What seemed to be the beginning of a difficult fight between Israel and international lawfulness – which Israeli diplomacy has not considered since the 1970s – in actual fact turned into a scandalous Palestinian failure that we should not overlook or seek to escape.
The report of the international commission assigned by the United Nations Human Rights Council and presided over by Judge Richard Goldstone was attacked by Israel in protest against the clear, lucid and documented condemnation of Israel’s violations during the war on Gaza. In fact, this condemnation could have led to Israeli political and military officials, and judges, being prosecuted for the first time in international courts for committing war crimes.
Israel mobilized its diplomatic, media and judicial capacities to confront the results of the report to the extent that some of its own analysts believed that launching a media campaign to suppress Goldstone’s report would be futile. Instead, they were keen to launch a judicial attack so as to convince the international community of the need to change the rules of war to be in line with the realities of the 21st century. What Israel meant by this is that it wants to provide an international and legal justification to allow Israel to target civilian areas on the pretext of targeting areas where gunfire can be heard and consolidating this in its capacity as a legal and legitimate tactic.
The controversy was clearly heading towards condemnation of Israel, however something happened that turned things upside down in a shocking and unjustifiable manner. Even though news headlines and commentaries had at first focused on Israel’s attempts to suppress the results of the report, the issue came to be about the Palestinian failure to seize such a significant moment.
It didn’t help that the Palestinian Authority (PA) suppressed some Palestinian news media and discussions and questions on the scandal, and accused some media of publishing incorrect information in order to clear itself of the decision [it made]. The PA agreed to withdraw the request to endorse the “Goldstone report” and to postpone the UN’s Human Rights Council’s vote on it.
The news content of the media, particularly websites, agreed that Israeli pressure had reached the such a degree that Israel threatened to release videotapes showing Palestinian officials holding talks [with Israel] during the Gaza war and this is what caused the PA to postpone voting on the report as it feared scandal.
The issue here is not about a videotape or Israeli blackmail, nor is it about Hamas’ attempts to make the most of the PA’s mistakes with regards to this issue, and in one report Hamas itself condemned and rejected it as soon as it was issued. This time, the battle against Israel is not blemished by Hamas’ slip ups or the corruption of the PA; there was a clear opportunity to go back to the moment that marks the beginning of Palestinian success, i.e. the moment it won the support of international public opinion. This time it was documented by a report from the UN, an organization that Hamas has always considered bias towards Israel.
It is not the time for point-scoring. Goldstone’s report marked the beginning of the international justice the Palestinian people need. The issue goes beyond political wrangling between Hamas and the PA, and also goes beyond the assumed price for slip ups. It is about responsibility for people’s lives.