The ‘Legal Issue’ of Operation Cast Lead: ICC Rules That Palestinians Cannot Investigate Israeli War Crimes

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By Joe Wright

If one ever needed a better example of selective enforcement, or needed factual evidence that “human rights” are determined by bureaucratic institutions and not by compassionate human beings, look no further than the legal meanderings of the International Criminal Court now being used to deflect Operation Cast Lead.
For those who are not familiar, Operation Cast Lead was summarized by Amnesty International as 22 days of death and destruction — and few unbiased observers would disagree.  The Operation was justified by Israel as a response to increased rocket attacks by Hamas following an agreed-upon cease-fire in late December of 2008.  Israel’s response truly redefined the meaning of shock and awe, as an all-out assault was initiated by the Israeli Air Force which rained coordinated strikes upon the Gaza Strip that was followed by a ground invasion on January 3rd, 2009:

Human rights organizations estimated the number of dead at close to 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 1,000 civilians, and the wounded at more than 5,000. According to government figures, Palestinian deaths totaled 1,166, including 295 noncombatant deaths. The discrepancy over civilian deaths largely centered on whether the 248 Hamas police officers killed were considered civilians. There were 13 Israelis killed, including three civilians. (Source)

So why do Palestinians have no recourse to investigate such a horrific event?

According to Barak Ravid, reporting for Haaretz, an Israeli news source:

The reason for his (the ICC prosecutor) decision was that under the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, only internationally recognized states can join the court.

In an official statement released Tuesday afternoon, the ICC said that ‘the current status granted to Palestine by the United Nations General Assembly is that of “observer”, not as a “Non‐member State”,” and that only “relevant bodies at the United Nations” or the group of states that make up the court could determine whether Palestinians can sign up to the Rome Statute.’ (Source)

So, based on this language, we can conclude that human rights are not innate and universal, but are “granted” by the United Nations General Assembly to be interpreted by the ICC.

It is supposed to be the duty of both of these international bodies to investigate and condemn acts of non-defensive and/or excessive violence defined as war crimes.  They certainly have done so many times in cases where the dictator of the week who is peddled as a threat to humanity is hauled out for scolding and planned “humanitarian intervention,” as we have seen throughout Africa, Libya, now Syria, and other strategically convenient locations.

The Goldstone report, under the auspices of the United Nations, gave an assessment that certainly seems to warrant further investigation:

The President of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) established the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict to investigate Israeli violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the context of military operations in Gaza, whether before, during, or after Operation Cast Lead. On September 29, 2009, Justice Richard Goldstone, who headed the mission, presented the report (commonly known as the ‘Goldstone report’) to the HRC in Geneva. The Goldstone report investigated 36 incidents of alleged violations by the IDF in Gaza, as well as alleged violations by Palestinians. This reflected an effort by Goldstone to broaden the scope of his report beyond the original mandate, which was limited only to violations by Israel.

Among its many conclusions, the report claimed that members of the IDF were responsible for deliberate targeting of civilians, for the destruction of critical infrastructure in Gaza, and for using weapons such as white phosphorous in highly populated areas, all of which it deemed to be violations of international humanitarian law. The Goldstone report was widely criticized for methodological failings, legal and factual errors, falsehoods, and for devoting insufficient attention to the asymmetrical nature of the conflict and the fact that Hamas and other Palestinian militants were deliberately operating in heavily populated urban areas of Gaza. The government of Israel also sharply rejected the charge that it had a policy of deliberately targeting civilians. IDF military advocate general Mandelblit was responsible for reviewing all allegations relating to Operation Cast Lead, including those contained in the Goldstone Report. At the end of the year 2009, Mandelblit’s investigations were ongoing. (Source)

This ruling by the ICC to deny an investigation based on a technicality in the face of so many questions raised by international organizations and human rights groups is a travesty, and only adds to calls for delegitimizing this institution.  Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of nations recognize Palestine’s statehood, but they are continually blocked by the United States in the UN through veto. (Source)

Moreover, there is evidence that shows a Cast Lead Redux has been initiated after the latest cease-fire in which the same justifications are being used to heap assault after assault . . . and will likely now be further emboldened by this dismissal of the ICC.

As Prof. Michel Chossudovsky of Global Research has intimated, Israel already has carte blanche in their interpretation of “human rights” which, in the case of Cast Lead, had actually been a “planned humanitarian disaster:”

On December 8, US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte was in Tel Aviv for discussions with his Israeli counterparts including the director of Mossad, Meir Dagan.

‘Operation Cast Lead’ was initiated two days day after Christmas. It was coupled with a carefully designed international Public Relations campaign under the auspices of Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

Hamas’ military targets are not the main objective. Operation ‘Cast Lead’ is intended, quite deliberately, to trigger civilian causalities. What we are dealing with is a ‘planned humanitarian disaster’ in Gaza in a densely populated urban area. (See map below)

The longer term objective of this plan, as formulated by Israeli policy makers, is the expulsion of Palestinians from Palestinian lands:

‘Terrorize the civilian population, assuring maximal destruction of property and cultural resources… The daily life of the Palestinians must be rendered unbearable: They should be locked up in cities and towns, prevented from exercising normal economic life, cut off from workplaces, schools and hospitals, This will encourage emigration and weaken the resistance to future expulsions’ — Ur Shlonsky, quoted by Ghali Hassan, Gaza: The World’s Largest Prison, Global Research, 2005 (Source)
The ICC passes the final buck to the United Nations General Assembly with the following statement:
In the future . . . the ICC could ‘consider allegations of crimes committed in Palestine, should competent organs of the United Nations or eventually the Assembly of States Parties resolve the legal issue’ regarding Palestine’s membership status.

The “future” alluded to will likely be what Israel Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has stated as a situation defined only by Israel where, “The Palestinians have condemned themselves to a separation right now that looks like it will continue for generations.”

And the rest of the world is condemned to the selective rhetoric of the United Nations, and the selective enforcement of the International Criminal Court.

Read other articles by Joe Wright here

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