Foreign Policy Blogs

The Gaza Debates Continue

The debate over Israeli and Palestinian conduct during the 2008-2009 Gaza War continues, this time with the release of the UN Human Rights Council report on the issue.  Commonly referred to as the Goldstone Report after the head of the special commission, South African jurist Richard Goldstone, the 575 page report found that both sides committed war crimes during the three week Gaza War.  Goldstone then went further, proposing that if no independent inquiry into the matter takes place in Israel within the next six months the UN Security Council should refer the issue to the International Criminal Court.  Needless to say, the report has not been well accepted in Israel or with the pro-Israeli advocates with the focus of the media coverage being on the finding that Israel unlawfully targeted civilians during the offensive.

This in turn has unleashed a wide range of commentaries in the international media, mostly condemning the report.  The general gist of most of these is the classic claim that the UN is biased against Israel – always has been, always will be – and that the commission’s job was to find Israel guilty regardless of the facts.  This is what Jeffrey Goldburg of The Atlantic wrote today, as did Jeremy Sharon in The Los Angeles TimesCaroline Glick at the Jerusalem Post accuses the entire international system of being utterly corrupt, with the Goldstone Report just being the latest evidence of this fact.  And so it goes on.  The reaction in Israel has been predictably harsh, but this time it is largely backed up by the Western media (and the US government) as well.

So far there have been few exceptions to this trend, one being an editorial written by Jamal Dajani of the Huffington Post who tries to put the report into context.  Though the findings may be upsetting to Israel, it is not necessarily the product of anti-Israeli bias.  Numerous human rights groups, both inside and outside Israel have questioned some of Israel’s actions during the Gaza War.  Pointing out Israeli fault does not justify crimes committed by Hamas before or during the war, as neither side should get a pass.  But the Goldstone Report does suggest that further independent investigation is warranted, whether done inside or outside Israel.  Because of issues with Israeli cooperation and alleged pressure placed on witnesses by Hamas, the Goldstone Report by definition cannot serve as the final answer but that does not mean that it does not represent a start.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the longest and brutal conflicts in the world today.  Eventually, people from both sides are going to have to answer to that.  The right to self determination on the part of the Palestinians and the right to self defense on the part of Israel can serve as defenses to military action, but only to a point.  It may be that the Gaza War will be remembered as the point when both sides passed that line.

That remains to be seen.  For now, the debate continues.



Kimberly J. Curtis

Kimberly Curtis has a Master's degree in International Affairs and a Juris Doctor from American University in Washington, DC. She is a co-founder of The Women's Empowerment Institute of Cameroon and has worked for human rights organizations in Rwanda and the United States. You can follow her on Twitter at @curtiskj

Areas of Focus: Transitional justice; Women's rights; Africa