Is Goldstone’s mission first to show objectivity?

Posted: July 6, 2009 by Jonathan Boyko in Cast Lead, Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Israel, Own Articles, Palestinians, Terrorism, United Nations

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UN COMMIITTEE, INVESTIGATING Israel’s operation Cast Lead in Gaza, heard testimonials from several Israelis, including victims, father of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit and mayor of city of Ashkelon. As with previous such hearing in Gaza, Goldstone’s mission listened to Israeli victims of Gazans’ terror, including several low-level officials. Israel’s government previously refused to cooperate with the panel, citing its previous experience with UN’s investigations (most notably, Terje Roed-Larsen’s fact-finding mission into Jenin battle of 2002).

One of most significant speakers was Dr. Mirella Sidrer, whose clinic was hit by a Qassam rocket, with her and her patient sustaining serious wound:

"I felt like a ball of fire was spinning inside me, all my teeth flew out. To this day I still have a 4cm sliver of shrapnel in the left side of my back next to my spinal chord, and it can’t be removed”.

Another speaker at the forum was the father of captive Israeli soldier – Noam Shalit. Shalit told investigators release of his son would likely lead to lift of the blockade and spoke to Gazan citizens:

“Don’t do this for any kind of profit, do it because it is the right thing to do, do it for the welfare of your people… Do not ignore the circumstances of my son’s military service," continued Shalit. "He wasn’t attacking your land – he wasn’t even on your land. He was in Israel’s sovereign territory, defending what was supposed to be a peaceful borderline.”

It seemed that the members of the panel sympathized with Shalit, with Pakistani Hina Jilani saying:

"I speak for all of us when I say we are sympathetic to your pain and to the hard times you and your family have been through." … "Anyone using human suffering as a tool to push an agenda is wrong. I was very impressed by your distinguished testimony."

 

GOLDSTONE’S TEAM APPEARS to reflect objectivity – listening to both sides, fair and straight. Israeli officials, however, are correct – Israel has much experience in UN’s fact-finding missions. During aforementioned investigative mission to Jenin, Terje Roed-Larsen was terrified by the destruction of the refugee camp, telling the tales of much destruction, saying it was "horrific beyond belief", fully disregarding attacks by Jenin terrorists against Israeli civilians. Goldstone’s mission is likely to suffer another Palestinian disease – constant watchful eye of guards, keeping track of what civilians tell UN’s emissaries. As in Jenin 2002, several reports indicate Goldstone’s meeting with Gazan civilians were almost always attended by HAMAS officials and/or armed men. Obviously portrayed as protection for the peacekeepers, HAMAS activists looked straight in the eye to each Gaza man or woman speaking to UN’s representatives.

It is still to be seen if the mission would be able to look beyond people’s biases. Gazans, trained since childhood to hate Jews, and trained by HAMAS to exaggerate stories, might inadvertently twist facts in order to gain sympathy with the team. Israeli civilians, feeling deep resentment for the UN might not arrive at all, and those who would, would probably affected by biases of their own. UN investigators would also have to look at the infrastructure: relatively lack of Israeli civilian casualties is the direct result of Israeli government constructing fortified bunkers, where civilians could hide in case of an attack. HAMAS and FATAH lead governments never spent any resources on such construction besides, maybe, themselves. Also, it is unlikely tales of HAMAS operatives using civil infrastructure would be heard by the team from Gazans themselves.

It is logical to conclude that it is unlikely Goldstone’s team would reach unbiased conclusions – although it might be one of the very first UN teams to blast both Israel and HAMAS for use of violence. The investigators are unlikely to go back into history, researching how Israel’s 2005 disengagement lead to violent HAMAS takeover and subsequent attacks by Gazan – not necessarily HAMAS – terrorists on Israel. They would probably stay in recent past and the present – HAMAS was bad for firing rockets, Israel was very bad for killing so many people. HAMAS should stop violence. Israel should lift the blockade, stop attacks, allow trade with Gaza through Israel, pay damages and supply everything Gazans need.

Last, but not least, is UN’s pledge of impartiality. While blame would be put on both sides (Israel would get the most, though), Goldstone would still attempt to stay off judgment – at least Gaza-wise. The conclusions will not reach far beyond general assumptions and calls for normalization. There would be no comprehensive plan or idea to end the violence  – after all, they are here to recover the past, not build a future. Thus, it is safe to assume Israel would be correct in not cooperating with UN’s investigators, at the very least because the mission would end up nowhere.

It does not mean, though, that Israel should ignore the findings. Some bad things happened in Gaza, and IDF soldiers – on deliberately or not – were responsible to some of them. It would be difficult to discern real testimonies from HAMAS propaganda, it should be done by Israeli analysts. IDF’s mission should be constantly improving itself, causing as few casualties as possible in any upcoming large-scale operation. Goldstone’s mission might be a good ground to start.

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Comments
  1. tekhelet says:

    It was a fair report you wrote, and even gave the Gazans some space to maneuver (even though they were the ones who are in the wrong). Strong pointers were made by the victims of the Gazan attacks.

    When I was in Israel I wanted to visit Sderot, this was in late December. literally 1 day after I left Israel, the next day Operation Cast Lead took place. During my 9 days in Israel I bought the Jerusalem Post to read and was very updated on the Qassam attacks in the Negev. Maybe my next visit to Israel I will visit the cities hit by rockets fired from Gaza. Sderot most badly hit we know, the people there live like on a tight-rope but I admire their courage!

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