/ 16 September 2009

Israel fights ‘perverse’ UN report on Gaza

Israel on Wednesday launched a global campaign to block what it said were the ”perverse and noxious effects” of a United Nations report that accused it and Palestinian militants of war crimes during the Gaza offensive.

”We are going to deploy great diplomatic and political efforts on the international stage to block and contain the perverse and noxious effects of the Goldstone Commission report,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor told Agence France-Presse.

”We fear this will be a hit to our image,” he said. ”But the recommendations of this report are so extreme that there is little chance that they will be followed on.”

The Israeli leadership fears one recommendation in particular, according to local media — that the UN Human Rights Council submits the report to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which could lead to charges being brought against senior Israeli officials involved in the war.

”The goal is to avoid a slippery slope which would lead Israel to the International Criminal Court in The Hague,” the left-leaning Haaretz daily quoted a senior official as saying.

Reacting to the report, the Hamas rulers of Gaza called for Israeli leaders to be put on trial as war criminals.

The UN probe said both Israel and Palestinian groups committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the 22-day war in December and January that Israel launched in response to rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave.

It reserved some of its harshest language for the actions taken by Israel against the civilian population in the densely-populated Gaza Strip.

The Foreign Ministry tore the document apart, claiming it ”barely disguises its goal of instigating a political campaign against Israel”.

Despite the report’s accusations against Palestinian militants, Israel has painted it as one-sided by attacking the mandate that set up the Human Rights Council (HRC) probe.

”The HRC mandate … ignored Hamas’ terrorist actions, focusing solely on the Israeli reaction,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu huddled with his foreign minister and senior political and legal advisers late into the night on Tuesday after the report was released at the UN headquarters by Judge Richard Goldstone, a former war crimes prosecutor.

The premier, along with the Israeli president and defence minister, were to telephone their counterparts around the world in a bid to drive home Israel’s claim that the report was one-sided and unbalanced, Haaretz said.

Both sides of the Gaza conflict criticised the report for putting them on the same footing.

”The report effectively ignores Israel’s right of self-defence,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said, while Ismail Haniya, the Prime Minister of the Hamas government in Gaza, said that ”one cannot put into the same category the legitimate defence of a people under occupation and the occupying force”.

In a statement, Israeli President Shimon Peres said: ”The authors do not distinguish between the aggressors and those who are defending themselves. This report grants legitimacy to terrorism and does not take into account Israel’s right to defend Israel.”

”Goldstone would not have written this report if his children were living in Sderot,” the southern Israeli town that has borne the brunt of Gaza militant rocket fire over the years.

Israeli media were generally critical of the report and Goldstone.

The mass-selling Yediot Aharonot said the instinctive reaction to the report is ”a polite invitation to kiss our rear end”. But it also urged Israel to launch an independent inquiry, for moral reasons, and to help ward off international criticism. — AFP