By Deena Al Shatti
The Israel-Palestine conflict needs no introduction. Since the formation of the State of Israel in 1948, there has been near constant conflict on the right to the land, which has led to many complex issues.
In December 2008, the ceasefire arrangement between Hamas and Israel collapsed, leading to a three-week conflict between the two states. When the dust settled, over 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. Fingers were pointed to both sides of the conflict, with accusations of human rights violations flying. The United Nations (UN) set up a fact-finding mission into the conflict; the near-600 page report (written by a team led by Richard Goldstone) was released in late September of this year.
The report concluded that both sides had committed war crimes. Certainly, as so many news outlets have noted, the harshest language was reserved for Israel. The New York Times notes, “The report called Israel’s military assault on Gaza ‘a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.’” The report asks for both states to investigate the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. If these steps are not taken, Goldstone suggests the matter be elevated to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The Human Rights Council has backed the report, with 25 countries voting for the resolution. The outcomes remain to be seen, each side has six months to launch credible investigations into the allegations in the report.
The biggest question, however, is whether or not any outcome will come from these actions. This is not the first time Israel has been criticized by the Human Rights Council, or even by the UN. The Palestinian Authority has had its fair share of criticism. There is more at stake here now than just politics. The feud between the two states has gone on for too long, and it is impossible to justify the actions taken on either side. By issuing this report, there is hope that the UN will finally be taking steps to attain peace by punishing those working against it. If peace is meant to be the ultimate goal (and it should be), the UN must follow through. Rather than consistently sticking their heads in the sand and issuing minor slaps on the wrist, action must be taken. If either side fails to launch credible investigations, the threats of going to the ICC should be upheld.
Without taking action, the UN will continue to be the ineffective player they have always been when it comes to the issue of Middle East peace. It is imperative that those who have violated international law are prosecuted. Without this kind of action, resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict will go nowhere.