Thursday, 31 December 2009

If we phone them first then its all okay - an unfortunate response to the Goldstone report

Rene Cassin gave a presentation at Limmud on the Goldstone report, on which I have written before. They showed this interview with Goldstone which I recommend viewing. In the discussion that followed one man argued that Israel can't be accused of war crimes because it phoned up Gazans and sent letters warning them before attacks. What other army does this? he asked. In doing this, he said, Israel had acted impeccably.

Now Goldstone himself acknowledges in his report the 'significant efforts' Israel took to protect civilian life in this way. But from the fact that Israel sent warnings it doesn't follow that Israel acted lawfully in the war. Firstly because it fails to address many of the war crimes identified by Goldstone. Israel's use of civilian human shields, for example, cannot be justified by the prior sending of letters warning of attack. Secondly, and as Goldstone points out in the interview, sending warnings is not sufficient (necessary though it may be) to justify an attack on a target in or near civilian areas. The target also has to constitute a military target, and according to the findings of the report, the bombings of certain sites had no identifiable military objective: it was the civilian infrastructure that was bombed - factories, utilities and so on - and not targets with any use by or connection to Hamas.

It also shouldn't be forgotten that at least one senior Israeli politician actually actively and explicitly advocated Israel committing actions that constitute war crimes. As Eli Yishai said at the time:

Even if they fire at an open area or into the sea, we must damage their infrastructures and destroy 100 houses.

As the Gaza conflict reaches its first anniversary it’s time - in fact it's long overdue - for Israel to deal with the uncomfortable findings of the report. And, as Jews in the Diaspora - in whose name Israel claims to act and speak - we have every right to encourage Israel to do so.

No comments:

Post a Comment