Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Goldstone Report on the Israeli incursion into Gaza

Israel claims self-defense, but Gaza incursion was a war crime.

Palm Beach County Democratic officials ignored overwhelming evidence of Israeli war crimes in Gaza by disinviting Rep. Dennis Kucinich as their keynote Truman-Kennedy-Johnson Dinner speaker.

Efforts to malign the report of Justice Richard Goldstone into Israeli and Hamas war crimes last winter are irresponsible and highlight the growing sense of Israeli exceptionalism - international law applies to others but not to Israel. The 344-36 House vote last month condemning the Goldstone Report, which encourages Israel and Hamas to conduct "credible" independent investigations of war crimes, may help Israeli leaders avoid prosecution in the short term. But American backing for Israeli lawlessness ­- and the devastating siege of Gaza - does American interests in the world no good.

Palm Beach County defenders of Israel's Gaza onslaught cite self-defense. The principle underlies Israel's argument for the war and is central to the American rejection of Goldstone. Absent self-defense, political and military officials in Israel are subject to charges that go beyond those in the Goldstone Report, including the crime of war of aggression. However, the self-defense claim is inconsistent with both fact and law.

Within weeks of the Egyptian-brokered June 2008 cease-fire agreement, Hamas rocket fire halted. According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the cease-fire was so successful that it brought "normal life" and "calm" back to Israeli towns near Gaza. The ministry even lauded Hamas in July 2008: "On several occasions, Hamas members have arrested Fatah operatives who were involved in firing at Israel and confiscated their arms."

According to The New York Times, calm prevailed until Israeli forces broke the cease-fire agreement on Nov. 4, 2008. While the world's gaze turned that day to a historic American election, Israel attacked Gaza, killing six Hamas members and catapulting the region into a renewed wave of violent hostilities. Hamas rocket fire followed.

Two weeks later, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak admitted that "the recent waves of rocket attacks are a result of our operations, which have resulted in the killing of 20 Hamas gunmen." Still, Hamas offered to reinstate and extend the cease-fire on Dec. 23. Instead, Israel four days later launched a gruesome aerial offensive against Gaza. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni even boasted that Israel was "going wild - and this is a good thing."

Israeli forces targeted schools, hospitals, factories, the only flour mill in Gaza, an egg farm, thousands of private homes, government buildings and Palestinian civilians. The Goldstone Report concluded, "While the Israeli government has sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercise of its right to self-defense, the mission considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a different target: the people of Gaza as a whole."

Rep. Kucinich may be persona non grata in Palm Beach County, but international law, human rights, and common decency are on his side. These are the very principles that usually inspire Palm Beach County Democrats when Israel isn't involved.

Source: The Institute for Middle East Understanding

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