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From Hiroshima to Syria, the enemy whose name we dare not speak

(Iraq-file photo)

by John Pilger

On my wall is the front page of Daily Express of September 5, 1945 and the words: “I write this as a warning to the world.” So began Wilfred Burchett’s report from Hiroshima. It was the scoop of the century. For his lone, perilous journey that defied the US occupation authorities, Burchett was pilloried, not least by his embedded colleagues. He warned that an act of premeditated mass murder on an epic scale had launched a new era of terror.

Almost every day now, he is vindicated. The intrinsic criminality of the atomic bombing is borne out in the US National Archives and by the subsequent decades of militarism camouflaged as democracy. The Syria psychodrama exemplifies this. Yet again, we are held hostage to the prospect of a terrorism whose nature and history even the most liberal critics still deny. The great unmentionable is that humanity’s most dangerous enemy resides across the Atlantic.

John Kerry’s farce and Barack Obama’s pirouettes are temporary. Russia’s peace deal over chemical weapons will, in time, be treated with the contempt that all militarists reserve for diplomacy. With Al-Qaida now among its allies, and US-armed coupmasters secure in Cairo, the US intends to crush the last independent states in the Middle East: Syria first, then Iran. “This operation [in Syria],” said the former French foreign minister Roland Dumas in June, “goes way back. It was prepared, pre-conceived and planned.”

When the public is “psychologically scarred”, as the Channel 4 reporter Jonathan Rugman described the British people’s overwhelming hostility to an attack on Syria, reinforcing the unmentionable is made urgent. Whether or not Bashar al-Assad or the “rebels” used gas in the suburbs of Damascus, it is the US not Syria that is the world’s most prolific user of these terrible weapons. In 1970, the Senate reported, “The US has dumped on Vietnam a quantity of toxic chemical (dioxin) amounting to six pounds per head of population”. This was Operation Hades, later renamed the friendlier Operation Rand Hand: the source of what Vietnamese doctors call a “cycle of foetal catastrophe”. I have seen generations of young children with their familiar, monstrous deformities. John Kerry, with his own blood-soaked war record, will remember them. I have seen them in Iraq, too, where the US used depleted uranium and white phosphorous, as did the Israelis in Gaza, raining it down on UN schools and hospitals. No Obama “red line” for them. No showdown psychodrama for them.

The repetitive debate about whether “we” should “take action” against selected dictators (i.e. cheer on the US and its acolytes in yet another aerial killing spree) is part of our brainwashing. Richard Falk, emeritus professor of international law and UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, describes it as “a self-righteous, one-way, legal/moral screen [with] positive images of Western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted political violence”. This “is so widely accepted as to be virtually unchallengeable”.

It is the biggest lie: the product of “liberal realists” in Anglo-American politics, scholarship and the media who ordain themselves as the world’s crisis managers, rather than the cause of a crisis. Stripping humanity from the study of nations and congealing it with jargon that serves western power designs, they mark “failed”, “rogue” or “evil” states for “humanitarian intervention”.

An attack on Syria or Iran or any other US “demon” would draw on a fashionable variant, “Responsibility to Protect”, or R2P, whose lectern-trotting zealot is the former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, co-chair of a “Global Centre”, based in New York. Evans and his generously funded lobbyists play a vital propaganda role in urging the “international community” to attack countries where “the Security Council rejects a proposal or fails to deal with it in a reasonable time”.

Evans has form. He appears in my 1994 film Death of a Nation, which revealed the scale of genocide in East Timor. Canberra’s smiling man is raising his champagne glass in a toast to his Indonesian equivalent as they fly over East Timor in an Australian aircraft, having just signed a treaty that pirated the oil and gas of the stricken country below where Indonesia’s tyrant, Suharto, killed or starved a third of the population.

Under the “weak” Obama, militarism has risen perhaps as never before. With not a single tank on the White House lawn, a military coup has taken place in Washington. In 2008, while his liberal devotees dried their eyes, Obama accepted the entire Pentagon of his predecessor, George Bush: its wars and war crimes. As the constitution is replaced by an emerging police state, those who destroyed Iraq with shock and awe, and piled up the rubble in Afghanistan and reduced Libyato a Hobbesian nightmare, are ascendant across the US administration. Behind their beribboned façade, more former US soldiers are killing themselves than are dying on battlefields. Last year, 6,500 veterans took their own lives. Put out more flags.

The historian Norman Pollack calls this “liberal fascism”. “For goose-steppers,” he wrote, “substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manqué, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while.” Every Tuesday, the “humanitarian” Obama personally oversees a worldwide terror network of drones that “bugsplat” people, their rescuers and mourners. In the west’s comfort zones, the first black leader of the land of slavery still feels good, as if his very existence represents a social advance, regardless of his trail of blood. This obeisance to a symbol has all but destroyed the US anti-war movement: Obama’s singular achievement.

In Britain, the distractions of the fakery of image and identity politics have not quite succeeded. A stirring has begun, though people of conscience should hurry. The judges at Nuremberg were succinct: “Individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity.” The ordinary people of Syria, and countless others, and our own self respect, deserve nothing less now.

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Obama’s war model

by Guy Billout

“U.S. decision-making [on Syria] will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States.”

by B.J. Sabri, source

In the American culture of permanent war, time and circumstance change but never the method — pretext as an alibi for war. Obama’s plan to strike Syria under the pretext that its government used chemical weapons against civilians is in line with that culture. Pertinently, it follows the precedent set by his predecessor when he invaded Iraq under the pretext that it was hiding weapons of mass destruction. This emulated three precedents set by Bill Clinton. When he bombed Serbia over Kosovo, when he bombed Iraq under the pretext that it was not cooperating with weapons inspectors, and when he bombed Iraq before that under the pretext that Saddam Hussein tried to assassinate President George H.W. Bush. And so on.

Currently, America’s global agenda is specific and has for a target the imperialistic control of all Arab states still outside of its domain. Up to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, arming Israel with advanced weapons to keep its regional military superiority was the prominent aspect of the agenda. The Carter Doctrine consequent to that invasion expanded on the agenda when it declared the Persian Gulf a zone of vital interests to the United States. Three consecutive world events: the Iran-Iraq war, the crumbling of Soviet and Eastern European socialist systems, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, allowed the United States, using it self-serving “vital interests”, to deeply entrench itself in heart of the Arab world.

Phased control of strong Arab states opposing Israel is the keyword to understand the American strategy of imperialist conquest. First, it was Iraq, then Libya, then the partition of Sudan, and now it’s the turn of Syria. As for Egypt, the last among the strongest Arab states, voices are still circulating about its eventual partition. With Palestine taken by Zionists, with Iraq taken by the U.S., with Libya under Euro-American control, with Jordan and the Gulf countries already under soft military occupation, the U.S. is materially controlling most Arab nations except Algeria, Sudan, and Syria.

Of interest is Obama’s White House statement that U.S. decision-making on Syria, “Will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States.”1This is a trite stratagem that most American presidents repeatedly used to justify actions already deliberated and decided. Is the “best interest” idea a political philosophy or pragmatic model of action? Whatever the answer may be, debiting to it the referee role for going to war is a handy mechanism to facilitate the adoption of war decisions without explaining their validity or necessity.

American interventionist premises and subtexts are unequivocal: War is a function of our self-interest; we can wage it at any time by choice or by pretext. Antony Blinken, national security advisor to Joseph Biden simplifies the interventionist model with his arrogant “maxim”: “A Superpower does not bluff.” American pretexts for war, therefore, belie U.S. pretension that wars are imposed on them to defend humanity from “evildoers”. Yet, when confronted on rigorous debating grounds, ideological models aiming at rationalizing war through convoluted conceptualization instantly lose their purported definiteness and expose their raw essence: procedures to implement agendas.

What is preposterous about the U.S. war-making mentality is that every time the U.S. attacks a nation, it declares morality as a guiding principle. Take for example the current “morality” model for possible war with Syria — should the Congress approve, but it would certainly approve with the Israeli lobby working around the clock to make it happen. Who established that such model is the exclusive responsibility of the U.S. Britain, and France? How ludicrous it is that three colonialist-imperialist states, whose long history of genocidal atrocities is a permanent stigma on the conscious of humanity, act as moral speakers for the world? Is Sweden, Malta, Nicaragua, Spain, Russia, Belize, Belarus, Vietnam, Greece, Venezuela, South Africa, China, Ghana, or any other country lacking morality so the United States volunteers to be the standard-bearer for all? Who decides on the meaning, degree, and substance of morality: American ideologues of empire, British colonialists, French megalomaniacs, or Israeli Zionists?

Pointedly, it is one thing that the U.S. has succeeded through intimidations and aggressions at obliterating accepted international norms; it is another when it goes around sermonizing on its exceptionalism in morality and values. What a sham without compare: the U.S. cries against death by chemical weapons but not for death by terrifying conventional weapons. On the hypocrisy side, the U.S. has no rivals: the news of over 100,000 killed by bullets, knives, explosions, artillery, and jets did not make the U.S. cringe; but a few hundreds die by an alleged gas attack whose perpetrators are still unknown, and the U.S. readies its fleets and Tomahawk missiles to a hit an entire country. Since violent death is one and the same, why the obscene hypocrisy differentiating between types and methods of death?

Caveat! There is a difference: death by unconventional weapons offers alibis for military interventions based on conventions that the imperialist West created to safeguard their monopoly of these weapons and to punish those who attempt possessing or making them. The American use of radioactive uranium (which the U.S. cynically calls “depleted” to conceal its lethal consequences of slow death by thyroid, prostate, and cervical cancers, not to mention genetic mutation) proves this point.

Besides, who consistently rejected a political solution to the Syrian situation if not the United States with the hope that the armed rebellion and defections could finish off the Assad regime? Who could be the principal organizer of the death and destruction that has been enveloping Syria for the past two and a half years if not the United States through its regional lackeys? Does morality motivate the U.S. Syrian policy? Based on history, the answer is no. Where was U.S. morality hiding when it destroyed millions of human beings during 235 years of its existence as an independent state? (In a solidly argued article, “What Is America’s Code of Morality?,” Canadian writer Kim Petersen eloquently answers the question from multiple perspectives.2

Moreover, with suspicion of the attack involving many entities, why accuse only the Syrian regime for perpetrating it? Why the determination to strike Syria for alleged but not verified chemical attack by its government? What is the nonsense that the U.S. wants to punish the regime but not Syria? Much more insidious is the British posturing. In its 6 September issue, the Economistpublishes the photo of Bashar Assad on the cover with the caption: Hit him hard. How could the U.S. (and its British poodle) punish a regime — assuming it is responsible — or a man by destroying the country first? Did not the U.S. invasion of Iraq prove the utter mendacity of such punishment?

To drive home the point on U.S. claimed “morality”, it suffices to cite just one example: Iraq. The U.S. invasion of Iraq and the use of radioactive “depleted” uranium, vacuum bombs, electronic bombs, suspected neutron bombs, and igniting confessional fights among Iraqis resulted in over two million Iraqis dead.3 Up to now, Iraqis are still dying at the hands of America’s appointed Iraqi government, American security companies, and other mercenaries at the payroll of the United States. Based on this fact alone, the U.S. is NOT AUTHORIZED to give any lecture on morality and use it as a rationale for its new wars. While Obama justifies his planned attack not on “humanitarian grounds”, but as enforcement of the Chemical Weapons Convention, media commentators of the empire jump to his aid by citing U.S. war against Serbia to “save” Kosovo. How odd though, a U.S. war of aggression in the recent past becomes a “rationalized” prototype for a new aggression in the present.

Here is one effective way to test the best interest paradigm: Was it in the best interest of the Syrian regime, which was fighting with teeth and nails to fend off a long-standing arbitrary accusation that it used chemical weapons in the ongoing civil war, to launch a chemical attack on the same day weapon inspectors were scheduled to arrive? Since the answer is no, then who framed Syria? To speculate in a logical manner, there are only three possible culprits each of which benefits from accusing the Syrian regime: Either the American “al-Qaida” in Syria — this leads back to the United States; or Israeli Syrian agents — which leads back to Israel —, or Israelis or Americans themselves since Syria’s borders are open to all. About the American “al-Qaida”: isn’t it curious that U.S. drones are roaming the skies from Pakistan to Yemen and to Somalia killing any one suspected for being Qaida-ist, while no drone has ever attacked all these black banners of “al-Qaida” flying, in broad daylight, over many parts of Syria?

Now to the unavoidable question: In whose best interest is it that the United States attacks Syria? Mali? No. Portugal? Slovenia? No. Argentina? No. China? No. Cambodia? No. Finland? No. Israel? Yes. With a U.S. attack on Syria, Israel would finally achieve its long-standing objective of defeating all Arab states combined through the American power. Besides Israel, U.S. imperialism is the other primary beneficiary. Geological research indicates that Syria is sitting on sea of oil.

Is Israel complicit in the planned attack against Syria? Here are two pieces of news:

“Over the weekend, telephone calls to coordinate a possible attack were made between the U.S. and Israel, including a call by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Israeli counterpart Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.”4

“Senior Israeli team in Washington as U.S. prepares for possible Syria attack: High-level Israeli delegation prepares for scenarios in wake of chemical attack; talks with U.S. officials will also focus on Iran’s nuclear program, Hezbollah and Iran’s role in the Syria crisis.”5

It is a public knowledge that Israel provided ample intelligence on targets to be hit by the U.S. in its wars against Iraq in 1991 and 2003. It can be deduced from the two sources I just cited, and based on the history of U.S-Israeli relations, that Israel, in 2013, is providing intelligence about the targets it wants the U.S. to destroy in Syria — mainly missile and jetfighter depots. Nonetheless, while Israel, through its supporters in Congress and control of the White House, is the planner of the U.S. Arab policy and an instigator of its military interventions, it constantly plays the card of innocent victim. Fearing potential Syrian retaliatory strikes because of Israel’s involvement in the U.S. decision-making, American Zionist groups such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center went as far as asking the United States to declare that any attack against Israel is attack against the United States.6

It has been said that Obama is uncertain whether to strike Syria or not because of potential consequences that could go out of hand, and that his seeking of Congressional authorization is meant to share the blame if something goes wrong. This is rubbish. Decisions coming from higher quarters had been already made for Obama. He is only waiting for the go-ahead — should it come.

  1. “US to act in its ‘best interests’ over Syria crisis,” BBC, August 30, 2013 []
  2. Kim Petersen, “What Is America’s Code of Morality?” Dissident Voice, August 29, 2013. []
  3. “Baghdad’s Neutron Bomb and America’s Nuclear Obama,” Veterans Today, Kim Petersen and B.J. Sabri Interview Captain Eric H. May, Ghost Troop CO. []
  4. “Report: U.S. To Warn Israel in Advance of Syria Attack,” Algemeiner, August 25, 2013. []
  5. “Senior Israeli team in Washington as U.S. prepares for possible Syria attack,” Barak Ravid. Haaretz, August 26, 20013. Subscription required. []
  6. “Jewish Leaders: ‘US should say, Attack on Israel is Attack on US’,” Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Jewish Press, August 3o, 2013. []

The Kandahar massacre: The epitome of injustice made in US

by Catherine Shakdam, source

Just as US President Barack Obama is looking to sell out yet another war in the Middle East to Congress on account that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has “allegedly” unleashed lethal toxins onto local civilian populations, invoking moral grounds for a military action, a US military jury has allowed a man accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians to by-pass the death penalty and instead be sentenced to a life in prison without parole, underscoring America’s pandemic double standard policy and its neo-colonial attitude towards what it perceived as “lesser” powers, in this case the Afghan people.

While such an outcome was somewhat to be expected given the US’ poor track records in addressing its own military’s wrong doings throughout its Middle Eastern outposts – we all remember the leniency with which accusations of tortures and war crimes in the Iraqi prison of Abu Ghraib were met by the US military.

Over a year of despicable ill treatments in between 2003 and 2004 — rape, sodomy, torture, violence, psychological abuse — led to dishonorable discharges and a few years in military prison – in between 10 and 3 years for the 11 soldiers convicted -, a pathetic slap on the wrist given the gravity of such acts and a far-cry from justice – the sheer magnitude of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ crimes called for much more than just a prison sentence.

On March 11, 2012, just as dawn was about to break, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales went on a murderous rampage in a village in the Panjwayi District of the Kandahar province. Bales murdered 16 civilians – included 9 children – 11 of which were from the family.

The brutality and bestial violence of Bales’ atrocious crime stunned not only Afghanistan but the world as many saw in the crime of this one soldier the reflection of America’s evil, the little value human life carries in its eyes.

Bales who pleaded guilty to all charges brought against him in a bid to avoid the death penalty had the audacity to take to the stand and offer the world an apology for his “act of cowardice.”

Choking back tears the father of two attempted to justify the unjustifiable, the unforgivable. “What I did was an act of cowardice, behind a mask of fear, bullshit and bravado. I am sorry, truly, truly sorry, for what I did to those people. I murdered their families. If I could bring their family members back, I would in a heartbeat,” His line of defense – the fear of being perceived as weak by his fellow military, the trauma of being an active soldier on foreign ground.

Beyond the horror of such senseless loss of lives and the deep repercussions this massacre will carry for villagers and more importantly the victims’ families, it is the method behind the crime which is truly blood-chilling and stomach-churning … And somewhat for Bates to assume that an apology on his part would even begin to cut it, only better underscores what value one Muslim’s life hold in America’s eyes.

Far from being the problem, Bates is merely the symptom of a system which has demonized an entire people based on their religion and culture. America has learned in its decade of war in the Middle East that one “Arab’s life,” one Muslim’s life is worth no more than the bullet it takes to end it.

One has only to look back at Lynndie England posing smiling before a pyramid of naked Iraqi prisoners, or see how willing she was to humiliate and dehumanize Iraqi men by holding them naked on a leash to please her superior officers, to understand the magnitude of the pandemic.

The world has grown accustomed to seeing US soldiers desecrate copies of the Holy Quran or urinate over the dead bodies of their enemies. While former US President George W. Bush keenly stressed that America’s war was not against Islam but against terror back in 2003, Muslims would beg to differ, and as far as they’re concerned it is America which is the terror.

One cannot help but wonder what sentence a Muslim man would have received should the role had been reverse. What would have happened if an Afghan soldier had massacred 16 American civilians in their sleep and slayed its way through an entire family of unsuspecting, innocent and unarmed US citizens? Would an apology have suffice then? Maybe not …

It would be interesting to see what sentencing, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – also known as the Boston bomber – will be subjected to once the American justice system is done with him.

The Boston bombing killed 3 people and injured over 264. While it is impossible to measure pain and horror, Bales’s murder spree can hold up before the evil logic of terror, thus giving both events some symmetry in their monstrosity.

After a year of anguish and sorrow, the people of Panjwayi were offered … Nothing! The families of the victims were not even present when Bales delivered his apology. His words, however small and insignificant were not even offered as tokens of contrition to ease their unbearable grief. As far as Afghanistan stands, justice was not served; actually its people feel betrayed by the United States of America.

Back in 2012 as the US military was negotiating with a very angry and antagonistic Afghan government, US officials promised that should Bales be allowed to be repatriated back to the US and tried on American soil, the prosecution would seek the death penalty in payment for his crimes.

Haji Mahmoud, head of the local shura in Panjwai was there when a joint Afghan-US delegation arrived to investigate the killings in Alkozai and Najiban villages.

“The Americans emphasized that he would be tried in the US, but they also said that he would be given the death penalty,” he told reporters earlier this month.

Ghulam Rassoul, a Panjwai tribal elder, who was among the delegation that traveled to Kabul four days after the massacre told the press that he too had been assured that Bales would face the death penalty when tried on US soil.

“The Afghan government and the US investigative team gave us promises that the criminal will be given the death penalty,” he recalled.

As many questions remain unanswered — How did Bales manage to return to Camp Belambay at 1:30am to reload ammunition after killing four people in Alkozai village? Who authorized his coming and going? How Bales could leave the base with a 9mm pistol, an M4 rifle and a grenade launcher? – tribal elder Haji Obaidullah said to see clearly now.

“It is evident that the foreigners have not come to rebuild Afghanistan, but to kill Afghans and destroy the nation. Bales’ violation of military code by drinking alcohol with two other soldiers the night of the killings; telling a fellow soldier upon his initial return to the joint Afghan-US base that he had killed people; and later uttering a three-word confession, “I did it” – means Bales was not the only culprit.”

“The entire American battalion based in the area is involved. They have committed this killing jointly,” he said.

Betrayed and angry the people of Kandahar have warned that their justice will be as swift as America’s injustice.

Treaty obligations, war crimes, and accountability: A study in American hypocrisy

by Martin Rowson

by Nima Shirazi, source

“I have no interest in any open-ended conflict in Syria, but we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable,” President Barack Obama said in a PBS interview earlier this week.

With allegations of a horrific chemical weapons attack outside Damascus and new reports of a “napalm” bomb being dropped on a school playground in northern Syria, this statement, made by an American Commander-in-Chief, would certainly come as a surprise to many of Obama’s predecessors, considering the use of chemical weapons has been standard U.S. military procedure for decades.

Napalm, which is classified as an incendiary, rather than chemical, weapon, is composed of a gel that sticks to the skin and can burn down to the bone. Used extensively by the U.S. military during the last years of World War II in both the European and Pacific theaters, the napalm bombing of Japan killed at least 330,000 people. Twice the amount of napalm as was dropped on Japan in 1945 was used by American forces over three years during the Korean War: 32,357 tons as compared to 16,500 tons.

Between 1963 and 1973, the U.S. military dropped nearly 400,000 tons of napalm on Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. In 1980, the United Nations declared the use of napalm gel in densely-populated civilian areas to be a war crime.

Agent Orange, a chemical weapon derived from herbicides, was also used by Americans during the Vietnam War. Between 1962 and 1971, the U.S. military sprayed nearly 20 million gallons of material containing chemical herbicides and defoliants mixed with jet fuel in Vietnam, eastern Laos and parts of Cambodia, as part of Operation Ranch Hand.

A 2008 Globe and Mail article reported that “Vietnam estimates 400,000 people were killed or maimed by the defoliants, 500,000 children have been born with defects from retardation to spina bifida and a further two million people have suffered cancers or other illnesses. Yet they have received no compensation from those who produced the chemicals and those who made them a weapon of war.”

According to the the United Nations, Agent Orange is “one of the most toxic compounds known to human,” and the Vietnamese Red Cross has estimatedthat “as many as one million people in Vietnam have disabilities or other health problems associated with Agent Orange.”

A recently published report in Foreign Policy revealed that, during the Iran-Iraq War from 1980-1988, “America’s military and intelligence communities knew about and did nothing to stop a series of nerve gas attacks far more devastating than anything Syria has seen.” Among the findings, the report stated that, in 1988, “U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent,” and that “Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on U.S. satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence.”

More:

In contrast to today’s wrenching debate over whether the United States should intervene to stop alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, the United States applied a cold calculus three decades ago to Hussein’s widespread use of chemical weapons against his enemies and his own people. The Reagan administration decided that it was better to let the attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war. And even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted.

Even more recently, the U.S. military used white phosphorus, a chemical compound whose use in civilian areas constitutes a war crime, during its 2004 attacks on Fallujah in Iraq, just as America’s best friend in the region, Israel, dropped white phosphorus on civilian areas in its 2008-2009 massacre in Gaza.

It should be noted that, while the United States is a party to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which bans the use of napalm against civilians, it has never signed Protocol III on the convention, the statute that specifically bans the use of all incendiary weaponry. Nevertheless, even without signing it, this protocol came into force for the U.S. on July 21, 2009.

Furthermore, Israel is one of only seven nations on the planet – along with Syria, Angola, South Sudan, Egypt, North Vietnam, and Myanmar – to refuse to abide by the international Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

However, despite this, a deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said this week that state non-compliance with treaty obligations recognized by the vast majority of the international community — even by non-signatories to such treaties – should not absolve those states from accountability.

During a press briefing on August 27, spokesperson Marie Harf described the CWC as a “multilateral disarmament agreement” that “provides for the elimination of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction under universally applied international control and prohibits the use of chemical weapons. Currently, 189 nations, which represent about 98 percent of the global population, have joined the Chemical Weapons Convention.” As such, she continued, even though there are a few nations that have not yet acceded to the convention, “clearly that should not enable them to escape responsibility for their actions.”

Harf added, “There is a reason that the overwhelming majority of the international community – again, that agrees on little else – has stood against the use of these weapons, and Syria should not be able to flout the clearly expressed view of the international community here.”

The following day, Harf reiterated this position:

[T]he indiscriminate use of chemical weapons against civilians is a violation of international law. I also talked a little bit about international norms and the Chemical Weapons Convention, which they are obviously not a party to, but which clearly laid out that a majority – a vast majority of the world spoke up and said that we are taking a stand against chemical weapons and the world has spoken on chemical weapons. And we’re not going back, and they have to be held accountable.

To suggest that the United States does not go back on its word when it comes to commonly-accepted mandates of international law is laughable. In 1998, the vast majority of the world’s nations voted to adopted the Rome Statute, establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC) and granting it authority to “bring to justice the perpetrators of the worst crimes known to humankind – war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.” The United Statesvoted against it.

When the statute was officially adopted by the international community in 2002, the United States, Israel and Sudan all signed it, but formally refused to present it for ratification. In a letter to the UN Secretary-General on May 6, 2002, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, stated, “in connection with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court adopted on July 17, 1998, that the United States does not intend to become a party to the treaty. Accordingly, the United States has no legal obligations arising from its signature on December 31, 2000.”  While the Obama administration has walked back this Bush era rejection, it has still refused to ratify the treaty and accept the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Of course, the language of international law and accountability is also never leveled at Israel when it commits war crimes or develops an undeclared and unmonitored arsenal of nuclear weapons in defiance of the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of which Israel – along with only three other countries on Earth – is not a signatory.

In fact, in May 2010, after the 189 signatories of the NPT — including Iran and Syria called for an international conference in 2012 with the goal of establishing “a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction,” Israel denounced the accord, describing it as “deeply flawed and hypocritical,” and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “As a non-signatory state of the NPT, Israel is not obligated by the decisions of this Conference, which has no authority over Israel. Given the distorted nature of this resolution, Israel will not be able to take part in its implementation.”

At the time, President Obama also decried the resolution for what he claimed was an unfair focus on Israel – the only nuclear-armed state in the region – and promised to “oppose actions that jeopardize Israel’s national security.”

When the time of the proposed conference rolled around in December 2012, the United States prevented it from taking place.

It is clear that the United States is not considering military strikes on Syria out of any deference to the obligations of international law or concern for innocent civilians. As Omar Dahi notes in Jadaliyya, “The fact that the United States is threatening to strike now has nothing to do with the welfare of Syrians, and everything to do with the United States maintaining its own ‘credibility,’ its position as a hegemonic power.”

Even taking the U.S. government at its word – a dubious thing to do in light of past experiences – presents problems of its own, namely that anypurportedly punitive military action against Syria would itself be a violation of the very laws the United States is claiming to defend.

Recall, for instance, what then-Senator Barack said back on December 20, 2007:  “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation…As President, I will not assert a constitutional authority to deploy troops in a manner contrary to an express limit imposed by Congress and adopted into law.”

International relations professor Charli Carpenter has just addressed these factors in Foreign Affairs:

The Obama administration has already confirmed that itsprimary concern is with protecting the norm and punishing its violators. Given that goal, the appropriate course of action would be to, first, independently verify who violated it. The United States claims that it has “no doubt” that Syria was behind last week’s chemical attack, but that remains an open question until the UN inspectors have completed their investigation. Second, the United States would have to consider a range of policy options for affirming, condemning, and lawfully punishing the perpetrator before resorting to force, particularly unlawful force. As Article36.org, a nongovernmental organization notes, thesemight include condemnation, an arms embargo, sanctions, or any of the other bilateral and multilateral measures that are typically used to respond to violations of weapons norms (and which might be at least as effective than air strikes, if not more so). Third, should the United States decide on military action, with or without a UN Security Council resolution, it would need to adhere to international norms regulating the use of specific weapons in combat.

It is thus worrying that the proposed military strikes against Syria rely on Tomahawk missiles, which are capable of carrying cluster munitions and which have been decried on humanitarian grounds by numerous governments and civil society groups. Equally alarming is that the planned strikes would likely involve the use of explosives in populated areas, which is in violation of emerging international concernsabout such behavior. Although there is historical precedent for the legitimacy of violating the UN Charter in order to enforce global humanitarian norms, it would be seen as hypocritical to violate those very norms in the service of their affirmation.

As always, with a potentially imminent military strike on the horizon, the American government has once again affirmed its belief that – unlike the rest of the world – when the United States or its friends abrogate international law and commit war crimes, they should not be held to account.

*****UPDATE:

MSNBC‘s resident loudmouth Chris Matthews – who fancies himself somewhat of an historian – is apparently wholly unaware of the U.S. military’s past use of chemical weapons. Speaking on Morning Joe earlier this week, Matthews bellowed:

If you basically put down a red line and say don’t use chemical weapons, and it’s been enforced in the Western community, around the world — international community for decades. Don’t use chemical weapons. We didn’t use them in World War II, Hitler didn’t use them, we don’t use chemical weapons, that’s no deal. Although we do know that Assad’s father did. Then he goes ahead and does it.

Let alone Matthews’ ignorance of our own actions, even more surreal is the statement that “Hitler didn’t use them.” Matthews seems to be forgetting about that whole Holocaust thing, when the Nazis committed genocide by gassing millions of Jews in death camps.

Since no allusion to either Syria or Nazi Germany is allowed to pass in themainstream media without making erroneous comparisons with Iran, Matthews added that, based on Assad’s alleged use of weapons of mass destruction, “It makes you wonder what the mullahs will do if they have a couple of nuclear weapons, just a couple.”

Well, first off, Iran isn’t building nuclear weapons and, even according to U.S. intelligence assessments, hasn’t even made a decision to do so. It has alsoroutinely denounced the acquisition, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons for the past three decades.

Moreover, that Matthews would think Iranian leaders would instigate atomic Armageddon for absolutely no reason is bizarre. But then, again, with a history of promoting misinformation and demonstrating utter ignoranceabout the Iranian nuclear program, it is no surprise Matthews is pushing such shameless propaganda.

Second, Matthews fails to point out here that, in fact, only one single solitary nation in world history has ever actually used nuclear weapons: the United States of America, which dropped them on a civilians, slaughtering hundreds of thousands.

As Robert McNamara recounted to filmmaker Errol Morris in The Fog of War, “[U.S. Air Force General Curtis] LeMay said, ‘If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.’ And I think he’s right. He, and I’d say I, were behaving as war criminals. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?”

McNamara wondered, “Was there a rule then that said you shouldn’t bomb, shouldn’t kill, shouldn’t burn to death 100,000 civilians in one night?”

Genocide tribunal against ‘Israel’ fails Palestinian victims

A wounded Palestinian child is checked by doctors at a hospital in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza, on March 11, 2012, following a fresh Israeli air raid. (Ali Jadallah / APA images)

A wounded Palestinian child is checked by doctors at a hospital in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza, on March 11, 2012, following a fresh Israeli air raid. (Ali Jadallah / APA images)

by Yoichi Shimatsu, source

KUALA LUMPUR –  Anyone with the chutzpah to accuse Israel of genocide is going to bring on a preemptive strike. That is as guaranteed as cream cheese on a bagel.

The word “genocide” is loaded, since many and probably most Jews believe themselves to have a monopoly on the term.  Most often cited in reference to the Holocaust, the G word elicits an intense emotional reaction. “War crimes” is an acceptable term in international parlance, for even Israel’s  most vociferous citizens grudgingly admit to instances of unrestrained violence against Palestinians.

“Genocide”, however, is in a class by itself, being the thermonuclear bomb of moral outrage. How dare supporters of Palestinian rights charge the Mideast ’s “only democratic society” with systematic annihilation prompted by racial intolerance, economic greed, cultural chauvinism and religious bigotry?

Suspicion Mars Proceedings

The organizers of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal have brought on just such woe onto themselves by summoning a panel of international judges to rule on whether Israeli is guilty of genocide ever since its national birth in 1948.

The judicial proceedings got no further than the preliminary pretrial stage before it collapsed under acrimonious accusations ranging from prosecutors allegedly “poisoning minds” of Palestinian witnesses to outrage over a judge acting as ”an agent of the Mossad.”

The trigger for the heated denunciations between the prosecution team and the judicial panel was the prosecutors’ request for Judge Eric David, a law professor with the Free University of Brussels, to recuse himself (to voluntararily withdraw from the panel of judges).

The prosecutors had raised the issue of his earlier legal opinion to the effect that the People’s Mujaheedin (PMOI), an Iranian exile paramilitary which until recently was on the U.S. government’s list of terrorist groupsshould not be categorized as a terrorist entity.

According to media reports, the PMOI was involved in assassinating nuclear scientists and bombing factories in Iran. The group, largely based in Iraq , was militarily trained by the Israel secret service Mossad during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation.

Co-Prosecutor Francis Boyle, a New York-based law professor, stated that the favorable opinion on that terrorist group implies that Judge David is politically aligned with the foreign policy of Israel , the defendant in the current tribunal on Palestinian rights. To this question of conflict of interest, Jurist David refused to give an answer, nor did the presiding judge demand him to respond.

Lead Prosecutor Gurdial Singh argued that the complainants, Palestinians who personally suffered war crimes by Israeli forces, had grounds for suspicion about Judge David’s impartiality given his past approval of Mossad-linked forces.

Gurdjial pointed out:

“This tribunal being a court of conscience, there must be not even a single blot on integrity.”

After tension-packed deliberations behind closed doors, the panel ruled in favor of Judge David without examining his controversial opinion and unanimously affirmed that he should serve on the tribunal. That ruling provoked Prosecutor Boyle to call for a mistrial, and the panel responded by accusing him of contempt of court. The proceedings soon descended into chaos and many more back-rooms parleys, before both sides agreed to an indefinite adjournment, possibly of several months, before the start of trial. In total, the preliminary session lasted less than two days, August 21-22, before it whimpered to a halt.

Procedure Matters

After many reporting assignments, along with a long stint at jury duty, in San Francisco criminal trials and New York City gun court, my immediate observation was that the panel of judges in Malaysia overemphasized courtroom decorum while inexplicably failing to follow basic judicial proceedings.

The stress on style rather than the substance of law revealed a “cultural” difference in courtroom custom between the hard-ball rhetoric bandied in American trials versus the polite and deferential manners in wig-adorned chambers under the British tradition. As sadly shown in Kuala Lumpur , however, decorum can often serve as a cloak for institutional inertia and possibly hidden agendas.

Issues of etiquette aside, the most grievous mistake was the panel’s opting for unanimous agreement as a group. Trials with more than one judge, these including tribunals and high courts, are organized for the exact opposite, that is to allow a divided opinion between the majority ruling and a minority dissent. At the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, whatever its merits and flaws, the guilty verdict of the majority of judges was famously opposed by the minority opinion of the Indian jurist Radhabinod Pal. In hindsight, that lone dissenting voice rings in our consciences to this day with its warning against victor’s “justice” and lynch “law”.

For a body of judges to act in unison in favor of one of their own profession is a gross violation of the principle of independence for each judge in a court of conscience. The disturbing thought that came to my mind was that insistence on acting as a group is completely out of place in a tribunal. Whether there was verbal manipulation in the judges’ chamber is privy only to those inside, leaving those of us on the outside with nothing but doubt.

Code of Silence

Prosecutors have a right to protest a violation of judicial procedures as the basis for mistrial, as was done by the co-prosecutor. Normally, when a capital crime is at issue, a mistrial can lead to a change of venue and a new judge and jury. If a court cannot possibly render a verdict on the basis of fairness, then another fairer arena must be found.

There were other serious problems: for example, the failure of the presiding judge to order the prosecutors to rephrase aggressive accusations as questions, and his neglect to demand that judge Eric David explain his past opinion to the satisfaction of all in the courtroom.

Judge David, one of the drafters of Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Israeli war crimes against Palestinians, did not give a single word of explanation, much less a convincing argument, for his legal opinion and tacit support of a Mossad-trained terrorist group that was a combatant in the Iraq War and responsible for violent acts against Iranian civilians that are illegal under international law.

His silence smacks not only of delivering selective justice but also of harboring a hidden agenda. Instead of ethical clarity, he chose to the muddy waters. If genuinely in support of the tribunal, he would have recused himself as the source of doubt, even if his intentions were misunderstood.

From the inception of this tribunal on Palestinian rights more than a year ago, the prosecution strategy has been to seek a genocide verdict against Israel , while the defense tactic is, logically, to water-down the ruling to less onerous guilt of war crimes falling far short of genocidal state policy.

Unfortunately, the reluctance of the unified panel to accept transparency and open debate in the proceedings reinforced the perception of judicial bias among the aggrieved complainants from Palestine . That some and possibly many of the jurists were either hesitant or predisposed to reject a verdict of genocide would be understandable in an Israeli courtroom. That such has happened in a predominantly Muslim country is simply astounding.

Perversion of Justice

Unfortunately, and to their eternal shame, many pro-Israeli legal professionals are not up to ethical par, as was shown in a major investigation at The Hague during the mid-1990s. I served as one of a handful of reporters on the case involving a weapons-loaded El Al cargo jet that crashed into an apartment building in Biljmeer district of Amsterdam, killing residents in an intense fire and harming emergency crews with toxic releases. The legal case was criminally undermined by massive amounts of Israeli bribery of witnesses (guised as unofficial out-of-court settlements), interference by the Israeli security team at Schipol Airport and the eventual silencing of the Dutch team that investigated the air traffic maneuvers of the plane.

That Israeli-subverted case never got to trial in The Hague , and I cannot but now fear that the same fate could await the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal.

There are undoubtedly external factors aligned against the tribunal, other than the Israeli opposition to an undesirable verdict on Palestinian rights. Google, which cooperates with Israeli interests, posted warning signs on the website of the Kuala Lumpur foundation in its earlier tribunal hearings against the U.S. government for the illegal war on Iraq .

Closer to home, U.S. and allied intelligence agencies have actively promoted protests, similar to their Arab Spring sponsorship, to weaken the Malaysia government. Under the White House strategic pivot to Asia policy and the Pentagon’s Air-Sea Battle Concept, Malaysia is perceived as a potential foe of American geopolitical intervention. Is the pressure on from Tel Aviv and Washington to crack the Kuala Lumpur tribunal?

In Bad Faith 

 Laymen tend to perceive judges as men and women of ethical principle, non-partiality and free of preconceived biases. Sadly, the vast majority are not. One must remember that for every drone strike against a family home in a remote outland, a judge in a big city signs a writ of execution with not a whit of credible evidence. Constitutional guarantees have been reduced to a scrap of paper, and along with them so goes judicial standards.

For these very reasons, the tribunal in Kuala Lumpur must proceed and in accordance with the highest standard of international law. It is not a predetermined show trial nor a mock court, for this tribunal offers the legal strategy, the arguments and the precedent for the Palestinian Authority to press its long-overdue case in the International Court of Justice.

The Palestinian people have suffered prolonged and inexcusable violations of every human right under a state policy of eviction, banishment, imprisonment, torture and murder, repeatedly in an indiscriminate and cruel manner. If those who speak of the Rule of Law, for those who preside over our courts of law, cannot act, much less decide, against these inhumane practices and policies against a long-standing community, then there exists no law in Israel or at The Hague worthy of our respect and obedience.

The case of the Palestinian people versus the State of Israel is, in fact, a test of conscience for each and every one of us and proof of whether our global civilization is anything more than a facade for brute barbarism.

The Jewish people pride themselves at a moral lamp to humanity in darkness, but with only a few brave and notable exceptions in the cause of Palestinian rights, the dominant reaction of supporters of Israel has been toward obstruction of justice and outright injustice. The outcome can only be tragic for both peoples.

According to the Law Giver

The Hebrew term “Shoah” or calamity, which is also used to describe the Nazi policy against Jews, is the exclusive intellectual property of the Jewish people. “Genocide”, in contrast, is universal, applying to any nationality that faces systematic elimination.

To give credit where it is due, a Polish Jew coined the hybrid word “genocide”, which combines “genus”, Latin for family or breed, with “cide”, which translates as killing. A prosecutor in prewar Poland , before it was divided by German and Soviet forces, devised this word to describe the ultimate crime while drafting his book “Axis Rule in Occupied Europe” (published in 1944 by the Carnagie Foundation for International Peace). After immigrating to the United States , Lemkin joined the faculty of Rutgers Law School and drafted a genocide treaty adopted by the newly formed United Nations in 1948.

 The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to summarize, forbids the killing, maiming and deliberate inflicting on a targeted group those conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

This lawgiver made very clear that the genocide is applicable to any group threatened with “a coordinated plan” for the destruction of “essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves” with objectives including disintegration of political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even their lives.”

Genocide does not necessarily mean the killing of every single member of a group since total extermination is often not feasible even with brutal efficiency.

Lemkin cited many genocide cases from our troubled world history, including “Christians of various denominations, Muslims and Jews, Armenians and Slavs, Greeks and Russians, dark-skinned Hereros in Africa and white-skinned Poles perished by millions from this crime.” The law must protect not just individuals but also groups of people, and by all accounts, the Palestinians are a group suffering most and probably all of the abuses cited.

Now 65 years after Lemkin formulated the rules of conduct, it becomes painfully apparent that yesterday’s victims can too easily become today’s perpetrators. What has anyone learned from their own suffering?

“What constitutes as terrorism and what does not?”

(Lebanon-file photo)

In defense of Hizbullah, a ’terrorist’ organization

by Ahmad Barqawi, World News daily, Al Ahed news

July 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House – Arab liberals and GCC-sponsored ‘intellectuals’ and media pundits could not contain their delight this past week as they all went into jubilant throes of rapture over the EU’s acquiescence to American pressure to black-list the Lebanese Resistance Group Hizbullah (or its Armed Wing as it were) as a “terrorist” organization.

Full-blown joy was in no short supply as Gulf funded newspapers and media outlets went into celebratory overdrive, practically sharing a “moment of great relief” with the one entity that, in a word-association game, elicits “terrorism” for the majority of the people in this region: “Israel”.
Of course the reactionary monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council have themselves designated the Lebanese party as a “terrorist” organization last month, fashioning measures and sanctions to target the party’s (non-existent) interests in the Gulf, these measures will most probably translate into wholesale arbitrary expulsions and random terminations of residency permits of Lebanese expats earning their livelihoods in these Sheikhdoms, especially those with the “wrong” religious affiliation.

Saudi Arabia has been spearheading a vigorous anti-Hizbullah screed ever since the assassination of their favorite Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, with blatant sectarian incitement and torrents of weaponized religious Fatwas as staples in the Kingdom’s armory, but for a country whose main exports include religious fanatics of the al-Qaeda variety along with crude oil; labeling the Lebanese party as a “terrorist” organization takes their hypocrisy to a whole new cosmic level.
Ultimately, the EU’s decision to ban the “Military Wing” of the Lebanese Resistance as a “terrorist organization” will most probably have minimal effects on the Party’s political (and yes military) activities, but one has to wonder; what criteria were used to lump the Lebanese party in the same crowd with al-Qaeda and its ilk? What constitutes as “terrorism” and what does not?

What if Hizbullah swapped its arsenal of “primitive” missiles and Katyushas for a bunch of drones and F-16s? What if the young men of the Lebanese resistance decided to pick up remote joystick terrorism instead of putting their lives at stake by being on the front lines defending their own towns and villages? Would they then still be considered terrorists?

What if Hizbullah took a leaf out of the CIA’s playbook on how to “humanely” treat prisoners of war? What if they pulled a Guantanamo, or a Bagram or an Abu Ghraib on “Israeli” captives, where water-boarding and sexual humiliations are matters of course? Would it be considered terrorism then or just standard operating procedures? Harsh Interrogation Techniques perhaps?
What if Hizbullah conducted a massive illegal surveillance and private online data collection crusade not only on its own fellow Lebanese citizens but on the entire world population, wouldn’t it be considered a parasitic terrorist entity then? Nah. That would be just too obvious for the EU.

Imagine the uproar if Hizbullah ran large scale bogus vaccination programs in other sovereign states only to illegally and forcibly obtain DNA samples from local residents (including children) on their obsessive manhunt for a “wanted” fugitive, wouldn’t hot-headed Eurocentrics trip over themselves to deem that a form of terrorism? How about spying on UN officials and diplomats -including the Secretary General himself-, hacking their E-mail addresses, collecting fingerprints and stealing their credit card numbers? Wouldn’t that instantly earn them a pariah status by the self-righteous EU?
What if Hizbullah had an arsenal of more than 250 nuclear warheads? What if Hizbullah carpet-bombed Tel Aviv with cluster munitions and white phosphorous shells to kingdom come? Would that constitute as terrorism or just a preemptive “self-defense” routine?
What if Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah clumsily mounted an air craft carrier with a giant “Mission Accomplished” banner attached to it after his “Military Wing” had illegally invaded, pillaged, occupied and decimated a sovereign country and looted its oil and natural resources leaving nothing but biological plagues and radioactive dust in their soil and water, under some trumped up weapons-of-mass-destruction pretext no less? Would the corporate world consider him a hero and hail him like he was the Second Coming?

What if Nasrallah followed the “fine example” of the double-tongued Barack Obama and fashioned a secret “Kill List” of his own -which included minors and civilians- for impulsive targeted drone annihilation and extrajudicial assassinations? Would he then receive a Nobel Peace Prize for that? How about if he rendezvoused with Israeli war criminals on the White House lawn to sign a humiliating peace treaty with the Zionist entity? I’d wager he would be then declared the Time’s “Man of the Year”.

Imagine if the Lebanese resistance movement employed gut wrenching force-feeding and coercion against their hunger-striking political detainees as a matter of course by shoving tubes up their hemorrhaging noses and down into their bellies, would that make them less terrorists and more civilized and liberal?
What if Hizbullah fighters took machetes to their victim’s chests and cannibalized their remains and internal organs while smiling through their blood soaked teeth to the camera, would they then be considered bona fide “Freedom Fighters” deserving of western support and millions of dollars of military “non-lethal” aid? What if Hizbullah fighters staged photo-ops and smooched with hardcore right-wing Zionists of the John McCain and Joe Lieberman variety, would they be praised as moderate peace-loving democrats and true models for upright humanity?

What if Hizbullah resorted to car bombings, booby-trapped micro vans and suicide attacks in heavily populated civilian neighborhoods just like those head chopping, throat slitting FSA darlings of the West? Would it be elevated to the pantheons of “legitimate” Arab Spring, GCC-sponsored rebel movements?
Why can’t Hizbullah leaders take their cue from those feuding Gulf States’ Sheikhs and Emirs whom are gluttons for anything American and Western? Why can’t they just play good hosts to a gigantic American military base in South Lebanon? This sure would get their name yanked off of that list of terrorist organizations.

Can’t they just forsake their Turbans and traditional Thobes for million-dollar suits and silk neckties? What if Hizbullah leaders were white men with green eyes, and spoke with perfect, unaccented English? Would the EU still slap that “terrorism” label on a legitimate resistance movement?
Shouldn’t we all be grateful that we have the European Union to tell us what constitutes as terrorism and what does not?

Syria, Iraq and Depleted Uranium

by John Bart Gerald, source

As the U.S.considers expanding its war on Syria to overt military aggression, Iraq provides some warning of the human cost of accepting the policies of madmen. In Iraq military action starting with “Desert Storm” in 1991, caused the near total destruction of Iraq’s society, culture, environment and eventual losses of millions of innocent people. Health and mortality information risks heavy suppression and manipulation since it provides evidence concerning a crime. In Spain, theBrussells Tribunal‘s cogent case attempting to prosecute George Bush, Tony Blair and others for genocide inIraq was rejected by the court. Lack of legal recourse for the people of Iraq before a non-partisan international court marks the International Criminal Court’s failure to bend the major powers from illegal wars of aggression.

Primary alleged crimes of the U.S. and NATO coalition’s war on Iraq remain unaddressed:

1. aggression and the betrayal ofIraq’s sovereignty.

2. massive military bombardment of civilian areas.

3. intentional destruction of the civilian infrastructure and water supply.

4. use of depleted uranium weaponry to cause the slow death of civilian populations and render portions of the land unable to sustain health and life in the future.

While these points are neglected by the media, current information concerning use of depleted uranium is so notably missing there may be an attempt to remove the issue from the public’s awareness (1 and 2). While depleted uranium is a lethal radiological weapon, relevant public information is suppressed, excised, falsely countered and ignored.

Serbian sources claim that a UNEP 1999 Environmental Law report revealing the permanent damage to Yugoslavia was entirely suppressed, but with a portion leaked to an American journalist. In North America where the weapons are made, it’s not a welcome issue. Depleted uranium use indicates the intention of genocide against a people, their ability to reproduce, the health of theirchildren, and continuation as a people.

A year after its slated release date, a report by the United Nations World Health Organization on congenital birth defects in areas ofIraqsubjected to depleted uranium

weaponry, hasn’t appeared though it was completed in October 2012. This oversight is  brought to the public’s attention in articles by Mozhgan Savabieasfahani in Aljazeera, and  Sudeshna Chowdhury in Inter Press Service. The withholding of the WHO report suggests extreme pressure on the World Health Organization by nations which have something terrible to hide. It would be difficult for the report to sidestep epidemic rates of cancer in Iraq regions where depleted uranium was used. Chowdhury’s article, “WHO’s Iraq Birth Defect Study Omits Causation,” indicates the WHO report purposefully avoids considering the causes of the overwhelming birth defects, disease, and death rates. The report relies in part on Iraq’s Ministry of Health for information. The Health Ministry is part of a government set up under occupation by the United States. If the WHO report is allowed to appear, it may cover, dissimulate, mask, and avoid blaming the major powers.

The issue of depleted uranium’s effects however, will exist as long as there are Iraqis, Yugoslavs or Afghans, – and U.S. and Coalition veterans. And because of their knowledge, victim peoples are further endangered. The proof of the damage resulting from unjust wars of aggression stays in the memories of the victim parents, the lives of the children who survive despite deformities, in the statistics for deaths by cancer which don’t begin to translate the burden of suffering for entire families.

Not only in Iraq, but Yugoslavia,Kosovo,Afghanistan,Libya, the people are finding they do not have the value of sparrows, and their lives and their children’s lives are taken from them without cause, by policies and military planners who have set themselves apart from humanity. At its inception the Convention on Genocide foresaw complicity of those in power to cover each other’s crimes and so is applicable without statute of limitations. To hide crimes of power, the present is hidden from us. For the future then, whatever the WHO report reveals or hides about the deformed children of Fallujah for example, there are studies (several are alluded to in Ms. Chowdhury’s article) that address effects of depleted uranium from the perspective of people who care about people more than politics:

“Depleted Uranium Radioactive Contamination In Iraq: An Overview,” Prof. Souad N. Al-Azzawi, Aug. 2006, Brussells Tribunal.

“The perpetual death from America,” Mohammed Daud Miraki, 2002, reprinted, nightslantern.ca.

“The silent genocide from America,” Miraki,  2003, reprinted nightslantern.ca.

“In a state of uncertainty,” IKV Pax Christi, January 2013, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Crimes of the Century: Occupation & Contaminating Iraq with Depleted Uranium,”  Al-Azzawi, June 24, 2005, Brussells Tribunal.

“Innocent New Lives are Still Dying and Suffering,” Fact Finding Mission on congenital birth defects in Fallujah Iraqin 2013, April 2013, Human Rights Now.

“Uranium and other contaminants in hair from the parents of children with congenital anomalies in Fallujah, Iraq,” Samira Alaani, Muhammed Tafash, Christopher Busby, Malak Hamdan, Eleanore Blaurock-Busch, Sept. 2, 2011, Cell & Bioscience.

The people of Syria are already plunged into disaster with UN assessment of the number of refugees the largest since the Rwandan genocide. AsU.S.and NATO threats of direct military action against Syria continue, North Americans proceed with their lives as if there’s nothing wrong. As if the big lies reflect the common good. As if the murder of hundreds of thousands of distant people for the profits of a few, is somehow moral, legal, necessary, or safe to cooperate with the obvious terrible crimes of imperialism. It isn’t.

Partial sources online: “What’s delaying the WHO report on Iraqi birth defects?” Dr. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, June 6, 2013,  Aljazeera; “UN health agency, Iraq studying birth defects,” AFP, Oct. 5, 2010, Google News; “Serbia: NATO’s Uranium Embrace,” Anna Filimonova, Jan. 29, 2013,Strategic Culture Foundation; “Depleted uranium ‘threatens Balkan cancer epidemic’ ,” Alex Kirby, July 30, 1999, BBC News; “The Responsibility of the US in Contaminating Iraq with Depleted Uranium,” Prof. Souad N. Al-Azzawi, Nov. 9, 2009 (presented at the Kuala Lumpur International Conference to Criminalise War, October 2009), uruknet.info;  “WHO’s Iraq Birth Defect Study Omits Causation,” Sudeshna Chowdhury, July 17, 2013, IPS; “Iraqi  cities ‘hot’ with depleted uranium,” Sara Flounders, August 2003, International Action Center; “‘Merciful angel’ still killing,” March 6, 2013, International Radio Serbia; “‘Fallujan Babies’ and Depleted Uranium — America’s Toxic Legacy in Iraq,” Dahr Jamail, March 18, 2013, Al Jazeera; “The Balkan DU Cover-up: Washington is Pressuring NATO and the UN to Keep the Lid on Investigations,” Robert James Parsons, March 22, 2001, The Nation.

“War Criminals are Us”. British government supports prosecution of war criminals “whoever they are.”

by Felicity Arbuthnot, source

UK Foreign Secretary Supports Prosecution of  War Crimes: “ Whoever they are.”

On 16th July, Foreign Secretary William Hague answered questions in the British Parliament, from the Foreign Affairs Committee on Developments on UK Foreign Policy.

Ann Clwyd (Labour,  Cynon Valley) whose cheer-leading and misleading for the invasion of Iraq and whose numerous visits to Iraqi Kurdistan and alleged close friendship with Kurdish war lord, Jalal Talabani, led Iraqis and Iraq watchers to dub her “Mrs Talabani”, is seemingly on the war path again.

She asked the Foreign Secretary: “

… to what extent the UK government is prepared to hold the (Syrian) opposition to account, as well as Assad, for serious human rights abuses, war crimes, crimes against humanity and so on?”

Never mind that she is seemingly ignorant of the correct form of address to the President of a nation whose ”sovereignty and territorial integrity” is enshrined in fine legalese at the UN – as was Iraq’s prior to the illegal invasion.

The usually slithery Mr Hague’s answer, however, was surprisingly  illuminating:

“I think this is a very important point, and we must be prepared to do so … But this country will always have a position that war crimes and crimes against humanity must be rooted out, their perpetrators prosecuted, and it doesn’t matter who did it.”

Surely then, immediate steps will be taken to deliver Tony Blair; former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon; former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and former Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith to the International Criminal Court at the Hague for the plotting of the illegal invasion, occupation and decimation of Iraq based on a pack of lies.

I have to hand a copy of Lord Goldmith’s legal advice to then Prime Minister Tony Blair, of 30th January 2003. Paragraph 4 states: “I remain of the view that the correct legal interpretation of (UN Security Council Resolution 1441) does not authorize the use of force without a further determination by the Security Council …”

Against this paragraph Blair has scrawled: “I just don’t understand this.” Goldsmith meekly changed his advice.

“Crimes and crimes against humanity” must indeed be “rooted out” and “perpetrators prosecuted.”

I await with hope, the sound of a few dawn raids and splintered doors. Hopefully one will be in the Cynon Valley for just one of Ms Clwyd’s outrageous untruths. She had seen personally the shredding machines, through which Saddam Hussein fed live human bodies, feet first, she told the House of Commons, in a voice-breaking Oscar performance. They did not, of course, exist.

Crimes against humanity, the babies will haunt us & remember all the children, Mr. President

(Iraq-file photo))

Iraq: Crimes against Humanity. The Babies Will Haunt Us (Click to read)

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Remember All the Children, Mr. President

by BILL QUIGLEY, source

Remember the 20 children who died in Newton Connecticut.

Remember the 35 children who died in Gaza this month from Israeli bombardments.

Remember the 168 children who have been killed by US drone attacks in Pakistan since 2006.

Remember the 231 children killed in Afghanistan in the first 6 months of this year.

Remember the 400 other children in the US under the age of 15 who die from gunshot wounds each year.

Remember the 921 children killed by US air strikes against insurgents in Iraq.

Remember the 1,770 US children who die each year from child abuse and maltreatment.

Remember the 16,000 children who die each day around the world from hunger.

These tragedies must end.

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Obama, Biden are war criminals under UN Charter

by Dave Lindorff, source

Bush, Cheney, White House counsel (and later Attorney General) Alberto Gonzalez and others were found guilty earlier this month of war crimes… As it turns out, Bush and Gonzalez needn’t have worried. Though Obama, when initially campaigning in 2008 for the presidency, vowed that he wanted to restore the respect for the law and the Constitution, once elected President, he and his attorney general Eric Holder quickly made it clear that they were ‘looking forward, not backward.’”

Most Americans, their minds focused at the moment on the tragic slaughter of 20 young children aged 5 and 6, along with five teachers and a school principal in Connecticut by a heavily-armed psychotic 21-year-old, are blissfully unaware that their previous president, George W. Bush, along with five key members of his administration, were recently convicted in absentia of war crimes at a tribunal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

US President Barack Obama (foreground) and Vice President Joe Biden
They are unaware because the US corporate media have ignored the story, just as that same corporate media have failed to note that the crimes of which Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and five White House lawyers, were convicted all could apply equally well to current President Barack Obama and his administration.

Bush, Cheney, White House counsel (and later Attorney General) Alberto Gonzalez and others were found guilty earlier this month of war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to the executive orders that launched the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as of authorizing and failing to punish torture and other war crimes by US forces, including the military and the CIA.

But as international law expert Francis Boyle, a professor of law at the University of Illinois, notes, under the Geneva Convention, failing to take action to prosecute those guilty of war crimes such as the “Crime against Peace” (invading a country that does not pose an imminent threat to the attacker), and torture, are war crimes in and of themselves.

Speaking last week at a Summit Conference on Human Rights held at the University of the Sacred Heart in the US island colony of Puerto Rico, Boyle said US authorities, including President Obama, are engaged in an “ongoing criminal conspiracy under international law” both to cover up and protect criminals like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, and to continue the commission of war crimes by the US government.

Support for both the Malaysian Tribunal’s judgment against Bush, Cheney et al, and for Boyle’s charges against Obama and his administration, comes, interestingly, from President Bush’s own White House counsel Gonzalez. As I noted in my book The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), about Bush’s and Cheney’s war crimes and impeachable offenses, Gonzalez, writing in a Jan. 25, 2002 memo in support of the torture of captured terrorist suspects, warned President Bush that “it is difficult to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges based upon” the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act.

He went on to caution that in the event that the president were some day so prosecuted and convicted of war crimes, the potential penalty could “include the death penalty.” In the same memo, sounding more like a mob lawyer than a judicious legal advisor, Gonzalez told the president that as the president’s legal counsel, he was making a determination that torture of suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban captives would be legal in order to provide the president and his staff with legal cover that “substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act.”

As it turns out, Bush and Gonzalez needn’t have worried. Though Obama, when initially campaigning in 2008 for the presidency, vowed that he wanted to restore the respect for the law and the Constitution, once elected President, he and his attorney general Eric Holder quickly made it clear that they were “looking forward, not backward,” and that there would be no prosecutions or indictments for war crimes of any Bush administration people.

The thing is, at that moment, both President Obama and AG Holder became war criminals themselves under the UN Charter and the Nuremberg Principles, which declare that covering up war crimes by prior government and military leaders, and failure to prosecute such war crimes, are in themselves war crimes.

But as Boyle noted in his address in San Juan, P.R., Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, and the various secretaries of defense and state, the head of the CIA and the Pentagon Chiefs of Staff, as well as other Obama administration personnel, are also guilty of perpetrating ongoing war crimes themselves.

Boyle accuses the Obama administration of continuing to conduct a “bogus” war on “international terrorism” including the ever escalating campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and other jurisdictions. He termed the president’s program of “targeted killings,” in which President Obama himself draws up the “kill list,” to be simply a case of “pure murder” under both traditional British common law and international law, and says these attacks constitute a “Crime against Humanity under Article 7(1)(a) of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court.”

It would seem that it is unlikely Nobel Peace Laureate Obama will be prosecuted by any country, at least while he remains president, but the recent Malaysian tribunal conviction of Bush, Cheney and several Bush administration legal advisors suggests there could be similar tribunals and convictions of current administration personnel in years to come.

While America’s outsized military and economic power for now make it unlikely any retired American leaders will find themselves in the dock at the Hague like war criminals from Serbia, Bosnia or Rwanda, it is possible that these kinds of charges and convictions could, at a minimum, make them, like former Nixon administration Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, reluctant to travel internationally in their dotage.

What Does the ICC Stand For? The Imperialist Crime Cover-Up

RB comment: I’m posting this as an example of the ICC hypocrisy and the so called “international justice” used as a tool in the hands of some countries to advance their interests.

by DIANA JOHNSTONE, source

Last May 16, Luis Moreno Ocampo, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, officially sought an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Moammer Kadhafi for “crimes against humanity”. Also accused were the leader’s son Seif al-Islam Kadhafi and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi.

U.S. jurist David Scheffer told Agence France Presse: “NATO will doubtless appreciate the ICC investigation and indictment of top Libyan leaders, including Kadhafi.”

Well, yes. And nobody is better placed to know what NATO appreciates than David Scheffer.

The day before, Tripoli had made yet another offer of a truce, calling for an end to NATO bombing and for peace negotiations with the armed rebels based in Benghazi. NATO’s response took the form of the ICC indictment. When NATO bombs a country to unseat a leader, the targeted leader must be treated like a common criminal. His place cannot be at the negotiating table, but behind bars. An international indictment handily transforms NATO’s military aggression into a police action to arrest “an indicted war criminal” – an expression that evacuates the presumption of “innocent until proven guilty”.

This is a familiar pattern.

On March 24, 1999, NATO began bombing Yugoslavia in support of armed Albanian rebels in Kosovo. Two months later, in mid-May, as the bombing intensified against Serbia’s infrastructure, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, Louise Arbour, issued an indictment against Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic for crimes against humanity. All but one of the alleged “crimes against humanity” took place in Kosovo during the chaos caused precisely by the NATO bombing.

On March 31, 2011, NATO began bombing Libya, and this time the International Criminal Court was even faster. And the charges were even less substantial. Ocampo said that there was evidence that Kadhafi personally ordered attacks on “innocent Libyan civilians”.

In Libya as in the Kosovo war, the accusations are those made by armed rebels supported by NATO, with no discernable trace of independent neutral investigation.

In the spring of 1999, David Scheffer, who was then U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s Ambassador at large for War Crimes, visited Louise Arbour and provided her with NATO reports on which to base her indictments. Indeed, Scheffer had earlier helped set up the ICTY as instructed by Ms Albright. The May 1999 accusations served their main immediate purpose: to block negotiations and to justify NATO’s continued bombing. As Madeleine Albright put it, “We are not negotiating with Milosevic… The indictments, I think, clarify the situation because they really show that we are doing the right thing in terms of responding to the kinds of crimes against humanity that Milosevic has perpetrated.” (See Michael Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder, PlutoPress, 2004, pp.141-145.)

To sum up, in both cases an “international criminal tribunal/court” intervenes in the midst of a NATO bombing to accuse the leader of the country being bombed of “crimes against humanity” based on flimsy evidence provided by NATO itself or by its rebel clients.

Thus the International Criminal Court turns out to be a continuation of the ICTY, that is, an instrument not of international justice but the judicial arm of Western intervention in weaker countries. The ICC could well stand for Imperialist Crimes Cover-up.

It certainly does not deserve its official title, since it studiously ignores truly “international” crimes, such as U.S. and NATO aggression or the many massacres of civilians that result. Rather, so far the only alleged crimes it has undertaken to prosecute have all been the result of internal conflicts taking place in countries on the African continent. In short, the ICC so far acts mainly as a way of putting political pressure on, or justifying military action against, weak governments the Western powers want to replace with leaders of their choice.

Concerning the Kadhafi indictment, Scheffer is quoted by AFP as saying that the move might increase pressure on Kadhafi to think about finding refuge in a country that has not agreed to ICC jurisdiction. This is a senseless remark, since Libya itself has not agreed to ICC jurisdiction. Nor has Sudan, which has not prevented the ICC from going after its president, Omar Al Bashir, even though the ICC is supposed to apply only to countries that have recognized its jurisdiction. But non-recognition of ICC jurisdiction proves to be of no protection for weak countries.

Just as NATO and the ICC continue to pursue Kadhafi on the pretext that he is “killing his own people”, in Afghanistan NATO armed forces continues to kill people who are not their own, with impunity.

The ICC has developed into one of the most blatant illustrations of double standards. The United States manipulates the ICC without recognizing its jurisdiction, and having further protected itself by bilateral agreements with a long list of countries that provide immunity for United States citizens as well as by Congressional laws to protect U.S. citizens from the ICC.

Other NATO countries have recognized ICC jurisdiction, but there is no sign that they will ever be troubled by the international court.

Last Sunday, two notoriously nonconformist French lawyers, Jacques Vergès and former foreign minister Roland Dumas, announced that they intended to bring a lawsuit against President Nicolas Sarkozy for “crimes against humanity” in Libya. At a press conference in Tripoli, Dumas deplored that the NATO mission to protect civilians was killing them, and said he was ready to defend Kadhafi at the ICC. Meanwhile, the two lawyers intend to represent the families of victims of NATO bombing in litigation against Sarkozy in French courts. “We are going to break through the wall of silence,” announced Vergès.

There is more solid evidence of the civilian victims of NATO bombing, including the three baby grandchildren of Moammer Kadhafi, than of the “crimes against humanity” attributed by Ocampo to the Libyan leader. But the French public has been mesmerized by the propaganda portraying Kadhafi as a bloodthirsty ogre whose only desire is to “kill his own people”. Since most people in the West know absolutely nothing about Libya, anything goes.

On Monday, as France and Britain prepared to send in combat helicopters to support the armed rebels and hunt down Kadhafi, NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced that Kadhafi’s “reign of terror is coming to an end”. The real “rain of terror” is the rain of NATO bombs falling on defenseless Tripoli, with the clear intention of terrorizing Libyans into surrendering to the NATO-backed rebels. And there is no sign of it ever coming to an end.

Israeli prosecutor to close Gaza massacre probe

NAZARETH, (PIC)– The Israeli military prosecutor is expected to close an investigation into the murder of four Palestinian civilians, including a three-year-old girl, who were waving a white flag during the 2008-9 Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip.

The prosecution claimed there was not enough evidence to support that the shooting contravened the law. Israel’s Chief Military Advocate General Avichai Mendelblit had testified before the Turkel committee, the same board that investigated the Freedom Flotilla massacre, on what happened in the Al-Zaytoun suburb in Gaza city on January 5, 2009, when four were killed and nine others injured, including a baby less than seven months old.

The Goldstone report had also mentioned the incident after it was highlighted by the Israeli B’Tselem rights group. According to that report, the Huja family tried to flee their home after the war began on land in their area. The head of household Mohammed Huja was then killed after a rocket hit the home. Then Israeli soldiers entered and ordered the family to move to a nearby house where around 30 people were being detained in a room, with the men cuffed and blindfolded. Then, after noon, the soldiers forced the people to leave the house, and the Arafat family joined them waving a white flag.

The report says that the soldiers proceeded to open fire against them, killing Alla Arafat, 27, and injuring seven others. As the Red Cross did not manage to reach the area, Mahmoud Huja, 15, and baby Shahd Huja also died later. Military police decided to investigate the massacre in the wake of those Goldstone and B’Tselem reports.

Two years later, the military prosecutor said the soldiers did not fire in contradiction to procedure and that the case is expected to be closed without an indictment.

The Goldstone Saga

by Iqbal Jassat – Pretoria, source

It’s certainly turning out to be a farce. And one wonders whether a highly experienced jurist such as Judge Richard Goldstone underestimated the potential of his Washington Post op-ed turning into an embarrassing saga, not only for himself, but also for his beloved Israel?

Since the publication of his controversial op-ed wherein he expressed misgivings about the central finding of the UN Human Rights Council probe on the Gaza massacre of 2008-9 named after him as “The Goldstone Report”, media has been awash with new – and not so new – accounts of Operation Cast Lead.

And as the saga unfolds there is a rush to claim credit for Goldstone’s apparent about turn. From South Africa groups that operate as pro-Israeli fronts have staked their claim too. Avrom Krengel of the SA Zionist Federation is quoted as saying that the “Jewish lobby” in South Africa be credited for Goldstone’s reversal.

On the other hand, Israeli leaders such as the extreme right winger Lieberman who heads the apartheid regime’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims that it was due to pressure exerted by him and his colleagues especially from Military Intelligence that got Goldstone to crack.

In the midst of these claimants seeking accolades for subjecting the internationally renowned war crimes prosecutor to having “suffered greatly, especially in the city he comes from” and that “made him…regret his remarks” as Krengel is quoted, Goldstone is now caught in a new spat with Israel.

In an interview with Associated Press, Goldstone has been at pains to deny Israeli claims that he will nullify the “Goldstone Report”. This follows claims attributed to Interior Minister Eli Yishai who said that Goldstone had undertaken to do so. This spat is equally farcical for it reveals how Goldstone’s revised view has now turned him being used as a useful idiot and pawn in Israel’s vicious campaign to escape the full might of International Law for the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Israel’s hasty embrace of Goldstone’s reconsideration and their overwhelming emphasis on him backing away from allegations of “intentionality” betrays their real intent: to be saved from the Hague’s hangmen!

This is borne out by the disgraceful contempt for UN processes by the US envoy Susan Rice. Her view encapsulates the mood in the Obama administration as spurred on by the Netanyahu regime. She told a congressional hearing that she wants the report to “disappear” and no longer be a subject of “discussion and debate” in the Human Rights Council or the General Assembly and “beyond”.

While Rice’s outrageous remarks display an amazing disregard for institutions within the United Nations, it is becoming clear that collusion between Israel and America seeks to persuade the UN to cancel the Goldstone Report.

Unfortunately for Israel the revised view of Goldstone is not going entirely their way as they had hoped. Apart from rekindling a fresh debate on Israeli culpability during Operation Cast Lead, Israel would have hoped that the Washington Post op-ed did not leave any room for ambiguity. For instance Goldstone talks about “probably” – which is a euphemism for uncertainty in regard to “intentionality”!

He also concedes that concerns reflected in the McGowan Davis report reveal that “few of Israel’s inquiries have been concluded” and proceedings were not held in a “public forum” thus not transparent and hence in violation of recommendations in the Goldstone Report!

Crucially too, Goldstone has not disavowed the view that Israel violated laws of war in using white phosphorus and heavy artillery in densely populated Palestinian refugee camps reminds Nimer Sultany, a civil rights attorney in Israel in an op-ed in the Boston Globe.

Sultany thus warns that Goldstone’s silence on it allows views advocated by Israel to take hold. It is as unfair as the rest of the distortions now being exploited by Israel to hide behind vagueness. Its not surprising therefore to read the analysis of this farce by Prof John Dugard, who emphatically asserts that there are no new facts which exonerate Israel and which could possibly have led Goldstone to change his mind!

Dugard’s opinion of Goldstone’s op-ed leads him to conclude that it makes “strange reading” and by suggesting that the indiscriminate bombing and shooting of Palestinians in Gaza by the IDF, which resulted in nearly a thousand civilian deaths, was not “intentional” is a “mystery” for the former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Israel’s euphoria may be short lived despite the excitement generated by his “ill-considered” op-ed. As Dugard reminds us, Goldstone is a former judge and knows full well that a Fact Finding Report by four persons, of which he was only one, like the judgement of a court of law, cannot be changed by the subsequent reflections of a single member of the committee.

Indeed this can only be done by the full committee itself with the approval of the body that established the Fact Finding Mission – the UN Human Rights Council. And this is highly unlikely in view of the fact that the three other members of the Committee – Prof Christine Chinkin of the LSE, Ms Hina Jilani, an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Colonel Desmond Travers, formerly an officer in the Irish Defence Force – have indicated that they do not share Goldstone’s misgivings.

– Iqbal Jassat is the chairperson of Media Review Network, Pretoria – South Africa.

Goldstone’s Wobble Sends Wrong Signal

UN school attacked

by Stuart Littlewood, source

‘If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document,’ says Judge Goldstone in a bombshell article in the Washington Post that set Zionist champagne corks a-poppin’.

But what exactly is it Goldstone now knows that suddenly weakens his devastating findings and recommendations?

Not that his report tells us more than we already knew from the multitude of accounts by eye-witnesses and other reliable sources. It’s devastating because the evidence is so damning. Its real value, though, is in the legalistic tone and immaculate packaging, which impressed the United Nations and prodded follow-up action.

The Mission’s mandate from the United Nations was “to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.”

The chief violator was, and still is, the lawless Israeli regime. Goldstone, a Jew and described as an ardent Zionist, was hardly the man to head the inquiry team. You ignore at your peril the First Law of tribal membership: don’t crap on your tribe’s doorstep. There are bound to be unpleasant consequences.

Goldstone blotted his copybook before he even got started. The Mission convened for the first time on 4 May 2009, but weeks beforehand three of the inquiry team – Goldstone himself, Col. Desmond Travers and Hina Jilani – signed an open letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations Security Council, calling for those who perpetrated “gross violations of the laws of war,” “gross violations of international humanitarian law” and “targeting of civilians” to be brought to account. The letter said: “The events in Gaza have shocked us to the core.”

South Africa’s chief rabbi Warren Goldstein and UK columnist Melanie Phillips immediately pounced, claiming that such a statement, made before the Mission had begun its work, undermined the supposed impartiality of the inquiry.

It pains me to agree with anything Melanie Phillips says, but on this occasion I have to.

Goldstein complained that Professor Christine Chinkin, the fourth member of the inquiry team, signed a letter in the Sunday Times on 11 January 2009 – at the height of Israel’s blitzkrieg on Gaza and before the inquiry team was appointed – which stated that “Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defense, not least because its assault on Gaza was unnecessary… the manner and scale of its operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression and is contrary to international law, notwithstanding the rocket attacks by Hamas.” The letter appeared under the heading “Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is not self-defense – it’s a war crime.”

What she put her name to was undoubtedly true, but it should have disqualified her from membership of the Mission.

It’s almost as if the team was deliberately picked so that their indiscretions and prejudices could be shot down in flames later, at Netanyahu’s convenience.

When he introduced the results of his fact-finding Mission to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2009, Goldstone spoke of a barrage of criticism as well as public attacks against members of the team. He rejected the accusation that they were politically motivated. After the report was released they received a number of comments and, where relevant, inaccuracies in the final version were corrected. “We regret that the response to date of the Government of Israel avoids dealing with the substance of the report,” he said.

So Israel had its chance to participate and put the record straight. It cannot now snipe from the sidelines and expect to be taken seriously.

Goldstone’s True Colours

It seemed to me that Goldstone’s impartiality crumbled as soon as he accused Hamas of war crimes in the same tone as Israel. For Hamas the context is totally different. At the time of Israel’s onslaught they and their 1.5 million Gazans had been in the vice-like grip of an illegal blockade by land, sea and air for 18 months. The Zionists’ military occupied their airspace, territorial waters and airwaves and controlled their land crossings. They were bottled up in their tiny enclave with no room for manoeuvre and nowhere to hide. Hamas were entitled to resist with whatever limited weapons were to hand. It’s called the right of self-defence. But all they had were AK47s, RPGs and rockets made in the garden shed, and they rode into battle on pick-up trucks, not battle tanks.

The report finds that the Palestinian armed groups “fail to distinguish between military targets and the civilian population and civilian objects in southern Israel. The launching of rockets and mortars which cannot be aimed with sufficient precisions at military targets breaches the fundamental principle of distinction. Where there is no intended military target and the rockets and mortars are launched into civilian areas, they constitute a deliberate attack against the civilian population. These actions would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.”

Funny how the report is so very precise about the number of projectiles fired into Israel from Gaza… 3,455 rockets and 3,742 mortar shells in the period 16 April 2001 to 18 June 2008. Yet I don’t recall seeing any mention in its 452 pages of the number of Israeli shells, bombs, rockets, etc fired into the packed Gaza Strip over the same period, and how many Palestinian civilians they killed and maimed.

Hamas’s crude rockets, alas, have no guidance system so are erratic, some being lucky to clear the border fence. Perhaps if Israel and the Western powers were to lift the blockade Gazans could import – or maybe the US would like to supply (in the interests of precision targeting) – state of the art rocketry with sufficient range and some hope of hitting only the Israeli military, so that Goldstone wouldn’t complain so much.

His whinge about one Israeli prisoner, Shalit, when Israel holds 11,000 Palestinian prisoners, shows the man’s true colours. Shalit’s father was allowed to appear before the Mission. Did Goldstone invite any family members of the Palestinian prisoners?

However, the report does say this: “The Mission analysed information it received on the detention of Palestinians in Israeli prisons during or in the context of the military operations of December 2008–January 2009 and found those practices generally inconsistent with human rights and international humanitarian law. The military court system to which Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territory are subjected deprives them of due process guarantees in keeping with international law… The detention of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council by Israel violates the right not to be arbitrarily detained, as protected by article 9 of ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). Insofar as it is based on political affiliation and prevents those members from participating in the conduct of public affairs, it is also in violation of its articles 25 recognizing the right to take part in public affairs and 26, which provides for the right to equal protection under the law. Insofar as their detention is unrelated to their individual behaviour, it constitutes collective punishment, prohibited by article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Also the detention of large numbers of children and their treatment by Israel points to violations of their rights under ICCPR and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Cast Lead Re-play?

A central finding of the Goldstone Report is that Israel’s military directly targeted Gazan civilians. Now, it seems, the Israeli regime’s own belated internal inquiries find that Gaza’s civilians and infrastructure were not targeted as a matter of Israel policy after all.

In their long history of crimes against Palestinians (and even against foreign nationals like Rachel Corrie) Israelis have never carried out a credible investigation into their own conduct. Are we to believe that their self-investigation this time meets proper objective standards?

Besides, the UN Committee of Independent Experts following up on Goldstone’s work says, “There is no indication that Israel has opened investigations into the actions of those who designed, planned, ordered and oversaw Operation Cast Lead.”

The word is that Goldstone’s in deep trouble with his tribal leaders who demand loyalty to them rather than to justice and principle. They have been able to put him under intense pressure. That’s why he was the wrong man for the job. But having taken it and been “shocked to the core”, as he put it, by what Israel did to Gaza, why hasn’t he renounced the Zionist cause as any decent man would, and put himself beyond its influence? He must by now have the measure of its evil.

Meanwhile his Washington Post remarks are hailed as a “retraction” by the joyful pro-Israel lobby. At the time of making his report Goldstone said it reflected the unanimous views of all four members of the team. Is his so-called retraction also the view of them all? In any event it is a wonderful gift to the Zionist warmongers and especially Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu, who last year was moaning: “We face three major strategic challenges – the Iranian nuclear program, rockets aimed at our civilians and Goldstone.”

Now he’s crowing with delight. “Everything we said has proven to be true: Israel did not intentionally harm civilians, its institutions and investigative bodies are worthy, while Hamas intentionally fired upon innocent civilians and did not examine anything. The fact that Goldstone backtracked must lead to the shelving of this report once and for all.” Netanyahu has called on the UN to immediately revoke the report, giving new impetus to Tel Aviv’s old propaganda game.

The fix Goldstone has got himself into and the dangerous signal this send to the world’s delinquents, illustrates perfectly why no Zionist however upstanding should be allowed a key post in government or international affairs.

A friend of mine is sure the Goldstone wobble is an orchestrated prelude, a public relations warm-up, to something big and nasty. “There will be another assault on Gaza,” she tells me, “this one more deadly than the last; and the people of Gaza will be blamed for it once again. The inept UN will call for ‘restraint’, the US will provide the weaponry, and this will go on until there is no Gaza left. It is the plan, has been the plan, and will continue until the objective is met… because no one cares, no one has the courage to stand up and say, stop or else.”

The wobble certainly coincides with several Israeli ministers beating the war drums and threatening to do it all over again – launch a Cast Lead Mk 2 against the still-dazed and half-starved Gazans.

I called the Foreign Office in London to ask if the British Government supports Netanyahu’s call for the Goldstone Report to be retracted. A spokesperson said: “No. Justice Goldstone makes clear in his recent comments that the Goldstone report would have looked differently if it had been produced now, on the basis of fresh evidence released by a committee of independent experts, tasked to follow-up on the Goldstone report. This latest insight into the events surrounding the Gaza conflict have come about because of the process that was set in train by his Fact Finding Mission.

“Allegations of breaches of International Humanitarian Law made against all parties to the Gaza conflict are not limited to the Goldstone report and have arisen from certain other credible organizations…”

– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation.

Palestine: Settlers sabotage water spring, OIC backs Goldstone report, 4 injured in Gaza & Israelis trying to prevent Flotilla2

Settlers sabotage water spring of Palestinian village

NABLUS, (PIC)– Jewish settlers attacked the village of Madma on Tuesday and polluted and damaged its water spring, local sources said.

They said that settlers from Yitzhar settlement attacked their almost only water well and deprived citizens from making use of it.

Villages south and east of Nablus are the target of semi daily attacks by those settlers.

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OIC will continue to back Goldstone report

JEDDAH, (PIC)– The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) based in Jeddah has said it will continue to support the Goldstone report that condemned Israel for committing war crimes during the last war on Gaza after Goldstone, who headed the probe leading to the UN report, has retracted accusations against Israel.

The OIC said that the report was rife with ”facts on the field” and that Goldstone’s recent statements cannot change the fact that Israeli leaders are guilty of committing war crimes against Gazan civilians, as laid out in the report.

”[The OIC] will continue to adhere to the report’s contents that were adopted by the Human Rights Council in Geneva,” the OIC said on its official website.

The OIC had already pushed the UNHRC to adopt the report and played a key role in having the report referred to the UN Security Council.

The OIC which enjoys a permanent delegation in the UN, also started the emergency meeting in the executive committee gathering ministers of its member states in the wake of the 2008 Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip and called for the fact-finding mission that produced the report to be formed.

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Goldstone refutes UN report retraction

Press TV

Head of the UN probe into the Gaza war Richard Goldstone has rejected claims by the Israeli interior minister that he intends to reconsider his final report on the 2008-2009 Gaza war.

Goldstone, who held Israel accountable for war crimes against Palestinian civilians, says he has not been planning to retract the report.

In an interview with AP, Goldstone rejected Eli Yishai’s claim that he is reconsidering the charges against Tel Aviv.

The South African judge said Yishai had called to thank him for his Washington Post op-ed piece and had never discussed the report.

Earlier on Friday, reports began circulating about Goldstone’s plan to retract his findings on Israeli war crimes in the three-week long Gaza war.

In April 2009, Goldstone led an independent fact-finding mission mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate reports of the international human rights and humanitarian law violations during the December 2008-2009 offensive, which left more than 1,400 Palestinians — mostly civilians — dead.

The 2009 report, which concluded that Israeli forces had intentionally fired at Palestinian civilians, triggered outrage in Israel against Goldstone, who himself is Jewish.

The report alleged that the Israeli operations “were carefully planned in all their phases as a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population.”

It also recommended that the case should be handed over to an international tribunal if Israel fails to investigate the war crimes committed by its soldiers.

The Israeli interior minister confirmed telling Goldstone to review the key findings of his report and to officially retract it. Yishai, however, did not disclose whether Goldstone had agreed to do so.

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Special committee to expedite settlement plans in east Jerusalem

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– The Israeli interior ministry’s district committee for planning and building decided to form an ad hoc committee to work on expediting the implementation of settlement plans which the government adopted in occupied Jerusalem.

According to lawyer Qais Naser, this new committee will meet weekly in order to finish the ratification of structural maps issued by the Israeli government, noting that every map contains at least 200 housing units aimed at expanding existent settlements or building new ones.

The lawyer affirmed that the Israeli government last month ordered the interior ministry to assign his district committee in Jerusalem to form immediately an ad hoc committee to activate all plans to be set by the minister of housing.

He warned that Israel’s settlement activities would rise unprecedentedly in east Jerusalem if this committee was formed and handled the government’s settlement plans.

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Four civilians including women injured during brutal air raids on Gaza

GAZA, (PIC)– Four Palestinians, including two women, were wounded during Israeli aerial attacks on east of the Gaza after midnight on Wednesday amid ongoing intensive overflights, according to the Palestinian information center (PIC).

The PIC reporter said Israeli warplanes bombed at dawn Sha’af area east of Al-Tuffah neighborhood in the east of Gaza city, and Izbet Abed Rabbo area, east of Jabaliya to the north of Gaza.

He added that a factory for plastics industry owned by the family of Riyadh Hassanein was destroyed during the air raid on Sha’af area in the east.

Spokesman for emergency and ambulance service Adham Abu Salmiya said two Palestinian women, one of them was pregnant, and two men were moderately wounded during the bombing of eastern Gaza and taken to Shifa hospital for treatment.

Pilotless reconnaissance warplanes or drones are still seen overflying Gaza at low altitudes, a security official told the PIC reporter.

He noted these drones seem to be on offensive missions, warning civilians and resistance fighters in Gaza to be more alert to any attack.

Israeli leaders have been threatening for days to wage a new all-out war soon on Gaza as the Palestinian resistance declared their readiness to defend their people and repel any Israeli aggression against the Strip.

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Lieberman heads to Germany in bid to block Gaza flotilla

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman headed out to Germany on Wednesday for an official visit calling for European action to thwart the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla 2 due to travel to the Gaza Strip mid-May to break Israel’s economic siege on the region.

Lieberman is set to meet with his German and Italian counterparts Guido Westerwelle and Franco Frattini, respectively, as they are both present in the capital Berlin, and would like to emphasize the need for western countries to stop naval rescue missions to the Gaza Strip, Israeli Radio reported.

The move comes as Israel has increased contacts with high-profile officials with intent to thwart the new convoy.

Israeli military attacked the first convoy during an effort to bust the siege last May and killed nine activists and injuring scores more. The attack drew heavy criticism against Israel.

Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have planned to tour Europe to hold talks with officials about ways to hamper the convoy.

According to Israeli Radio, Netanyahu is set to travel Wednesday to talk with officials in Germany and the Czech Republic to urge officials to help block the ship, claiming its organizers were motivated by political and not humanitarian purposes.

Peres will also resume his tour of Europe, as he landed last week in Switzerland and the UK before going to the US, where he currently stays.

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IOF soldiers detain 3 West Bankers, detainee rushed to hospital

WEST BANK, (PIC)– Israeli occupation forces (IOF) rounded up three Palestinians in the West Bank districts of Ramallah and Jenin at dawn Wednesday, Hebrew paper Yediot Ahronot reported.

It quoted military sources on its website as saying that two “wanted” Palestinians were arrested in Ramallah.

Local sources said that IOF troops stormed the Hashemiya village west of Jenin and arrested a Palestinian youth after searching his family home and questioning his relatives.

Meanwhile, family of Mohammed Samara said that the IOF carried their son from Megiddo jail to Ramle prison hospital after his health condition seriously deteriorated.

They said that Samara could no longer stand on his feet, adding that his relatives are deprived of visiting him.

Samara from Brukin village, Salfit, has been held in Israeli custody for four years.

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UFree network lauds Cairo for releasing 13 Palestinians from its jails

GAZA, (PIC)– The European network to support rights of Palestinian prisoners, UFree, hailed the Egyptian authorities for releasing 13 Palestinian prisoners from local jails, calling for taking further step by closing this file once and for all.

“We bless this positive step which contributes to strengthening relations between the Palestinian and Egyptian peoples on the road to stability and security,” Mohamed Hamdan, head of UFree network, stated in a press release on Tuesday.

Hamdan noted that UFree had raised the issue of Palestinians imprisoned in Egyptian jails with the Egyptian government in cooperation with some European lawmakers who visited Egypt lately.

19 Palestinians are still in Egyptian prisons, the UFree official said, but there are continuous efforts to have all Palestinians released and close this file forever.

He also appealed to the ruling military council and the new government in Egypt to develop new policies protecting the Palestinians’ dignity during their stay or travel through Egyptian territories and ending the blockade imposed on them in Gaza.

In this regard, spokesman for the families of Palestinian prisoners in Egyptian jails Imad Assayed affirmed the arrival of 12 Palestinians in Gaza after their release on Tuesday from local prisons in Egypt.

“We confirm the arrival of 12 Palestinian detainees at the Palestinian side coming from Egypt, while one prisoner was deported to the United Arab Emirates by the Egyptian authorities,” spokesman Assayed told the Palestinian information center (PIC).

Goldstone has cracked under Zionist pressure, but UN Report still stands

by Samira Quraishy, source

The UN’s Goldstone Report into Israel’s war against the people of Gaza has, since its publication in September 2009, been attacked and disputed by leading Zionist and pro-Israel campaigners from around the world. However, rather than disputing the claims contained therein, the attacks have focused primarily on the chairman of the UN mission, South African Judge Richard Goldstone, who is an ardent Zionist and Jewish with close links to Israel.

Following the publication of the report, which accused Israel of being “systematic and deliberate” in its violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention by targeting civilians, Goldstone has had to endure a barrage of accusations that he is a “self-hating Jew”, even from within his own community in South Africa. This constant harassment and questioning of his allegiance to his Zionist ideology and Jewish faith may have been why, on 1 April, Goldstone published a partial whitewashed apology to Israel for publishing the UN-commissioned report in 2009; he wrote, “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone report would have been a different document.” The article itself does not have any real ground-breaking facts, and reiterates the claim that Israel’s initial non-compliance with the investigation was to blame for any disparities therein.

The facts in the UN-commissioned report have all been investigated and verified by several leading human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, PCHR and Bt’Selem. Facts, however, do not seem to matter to Israel and its “right or wrong” supporters. The question to ask is this: what made Goldstone finally crack?

Attacks by the Israel lobby on Goldstone’s reputation since 2009 have included the labelling of his work on the war against Gaza as the ‘biased and bigoted report’; he has been called an “anti-Semite” and a “self-hating Jew”. One commentator highlighted that within a few weeks of the publication of the report Goldstone had 5000 entries under the latter insulting epithet. Today, there are around 33,000.

As a “lifelong Zionist”, Goldstone has been involved in the Zionist-Jewish community in his home town in South Africa for most of his life. A once much-respected member of the community, since 2009 he has fallen foul of previous supporters who consider his “golden aura blackened” and him a “sell-out” for not protecting Israel from the UN Human Rights Council. As the international community responded to the report’s findings, with anti-Zionist protests and Israeli boycotts becoming commonplace, the Zionist and South African Jewish lobby took out its anger against Goldstone in various ways. Most prominent and personal to the former judge was the prohibition of him attending his own grandson’s bar-mitzvah which was initiated and supported by the South African Zionist Federation. The SAZF threatened Goldstone with a large protest outside the synagogue if he did not accept an invitation to meet with its members; eventually, protests were called off and he was able to attend after agreeing to the SAZF’s demands.

In his Washington Post op-ed, Goldstone expresses some regret for the initial report; the South African Jewish lobby claims that this was due to the immense pressure it had put him under: “He suffered greatly, especially in the city he comes from. We took sides against him, and it encourages us to know that our way had an effect against the international pressure and made him admit and regret his remarks”.

In a televised statement on 2 April, Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said that Goldstone’s recent “retraction” came as “no surprise”. According to the extreme right-wing Lieberman, apart from the grassroots Jewish lobby, Goldstone was also subjected to political and military pressure, from the Israeli Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs, as well as the office of Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli Prime Minister “had exerted great efforts” in that regard without the public knowing. Several international pro-Israel commentators have jumped on the “blood libel'” bandwagon and have called Goldstone’s article “too little too late”.

The truth of the matter is that there is nothing substantial in the article itself to make the international community think Israel was being made a scapegoat for what took place in December 2008 and January 2009; after all, Operation Cast Lead led to the death of more than 1,400 Palestinian civilians, one-third of them children. Israel used illegal white phosphorus bombs on civilian areas, captured on film and corroborated by several international human rights organisations as well as real testimonies from IDF soldiers who took part in the operation. “An erroneous interpretation” will not bring back the 29 members of the Samouni family killed in their own home; they were still killed in cold blood and should not be listed as “collateral damage”. Israel committed heinous war crimes against the civilian population and should be prosecuted under international law if the rule of law and order in the world is to maintain any authority and respect. More importantly, as Ben White notes, Goldstone’s op-ed in the Washington Post, is just that: an op-ed detailing his personal opinions; it cannot be comparable to the 500 page, detailed UN-commissioned report. As White emphases, “The Goldstone Report was written by four jurists, not by Goldstone himself”.

Israel and its worldwide lobby are no doubt very pleased that Richard Goldstone has provided the ever-opportunistic Benjamin Netanyahu with the chance to claim that the judge has “vindicated Israel’s wartime conduct”. Back in the real world, however, that statement tells us more about Netanyahu’s contempt for international law, peace and justice than any change to the credibility of the UN Report. The public musings of a man under intense personal, social and political pressure cannot disguise the fact that Israel’s conduct in the war conducted against the civilian population of Gaza was both illegal and morally reprehensible. No amount of Zionist whitewash can take that away.

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Member of UN Fact Finding mission on Gaza Conflict insists report stands unchanged

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, MEMO

In what has been the first statement after the op-ed article by Judge Richard Goldstone by a member of the UN Fact Finding mission on the Gaza conflict, Hina Jilani, affirmed nothing will change the substance of the original report submitted to the UN.

In an exclusive interview given to the Middle East Monitor (MEMO), the internationally recognized human rights lawyer dismissed claims that the op-ed article by Judge Richard Goldstone in the Washington Post (1 April 2011) would make any difference to the report. She said, “Ultimately, the UN Report would not have been any different to what it was”.

Jilani, it would be recalled, served as the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders from 2000 to 2008. She was also appointed to the UN International Fact-Finding Commission on Darfur, Sudan in 2006.

Ms Jilani denies Goldstone’s op-ed article expresses any actual regret. “Absolutely not; no process or acceptable procedure would invalidate the UN Report; if it does happen, it would be seen as a ‘suspect move”.

Looking ahead, she insisted the Report “is and remains an important report.” She added that the UN Security Council now needs to investigate further to see how both parties – Israel and Hamas – have violated international law: “The UN cannot allow impunity to remain,” she stressed, “and will have to act if it wants to remain a credible international governing body.”

Although the fact finding report is often referred to as the ‘Goldstone Report’, the mission was actually comprised of four members. In addition Goldstone and Jilani, other members were Christine Chinkin, Professor of International Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Desmond Travers, a former colonel in the Irish Defence Forces and member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations.

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Gaza families shocked after Goldstone retraction

GAZA, (PIC)– Families of some of the casualties laid to rest during the 2008-9 Israeli war on Gaza expressed shock over recent statements by Judge Richard Goldstone that he retracted his opinion that Israel had committed crimes during aggression.

Goldstone headed a UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission which submitted a report to the UN condemning Israel for targeting civilians and other human rights violations during the war. But he has recently rescinded the conclusion made in the report in an article in the Washington Post saying that if he knew then what he knows now, the report would have varied.

Meanwhile, casualty families in Gaza said they were disappointed after the so-called Goldstone report had for the last two years been tantamount to boost of morale for the possibility that Israeli occupation leaders would be tried and taken to justice.

Some of those families gave brief statements in interviews conducted by Hamas’s media bureau in northern Gaza Strip on Monday. They said Goldstone’s retraction has been tantamount to a ”shock” to international human rights organizations which tried to show some equity to the Palestinians through the report.

Mohammed Abu Askar, who lost two children and a brother during the aggression and who himself was one of the witnesses in the report, said that ever since the report was issued he felt a sense of justice, even though he commented that the report had actually equated between the ”victim and the executioner”.

”We believe the retraction came after pressure or extortion. But this is not an excuse to retract the report,” he said.

He emphasized that those who sustained damages in the war will continue to demand that Israel is brought to justice in the International Criminal Court and that the Goldstone report remains a tool for human rights groups, as it is based on verified testimonies and accounts of victimized families.

Muteea al-Selawi, who lost seven members of his family in the war, said that he has lost hope that international rights organizations would side with justice, as they have had a long track record of siding with Israel.

Subhi Semmouni said Goldstone’s retraction was a ”setback” for victims’ families, as the report had given hope that those who massacred children and women would be tried before courts of law. Semmouni had lost 20 family members in the war.

”The move gives Israel justification to repeat its massacres against the Palestinians,” said one Palestinian man Faraj Abdo Rabbo.

”We have lost trust in the world and all human rights centers, who did nothing to bring justice to the Palestinians or bring even one Israeli to the Israeli courts.”

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Also read: The Cleansing of Israel’s War Crimes: Goldstone’s Rethink by JONATHAN COOK