South African judge Richard Goldstone. Photo by Alex Catalan
Stephen Lendman, 6 April 2011
The line from Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafor explains, saying: “Things are seldom as they seem. Skim milk masquerades as cream.”
Goldstone’s shameless reversal exposes the true man, a Judas, not what most people believed. Why is at issue? More on that below.
Two previous articles articles discussed his retraction, accessed through the following links:
On April 1, his Washington Post op-ed headlined, “Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes,” saying:
“Our report found evidence potential war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity by both Israel and Hamas.” The latter ones, in fact, were minor by comparison, responding only to Israeli provocations.
Israel’s, however, “were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where….evidence (pointed to no) other reasonable conclusion.”
However, dismissing irrefutable evidence, his and other inquiries uncovered, Goldstone softened his initial condemnation, ignoring how all Israeli investigations whitewash crimes of war and against humanity.
According to PCHR:
“Rather than uphold the rule of law, the Israeli investigative and judicial system is artfully manipulated to provide an illusion of investigative and judicial rigour, while systematically perpetuating pervasive impunity” for crimes too extreme to ignore.
Most often, in fact, investigations are avoided, Israel undertaking them only under extreme pressure. When initiated, however, absolution follows every time without exception, no matter how extreme or heinous the crimes. Only occasionally, however, are a few low-ranking soldiers charged minor offenses to distract from major ones.
As a result, IDF Chief of Staff, General Gabi Ashkenazi’s investigation concluded that “throughout the fighting in Gaza, the IDF operated in accordance with international law.”
In fact, daily crimes of war and against humanity were committed, mostly affecting civilian men, women and children. They were deliberately targeted in residential neighborhoods in clear violation of international law, prohibiting attacks against non-combatants and non-military related sites.
Under the Hague Regulations of 1907, Fourth Geneva, Geneva’s Common Article III, and other international laws, civilians are protected persons. So is civilian property. Attacking them is prohibited. War crimes are clearly defined. The principles of distinction and proportionality also apply:
– distinction between combatants and military targets v. civilians and non-military ones; attacking latter ones are war crimes except when civilians take direct part in hostilities; and
– proportionality prohibits disproportionate, indiscriminate force likely to cause damage to or loss of lives and objects.
Moreover, precautions must be taken to avoid and minimize incidental loss of civilian lives, injuries to them, and damage to non-military sites. Under Fourth Geneva, they must be given “effective advance warning” and “neutralized zones” where they can be as safe as possible.
Fourth Geneva also prohibits collective punishment; the use of human shields; private property destruction; torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; denying the population adequate amounts of food and medical supplies; and assuring free passage of all “consignments” intended for civilian purposes.
Under international law, Israel willfully and repeatedly commits grievous crimes of war and against humanity. Justice demands those responsible be prosecuted. Material below on Cast Lead explains why.
Illegal White Phosphorous and Flechette Shells Used
Israeli forces used these and other illegal weapons in densely populated residential areas. Flechettes are 4cm-long metal darts used as anti-personnel weapons that can penetrate human bone and inflict horrific injuries. One artillery shell contains from 5,000 – 8,000 of them. After firing, the shell ruptures, releasing them at high speed in a funnel-shaped pattern over a range of about 300 meters.
White phosphorous is a flammable chemical used both incendiary weapon and smoke screen. When exposed to air, it spontaneously ignites and keeps burning until either all of it is consumed or it’s deprived of oxygen. On human flesh it causes severe second and third degree chemical burns that are extremely hard to treat, as well as suffocation, convulsions, severe eye pain and inhalation complications.
Head of Al-Shifa Hospital’s burn unit, Dr. Nafez Abu Sha’gan, said persons were admitted with “severe burns due to which (their) muscles and body cells (were) completely destroyed.” In some cases, amputations were necessary. Others sustained fractures, internal hemorrhaging, and three patients died after surgery.
Using Civilians as Human Shields, Holding Others in Their Homes as Hostages
Fourth Geneva’s Article 28 and Article 8(2)(b) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court explicitly prohibit both practices. Yet Israeli troops repeatedly forced civilians to walk in front of them as they searched houses. They also held them involuntarily during clashes with Palestinian resistance fighters. Others were subjected to various humiliations and cruel treatment in their homes.
Attacking Medical Crews and Humanitarian Relief Personnel
Dozens were killed or wounded. Many of the injured were denied health care. As a result, dozens bled to death in close proximity to soldiers. Medical personnel, ambulances, and fire fighters were prevented from helping them. In total, two doctors, five paramedics and one driver were killed. Another 50 were wounded. Shelling destroyed or heavily damaged dozens of hospitals and medical centers.
Fourth Geneva’s Articles 14 – 23 explicitly protect medical personnel and facilities. Article 20 states:
“persons regularly and solely engaged in the operation and administration of civilian hospitals, including the personnel engaged in the search for, removal and transporting of and caring for wounded and sick civilians, the infirm and maternity cases, shall be respected and protected.”
Israel’s non-compliance caused widespread suffering throughout Gaza, especially affecting those who lost loved ones or were denied proper treatment for their wounds. Many died as a result.
Targeting Journalists and the Mass Media
International human rights laws protect journalists as civilians and ensure their right of free expression, opinion, access to information, and freedom to report it. Nonetheless, Israeli forces fired indiscriminately at them, killed two, wounded nine more, detained others, shelled five media offices, and denied international journalists access to Gaza for a month before the war and throughout hostilities by declaring the Strip a closed military zone.
Attacking Educational Institutions
The attacks were heavy enough to bring the entire educational sector to a halt, depriving half a million students one month’s education or more. Many of them and their teachers were also killed, many others wounded, and public, private, and UNRWA schools were either partially or entirely destroyed. Universities were also attacked with the same disturbing results.
Violations of the Right to Life
Israeli attacks killed or wounded many children and young men and women at school, including on the offensive’s first day when air strikes coincided with the end of the first school day shift and beginning of the second when most students were on Gaza’s streets.
HIgher educational institutions were also struck, damaged and in some cases heavily. Included were the Islamic University, al-Azhar University’s Faculty of Agriculture in Beit Hanoun, the University College for Applied Sciences, al-Aqsa University, Palestine University, al-Quds Open University and the College of Science and Technology.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), Union of Agriculture Relief Committees, al-Karama Society for Children of Martyrs, Union of Medical Care Committees, and other NGO and charitable groups were directly targeted and heavily damaged.
Arrests, Torture, and Other Forms of Cruel and Abusive Treatment
Israeli forces made large numbers of arbitrary arrests, transferred those seized to detention facilities, and subjected them to harsh torture and abuse, including beatings, exposure to severe cold, starvation, and sleep deprivation. Most of those arrested were civilians taken from houses stormed by Israeli troops, including children and the elderly, some of whom were used as human shields.
Destruction of Civilian Facilities
Ones targeted, destroyed or damaged included government buildings, homes, businesses, mosques, hospitals and medical clinics, graveyards, schools, media institutions, agricultural land, irrigation networks, fishing harbors and boats, animal and bird farms, beehives, sports clubs, and more.
The destruction of houses and residential buildings created an unprecedented state of forced migration, affecting 450,000 Palestinian civilians forced to seek shelter. In fact, thousands of families lost everything – their homes, property, personal belongings, identity cards, passports, birth certificates, and worst of all husbands, wives, children and other extended family members.
Destruction of Government Ministries, Local Councils, and Other Facilities
Attacks targeted the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) building, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Planning, Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, police stations and compounds, municipality structures, and numerous other facilities.
Infrastructure affected included main and secondary roads, water and sewage networks, power transformers, high and low pressure power networks, communication networks, and more, causing serious disruptions to vitally needed services.
Economic Infrastructure Destruction
The entire economy was devastated, compounding the many months under siege, including a total import and export ban. Yet air and ground attacks destroyed industrial, agricultural, commercial, tourist, service and construction facilities, including concrete and brick factories and material storage facilities. It was pre-planned, systematic, and illegal under international law. As a result, the entire economy, already reeling under siege, was decimated.
Destruction of Cultural Property
Included were archaeological buildings, museums, historic sites, religious ones, ancient buildings, heritage centers, the Tourism and Antiquities Ministry, and more such as invaluable art works, manuscripts, books, and other objects of historic, cultural, religious or scientific value.
Aggravating an Already Severe Humanitarian Crisis
Already in dire need, the conflict caused a far greater crisis, leaving many thousands of Gazans without essentials for their health, well-being or safety. Most lacked everything, including enough food, medical care, shelter, clean water, power, and virtually everything normal societies need. Extreme poverty and unemployment made it worse under near impossible conditions.
Targeting Humanitarian Organizations and Personnel
Ones struck were distributing food, medicines, fuel, blankets, and other essentials. In addition, basic services providing water, sanitation, power and much more were disrupted or destroyed.
All of the above was deliberate, in clear violation of international law, including willfully targeting non-combatant men, women, and children. Goldstone knows it, yet shamelessly backtracked in his Washington Post op-ed. Clearly, he was either bribed, co-opted, or coerced to do it, sacrificing his own reputation in the process. As a result, he’ll no longer be believed, respected or trusted. The price of betrayal is condemnation and ostracism.
The Power of the Israeli Lobby
In his important 2006 book titled, “The Power of Israel in the United States,” James Petras brilliantly explained its influence on US policy. It extends to the highest levels of government, the business community, academia, the clergy, the mass media, Hollywood, and as Edward Said once said about the Senate: Virtually “the entire (body) can be marshaled in a matter of hours into” coming together for Israel. Nearly the entire House as well. In addition, the Lobby exerts great influence over foreign governments and institutions, notably in the West.
Key is in the high proportion of Jewish families among the wealthiest and most dominant in America. Included are billionaires and many others who’ve created a “tyranny of Israel over the US” with consequences grave enough to threaten world peace, security, the global economy, and democracy’s future in America and elsewhere.
Given that extreme power, it’s no surprise how easily Goldstone and others can be co-opted. As a result, Israel literally gets away with mass murder. It also receives more US assistance than all other nations combined, and special privileges with it, including:
– billions of dollars in annual aid;
– the latest weapons and technology;
– low or no interest loans;
– some simply waived and not repaid;
– additional monetary aid as requested;
– unrestricted US market access for its products and services;
– free entry of its immigrants;
– guaranteed Security Council vetoes for resolutions unfavorable to its interests;
– freedom to operate covertly inside America, including on US military bases; and
– Washington’s unconditional partnership in aggressive wars against Palestine, Lebanon and other targets.
Even when harming US interests, Israel gets what it wants because Zionist power extends well beyond the Lobby. Petras explains it includes a:
“complex network of interrelated formal and informal groups, operating at the international, national, regional, and local levels,” unconditionally supporting Israeli occupation, aggressive wars, and slow-motion genocide in Gaza.
On April 1, overlooking inconvenient facts, including his own investigation, Goldstone capitulated, selling his soul to the power of wrong over right, at the expense of his honor, character, dignity, and high-mindedness, erased in a single op-ed too late to retract.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.