Did Richard Goldstone hide more sinister crimes in Gaza?
by Peter Eyre on 28 Sep 2012 31 Comments

There has been much praise for the Richard Goldstone-led UN investigation into war crimes committed in Gaza during Israel’s conduct of Operation Cast Lead between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009. Yet this report did not go far enough to investigate some more serious allegations which involved a breach of the Geneva Convention.


Quote from item 46: the Mission finds that the conduct of the Israeli armed forces constitutes grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of willful killings and willfully causing great suffering to protected persons and as such give rise to individual criminal responsibility. It also finds that the direct targeting and arbitrary killing of Palestinian civilians is a violation of the right to life.


Quote from item 47: The last incident concerns the launch of a bomb on a house resulting in the killing of 22 family members. Israel’s position in this case is that there was an “operational error” and that the intended target was a neighbouring house storing weapons. On the basis of its investigation, the Mission expresses significant doubts about the Israeli authorities’ account of the incident [and] concludes that, if indeed a mistake was made … State responsibility of Israel for an internationally wrongful act, however, would remain.


Response to item 46 and 47: Even if an operational mistake was made it still constitutes willful killing as such bombs were dropped in areas of dense population and thus had the correct target been hit the civilians in the adjacent target area would have died or been severely injured.


Quote from Item 48: Based on its investigation of incidents involving the use of certain weapons such as white phosphorous and flechette missiles, the Mission, while accepting that white phosphorous is not at this stage proscribed under international law, finds that the Israeli armed forces were systematically reckless in determining its use in built-up areas. Moreover, doctors who treated patients with white phosphorous wounds spoke about the severity and sometimes untreatable nature of the burns caused by the substance. The Mission believes that serious consideration should be given to banning the use of white phosphorous in built-up areas. As to flechettes, the Mission notes that they are an area weapon incapable of discriminating between objectives after detonation. They are therefore particularly unsuitable for use in urban settings where there is reason to believe civilians may be present.


Response to Item 48: Mr. Goldstone needs to understand that White Phosphorus is an Incendiary Weapon and therefore is covered under international law in its use of White Phosphorus on densely populated areas. It is in violation of the Geneva Convention: Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons (Protocol III) namely:

Certain use of incendiary weapons, in particular the use of air delivered incendiary weapons against targets situated amongst concentrations of civilians.


Exactly the same treatment was handed out by the IDF in Southern Lebanon (2006). Let’s now look at a case that was filed in Israel on the back of the Geneva Convention and the ICJ. As expected when dealing with the Israel court system the case failed. One could hope such a case in the European Courts would carry a different result. “Flechette” shells are known to contain thousands of small metal arrows, each some four centimeters long. When the shell explodes in the air, at a height of approximately 30 m above the ground, the lethal arrows scatter over a cone-shaped area some 300 m in length and 94 m wide. IDF has used this weapon for years.


Goldstone brushed aside the use of White Phosphorus and Flechette weapons; touched briefly on Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) weapons, and totally ignored weapons containing Uranium components.


DIME bombs (known as the Cancer Bomb) produce an unusually powerful blast within a relatively small area, spraying a superheated “micro-shrapnel” of powdered Heavy Metal Tungsten Alloy (HMTA). Scientific studies have found HMTA is chemically toxic, damages the immune system, rapidly causes cancer, and attacks DNA. The shrapnel penetrate multiple organs simultaneously and cannot be surgically removed…


Goldstone’s report stated in Paragraph 49: While the Mission is not in a position to state with certainty that so-called dense inert metal explosive (DIME) munitions were used by the Israeli armed forces, it did receive reports from Palestinian and foreign doctors who operated in Gaza during the military operations of a high percentage of patients with injuries compatible with their impact. DIME weapons and weapons armed with heavy metal are not prohibited under international law as it currently stands, but do raise specific health concerns.


Why didn’t the investigation team collect samples from the hospital or victims for testing in the laboratory? I am sure these types of weapon are banned under the Geneva Convention in regard to usage in densely populated areas and being totally indiscriminate and lethal.


Now, weapons containing uranium components. Richard Goldstone gave an extremely brief reference to depleted uranium in Paragraph 49: The Mission received allegations that depleted and non depleted uranium were used by Israeli forces in Gaza. These allegations were not further investigated by the Mission!


“Why on earth not”? How could such an experienced war crime investigator write off something so serious? The writer provided my own submission to the team whilst in Geneva and highlighted pictorial evidence of such explosions. I advised them of samples recovered from Gaza by Prof. Chris Busby that had tested positive to both DU/EU with a clear indication of fourth generation dirty weapons.


We are already seeing signs of such contamination in birth defects of newly born babies in Gaza Strip, who will succumb to the same genetic damage as in the Balkans, Iraq and now Afghanistan. And again we see UN either avoiding the issue or removing the evidence. We see massive clearing of buildings bombed by the IDF and the rubble taken away for crushing to re-surface roads and streets in Gaza, violating UN’s own policy regarding contaminated sites. This will now cause secondary contamination within Gaza and adjacent Israel, Egypt, Jordan and further afield.


Let us look at the holding of Gilad Shalit, Paragraph 77: “The Mission is of the opinion that, as a soldier who belongs to the Israeli armed forces and who was captured during an enemy incursion into Israel, Gilad Shalit meets the requirements for Prisoner-of-war status under the Third Geneva Convention. As such, he should be protected, treated humanely and be allowed external communication as appropriate according to that Convention. The ICRC should be allowed to visit him without delay. Information about his condition should also be provided promptly to his family”.... Gilad was released after some considerable time.


Many concerned parents and families in Palestine would appreciate the same concern and respect for the many Palestinian male, female and juniors held indefinitely by the Israeli Government. Paragraph 86 states: It is estimated that since the beginning of the occupation, approximately 700,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been detained by Israel.


Dr. Riyad Mansour, Ambassador, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, has written 342 letters to the UN Secretary-General documenting the crimes perpetuated by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, from September 200 up to the present. But to no avail.




Having personal knowledge of the suffering of Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza, I decided to lodge my own human rights complaint directly with the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict in Geneva, on 10 June 2009 [factfindinggaza@ohchr.org]. I did not receive an acknowledgement, so I addressed my complaint to all departments within the UN in Geneva and also the Red Cross and Red Crescent pointing out that I had not received any confirmation for such an important document; this eventually forced them into sending me a formal acknowledgement.


My submission was in the context of Resolution S-9/1 of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted on 12 January 2009, and covered breaches of both International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law. It included the role played by the US, UK, Egypt and Israel and some NATO countries in allowing the situation to deteriorate. A major contributing factor in the build up to the conflict was the failure of those responsible for monitoring and implementing the Oslo Accord.


The historical backdrop to this conflict goes back before the final Israeli withdrawal in 2005. The pride of Gaza was its new international airport that had been funded by Japan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Germany and designed by Moroccan architects. The airport opened in 1998 at a total cost of $86 million and gave the people of Gaza access to the outside world.


In 2001, the systematic destruction of this vital lifeline began, followed by the ripping up the runway and taxiways in 2002. Israeli’s reason for doing this was to control the flow of possible weapons in and out of Gaza, then under the control of the Palestinian Authority. This totally unacceptable act of aggression was condemned by United Nations and International Air Transport Association (IATA) and other member countries. It left the people of Gaza bitter. It signalled a new phase in the occupation of Gaza and the start of an extensive blockade.


The Oslo Accord was deeply flawed. A fishing zone was declared which fell well short of normal international protocol and created a marine buffer zone in both the North and South of the Gaza Marine Area and reduced the breadth and width by a significant margin. This basically deprived the Palestinians of claiming the territorial waters, rights and EEZ so vital to their economy. Israeli’s insisted that as part of the deal they would be responsible for all security aspects and that the offshore area would come under their control. This further extended into total control of land, sea and air.


In this same period British Gas had found some interesting large reserves of natural gas in the offshore Gaza Marine Area; this resulted in two wells being named Gaza Marine 1 and 2. When you look at a nautical based chart for the region and the optional plans for the subsea pipelines it is very easy to see why many were concerned.


Just dwell on those two issues and the implications for the people of Gaza and Palestine. The IDF do not accept the terms of the Oslo Accord and continue to kill, injure or intimidate fishermen. IDF warships patrol the strip on a regular basis, open fire and also sometimes ram these harmless vessels. Israeli naval vessels severely restrict the fishermen to sometimes 6 nm or even 3nm whenever it suits them. As a result, the Gaza fishing industry has collapsed and fishing stocks in the permitted area depleted dangerously. This industry was vital to the Palestinians in terms of fish for protein intake and for its economy. This is a serious breach of International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law.


The, there are the huge reserves of natural gas in the Gaza Marine Area and their location in regard to international borders. The UN has already condemned Israel for exploiting Palestinian natural resources. Again the issue is possible violation of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law.


Coming to the actual conflict, in June 2008 Israel was debating a plan to attack Gaza whilst simultaneously discussing a 6 month ceasefire with Hamas! Before this, the Ex Chief of IDF had said Hamas had to be removed from Gaza before the gas could flow.


There is certainly a link between the lucrative offshore reserves and the attack on Gaza. Israel realized there was a distinct possibility that the Gaza Gas from Marine 1 and 2 could be directed to Egypt and turned into LNG for onward export to UK, US or wherever. This prompted the involvement of British PM Tony Blair to get talks underway again. The initial contract with Egypt was therefore cancelled.


The Israeli desperately needed this gas deal and asked British Gas to enter into urgent negotiations to strike a deal before the attack was carried out. But talks with British Gas fell though and Israel decided to remove Hamas and had they succeeded, the gas deal would have been back on track. But worldwide condemnation forced them to pull out.


Israeli troops made extensive use of White Phosphorus and Depleted Uranium and other deadly weapons illegal under the Geneva Convention. The sale of such weapons is possibly a violation of the US Department of Defense’s own rulings on export and usage of these weapons that are manufactured primarily in the US.


For peace to return to this region, the UN should send peacekeeping troops (Blue Helmets not combat troops from NATO) to take up positions on all borders (both sides) and lift the entire blockade of land, sea and air. One could then create a corridor between Gaza and West Bank to unite the two enclaves and create trade. Israel could build an elevated highway to take traffic over the Palestinian strip for access between Central/Northern Israel and Southern Israel.


There is an urgent need to clean up the DU contamination and a reconstruction programme, especially building a sea/container port and reconstructing the international airport. Action must be taken via UNCLOS and ICJ to clarify/re-define the true international borders between Egypt and Gaza, Gaza and Israel, West Bank and Israel, West Bank and Jordan; and establishment of legal offshore limits and creation of an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Legal ownership of all offshore oil/gas reserves within Gaza and Israeli waters must be determined by UNCLOS and ICJ.




The war crimes during Cast Lead were solely a Gaza Strip issue. Palestinians in general all became the victim of Israeli’s aggression but one cannot compare living in West Bank to living in Gaza. So let’s look at the situation in and around West Bank.  


The report talks about “Restrictions on freedom of movement in West Bank.” Paragraph 92 states Israel has long imposed a system of movement restrictions by a combination of physical obstacles such as roadblocks, checkpoints, the Wall, and administrative measures such as identity cards, permits, assigned residence, laws on family reunification, and policies on the right to enter from abroad and the right of return for refugees. Palestinians are denied access to areas expropriated for the building of the Wall and its infrastructure, for use by settlements, buffer zones, military bases and military training zones, and the roads built to connect these places. Many roads are “Israeli only”. Tens of thousands of Palestinians today are subject to a “travel ban” imposed by Israel, preventing them from travelling abroad. A number of witnesses and experts invited by the Mission to meet in Amman and participate in the hearings in Geneva could not meet with the Mission due to this travel ban – a total defiance of the UN.


The Goldstone report does not refer to the fact that almost two thirds of the West Bank is under occupation and total Israeli control. Israelis are stealing Palestinian natural resources with a further potential to explore and exploit the potential oil/ gas deposits in the rift/fault line area between the eastern aspect of West Bank and the border of Jordan. Exploration further south (outside of West Bank) is starting to show some pleasing results in the discovery of oil and gas. The report says nothing about the rape of Palestinian natural resources which the UN has been aware of for some considerable time. 


Paragraph 95 draws reference to the Israeli building programme in the West Bank despite the strongest of warnings from the UN and from President Obama…  The report highlights: Israel’s Ministry of Housing and Planning is planning a further 73,000 settlement homes to be built in the West Bank; 15,000 of these homes already approved, and if all plans are realized, the number of settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory will be doubled.


I would like to go back to the weapons used by the Israelis and draw attention to the Missions remit which clearly stated the following:

-        Site visits to specific locations in Gaza where incidents occurred

-        The analysis of video and photographic images, including satellite imagery

-        The review of medical reports about injuries to victims

-        The forensic analysis of weapons and ammunition remnants collected at incident sites


Independent munitions experts have already evaluated photographs of exploding Missiles, Bombs and Shells and concluded that many of these explosions were not conventional weapons and indicated weapons that contained Uranium. If “Forensic analysis” had been carried out, why didn’t they also find DU/EU? Samples that were returned to the UK and tested at Harwell certainly revealed the presence of both DU and EU….


It was interesting to read some comments by Col Desmond Travers (UN Team in Gaza) in response to questions during any interview by Ken Silverstein:

“Critics have also said that Hamas deliberately inserted its fighters among civilians and that doing so increased the civilian toll. Did you find that to be the case?”


“We found no evidence that Hamas used civilians as hostages. I had expected to find such evidence but did not. We also found no evidence that mosques were used to store munitions. Those charges reflect Western perceptions in some quarters that Islam is a violent religion. Gaza is densely populated and has a labyrinth of makeshift shanties and a system of tunnels and bunkers. If I were a Hamas operative the last place I’d store munitions would be in a mosque. It’s not secure, is very visible, and would probably be pre-targeted by Israeli surveillance. There are a many better places to store munitions. We investigated two destroyed mosques - one where worshipers were killed - and we found no evidence that either was used as anything but a place of worship”.


“What other issues do you think need to be addressed”?


“We were disturbed by the lethality and toxicity of weapons used in Gaza, some of which have been in Western arsenals since the Cold War, such as white phosphorous, which incinerated 14 people, including several children in one attack; flechettes, small darts that are designed to tumble upon entering human flesh in order to cause maximum damage, strictly in breach of the Geneva Convention; and highly carcinogenic tungsten shrapnel and DIME munitions, which contain tungsten in powder form. There is also a whole cocktail of other problematic munitions suspected to have been used.”


Note the reference to a whole cocktail of other problematic munitions… was he referring to DU/EU?


Col Travers continued: “There are a number of other post-conflict issues in Gaza that need to be addressed. The land is dying. There are toxic deposits from all the munitions that have been dropped. There are serious issues with water - its depletion and contamination. There is a high instance of nitrates in the soil that is especially dangerous to children. If these issues are not addressed, Gaza may not even be habitable by World Health Organization norms.”…


Col Travers said “You cannot have a peace process unless you acknowledge war crimes.” Col Travers said the UN team advised the blockade on Gaza be lifted “in its entirety.”


I leave you with the words of Ben Gurion (first Israeli Prime Minister) who openly admitted he had stolen the Palestinian country:

“If I were an Arab Leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal, we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Or God is not theirs. There has been Anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?” 


Peter Eyre, a former British Naval officer, worked at NATO headquarters, and is now a Middle East consultant; his website is www.eyreinternational.wordpress.com 

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