Goldstone Applauds as Israel Investigates Itself

?Goldstone Applauds as Israel Investigates Itself

Goldstone Repents
Élise Hendrick

April 5, 2011

Goldstone makes no attempt to reconcile the clearly enunciated plans of the Israeli military leadership - announced in one of Israel's leading newspapers - to target civilians and civilian infrastructure, with his doubts about 'allegations of intentionality'. However, he does provide one clue: His 'reconsideration' of the intentionality of Israel's attacks on Gazan civilians appears to be based in large part the fact that Israel has conducted 'investigations', which Goldstones contrasts with Hamas, who he asserts has 'done nothing' to investigate the Report's findings of war crimes by Palestinian combatants within Gaza. Leaving aside the fact that Israel only initiated these 'investigations' after the public shaming embodied by the Report, it is once again the Report itself that shows just what we can make of the 'investigations' Goldstone now lauds.

In its section on 'Accountability', the Report provided a detailed analysis of 'the Israeli internal system of investigation and prosecution according to its national legislation and in the light of practice' (par. 120), and the general culture of impunity that pervades this system when it comes to crimes against Palestinians. The core of this system is what is known as the 'operational debriefing', in which 'incidents or operations' are reviewed by 'soldiers from the same unit or line of command together with a superior officer. They are meant to serve operational purposes' (par. 20). It is worth quoting the Report's findings on Israel's system of accountability, or lack thereof, at length:

121. [.] International law has also established that [investigations of serious violations] should comply with standards of impartiality, independence, promptness and effectiveness. The Mission holds that the Israeli system of investigation does not comply with all those principles. In relation to the "operational debriefing" used by the Israeli armed forces as an investigative tool, the Mission holds the view that a tool designed for the review of performance and to learn lessons can hardly be an effective and impartial investigation mechanism that should be instituted after every military operation where allegations of serious violations have been made. It does not comply with internationally recognised principles of impartiality and promptness in investigations. The fact that proper criminal investigations can only start after the "operational debriefing" is over is a major flaw in the Israel system of investigation.

122. The Mission concludes that there are serious doubts about the willingness of Israel to carry out genuine investigations in an impartial, independent, prompt and effective way as required by international law. The Mission is also of the view that the Israeli system overall presents inherently discriminatory features that make the pursuit of justice for Palestinian victims very difficult.


1399. In the past, every case in which a Palestinian not participating in hostilities was killed was subject to criminal investigation. This policy changed in 2000. Criminal investigations are now the exception, these cases are now simply discussed in an "operational debriefing" by the military itself. In 2003, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and B'Tselem filed a petition to reverse this policy change, demanding that every civilian death be independently investigated. The petition included demands for investigations into individual deaths as well as the principle question relating to the overall policy. The former were dismissed, while the principle question is still pending.

1400. [Israeli human rights group] Yesh Din reports that over 90 per cent of investigations into settler violence are closed without an "indictment being filed". B'Tselem reported in June 2009 that the charges against Mr Braude, the Hebron settler who was filmed shooting and injuring three Palestinians in December 2009, would be dropped, as the court had ordered that "secret evidence" against him be disclosed, and the potential public harm of this disclosure would outweigh the harm done by a person, documented as having committed a violent crime, being released back into society.

1401. In July 2009, an Israeli activist who had been shot in the head in 2006 by the Israeli border police was awarded compensation for his injury in an out of court settlement. To date, the commander who ordered the shooting has not been subject to criminal investigation.

1402. On 7 July 2008, Ashraf Abu-Rahma was shot at short range while blindfolded and handcuffed. The incident was filmed and widely broadcast. When the Israeli Military Advocate General charged the officer who ordered the shooting with "conduct unbecoming", Israeli international law Professor Orna Ben-Naftali stated that "the decision (was) indicative of a policy of tolerance towards violence against non-violent civilian protests against the construction of the Separation Wall". He added that "the implication of such a policy is twofold: first, it might transform 'conduct unbecoming' - which as a matter of law is a war crime - into a crime against humanity; second, it may well be construed as an invitation to the international community to intervene through the exercise of universal jurisdiction."

(emphasis supplied)

Put briefly, given the long history of impunity for even well-documented crimes against Palestinian civilians and others opposing the Israeli occupation, the Israeli 'investigations' that Goldstone finds so encouraging are about as credible as Moshe Katsav at a Take Back the Night rally.

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