The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) Resolution based on the Goldstone Report is a damning condemnation of Israel. The original meaning of being “caught red-handed” was literally being “caught bloody-handed,” with the victim’s blood on one’s own hands. In Gaza, Israel has been caught red-handed in that literal sense, and for the first time in its history, is approaching the dock in the international court of opinion and, hopefully, of justice as well.
This case could be a watershed event. For Israel and its US Government (USG) puppet-patron, the moment of truth in the UN is rapidly approaching. So let us look at the key elements of the HRC special session that sent this resolution to the UN General Assembly (UNGA).
Voting patterns on the HRC are important, as they provide insights into what might happen later on the Security Council (UNSC) and in the General Assembly:
1. Of the permanent members of the Security Council, Russia and China supported the resolution, Britain and France did not vote (the equivalent of hiding under the table!), only the US opposed it;
2. France and Norway did not vote for or against the resolution, but they did support the conclusions of the Goldstone Report;
3. Both major Sub-Saharan African states (Nigeria and South Africa) voted for it;
4. Two of the Asian “Big Three” (India and China) voted for it, the third (Japan) just abstained;
5. Two of the usual US supporters in SW and SE Asia (Pakistan and the Philippines) voted for it; and
6. Three of the four largest Latin American states (Argentina, Brazil, Chile) voted for it, the fourth (Mexico) abstained.
What makes this significant — since the US lobbied hard first to keep the Goldstone Report from even reaching the HRC, and then for others to vote against the HRC resolution — is that many states who voted for it, or abstained, would normally have been in the US corner. This is NOT a good sign for the US and Israel of how the General Assembly will go, and perhaps even the Security Council, which could easily have a majority of 10 or 11 supporting the resolution (in whatever form it reaches the them), with France and Britain either abstaining or not voting. Very bad for the US, for even though its veto would kill any punishment of Israel there, there would be enough votes to ask the General Assembly officially to invoke the “Uniting for Peace Resolution.”
And several powerful states would not be at all unhappy to see the US discomfited here. Russia would take great pleasure from being on the winning side of a General Assembly vote that turned a US-inspired weapon against its own creator. China would see it as an opportunity to reaffirm its own growing prestige, as would India, which in addition has long been a strong and active supporter of UN peacekeeping operations. Countries like Brazil and Nigeria have little reason to support the US and none to support Israel, while even Japan could easily surprise the US — and take satisfaction from doing so.
Reservations About the Resolution
US criticism of the HRC resolution should be disregarded, as Washington only parrots Israel’s wishes here. So can the odd criticism that the initial report lacked an Israeli perspective, simply because Israel refused to cooperate with Goldstone — not surprisingly, since the report made it clear that nothing Israel might have added would have exonerated it in any way.
But other reservations need to be addressed. One is that the resolution did not mention Hamas. I agree it might have been better to have included Goldstone’s condemnation of Hamas offenses as well, but it is legitimate as it stands for five reasons: (1) Israel committed the great majority of the violations; (2) Israel had an overwhelming preponderance of military power; (3) Palestinians suffered almost all of the death and destruction; (4) Israel has a long, sordid history of ignoring UN commissions and resolutions, and of attacking UN facilities and killing UN staff, as when the clearly marked UNRWA facility in Gaza was bombed; and (5) the HRC focus is properly on the actions of the oppressor (Israel) and not on those of the oppressed (the Palestinians).
Another is that it did not accord Israel the right of self-defense. But Israel’s claim to self-defense in its savaging of Gaza is specious, because Israel — like all occupiers and oppressors — has no inherent right of self-defense against its victims. Who, for instance, would have accepted Nazi Germany’s assertion that its brutal reprisals against the Czechs for their assassination of a Nazi commander named Reinhard Heydrich was an exercise in self-defense? No one, and no one should accept Israel’s claim, either.
A third is that holding Israel accountable for its actions will somehow endanger the Middle East peace process. But there is no peace process, simply meaningless discussions to the dead end (for Palestinians and the rest of the region) of Israeli hegemony, and under Netanyahu or any electable government in Israel, there is not and cannot be one. There will be an enforced peace imposed from outside of the Middle East, over the objections and obstruction of Israel, or there will be none at all.
Netanyahu’s assertion that he will prolong the diplomatic battle over the Goldstone Report and the subsequent HRC resolution is akin to a lawyer for a serial murderer trying to delay the trial in the hope that the witnesses will die of boredom or old age. It is also predictable. Since promises, excuses and offers of aid no longer suffice, it is inevitable that bluster, threats and blackmail will come to the forefront.
But Netanyahu knows that AIPAC has too much money for anyone else to outspend it within America, and the US (if it uses it) has too much muscle to be ignored by many of the smaller UN members. Give the US six months to lobby for votes, and this whole thing could fail. If that happens, a unique opportunity will be lost.
So rather than attempt to evade the certain US veto on the Security Council and its intransigence throughout this process, confront it head on as soon as possible in the General Assembly, where there are no vetoes. Explore all ways of invoking the “Uniting for Peace Resolution” (UNGA 377A) — this is the instrument of choice, and its time is now.
Done properly, this could be the start of a real diplomatic revolution on the path to an enforced peace in Palestine and an end to Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. But if those countries supporting justice for Palestine do not act now, while attention is focused and the momentum is building, it will all have been for nothing. They will have no one to blame for their failure except themselves.
Alan Sabrosky (Ph.D, University of Michigan) is a ten-year US Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the US Army War College. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org