Posted on: April 7, 2009 Posted by: Mitchell Plitnick Comments: 2

It’s always nice to see when a group of diplomats does something right. In the case of the UN Human Rights Council, the announcement last week of a fact-finding mission headed by Richard Goldstone is not only smart and appropriate; it offers some correction for a past error.

During the Gaza fighting, the UNHRC set out a foolish mandate, where it called for an international, impartial investigation-but only into Israeli actions during the Gaza offensive. Not only is this inherently unjust and an unacceptable application of international law, it is also impractical. An independent investigation depends on the cooperation of the country in question.

Richard Goldstone
Richard Goldstone

As it stood, the mandate was going to be little more than hot air and another point against the UNHRC, which, like its predecessor (the UN Commission on Human Rights),  has merited the criticism of paying more attention to Israeli crimes than to those of other countries. But the appointment of Goldstone to head a four-person team to investigate Gaza changes this.

The UNHRC president, Martin Uhomoibhi of Nigeria, stated explicitly that the investigation would cover the actions of both sides. More to the point, Goldstone wouldn’t be doing it if the purpose of the mission was only to “nail” Israel.

Goldstone has a rock solid reputation as a fair prosecutor of justice and his experience covers many of the most high-profile issues in recent times: South Africa, Yugoslavia, Rwanda and the Iraq Oil-for-Food program. He has also been involved in monitoring Nazi activity in Argentina.

Goldstone has always presented himself as a Jew in more than just ancestry. He has also always had strong ties with and an abiding concern for Israel. He is a trustee of the Hebrew University and this should not be underestimated. A professor might hold all sorts of views, but a trustee, especially one who is a foreign citizen, is not getting that position at Hebrew U if he is anti-Israel.

Indeed, in his remarks to the press, Goldstone was clearly trying to allay concerns that he would be biased IN FAVOR of Israel, an unusual concern for a representative of the UNHRC. If Israel cannot accept Goldstone, they are virtually declaring that they are unwilling to see an investigation undertaken unless it is pre-disposed to results in Israel’s favor.

The rest of the team includes two leading experts on international law who have participated in fact-finding missions that Israel has rejected in the past, Christine Chinkin of Britain and Hina Jilani of Pakistan. Both are respected in the field of human rights, and if questions remain in anyone’s mind about Goldstone’s fairness, their presence should help. But in truth, all three of these people have reputations for integrity and expertise. The accusations of bias are, as usual, self-serving on both sides.

The fourth member of the team, Col. Desmond Travers of Ireland is a well-established expert on munitions and their use in war, also with a very strong reputation. It would be hard to find a more balanced and well-constructed team for a task so grim and burdened with political hysteria as this one.

Israel stands accused of terrible crimes, and the fact is that most of the world believes the accusations in toto. Sure,

A woman amid the destruction in Gaza
A woman amid the destruction in Gaza

some of that is based on basic animosity toward Israel or maybe even Jews. But most of it is based on what we’ve actually seen in Gaza: the massive devastation, the enormous suffering and the petty and cruel behavior of Israel in preventing food, construction and emergency relief supplies into the Strip (before, during and after the fighting), despite the fact that many of the barred substances have no conceivable military application.

Israeli responses have been hollow to say the least. Where there has been any investigation at all, they’ve all been conducted by the IDF. Even if those investigations were thorough and objective, who would believe the results when the accused investigates itself? The IDF should, of course, be involved in any investigation, but if it carries it out by itself or leads it, no reasonable person can possibly accept the results. It requires the complete suspension of critical thinking to do so. The faithful will do that, but most people won’t.

It is hard to imagine a fair and credible investigation making Israel look any worse than it does now. Indeed, it seems likely that it would paint a somewhat less horrifying picture.

Thus, Israel should accept the Goldstone team and work with them. Hamas must do so as well, but even if they don’t, it remains the right choice for Israel, morally, practically and politically. No doubt, the Netanyahu government will have qualms about such cooperation. One hopes that the Obama administration, which has its own interest in getting the full truth out about Gaza and being able to start to move on from this debacle, recognizes this simple truth and helps its Mideast ally to do what is really best for everyone concerned.

2 People reacted on this

  1. I have no definate comment on the premise of the article, namely, if the team mentioned is qualified and unbiased. I think the world has mainly become fixated on two conclusions, both sadly wrong.
    1~ The majority of the world blames Israel for all the problems in the mid east and by proxy, globally too.
    2~ Those on the other side are 1000-percent behind Israel and therefore have no need to contemplate such questions such as: did the Jews do anything wrong.
    Either way, why investigate? It won’t change the conclusions of either of the two forementioned groups.
    Until we understand and appreciate the real, active reasons fueling this conflict, we are collectively powerless to stop it or even slow it down.
    This is NOT a religious conflict in the strict meaning.
    This is not a clash between competing cultures.
    This is a clash between nature and humanity.
    Those who can see the future can (at least marginally) control the future. This is because there is little (if any) practical difference between traveling backward through time to change an event (which had already occurred) versus seeing that same event in the future–before it happens. Nature has a very potent security system in place to help safeguard progress and evolution and to help disempower tyrants. Namely, the untold future is slowly revealed to those who’s hearts and actions are the most consistent with future growth and stability. Essentially, to the truthful, the most truth shall be shared.

    And this is partly what the world can’t ever seem to live with in peace. The Hebrews see their future security (as an ethnic group and as a religion) based on the existence of a national refuge which is specifically for them. If the threat the world perceives is that Jews, et al, have too much control, of course this same world would do what it can to wrestle this control away, including sacrificing the safety and wellbeing of millions of Arabs—(just so long as the Jews can be blamed). When things turn sour in the world, as they have recently done, human nature will punish those who are seen as being in control. This is how the Jewish populations were always murdered, throughout history. During the bubonic plague, the Jews of Europe were seen as being responsible—rather then the correct perception, that their kosher practices and other domestic habits protected them from succumbing to the illness.
    This is what has occurred today. The Jewish model provides a solution to many of the world’s problems (sadly, with the profound exception of lawyers—who we invented). But the world sees this in reverse. It sees the Jews as a profound threat rather then as a solution. But it would still see them as the same (or worse) of a threat if there was no National Jewish Refuge. Thus, the choice for the Israelis is between the ‘devil they don’t know’ versus ‘the devil they don’t want to know’.

    If the world were smarter then it was emotional and visceral, it would give the Israelis everything they want times ten. Instead, it continues to attack mother nature in the misinformed guise that it is attacking the problem. Thus, the mountains continue to tremble with accelerated ferocity. As long as the above is disregarded, there can be no world peace. The details of who committed more war crimes then whom, is of exceedingly little moment in the real debate, which is FAR more substancial then we see posted on line or in the news.

Comments are closed.