On September the 29th of this year Richard Goldstone, a Jewish South African, presented the findings of a UN Fact Finding mission to the Council of Human Rights in Geneva. The Mission’s Mandate was to investigate; “all violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law” during the December/January Israeli offensive in Gaza, codenamed “Cast Lead”.
Even before the investigation started the Israeli Government refused to co-operate with the UN Mission or to allow them access to Israel, The West Bank or Gaza. Eventually the Mission sought “and obtained the assistance of the Government of Egypt to enable it to enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing”. In contrast to the obstructive position of the Israeli Government the report states that, “the Mission held meetings with senior members of the Gaza Authorities and they extended their full cooperation and support.”
If, as was stated by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs; “Israel’s resort to force in the Gaza Operation was both a necessary and a proportionate response to Hamas’ attacks”, then why would one obstruct the investigation?
The answer lies in what Israel deemed to be a “Proportionate response”.
This included attacks against police facilities, resulting in the death of over 240 police officers, and air strikes against the Palestinian Legislative Council buildings and Gaza’s main prison, rendering them rubble. A UNRWA field office compound in Gaza, providing shelter to 700 civilians, came under attack and the report notes that “The Israeli forces continued the attack over several hours in spite of having been fully alerted to the risks they created”. It states that during “Cast Lead”, “280 schools and kindergartens were destroyed”, and that it appeared that “hospitals and ambulances were targeted by Israeli attacks”. It gives vivid details of one such attack, “the Israeli forces directly and intentionally attacked the Al Quds Hospital in Gaza City and the adjacent ambulance depot with white phosphorous shells”, causing “panic among the sick and wounded who had to be evacuated”. This was not an isolated incident either with Al Wafa hospital in eastern Gaza, described as a hospital for patients “receiving long-term care and suffering from particularly serious injuries “, bombarded with “intense artillery attacks, again including white phosphorous munitions”. The accusation often leveled after being confronted with these facts is that Palestinian armed groups used these types of facilities, and thus Palestinian civilians, as bases for attacks on Israel. The mission investigated these accusations and stated that it “did not find any evidence to support the allegations that hospital facilities were used by the Gaza authorities or by Palestinian armed groups to shield military activities and that ambulances were used to transport combatants or for other military purposes.”
Quite to the contrary the report instead documents Israeli use of Palestinian civilians as human shields. In north-western Gaza, Al Atatra, troops “had dug out sand pits”, into which they then placed detained Palestinian men, women and children. Israeli tanks and artillery positions were located inside and around the sand pits, and “fired from next to the detainees”. It also described how, during house searches, civilians were “coerced at gunpoint” to take part, then “blindfolded and handcuffed as they were forced to enter houses ahead of the Israeli soldiers”.
The other important aspect of the attack documented by the Goldstone Report relates to the deliberate destruction of industrial facilities, food production plants and water infrastructure in Gaza. This includes the bulldozing of a chicken farm that produced 10 percent of the eggs consumed in Gaza, not only leveling the farm but also killing 31,000 chickens. The extent of the attacks on flour mills, cement plants, drink factories, water wells, food production factories and agricultural land led the Mission to come to the conclusion that, “The facts ascertained by the Mission indicate that there was a deliberate and systematic policy on the part of the Israeli armed forces to target industrial sites and water installations.”
The report also places this particular instance of Palestinian suffering within the wider context of the situation in Palestine. This includes condemnation of the economic blockade imposed upon the people of Gaza by the Israeli authorities, the implications of West Bank and East Jerusalem settlement policies, the continued building of the West Bank barrier, the continuing oppression of political opposition to the Israeli state and an ongoing illegal military occupation.
Some would have us believe that this report is an Anti Semitic attempt to cast aspersions on the good name of the State of Israel. In fact it is yet another documented instance of Israeli brutality and racism, occurring within the context of an ongoing Zionist colonial project. The report recognises this stating that, “The tactics used by Israeli military armed forces in the Gaza offensive are consistent with previous practice”, which is described as the “application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations.”
The legitimacy of the State of Israel, its racist colonial project and its ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people must be challenged. Support Palestinian Resistance, and help to confront undemocratic and politically motivated “Terrorist Legislation”, that seeks to suppress legitimate forces of resistance and liberation the world over.