This is a guest post by AKUS
An unlikely Jew has pulled down the Gazan temple on the heads of those he would claim to support. I refer, of course, to Goldstone, and the own-goal the UNHRC has scored with his biased report.
This is not a critique of the fatally flawed Goldstone report itself, which has been ably carried out by many more competent experts than me and which could be continued pointlessly ad infinitum. Even the announcement advertising the discussion of the report this week and the terms of reference for the “fact-finding mission” reveal the bizarre world which the UNHRC inhabits which makes such discussions essentially meaningless and certainly fruitless:
The holding of the Special Session comes at the request of Palestine.
There is no such country as “Palestine”. In the Draft Resolution the word “Palestine” is given an asterisk, and a footnote explains that it is a “Non-Member State of the Human Rights Council”. In fact, it is a non-state, non-member of the Human Rights Council.
The Human Rights Council’s Resolution January 2009 S-9/1 that gave rise to the Goldstone investigation reveals the bias inherent in the investigation and the report:
Cuba, Egypt (on behalf of the Arab and African Groups), Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference): draft resolution S-9/1.
The grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip…
Gaza is not, of course, occupied and Egypt, one of the sponsors, holds the southern border of Gaza closed and generally prevents movement of Palestinians in and out of Gaza. Pakistan’s response to this week’s string of terror bombings may not fully comply with the spirit of the Goldstone report either.
The subsequent announcement of the International Independent Fact-finding mission “….an independent fact-finding mission to investigate international human rights and humanitarian law violations related to the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip” immediately assumed such violations had taken place – not even the typically wimpy term “alleged violations” was allowed to provide wiggle room to possibly derail the commission from its appointed task of condemning Israel.
Indeed, although attention has been focused on the issue of Gaza in the Council’s deliberations this week, the final Resolution reads like a grab-bag of every complaint that could ever have been thrown at Israel, especially with any connection to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.
If anything could demonstrate the truly Oz-like world of UN politics, today’s news brings the following stunning item in Ha’aretz – Goldstone criticized the UNHRC’s endorsement of his own report!!
South African jurist Richard Goldstone, who headed a United Nations investigation into the conduct of Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas during Israel’s offensive in Gaza last winter, criticized on Friday the United Nations Human Rights Council’s decision to endorse the report his commission had compiled.
According to the Washington Post, “The resolution did not mention Hamas by name, though it did condemn “all targeting of civilians,” a clause apparently added after Goldstone publicly criticized the exclusion of the Islamist group from the text”. A day late, and a mile short, this “as-a-Jew” defender of the human rights of everyone except Jews suddenly realized what a Judas sheep he had become.
There is, in fact, no need to read the report in order to anticipate its methods and conclusions. It is more interesting to look at how it has been received, and what actions will be taken as a result.
The UNHRC comprises only forty seven of the UN’s member states on a multi-year rotating basis. It was primarily powerful Western countries sitting on the Council that voted and lobbied against the endorsement of the report and the resolution that calls on the United Nations to refer Israel to the International Court of Justice if it does not investigate alleged violations of international law on its own.
The countries that voted against the resolution included the U.S., Italy, Holland, Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine. Britain and France are represented on the Council and lobbied against adoption of the resolution, then “did not vote” – apparently there is a difference between “abstaining” and “not voting”. Twenty five members voted in favor of the resolution, eleven abstained and five “did not vote”.*
Several of those voting in favor read like a rogue’s gallery of some of the worst human rights abusers in the world – notably China and Russia as two of the more important states. The Washington Post article further indicates that there is little enthusiasm among the Western powers for “support[ing] prosecution by the international court if Israel does not act”.
Rather than delving into the numerous errors and fabrications in the report that have already been pointed out, I find it interesting to examine the reasons for the largely Western backlash against the report. What are the reasons for the broad consensus among Western nations that this report was, in fact, highly damaging to the ability of countries faced with enemies similar to the Hamas to successfully prosecute asymmetrical warfare? By reducing the Council’s ability to deal fairly with asymmetrical terrorism, the UNHRC has scored an “own goal” which further diminishes it already low credibility.
The problem of asymmetrical warfare has been developing for a long time. Mao’s injunction that “The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea” sums up the strategy concisely and indirectly demonstrates the problem facing the forces opposed to guerilla or terrorist groups. How does one catch the right fish in one’s net, while not inflicting harm on the other fish?
Israel has faced the problem in a particularly difficult and nasty form, with the use by Palestinian terrorists and Hizbollah in Lebanon of their population among whom they live as human shields. The principle under which Hamas and Hizbollah operate, like other terror or separatist groups elsewhere is to wage warfare from among a civilian population, perhaps even one that does not wish to participate in the terrorists’ risky adventure, among whom they hide their munitions and from among whom they launch the rockets and carry out attacks on Israel. They invite retaliation knowing that even if they lose some of their own, the chances are high that many of the other civilian “fish” will be killed and wounded. This provides superb propaganda opportunities for the terrorists.
This is the core of the new “asymmetrical warfare” – if the more powerful opponent (Israel) responds, it loses the PR war due to the automatic outcry of a knee-jerk Western liberal public conditioned to feel guilt over “civilian casualties” (unless inflicted by one non-Western group upon another as is happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) without worrying about the causes. If Israel does not respond, it loses the actual war and has to allow indiscriminate slaughter of its own civilians.
To a large extent, for most of the last 10 or 20 years, Israel has been able to reduce the collateral damage through the use of excellent on-the-ground intelligence and advanced technology. As a result, it is able to identify and surgically remove terrorists with limited collateral damage. Nevertheless, the Guardian and media sharing the GWV have created a cause célèbre around the resultant death of any civilians accidentally killed who were being used by chance or on purpose as human shields as the terrorists “swim” among them. During “Cast Lead”, the problem was greatly magnified despite all efforts to reduce collateral damage. On the other hand, the Guardian and others like it demonstrate no such false sympathy for the hundreds and thousands of Moslems killed by other Moslems day in and day out – in fact, the CIF moderators have always removed any references to lists of such internecine attacks in their constant attempts to show the “brighter side” of a supposedly peaceful Islam.
Britain faced the problem of asymmetrical warfare in Ireland during the uprisings under leaders such as Michael Collins, in South Africa with the Boers, and in India before Gandhi’s “passive resistance”. The British response was simply to use brute force to suppress the uprisings, and on the whole they could get away with it (for a time) thanks to a combination of the British public’s jingoism and the far less developed media of the time. Today, we see similar problems in Iraq and Afghanistan for the US, UK and NATO. In Europe countries such as Spain have to deal still with the Basques, and the problem of Moslem terrorism throughout Europe is real and increasing – how does one extract the jihadi from his broader community without alienating or damaging that community?
Yet another complication is the fact that the conventions that have been drafted to reduce collateral civilian damage in conflicts between nation-states are being applied selectively to certain asymmetrical conflicts, such as Israel’s actions against Hamas and Hizbollah. Thus, we hear much about “international law” and the “Geneva Conventions”, which are then applied solely to the stronger party – the nation-state – in this case, Israel. The idea of applying international law to Hamas or similar groups is shrugged off, since the proponents of “international law” understand that there is no chance of a group like Hamas of adhering to such “law” or “conventions” and no way to bring them to book. The UNHRC believes it can bring Israelis to court, but it knows that it cannot do the same for Hamas violators of human rights – for example, those who ordered and carried out the incessant rocket attacks against civilians in the towns and settlements around Gaza.
Where does this leave the powerful countries dealing with terrorism, separatism, and a variety of “isms” all of which are using the idea of asymmetrical warfare to gain media attention and the support of a gullible Western public? For, although countries like Russia and China face the same problem their citizens seem little worried by, say, Chechnya or the fate of the Uyghurs. They may even be pleased that their diplomats have yet another stick with which to beat the West.
This is where Goldstone and his commission scored an own goal. If the Western countries facing asymmetrical warfare – for example, in Afghanistan, or Iraq – were to subject themselves to the same biased scrutiny as Goldstone inflicted on Israel, they would at best have to leave Iraq and Afghanistan immediately, and at worst send their military leaders and politicians to stand trial in a court convened by countries whose record on human rights is generally disgusting. They will take care that this does not happen.
The following report is a tragic-comic example of an attempt to follow Israel’s lead in warning civilians of an impending attack by distributing warning leaflets from the air:
A box of leaflets dropped by an RAF plane in Afghanistan landed on and killed a young girl, the Ministry of Defence said.
The box should have broken apart in mid-air but struck the young girl intact. She was taken to a hospital in Kandahar where she died. The leaflets were dropped over a rural area of Helmand province by an RAF C130 Hercules on June 23.
Will that pilot, his commander, or members of the British Government be ever brought to trial? Perhaps, if the Goldstone report’s recommendations were adopted. In fact, of course, never.
In fact, rather than creating a climate of condemnation, Goldstone is more likely to have created a conspiracy of silence – there are too many countries facing current or perceived future enemies using asymmetrical warfare, not only in remote places like Afghanistan and the Waziri region of Pakistan, even from within Europe (e.g., Germany) , the UK , the US, Australia , Turkey, India and so on.
Thus, for fear of finding themselves next in the dock as a result of condemning Israel for what they are doing on a far larger scale – you cannot compare a 3-4 week assault on Gaza with years of grinding havoc and mayhem in Iraq and Afghanistan – I expect countries such as the US, UK, and most European countries to distance themselves from the Goldstone report. They know only too well that they are fighting wars similar to those faced by Israel – and that they are not nearly as good at avoiding civilian casualties as Israel is. The death toll they have inflicted on helpless civilians dwarfs anything Israel can be accused of.
The Goldstone Commission has actually weakened what little bite “international law” has. By creating a biased report that all but ignores the provocations Israel faced for years and taking extreme positions regarding inevitable civilian causalities that are part and parcel of the strategy of groups like Hamas, by insisting on the need to punish those carrying out a legitimate operation in self defense, Goldstone kicked the ball squarely back through the goalposts of the UNHRC. There cannot be a diplomat at today’s meeting who is not wondering whether, in similar circumstances, it would be he or she that would be led to the guillotine, and his or her head that the rabid crowd would be demanding.
The result will be the quiet shelving of the report after the appropriate diplomatic Kaddish is said over it.
* In favor: (25) – Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Djbouti, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia.
Against: (6) – US, Italy, Holland, Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine.
Abstaining: (11) – Belgium, Bosnia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Japan, Mexico, Norway, South Korea, Slovenia, Uruguay.
Did not vote: (5) – Britain, France, Madagascar, Kyrgyzstan and Angola did not vote.