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Our Last Vestige of Integrity?

by Brendon Bosworth / 12.04.2009

What happened to the Rainbow Nation? Long gone are the days when we South Africans could hold our heads high and floss around the planet with the might of morality on our side. The way the government treated the Dalai Lama is enough for most of us to want to re-impose sanctions on ourselves. But at least there are some throwbacks to the glory days of the Mandela administration. Justice Richard Goldstone is still doing that whole impartial judge thing, but on the world stage.

The former SA constitutional court judge, and man responsible for prosecuting the evilest of the evil at the International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, will be facing up to the political minefield that is the Gaza strip. He’s been appointed by the UN to lead an independent fact-finding mission into alleged human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly those allegedly committed by Israeli soldiers.

As we are all aware, the Gaza saga is an intricate affair. There has been killing on both sides, although body counts are horribly disproportionate. In the three years after Israel’s 2005 official withdrawal from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by Palestinian rockets. On the other hand, between 2005 and 2007 alone, the Israeli Defence Force killed 1290 Palestinians, including 222 children. During the recent Israeli onslaught, the Palestinian death toll climbed to over 1000, including many women and children.

The Israeli army says there’s nothing untoward about the way it dropped bombs, sent troops, and blasted shells into the Hamas stronghold (where 1.5 million Palestinians reside) in retaliation for the rockets the Palestinians fired at Israel, after the cessation of a six-month truce last December. As part of the truce, Israel was supposed to remove their blockade of the Strip, which has denied Gazans access to health, sanitation, transport and water-supply services, resulting in what has been widely condemned as a humanitarian crisis.

According to a BBC report, Israel claims its operations were “carried out in compliance with the rules of warfare under international law,” adding that it took “numerous measures to avoid causing harm to the civilian population.”

The same report states that Hamas is widely accused of basing its forces within densely populated areas on purpose – allegations it, denies.

It is unlikely Israel will make it easy for Goldstone and his team, which consists of professionals from Ireland, Pakistan and the UK. The country’s record with the UN is patchy, to say the least. Israel has failed to cooperate with Human Rights Council investigations in the past and barred an attempted investigation led by our amiable Archbishop, Desmond Tutu. It remains unclear whether they will cooperate this time round. Hamas, however, has declared it has no qualms with the team coming to Gaza.

“It is in the interest of all Palestinians and Israelis that the allegations of war crimes and serious human rights violations related to the recent conflict on all sides be investigated,” said Goldstone upon his appointment. “It is my hope that the findings of this mission will make a meaningful contribution to the peace process in the Middle East and to providing justice for the victims.”

We’d really like to see the peace process in the beleaguered Middle East reach fruition. It’s only been a few hundred years of unrest, right?

At Mahala, all we can say is: Richard, when you’re done with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, please come back and sniff around the Arms Deal or have a scout around the NPA. Don’t be scared to bring your buddies with you. We need all the help we can get.

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