October 04, 2009

PA 'has lost Palestinians' trust' By Sousan Hammad, Al Jazeera, Sun, Oct 04, 2009

The UN Human Rights Council was due to vote on Friday on Richard Goldstone's report into Israel's 22-day war on Gaza, but that has now been postponed until March 2010 [GALLO/GETTY]

Sahar Francis, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, is a human rights lawyer and advocate who has been campaigning for Palestinian rights for over 20 years. She is the director of Addameer, a prisoner support and human rights association, and has been working on behalf of political prisoners since 1995.

In July, Francis testified before the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, led by Richard Goldstone.

She spoke to Al Jazeera about the postponement of a vote within the UN Human Rights Council on the findings of Goldstone's report and what this decision means for the Palestinian people.

Al Jazeera: On Friday, the Palestinian leadership - allegedly under heavy international pressure led by the US - backed moves to postpone a vote on the findings of Richard Goldstone's report on Israel's war on Gaza. What does this decision mean for Palestinians?

Sahar Francis: It was such a disappointing step by Palestinian Authority (PA) representatives. I think this is a very wrong act by the PA to do this now after we, as Palestinians, have been fighting for human rights for so long.

In the level of legality and international law, it's also very disappointing that whenever we come close to the position of ending [Israel's] immunity it becomes delayed because politics ends up interfering in the implementation of international law.

Why do you think PA representatives are denying that pressure from Washington played a role in their decision to withdraw their support for a resolution endorsing the report? Is this to preserve what little popularity, if any, they retain among Palestinians?

[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.

Many politicians are dismissing this report, which documents war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed during Israel's assault on Gaza last winter. 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 the Palestinian people's plight?

We believed this time it would work, that we would put an end to Israel's immunity - this 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 without the political support, because 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 not be held accountable for the innumerable international law violations they have committed.

When probed for a rationale, 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. Does it not seem futile to discuss peace while Israeli and Palestinian leaders are conveniently distancing themselves from the realities on the ground?

It was very obvious that the US and Israel, in the name of peace, were actually trying to push the point that 'negotiations' or any kind of accountability measures will break down the injustices committed by Israel. 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 thinks that he can reach peace without reaching 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. Badil, a Palestinian rights organisation, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say the belief that accountability and the rule of law can be brushed aside in the pursuit of peace is misguided. Why do you think officials are shelving this report?

I think by delaying the debate these leaders think people will forget, that nothing will come out of the report and no legal procedures will be taken.

As a human rights activist, 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.

Source:Al Jazeera

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