McINTYRE: Goldstone’s apparent U-turn does not change the reality on the ground 15Apr11 April 17, 2011

by Jody McIntyre  -  The Independent -  15 April 2011

Last week, scores were killed in Gaza after renewed Israeli air strikes.  Initial rumours of plans to launch an ‘Operation Scorching Summer’ seem to have been dispelled, although it was another bloody week for the battered yet resilient people of Gaza.

It seems that the Israeli government momentarily took Richard Goldstone’s comments last month as a green-light for a renewed attack on the Gaza Strip.  Goldstone had said that he regretted some aspects of the report he made on Operation Cast Lead, during which around 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died.  Four of the Israelis were killed by other Israeli soldiers in ‘friendly fire’ incidents.

The Goldstone Report concluded that individual Israelis could be held criminally responsible for potential war crimes committed by the State of Israel. But now, Goldstone, a supporter of Israel – perhaps a strange choice for an ‘impartial’ report on a war launched by Israel – has said subsequent Israeli military reports show that Israel did not target civilians as a matter of policy.  Oh, Israeli military reports, that infamous source of unbiased and accurate information.

Perhaps we had a duty to do more to support Goldstone, after the vile, racist attacks against him and slurs of ‘self-hating Jew’ following the publication of the report.  In an interview with the Middle East Monitor, co-author of the report and retired Irish peace-keeper Desmond Travers expressed the view that Goldstone was particularly targeted because of his Jewish background; “the reason I think that they really savaged Richard Goldstone was because he’s a Jew”, Travers said, “they ignored me completely.”

Nevertheless, his recent comments do not change the reality on the ground in Gaza.  I remember, whilst living in Gaza, meeting Gazan fishermen who had been shot at whilst fishing in Gaza’s waters, Gazan farmers who had been shot at whilst working on their land up to a kilometre away from the border with Israel, and Gazan tunnellers working every day at the risk of being bombed.  “ Every day you leave your home, without guaranteeing that you’ll be back,” one tunneler told me in an interview.  “How can you see a future from within a box of matches?”  Israel will point to arms smuggling, whilst ignoring the continued siege and suffocation of the Gazan people which makes the tunnels necessary.  Israel will point to Gilead Shalit, whilst ignoring the 11,000 Palestinian prisoners imprisoned in Israeli jails.  Israel will point to Hamas rockets landing in southern Israel, whilst ignoring the assassinations of Hamas officials which almost always precipitate a rise in rocket fire.

Above all, they are ignoring a colonialist occupation of another people’s land which began in 1948.  That is why they are so afraid of the declaration of a Palestinian state, even if it is made by the collaborationist Palestinian [Non-] Authority, who have gone beyond the realm of some national liberation movements, and embraced neo-liberalism before the occupation has even ended.  Because it discredits the colonialist belief of ‘a land of no people for a people of no land’, and forces Israel to accept a state which, in its very existence, goes against the founding tenets of Zionism.

Goldstone’s recent comments were roundly condemned by the other three members of the UN fact-finding mission which authored the report – Pakistani human rights lawyer Hina Jilani; Christine Chinkin, professor of international law at the London School of Economics; and Travers.  But even if they were true, it is very telling that the Israeli government celebrate an opinion that civilians were not ‘intentionally’ targeted as some kind of justification for their crimes.  The facts remain; they were civilians, and they were killed by the Israeli military.

It is important that the Israeli government are made aware that the eyes of the world are on Palestine.  We will refuse to be silent; after all, as Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  We must make abundantly clear which side we are standing on.

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