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Gaza was a war crime that cannot and must not be ignored. And those responsible must be prosecuted.
A United Nations statement accompanying the report concluded that:
“there 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 goes on to state:
“in the lead up to the Israeli military assault on Gaza, Israel imposed a blockade amounting to collective punishment and carried out a systematic policy of progressive isolation and deprivation of the Gaza Strip. During the Israeli military operation, code-named 'Operation Cast Lead,' houses, factories, wells, schools, hospitals, police stations and other public buildings were destroyed… More than 1,400 people were killed during the military operation…
The report concludes that the Israeli military operation was directed at the people of Gaza as a whole, in furtherance of an overall and continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population, and in a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed at the civilian population. The destruction of food supply installations, water sanitation systems, concrete factories and residential houses was the result of a deliberate and systematic policy which has made the daily process of living, and dignified living, more difficult for the civilian population…”
Inevitably, Israel ’s reaction to the UN report has been unanimous in its condemnation, claiming it to be biased, untrue, and, in the words of official Israeli government spokesman, Mark Regev, “born in sin.” In this we see a determined attempt to cast doubt on the impartiality of the four-judge panel, led by Richard Goldstone, which conducted the inquiry. It’s worth noting here that Mr Goldstone, who previously served as chief prosecutor in UN criminal tribunals with regard to the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda , happens to be a white South African of Jewish descent.
The UN report also states that evidence points to the fact that war crimes were committed by Palestinian armed groups, an accusation responded to by Palestinian leader, Ismail Haniya, who said:
“The Palestinian people and the Palestinian resistance were in a position of self-defence and not of attack…”
Under the Fourth Geneva Convention an occupied people certainly have the right to resist. Blockaded Gaza, home to 1.5 million people, is also the repository of those Palestinians, and their children, who were chased from their villages and their towns during the nakba in 1947-48, when an estimated 750,000 men, women, and children were ethnically cleansed before their villages and towns were destroyed to make way for Jewish settlers.
The Israeli town of Sderot , for example, which was targeted by rockets fired from Gaza , stands on the site of what was the Palestinian village of Najd.
Najd's inhabitants were forcibly expelled from their village on May 13 1948 by the Negev Brigade of the then nascent Israeli army, before Israel was declared a state and before any Arab armies entered Palestine.
Therefore, in accordance with UN Resolution 194 and also with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 13, Section 2, the villagers of Najd have the right to return to their homes.
The village of Najd was destroyed and resettled in 1951. It has been known ever since as the Israeli town of Sderot Hundreds of other Israeli villages have similar origins.
With this in mind, Mr Regev should take note that rather than the UN inquiry into war crimes in Gaza having been born in sin, all of the available historical evidence suggests that it was in fact the state of Israel itself that was born in sin.
In the wake of the findings of the UN inquiry the crucial question is, of course, what happens next?
The UN commission, led by Mr Goldstone, has recommended that the Security Council require Israel to report to it, within six months, on investigations and prosecutions it will carry out in response to the violations that have been identified in the report. It also recommends that the Security Council set up its own body of independent experts to monitor and report on the progress of those Israeli investigations and prosecutions. If Israel refuses to conduct its own proceedings within six months, the report recommends that the Security Council should refer the matter over to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The aforementioned recommendations, in themselves, constitute something of a watershed in relation to Israel and its continued willingness and ability to ignore and violate international law. Previously, only private proceedings, initiated by NGOs and human rights organisations, have attempted to hold Israel’s actions to account. Now, hopefully, it appears that the UN is finally about to do likewise.
What this could mean in concrete terms is that assorted Israeli generals, military commanders and politicians will be forced to rethink any plans to travel overseas in the foreseeable future, as waiting for them at the other end may well be a set of handcuffs.
The 1400 men, women, and children in Gaza, who lost their lives in one of the most barbaric and wantonly cruel military operations in modern history, must never be forgotten. The tragic history of a noble and courageous people is embodied in their fate.