- 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;
- -- 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
- 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
- "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
- "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,"
- 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
- 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
- -- "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
- 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
- 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
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
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