[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]
Today’s book salon is unexpectedly timely. With this weekend’s startling Washington Post opinion piece by Judge Goldstone which seems to contradict the factual findings of the report of The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, controversy over “The Goldstone Report” on Operation Cast Lead is in the news once again.
And that controversy makes this new book, edited by Adam Horowitz, Lizzy Ratner and Philip Weiss, even more valuable. The book offers an edited version of the report along with a broad selection of essays which provide commentary on the legal issues raised, the controversy over the report, the attacks on Judge Goldstone and both transcripts of testimony to the investigative commission and views from Gazans who lived through the attack.
The introductory essay by Naomi Klein points to how important the investigation was to those who survived the Israeli attack. As Klein describes, the people of Gaza were not only devastated by the immense violence of that attack but also by the realization that the world powers and legal institutions did nothing to demand accountability from the Israeli government:
The message sent by the paralysis of the international legal system was terrifying: Israel enjoyed complete impunity. There was no recourse.
Then, out of nowhere, a representative of law did show up. His name was Judge Richard Goldstone and he was leading a fact-finding mission for the United Nations. His mandate was to assess whether war crimes had been committed during the attack and to spur legal remedies.
Of course, no such “legal remedies” have resulted even though the report itself set a six month time limit for self-investigations and called on international bodies to take action.
As Raji Sourani notes in the essay The Right to Live in Dignity:
It is self-evident truth that if the law is to be protected, the it must be enforced. History has shown us, time and again, that as long as individuals are granted impunity, they will continue to violate the law. It is innocent civilians, the “protected persons” of international humanitarian law, who are forced to suffer the historic consequences.
And those consequences continue in Gaza where Israeli collective punishment has neither been prosecuted or halted.
One of the included essays that speaks particularly effectively to this inaction is that of Congressman Brian Baird:
During Operation Cast Lead – and I hate to call it Operation Cast Lead, it sounds so surgical and it as anything but – there was a picture of three little Palestinian boys who had been killed lying on a little rug, and the father was just grief-stricken. Those boys were about the same age as my twin boys, and I thought, those could be my kids right there.
This recognition led Baird to go to Gaza and to observe first hand the destruction of Gaza – and then to speak out in the face of the move by Congress to oppose even this factual investigative report. His words indict the his colleagues and more:
I want to make a really key distinction. It is easy and tempting to speak about our need to respond differently in Gaza, and for that matter East Jerusalem and the West Bank, solely out of nationalistic geopolitical self-interest. And it goes something like: If we don’t treat these people better they will become terrorists and they will come kill us or it will destabilize the region. I get that.
But here’s something much more fundamental than that, and that’s the golden rule. You should not do this to human beings. The golden rule needs a corollary, which is, Not only do unto others as you would have them do unto you, but do not allow to be done unto others what you would not want to be done unto yourself, and certainly don’t facilitate that. We are absolutely complicit in this … America is abetting these abuses and Israel is facilitating them on a daily basis.
Now sadly it seems that Judge Goldstone has joined in this same facilitation. Reading the essays in The Goldstone Report which speak of the ever so vicious attacks the judge has faced, perhaps it all just got to be too much for him – but his new statement claiming validity for the secret, unfinished investigations by Israel of Israel, in fact by staff from the same ministry that is also providing the defense attorneys for those accused crimes, is particularly hard to read after reading today’s featured book, for in the detailed, careful text of the report itself we have perhaps the only official humane response to the horror of Operation Cast Lead. The report at least represented some attempt on behalf of the world community to speak for the victims and for humanitarian international law.
In his weak and unconvincing editorial, Judge Goldstone not only seriously misrepresents the findings of the McGowan Davis findings which are designed to follow-up on the recommendations of the original report, as today’s guest, Adam Horowitz so well documents in his post at Mondoweiss yesterday, Goldstone too becomes an apologist for these crimes – and that is heartbreaking.