UN Goldstone Report Accuses Israel of War Crimes in GazaThe 575-page report accuses the Israeli army of the deliberate killing of Palestinian civilians among other accusations of war crimes. US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the UN resolution had "an unbalanced focus and we're concerned that it will exacerbate polarization and divisiveness."
October 17, 2009
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged a "lengthy fight" against a United Nations report as the UK and France express support for Israel to “defend” itself.
"We are now setting out to delegitimize those who try to delegitimize us. We will not tolerate it and we will respond on a case by case basis," Netanyahu told a special ministerial forum Friday night.The forum was held following the decision by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to send the Goldstone report on Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip to the Security Council.
The rights assembly also adopted a resolution condemning Israel for the 22-day war in late 2008 against the Palestinians, which left at least 1,300 people dead.
The resolution has put Israel on the spotlight as leaders in Tel Aviv are facing growing international pressure.
In a letter to the Israeli premier, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy supported Israel's right to defend itself against 'terror'.
The two leaders also urged "independent, transparent investigation of Gaza events," Ynet reported.
France and Britain abstained from voting on the Goldstone report.
The 575-page report, written by South African war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone and three other international experts, accuses the Israeli army of the deliberate killing of Palestinian civilians among other accusations of war crimes.
US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said that the endorsement per se did not necessarily mean that the Security Council will indeed review the report.
Kelly said the resolution had "an unbalanced focus and we're concerned that it will exacerbate polarization and divisiveness."
October 15, 2009
Diplomats mainly from the Islamic world used the monthly session of the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to criticize Israel by citing a U.N. report charging Israel and Hamas with war crimes.
"The pursuit of accountability would, in the long term, better serve the cause of peace," said Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki.Israel responded that the report in question, by South African Judge Richard Goldstone, denied it the right of self-defense.
At issue is Judge Goldstone's report on the Dec. 27-Jan. 18 Israeli offensive on Gaza, in response to Palestinian rocket fire on Israeli cities.
The report said both sides committed possible war crimes against civilians.
The Goldstone report was commissioned by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, which will begin its own debate on the report Thursday.
At least a half-dozen speakers on Wednesday demanded that Israel be referred to the International Criminal Court, which hears cases of global significance when the relevant countries are unable to undertake their own prosecutions.
Israel has not signed onto the court statute, meaning that the only way the United Nations can refer the Goldstone report to the court is through the Security Council.
U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the U.N. Alejandro Wolff criticized the report as unbalanced and said the debate should be held at the Human Rights Council in Geneva and not the Security Council.
Chief U.N. political adviser Lynn Pascoe urged Israel to conduct its own independent investigation into charges made in the report and elsewhere.
"Now, more than ever, it is vital that politics is made credible, and those who try to undermine politics by changing facts on the ground or resorting to violence are not allowed to set the agenda," Mr. Pascoe told the council.Israel's U.N. ambassador, Gabriela Shalev, rejected the report, saying the Goldstone team "was given too wide a mandate, and failed to fully respect any government's right to protect its people."
"If we do not go forward decisively towards the two-state solution, we may go back to more violence, suffering and the loss of hope," he said.
Israel refused to receive the Goldstone team and did not cooperate with its investigation.
Gaza, Ms. Shalev said, was now occupied by the Islamic militant group Hamas, "an organization that has launched attacks from within schools, mosques and hospitals."
Estimates of the Gaza death toll run as high as 1,400, but a key issue is civilian casualties among Palestinians. Israel estimates the civilian death toll at 295, while the Palestinians put the number at 926.
Thirteen Israelis died during the war.
October 14, 2009
Israel came under pressure from its Western allies on Wednesday to launch credible investigations into U.N. allegations of possible war crimes by its army during the war in the Gaza Strip.
The United States, Britain and France all said the Jewish state should look into findings published last month by a U.N. mission led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone.
Goldstone accused Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas of war crimes during the December-January war in Gaza. Both Israel and Hamas rejected the charges in his report, which is more critical of Israel than Hamas.
At a U.N. Security Council debate on the Middle East that was not expected to take action, Israel's U.N. ambassador, Gabriela Shalev, dismissed the report as a waste of the council's time, saying the 575-page document "favors and legitimizes terrorism."
Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Alejandro Wolff said Washington had serious concerns about the report, including what he said was its "unbalanced focus on Israel." But he repeated the U.S. view that Israel should look into it.
"We take the allegations in the report seriously," he told the council. "Israel has the institutions and the ability to carry out serious investigations of these allegations and we encourage it to do so."Wolff said Hamas was a "terrorist organization" that was neither willing nor able to investigate its own behavior. Hamas -- the de facto ruler of Gaza -- does not recognize Israel's right to exist.
Goldstone's report called for the Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court in The Hague if the Israelis or the Palestinians fail to take up the issue.
Discussion of the report during the council's monthly Middle East debate was a compromise the United States reluctantly accepted. Washington had opposed discussing it in New York, saying it was a matter for the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, or HRC, which commissioned the report.
The rights council will discuss the report again on Thursday. Washington joined the HRC earlier this year, vowing to change from within a U.N. body that Washington and Israel have criticized as anti-Israeli.
British Ambassador John Sawers called on Israel to launch proper investigations into the charges outlined in the report.
"We note that the Israeli Defense Force has already conducted and is continuing to conduct a number of investigations," Sawers said. "However, concerns remain."French Ambassador Gerard Araud urged both sides to initiate "independent inquiries in line with international standards."
"We urge the Israeli government to carry out full, credible and impartial investigations into the allegations," he added.
U.N. Undersecretary-General Lynn Pascoe told the council that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also wanted "credible domestic investigations" based on the Goldstone report.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said the Palestinian Authority took allegations of wrongdoing by Hamas militants seriously.
But Malki said the Palestinians "reject any equating of the occupying power's aggression and crimes with actions committed in response by the Palestinian side." He added that his government supported "domestic investigations."
Malki's West Bank-based government has tense relations with Hamas, which seized power in June 2007 in the Gaza Strip from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party. Fatah has little influence over Hamas in Gaza.
Israel, which has said the Goldstone commission's mandate was biased and refused to cooperate with it, said there was no point discussing the report in the Security Council.
"By trying to bring this report before a so-called urgent debate in this council, this council's attention was diverted from the reality in our region," Shalev said.Quoting Shakespeare's "Macbeth," Shalev said such a debate was "a tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Speaking to reporters after addressing the 15-nation council, Shalev went further.
"We cannot resume the peace process as long as this (report) is on the table," she said, echoing comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.