Sunday, April 03, 2011

Revisiting Israel's Terror War on Gaza

Revisiting Israel's Terror War on Gaza - by Stephen Lendman

Despite no legitimate provocation, Israel began terror bombing Gaza on December 27, 2008. Invasion followed, attacking innocent civilian men, women and children for over three weeks, using missiles, bombs, shells, and illegal weapons against defenseless people. Mass slaughter and destruction ensued.

Brazen crimes of war and against humanity were committed. No culpable officials were held responsible. Security Council no-fly zone protection wasn't ordered. International community leaders approved or were silent. Washington was complicit by supplying Israel with weapons, munitions, and encouragement. Obama acts the same as Bush, waging a quartet of lawless wars and using proxies in others.

Operation Cast Lead remains one of history's greatest crimes. Yet Israel was green-lighted to wage it with impunity, what it's done numerous times in its history, besides terrorizing Palestinians by:

-- illegal military occupation;

-- collective punishment and intimidation;

-- air and ground attacks;

-- isolating Gaza illegally under siege;

-- intermittently bombing and shooting its residents, including noncombatant farmers, fishermen and children;

-- regular residential neighborhood incursions;

-- bulldozing homes;

-- dispossessing residents;

-- land seizures;

-- arbitrary arrests;

-- torture as official policy, including against women and children;

-- targeted assassinations;

-- denying refugees their right of return;

-- movement and free expression restrictions;

-- violence, not peaceful coexistence;

-- confrontation, not diplomacy;

-- war, not peace; and

-- denying Palestinian sovereignty, as well as equal justice, human rights and civil liberty protections.

Israel is a rogue terror state, a democracy in name only affording rights solely to Jews. Remember Cast Lead, one of history's greatest crimes. Justice Richard Goldstone documented them convincingly in his 575 page report titled, "Human Rights in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories: Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict."

It covered Operation Cast Lead, the Gaza siege, the impact of Israel's West Bank military occupation, and much more, including:

-- events between the "ceasefire" period from June 18, 2008 to Israel's initiated hostilities on December 27, 2008;

-- applicable international law;

-- Occupied Gaza under siege;

-- an overview of Cast Lead;

-- obligations of both sides to protect civilians;

-- indiscriminate Israeli attacks on civilians, causing many hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries;

-- "the use of certain weapons;"

-- attacking "the foundations of civilian life in Gaza: destruction of industrial infrastructure, food production, water installations, sewage treatment plants and housing;"

-- using Palestinians as human shields;

-- detention and incarceration of Gazans during the conflict;

-- the IDF's objectives and strategy;

-- impact of the siege and military operations on Gazans and their human rights;

-- the detention of the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit;

-- internal Gaza violence - Hamas v. Fatah;

-- the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem;

-- Israel's treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank, including excessive or lethal force during demonstrations;

-- Palestinians in Israeli prisons;

-- Israeli violations of free movement and access rights;

-- Fatah targeting Hamas supporters in the West Bank, and restricting free assembly and expression;

-- rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli civilians;

-- repression of dissent, access to information, and treatment of human rights defenders in Israel;

-- Israeli responses to war crimes charges;

-- proceedings by Palestinian authorities;

-- universal jurisdiction;

-- reparations; and

-- conclusions and recommendations.

It collected enough information "of a credible and reliable nature....to make a finding in fact." It established clear evidence of crimes, determining they were deliberate or reckless. An accompanying press release said:

"(T)here is evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity."

It explained that Israel falsely used the pretext of rocket attacks to attack "the people of Gaza as a whole" illegally.

A detailed discussion of Goldstone's findings can be accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2009/09/goldstone-commission-gaza-conflict.html

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Report Remembers Cast Lead

In its December 2010 report titled, "The Illegal Closure of the Gaza Strip: Collective Punishment of the Civilian Population," the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) remembered Cast Lead, saying it exacerbated isolation:

-- killing over 1,400 Gazans, mostly civilians;

-- injuring thousands more, many seriously; and

-- causing "extensive destruction of houses and civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, and industry."

Moreover, Israel violated Security Council Resolution 1860 (January 8, 2009), calling for "full withdrawal of Israeli forces," as well as "unimpeded humanitarian assistance" for Gazan victims. As a result, deepening crisis ensued.

On April 1, Richard Goldstone's Washington Post op-ed headlined, "Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes," saying:

"Our report found evidence potential war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity by both Israel and Hamas." The latter ones, in fact, were minor by comparison, responding only to Israeli provocations.

Israel's, however, "were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where....evidence (pointed to no) other reasonable conclusion."

Goldstone, however, softened his initial condemnation by commending Israel's Cast Lead inquiry, ignoring how all its internal investigations whitewash crimes of war and against humanity - most recently the Gaza and May 2010 Freedom Flotilla massacres.

According to PCHR:

"Rather than uphold the rule of law, the Israeli investigative and judicial system is artfully manipulated to provide an illusion of investigative and judicial rigour, while systematically perpetuating pervasive impunity" for crimes too extreme to ignore.

Whitewash Examples

On April 29, 2009, IDF Chief of Staff, General Gabi Ashkenazi authorized publication of the findings of five military investigate teams. Unsurprisingly, they concluded that:

"(T)throughout the fighting in Gaza, the IDF operated in accordance with international law. The IDF maintained a high professional and moral level while facing an enemy that aimed to terrorize Israeli civilians whilst taking cover amidst uninvolved civilians in the the Gaza strip and using them as human shields."

It continued at some length justifying brazen Israeli crimes of war and against humanity. In contrast, a year after hostilities ended, Human Rights Watch called Israeli attacks "indiscriminate, disproportionate (and) at times seemingly deliberate, in violation of the laws of war," condemning IDF investigations as no "substitute for impartial and thorough investigations into laws-of-war violations" they whitewashed.

In his April 1 op-ed, Goldstone failed to explain and denounce them. Instead, he defended the indefensible.

Netanyahu's (Jacob) Turkel commission investigation of Israel's Freedom Flotilla massacre also produced lies, distortions, omissions, false conclusions, and exoneration of cold-blooded murder, ordered by top government and military officials who got off scot-free like Cast Lead criminals.

Specifically, it concluded that Israel's (illegal siege) does not break international law....(and) there were clear indications that the flotilla intended to break the naval blockade....By clearly resisting capture, the Mavi Marmara had become a military objective," despite on board activists having no weapons and offering no resistance. Saying so was a lie.

In contrast, an independent UN Human Rights Council investigation "concluded that a series of violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, were committed by the Israeli forces during the interception of the flotilla and during the detention of passengers in Israel prior to deportation."

It added that Israel's attack:

"was unnecessary, disproportionate, excessive and inappropriate and resulted in the wholly avoidable killing and maiming of a large number of civilian passengers."

Also that at least six of the dead were killed by "extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions," some shot multiple times in the head at close range.

Moreover, similar tactics were used before, during, and after Cast Lead, facts Richard Goldstone knows and should have explained instead of suggesting civilians may not have been "intentionally targeted as a matter of policy."

Indeed they always are under Israel's "Dahiya Doctrine," targeting civilians as official policy. Named after the Beirut suburb IDF attacks destroyed in the 2006 Lebanon war, it's how all Israeli wars are waged. IDF Northern Commander Gabi Eisenkot explained, saying:

"What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. We will apply disproportionate force at the heart of the enemy's weak spot (civilians) and cause great damage and destruction. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages (towns or cities), they are military bases. This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved."

It also prioritizes damaging or destroying assets, economic interests, and centers of civilian power, requiring long-term reconstruction even though international law prohibits attacking civilians and non-military related targets. Israel spurned international law in Cast Lead, against humanitarian Flotilla activists, and in all its belligerent confrontations.

Instead of condemning this policy, Goldstone softened his criticism, contradicting his detailed findings, replicated by other reputable human rights studies, unequivocally accusing Israel of crimes of war and against humanity.

A Final Comment

On March 25, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution, urging the General Assembly address Israel's Cast Lead impunity by asking the Security Council to request investigation, action and resolution by the International Criminal Criminal Court (ICC).

For over two years, justice for thousands of Palestinian victims has been denied. Gaza remains illegally under siege. Meaningful action is demanded. Crimes this great can't be tolerated.

Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council can request ICC action. Washington's veto, of course, looms. Nonetheless, it's high time other members demanded, shamed, and did whatever it takes to assure long-suffering Palestinians justice. Then do it for other victims of injustice instead of authorizing war on Libya when it should have acted resolutely to prevent it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.