A third mistake lies in wait for the Palestinian Authority if it does not pay heed to the dynamics of the interests shared by the five permanent members of the Security Council, represented by their unwillingness to allow the Goldstone Report to reach the council hall at this juncture. The stances of France, Britain, China, Russia and the United States are identical in their insistence on driving the report which accused Israel and also Hamas of committing “war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity” out of the Security Council for political reasons, partly concerned with protecting Israel from being held accountable, and partly with fears from the impact of implementing such a precedent on the internal situation and on these countries themselves in the future. This is aside from the legal reasons that reside in fears from the reach and authority of the International Criminal Court (ICC), as it watches over justice and works to put an end to impunity, especially for crimes like war crimes and crimes against humanity. The majority of great powers are not alone in their chronic fear of the ICC, as it is also shared by many of the elected members of the Security Council, who might withhold the nine votes necessary to adopt any resolution, thus sparing the five countries from using the veto to thwart adopting it. Faced with such a situation, the Palestinian Authority must not fall into a trap it would set for itself – with the help of Arab countries, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference – and head immediately to the Security Council by virtue of the General Assembly resolution to find the funeral waiting for the Goldstone Report in order to bury it. It would be preferable to keep the report alive on the international scene for many reasons, such as: first, the fact that it has sparked a debate and internal accountability in Israel which Benjamin Netanyahu’s government was unable to extinguish, as it in fact found itself forced to consider means of keeping the flames of the Goldstone Report from reaching it. Second, the fact that it has led to placing under the spotlight the types of wars and the way they are waged by Israel with methods that place it in the category of having committed “war crimes or crimes against humanity”, such a spotlight in itself forming a deterring element as a de facto situation, because Israel is today being placed under a microscope and subject to being monitored and held accountable. Third, the fact that it has driven the great powers to fidget in their seats with concern and shame, because the report has exposed their double standards and removed the cover of pretending to uphold world peace – which applies primarily to European countries and with them the United States – or that of the claims by certain countries that they sympathize with the Palestinians under occupation, which applies to Russia and China as well as to many other countries. For these reasons and for others, it is not in the interest of the Palestinian Authority to exaggerate and to stubbornly insist, making the third mistake at the United Nations headquarters in New York next week, after making two successive mistakes in Geneva at the headquarters of the Human Rights Council.
The first was when it agreed to postpone the discussion into the Goldstone Report for six months without thinking. The second was when, excessive in realizing its first mistake, it committed yet another mistake by having a decision issued by the Human Rights Council, one that wasted the unique opportunity provided by the Goldstone Report by forcibly introducing it into a list of demands that turned away the attention and support from the report, serving the purpose of those who sought to water it down instead of focusing on it exclusively.
What is required of the Palestinian Authority today is not political outbidding nor providing a favor to Arab countries that evade the responsibility of justice and refuse to join the International Criminal Court, so as not to be reached by the long arm of justice. What is required of the Palestinian Authority, quite simply, is making sure that justice and accountability remain above all other considerations, because that is what serves the interest of the Palestinians. Today on Friday, by virtue of steps of procedure at the UN General Assembly, next Wednesday will be set as a date to look into the Goldstone Report and issue a General Assembly resolution, one which the Palestinian delegation to the UN is working to prepare with the “Follow-Up Committee”, which includes Sudan as head of the Arab League for the month of October, Syria as head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Egypt as head of the Non-Aligned Movement, as well as others.
The corridors of the United Nations are filled with concerns, whispers and strange instructions. The Swiss delegation, for example, called last Friday for European countries, members of the Security Council, certain Arab and Muslim countries and others to meet with Judge Richard Goldstone in the first meeting between Ambassadors to the UN and the man who headed the “Fact-Finding Mission” on the Gaza war. This was the first meeting following the diplomatic crisis which because of the first mistake almost led to toppling Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and during the second mistake exposed the surprising double standards of countries like Britain and France, when they refused for the first time to vote on the resolution at the Human Rights Council because the Arabs and Muslims had refused the modifications and to listen to the advice of the Europeans, leading the British and French delegates to walk out of the hall in protest of the “insult”.
The meeting at the headquarters of the Swiss delegation witnessed yet another dose of European double standards, as all the countries that attended the meeting did so at the level of Ambassadors, except for the countries of the European Union, who sent delegates of the level of third secretary with surprising instructions: listen, do not speak and do not engage in the debate. Goldstone told those attending that he had done what he had to in the service of justice and put forth his core and procedural suggestions, yet the task is now in the hands of countries to decide what they want in the issue of accountability and justice. What he said and what deserves to be pondered is the fact that he does not believe claims that justice aborts or obstructs efforts to make peace, and that it thus must be tamed if not postponed to a distant future in the name of the requirements of humanitarian reality or the requirements of negotiating for peaceful solutions. It is well-known that backing away on the issue of justice in Darfur and its requirements in Sudan came under the pretext of the demands of the humanitarian reality, and that those who gather today to back away from justice regarding Gaza pretext the importance of the negotiation process being led by the United States between the Palestinians and the Israelis, knowing that Israel has made clear that it would not sit down at the negotiations table as long as the Goldstone Report is on the table at the Security Council and in international forums.
Goldstone has challenged the logic of sacrificing justice for stability and peace. He quoted what former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali told him in anger when he issued – as the General Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia – the formal accusation against Radovan Karadzic, who was convicted of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. He told him that the timing of the formal accusation would kill the peaceful negotiation process and threaten stability. Yet what actually happened was that the Dayton Agreement came in the wake of the formal accusation being issued and regardless of its timing.
The issue of fear that justice will abort efforts for peaceful negotiations is only one of the excuses that are piling up and racing to elude addressing the Goldstone Report at the UN Security Council and from there to the International Criminal Court, in case both the Israeli and Palestinian sides refuse to conduct an impartial, serious and credible investigation into what took place in terms of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Gaza war. The other excuse now being waved by the Europeans who seek to prevent the Goldstone Report from reaching the Security Council, and in fact oppose the General Assembly issuing a resolution that exceeds a mere invitation to both the Israeli and Palestinian sides to conduct investigations, is the excuse of “what can be done”. They, and most prominently France, say that it would be more appropriate for the Palestinians to put forth next week a realistic draft resolution which could be implemented and which Israel could be convinced of, one that would fall into the category of what can be reached, even if it is incomplete, because the world of today is not a perfect one, and we must thus be content to work towards “what can be done”.
The fact of the matter is that the formula must not rest on “what can be done”, but rather on “the right thing to do” when it comes to accountability for committing war crimes or crimes against humanity. What is being addressed, as a matter of fact, is not Israel’s war in Gaza, because the debate over this war might pave the way to a political debate. What is being addressed is how Israel carried out the war in Gaza. Indeed, it had previously carried out the war in Lebanon on the basis of destroying the infrastructure and punishing civilians. And this is what it did in Gaza when it considered that Gaza’s inhabitants were terrorists and adopted the policy of terrorizing civilians under the pretext of self-defense. Of course, Israel considers that the way it has carried out the war has been successful, because it has silenced Hezbollah’s rockets from Lebanon and Hamas’s bombshells from Gaza. Yet this is a temporary “accomplishment” at best. Furthermore, if it continues to carry out its wars by committing war crimes and crimes against humanity without being held accountable, its methods of warfare by violating international laws and conventions of war will increase, multiply and worsen. This is why the Goldstone Report is so important. It is the deterring report that must not be lost amongst the pages of political mistakes. Thus the Palestinian Authority bears great responsibility as it works towards a draft resolution next week in collaboration with regional organizations.
The first thing these organizations and the Palestinian Authority should stop doing is pretend that the Goldstone Report condemned Israel alone, while the report clearly states that Hamas and the other Palestinian organizations and factions that fired their rockets and missiles against Israeli civilians had in turn committed “war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity”. Any draft resolution at the General Assembly next week will lose a great deal of support if it ignores the Palestinian aspect. This aspect is certainly a complex one, because there are those who consider that placing Hamas in charge of conducting the investigation, being in control of Gaza, could be used as a means for an implicit international recognition of Hamas, making matters even more complicated. However, despite the complexity, it will not be acceptable for the majority at the General Assembly to single out Israel to be held accountable by exonerating the Palestinians.
The Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement may be enthusiastic about driving the Goldstone Report to the bosom of the Security Council through a resolution that the General Assembly would adopt next week. These organizations and the Palestinian Authority have the responsibility to behave wisely and rationally, and to accept a resolution that would demand that both the Israeli and Palestinian sides conduct internal investigations, yet with a mechanism that would allow the Secretary-General of the United Nations to monitor the way the investigation is carried out, so as to be credible and serious, and so that it may be completed within a specific period of time, while clearly suggesting that the Secretary-General is the link to the Security Council in case the two sides were to fail to comply to conducting the investigation.
It will not be useful for the report to be immediately turned over to the Security Council to be faced either with not obtaining the necessary votes or with a multiple veto. The veto in New York must not be a political goal to compensate for the mistakes made in Geneva. The issue could be turned over to the two parties through the Secretary-General, who in turn can appoint a committee of five or ten experts to monitor implementation then present a report to the Human Rights Council, which is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, before the end of the 13th session by the end of this year. After that, if Israel or Hamas were to elude a serious investigation, the issue can be returned to the Security Council through the Secretary-General, by being entrusted by the General Assembly with the task of making use of the powers granted by Article 99 of the UN Charter to address the issue at the council.
Indeed, unveiling and exposing the double standards of Europe, the US, Russia and China must not be an end in itself, even if it leads to putting an end to the Goldstone Report. Exposing double standards must be tactical and well-planned within the framework of a lucid strategy that builds on what the Goldstone report has accomplished in order to achieve justice and to deter Israel and Hamas from committing war crimes, and so that no country can continue to carry out wars by violating international law without accountability that would deter it from repeating such violations in the future.