Judge Richard Goldstone, who headed the UN mission to investigate Operation Cast Lead, has rejected Israel’s criticism of the lopsided, biased approach of his report. Among others things, he claimed that it found that the actions of both Israel and Hamas “would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.”
The aforementioned notwithstanding, it is obvious that from a legal standpoint, the Hamas leadership does not feel threatened. In fact, the movement’s leaders and spokesmen have embraced the Goldstone Report and claim to be in favor of its full implementation. On October 16, 2009, Khaled Mashaal, Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, asked the international community to try Israel’s political, security and military heads in the international courts for the so-called “war crimes” committed against the Palestinian people. Khaled Mashaal, Mahmoud al-Zahar and other Hamas leaders did not forget to thank the various human rights organizations that helped put the Goldstone Report together for standing by the Palestinians.
Why aren’t Hamas leaders worried by the report? The reason can be found in a speech Ismail Haniyeh made on October 14, 2009 to Palestinians wounded during the war. He said, “We bless the committee, we gave it everything it needed to investigate, as well as documents which helped publish it in its present form. Occasional comments here and there about the resistance (sic) and the right of the Palestinian people to defend itself do not mean that we do not support the Report.”
In effect, he dismissed out of hand everything the report said about terrorist attacks and firing rockets into Israel, considering it lip service paid by the Committee and without practical importance for Hamas.
Reading the Goldstone Report shows that Ismail Haniyeh’s interpretation was correct. The Hamas de-facto administration and its leaders are never accused of responsibility for terrorism and firing rockets. Rather, nebulous “Palestinian armed groups” are responsible. The theme is repeated in the report’s few references to Palestinian terrorism. For example, Paragraph 1747, page 541, reads “In relation to the firing of rockets and mortars into Southern Israel by Palestinian armed groups operating in the Gaza Strip, the Mission finds that the Palestinian armed groups fail to distinguish between military targets and the civilian population and civilian objects in Southern Israel. The launching of rockets and mortars which cannot be aimed with sufficient precisions at military targets breaches the fundamental principle of distinction. Where there is no intended military target and the rockets and mortars are launched into civilian areas, they constitute a deliberate attack against the civilian population. These actions would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.”
Masterpiece of deception
The Hamas de-facto administration in the Gaza Strip received nothing but respect from the Goldstone Committee, which never mentioned it was an Islamist, fascist, terrorist organization, that it supported the murder of the Jews in “Palestine” (by burning, according to one Hamas leader), threw rival Fatah supporters off roofs and shot them in the knee, had taken over the administrative institutions of the Gaza Strip in a military bloodbath and were currently imposing on the Gaza Strip Islamic law (the Sharia), with its binding restrictions on women and with its gross, blatant disregard for basic human rights.
On the contrary, the Goldstone Committee viewed the Hamas de-facto administration as legitimate in every respect and made an artificial distinction between it and the “Palestinian armed groups operating in the Gaza Strip,” as if such “groups” did not kowtow to Hamas and had somehow spent eight years methodically launching rockets and mortar shells into Israel in opposition to Hamas policy.
The Goldstone Report implies and claims that the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military-terrorist wing, is not under the control and authority of the Hamas de-facto administration and its “political” leadership, and for that reason the Committee did not find Hamas responsible of the rocket and terrorist attacks against Israel. Those “responsible,” according to the report, are anonymous operatives in the field whose names are revealed only after they have died and find their way onto Hamas posters of “shahids,” and when bringing them to trial at the International Criminal Court in the Hague is no longer relevant.
Even Hamas rejects the Committee’s interpretation and does not bother to hide the fact that the “military wing” answers to the “political wing” and that the two are inextricably bound up. Ismail Haniyeh explained in an interview in 2007 (and there are many other examples) that “Hamas is the jihad wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine,” and that it was a military wing. When asked what the connection was between Hamas and its military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, he said that “the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades are part of the Hamas movement, but security considerations require the separation of politicians and military men, and that is what has happened during the past 10 years, but both the politician and the soldier (sic) have to carry out the movement’s policies.”
Moreover, the Hamas de-facto administration and its leadership boast of their responsibility for the rocket and terrorist attacks against Israel and have even documented them in a “victory album” of videotapes on their websites.
It does not seem that ignorance was responsible for the way the Goldstone Committee ignored the direct connection between Hamas and “Palestinian armed groups.” It is a fair assumption that its bias was deliberate and that the Committee’s curious methodology no less than its “ignorance” were behind the way it took statements from Palestinian “eyewitnesses” failing to ask basic questions on terrorist activities during the war.
The issue of Hamas’ invisible responsibility for war crimes, like many other claims made by the report, shows that it is a masterpiece of deception and manipulation whose only intention is to frame Israel for war crimes and exonerate Hamas. Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh can take a vacation to The Hague without having to worry about the Goldstone Report. Unfortunately, the same is not true of Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel’s chief of staff.
Jonathan Dahoah Halevi is a senior researcher and fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Director of Research at the Orient Research Group