Based on what the ICRC calls International Humanitarian Law, the assumption of Goldstone's Report is that a clear differentiation was not made between civilian and military targets; even when the civilian population is sympathetic to and involved with the enemy and is used, willingly or not, as shields, the IDF has no right to attack.
According to the ICRC, Article 51 of the UN Charter does not allow Israel to act in self-defense against terrorists because "they are not a state but organized individuals among the population it occupies." Terrorists, according to this interpretation, may be "criminals – (but) not military targets," unless they are directly engaged in carrying out a terrorist act at the time; if not, they should be arrested and are entitled to due process in courts of law.
Such a position is obviously absurd in reality. In the context of modern urban warfare, terrorists deliberately imbed themselves within civilian populations in order to take advantage of humanitarian concerns.
Following these restrictions would endanger the lives of soldiers in favor of protecting the "rights" of terrorists. Yet the ICRC has determined the law and the UN uses this to condemn Israel, regardless of what caused the conflict, or the danger posed by terrorists.
This bias is explicit in the latest ICRC/Red Crescent Magazine (January, 2009) which contains an article entitled "Gaza, civilians in the firing line." Highlighting the suffering of Gaza residents, with graphic pictures, the article does not mention the cause of the conflict - years of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. It suggests that Israel deliberately targeted civilians and civilian targets.
Using statistics supplied by Hamas, the article notes, "1,380 people have been killed and 5,640 wounded... a particularly high proportion of the victims were women and children."
As in the Goldstone Report, no attempt was made to determine how many of the casualties were terrorists, or how many were killed or injured by Hamas; nor, in citing the destruction of thousands of homes and other buildings, how many were blown up by booby-traps, or were used by Hamas as military positions.
Rules only applicable to Israel
The ICRC also charged that "there was a lack of respect for (Red Crescent) medical teams." ("One volunteer was killed and six medical workers were injured.") There was no explanation of the circumstances, their identities, or efforts by IDF medical teams to help those in need. Nor is any proof offered for these charges.
To appreciate the impact of the ICRC's position and involvement in the conflict between Israel and Arab "Palestinians," one must understand that the ICRC is not just another NGO; it is the official "guardian" of the Geneva Convention. That means, for many, their word is law. Perceived as impartial, neutral and authoritative, their decisions are cited in international courts.
Following ICRC's rulings and interpretations, the UNHRC mandate, and using Hamas' propaganda, Goldstone concluded that Israel was guilty of "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity." That, however, was already decided in Geneva.
The IDF's use of overwhelming firepower against Hamas was justified militarily, to save soldiers' lives and to eliminate terrorists; but, even with extensive aerial documentation, there is no way of proving that the destruction of what appear to be civilian targets was necessary, thus creating a moral and humanitarian dilemma.
Moreover, these rules seem applicable only to Israel. There is little or no appreciation of Arab "Palestinian" terrorism as the context. Nor has the UN applied these rules to other conflicts, for example, in Sri Lanka, to protect the Tamils, the allied bombing of civilian targets in Belgrade, or anti-terrorist actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan in which civilians are killed.
Israel, and Jews are held to a different standard, and that message needs to be exposed as bigotry. The IDF is the most moral army in the world; Israel is fighting for its life; we have no choice. But these valid assertions don't stand up to criticism like that in Goldstone's Report because the conflict isn't about who is right, but by who is fighting whom.
Arab terrorists will always be portrayed as victims, "freedom fighters," "militants," and "activists." The challenge for Israel is to present the conflict in such a way that Arabs are on the defensive. That can't be done, however, as long as the ICRC sets the rules, finding Israel guilty before anything happens.
As long as Israel accepts the ICRC as the final arbiter, it will lose the PR battle. Goldstone's Report is an example of this inevitability.
The author, a former assistant professor of History, is a writer and journalist