Severe indictment

A United Nations report on the conduct of Israeli forces in the three-week war on Palestinians in Gaza earlier this year has confirmed the worst charges levelled by human rights bodies against the country. The report prepared on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council by South African judge Richard Goldstone is a severe indictment of Israel for war crimes and even crimes against humanity, committed against unarmed civilians. The attack on Gaza was on specious grounds and the force used was disproportionate. Women and children were not just victims but were targeted. The entire Israeli operation was planned to “inflict a collective punishment on the people.” Over 1,600 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed while 13 Israelis lost their lives. That shows the uneven balance of forces, as documented by the Goldstone report.

What the report reveals is that the attack and the Israeli actions in Gaza were worse than even terrorist atrocities. Civilians were forced into combat situations, those who had surrendered were shot dead and hospitals and mosques were attacked. Phosphorus bombs which burn and create unhealing wounds were used against civilians. Geneva conventions expressly ban the use of these bombs in civilian areas. Houses, wells, water tanks and farmlands were destroyed.  It was a war against people, not against armed combatants. The report has blamed the Palestinians also for excesses but the Israeli depredations far exceeded the Palestinians’ actions in scope, ferocity and inhumanity. The Goldstone report has requested the UN Security Council to refer the crimes to the International Criminal Court in the Hague if the offenders are not punished. This is unlikely to happen because the US will protect Israel from any Security Council action.

Israel has predictably rejected the report, just as it has in the past scoffed at all international responses to its use of violence and unjustifiable actions against the Palestinians. It did not co-operate with the inquiry, but the Hamas government in Gaza did. Its mentor, the US, has expressed reservations about the recommendations of the report. There were indications of a shift in US policy on West Asia, but there is still no concrete evidence of that change. It is a pity that the international community is unable to restrain an outlaw, which is set to persist with its criminal ways, however the world responds to it.

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