By Sousan Hammad, Al-Jazeera – 4 Oct 2009
The postponement of the UN Human Rights Council vote on the findings of Richard Goldstone’s report into Israel’s recent 22-day war on Gaza has raised many questions.
Sahar Francis, a Palestinian Israeli and a human rights lawyer who testified before the UN fact finding mission led by Goldstone, spoke to Al Jazeera about the move and its fallout.
Al Jazeera: On Friday, the Palestinian leadership backed moves to postpone a vote on the findings of Richard Goldstone’s report. What does this decision mean for Palestinians?
Sahar Francis: It was such a disappointing step by the Palestinian Authority (PA). I think it is a very wrong move as Palestinians have been fighting for human rights for so long.
It’s also very disappointing that whenever we come close to the position of ending [Israel’s] immunity, politics comes in the way of implementing international law.
Why do you think the PA are denying that US pressure played a role in their decision to withdraw support for a resolution endorsing the report?
[PA officials] don’t have any justification for their own people. It is really sad that we are at this point where the people have lost all their trust in the Palestinian leadership.
Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, called Goldman’s report “unbalanced” and “unacceptable”. What are your thoughts on whether this report has any relevance or importance for the advancement of Palestinian rights?
We believed this time… we would put an end to Israel’s… long, long history of immunity. But unfortunately our very own leaders damaged the whole issue.
In the end, at the international level, any decision – even the most powerful legal document – is meaningless without the political will and support. In the end, international law is built on international relations and [the] balance of power between the different states.
This is first time in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that a commission headed by a person like Goldstone came to investigate war crimes. This was an opportunity to show the world that international law and human rights is for everyone and that there is no immunity for any perpetrator.
Unfortunately, like it happened in the [International Court of Justice’s] ruling on the wall, and other decisions in the UN, when it comes to the Palestine-Israel conflict, Israeli leaders are always managing to get the political support needed to escape accountability.
PA sources said they wanted “unanimity” in the Human Rights Council on the report, and noted discussion on the matter would have a negative influence on peace negotiations. What does this mean?
It was very obvious that the US and Israel, in the name of peace, were actually trying to push the point that any kind of accountability measures against Israel will affect negotiations. But how can you reach peace without giving justice to the people?
This is the sad thing with Mr. Abbas, the Palestinian president. I don’t think he accepts this position fully. I don’t understand how he can reach for peace without justice. But this is politics. And as Palestinians, we are always on the weak side in the negotiations. This is the outcome.
The US announced that it will postpone any discussions over the Goldstone report for another six months until the next Human Rights Council meeting convenes in March 2010. Why do you think this report is being shelved?
I think by delaying the debate, they think people will forget, that nothing will come out of the report and no legal procedures will be taken.
As human rights activists, we should not accept this fact. We should keep doing our work to push the view of this report and try to use it in other ways. It is the individual’s responsibility.
By using universal jurisdiction we can take cases of personal victims from the war on Gaza to international courts. It won’t be easy, but I believe people should make the change. It should come from the Palestinian people and their supporters all over the world who believe in our struggle, and that justice should come to Palestinians.