Fighting the Goldstone Process at the UN

UN General Assembly vote in November gave Israel (and the Palestinians) three months to investigate “serious violations of international … law committed during the conflict in Gaza that broke out in late December 2008.” Israel has now submitted to the UN a 46-page update on its investigations of possible wrongdoings in the war.

The update refutes some of the specific charges of the Goldstone Report, which accuses Israel in particular of war crimes in Gaza, and was the impetus behind the General Assembly vote in the first place. But the document is mainly concerned with establishing that Israel is a responsible democracy whose military is capable of credibly investigating itself, and does so in ways similar to the American, British, Canadian, and Australian militaries.

There is much irony in this, considering the nature of the General Assembly's vote. Registering 114 in favor, 18 against, and 44 abstentions, in addition to giving Israel and the Palestinians their three-month assignment, it endorsed the Goldstone Report and “requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to send [it] to the Security Council.”

It’s not only that Israel had already been investigating the war (as the 46-page update details) since two days after it ended, while the Palestinian side had not (and still has not) even begun to do so. It’s also that the 114 ayes were not a parade of accomplished democracies that one would count on to uphold international law or investigate violations of it themselves. Of the 114, the only two full-fledged Western democracies are Portugal and Switzerland. The 114 also include the likes of Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Zimbabwe.

As for the 18 nays -- who opposed requiring Israel (and the Palestinians) to submit a report to the General Assembly, or endorsing the Goldstone Report -- most are democracies such as Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United States. Among the 44 abstainers are democracies like Belgium, Denmark, France, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, and the UK.

In other words, the reason Israel had to submit a document to the UN maintaining that it is a democracy that does not intentionally kill civilians, takes alleged infractions seriously, and investigates them authentically is because dictatorships that make up the bulk of the General Assembly demanded that it do so.