The ongoing UN mandated inquiry in to Israel's war against Hamas being led by the highly-regarded Justice Goldstone--the so-called Goldstone Inquiry--has come under a great deal of criticisms for a number of reasons.
The most recent critic is the also highly-regarded Irwin Cotler, a Liberal member of the Canadian Parliament and a former Canadian Minister of Justice.
Mr. Cotler published an incisive, two part critique of the Goldstone Inquiry in the Jerusalem Post. Part one of his critique focuses on flaws with the inquiry itself. It points to the various flaws with the inquiry itself--some of which has already been pointed out on this blog--for example, inquiry member Professor Christine Chinkin who even while hostilities were ongoing, signed a letter indicating that Israel's actions were not self defense.
In response to critiques Professor Chinkin has defended herself by arguing that her letter referred to Israels violations of Jus ad Bellum--the legality of the use of force--as opposed to the inquiry's focus which is Jus in Bellum, how the war itself was conducted.
While it's true that the two concepts are different, it is a somewhat hollow argument as it does not change that Prof. Chinkin maintains that Israel never had the right to fight back against nearly a decade of rockets being fired indiscriminately at it's citizens. In the conflict Prof. Chinkin is being asked to evaluate, she has already declared one of the parties to have been guilty.
Cotler also verges on calling Goldstone naive for having allowed himself to become involved in the inquiry and for allowing himself to be so easily reassured that the mandate of the inquiry--which only mentions any violations of international law that Israel may have made--could be enlarged to include an investigation of Hamas. Cotler also correctly points out that Goldstone's claims not to have criticized Hamas prior to Operation Cast Lead because of Israel's failure to formally complain to the UN is nonsense, as Israel most certainly had made formal complaints. On the other hand, Cotler is too critical of Goldstone for signing a letter indicating the the violence in Gaza had shocked him to the core. This critique is unfair because, though justified, operation Cast Lead was a large, violent military operation and indeed, part of the purpose of the operation may have been to create shock. Certainly large scale violence of any kind, justified or not, is shocking.
Human Rights law Professor William A. Schabas, said: “The international community must apply the same standard to Gaza as it does to other conflicts and investigate all abuses of the laws of war and human rights. The current UN inquiry is no substitute for a full investigation. It is not only the UN personnel that deserve truth and justice, but Palestinians and Israelis themselves.” This is more or less what Cotler attempts to address in the second part of his JPost article.
Cotler begins by asserting that no people or country is above the law or exempt from scrutiny or prosecution, but that all countries must have equality before the law. Cotler suggests that the crux of the reason the Goldstone Inquiry should be opposed lies in its symbol as a denial of equality for Israel before the law. In not so many words, he argues that Prof. Schabas' admonition is being ignored because the standard applied to Israel is indeed different than the standard applied in other conflicts and that to equate Israeli actions with Hamas ones is ignorance of certain realities and intentions.
A significant omission from Cotler's text is his failure to criticize Israel for not cooperating with the inquiry. This blog has opined more than once that Israel is doing itself a disservice by not cooperating with the commission. Ignoring the commission means that Goldstone's best intentions to document and 'call-out' Hamas for its war crimes could fall flat or be little more than porous, weak indictments. While the Goldstone Inquiry is worthy of sharp criticism, Cotler could have examined how Israeli participation in the inquiry could turn things around.
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