Israel's Campaign to Avoid Accountability for War Crimes Must be Rejected

Justice Richard Goldstone’s opinion piece (April 1, 2011) in the Washington Post ‘Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes’ does not ‘vindicate’ the State of Israel as the government of Israel would have us believe, nor was the Op-Ed piece a ‘retraction’ of the report in its entirety as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal would have had us believe.

Goldstone’s opinion piece simply stated that in light of evidence presented by Israel through military investigations, he does not believe Israeli forces intentionally targeted civilians “as a matter of policy” during Operation ‘Cast Lead,’ Dec. 27, 2008 – Jan. 18, 2009.  The original report initially asserted that in certain cases, Israeli forces carried out “direct intentional strikes against civilians.”

Assessing whether specific Israeli attacks on civilians during the conflict were deliberate is extremely difficult because the Israeli military has not released the evidence that would allow independent parties to evaluate its conclusions.  Amnesty has not argued that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) targeted Palestinian civilians “as a matter of policy”, but that IDF rules of engagement and actions during the conflict failed to take sufficient precautions to minimize civilian casualties.  Justice Goldstone’s recent comments do not dispute this assessment.


15-Year-Old Palestinian Turns To ICC For Justice

After witnessing the deaths of her father Fathi, her sister Ismat, and her brother Ala on January 14, Amira Alqerem has turned to the (ICC) seven months later in hopes of justice for her family. Her family was attacked in Gaza during which lasted 22 days this past January and resulted in the deaths of more than 1,300 Palestinians and three Israelis.

The AFP reported on Alqerem’s court filing:

“The three children were awoken by an explosion to find their father’s body, covered in blood, next to a crater near their house, the document claims. Ismat and Ala went off to seek help, but were killed in another explosion. Amira, who had stayed behind with her dead father, was hit in the right leg.”

Gilles Devers, an international lawyer from Lyon, is currently representing Alqerem. He believes the Israeli attacks were aimed at citizens and recently said, “This was a crime against humanity, that is why we brought it to the ICC.” He also reaffirmed the need for accountability, adding that “Israeli politicians and military leaders must be held responsible.”

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC Prosecutor, began a preliminary analysis in February of the alleged crimes committed by Israel during Operation Cast Lead. He has received many claims similar to that of Amira Alqerem and to date, has received complaints from over 360 individuals in addition to evidence of wrong-doing from other non-governmental bodies, the Palestinian Justice Minister Ali Kashan, and the Palestinian National Authority all pertaining to this most recent Israeli offensive.

Through her interpreter, Alqerem noted that she was doing this “for all the children of Gaza” and that “I want to do something to change the situation.”

Sana Javed contributed to this post.

“I Have to Hold Back Tears” — Jimmy Carter

During the lead up to former president Jimmy Carter’s trip to Gaza, the general media sentiment regarding the trip was ominous. Questions of safety (and loyalty, due to the boycott of Gaza and the legitimacy of its government) arose as Carter announced he would be meeting with Hamas leaders to discuss the future of Palestine.

He arrived on Tuesday, June 16th, and met with the Gazan leadership, including Ismail Haniya and Mahmoud Zahhar. He also visited sites that were destroyed during Operation Cast Lead, including an American school obliterated by bombs dropped by F-16s. The human rights violations that took place during the Israeli offensive in earlier this year have stunned him, he said. “I have to hold back tears when I see the deliberate destruction that has been wracked against your people.”

Other objectives of Carter’s trip to Gaza included delivering a letter to Gilad Shalit (the Israeli soldier taken hostage by Hamas in June 2006), asking Hamas to consider recognition of Israel (it refused), calling for an end to the Gaza blockade, and also to insist that Hamas end its rocket fire into areas such as Sderot.

Israel launched an offensive in the Gaza Strip last December in response to rocket fire, a war that left the territory in shambles and unable to rebuild due to the stiff international blockade from 2 years prior. Only the bare humanitarian needs are delivered to a population of 1.5 million. Carter specifically pushed the US and Europe to allow basic goods into Gaza. “Never before in history has a large community like this been savaged by bombs and missiles and then denied the means to repair itself,” said Carter. “The citizens of Palestine are treated more like animals than like human beings.”

Samah Choudhury contributed to this post