Friday, November 06, 2009

Non-Goldstone Report

Ha'aretz reports that Israel was already investigating several human rights allegations regarding Gaza prior to the Goldstone report, but now is leery about continuing lest it be seen as caving to international pressure:
While the IDF is opposed, in principle, to setting up a committee of inquiry into the allegations against Israel made in the Goldstone Report on the fighting in the Gaza Strip, the military advocate general, Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit, has ordered investigations into a number of allegations, currently being carried out by the Military Police.

Mendelblit has ordered investigations into 12 incidents that were, even before the report, the focus of Military Police investigations or part of operational investigations. Two involved civilian deaths, based on Palestinian claims. In the 10 other incidents, Palestinians claimed their property had been destroyed. Coordination of the investigations is being handled by the chief of Military Police in the Southern Command, Lt. Col. Gil Mamon. Mendelblit is part of a team of senior legal experts the government established last week to formulate recommendations on dealing with the report. The findings are to serve as the backbone for a counter-Goldstone report that is expected to be ready in a month.

One of Mendelblit's arguments against creating a committee of inquiry following the Goldstone Report is that such a committee has never been set up as a result of external pressure, and says that surrendering to international pressure will constitute a dangerous precedent.

This is hardly a new problem. Our desire for formal international inquiries often conflicts with pragmatic considerations of what best will protect human rights on the ground. It's a delicate dance, particularly because its undoubtedly true that some amount of international pressure is likely a good thing, but too much and you start to see a backlash from the targeted nation.

I don't think anybody can really be that surprised that one of the net results of a UNHRC investigation was to make it near-impossible, politically speaking, for Israel to conduct a strong investigation of their own -- I honestly think it's less about it being "international pressure" per se and more about it being the UNHRC particularly, a body which Israel (rightfully) feels is entirely disrespectful of the rights of the Jewish state.

Does that mean that international investigations should be off limits? No. But there's a weighing that should be going on here -- between the need for international pressure and the need to account for pragmatic local political behavior -- and I don't think that it's actually being done, because there is little evidence that the policymakers at issue actually care about the on-the-ground effects of their actions on Israelis and Palestinians. Instead, the fingers on the scale press near-entirely on the side of isolating and humiliating Israel. It's like if America's policy towards Iran stopped being about whether they got nuclear weapons, and became solely focused on promoting the idea that Iran is evil and should be shamed (which, to be sure, seems to be a close approximation of what many conservatives want our Iran policy to be). That discourse always claims to be concerned about the human rights and non-proliferation issues, but it actually is quite willing to subordinate them on the altar of moral superiority. What should be a delicate balancing act between ideals and practices falls away, because we don't actually care about the "cash value" of the values we claim to be supporting.

No comments: