Only two weeks after the United Nations published a damning report finding war crimes in Israel’s lethal offensive into Gaza last winter, some Palestinian families have already given up hope for help from the international community. Using the most explicit terms yet to characterize the war, the United Nations report said Israeli troops “punished and terrorized” Palestinian civilians during the conflict and failed to take precautions to minimize civilian casualties. The report even went so far to suggest that such failures were deliberate.
But within the only other body on the planet with the capability of effecting material justice on the Gaza slaughter – the UN Security Council – it seems the report was already discredited on arrival. The Goldstone Report (named for the South African Jew who directed its research) was barely mentioned during last week’s meetings, and only then by nations of marginal influence on the international scene. Since its publication, Israel and, sadly, the United States have been in full-on damage control, seeking to discredit the report even before they had a chance to read its findings.
The PR push seems to have worked, with those who were dimly optimistic of some UN reaction as the war crimes perpetrated on Palestine close in on their one year anniversary. Gaza remains mostly rubble and for many who continue to dig through the twisted rebar and shattered concrete, this report represented the last hope that the international community would take notice.
However, the historically indomitable reputation of Arabs continues to prove itself true. This week a group of Palestinian families filed suit against Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, former prime minister and honest-to-God cross-dressing assassin, for crimes against humanity. Though filed in a magistrate court in London instead of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, lawyers representing families devastated by the war on Gaza have brought suit against Barak in the United Kingdom hoping to avail themselves of the UK’s liberal, post-WWII jurisprudence concerning war crimes.
The absurdity of suing in a British magistrate than within Palestine’s or even Israel’s own legal system is not lost to the family, whose lawyer asserted “If the Israeli courts were themselves to investigate there would be no need to have recourse to international tribunals.”
They even point to a similar case in 2005 when Israeli army general Doron Almog could not leave his airplane at Heathrow, as an arrest warrant had been issued similar to the one the Gazan families are seeking in their case against Ehud Barak. Merely convincing a judge that Israel is worth investigating, it seems, is a major Palestinian victory.
Of course with the attention and the collusion of many Western heads of state, it is unlikely this suit will ever see Ehud Barak or any of the other war criminals responsible for last winter’s invasion held in court. Only removing Barak’s privileges to travel to London must seem like such small retribution compared to the loss of 1,300 lives in the offensive, a third women and children.
But for those families, their neighbors and the rest of the innocents trying to put their lives back together, at the very least a comforting picture can be visualized- that of the smile with which the officer serving Ehud Barak the warrant for war crimes would wear.
Hard to imagine how much comfort that daydream brings, but I suspect any would be welcome.