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Independent Committee of Experts on Gaza War


By Stephen Lendman - Posted on 25 September 2010

Committee of Independent Experts on Gaza War - by Stephen Lendman

On September 21, the UN Human Rights Council's independent fact finding Committee issued its report titled, "No Safe Place," assessing "investigat(ions) and report(s) on violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law during" Operation Cast Lead. Its members included:

-- Professor John Dugard, Chairman, former UN Special Human Rights Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine;

-- Norwegian Judge Finn Lynghjem;

-- Chilean attorney Gonzalo Boye;

-- Professor Corte-Real, a forensic body damage evaluator; and

-- solicitor Ms. Raelene Sharp.

On February 21, it held an initial meeting with the Arab League's Secretary-General in Cairo, then entered Gaza the next day through the Rafah crossing. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights organized its six day visit with a wide range of persons, including Cast Lead victims, witnesses, doctors, lawyers, journalists, business people, and members of NGOs, UN agencies and Hamas.

Sites visited included hospitals, schools, universities, mosques, businesses, police stations, government buildings, UN facilities, private homes, and agricultural lands - all devastated by destruction or damage.

Three times the Committee requested Israeli cooperation, getting no response. "The Committee regrets the decision of the Government of Israel to withhold cooperation." It also stonewalled the Goldstone Commission, as it always does to prevent independent investigations from exposing its crimes.

"Operating under internationally recognized standards, the report documents the injuries suffered and their alleged causes." The Committee obtained firsthand evidence of great loss of life and injuries in Gaza, as well as the vast amount of destruction, mostly affecting civilians, their homes, neighborhoods, and other non-military facilities - a clear violation of international law, documented clearly in earlier articles.

Palestinian losses were immense, also documented earlier. Israel's were minor - four civilians and ten soldiers killed (three by friendly fire), and 148 wounded. Palestinians had only "unsophisticated weapons" against the world's fourth most powerful military, using everything (except its nuclear capability), including illegal weapons like white phosphorous.

"It was clear to the Committee that the IDF had not distinguished between civilians and civilian objects and military targets. Both the loss of life and the damage to property were disproportionate to the harm suffered by Israel or any threatened harm." Israel was the clear aggressor in violation of international law, waging premeditated war largely against civilians. The Goldstone Commission highlighted the crime, saying:

"The report concludes that the Israeli military operation was directed at the people of Gaza as whole, in furtherance of an overall and continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population, and in a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed at the civilian population. The destruction of food supply installations, water sanitation systems, concrete factories and residential housing was the result of a deliberate and systematic policy which has made the daily process of living, and dignified living, more difficult for the civilian population."

Israel willfully killed hundreds of civilians as a result of "disproportionate attacks," including on hospitals, homes, and other civilian structures. "Repeatedly, the Israeli Defense Forces failed to adequately distinguish between combatants and civilians, as the laws of war strictly require....Pursuing justice in this case is essential because no state or armed group should be above the law." Failure to do so "will have a deeply corrosive effect on international justice, and reveal an unacceptable hypocrisy. As a service to the hundreds of civilians who needlessly died and for the equal application of international justice, the perpetrators of serious violations must be held to account."

So far, they have not. Gaza remains under siege, and world leaders are doing nothing to end it and demand justice for Israeli war crimes. Instead they support a bogus "peace process," that's neither a process or a way to peace. It's the same shameless on and off 35 year charade going nowhere, unless the PA agrees to unconditional surrender, the only outcome Israel will accept.

On September 22, Haaretz report its latest wrinkle, headlined "US won't comment on reports of (Jonathan) Pollard release deal," saying:

Citing unnamed sources, Israeli Radio said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet might propose extending the (September 26 expiring) construction "freeze" in exchange for releasing the convicted spy. Why not when no freeze exists. Construction continues unabated. PA President Mahmoud Abbas accepts the charade as well as the Obama administration and Western media. The reported pressure on Netanyahu is bogus. He loses nothing by agreeing or perhaps negotiating an illusion of compromise.

"Pollard is regarded as a hero in Israel, but a traitor by the US government. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for passing classified documents to the Israeli government in the 1980s while working in the US Navy's intelligence unit."

For years, Israel asked US presidents for clemency, so far without results. If Netanyahu succeeds, he'll gain political prestige and more popularity at home. However, On June 20, 2009, Haaretz writer Amir Oren explained that US intelligence officials "unequivocally oppose" the release, saying doing so "will undermine US security practices and complicate counterintelligence." Then, and likely now, "The US intelligence community hasn't altered its position. It's unknown whether Obama will go along, given how much he yields to Israel on most everything requested.

Conclusions from the Committee's Report

It explained that:

-- as an occupying power, "Israel is obligated to comply with the Fourth Geneva Convention" and other related international laws;

-- "aggression" isn't clearly defined, so it couldn't conclude whether "Israel's offensive constituted" it;

-- "Israel's actions could not be justified as self-defense;"

-- it urged the principles of proportionality be applied to assess criminal responsibility; and

-- it "could not examine" whether Israel or Hamas committed international terrorism "as (its) meaning (is) too uncertain; consequently, criminal responsibility was best measured in accordance with the rules of international humanitarian law."

Nonetheless, the Committee found "serious violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child." Also, Fourth Geneva and its Additional Protocols were violated, especially on the issue of collective punishment, specifically prohibited at all times under all circumstances.

On issues of crimes of war and against humanity, "The Committee found that the IDF was responsible for the crime of indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilians....It rejected Israel's determination of who is a civilian." Members of Hamas' civil government are not combatants "as claimed by Israel." Nor are police.

"The Committee found that the IDF was responsible for the crime of killing, wounding and terrorizing civilians," based on the numbers of dead and wounded as well as Israel's use of banned weapons and intense bombardment for over three weeks.

"The Committee rejected Israel's claim that it warned civilians in advance to leave." Use of leaflets and phone calls "only served to cause confusion and panic. Incessant bombing and misleading warnings of this kind served to terrorize the population." Where could they go with Gaza under siege, its borders closed?

The Committee called the IDF "responsible for the wanton destruction of property and that such destruction could not be justified on grounds of military necessity." The harm done was disproportionate and illegal.

Israel committed grievous crimes of war and against humanity, whitewashing them through internal investigations and obstruction of independent ones by refusing to cooperate.

The Committee called Cast Lead so grave, "it was compelled to consider whether (genocide) had been committed. Without question in the context of 62 years of displacement and persecution and 43 years of brutal military occupation, punctuated by regular attacks, killings, targeted assassinations, arrests, torture, and other types of abuses daily.

The Committee thus concluded that Israel "committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and, possibly genocide in the course of Operation Cast Lead" alone. Responsible military and civilian officials are culpable, yet so far unpunished.

The Committee also said "there is no indication that Israel has opened an investigation into the actions of those who designed, planned, ordered, and oversaw 'Operation Cast Lead.' "

It also found Hamas guilty of firing rockets into Israel, a defensive action in response to Israel's attack, and minor by comparison.

Some Final Comments

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said Israel proved itself "genuinely unwilling to comply with its international legal obligation to conduct effective investigations, and appropriate prosecutions into the systematic violations of international law committed" during its offensive.

So far, only one prosecution occurred - for credit card theft, while serious war crimes have been whitewashed and ignored. As a result, responsible officials keep persecuting millions of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They're no match against the world fourth most powerful military allied with collaborationist PA officials, principally Mahmoud Abbas and his appointed prime minister, Salam Fayyad, self-serving imperial tools.

On September 27, the Committee will present its report to the UN Human Rights Council. It will highlight Cast Lead's seriousness. Hopefully, it will also demand those responsible be held accountable, perhaps at the International Criminal Court (ICC). That's why it was established, though it fails to fulfill its mandate.

What better time than now to do it, then take on America for destroying Iraq and Afghanistan, and bankrolling Israeli belligerency, supplying money, weapons and munitions, both countries committing mass murder with impunity. It's high time their day of reckoning arrived. It can't come a moment too soon.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 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.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Tags

In 1948, the world accepted the majority decision of the UN for the establishment of a new state of Israel, in Palestine.

Those nations that subsequently recognised the new state, and therefore, the authority of the UN – which include both Britain and the US, must now also accept the authority of the UN when it officially reports that Israel has committed war crimes, not only in Gaza during operation ‘cast-lead’ in 2008/9, but now also recently on board the flotilla boat bound for Gaza where its troops unlawfully killed nine civilians.

No UN member state can pick and choose when it will accept or deny the specific authority of the world’s only legally constituted, representative council, particularly in regard to war crimes. Any state that does so, should have its membership withdrawn but still be liable for any of its nationals accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity to be apprehended by any UN member state and taken to the International Criminal Court for trial.

Otherwise, the UN has no authority that is recognised worldwide and the international community has no voice and no recourse to action against any state that kills at will for political or criminal purposes.

Then, there will be no law to protect us: only anarchy will prevail on an international scale never before experienced.

We've been experiencing it for decades; actually many.

And I agree with what you say about the need for states that don't strongly respect and uphold the UN Charter to do so, but another example (in addition to those you mentioned) of them not doing so is illustrated in my post, "Contrast the UN in the above article to another one", below.

"UN atomic watchdog rejects resolution against Israel"

by Simon Morgan (AFP), Sept. 24th, 2010

http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m70093

VIENNA — The UN atomic watchdog rejected Friday an Arab-backed resolution against Israel which the United States and its Western allies feared could have jeopardised newly relaunched Middle East peace talks.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on the last day of its annual general conference, voted against a non-binding resolution urging Israel to accede to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The paper -- which Washington had asked Arab countries not to table at all for fear it could jeopardise a conference on a nuclear weapons-free Middle East to be held in 2012 -- was rejected by the 151-member general assembly with 51 votes against it, 46 votes in favour and 23 abstentions.

Hmmm. 51+46+23 = 120. What happened to the other 31 state members of the UNGA? Okay, so they were absent and said nothing, but then this should be stated along with the other stats; 51 against, 46 in favor, 23 abstaining, and 31 absent. And why would they be absent? Would it be due to irresponsibility, being threatened, or for some legitimate reason? Which states were absent?

We should be provided with that information, instead of people needing to investigate in order to get this.

Jeopardizing the 2012 conference:

The claim that passing this resolution or even just presenting it for a UN vote could "jeopardize a conference on a nuclear weapons-free Middle East to be held in 2012" is more bs, lies, propaganda of deception (for people who are deceived by it anyway), et cetera. Nothing good will come of that conference even if it is held. For the Middle-East to be nuclear weapons-free, Israel would have to totally get rid of its nuclear weapons and end its nuclear weapons production, R&D, labs, which is something Israeli elites are definitely not going to do

So it's impossible to jeopardize the conference that will be totally based on bs. It already is guaranteed that it will be based on criminal, hypocritical and hegemonic grounds to begin with; because of the U.S. and Israel, and European countries that support the U.S. in this criminality.

In the run-up to this week's conference, Washington had even flown in US President Barack Obama's top nuclear advisor, Gary Samore, to try to persuade Arab nations to drop their plans, warning that it could also sour newly restarted peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

BS! The so-called peace talks between Israel and Palestine are bs, as they've always been. And that's another thing or reality that the U.S. and Israel have always guaranteed; with the use of words intended for trying to deceive us.

Plus people who check http://www.Uruknet.info can find out that Israel has already acted again against Palestinians in violent ways that make these so-called new peace talks a bunch of empty and hypocritical, imperialist bs.

There never really have been and presently aren't any real peace talks between Israel and Palestine, because of the U.S. and Israel; and allies of the U.S. in this.

Back in 2009 the resolution, which is purely symbolic, had been adopted by a very narrow majority of 49 in favour and 45 against.

A number of states that voted in favour last year chose to abstain this year. One of them was Singapore, which argued that the resolution would not have been "helpful at this delicate moment of history."

It was a contentious paper which would unlikely have helped "the ongoing Middle East peace talks or encourage all countries in the Middle East to participate in the 2012 conference," the Singapore delegate said.

Either the leadership of Singapore is dumb, or they just don't want to tell the truth because it could be politically risky to do so. The peace talks are empty, bs, and the 2012 conference is of the same nature. And nothing is going to change or correct this.

However, I think it's likely true that the Arab resolution to call on Israel to accede to the nuclear NPT wouldn't do any good right now; not while the superpower U.S. fully supports and protects Israel. The U.S. would have to drastically change or reverse its relations with Israel before any resolution against Israel's crimes could be potentially enforced and I'm not sure that such enforcement would be possible. Israel has plenty of nuclear arms, would refuse to give them up and to stop making more, and no country or group of countries is going to risk attacking a state as nuclear-armed as extremely criminal Israel is. The only kind of enforcement that would be possible would be to place sanctions or embargos against exports to Israel for any materials that can be used for making nuclear weapons; but maybe the insane Israeli leadership would react by threatening the main states behind the enforcement of these embargos with nuclear attacks and then the embargo would be dropped.

Thailand's representative spoke like the one from Singapore did, so either Thailand's leadership is also dumb, or hypocritical, liar, playing along with the con game.

Iran differed:

Iranian ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh, on the other hand, accused Israel and its allies of pursuing a policy of "double standards".

"What the US and others did today in fact undermined" the NPT, he said.

The vote was a "setback for the NPT. It damages the integrity of the NPT," Soltanieh said.

Israel and its allies "polarised the member states. Rather than defusing tension, they created tension, they created confrontation."

And Soltanieh vowed that the Arab states were all the more determined to table the same resolution again next year and redouble their efforts to win over supporters.

He's definitely right, albeit I'm not sure about Arab states presenting this resolution again next year. Perhaps they're likely do do it again in 2011.

It's great for Iran to speak as its representative did; especially when the U.S., Israel, and European allies of the U.S. have been hypocritically, hegemonically, imperialistically acting against and threatening Iran for more than a few years while Iran has been within its legitimate international and national rights.

Earlier this week, Israel's nuclear chief Shaul Chorev reiterated the Jewish state's stance that acceding to the NPT would run against its national interests.

That nauseatingly sounds an awful lot like U.S. officials regularly sound. It's either extremely rare, or it never happens that true or real national interests are involved when the leaderships of either of these two countries speak about needing to protect national interests.

Closing:

And, so, the IAEA has just given us a bad example of itself; or maybe the chief of the agency has a good reason and AFP just didn't say what the reason is. However, and based on the first paragraph in the article, we are left with the impression that the IAEA did the bidding or obeyed the dictats of the top imperialist elites.

The AFP certainly is an often flawed (and worse) news media though, so maybe we'll be getting better information on the IAEA's position in articles from other sources or media. But it would not be a complete surprise that the IAEA folded to the dictats of the imperialist powers that we can all understand would guarantee protection of Israel against this Arab resolution; just as the UNSC has repeatedly allowed the U.S. to criminally get away with vetoing UNSC resolutions drafted to try to get Israel to stop its crimes against Palestinians.

Iran is the only state that we are informed of having spoken correctly, but 46 voted in favor of the resolution, which is good; even if there would not be any realistic way of really enforcing the resolution if it had been passed. At least we can see that there are 46 states that can be thanked for their votes.

It would be interesting to know which states voted in favor, which abstained, and which were absent. Abstaining and being absent isn't great, but these states didn't vote in favor of Israel, which is good.

A democratic vote-down though?

So 51 out of 151 states voted down the resolution, while the other 100 states either voted in favor or certainly didn't vote in favor of Israel.

That's a peculiar reality when we claim to be democratic and democracy requires majority votes; but it also is how U.S. elections work. Many Americans might not immediately realize that this resolution was not voted down in a democratic way, for a minority won the down vote; like in U.S. elections, when a President (Bush Jr) was elected with only 31% of votes, the main opponent (Kerry) got 29%, one or two independent candidates got maybe a total of 10%, and the rest of Americans abstained from voting.

It's not particularly democratic.

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