza is a violation of Article 51 of the UN Charter, which authorizes member nations to defend itself against "armed attack."
Fourth, these attacks are part of a long term strategy to destroy a member nation of the United Nations, as the Hamas charter clearly proclaims.
No "investigation" is needed to conclude that Hamas engaged in war crimes.
Israel, on the other hand, is engaged in legitimate self defense: as a leading British expert, Richard Kemp put it on the BBC during the Gaza War:
"I don't think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when an army has made more efforts to reduce the civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza."
To be even-handed in the face of such uneven conduct, or to find moral equivalence where there is none, would be the worst sort of immoral bigotry. Yet moral and legal equivalence is precisely what this investigatory commission will "find," following its "independent fact-finding mission," unless it finds that Israel's conduct was worse than Hamas's because more people died from Israeli fire than from Hamas rockets. The investigators will ignore the law that holds murderers who hide behind human shields responsible for the deaths of these human shields, even when the bullets that killed them came from the weapons of those who engaged in legitimate self-defense. Consider the analogous situation of the Navy SEALs who killed the Somali pirates that had kidnapped American merchant captain Richard Phillips. Similar rescue attempts have sometimes resulted in the tragic deaths of the hostages. Would it be fair to try the SEALs for murder, instead of the pirates? That is exactly what the Gaza commission aims to do to Israel. It will also ignore the fact that Hamas always exaggerates the number of civilians killed by including in that category armed police (who double as terrorists), "civilians" who willing serve as human shields or who willingly allow their homes to be used to manufacture, store or fire rockets, "children" and "women" who have become terrorists, and even "collaborators" killed by Hamas.
Goldstone will try his best to be even-handed. But he knows that unless his report condemns Israel, at least as forcefully as it condemns Hamas, it will never be accepted by the UN Human Rights Council and his work will come to naught. He is an experienced international diplomat. He knows who appointed him. He understands his mandate. He will try to expand it to include Hamas war crimes, so as to be "even-handed," even though Hamas already boasts of its crimes.
Israel too knows this. They know Goldstone. They know that his appointment was calculated to make it difficult for Israel to refuse to cooperate with a Jewish investigator who has had close ties with the Jewish state. Their refusal to cooperate with this distinguished group of investigators, they will be seen by some as afraid of the "truth." Had they cooperated, they know that "the truth" produced by this investigation will be a lie. They are in a no-win situation, precisely because Richard Goldstone accepted an appointment he should never have agreed to accept.
Israel should conduct its own thorough investigation and let the chips fall where they may.
Richard Goldstone should resign in protest if the Human Rights Council finds moral or legal equivalence between the multiple war crimes deliberately committed by a terrorist and the inadvertent deaths caused by the use of human shields to protect terrorists from legitimate self-defense actions taken by a democracy to protect its citizens.