The UN fact finding mission on the Israeli attack on Gaza from Dec 27th 2008 to Jan 18th 2009, aka "The Goldstone Report" was released on September 15th 2009. Initially the scope of the investigation was limited to violations of international and human rights law by Israeli forces alone. The official wording was:
to dispatch an urgent, independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Council, to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression, and calls upon Israel not to obstruct the process of investigation and to fully cooperate with the mission.Given that it was patently obvious to the entire planet (or most of it) that Israel unilaterally bombed the hell out of the Gazan population for over three weeks killing 1000 civilians, among them 400 children, (4 Israeli civilians were killed) the above wording seemed reasonable. But Israel has never paid much attention to what the world thinks or knows, and even after the scope was expanded to include:
all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.Israel still balked and refused to co-operate with the investigative team, blocking their entrance to Gaza from Israel. Even the appointment of South African judge Richard Goldstone, a devout Jew and fervent defender of Israel's "right to peace and security", to head the investigation was not enough for the Zionist zealots.
What the Israeli government seemed incapable of grasping was that the result of the investigation would be determined not a priori by its statement of mandate but a posteriori by the evidence. Israeli officials had full freedom to present their case before the investigative team. The problem of course is that when it comes to objective data and the truth about the Israel/Palestine conflict, the Israeli government's arguments consistently collapse into defenseive mode.
When all the deputations and depositions had been heard, the report was released. It's main finding was that:
the Israel Defence Force (IDF) and Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. While the report condemned violations by both sides, it more strongly criticized Israeli actions.The details of these "war crimes" by both the IDF and Palestinian armed groups were:
Blockade of Gaza allegations
The Israeli military action was directed at the Gaza population as a whole. The Gaza blockade represents the continuance of an overall policy of disproportionate force aimed at collective punishment. The report read, "Families are still living amid the rubble of their former homes after the attacks ended, as reconstruction has been impossible due to the continuing blockade (of Gaza by Israel)".
Civilian targeting allegations
The report disputed Israel's claim that the Gaza war was conducted in response to rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, saying that the war was targeted against the "people of Gaza as a whole." The report exact words were that Israel's military assault on Gaza was designed to "humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability".
Al-Maqadmah mosque incident
In the incident, the report stated that the Israelis intentionally bombed the al-Maqadmah mosque on the outskirts of Jabilyah when between two and three hundred men and women were inside during evening prayers, killing fifteen of them. Goldstone said, "Assuming that weapons were stored in the mosque, it would not be a war crime to bomb it at night... It would be a war crime to bomb it during the day when 350 people are praying".
The report focused on 36 cases that it said constituted a representative sample. In 11 of these episodes, it said the Israeli military carried out direct attacks against civilians, including some in which civilians were shot "while they were trying to leave their homes to walk to a safer place, waving white flags". According to the report, other alleged war crimes committed by the IDF included the "wanton" destruction of food production, water and sewerage facilities. The report also asserts that some attacks, which were supposedly aimed to kill small numbers of combatants amidst significant numbers of civilians, were disproportionate.
The report concluded that Israel violated the Fourth Geneva Convention by targeting civilians, which it labeled "a grave breach".
According to the investigation by the mission members, based on interviews with family members, neighbors, Palestinian Red Crescent personnel, submissions from various NGOs and visits to the site, a hundred members of the extended al-Samouni family were gathered together in one house after the fighting in the area was over, ordered there by Israeli soldiers patrolling their Gaza neighborhood of Zeytoun as part of the ground phase of the Gaza War. When five men stepped out of the house to collect firewood, a missile hit them - fired, possibly, from an Apache helicopter. Several more missiles followed, this time aimed directly at the house. In all, 21 family members were killed, including women and children. When the surviving al-Samounis attempted to leave and make their way to Gaza City, they were told by an Israeli soldier to return to the house.
Al-Fakhura school incident
The report says that IDF's mortar shelling near the United Nations-run Al-Fakhura school in the Jabaliya refugee camp, which was sheltering some 1300 people, killed 35 and wounded up to 40 people. The investigation did not exclude the possibility that Israeli forces were responding to fire from an armed Palestinian group, as Israel claimed, but said that this and similar attacks "cannot meet the test of what a reasonable commander would have determined to be an acceptable loss of civilian life for the military advantage sought". The mission criticized IDF for the choice of weapons for the supposed counterstrike and concluded that the IDF strike at the Al-Fakhura street violated the law of proportionality.
White phosphorus allegations
The report found that Israeli forces had been systematically reckless in their use of white phosphorus. Its authors highlighted the Israeli attack on the UN Relief and Works Agency compound in Gaza City on 15 January, the attack on the Al Quds hospital, and the attack on the Al Wafa hospital, each of which involved the use of white phosphorus. They described its use as disproportionate or excessive under international law. More generally, the UN report recommended that "serious consideration should be given to banning the use of white phosphorus in built-up areas."
Human shields allegations
The report also accused Israel of using Palestinians as "human shields" and torturing detainees. These barbaric practices are not unique to the Gaza war, but this is the first time Israel has been formally cited for such behaviour. The revolting irony here is that Israel explained away the high number of civilian casualties by accusing the Palestinian armed groups of using the population as "human shields."
I'll stop there. Naturally there were many more incidents where Israeli forces deliberately targeted and murdered civilians on the way to reaching the total of at least 1000 dead, but the above gives a general idea of the way the IDF troops and air force conducted themselves.
Of course, it would not be in keeping with the (revised ) mandate and scope of the investigation if I left out the details of those "war crimes" committed by Palestinian armed groups. So here they are, or rather here it is:
The report also stated there is evidence that Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity by deliberately launching rockets and firing mortars into Israel, calculated to kill civilians and damage civilian structures. The report accused Palestinian armed groups of causing psychological trauma to the civilians within the range of the rockets. It also concluded that killings and abuses of members of the Fatah political movement amount to a "serious violation of human rights."That's it, one paragraph. Four Israeli civilians killed by wayward sugar-fueled rockets apparently amounts to joint complicity by Palestinian groups in war crimes. Sounds rather one-sided, does it not? Even so, Israel was not happy with the final report or the fact that on October 15th the UNHRC endorsed it, a move that may send it on to more powerful UN bodies, like the Security Council, for their consideration. Israeli President Shimon Peres said:
"[the report] makes a mockery of history, it does not distinguish between the aggressor and the defender. War is crime and the attacker is the criminal. The defender has no choice. The Hamas terror organization is the one who started the war and also carried out other awful crimes."Of course, Perez and his ilk would say such things, because lying comes naturally to them. The reality is that, as even Israeli daily newspaper Haartez reported, the attack on Gaza was planned by the Israeli government six months in advance. To kick off proceedings, the Israeli government broke a five-month-long ceasefire with Hamas by assassinating six Hamas officials in Gaza six weeks prior to the attack on November 4th 2008, and then used Hamas's response to justify the attack in December.
True to form, on November 3rd, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed resolution H. Res. 867 (344 for-36 against), calling the report "irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy." And yes, lies come naturally to the majority of members of Congress too, just in case you were wondering.
The Israeli and US complaints notwithstanding, a majority of European nations welcomed the report and it's findings, with even the French and British governments supporting its findings.
Of course, it would not be in keeping with the duplicitous nature of either the Israeli or American governments to take a slap from world opinion lying down. And so, right on cue, like the proverbial bolt from the blue, on November 4th, one day after the Congressional resolution condemning the UN report, Israeli forces just happened to detain, with the help of US intelligence, what they said was a cargo ship loaded with Iranian weapons destined for Syria and Hizb'allah.
Is the fact that this weapons haul happened on the same day that the UN was considering the Goldstone report just an amazing coincidence? Or is it just pure luck? What we can say for sure is that the discovery of a boatload of "Iranian weapons" and the wonderful photo op for the Western media that it provided, was perfectly tailored to distract attention from the damning Goldstone report and refocus it on the US/Israeli message that Iran and Syria and Hizb'allah, and by implication the Palestinian people, are the real problem in the Middle East.
The Israeli ambassador to the U.N. wasted no time in complaining to the United Nations on Thursday that this was "an Iranian attempt to skirt a U.N. arms embargo and supply weapons to the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got in on the act and made it abundantly clear what his point was:
"This is a war crime that the General Assembly meeting today should investigate and discuss," Netanyahu told reporters in Tel Aviv. "It is a war crime that the UN Security Council should have a special meeting over. It explicitly violates Security Council decisions."I believe his point was to stress that this was a "war crime" and - somewhat more subtly - hint that two can play the U.N. game. Of course, the only difference between Netanyahu's "war crime" claim and the Goldstone report is that the Goldstone report is based on objective data while Netanyahu's "boatload of Iranian weapons" evidence bears all the hallmarks of a Mossad operation. In truth, unless he is lying (very possible) Netanyahu seems a little confused about what constitutes a war crime.
"It is a war crime that we know the Iranian regime intended for Hizbullah to carry out after they already fired thousands of rockets at our communities. This is what the international community should focus on especially today," he added.
Israeli government sources claimed that cargo certificates showed the Francop had sailed from Iran and was bound for Syria, from where the weapons would be transferred to Hezbollah in Lebanon. For some unknown reason however, the Israeli military refused to show the documents that would confirm this.
A UNIFIL (UN Interim Force In Lebanon) spokesman said the group considered the charge the weapons were destined for Hezbollah as yet "unproven."
An official with Cyprus-based United Feeder Services told Reuters it had acted as the time charterer and carrier for the Francop, charged with loading and discharging the vessel.
Given that the Israeli government refused to provide the damning cargo certificates that would corroborate their claim that the ship had sailed from Iran, we must assume that they are lying and that the ship and cargo began its journey in Damietta, Egypt.
"The vessel sailed from Damietta (Egypt), and was bound for Limassol, Cyprus and then Lebanon, Turkey and back to Damietta," the official, who declined to be named, said.
"We are not allowed to open up containers to see what is inside," he said. "We do not have much information. We just know that the vessel was seized and was forced to go to Ashdod to check the cargo."
IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi (himself a war criminal) said yesterday that the capture of the Francop was part of an extensive battle.
Speaking at the Kirya army base, he said, "I would like to express my appreciation to the navy men and to the Mossad men. Without them the intelligence would not have been this accurate."
The fact that the Mossad was involved simply serves to increase suspicion that we are dealing with deception and fantasy rather than reality when it comes to the origin of this particular boat load of weapons.
Since the discovery, Hezbollah has staunchly denied any link to the weapons seized from the Francop.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, in a joint press conference with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem, dismissed the Israeli allegations out of hand and stated that the ship was not carrying Iranian-made weaponry for Syria or Lebanon, but was in fact "carrying Syrian-made items for consumption in Iran."
The closest approximation to the truth that can be gleaned here is that either Iran had sold the weapons to Syria, or Syria had sold the weapons to Iran. Either way, there is nothing unlawful about the shipment if we consider the reality of the international arms trade. The white phosphorus that Israel used against Palestinian civilians in Janurary this year was manufactured and sold by the USA. Ten times the amount allegedly snared by the Mossad and the Israeli Navy aboard the Francop was delivered by the US to Israel in the midst of the Israel's war crimes in January. You can be sure that cargo included weapons fresh off the assembly line. The entire Francop arms shipment is nothing more than a propaganda stunt by Israel and the US to distract attention from the recent Goldstone report and the ongoing criminality and illegality of the state of Israel.