The Suffering Goes On and On

By Ron Forthofer

This past September, the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict issued its report. Richard Goldstone, a South African Justice and a strong supporter of Israel, headed the effort. During the period under investigation, Israeli forces killed over 1400 Palestinians, the majority of whom were defenseless civilians, while 13 Israelis were killed. Although the report was well covered elsewhere, the U.S. corporate media did not give much attention to its findings.

Excerpts from the press release of the report provide an overview:

"Following its 3-month investigation, the four-person Mission concluded that serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel in the context of its military operations in Gaza from December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity.

The Mission also found that Palestinian armed groups had committed war crimes, as well as possibly crimes against humanity.

"The report concluded that the Israeli military operation was directed at the people of Gaza as a 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 Report states that Israeli acts that deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, that deny their freedom of movement and their right to leave and enter their own country, that limit their rights to access a court of law and an effective remedy, and could lead a competent court to find that the crime of persecution, a crime against humanity, has been committed. …"

This report’s findings are consistent with those of other groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as well as testimonies from Israeli soldiers who served in Gaza during the massacre.

The Obama administration dismissed the report, expressing "serious concerns about many recommendations in the report" according to Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the UN. In October, the U.S. opposed a UN Human Rights Council resolution that supported taking the report to the Security Council, and just last week the U.S. also voted against a General Assembly Resolution calling for the report to be sent to the Security Council. These Obama administration’s positions, along with its backtracking on Israeli settlements, again make it clear that the U.S. is not an honest broker in peace negotiations involving Israel.

Additionally, last week the U.S. House of Representatives considered a resolution calling for President Obama to continue his opposition to the Goldstone report. Despite Judge Goldstone’s documentation that the resolution was almost entirely based on falsehoods and misrepresentations, 344 members (including the seven Colorado representatives) still voted in favor of it.

Lost in all these maneuvers to sidetrack the Goldstone report is the fact that the Israeli attack was unnecessary. A ceasefire had effectively ended rocket firing into Israel for over four months until Israel broke the ceasfire in early November, 2008. After the ceasefire ended in mid-December, Hamas eventually offered a new ceasefire under the conditions that Israel would lift the siege on Gaza and stop its attacks. Israel’s response was to initiate its long-planned attack.

Also overshadowed in the dispute about the Goldstone report is the siege of Gaza that continues today. Eleven months before the Israeli attack, Karen Koning AbuZayd, commissioner general for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, wrote: "Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution, with the knowledge, acquiescence and – some would say – encouragement of the international community." The situation she described has greatly worsened since Israel’s attack. Israel has refused to allow material for rebuilding homes, schools, hospitals, mosques, civil administration buildings, sanitation facilities, etc. into Gaza. There is also a critical shortage of food, clean water and medicine. Unfortunately, the U.S. and Europe, leaders of the so-called civilized world, are active partners in this crime against humanity. Through their silence, the U.S. corporate media also abet this crime.

Please inform your elected representatives of your dismay at their support for a cover-up of war crimes. As supporters of human rights and justice for all, we can also join the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (http://www.bdsmovement.net/) to apply pressure on Israel akin to the movement against South African apartheid. Locally, please join the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center (303-444-6981).

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