Last Friday, the U.N. Human Rights Council repudiated the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts to establish a Middle Eastern peace by passing — by 25-6 — a resolution in support of the “Goldstone Report”, a 575-page thinly disguised attack against Israel. It is not just more of the same from the U.N.: it’s much worse.
The report, covering Israel’s month-long incursion into the Gaza Strip late last year (Operation Cast Lead lasted from December 27, 2008 until January 18, 2009), puts on a thin veneer of even-handedness by accusing both Israelis and Palestinians of crimes, but contradicts so many of the facts that its conclusion — that Israeli officials may be guilty of war crimes — should be completely lacking in credibility. But in the bizarre world of the U.N., such is the norm and the accusation taken so seriously there — and in Europe — that Israeli government officials may soon not be able to travel to Europe for fear of arrest.
The Israeli government — seeing this result coming — refused to cooperate with the UNHCR’s “research,” and that’s why Israel felt it necessary to release some of their own explanatory material about the Operation.
While there are some serious charges made against the behavior of the Israeli Defense Forces, the report is frequently laughable in its childish and naïve criticisms. For example, trying to prove “repression of dissent” in Israel, they say “Hundreds of thousands — mainly, but not exclusively, Palestinian citizens of Israel — protested (against Israeli military operations in Gaza)… 715 people in Israel and in occupied East Jerusalem were arrested during the protests.” In other words, protesters were able to obtain permits to protest and a fraction of one percent of the protesters were arrested. This must be a new definition of “repression” that only the U.N. could concoct.
The report accuses the Israelis of war crimes ranging from semi-serious (“rounding-up of large groups of civilians and their prolonged detention”) to serious (“the use of human shields”) to the ridiculous (“holding detainees without privacy,” or excessively “distressing” women.) The fundamentally unserious nature of the report, however, can be seen in its statement that “the principle of respect for human dignity…forms the core of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.” What about the principle of not firing unguided missiles at schools and places of worship? What about the principle of not strapping nail-filled bombs to women or brainwashing children into dreaming of becoming “martyrs” (as reported by a Washington Times photojournalist in 2002)?
While the October 16 UNHRC hearing was complete with the usual litany of anti-Israel condemnations from the likes of Kuwait, Pakistan, and Iran, there was a brief stunning moment of rationality provided by British Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan. In a speech organized by UN Watch, Col. Kemp told the assembled (many of whom are representatives of despots, dictators, rogues and terrorists):
During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.
Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population…
The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy’s hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.
Several weeks ago, President Obama asked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to stop pushing for the publication of and vote on the report because it would likely damage Obama’s already-faltering Mideast peace initiative. Abbas agreed…for a few days, but then changed his mind after protests in the streets of Gaza.
So now we have the Goldstone Report, the latest anti-Israel diatribe by the UNHRC which has addressed issues regarding Israel — unfailingly concluding with anti-Israeli resolutions or press releases — in six special sessions in the three years that the organization has been in existence. And they’ve only had twelve special sessions in all. The HRC resolution only singles out Israel for persecution despite the report’s theoretical effort to also accuse Hamas of bad behavior, causing even Judge Goldstone to object to the language of the resolution, with Goldstone’s surprise again showing the naïveté of the report’s authors.
While the U.N. report can in one sense be seen as more of the same, the politics surrounding this particular report make it much more significant. First, since the measure will now go to the Security Council, it is almost sure to become ammunition for more international political attacks against Israel. Second, the UNHRC resolution calls for referring the “war crimes” to the International Criminal Court if both Hamas and Israel do not conduct their own “credible investigations” within 6 months. Would you care to wager whether the first charges from The Hague would be against a Palestinian or an Israeli? Is it any wonder that high-ranking Israeli politicians and military officers are already being warned against travel to Europe?
The vote on the resolution represents a sharp rebuke to the Obama administration. In the political understatement of the month, the US representative at the UNHRC (just why do we have one?) offered his “disappointment at the outcome of this resolution.”
The Obama administration should also be disappointed to see what little influence it has with our “allies.” The 25-6 vote was actually worse than it sounds, with and 11 countries abstaining and Britain and France not voting at all. As John Bolton noted in the Wall Street Journal, “Press reports indicated that London saw its inaction as a ‘favor’ to Israel, a position simultaneously inexplicable and gutless. It is hard to know just how much real politicking the Obama administration did before this vote, but the loss of key allies is telling.”
Both Russia and China voted for the resolution. Remember, that’s the same Russia for whom Barack Obama threw our allies in the Czech Republic and Poland under the bus, canceling plans for missile shields in those countries, in order to curry favor. There’s one thing we know with certainty about Russia: They can smell weakness.
Combined with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s frosty reaction to Barack Obama’s bullying “diplomacy,” the Goldstone Report represents a huge step backwards for Middle East peace prospects. It limits the ability of Israel to defend itself military and, as Netanyahu has already said, “Israel will no longer be able to take additional steps and take risks for peace if its right to self-defense is denied.”
The Goldstone Report may quicken a “reconciliation” between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah faction, likely leading to more radical and violent influences arriving in the West Bank rather than the so-called “moderates” (of whom there are approximately none in Palestinian government) gaining more power in Gaza.
Israel now walks more alone than ever before. There’s a maxim in international affairs that “nations don’t have friends; they have interests.” Thanks to the Obama administration, it appears the U.S. has neither.