“Perspectives”–Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum March newsletter
For our second issue of Perspectives, we maintain the spotlight on Gaza by focusing attention on the dynamics around the implementation of the findings of the Goldstone report on the Gaza war.
The debate rages on both sides of the divide. On one hand, those who seek justice want action at an urgent pace. Israel, on the other hand, is defying international opinion. The overwhelming vote at the UN General Assembly has made no dent in the way Israel sees its moral obligations. It has set up an internal enquiry into its army’s misdoings under a military structure. This has drawn sharp criticism from many quarters.
Human rights activists and organizations are unconvinced that an enquiry into army misdeeds can ever be adequately uncovered by the very army which is under scrutiny. They have previously asked for full and fair enquiries to be completed on a timely basis. These organizations argue that international instruments of law must be applied wherever war crimes are perceived to have been committed.
The Goldstone report recommended that the UN Security Council requires Israel and relevant Gaza authorities to report to it, within six months, on investigations and prosecutions both parties should carry out with regard to the violations identified in the report. If independent proceedings were not carried out in good faith, the Security Council should refer the situation in Gaza to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
So far, both parties have fallen short of their obligations. In November 2009, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) observed in a letter to the UN secretary general that “if the recommendations of the Goldstone report were pursued, it would send a strong message to combatants in all conflicts that nations or groups cannot act with impunity, and that there must be appropriate channels of accountability for the perpetrators of crimes in any form of conflict”. He further affirmed that “the need of the hour is an unequivocal affirmation of the highest principles of justice, human rights and humanitarian practices”.
The execution of the Goldstone report is an acid test for the UN. Its credibility and very relevance is under inquiry. Fears that compromises will be struck haunt those who seek justice. The victims themselves will probably lose hope in multilateral institutions should the Goldstone report be reduced to mere archival material. This would expose the double standards of the international community, especially in view of the fact that war criminals have been and are under trial at the hands of judges in the International War Crimes Tribunal.
On 26 February, the 64th UN General Assembly plenary once again called for ‘credible’ probes by both sides into the Gaza conflict. It followed the inconclusive report from the UN secretary general’s recent investigations into possible violations of international law during the conflict in Gaza. The General Assembly has asked that fresh reports be submitted in five months. Assembly resolutions are non-binding on member states. Yet, churches around the world are called to be alert and agile and speak out against the delaying tactics. The Goldstone report is a precursor of hope in a situation that otherwise seems at an impasse. It is imperative that pressure is applied on both parties to live up to their basic obligations.
The surviving victims of the Gaza war, whether Palestinians or Israelis, must be served justice. Many of the dead, injured, and displaced, were innocent people who did not choose war. Inaction and apathy will obfuscate the truth and tyranny will have prevailed.
Public witness programme, Special focus on the Middle East
World Council of Churches