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Reactions to Goldstone report highlight gaps in stance on human rights

Sept. 17, 2009 1:04 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 19, 2009 10:43 A.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel dismissed, condemned and declared itself immune to the recently released Goldstone report for the UN Human Rights Council this week, while Palestinian rights organizations focus on the ramifications of the report, and the war it examined.

Operation Cast Lead was directed at both the armed elements in Gaza responsible for projectile launches toward Israel and “on the people of Gaza as a whole,” a coalition of human rights organizations in the Palestinian territories said in a joint statement Wednesday.

The coalition made the comments in response to the UN-mandated fact finding mission report around war crimes and human rights violations committed during the Israeli offensive in December and January.

The UN-mandated Goldstone report, released Tuesday, concluded that war crimes were committed by both the Israeli military and armed elements in Gaza. The report refuted the claim that the actions of armed factions in the Strip justified Israel’s response.

Israel noted that this “failure” to produce a justification for Israel’s disproportionate actions in Gaza led the Israeli President Shimon Peres to demonize the fact finding mission and the subsequent 700 page document as a “mockery of history.”

In sharp contrast to Israel’s dismissive response to the report, the coalition of 13 human rights organizations “welcomed” the document. They focused on the “importance of the recommendations … for the restoration of justice to the victims of Israel’s offensive attack, Operation Cast Lead.”

The human rights coalition agreed with the report’s recommendation to further “emphasize the need for accountability, whether it is through the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, referring the situation to the International Criminal Court, or by States fulfilling their obligations to bring perpetrators to account under universal jurisdiction.”

Peres’ response went so far as to praise his military’s role in the region saying, “IDF operations enabled economic prosperity in the West Bank, relieved southern Lebanese citizens from the terror of Hezbollah and have enabled Gazans to have normal lives again.”

Yet, the UN-mandated Fact Finding Mission found sufficient evidence to make indictments for crimes against humanity.

The Palestinian human rights coalition commented that “normal relations cannot be conducted with States that have committed and continue to commit serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including crimes against humanity.”

“The reality of Israel’s longstanding occupation of Palestinian land was graphically illustrated by the events of Operation Cast Lead.”

“As long as individuals and States are allowed to act with impunity, they will continue to violate international law and civilians will continue to suffer the horrific consequences.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued Peres’ dismissive trend, this time suggesting Israel was above the call to respect human rights based on its self-declared mandate to propagate the “war on terror.” Netanyahu appealed to international bigwigs the USA and Russia, saying that if the UN Human Rights Council brought Israel before the International Criminal Court, the US and Russia would be hampered in their own wars on terrorism.

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