x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UN General Assembly to discuss Goldstone report

As Israel's defence minister Ehud Barak resists calls for an investigation into Israel's conduct in its war on Gaza, the United Nations General Assembly is expected to discuss the Goldstone report in early November. Meanwhile, Israeli military officers who visit Europe run the risk of being arrested for war crimes as human rights lawyers gather the names of suspects.

As Israel's defence minister Ehud Barak resists calls for an investigation into Israel's conduct in its war on Gaza, the United Nations General Assembly is expected to discuss the Goldstone report in early November. Agence France Presse reported: "The UN General Assembly is to discuss in early November the Goldstone report that accuses Israel and Palestinian militants of war crimes in Gaza, an Arab diplomat said Monday. " 'The Arab group is requesting that the report... be debated in the General Assembly in early November,' said Arab League representative Yahya Mahmassani, who was conveying the request in a letter to Assembly president Ali Triki. "Discussions would definitely now go ahead 'probably on November 4,' Mahmassani told AFP. "He said the Arab League's intention was to propose the General Assembly pass a resolution approving the Goldstone report and 'requesting the (UN) Security Council to take it' up in formal debate." The National said: "Israeli military officers who took part in Israel's incursion of the Gaza Strip last winter may need to think twice before travelling to Europe. "Israeli media reported yesterday that human rights lawyers in the European Union are drawing up lists of names of Israeli military commanders alleged to be linked to war crimes committed in Gaza. The lawyers are hoping that the evidence they are collecting, including testimonies from Palestinians, will prompt countries such as Britain, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway to arrest those Israelis linked to possible war violations who arrive on their soil. "The reports come as Israel is forging a battle against international efforts to bring it before a war crimes tribunal for its actions during the 22-day assault in the Gaza Strip in December and January." The Jerusalem Post reported that the office of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu "formally announced on Tuesday the establishment of a committee to consider various ways to deal with the allegations in the Goldstone report on Operation Cast Lead, even while reiterating that IDF officers and soldiers will not be questioned. "The committee will be made up of Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz; IDF Judge Advocate General Brig Gen Avichai Mandelblit; the Foreign Ministry's legal adviser Ehud Kenan, the Defence Ministry's legal adviser Ahaz Ben-Ari, and Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser. "The committee is to submit its recommendations to Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak in a 'short period,' and then if necessary - according to a PMO statement - the recommendations will be taken to the cabinet for approval. "It is widely assumed that this body will name a judicial figure to head a panel that will review the internal IDF investigations of alleged wrongdoings in Gaza, and determine whether those investigations - some which have been completed, and some which are still ongoing - were sufficiently thorough." Ynet said: "The Goldstone report is trying to impair Israel's legitimacy and ties its hands in regards to future activities, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Monday... "In response to his faction members' demands to give in to international pressure to set up an inquiry commission to probe Operation cast Lead, Barak said during the Labour faction's weekly meeting, 'The left is acting like a small child, that says, 'I want peace'. This is the difference between a child and an adult. The child says: I want candy here and now, and the adult must understand the entirety of the considerations and understand who is on the other side.' "The first to raise the subject was Industry, Trade and Labour Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who said, 'We must make some kind of move of self-examination. We don't have to examine the soldiers, but we must probe what occurred. Our situation in the world is deteriorating. We must take someone accepted like (former Supreme Court Justice Meir Shamgar), that can be trusted.' Minister Yitzhak Herzog, Avishay Braverman and Orit Noked agreed." The Israeli commentator and former Knesset member, Uri Avnery, wrote: "Among all the members of our political, military and media establishments who are now suggesting an 'inquiry', there is no one - literally not one - who means by that a real investigation. The aim is to deceive the Goyim [non-Jews] and get them to shut up. "Actually, Israeli law lays down clear guidelines for such investigations. The government decides to set up a commission of investigation. The president of the Supreme Court then appoints the members of the commission. The commission can compel witnesses to testify. Anybody who may be damaged by its conclusions must be warned and given the opportunity to defend themself. Its conclusions are binding. "This law has an interesting history. Sometime in the 50s, David Ben-Gurion demanded the appointment of a 'judicial committee of inquiry' to decide who gave the orders for the 1954 'security mishap', also known as the Lavon Affair. (A false flag operation where an espionage network composed of local Jews was activated to bomb American and British offices in Egypt, in order to cause friction between Egypt and the Western powers. The perpetrators were caught.) "Ben-Gurion's request was denied, under the pretext that there was no law for such a procedure. Furious, Ben-Gurion resigned from the government and left his party. In one of the stormy party sessions, the Minister of Justice, Yaakov Shimshon Shapira, called Ben-Gurion a 'fascist'. But Shapira, an old Russian Jew, regretted his outburst later. He drafted a special law for the appointment of Commissions of Investigation in the future. After lengthy deliberations in the Knesset (in which I took an active part) the law was adopted and has since been applied, notably in the case of the Sabra and Shatila massacre." In Haaretz, Aluf Benn said: "I want to know how and why it was decided to embark on Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip and to expand it into a ground offensive. I want to know if the decisions were affected by the Israeli election campaign then underway and the change in US presidents. I want to know if the leaders who launched the operation correctly judged the political damage it would cause Israel and what they did to minimise it. I want to know if those who gave orders to the Israel Defence Forces assumed that hundreds of Palestinian civilians would be killed, and how they tried to prevent this. "These questions should be at the centre of an investigation into Operation Cast Lead. An investigation is necessary because of the political complexities that resulted from the operation, the serious harm to Palestinian civilians, the Goldstone report and its claims of war crimes, and the limits that will be imposed on the IDF's freedom of operation in the future. There is no room to argue that the government should be allowed to govern without interference and investigations, with the public passing judgment at the ballot box. The government changed after the Gaza operation and the questions remain troublesome."

pwoodward@thenational.ae