Subscribe to The Jewish Standard free weekly newsletter

 
Blogs
 

entries tagged with: Human Rights Council

 

Israel’s reply to Goldstone suggests more civil approach

Ron KampeasWorld
Published: 05 February 2010
image
Israel took a conciliatory tone in its reply to a report on the Gaza War by Richard Goldstone, shown here addressing the media after presenting the report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Sept. 29, 2009. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferre

WASHINGTON – The Goldstone wars continue, but beneath the shouting a diplomatic track has emerged.

The Israeli government last week published a reply to the U.N. Human Rights Council’s report on the conduct of last winter’s Gaza war with Hamas, insisting that Israel Defense Forces investigations into possible Israeli wrongdoing in Gaza were not principally motivated by last autumn’s U.N. report.

Nonetheless, the reply repeatedly refers to the U.N. report — known as the Goldstone report for its principal author, retired South African Judge Richard Goldstone — and was delivered within the six-month deadline that Goldstone recommended to avoid international prosecution.

News Analysis

Moreover, the bulk of Israel’s reply is dedicated to establishing the independence of military investigators and prosecutors, which would satisfy Goldstone’s requirement that any investigation should not be a matter of the alleged perpetrators investigating themselves.

The Israeli document notes that two senior IDF officers were disciplined for firing rocket shells into a populated area of Gaza where the field office of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the principal group administering relief to Palestinian refugees, was situated.

More striking is the conciliatory tone taken by the Israeli government toward Goldstone and the human rights groups from which he drew in writing his report — acknowledging that Goldstone and the groups played a critical role in helping the IDF examine its actions.

An Israeli army spokesman said that while the army relied primarily on its own resources to identify deviations from policy, the human rights groups helped spur along the process.

“We take a look at ourselves and where we were right and where mistakes were made,” Capt. Barak Raz told JTA. “It’s important that a commander can go home at the end of the operation and look his family in the eye, and that the soldiers 20 years from now can look in their children’s eyes.”

Nonetheless, he added, “I can’t deny that these reports also contributed to our ability to be made aware.”

The civil tone does not mean the rhetorical wars engendered by Goldstone, a human rights icon with a pro-Israel history, are over. Top Israeli officials, up to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, continue to cast the report as inimical to Israel’s interests as Iran and its putative nuclear weapons program.

Non-governmental defenders of Israel continue to demonize Goldstone. Most recently, Alan Dershowitz likened him to a “moser,” a Jewish traitor deemed in some interpretations as worthy of a death sentence.

In the meantime, left-wing and pro-Palestinian groups continue to call for war crimes investigations of Israel and have inhibited travel by Israeli officials to Europe lest they face arrest warrants.

Against the noise, the government’s description of the Israeli army’s cooperation with the same groups was telling.

Noting that 150 separate investigations arose from Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s name for the Gaza War, the government reply says that a portion were initiated by the army and “others were opened in response to complaints and reports from Palestinian civilians, local and international non-governmental organizations, and U.N. and media reports.”

Of the 150 probes, 36 have resulted in criminal prosecutions — 19 of these involved shooting toward civilians, and 17 involved using civilians as human shields, mistreating detainees, and theft.

Between 1,000 and 1,500 Palestinians died in the war. Human rights groups say the majority were civilians, while Israel says the majority were fighters.

Israel launched the operation after Hamas stepped up its rocket attacks on southern Israel. Such attacks had been an almost daily occurrence since the terrorist group took over the strip in 2006, and dated back more than eight years.

Of the 34 incidents outlined in the Goldstone report, the Israeli government says the army was investigating 22 before the report was published — it admits that Goldstone’s research led to the other 12 inquiries. (The two officers reprimanded for shelling the UNRWA compound are not among them.)

Additionally, the government reply says, the Military Police Criminal Investigation Division “has sought assistance from non-governmental organizations (such as B’Tselem) to help locate Palestinian complainants and witnesses, and to coordinate their arrival at the Erez crossing point to Gaza, to allow interviews and questioning.”

B’Tselem is an Israeli human rights group concerned with the mistreatment of Palestinians.

The approach is welcome, said Michael Sfard, the legal counsel for three groups — Yesh Din, Peace Now, and Breaking the Silence — that have been targeted by right-wingers and some Israel defenders as antagonistic toward Israel’s interests.

“It’s the first time since Cast Lead that a government body has done something that is purely professional, and this is how it should have been handled,” Sfard said.

Goldstone declined a request from JTA for an interview.

Despite its conciliatory tone, the government’s reply said the report reflects “many misunderstandings and fundamental mistakes with regard to the Gaza Operation, its purposes, and Israel’s legal system.”

A researcher for Human Rights Watch, one of the groups that Goldstone drew upon in compiling his report, said the army investigations, while welcome, focused more on the foot soldiers than on orders that might have been illegal.

“We’re concerned that low-level grunts are being investigated for violating orders when in fact the orders themselves may have been illegal,” researcher Fred Abrahams said. “We don’t have faith in the military’s willingness to investigate itself.”

Sfard agreed, saying he trusted the integrity of the military prosecutors in dealing with the military establishment, but wondered whether the prosecutors were willing to indict their own commanders.

He noted, for instance, that the report said prosecutors cleared Israel of wrongdoing in the use of white phosphorus while acknowledging the use of the chemical during the war. Army commanders likely would have sought the military advocate general’s opinion before using the phosphorus, which burns skin on contact but may also be used to identify targets in areas where there are no civilians.

That puts prosecutors in the unenviable position of saying their commander sanctioned an illegal order.

Moreover, Sfard said, as independent as he believes the military prosecutors are, he doubts that they would take on the military chief of staff himself, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, who formulated much of the policy.

“If the chief of staff has approved an attack, it is very difficult to expect that the military police and prosecution would deal with that,” he said.

Sfard said there was still a need for an independent Israeli commission to investigate the conduct of the war.

Anne Herzberg, the legal adviser for NGO Monitor, a group that tracks the funding and alleged biases of human rights groups, said she believed Israel may yet set up such a commission — but not because of pressures from human rights groups such as the ones Sfard represents.

“If they feel there’s room for that and there’s enough support, they should do it for internal purposes and because the Israeli public demands it,” she said, “not for a certain fringe sector of Israeli society making a lot of noise.”

JTA

 
 

A cruel farce

Josh LipowskyEditorial
Published: 26 March 2010
 
 

Responding to the top 10 anti-Israel lies

 

Israel’s cooperation on U.N. inquiry signals tactical shift

The decision by Israel to participate in the U.N. probe of the Turkish flotilla incident marks a stark departure from Jerusalem’s practice of opposing the world body’s investigations of Israeli actions.

A year and a half ago, faced with a similar decision when the U.N. Human Rights Council decided to appoint a fact-finding mission to investigate Israel and Hamas’ actions during the Gaza war, Israel boycotted the inquiry led by retired South African judge Richard Goldstone. Israel would pay a heavy diplomatic price: The Goldstone report was harshly critical of Israel and generated months of negative publicity for the Jewish state.

News Analysis

A year later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking the opposite course with the U.N. review panel looking into the May 31 flotilla confrontation. Nine Turks, including a Turkish-American, were killed in the mélée that ensued when Israeli commandos tried to board the Mavi Marmara, part of a flotilla of ships sailing for Gaza in a bid to break Israel’s blockade of the strip. The incident drew worldwide condemnation of Israel.

“Israel has nothing to hide. The opposite is true,” Netanyahu said in a statement Monday. “It is in the national interest of the State of Israel to ensure that the factual truth of the overall flotilla events comes to light throughout the world, and this is exactly the principle that we are advancing.”

The U.N. inquiry out of New York will be led by a former prime minister of New Zealand, Geoffrey Palmer, and will include the outgoing president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, as well as a Turkish and an Israeli representative who have yet to be named. The panel is expected to begin its work Aug. 10 and submit a progress report in mid-September.

image
Footage taken from cameras aboard the Mavi Marmara on May 31 shows passengers apparently preparing for a confrontation with Israeli soldiers, May 31. IDF/Flash90/JTA

The decision to cooperate with the U.N. probe comes after two months of Israel resisting calls for an international inquiry and signals a tactical shift for Israel when it comes to dealing with U.N. investigations of its actions. It marks the first time that Israel will be part on a U.N. committee looking into Israeli actions.

“This could be viewed as a new approach,” confirmed a source at Israel’s embassy in Washington.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed it as an “unprecedented development.”

Israel’s decision to cooperate on the probe follows weeks of urging by the Obama administration, but it’s also a way for Israel to mollify Turkey, which had threatened to sever diplomatic ties with the Jewish state unless Israel acceded to an international probe or apologized for the flotilla deaths.

Israel had launched its own investigations of the incident. An Israel Defense Forces investigation found intelligence failures in the IDF’s preparations for stopping the flotilla but no fault with the soldiers’ actions, and a government committee probe is still ongoing. Turkey, however, was not satisfied.

Concerned about the rupture between Turkey and Israel over the incident and its long-term implications for the future of the Middle East, the Obama administration was keen on finding a way for a probe that would satisfy both Turkey’s demands for an international inquiry and Israel’s concerns about bias against it. The new probe was the result of negotiations with Israel and Turkey.

“For the past two months, I have engaged in intensive consultation with the leaders of Israel and Turkey on the setting up of a panel of inquiry on the flotilla incident of 31 May,” the U.N. secretary-general said in a statement Monday. Ban said he hoped the inquiry would “impact positively on the relationship between Turkey and Israel as well as the overall situation in the Middle East.”

After the Goldstone report was issued a year ago with findings that tarnished Israel’s international image, some in Israel argued that it had been a mistake to boycott the inquiry. Rather, they said, Israel should have cooperated in a bid to ensure the least damaging report possible. With Israel now choosing cooperation over rejection on the new flotilla probe, some in Israel are cautioning against comparisons between the two.

In the Goldstone case, they note, the original mandate for the inquiry prejudged Israel as guilty and came from the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, which has a record of singling out Israel for opprobrium while ignoring human rights violators around the world. In the flotilla case, the probe will be conducted under the aegis of the U.N. secretary-general, who is seen as mindful of Israeli concerns.

“You have to make a distinction between the Human Rights Council, which is partisan and has an anti-Israel obsession, and between the secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, whom we hold in the highest esteem,” a senior Israeli official told JTA on condition of anonymity. “After ongoing discussion with the secretary-general, we are convinced that what he is proposing is credible and objective. I wouldn’t apply either of those two adjectives to the Human Rights Council, which is a travesty.”

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, implied that she hoped it would cancel out the Human Rights Council inquiry into the flotilla raid.

“The United States expects that the panel will operate in a transparent and credible manner, and that its work will be the primary method for the international community to review the incident, obviating the need for any overlapping international inquiries,” Rice said.

“That was an unmistakably derogatory reference to the U.N. Human Rights Council probe,” observed Hillel Neuer, the executive director of U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based pro-Israel watchdog organization. “A shadow has been cast on the U.N. Human Rights Council probe, and it was done so expressly.”

Neither the U.N. probe in New York nor the one being carried out in Geneva by the Human Rights Council will have legally binding consequences. JTA

 
 

Facing confluence of diplomatic events, Israel taking wait-and-see stance

image
From left, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet at Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, on Sept. 14. Moshe Milner/GPO

WASHINGTON – Heading into a period of intense diplomatic activity, Israel and the pro-Israel community are taking what may appear to be an atypical wait-and-see approach.

That sentiment and the Jewish holidays explain the relatively muted tone.

News Analysis

This week, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheik for their second round of direct talks. Next week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to deliver his annual address to the U.N. General Assembly — his first since the international community launched a major intensification of sanctions aimed at getting Iran to make its nuclear program more transparent.

Also next week, two separate U.N. inquiries into Israel’s deadly May 31 raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla of ships are likely to be released.

Such a confluence of events, with its potential for anti-Israel invective, normally would invite a vigorous “best defense is an offense” approach from the pro-Israel community. Instead, organizations appear to be hanging back.

The reason, insiders say, is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees the stakes as too high for nasty back-and-forths between Israel and its opponents to get in the way. Netanyhahu is genuinely invested in the peace process and does not want to hand Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas an excuse to bolt.

Netanyahu also wants the Obama administration to have room to maneuver as the prospect of a nuclear Iran looms larger.

“The Israelis are saying this is real — Netanyahu wants to talk to Abbas one on one, and they will either move this ball forward or they won’t,” said William Daroff, the Washington director of the Jewish Federations of North America, who has been in close contact with Israeli officials.

Netanyahu’s seriousness is underscored by what appears to be a shift on extending the partial settlement freeze he imposed 10 months ago. Abbas has threatened to quit the talks if the freeze is not extended past its Sept. 26 deadline, and last Friday President Obama said he also wanted it extended.

The Israeli leader, who until this week had refused an extension, suggested to his cabinet on Sunday that there may be room for compromise.

“Between zero and one there are a lot of possibilities,” Haaretz quoted Netanyahu as saying.

Key to Netanyahu’s calculations is the improved relationship he has with Obama, a critical element in selling concessions to the Israeli public. At a news conference last Friday, Obama praised Netanyahu’s freeze.

“The irony is that when Prime Minister Netanyahu put the moratorium in place, the Palestinians were very skeptical,” Obama said. “They said this doesn’t do anything. And it turns out, to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s credit and to the Israeli government’s credit, the settlement moratorium has actually been significant. It has significantly reduced settlement construction in the region. And that’s why now the Palestinians say, you know what, even though we weren’t that keen on it at first or we thought it was just window dressing, it turns out that this is important to us.”

Another calculus for the Netanyahu government in its wait-and-see plan is the Obama administration’s success in drumming up Iran sanctions. Most recently, Japan and South Korea expanded sanctions over China’s objections, joining the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Norway in targeting the Islamic Republic’s energy and banking sectors.

Even Russia is reported to have effectively “forgotten” to deliver its promised S-300 air defense system to Iran, which would considerably boost Iran’s ability to repel a strike against its nuclear arms centers should they become active.

U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies agree that Iran is feeling the squeeze, Israeli officials have said, leading Israel to defer to the Obama administration — for now.

“We’ve seen that the sanctions have taken a bite,” Michael Oren, Israel’s U.S. ambassador, told JTA. “But they have not yet in any way stopped enriching uranium or pressing on with their nuclear program. So that’s going to be the true test. Six or nine months down the road, we’re going to have to reassess and see where the sanctions are going.”

Ahmadinejad’s planned appearance at the General Assembly next week usually would spur the major Jewish organizations to organize a major protest rally to underscore his isolation. But with the Sukkot holiday coinciding with this year’s General Assembly, the protest has been scaled down to a Central Park rally organized by StandWithUs, a student-driven pro-Israel group.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is urging nations to walk out when Ahmadinejad speaks.

“We call upon all member states that uphold democracy and human rights to manifest their rejection and disapproval of President Ahmadinejad’s incitement, bigotry, and Holocaust denial by walking out of the General Assembly during his speech,” the organization said in a statement.

Local Jewish groups are planning sustained activism on Iran, said Josh Protas, the Washington director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for Jewish community relations councils.

“Several communities are planning days of action to raise community awareness about Ahmadinejad, the United Nations, the continued threat,” he said.

JCRCs are asking members to press lawmakers to keep Iran on the agenda, on the federal level and state level, where divestment initiatives are flourishing, Protas said.

“There’s a recognition that the sanctions don’t end the situation,” he said.

The collective decision by Israel and Jewish groups to lay low on the dueling reports on the flotilla raid is seen as a test of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has tried to moderate the U.N. probes of the raid.

Israel was condemned harshly after its commandos killed nine Turks when violence broke out on one of the ships during Israel’s operation to stop the flotilla from breaking the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israel’s defenders say the commandos came under attack and were defending themselves; critics say Israel used excessive force.

Pro-Israel officials expect the investigation of the incident by the U.N. Human Rights Council to be biased; the council condemns Israel more than any other nation. The other investigatory commission, however, which Ban appointed and is headed by Geoffrey Palmer, a former New Zealand prime minister, is seen as fair. Netanyahu cooperated with that commission.

The question, said Daniel Mariaschin, the executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, is whether Ban will be able to maneuver his commission’s report into being the one adopted and advanced by other U.N. bodies, including the General Assembly, rather than the U.N. Human Rights Council report.

“This is a test for the U.N. and for Ban’s leadership,” Mariaschin said. “Will it be fair?”

JTA

 
 

Week for mockeries at the United Nations

image
An effigy of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad occupies center stage at a protest outside the United Nations on Sept. 23. Courtesy Iran180

NEW YORK – During last week’s gathering of world leaders for the annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly, some of the proceedings inside were nearly as farcical as the proceedings outside.

In one Jewish-organized protest on the street near the United Nations, activists wearing rainbow-colored wigs, mini-skirts, and pom-poms danced around a man wearing a massive effigy of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s head and clad in a nuclear suit and chains. Behind him stood an activist in a Hawaiian shirt wearing an Obama mask on his head, a rubber octopus on his hand, and carrying a sign that read, “No Nukes for Iran.”

It was all part of a mock trial of the Iranian leader organized by a group called Iran180.

Inside the U.N. plenum, Ahmadinejad by many accounts was making a mockery of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The United States arranged the 9/11 attacks “to save the Zionist regime,” Ahmadinejad declared in his Sept. 23 address. Suggesting that U.S. officials at the highest levels were complicit in the attacks, he called on the United Nations to establish “an independent fact-finding group” to investigate.

The U.S. delegation walked out of Ahmadinejad’s speech, as did all 27 European Union delegations, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Costa Rica.

As is his custom, the Iranian president also used his annual speech at the General Assembly to lash out against Israel.

“This regime,” he said of Israel, “which enjoys the absolute support of some Western countries, regularly threatens the countries in the region and continues publicly announced assassinations of Palestinian figures and others, while Palestinian defenders are labeled as terrorists and anti-Semites. All values, even the freedom of expression in Europe and the United States, are being sacrificed at the altar of Zionism.”

It wasn’t the only attack Israel faced last week at the United Nations.

A day earlier, the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council issued its report on the May 31 flotilla incident in which Israeli soldiers killed nine Turkish activists in a confrontation aboard a Gaza-bound flotilla.

The report called the actions by Israeli naval commandos “disproportionate and brutal,” saying they “demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence” and calling for “prosecution against Israel for willful killing and torture.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the report “biased and distorted.” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called it “extremely fair and based on solid evidence. We appreciate that. It meets our expectations.”

A separate inquiry by the United Nations commissioned by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is ongoing.

At U.N. headquarters in New York, Israeli representatives did not respond to Ahmadinejad’s tirade because the speech took place on the Sukkot holiday and Israel’s U.N. delegation was absent.

President Obama made the case for Israel in his own speech to the U.N. General Assembly, which preceded Ahmadinejad’s.

“After 60 years in the community of nations, Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,” Obama said. “Israel is a sovereign state and the historic homeland of the Jewish people. It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakable opposition of the United States.”

The U.S. president also called on the world community to back Israeli-Palestinian peace with deeds and not just words.

“Those who long to see an independent Palestine rise must stop trying to tear Israel down,” Obama said.

“Many in this hall count themselves as friends of the Palestinians, but these pledges must now be supported by deeds,” he said.

“Those who have signed on to the Arab peace initiative should seize this opportunity to make it real by taking tangible steps toward the normalization that it promises Israel,” he said, referring to the 2003 Saudi-sponsored plan that offered Israel comprehensive peace in return for its withdrawal to pre-1967 borders.

Following Ahmadinejad’s remarks several hours later, the U.S. mission to the United Nations issued a statement that “Rather than representing the aspirations and good will of the Iranian people, Mr. Ahmadinejad has yet again chosen to spout vile conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic slurs that are as abhorrent and delusional as they are predictable.”

JTA

 
 

Response to fire illuminates challenges for Israel

 

U.N. human rights chief must be held accountable

 

The Human Rights Council and the rest of us

 

Fool’s Gold(stone) redux

 
 
Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 >
 
 
S M T W T F S
1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31