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Prosecution of Israelis likely, says solicitor • Lawyers working on use of universal jurisdiction
By Ian Black, The Guardian/UK
Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister during the Gaza war, would probably face arrest on war crimes charges if he visited Britain, according to a UK lawyer who is working to expand the application of "universal jurisdiction" for offences involving serious human rights abuses committed anywhere in the world.
Neither Olmert nor Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister during the Cast Lead offensive, and a member of Israel's war cabinet, would enjoy immunity from prosecution for alleged breaches of the Geneva conventions, predicted Daniel Machover, who is involved in intensifying legal work after the controversial Goldstone report on the three-week conflict. Neither are ministers any longer.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be morphing into George W. Bush. Faced with findings of a respected former war crimes prosecutor that Israel may have committed war crimes in its Gaza offensive, the prime minister instructed his government to seek changes to the international laws of war to retroactively justify any actions taken in Gaza.
The prime minister’s office announced that “the prime minister instructed the relevant government bodies to examine a worldwide campaign to amend the international laws of war to adapt them to the spread of global terrorism.”
Netanyahu justified the post hoc move in truly Bushian terms: “We are struggling to delegitimise the ongoing attempts to delegitimise Israel.” Read more.
It is spell-binding to see how the U.S. establishment can inflate the threat of a target, no matter how tiny, remote, and (most often) non-existent that threat may be, and pretend that the real threat posed by its own behavior and policies is somehow defensive and related to that wondrously elastic thing called "national security."
We should recall that this establishment got quite hysterical over the completely non-existent threat from Guatemala in the years 1950-1954, a very small and very poor country, essentially disarmed, helped by a U.S. and "allied" arms boycott, quickly overthrown in June 1954 by a minuscule U.S.-organized proxy force invading from our ally Somoza's Nicaragua.
But a telegram drafted in the name of Eisenhower's Secretary of State John Foster Dulles shortly before the 1954 regime change in Guatemala warned that this country had become a "challenge to Hemisphere security and peace" and was "increasingly [an] instrument of Soviet aggression in this hemisphere" and a "menace to [the] stability of strategic Central America and Caribbean area," so that U.S. policy was "determined [to] prevent further substantial arms shipments from reaching Guatemala."1
And the New York Times featured this terrible threat repeatedly (one favorite, the lying headline of Sidney Gruson's "How Communists Won Control of Guatemala," March 1, 1953), a propaganda campaign dating back to 1950 that extended throughout the media, even reaching The Nation magazine (Ellis Ogle, "Communism in the Caribbean?" March 18, 1950).
Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, even tinier Grenada, the nutmeg capital of the world, and of course Saddam Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction," all posed dire threats that caused the U.S. Free Press to leap into active propaganda service.
So the present intense focus on Iran's supposed nuclear weapons threat is in a great tradition. But it never ceases to amaze the extent to which the media journalists and editors, reliably following the official party line, are able to apply a truly laughable double standard as well as to make another victim into an aggressor and dire threat. It's déjà vu all over again, for the umpteenth time! Read more.
On Wednesday we members of the Combatants for Peace movement, women of Mahsom [Hebrew: checkpoint or barrier] Watch, members of the Forum of Bereaved Families for Peace and writer David Grossman attended a hearing at the High Court of Justice on the matter of the closing, due to lack of evidence, of the investigatory file on the killing of ten-year-old Abir Aramin about three years ago.
The hearing, which had been scheduled for eleven o'clock and then for nine o'clock and then for ten o'clock and then for one o'clock, began at two. Journalists ran to and fro in the corridor (Who died? A little girl? Really? Excuse me, sir, did your daughter die? Yes. Then you are Bassam Aramin? No, I am Rami Elhanan. Oh, sorry. So where's that Aramin? And who are you? We are from Mahsom Watch. From what checkpoint? What are you doing here? And who are you? I am a friend. Of those Palestinians? Yes. How come? How can it be? Can I interview you? Did you too have a daughter who died? Really? When? How? What was her name? And after all that you are on their side?) But at the end of the day no Israeli reported on what happened.
Salwa and Bassam Aramin are not Jews and they are not Israelis. They live under a cruel occupation and they have experienced all it has to offer: exile, imprisonment and the killing of their small daughter Abir by a rubber (coated metal) bullet that was allegedly fired from the rifle of a Border Guard soldier who was sitting in an armoured jeep and thrust the barrel of his rifle through the opening that was allegedly designed for that purpose and allegedly aimed and fired at the head of the girl who was standing beside her sister at a kiosk, allegedly buying candy during the break between the first class and the second.
Olmert, author of assault on Gaza, shunned in Chicago
Posted by Helena Cobban | Just World News
The Harris School for Public Policy at the University of Chicago presumably thought it was quite "normal" and appropriate-- perhaps, even a boon for fundraising!-- to invite former Israeli p.m. Ehud Olmert to give a lecture.
Olmert, however, is not just any old former prime minister. He was also the prime author of the decision to launch two extremely inhumane wars of choice: against Lebanon in 2006 and against Gaza last winter.
Israel's conduct of the latter war-- as well as a lot of other Olmert-era policies like the prolonged and lethal siege of Gaza and the continued attacks on the Palestinian community in Jerusalem-- rightly came under severe criticism from the UN's Goldstone Commission.
Judge Richard Goldstone, an experienced international prosecutor and investigator (and also Jewish and a self-proclaimed Zionist) determined that many of Israel's actions against Gaza constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.
So why would the University of Chicago or any other university in the democratic world consider it appropriate or "normal" to give a podium to an accused war criminal like this?
Today, Ali Abunimah and numerous other supporters of the simple proposition that the rights of Palestinians should be protected just as much as anyone else's rights were, as it happened, there in the lecture hall too. Read more.
This Friday, the American Enterprise Institute
will hosted an event addressing the question “Should Israel attack Iran?” The event includes, among others, Iran uberhawk Michael Rubin and infamous “torture lawyer” John Yoo, but the real star is likely to be John Bolton, the former U.N. ambassador whose right-of-Attila views left him an outcast even within the second Bush administration. (Bolton was eventually forced out when it became clear that he would be unable to win Senate confirmation for the U.N. post.)
If Bolton’s recent rhetoric is any indication, his AEI appearance may accomplish the formidable feat of making Michael Rubin sound like a dove. Discussing Iran during a Tuesday speech at the University of Chicago, Bolton appeared to call for nothing less than an Israeli nuclear first strike against the Islamic Republic. (The speech, sponsored by the University Young Republicans and Chicago Friends of Israel, was titled, apparently without a trace of irony, “Ensuring Peace.”) Read more.
United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict | PRESS RELEASE | 15 September 2009
UN Fact Finding Mission finds strong evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Gaza conflict; calls for end to impunity
NEW YORK / GENEVA - The UN Fact-Finding Mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone on Tuesday released its long-awaited report on the Gaza conflict, in which it concluded there is evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity.
The report also concludes there is also evidence that Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes, as well as possibly crimes against humanity, in their repeated launching of rockets and mortars into Southern Israel.
Beneath the hype Pt.5: Ray McGovern and Greg Thielmann on the potential causes of armed conflict in Iran.
Mondoweiss today gives us a Youtube clip of Tony Blair dodging a tough question from a University of Buffalo student about the Goldstone report.
The student, Nick Kabat, asked Blair why the US and Israel should be allowed to get away with blocking the Goldstone Report, how (as the "Quartet"'s peace envoy) he could explain that proceeding with Goldstone's recommendations might harm the peace process, and whether he didn't think that the blocade on Gaza also harmed the peace process.
You could see Blair ducking and weaving. (The questions had all been pre-screened by the university; but Kabat submitted a bland dummy question then asked this one instead.)
Blair said he'd been to Gaza "twice-- in the recent period" and that the situation there is difficult... But you also "have to understand" that Israel has received a lot of rockets from there since it withdrew in 2005 and still has its young soldier Gilad Shalit held there as a prisoner...
No mention from Blair that there have been almost no rockets coming out of Gaza since Hamas announced the currently-operant ceasefire there on January 18-- but despite that lack of rocketings, the Israeli siege is harsher even than it was prior to last winter's war.
No mention of the roughly 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners and detainees being held in Israeli jails. Read more.
And you thought "don't ask, don't tell" was a U.S. law on gays in the military that Barack Obama has promised to change. As it turns out, the same phrase plays quite a different role in the Middle East, where Obama seems to have no intention of changing it at all. Successive administrations have adhered to a "don't ask, don't tell" policy when it comes to Israel's sizeable arsenal of nuclear weapons. That country has never acknowledged their existence, adhering instead to another arcane formula: "We will not introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East." Jonathan Schell has described this strange situation: "Evidently, in some abstruse way, possessing [nuclear weapons] is not introducing them. You'd have to do something more to introduce them. You'd have to brandish one or make a threat with one, or maybe just acknowledge that you had them. As long as they keep them in the basement and don't make any introductions, then it's alright."
In May, the Obama administration evidently agreed not to break step with the fictions of previous administrations by acknowledging, or attempting to force Israel to publicly acknowledge, its estimated 100-200 nuclear weapons, including city-busters and cruise missiles adapted to be nuclear-armed and put on subs in the Mediterranean. His administration seems also to have agreed not to pressure the Israelis to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) under which nuclear arms are theoretically managed on our planet.
This, of course, leads to bizarre Middle Eastern policy anomalies rarely acknowledged in this country. In the midst of all the screaming headlines about an Iranian bomb which does not yet (and may never) exist, none of the acts the administration is demanding of the Iranians (and around which it is threatening to impose even stronger sanctions), including allowing International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors into its nuclear sites and providing greater transparency about the state of its nuclear program, have been put into practice by Israel, despite its perfectly real -- in fact, staggeringly large -- program. And no penalties have been imposed.
When Israel was in Iran's present situation back in the 1950s and early 1960s, and secretly developing a nuclear weapons program, U.S. administrations simply looked the other way. Ever since, presidents have preferred not to look at all, not publicly anyway. According to Eli Lake of the Washington Times, despite President Obama's stated policy of wanting to strengthen the NPT and lead the world toward nuclear disarmament, he recently "reaffirmed" to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections."
One irony of the Obama push for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, even while working to bring Iran to heel, has been this: despite all efforts in Israel and here, the Israeli nuclear arsenal has begun creeping towards the light of day. Soon enough, to everyone's surprise, it may become part of the conversation even in the United States. So here's a final irony: it's just possible that "don't ask, don't tell" will lose its meaning in the Middle East before it does in the U.S. military. In the meantime, as TomDispatch regular Ira Chernus points out, the Obama administration's focus on Iran continually creates unexpected problems elsewhere. Tom
Obama Trapped Behind Wall of Mideast Containment
It's the Iranians, Stupid
By Ira Chernus
Damn the Iranians and full speed ahead. That was the U.S. policy in the Middle East. But the waters have proved treacherous, with torpedoes everywhere. Despite an initial hopeful sit-down with Iranian negotiators, this won't be the October the White House wanted on the foreign policy front. By now, Barack Obama was supposed to have announced -- with ruffles and flourishes -- the beginning of Middle East peace talks, leading to a final status agreement by 2012. But something didn't happen.
Israel didn't heed Obama's demand to stop all settlement expansion in the West Bank. So Obama didn't stick to that demand, settling instead for a temporary freeze after a spate of new building. The Palestinians, buoyed by Obama's initial strong stance on the settlements, refused to negotiate until Israel stopped all construction. Other Arab nations didn't offer Israel nearly as many concessions as the U.S. administration was demanding. Undermined by all that didn't happen, the president had nothing of substance to announce.
What went wrong? The heart of the problem was not Israel's supposed power over U.S. policy. The U.S. still has plenty of leverage over the Israelis and everyone else in the region. Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea is right: "Everyone depends on America, its money, its military aid, and its moves vis-à-vis Iran."
But it is precisely those U.S. moves, meant to contain the power of Iran, that are the main stumbling block on the path to a U.S.-brokered two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Middle East is a textbook example of the perils of containment.
The Ghost Of Cold War Past Read more.
But, then, Brigadier Eli Avraham, an Israeli representative, played a videotape showing a meeting between Abbas and Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister during the Gaza war, in which Tzipi Livni, Israel's former foreign minister, was also present, the report said.
The tape showed Abbas trying to convince Barak to continue the offensive, according to the Shahab report.
Avraham also played an audiotape of a telephone call between Dov Weissglass, a senior Israeli official, and al-Tayyib Abdul Rahim, secretary-general of the Palestinian president's office, the report said.
In the conversation, Abdul Rahim noted that circumstances were suitable for entry of the Israeli army into Jabalya and al-Shatea refugee camps, and said that the fall of these two camps would end Hamas's rule in Gaza Strip, Shahab said in its report.
Weissglass then told Abdul Rahim that such an army operation would lead to the deaths of thousands of civilians, but, according to Shahab, Abdul Rahim said: "They have all elected Hamas, so they are the ones who have chosen their fate, not us."
Members of the UN Security Council will meet to discuss Libya's request for an emergency session on a report that claimed war crimes were committed by Israel during last year's offensive on Gaza.
Le Luong Minh, Vietnam's ambassador who holds the council presidency this month, said he had scheduled closed-door talks for Wednesday after receiving a request from Libya, the only Arab member on the 15-nation council.
Libya circulated a letter on Tuesday on behalf of the UN Arab group urgently seeking "an emergency meeting" of the council to consider the Goldstone report, Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's deputy ambassador, said.
The UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, Switzerland, postponed a vote last Friday on a resolution that would have condemned Israel's failure to co-operate with its investigation into the December-January war. Read more.
The Gaza War's Effect on Women
By Stephen Lendman
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights' (PCHR) new report, titled "Through Women's Eyes," highlights "the Gender-Specific Impact and Consequences of Operation Cast Lead" and the ongoing siege, including 12 case study examples "through the victims' words." Several are discussed below.
In patriarchal Palestinian society, women traditionally are caregivers while men typically head households and are the main breadwinners. As a result, when widows are thrust into this role, they're often victimized by cultural, social and economic discrimination and marginalization. In Gaza today, it's hard for women to get by alone, so widows must either live with family members or remarry. The alternative is a hard struggle alone, something most Palestinian women try to avoid, but post-conflict many have no choice.
President Obama has reaffirmed a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections, three officials familiar with the understanding said.
The officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they were discussing private conversations, said Mr. Obama pledged to maintain the agreement when he first hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in May.
Under the understanding, the U.S. has not pressured Israel to disclose its nuclear weapons or to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which could require Israel to give up its estimated several hundred nuclear bombs. Read more.
The prospect for peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is “dead as a doornail,” said Francis Boyle in an interview with the Canadian Charger on September 25.
That is “because Obama sided with Binyamin Netanyahu,” at the UN meeting of the General Assembly.
Boyle is a professor of international law at the University of Illinois and was legal advisor to the Palestinian delegation at the peace negotiations that culminated in the Oslo agreement.
According to Boyle, former senator George Mitchell “is running a dog and pony show” in his scampering around the Middle East.
“Because of his accomplishments in Northern Ireland, I had given him the benefit of the doubt, but not with what happened at the UN. Now it is clear that Mitchell’s mission is just a public relations exercise to delude the Arab and Muslim world into believing that the Obama administration is going to do something while in fact they are pushing their agenda against Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan.”
“At the UN,” he said, “the entire world saw Obama personally get steamrollered by Netanyahu. Obama was humiliated in front of the entire world which saw him as a pusillanimous and feckless leader.”
The US continues to fund Israel to the tune of $4 billion a year but will not insist on peace measures such as a halt to settlement construction.
Boyle believes that the current situation will inevitably lead to a third intifada, which will “sweep aside the geriatric leadership of Fatah.”
As for Gaza, “most of their leaders have been killed by Israel.” And as for Israel, it “never wanted peace. It always wanted more land, a greater Israel.” Read more.
In a surprise deal announced Wednesday, Hamas will give Israel a videotape providing a first glimpse of a captured Israeli soldier to prove he is alive in return for the release of 20 Palestinian women held in Israeli prisons.
It marked the first tangible sign of progress in more than three years of talks aimed at a larger prisoner exchange, and it could lead to an end to a crippling blockade of the impoverished, war-torn Gaza Strip, which is ruled by militant Islamic Hamas.
Israel said the video-for-prisoners exchange would take place Friday.
Up to now, the only signs of life from the soldier, Gilad Schalit, were several letters and an apparently carefully scripted audio tape, released just months after he was captured in June 2006. Hamas-linked militants tunneled under the Gaza-Israel border, attacked an Israeli army base from the rear, killed two soldiers and hauled a bleeding Schalit off into captivity. Read more.
Israel's Ofra Settlement on Unauthorized Palestinian Land
By Stephen Lendman
Israel's 130 West Bank settlements are illegal under international law, including Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that states:
"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."
In addition, various UN resolutions (including 446, 452 and 465) condemned Israel's settlement building by declaring they have "no legal validity" to exist. Yet they do and continue expanding in reckless disregard of the law.
Even so, after its forces occupied the West Bank in 1967, Israel in principle agreed to respect binding local Jordanian law and its own subsequent military order. It didn't then and doesn't now.
B'Tselem's report titled "The Ofra Settlement - An Unauthorized Outpost" shows that Israel reneged on its agreement because Ofra is illegal under local and international law.
Called a flagship settlement, it was established in 1975 by the fundamentalist Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) movement that began seizing West Bank land for itself - modestly at first in abandoned Jordanian Ein Yabrud army camp houses. Then later, more aggressively after the Rabin government recognized it as a community even though 58% of its area lies on land registered to Palestinians in Israel's Land Registry. Settlement construction there is forbidden. Yet in 1977 under Menachem Begin, recognition became official.
Ofra set a precedent. As the first northern West Bank settlement, it broke "the barrier that blocked settlement attempts in the heart of the Palestinian population" and established events on the ground for dozens more to follow - illegal settlements and outposts "in opposition to the stated official position of the government," on paper only to be defiled and ignored.
Some Background on Gush Emunim
Under the slogan, "The Land of Israel, for the people of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel," Gush Emunim (GE) emerged in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, but Israel's 1967 Six-Day war victory inspired its adherents to believe that all biblical Israel for Jews alone was now in reach.
Today, GE is an influential, extremist pressure group - fundamentalist, radical, messianic, militant, terrorist, and undemocratic, yet supported by all Israeli governments. Ofra gave it a footprint, a toehold, an entry for Israel to establish 130 West Bank settlements and other outposts, now home to half a million Jews on confiscated Palestinian land.
Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
There is no good evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. It has offered to allow regular International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of the newly announced facility near Qom, which would effectively prevent it from being used for weapons production.
There is a secret nuclear facility in the Middle East, however, producing plutonium and not just enriched uranium, which has the capacity to make 10 nuclear warheads a year.
It is Israel's ongoing nuclear weapon production that drives the nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Saddam wanted a bomb because Israel had one. The Iranians were then worried both about an Iraqi and an Israeli bomb. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others are annoyed at their geostrategic helplessness in the face of Israeli nukes.
Israel's nuclear arsenal is the region's Original Sin.
By David Swanson
Stephanie Westbrook pointed out to me a very curious PDF, a journal of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published in Europe. It includes an article that begins:
"Uncle Sam wants you to see the home of Judaism and Christianity. He wants you to earn good pay in a sunny climate doing work you are proficient in and enjoy - work that is personally and professionally rewarding and that you know will help an important ally. What could be better than that? Yes, Uncle Sam wants you. He wants you to bring your
talent and expertise to Israel."
A U.S. contractor already working there has this to say in this promo article:
Artist Michael Parenti shared these graphics with ominous implications. The caption of Rina Castelnuovo's photo on the right for the New York Times reads, "A settler tosses wine at a Palestinian woman on Shuhada Street in Hebron. The approach of some settlers towards neighboring Palestinians, especially around Nablus in the north and Hebron in the south, has often been one of contempt and violence."
Robert Hariman posted the photo in his essay, The Practice of Domination in Everyday Life, describing its impacts this way:
One is that it reveals what is rarely shown: the small acts of personal viciousness and humiliation that make up the practice of domination in an occupied land. Second, it is clear that both the boy’s aggression and the woman’s protective reaction are often-practiced, habitual responses. Were he taunting an older woman for the first time, he would be likely to look much more ragged, uncoordinated, and either furtive or overly demonstrative. Instead, he could be a figure out of Whitman: throwing his weight around without breaking stride, a figure of youthful grace on the city street. Likewise, she isn’t being caught by surprise. Her head is already turned, her body hunched against the impending blow. She’s been through this before, and she’s learned that direct confrontation is not an option. This may be her neighborhood, but it’s his street.
The third dimension of the photograph’s power derives from its capacity for analogy. Look at the woman’s coat and hat, and at the Star of David scrawled on the storefront; she could be in the Warsaw ghetto, and all it takes is a change of costume to see him as a German soldier. Or they could be an African-American woman and a young cracker in the Jim Crow South, or any other tableau that depicts the small details of domination. One picture isn’t enough to nail down such comparisons, but it should make you think of them.
Commenter Dennis Q at BAGnewsNotes observed: "What makes this picture so horrifying for BagNews Notes readers is that the arc of the blood-red wine is the same as the arc of the scythe of the Grim Reaper."
How Opposition to Israel's Annexation Wall Is Targeted and Suppressed
By Stephen Lendman
Established in 1992, the Addameer (Arabic for conscience) Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association helps Palestinian prisoners, and works to end torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions, other forms of abuse, and unjust, unequal treatment in Israel's criminal justice system that handles Jews one way and Palestinians another.
In July 2009, in cooperation with the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall) and the Palestinian Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association, Addameer published a report titled "Repression allowed, Resistance denied" that documents resistance to Israel's apartheid wall and the "staggering level of repression, arrests and violence" by Israeli authorities.
The Defense Intelligence Agency and its contractors conclude that a nuclear test was conducted jointly by South Africa and Israel.
An ad hoc presidential panel contradicts that analysis and suggests a meteoroid struck the satellite causing it to sound a false alarm.
Which was it? What should've been the U.S. response? Can you decide?
But perhaps the questions we should really be deciding is does Iran have nuclear weapons; and if so, should the U.S. attack Iran and North Korea”.
Israel's Netanyahu: Let's Talk with Palestinians -- and Stop Iran's Threat
Prime Minister Tells ABC's Charles Gibson Iran's Nuclear Ambitions Threaten World Peace
By Ned Potter | ABC News
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ABC's Charles Gibson tonight he welcomes talks -- without preconditions -- to set up a Palestinian state in the Middle East. But he said it is up to Palestinian leaders to exert leadership, and added he is not going to back down on the right of Israelis to settle in Palestinian territory.
"There are a quarter of a million people living in these communities," said Netanyahu. "You know, they need kindergartens. They need schools. ... You can't freeze life."
In a one-on-one interview with Gibson, Netanyahu said he is especially worried about Iran -- which, he said, could destabilize the entire Middle East with the development of nuclear weapons. Read more.
Goldstone Commission Gaza Conflict Findings and Reactions
By Stephen Lendman
"While the Israeli Government has sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercise of its right of self defence, the Mission considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a different target: the people of Gaza as a whole." Rocket attacks were a pretext for naked aggression.
Calling them war crimes, the Mission found evidence that "Palestinian armed groups" launched rockets and mortars into Southern Israel, but they were minor incidents compared to the Israeli onslaught.
On April 3, 2009, a UN press release stated:
"The Human Rights Council (HRC) today announced the appointment of Richard J. Goldstone....to lead an independent (four-person) fact-finding mission to investigate international human rights and humanitarian law violations related to the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip....The team will be supported by staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights....Today's appointment comes following the adoption of a resolution by the Human Rights Council....to address 'the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip."
President Obama will host meetings Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the White House announced Saturday.
The meetings come as hopes for renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks have dimmed despite diplomatic efforts of former Maine Sen. George Mitchell, the U.S. envoy for the Middle East, who capped off last week's visit to the region with a second round of talks with both sides.
The meetings, set for the sidelines of next week's U.N. General Assembly session in New York, are "another sign of the president's deep commitment to comprehensive peace that he wants to personally engage at this juncture," Mitchell said in the White House statement.
Obama will talk with each leader separately before all three meet together, the White House said. Read more.
Overriding Western objections, a 150-nation nuclear conference on Friday passed a resolution directly criticizing Israel and its atomic program for the first time in 18 years. Iran hailed the vote as a "glorious moment."
The result was a setback not only for Israel but also for the United States and other backers of the Jewish state, which had lobbied for 18 years of past practice — debate on the issue without a vote. It also reflected building tensions between Israel and its backers and Islamic nations, backed by developing countries.
Of delegations present at the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting Friday, 49 voted for the resolution. Forty-five were against and 16 abstained from endorsing or rejecting the document, which "expresses concern about the Israeli nuclear capabilities," and links it to "concern about the threat posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons for the security and stability of the Middle East."
In an attempt to sway the assembly before the vote, U.S. chief delegate Glyn Davies spoke out against an "attempt to use this resolution to criticize a single country."
"Such an approach is highly politicized and does not truly address the complexities at play regarding crucial nuclear-related issues in the Middle East," he said. Read more.
The report, released on Tuesday, says that if no appropriate independent inquiry gets under way in Israel within six months, the United Nations Security Council should refer the matter to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. It made a similar recommendation for Palestinian authorities, calling for an inquiry into evidence of war crimes committed by Palestinian armed groups firing rockets into Israel.
Israeli officials on Wednesday bluntly dismissed one of the main recommendations of the United Nations fact-finding mission’s report on the three-week war in Gaza last winter: a call for the Israeli government to begin an independent investigation of “serious violations” of international humanitarian and human rights law, including evidence of war crimes, during the military campaign.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that the internal military investigations into the Israeli Army’s conduct in Gaza already under way were “a thousand times more serious” than the investigation just completed by the United Nations mission led by Richard Goldstone, a respected South African judge.
Reflecting a broad consensus in Israel, the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, also harshly criticized the report, calling it “a mockery of history” for failing “to distinguish between the aggressor and a state exercising its right for self-defense.” Mr. Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, added that the report “legitimizes terrorist activity, the pursuit of murder and death.” Read more.