Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The Goldstone Report Summary (and an excercie is précis writing)

The media is India is largely silent on the Goldstone report and is obsessing over Twitter, a war with China and nuclear weapons. Since the media in India chooses to ignore the report and not talk about the middle east, I thought I would make it easier for our journalists who believe that news comes in 140 characters or less. Here is my attempt at a summary.

Most people around the world were shocked by the actions of the Israeli Government in December 2008 and January 2009. The military attack on the civilians of Gaza happened after a three year "blockade" of Gaza. Another ingredient (but not equal ingredient) in the escalation was repeated rocket attacks by militant groups in Gaza on civilians in Israel. The Goldstone Report is the report of the mission headed by Justice Goldstone and appointed by the UNHRC to look into the entire episode. The report was published in mid-September. [Full version of the Goldstone Report]

Disclosure -
  • I do not claim to have read the report word-for-word but I have looked at what I would think are the key sections (and that is a lot of reading).
  • The content and intent of this report needs to be discussed by the common-man (aam-admi) in India and in every developing country in the world. 
  • The finding of the report are emblematic of the length and extent to which a “modern” and “democratic” government will go to grab what is not theirs based on a false sense of insecurity.
My summary (and this will be a long one)
"both the Israelis and the Palestinians share a secret fear – for some, a belief – that each has no intention of accepting the other’s right to a country of their own."

1. Casualties
  • Israeli Casualties (13 Israeli citizens killed in the entire episode)
    • 3 civilians in Southern Israel
    • 10 soldiers
      • 1 soldier in southern Isreal
      • 9 Soldiers killed in fighting inside Gaza
        •  4 of these soldiers were killed in friendly fire

  • Number of Palestinians Killed – (Varies based on the source)
    • 1,387 to 1,417 (Goldstone Estimate)
    • 1,417 (Gaza Authorities)
    • 1,166 (Israeli Government)
    • If we take the lower end of the Goldstone Estimate, for every one Israeli casualty 106 Palestinians lost their lives.
2. Basis of the report
  • 188 interviews with people, 300 reports and documents and over 1200 photos and public hearings in Gaza and Geneva (permission for such hearings in Israel and West Bank was denied.
  • The report does not hesitate in stating that Israel authorities refused to co-operate with the mission
  • There were restrictions based on the mission by Israeli authorities.

3. Root Cause Analysis
  • The blockade of Gaza by Israel was at the root of the problem. Preventing the free movement of people and blocking the movement of essential goods (e.g fuel, food and healthcare) into Gaza was a key cause to the crisis.
  • The demolition of homes, forcing the separation of the people of Gaza and West Bank also contributed to the escalation.
4. Police Deaths
  • Within the “first few minutes” of the operation in Gaza [on Dec 27 2008] 99 Policemen in Gaza were killed across six police facilities.
  • By the end of military attack 240 policemen representing a sixth of the police force in Gaza was killed.  
  • Israel’s rationale for this move is that the Gaza Police is part of the Palestinian Army.
5. The “we warned you” Rationale
  • The warnings issued by the Israeli authorities comprised of pre-recorded phone messages, leaflets and light-firing on roof-tops.
  • The phone messages lacked any specifics which made them dysfunctional. The warnings urged people to move to the city-centre – which was where there were fierce gun-battles, making the instructions counter-productive. 
  • The report summarizes this by saying that the Israeli authorities did not do enough to distinguish civilians from combatants
6. White Phosphorous
  • Israeli’s used white phosphorous bombs on the Al Quds hospital forcing a serious fire and causing the evacuation of seriously injured people.
  • There was a “reckless” use of White phosphorous in densely populated areas.
7. Destruction of civilian targets/civilians
  • 3,354 homes compactly destroyed, 11,112 partially destroyed
  • Palestinian jail, legislature building – were civilian targets that were destroyed beyond repair
  • Two hospitals - Al Quds and Al Wafa were civilian targets that should not have been targeted. 
  • On the attack on the UN site in Gaza, the report is categorical in stating that Israel’s storyline is inconsistent, factually incorrect and filled with contradictions. 
  • There are documented instances of Israeli combatants targeting civilians who they knew were not combatants 
  • The report presents documented cases of “intentional’ Israeli attacks on civilians.
  • There was “arbitrary” killing of Palestinians. 
  • In an area already blockaded for three years, Israel targeted -
    • Chicken Farms,
    • the only flour mill in Gaza 
    • a wall to a sewage lagoon (releasing 200,000 cubic feet of sewage)
    • the only cement packaging plant
    • food and drinks factories
    • neighborhoods that did not have any combatants
  • Women and children who posed no threat to Israel ...were held in degrading conditions and without access to food, water and sanitation
  • Civilian detainees were held in sandpits and Israeli combatants took positions and were firing from inside the sand-pits. 
  • Israel strategy around the acts was based on maximum damage to civilian properties that would in-turn handicap civilian life. 
  • Thanks directly to the attacks a precarious situation of food insecurity will worsen in Gaza
8. Use of Palestinians as human shields

  • Palestinians groups, by launching attacks from crowded areas, were exposing residents to retaliatory attacks. There is not enough evidence to completely rule out the deliberate use of civilians as human shield by Palestinians.
  • Israel too, used Palestinians as human shields when entering locations that has Palestinian combatants.
9. Rocket Attacks on Israel
  • Since 2001 there have been over 8000 rocket attacks on Israel.
  • Starting June 2008, 3 Israeli civilians have died in the rocket
  • Of the 1000 people injured in the rocker attacks, 914 of these were injured during the Israeli Assault on Gaza (Dec and Jan)
  • 95% of the children in Serdot suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorders.
  • The rocket firing by Palestinian combatants has affected the education system and violated the basic rights of the citizens in the communities most affected. 
  • The rocket attacks, according to the Goldstone report are “deliberate” and “indiscriminate” attacks on civilians and are not targeted at military assets. There only purpose is to spread terror in the civilian population.
10. Human Rights Track Record in Israel and Palestine
  • Both the Gaza and Israel authorities have come in for sharp criticism on their ability to protect citizen’s right.
  • Neither of the two sides are doing anything to make themselves more accountable when it comes to dealing with human rights violations within areas under their control.
  • Prima facie it appears that neither side will be ready to open criminal prosecution against war criminals on their side of the border.
11. Reparations
  • The reports puts the bill of damages in Palestine at about 1.3 billion USD. 
  • To this must be added interest, human cost and the cost to the environment.
  • 613 Million USD is required in the form of urgent and aid for rebuilding basic infrastructure.
12. Conclusion
  • The battle in Gaza during 27 Dec 2008 and 18 Jan 2009 can-not be understood in Isolation. This battle was direct result of Israel’s policies and Human Right’s Violation that they committed against the Palestinians.
  • The “collective punishment” heaped on the Palestinians by the Israelis is unacceptable
  • The 3 year blockade that preceded Israel’s attack has already brought the people of Gaza to their knees. The blockade has forced in-human condititons on the entire population of Gaza. 
  • The continued blockade is making it almost impossible to reconstruct basic civilian facilities in Gaza. People are stilling living in rubble, without sanitation and with almost non-existent healthcare.  
  • The report finds that the attack was planned and not targeted at specific combatants but targeted at the people of Gaza.   
  • Whenever Israel used the term “supporting infrastructure” they meant the people of Gaza.
  • Attacks were aimed at crippling civilian life in Gaza and went well beyond targeting combatants
  • The Gaza authorities need to stop rocket attacks on civilians in Israel. 
  • There are victims on both sides of the border. 
  • Israelis and Palestine have no spaces to engage with each other constructively. All they have today are checkposts and gunpoints.
  • The problems between Fatah and Hamas are making the problems in the region worse. The political stakeholders need to find a constructive way of settling their differences
  • The International Community has failed to protect the civilian population of Gaza from repeated war crimes by the Israeli forces
  • Israel needs to be prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity based on the attack and the blockade
  • Israel detained civilians during and before the attack. This is inconsistent with International Law. 
  • Israel can-not force the separation of the people of Gaza and the West Bank. 
  • Palestinian authorities failed to control rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel
  • Authroities in Gaza used extra-judicial instruments to tackle dissent
  • Israel remains unaccountable for it’s actions against the people of Palestine. This ensures that further military action by Israel in Gaza will remain a clear and present danger.

My comments - 
  1. I have tried to be as neutral as possible when constructing this extract of the report. I have not touched upon issues such as the use of depleted Uranium by the Israeli forces and some of the evidence and letters that are available in the report. 
  2. If the international community does not react based on the content of this report, it will send a dangerous signal to repressive regimes across the world.
  3. The UN, based in on it's past record of looking the other war when it comes to Israel, will not be able to take any action based on the report and will not be able to prevent further atrocities by the Israeli forces. 
  4. Many parts of Asia are gripped by war and/or the fear of war. This report presents an opportunity for citizens across countries to replace war lobbyists and to build a groundswell of support for peace. Tough ask but possible. 


  1. Well put, and unbiased. Thank you for a concise assessment. Peace can be achieved if people work it and not talk about it. And, one more thing, keep promises for the roadmap to peace.

  2. Robert -
    Thanks for the comment. And I agree with your point on keeping promises for the road-map to peace.

  3. well im biased,and i blame israel. I can go on forever Blockade is an act of war. The Gaza war was in the making for abt a year .Lets be honest India is friends with israel Thats why You're media is no better then ours for not letting ur people know this story! Great job breaking it down

  4. All the points are very nicely stated. Really need to start building peace in the world region by region. The world needs a Mahatma Gandhi.