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Tuesday, September 15, 2009


(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson) 15 September 2009

Why hasn't Israel cooperated with international investigations into the Gaza

There have been tens of International inquiries into events in the Gaza
Operation, and Israel has cooperated fully with almost all of them. Only in
those instances where it seemed clear beyond any doubt that the initiative
was motivated by a political agenda and not concern for human rights, did
Israel decide not to cooperate. Unfortunately the Human Rights Council Fact
Finding Mission (the "Goldstone Mission") was one of these.

Why does Israel claim that the Goldstone Mission was politically motivated?

Three reasons:

The Resolution establishing the Mission prejudges the outcome of any
inquiry. Prior to any investigation, it determines that Israel has "caused
massive violations of human rights" and accuses Israel of targeting medical
facilities and systematically destroying Palestinian cultural heritage. It
does not accuse the Hamas of any violations. The one-sided nature of the
resolution was the reason it was not supported by many States, including
Canada, Japan, Switzerland the European Union.

The Mandate of the Mission is similarly one-sided. It calls for an
investigation into violations of international law by "the occupying Power,
Israel, against the Palestinian people." It does not mandate any
investigation of violations by Palestinian terrorist organizations. It was
for this reason that many distinguished individuals who were asked to head
the Mission refused. One of them was Mary Robinson, former High
Commissioner for Human Rights, who described the mandate as: "not balanced
because it focuses on what Israel did, without calling for an investigation
on the launch of the rockets by Hamas."

Members of the Mission: At least one of the Mission's members has a clear
bias on the issues under investigation. During the very conflict which she
is now supposed to be impartially investigating, Professor Christine Chinkin
was signatory to a letter to the London Sunday Times, asserting that
Israel's actions "amount to aggression, not self-defense" and that "the
manner and scale of its operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression
and is contrary to international law".

Wasn't the mandate of the Mission changed to be more balanced?

Goldstone has claimed that the Mandate of the Mission was changed,
unilaterally, by the then-President of the Council. However, as a matter of
law, the only body with the legal authority to modify the Mandate is the
Council itself, and it has never done so.

Additionally, it should be noted that even the so-called changed mandate
focused on events in Gaza, between the dates December 27, 2008 and January
1, 2009, effectively ruling out any attention to the years in which
thousands of missiles were fired on civilians Israel prior to the start of
the military operation.

Finally, even if were the Mission to operate according to new and different
terms of reference of its own devising, all subsequent proceedings by the
Council following its report would still be based on the Council's own
biased Resolution and Mandate.

Wasn't the Mission balanced in practice? Didn't it invite all sides to
present evidence at public hearings?

Israel was concerned by reports in the Palestinian media that at every stage
of their visit to Gaza the Mission members were accompanied by Hamas
representatives. If so, this was clearly a major obstacle to obtaining
genuine evidence, particularly regarding Hamas' violations of international
law, and its use of civilians as human shields.

The unprecedented decision of a fact-finding mission to hold public hearings
was also troubling. The very point of a fact-finding mission is that a team
of experts bring their experience and judgment to bear in assessing the
available evidence and drawing responsible conclusions - not that emotional
allegations are directly broadcast into the public arena, without any
possibility of taking confidential or sensitive information into

Can't Israel rely on the neutrality of the UN Human Rights Council?

Unfortunately not. The Human Rights Council has consistently singled out
Israel, while failing to address the true violators of human rights. It has
devoted more resolutions to condemning Israel, than to all the other
countries of the world combined. Needless to say no resolution or
fact-finding mission was initiated by the Council concerning the firing of
12,000 rockets and missiles on Israeli civilians during the years prior to
the Gaza operation.

Justice Goldstone himself admitted, in an interview to Al Jazeera "I can
understand Israel's suspicion with regard to the Human Rights Council - it
has been partial with regard to Israel for many years."

But if Israel doesn't cooperate, won't wrongdoers go unpunished?

Israel is committed to ensuring that its forces act in accordance with
international law, and the rules of armed conflict form part of the training
of every soldier. In case of any allegations that these principles have not
been upheld, Israel is committed to fully investigating and prosecuting
offenders. Additionally, any decision not to investigate or prosecute an
alleged offence can be appealed to Israel's Supreme Court.

Following the conclusion of the military operation in Gaza, Israel initiated
a series of far reaching command investigations into various aspects of the
conflict, as well as many dozens of specific investigations into particular
allegations of improper conduct by soldiers. In the past, such
investigations have led to criminal prosecutions and convictions, and in
this case a number of criminal prosecutions regarding wrongdoings are
already in process.

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