Monday, February 1, 2010

Goldstone's February 5 deadline approaching

Israel and Hamas, accused of war crimes in the Goldstone Report, have until February 5 to show they have begun credible investigations into alleged human rights abuses during the Winter War on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009 or face possible trials at the International Criminal Court. The Palestinian Authority has already submitted its report to the UN, though the contents of that report have not been published. Hamas has not finished its report but has promised it will submit one by the deadline. Israel last week submitted its response to the UN resolution, though the response does not respond in detail to the allegations it is facing, but is simply an assertion that Israeli justice system is "reliable and independent. The report admits that two Israeli officers were "punished" (they kept their commands and ranks) for "exceeding their authority in a manner that jeopardized the lives of others" for commanding their troops to fire white phosphorous shells at a UN compound sheltering 700 Gazans and most of the UN's food stores in the Gaza Strip. 900 civilians are dead and it is apparently the fault of just two men, who will be "punished" accordingly but who will be allowed to retain their commands (one of the commanders gets to move to a cushier job doing the same things he enjoys doing to Gazans to West Bank Palestinians. (UPDATE: The IDF is now denying that the two officers were disciplined in relation to the firing of white phosphorous at the UN compound.) There is also no civilian control of oversight of the Israeli military - as the Israeli government and IDF have ruled out a civilian Israeli judicial review of allegations of wrongdoing because obviously any authoritarian controlled military organization is certainly able to independently and credibly investigate its faults in war. Just to prove my point: I took a trip to the National Archives yesterday where they have a very informative exhibit on minority discrimination and racism that American soldiers faced in World War II - the military flatly refused promotions, commendations, and pensions to thousands of minority soldiers for decades until the feds finally stepped up and forced their hand - many received what was owed to them for decades posthumously.

The Israeli government also decided that it has not done enough to encourage illegal settlers to become even more violent toward Israeli soldiers and Palestinians, and to refuse to follow the laws of Israel when they simply do not like them. By a vote of 51-9 in the Knesset, Israel pardoned and expunged the records of 400 violent Gazan settlers that attacked Palestinians and Israeli soldiers with oil, garbage, acid, and stones during the 2005 Gaza disengagement. Remember the hierarchy of Israeli law: International Law, Palestinian Law, Israeli-Arab Law, Israeli Jewish Law, and Settler Law at the very top.

Finally, Robert Fisk, the man who wrote the book on the Modern Middle East Conflict, has a spectacular expose on Israel's administration of Area C lands in the West Bank. Reference the hierarchy of Israeli law above if you're having trouble comprehending the madness that is Israeli policy in the West Bank.

Fisk is always a man that can capture the essence of political policies with perfect phrasing: ethnic cleansing via bureaucracy and apartheid-by-permit are his golden nuggets of clarity in this one.

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