Stephen Lendman – Gaza Flotilla Massacre: Goldstone Commission II Essential

Stephen Lendman – Gaza Flotilla Massacre: Goldstone Commission II Essential

The Flotilla attack was a well-planned act of premeditated murder in international waters, the Netanyahu government (on June 14) announcing an inquiry commission this writer discussed in a same-day article.

It explained the planned whitewash of a grievous crime against humanity, one Israel mustn’t be allowed to get away with despite it being minor by comparison with far greater ones, Cast Lead most prominent recently.

The internal commission is illegitimate, even with international observers (chosen for supporting Israel), nonetheless endorsed by the White House, its paymaster/partner in crime, colluding in the coverup.

Called an Independent Public Commission, Netanyahu said it will demonstrate clearly “to the entire world that the state of Israel acts according to law, transparently and with full responsibility.”

In his released statement, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs endorsed the announcement as an “important step forward,” saying “the structure and terms of reference of Israel’s proposed independent public commission can meet the standard of a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation.”

The administration was silent after the May 31 massacre, only saying it regretted the loss of life, its usual boilerplate cover for Israeli belligerence, partnered with our own globally.

Commission Members – Chosen for Coverup

Two voting members include former Israeli Supreme Court Justice, Jacob Tirkel, its head. A conservative jurist, his experience entails handling military court appeals, virtually always favoring Israel over Palestinian plaintiffs.

Amos Horev, the other voting member, is a retired major general, prominent in Israel’s military-industrial complex, a reliable choice, like Tirkel, to whitewash IDF crimes.

Two non-voting foreign observers include David Trimble, an Ulster, Northern Ireland unionist allied with its power structure that used death squads during “The Troubles” to kill people for being Catholic. He’s also a member of the Netanyahu/Dore Gold-established “Friends of Israel,” a “worldwide Christian ministry….fostering solidarity with (the right of) the Jewish people….to live in their ancient homeland, Israel,” no matter that for centuries it was historic Palestine.

General Ken Warkin (ret.) was also chosen, former head of Canada’s military judiciary, involved in the coverup of the Canadian Airborne Regiment Battle Group’s early 1990s Somalia atrocities.

Like past Israeli and Washington commissions, whitewash is assured this time, the bogus investigation to produce lies, distortion, omissions, false conclusions, and exoneration of cold-blooded murder, ordered by top government and military officials who’ll walk away scot- free, what Israel planned by appointing an earlier investigation into Operation Cast Lead.

Its conclusion was preordained, on the mind of a Haaretz June 15 editorial writer who said:

“A committee whose makeup and authority are perceived as predetermined will be unable to satisfy international leaders and their constituencies abroad who demanded the inquiry in the first place.”

“….the committee’s membership nor its authority is suited to meet the challenges posed by the affair. (It’s more) a public relations tool (than a body able) to bring justice to bear on those found responsible for the operation’s failings….It would have….been better if the (committee) had never been born, sparing us the deceptive appearance of a real investigation,” what this commission will dutifully avoid doing.

A same day Gush Shalom (GS – Israel’s “hard core” peace movement) called the commission “toothless and powerless, (its) terms of reference exclude in advance all the main points which should be investigated.” GS will petition Israel’s High Court to challenge it, though prevailing against supportive justices faces near impossible odds.

The commission’s mandate excludes days of cabinet planning to interdict and slaughter designated Flotilla activists, nor will it consider eyewitness accounts from passengers called “terrorists.”

Instead, it will rely on IDF testimonies, whitewashing what happened, including fake video footage to show Israel’s version of events, not the accurate recording showing commandos firing from helicopters before ever landing aboard, shooting passengers in the head at point blank range, and dumping bodies, and perhaps live activists, overboard to perish at sea, to hide the true death toll, believed to be at least 15, not the official nine reported, though at first Israeli radio said 19.

Netanyahu’s commission will avoid truth, presenting the IDF’s sanitized version of events instead, Israel’s customary type coverup, why an independent investigation is essential. More on that below.

Internal Findings from Cast Lead Investigations

On April 29, 2009, IDF Chief of Staff, General Gabi Ashkenazi approved and authorized publication of the findings of five investigative teams, headed by colonels and composed of officers, not in the Gaza war’s chain of command. They investigated five issues:

  • claims about UN and international facilities fired on;
  • incidents involving shootings at medical facilities, buildings, vehicles and crews;
  • others harming civilians;
  • the use of white phosphorous weapons; and
  • damage to infrastructure and buildings.

At the same time, an overall IDF investigation reviewed the entire operation to “verif(y it) at various levels.” In other words, to assure the five investigative teams absolved Israel of any culpability.

Unsurprisingly, they concluded that:

“throughout the fighting in Gaza, the IDF operated in accordance with international law. The IDF maintained a high professional and moral level while facing an enemy that aimed to terrorize Israeli civilians whilst taking cover amidst uninvolved civilians in the Gaza strip and using them as human shields.”

It continued at some length justifying Israeli crimes of war and against humanity, repeated in a sixth investigation and one by Major General Avichai Mandelblit, Military Advocate General, concluding on February 24, 2010 from two investigations into Israel’s human shield usage that:

“There is no dispute that during the military conflagration the use of human shields was completely forbidden,” his investigation finding no basis that IDF troops hid behind noncombatants during the war, despite clear evidence they did and committed grievous crimes throughout the 23-day assault against a civilian population.

Instead, he added that “while we regret, of course, any harm to civilians, we emphasize that the responsibility for that lies solely at the doorstep of the Hamas organization, following its use of the civilian population for its despicable purposes,” – Israel’s customary response, blaming victims for its own crimes, Mandelblit repeating a scripted judgment, no matter how compelling the evidence against it, what the Goldstone Commission and other human rights groups concluded.

Often far less than impartial, so did Human Rights Watch (HRW) after conducting its own investigation saying:

A year after the war’s end, neither side conducted serious investigations to determine whether or not war crimes were committed, failing to explain that Israel launched a premeditated attack against defenseless civilians, protected by Hamas and other resistance forces armed with homemade rockets and light arms against a powerful military invader using the latest Washington-supplied weapons and technology to commit mass-murder and devastation.

HRW agreed, calling Israeli attacks “indiscriminate, disproportionate (and) at times seemingly deliberate, in violation of the laws of war,” causing vast destruction and large numbers of deaths and injuries – IDF investigations providing cover for serious crimes, bogus “after-action reports….in which an officer in the chain of command interviews soldiers involved, with no testimony from victims or witnesses,” that at most results in minor disciplinary action against lower-ranking participants, never the high command, HRW adding:

“….they are not a substitute for impartial and thorough investigations into laws-of-war violations.”

In other words, the entire process was bogus, the IDF absolving itself and government officials of any culpability, the planned outcome from Netanyahu’s commission, its members to deliver judgments he wants, why HRW titled its report, “Turning a Blind Eye,” Israel and Washington’s exculpatory self-examinations, no matter how compelling the evidence against them.

Calls for an Independent Commission

On June 2, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution (32 – 3 with nine abstentions, including Britain, France, Japan and South Korea) calling for an independent fact-finding mission into Israel’s Flotilla attack, similar to the one leading to the Goldstone Commission.

Sponsored by Arab states, it harshly condemned Israel “in the strongest terms” for violating international law at sea, also calling on Tel Aviv to lift the Gaza blockade and supply immediate humanitarian aid in the form of food, medicines, fuel, and other essentials.

Other human rights organizations voiced support:

  • Amnesty International (AI) wants “an independent inquiry into the incident;”
  • Human Rights Watch calls for “A prompt, credible, and impartial investigation….to determine whether the lethal force used by Israeli commandos was necessary to protect lives and whether it could have been avoided;” and
  • a coalition of 30 human rights organizations demands an “end to impunity

….following Israel(‘s Flotilla) attack,” saying:

“We, the undersigned organisations (sic)….are shocked by Israel’s killing and injury of civilians carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza, (and) call on the international community to immediately take all appropriate measures in response to this unacceptable violence.”

“This tragedy is the result of the prolonged impunity granted to Israel by the international community, despite Israel’s documented, persistent disregard for international and humanitarian law in (Occupied Palestine) and its violation of fundamental human rights, including the right to life.”

Israel is criminally liable, including for maintaining a genocidal Gaza siege. The 30 organizations also called for its immediate lifting, and urged the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Prosecutor “to make an urgent determination regarding the opening of an investigation into the” OPT situation, and for the UN Secretary-General to use all measures at his disposal to act, not abstain beyond his disingenuous rhetoric, best not said unless followed by specific measures aimed at holding culpable parties accountable and achieving justice for aggrieved victims at long last, something neither he or his predecessors have done.

The following organizations endorsed the statement:

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH)
Turkish Coalition for the ICC
Track Impunity Always (TRIAL)
Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists
Gender Justice Initiative
Fondazione Internazionale Lelio Basso (Italy)
Cairo Institute for Human Rights
University College Dublin (Ireland)
Uganda Joint Christian Council
Human Rights Network – Uganda
Uganda Women and Children organization (UWCO)
Hope After Rape (HAR, Uganda)
Disabled Women’s Network & Resource Organisation in Uganda (DWMRO)
Cameroon Coalition for Human Rights
Iranian Islamic Human Rights Commission
Kituo Cha Sheria (Kenya)
Coalition for Justice and Accountability (Sierra Leone)
Colombian Commission of Jurists
Network Movement for Democracy Human Rights (Sierra Leone)
Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights
Indonesian Civil Society Coalition for the ICC
Ligue pour la Paix et les Droits de l’Homme (Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC))
Synergie des ONG’s Congolaise pour les Victims
Femme pour la Paix, le Developpement et les Droit de l’Homme (DRC)
Sierra Leone Coalition for the ICC
Association Espanola De Derecho International De Derechos Humanos
Justice Without Frontiers
Lebanese Centre for International law and Human Rights
La Coalition Marocain Pour La Cour Penal Internationale
Institute for Justice and Reconciliation

In a separate statement, B’Tselem demanded an “immediate, independent and effective investigation….carried out by a group that is not affiliated with the Israel army – (to include) testimonies of eyewitnesses….who participated in the flotilla.”

The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel also called for an immediate independent international investigation, accusing Israel of violating international law by attacking civilians with disproportionate force.

Free Gaza, other Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups, along with others worldwide demand the same thing, saying Israel must be held accountable.

Global nations (including Turkey, Arab states, Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, Sweden, Russia, China and many others) called for appropriate actions in response to Israel’s unjustified attack, including an open, independent investigation, an airing of all relevant facts, and accountability for those responsible for crimes in international waters.

Countries only expressing regret for the lives lost included America, Israel, Canada, Britain, Japan, Australia, and several others, including Pope Benedict in the Vatican, a loyal ally of imperial aggression like his predecessors.

Posted on numerous sites, including Palestine Chronicle, Uruknet, Countercurrents and others, writer Ahmed Amr, former editor, made “The Case For An Impartial Turkish Inquiry,” since nine of their citizens were murdered, one a Turkish America, Furkan Dogan, the Obama administration dismissive, though he was shot four times in the head at point blank range, clearly an assassination.

Given Turkey’s outrage over the attack, Prime Minister Recep Erdogan calling it “state terrorism,” its Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, saying it was “banditry and piracy,” and their country’s street expressing outrage in protest, “A robust inquiry might uncover some uncomfortable truths (and) make the Mediterranean a safe neighborhood for one and all.”

Indeed so if regional states had leaders and officials credentials as distinguished as the Free Gaza Movement, one of the Flotilla’s organizers.

Its Board of Advisors includes:

  • James Abourezk, former US Senator from South Dakota, the first Arab-American to hold that office, and founder of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC);
  • M. Cherif Bassiouni, Distinguished Research Professor of Law emeritus, Depaul University, as well as a UN international human rights and humanitarian law consultant;
  • Noam Chomsky, noted linguist, philosopher, political activist, author, lecturer, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Institute Professor emeritus;
  • Gretta Duisenberg, international human rights activist, board member of “One Justice,” an international Paris and Geneva-based legal group, and honorary president of the Hebron-based Arab Centre for Research and Studies on Palestine;
  • Jeff Halper, Israeli Professor of Anthropology, political activist, author, lecturer and co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD);
  • Archbishop Theodosius (Atallah) Hanna, Archbishop of Sebaste from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem;
  • Peter Hansen, former UNWRA Commissioner-General and Assistant UN Secretary-General;
  • John Pilger, noted author, journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker, including his 2002 film, “Palestine is still the issue;”
  • Leila Sharaf, a Jordanian Senator, former Minister of Information, and former board member of the Arab Organization for Human Rights;
  • Aengus O. Snodaigh, Irish political leader and activist;
  • Baroness Jenny Tonge, human rights activist and member of the British House of Lords; and
  • Naomi Klein, lecturer and noted author, including “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.”

Its Advisory Council includes:

  • Dr. Mona El-Farra, physician, human/women’s rights activist, and Deputy Director of the Union of Health Work Committees in Gaza;
  • Mahfouz Kabariti, human rights activist and President of the Palestinian Sailing Federation and Fishing & Marine Sports Association in Gaza;
  • Jamal El-Khoudary, Chairman of the Popular Committee Against the Siege and independent parliament member in Gaza;
  • Dr. Eyad Sarraj, physician and Gaza-based human rights activist; and
  • Amjad Al-Shawa, human rights activist and Director of the Gaza-based Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO).

Israel and Washington call these noted activists “terrorists.” People of conscience call them heroic for years of activism and dedication.