The mission, led by internationally-renowned former South African supreme court justice and chief prosecutor in the international tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia, Justice Richard Goldstone (pictured), investigated alleged war crimes committed by Israeli troops in Gaza in a 23-day bloody, unprecedented onslaught against a largely defenseless population.
But Hijab was not the only one who expressed optimism. Others did, encouraged perhaps by the report’s use of terminology unfamiliar in a conflict where empirical experience has shown that Israeli actions, no matter how outrageously violent, will have no meaningful legal repercussions whatsoever.
Goldstone’s report, released on September 15, made some important recommendations, following a thorough investigation that was carefully compiled by the mission– which was organized by the UN Human Rights Council last April.
One is that the UN Security Council should set up a team of experts to monitor Israel’s investigations of the war crimes committed in Gaza. If Israel fails to do so, then the situation should be referred to the Prosecutor in the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“The mission concluded that actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly in some respects crimes against humanity, were committed by the Israel Defense Force,” Goldstone told reporters on September 16. He also said that the Israeli government has carried out no credible investigation.
Despite his recommendations that UN experts follow the progress of the internal investigation by Israel, and the Palestinians (since they too were accused of violating international law by lobbing home-made rockets into Israel without taking into account the possible harm to civilians), it is puzzling why Goldstone would think that any genuine investigation is possible in the first place.
The events in Gaza resulted in the deaths of 1,387 (other estimates put the number at 1,417, mostly civilians, including over 300 children), the wounding of thousands more, the targeting of an already dilapidated infrastructure (hospitals, police stations, factories, schools, and even chicken farms).
Palestinians were also chastised for rockets fired from Gaza. Of course, Goldstone was not expected to justify or applaud the homemade rockets, or even underline their lack of effectiveness— four Israelis were killed by rocket fire, during the period of the war. Out of the nine Israeli soldiers killed in the fighting, four were killed in friendly fire.
While both Hamas and the PA fully cooperated with Goldstone and his colleagues, Israel fully rejected the mission, refusing entry into Israel or Gaza, forcing the use of alternative routes into the besieged strip, through Egypt.
Israeli officials claim that the report was pre-written, rendering it biased from the start. Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said the report created unjust “equivalence of a democratic state with a terror organization,” in reference to Hamas before adding, “We have nothing to be ashamed of, and don’t need lessons in morality from a committee established by Syria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Somalia.”
Goldstone called on the 192-member General Assembly to establish an escrow fund so that Israel can compensate Palestinians in Gaza. Meanwhile the Human Rights Council is convening on September 29 in Geneva to discuss the report and could call for its transfer to the Security Council, or even to the ICC.
“Perhaps next time we set out to wage another vain and miserable war, we will take into account not only the number of fatalities we are likely to sustain, but also the heavy political damage such wars cause,” wrote Israeli columnist Gideon Levy.
One would have to wait for the next miserable war, the next massacre to find out whether Israel has learned its lesson. Until then, the desperate yet resilient Palestinians in Gaza continue to live in their makeshift tents, atop the rubble that was once called home, awaiting food, cement and international justice.