Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lawfare Against Hamas Could Legitimize Goldstone Report

The latest salvo in the Israel-Hamas lawfare efforts taking place in Europe comes from Belgium. Organized by a "pro-Israel group" two Belgian lawyers have requested that the Belgian Federal Prosecutor to press war-crimes charges against Hamas officials in Belgium on behalf of 15 dual Belgian-Israelis who have been wounded by rockets and mortars from Gaza.

The organization behind this has alternately been reported as European Friends of Israel, whose website makes no mention of the case, and "the Israel Initiative." "The Israel Initiative" appears to be a very heavily right leaning group supporting a solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict, but its site makes no mention of the case either. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) also has no comment on the matter and their website does not speak to this issue either.

There is some mystery as to which group organized this attempt against Hamas, but the MFA's silence is perhaps more easily explained. The lawyers representing the 15 aggrieved individuals seem to be--as a main source of evidence of Hamas war-crimes--leaning heavily on the Goldstone report. The Goldstone report, however, was much maligned by Israel and was rightly challenged by many for its flaws, inaccuracies and omissions. It would be a difficult proposition for the Israeli government to support a case based on a document they wish simply did not exist.

This is the reason this latest attempt at lawfare is playing with fire. In the event that this attempt is successful and an arrest warrant is issued for the accused--to be executed should they travel to Belgium--and if the case does rely on the Goldstone report, then a court in a European, liberal democracy will have accepted this deeply flawed document as valid. If the document is to be attacked for its procedural flaws, for its lack of detailed investigation, inaccuracies and the like, then it cannot possibly be valid only when it cuts against Hamas but not when it cuts against Israel. The document either stands up to scrutiny and is in its entirety accurate and complete (biases aside) or it is deeply flawed and should be ignored for its multiple errors.

One should hope that if the case of these 15 dual citizens is successful that it can be one based on the fact of rockets being fired and the law that prohibits such indiscriminate attacks on civilians, not on the Goldstone report.


Joe in Australia said...

I don't know whether their use of the Goldstone Report would legitimise it, or whether that would be harmful to Israeli interests generally, but surely you understand that the plaintiffs are seeking redress for their own injuries. You can't demand that they ignore a potential basis for their claim just because it might be harmful to some broader set of interests. That would truly be "lawfare", and it has no place in a proper legal system.

Anonymous said...

What if it's Hamas who introduced the case, secretly, in order to legitimize the Goldstone report, knowing that this is the only way that the report can be legitimized, as you fear might happen?

Don't we just love conspiracy theories!

A friend.

Charlie H. Ettinson said...


Without a doubt, you're right. If these people have a case, valid evidence should be admissable and used to support this case. I meant, by my posting, just to point out that there is a strong case to be made that the Goldstone report contains serious errors in procedure and in substance and if a Belgian court give weight to it, it becomes that much harder to contest.

And to my friend...well, I've never been a fan of conspiracy theories. Though, my vacume cleaner broke tonight, rather suddenly and mysteriously. I really needed to vacume and I would love someone to blame for it!