Always good when popular pressure forces a politician to do the right thing. In this case, the right thing is to discuss and act on the Goldstone report, which detailed possible Israeli and Hamas war crimes during Israel’s invasion of Gaza last December and January. West Bank president Mahmoud Abbas reversed an earlier stance (purchased by the U.S.) to delay action, and now supports getting the report discussed on Wednesday by the Security Council and then referred to the UN Human Rights Council:
Criticism forces Abbas to harden stance
October 12, 2009
. . . Many Palestinians were outraged when [Abbas] shook hands with Mr Netanyahu at an encounter arranged by US president Barack Obama on the sidelines of opening of the UN General Assembly.
Mr Abbas had said that he would not meet or negotiate with Mr Netanyahu until he agreed to freeze all Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Under US political and financial pressure, Mr Abbas capitulated to what a Palestinian observer called a “$200 million handshake,”referring to the amount the US pledged for PA budgetary support by the end of the year.
Outrage became fury when the PA agreed to postpone endorsement by the UN Human Rights Council of a report on crimes committed during Israel’s war on Gaza earlier this year.
Palestinian economy minister Bassem Khoury resigned in protest, other PA figures called the decision a mistake, and Palestinians staged a rally in Ramallah. . . .
. . . In an attempt to limit damage over the Goldstone report, Mr Abbas instructed the PA delegation in Geneva and the Palestinian observer at UN to press for an early discussion in either the Human Rights Council or the Security Council of the 575-page document, which provides evidence of Israeli and, to a lesser extent, Hamas war crimes.
Fearing involvement of the International Criminal Court, Israel has threatened to pull out of US-brokered talks if the Goldstone report is endorsed and its recommendations are adopted.
Though it won’t be as effective as human rights activists wish, especially not in the U.S., displaying Israeli immorality and criminality to the world is still the most promising path for international resistance to take. At least it gets real results (a series of diplomatic and popular blows against Israel are listed in “Israel-Turkey relations hit new low“), and the real results would mount if Israel continues on its present path. In addition, campaigning for basic human rights in Palestine and against war criminality on both sides is so obviously right and fair-minded that even members of the Israeli home team are swayed (see British UN ambassador in article below). Maybe even more so when the main argument against justice is ‘you/they did it too’:
Israeli officials warn against support for UN report
October 11, 2009
A jittery Israeli government reacted furiously yesterday after a top British diplomat voiced support for aspects of a UN report that could lead to prosecution of Israeli army officers for alleged war crimes.
The UK ambassador to the UN, John Sawers, told Israel Army radio that the report on last winter’s Gaza war contains “some very serious details which need to be investigated by both the Palestinian authorities and the Israeli authorities.”
He added that “serious information” in the document gives rise to the suspicion that violations of the laws of war were committed.
The remarks, three days before the report is expected to be raised in the security council at Libya’s behest, highlighted a British position that is rhetorically distinct from that of Washington, which has been strongly backing an Israeli campaign to scuttle the report on the grounds it is biased.
Mr. Sawers took issue with the prevalent Israeli idea that the commission headed by South African judge Richard Goldstone had reached its conclusions in advance of its research. “This investigation was led by a serious figure, Richard Goldstone, a South African Jew with long experience in justice. It’s not as if he was in any way biased,” he said.
Israeli officials warned in response that any British support for the report would boomerang. If a precedent is set of Israelis being prosecuted for acts during the Gaza war, Britons could also be placed in the dock for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, they said. “London, which is also in the midst of a war against terror, could find itself in handcuffs if it supports the document,” they said.
The report issued last month said that both Israel and Hamas were guilty of war crimes during the conflict in which nearly 1400 Palestinians and thirteen Israelis died. It said the Israeli military had proven unable to investigate itself and recommended the war crimes allegations be referred to the International Criminal Court if “good faith investigations” were not underway within six months.
The Jerusalem Post, probably accurately, explains why Sawers is standing against war criminality:
. . . The feeling in Jerusalem was that Sawers’s remarks were not random off-the cuff comments, but were actually reflective of British government thinking. There was a sense that the British, themselves involved in a nasty war against terrorism, realize that supporting this document could handcuff them down the road, but they also realize that the US would almost certainly veto any Security Council resolution on the matter. In other words, London could curry favor with the Arab and Muslim countries by supporting the report, knowing full well that in the final analysis the US would step in, do their “dirty work,” and veto the resolution before it could harm British interests.
Sawers will become head of Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency next month.
Finally, and maybe it’s wishful thinking, but it would be nice, in honor of his Nobel Prize, if Obama would not veto referring the Goldstone report to the UN Human Rights Council. If it really was given to him prospectively, it’s time to start earning it. Haroon Siddiqui writes:
Nobel Prize puts pressure on Barack Obama and Israel
By Haroon Siddiqui
Sunday, Oct 11 2009
The Nobel Peace Prize was always political, in the positive sense. The awards to Desmond Tutu, Yitzhak Rabin/Yasser Arafat, José Ramos-Horta of East Timor, Shirin Ebadi of Iran, etc. were meant to advance peace and other causes.
Barack Obama’s efforts at dragging America back into multilateralism, rebuilding bridges to the Arab/Muslim world, looking for a light at the end of the Afghan tunnel, trying for peace in the Middle East, etc. can use the Nobel to overcome his detractors. No wonder they are being so bilious.
Being honoured for defending the rule of law should also help him ease the U.S. from protecting Israel despite its flouting of international norms.
Take the recent Richard Goldstone report that said Israel and Hamas committed war crimes in Gaza. Instead of heeding his findings, Israel and the U.S. have been slinging mud at the highly respected South African jurist and former prosecutor of war crimes in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, who also happens to be a committed Zionist.
The smear job was followed by American strong-arm tactics to derail his report from the UN Human Rights Council, the Geneva-based body that had commissioned it. Mahmoud Abbas was pressured into spearheading a postponement until March.
But the report won’t go away. It has been forced onto the agenda of the Security Council for Wednesday by Libya, the only Arab state currently on the 15-member body. Even if the initiative had come from a respectable member, the outcome probably would still be the same: a U.S. veto against any meaningful action.
But post-Nobel, such a vote would be embarrassing for Obama (he has already backed off his earlier call for Israel to freeze illegal Jewish settlements). And his grand declarations of building bridges to the Muslim world would begin to sound hollow.
_Beginning_ to sound hollow? In a year that began with Obama approving of Israel’s invasion and crippling embargo of Gaza, Siddiqui is bending over backward trying to sound ‘mainstream’.