I express my respect and honour for Colonel Travers and Mr. Justice Goldstone, who is a man of extraordinary courage and moral integrity. Mr. Justice Goldstone has been accused of anti-Semitism which is strange because I understand he is a member of the Jewish faith. This must be particularly difficult for him which is a measure of his integrity. None of us finds it easy to cross the boundaries of our cultural background. It takes a special kind of moral courage to do so and nothing Mr. Justice Goldstone has done has been impugned except by people who are contemptible.
The report must not be buried. I agree with Noam Chomsky, who is also Jewish, who said in Dublin recently that the real enemies of Israel were those who attempted to justify the kind of atrocious violations of human rights carried out in Gaza. That is an honourable point of view.
We should put to one side the issue of military equipment as it may be a source of discussion later. I note, however, that the Norwegian Foreign Minister placed on record that the Norwegian Government has blacklisted the company in question because of its engagement in providing military equipment for the wall and the operation in Gaza. Ireland should follow suit.
I understand the Israeli Government refused to co-operate with the mission and may have subsequently harassed Palestinian witnesses. In one case, that appears to be the position. The approach adopted by Israel must have made the team's work difficult. Notwithstanding this, the fact-finding mission somehow managed to get testimony from Israeli soldiers, perhaps by means of a documentary, although I am not sure.
I will refer to a number of cases, of which the report contains many. I was particularly interested in the findings of the report, which appear to be impartial and are, I believe, an attempt to achieve balance. When I argued the other day that we must be careful about going too far in trying to be fair and balanced I did not mean we should not be fair or balanced. I was warning, as a distinguished Israeli Jewish professor warned this committee, that it would be a mistake to say that one side is the equal of the other.
Every death is the end of a human being. The Jewish people have a wonderful saying that if one saves one human being, one saves an entire universe. The converse of this saying is that if one kills one human being, one kills an entire universe. While I do not support any of the actions on either side, the legal concept of proportionality appears to have been seriously violated. I refer, for example, to shootings. On the specific, deliberate and targeted attack on the parliamentary aspect of life in Gaza for the Palestinians, namely, the Palestinian Legislative Council, the report notes that the Israeli authorities described the council as part of the Hamas terrorist infrastructure. We should bear this in mind because it is in violation of humanitarian law and a crime internationally. There is no substantive justification for the attack.
The fact-finding mission also examined whether the Palestinians had used civilians as human shields but was unable to find specific evidence of this practice. However, in light of balance, the report indicates that there were occasions when rockets were fired from areas where there may have been civilians. This practice and the use of civilians as human shields are not the same in law. The report clearly found that the Israelis who, in their propaganda, stated the Palestinians were being used as human shields by their own people, had clearly, specifically and deliberately engaged in this practice. Senator Daly has highlighted several such incidents. There is no ambiguity whatever in the report; the Israelis used Palestinian civilians as human shields. This is now an established fact which no one can contradict. The Israeli High Court examined the matter and issued clear and specific orders to the Israeli army not to persist in engaging in this odious practice. It is shocking that this order was ignored by the Israeli army.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency facility was attacked using high explosive shells and white phosphorous. The latter substance may not be banned — it should be — but its use is circumscribed. The report found that this circumscription was violated by the Israeli army.
The deliberate, intentional targeting of a civilian hospital was a breathtaking act. There was no evidence that fire was directed from the hospital at the Israeli military. This allegation was investigated and found not to be true. Naturally, the attack caused panic among the sick and wounded as no warning was given. In my opinion it would not have mattered much if a warning had been given. That is a specious notion and the Israeli authorities indicated they knocked on the roof or dropped leaflets. This is what the IRA used to do when it stated it gave a warning. Often such warnings were confusing and were issued not with the intention to assist but to confuse. This begs the question as to who in this situation is the actual terrorist. It seems we have very clear evidence of state terrorism.
On at least three occasions there is a finding, at least on aprima facie basis, of war crimes. I understand that one of the recommendations is that the Goldstone report should be referred to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Will that be done and what is required to be done to support that? It is important that we do that. Persons interviewed for the report indicated that if the report suffers the fate of other reports and disappears, it will strengthen the hands of those within Israel who will pursue those matters ever more vigorously and ever more viciously. I hope that the report will be referred to the International Criminal Court.
The attack on the raw sewage lagoons of the Gaza wastewater treatment plant caused an outflow of more than 200,000 m3 of raw sewage onto neighbouring farmland. Is there any context whatever in which that could be regarded as a legitimate military operation? I concur with the finding in the report that this is a war crime. Apart from the specific matters that are held to be war crimes, there is an even more significant matter of policy, that is the idea that one of the military objectives was to attack Hamas's supporting infrastructure. The impact of that is to transform civilians into legitimate targets — another favourite phrase of the IRA. The report states that the military operations in Gaza indicate that the Israeli military concept of what was necessary in a war with Hamas viewed "disproportionate destruction in creating maximum disruption in the lives of as many people as a legitimate means to achieve not only military but also political goals". The fact that the attack was launched at a time when it was known that there would be large numbers of civilians, especially children returning from school in the streets of the areas that were attacked, reminds me of blitzkrieg and the American "shock and awe" approach, which was the same thing.
The pretext for this war was rocket and mortar attacks on Israel. In June 2008 a truce was negotiated between Israel and Hamas with the assistance of the Egyptians, as a result of which there was a 98% decline in the attacks, which virtually ceased altogether. For some weeks they did cease altogether. In November there was a military incursion, as a result of which seven Hamas people were killed. I do not say what they were because I do not know. There may have been a reason, but it seems to me that completely removes any credible basis to use rocket fire from Gaza as a pretext. I have a transcript of Mr. Mark Regev, the senior Israeli spokesman, on a television news programme when asked the question of whether the rockets had virtually ceased and he said that was correct. That was the Israeli Government position and that completely undermines what was said here and issued to the newspapers by an Israeli Government spokesman after the last meeting.
There was an attack on a flour mill, which was not a legitimate target, that was also described as a war crime and the flattening of a chicken farm by bulldozers in which 31,000 chickens were killed. The consequent effect on egg production resulted in basic foodstuffs for the population being destroyed. At the previous meeting I suggested that there should be a clear objective, scientific analysis of the impact on the civilian population. That was something about which I was also concerned many years ago when I visited Iraq. I understand that there are significant levels of stunting, thinness and anaemia in children and pregnant women even before the blockade and war.
I condemn the killing of Gaza residents by the Palestinians and the intra-Palestinian violence. I support the establishment of the fact that, as a prisoner of war, Sergeant Gilad Shalit is entitled to the full protection of the Third Geneva Convention. We should make it clear that we require that. He should be allowed visits by the Red Cross.
I condemn also the use of rockets. Reference was made to police violence against protestors. I am well aware of that. I mention again the case of Mr. Ezra Nawi who was seen on Israeli television at a peaceful demonstration removing stones from the hands of Palestinian protestors and saying it was a totally non-violent demonstration. He entered a house that was being illegally demolished by bulldozers. He was followed in by two military policemen and emerged looking dazed asking them not to hit him any more. This is the third attempt by the Israeli Government to convict him. At last a judge has been found to convict him. He was sentenced to a month in prison and has to pay compensation to the soldiers who beat him up. He is now prevented from attending demonstrations. If he attends one in the next three years he will go to prison for six months. That is a reproach to democracy in Israel.
Is there any way to let the Israeli civilian populationen masse know of these issues because the Israeli Government does everything it possibly can to prevent its own people knowing what is being done in their name and attempts to provide them with the alibi that it did not know? It is the responsibility of the international community to ensure that the civilian population of Israel does know what is being done in its name, so that they can at last make a moral judgment, as to their eternal credit many dissident Israeli people in Israel have made their feelings know.