War crimes in the Gaza Strip

On Sept. 15, the United Nations released a 575-page report condemning both the Israeli army as well as Palestinian militants for war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity, in the Gaza Strip.

A Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council is behind these latest findings, which build a strong case against the two groups.

In the report, Richard Goldstone, the UN investigator who led the council, concludes that both parties are guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Notably, neither side co-operated with this investigation.

In response to the allegations, Israel’s diplomatic mission in Geneva refuted the UN’s fact-finding report and stated, “Its mandate was clearly one-sided and ignored the thousands of Hamas missile attacks on civilians in Israel that made the Gaza operation necessary.”

A Hamas spokesperson in Gaza rejected this suggestion and claimed that the rockets fired into Israel were in self-defense, which is “right sacred under international law.”

Goldstone has recommended that the UN Security Council call on Israel and Hamas to fully investigate possible crimes committed by their forces. In the report, Goldstone emphasizes that the investigation was not based on the actions of soldiers during the heat of battle, but rather on 36 individual cases.

One specific case mentioned in the report details an incident that took place during the concluding phases of the war itself. It was at this time that the Israeli defense forces began refusing the entry of international aid, including the Red Cross, into the Gaza Strip.

To date, this most recent report, and numerous media sources from the Gaza War, have been unable to give justification as to why the Red Cross was prohibited from assisting Palestinian civilians within Gaza.

On the other hand, another case tells of Palestinian militants who launched rockets into Israel with no military targets in sight. In any case, the council’s report paints both sides as equally at fault and guilty of crimes.

On Sept. 17, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the UN report on Gaza as “kangaroo court,” furthering that the investigation was biased from the start.

Netanyahu spoke publicly on Israel’s Channel 2 Television for the first time since the release of the report, stating, “The report encourages terrorism and undermines the natural right of states to defend themselves.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman described the report as “hypocrisy.”

However, both Netanyahu and Lieberman did not comment on Goldstone’s question regarding the extended stoppage of Red Cross aid into Gaza.

Back in Israel, numerous Israeli commentators have launched personal attacks on Goldstone. One Israeli newspaper even stated that, “The liberal anti-Semitism strides delicately, appoints a hostile commission and finds an obsequious Jew to dance to the tune of the Gentile land-owner.”

Overall, the situation within Israel and the Gaza Strip remains a largely debated topic and an issue that needs to be carefully sifted through with an unbiased view.

A professor’s thoughts

Gavin Brockett, a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University who specializes in Middle Eastern history, stated that, “As North Americans, we are limited to the amount of media coverage that we are exposed to.”

Brockett continued by stating that, “We cannot understand what occurs in Gaza with this limited information.”

As educated readers, Brockett feels that we need to evaluate the sources that we are getting our information from; taking into account journalistic bias and political interest, he noted, “On this highly charged issue it is essential to realize you cannot take any one source as objective.”

Brockett also stated that, “It would be highly unlikely that any country or government would admit to war crimes or crimes against humanity.” He concluded that, “Of course that is where the UN commission comes in and why it will be interesting to watch what comes of its recommendations in the coming months.”

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