GENEVA – The Palestinian human rights debate has taken a new turn with the appointment of Richard Goldstone, a Jew with close ties to Israel, to head a U.N. investigation into atrocities allegedly committed in Israel’s recent war with Hamas.

Goldstone, who played a prominent role in the campaign against apartheid in his native South Africa, rose to global prominence in 1994 when he became U.N. chief prosecutor for war crimes.

Richard Goldstone from South Africa appointed to lead a Human ...

That made him the point man to investigate two of the worst human rights disasters of the time: genocide in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda.

Now the 70-year-old judge is turning to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and the U.N.’s demand to investigate the three-week war in which more than 1,000 Palestinians died as Israel waged an offensive to stop Hamas rocket attacks that have killed more than 20 Israelis.

The investigation called by the 47-nation Human Rights Council was only supposed to look at Israeli conduct, but Goldstone didn’t accept the assignment until the council’s Nigerian president, Martin Uhomoibhi, said it would also look at Palestinian actions. Naturally: a Jew will not stand witness against his own!

Asked how he felt as a Jew leading an investigation that involves the Jewish state, Goldstone said: “It certainly came to me as quite a shock.”

Goldstone, who is on the board of governors of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said, “I’ve taken a deep interest in Israel, in what happens in Israel, and I have been associated with organizations that have worked in Israel.”

But he said he intends to live up to his reputation for impartiality.

As head of a five-member South African judicial commission in the early 1990s he criticized all political groups — from President F.W. de Klerk’s white-led government to Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress and its rival, the Inkatha Freedom Party.

The large contingent of Arab and other Muslim countries on the U.N. human rights body has led to a stream of condemnations of Israel almost to the exclusion of human rights problems elsewhere.

The council followed form again in January when it drew up the demand for a mission “to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian people.”

Previously Israel has rejected council investigations, calling them biased, and an Israeli official said Wednesday his government was unlikely to cooperate with the Goldstone probe because it distrusts the U.N. rights council.

But Yousef Rizka, political adviser to Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, said Goldstone’s team would be welcome in Gaza.

“They will find the full cooperation by the Palestinian government and the Palestinian people, because the crimes of the occupation are clear and no one can underestimate it,” Rizka said.

No date has been set for the investigators to travel to the region.

Aharon Leshno Yaar, Israel’s ambassador to U.N. organizations in Geneva, said: “It is clear to everybody who follows this council and the way that it treats Israel that justice cannot be the outcome of this mission.”

It doesn’t matter that the president of the council has broadened the mandate, Leshno Yaar told The Associated Press. “It’s not his authority,” nor does the choice of Goldstone make any difference, he said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said that it has criticized the council in the past “for its exclusive focus on Israeli rights violations.”

But Israel should cooperate because Goldstone can be trusted to make the inquiry “demonstrate the highest standards of impartiality,” the group wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and 27 European foreign ministers.

The international criticism of the Gaza offensive has deepened a sense among Israelis that their country is being treated unfairly. (Huh?) They see a double standard in the U.N. council’s call to investigate Israel but not the Islamic militants who for years have been firing rockets into Israeli towns and villages. Jeez.. just look at the numbers of dead on both side and compare!

Uhomoibhi, the council president, said he instructed Goldstone to produce a report “that truly reflects the events on the ground, and that includes dealing with all violations in an impartial and objective manner.”

Goldstone said after being appointed April 3 that an impartial investigation of alleged war crimes before, during and after the December-January fighting was in the interest of both Israelis and Palestinians.

“I am already on public record as having expressed my deep concern for the heavy loss of innocent lives in Gaza and Israel,” Goldstone said.

..AND Israel.. I guess 1,455 killed and over 5,000 Palestinians injured (with WMD) versus 13 Israelis killed and 140 injured is not “impressive” enough to Goldstone!!!


Associated Press writers Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, Diaa Hadid in Jerusalem and Karin Laub in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s