Friday, March 05, 2010

Taking Goldstone off the boil

Taking Goldstone off the boil

From Ian Williams
Passionate Detachment, MEI, 5 March

That tearing sound you could hear around the United Nations was the sound of people clutching at straws, and then losing their grip as consideration of the Goldstone Report returned to the General Assembly.

In casting his vote against a resolution that called for independent and credible investigations into Operation Cast Lead, Alejandro Wolff, the US deputy ambassador, said he supported independent investigations, but persisted with the trope that the Goldstone Report was “deeply flawed and unbalanced”.

As always, he evinced no evidence to prove that a report saying there was sufficient evidence to merit investigations was in any way flawed.

The Obama administration has refrained from the more shameless witch-hunting of Richard Goldstone, since, after all, he enjoyed the full support and confidence of most human rights and foreign policy officials who came into the administration from the Clinton era. But their characterisation of the report as unbalanced is repeating a slander without substance.

Wolff also lamented that the resolution did not call upon Hamas by name to conduct an inquiry. One feels sure that if it had, he and the others would have decried what would have been tantamount to recognition of a ‘terrorist’ organisation – and used that as another feeble excuse.

Canada was joined by Nauru, Panama, Macedonia and Micronesia in voting against the application of international law. The Dutch, Czechs and Hungarians abstained on the equally specious grounds that the resolution should have mentioned that the Palestinian Authority had only just set up a committee to investigate, while Israel was already investigating. There is, of course, a difference between investigating and whitewashing. But then the Russians also abstained, on the unspoken grounds that any precedent about international investigations into crimes against humanity was unwelcomely close to home.

It was supported by 98 votes to seven, with 31 abstentions, whose main motive, apart from Russia, was to avoid falling foul of the Americans. Significantly, the number of no votes dropped from 18, and previous abstentions moved into the aye lobby.

Interestingly, the Dubai murder (see, Mossad in the spotlight, in this edition) showed its influence. Australia, which, like Canada, had recently become an honorary ex-Pacific Trust territory (like Nauru and Micronesia voting consistently with the US and Israel) abstained this time, and the change was tied to Mossad’s use of Australian passports. France and Britain supported the resolution, both of them no doubt reinforced by the same incident.

The resolution gave both parties five months to conduct acceptable investigations and again called on the Swiss, custodians of the Geneva Conventions, to reconvene a meeting of signatory states to consider how they should be applied to Gaza and the West Bank. It also referred to a reference to the Security Council, which would, of course, put the US in the position of having to use its veto on behalf of a state that has consistently snubbed Obama’s envoy, George Mitchell, to the point where he is rumoured to be considering resignation.

There have been objections that the five-month delay will take the issue off the boil, but Israeli diplomatic bungling, general bad behaviour and completely intemperate attacks on Goldstone should keep it bubbling, and there is no way the Arab states can pillory Israel’s delayed and inadequate response without putting the Palestinian side in the dock as well.
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