The UN Human Rights Council report on the December-January Gaza conflict, released recently on the eve of

Barack Obama

‘s attempt to jump-start comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, was but the latest in a series of investigations, most of them by human rights organizations. Like its predecessors, the so-called Goldstone report, named after chief investigator

Richard Goldstone

, is devastating in its critique of Israeli actions: indiscriminate use of firepower; deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian structures, including hospitals, schools, mosques and water plants; use of human shields; abusive treatment of detainees; imposition of a blockade on Gaza before and after the attack itself. The report concludes that Israel violated international humanitarian law, committed “grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of wilful killings and wilfully causing great suffering to protected persons,” and war crimes, possibly even crimes against humanity. Courageous Israeli journalist

Gideon Levy

summed it up well in Ha’aretz: it was “an unrestrained assault on a besieged, totally unprotected civilian population which showed almost no signs of resistance during this operation.”

Predictably, the Goldstone report was met with a wave of angry denunciations from the Israeli government–which had refused to cooperate with the investigators–and most of the Israeli press. The mainstream media have downplayed the report’s significance; news coverage has been sparse, and not one major US daily has seen fit to editorialize on it. US pundits and politicians–including UN Ambassador

Susan Rice

, who called it “unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable”– have been overwhelmingly critical.

But it’s not so easy to dismiss these findings. For one thing, the nearly 600-page report is carefully documented and comprehensive, based on field visits, public hearings, almost 200 individual interviews, photos and satellite imagery, and a review of more than 300 other reports. For another, Goldstone is one of the most respected and experienced international jurists, having served as a justice on South Africa’s Constitutional Court and chief UN prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

And then there are Goldstone’s personal connections: he’s Jewish and, according to his daughter, herself an ardent Zionist, he’s “a Zionist and loves Israel.” Indeed, she said of her father, who serves on the Board of Governors of Hebrew University, “I know that if he thought what he did would not somehow be for the sake of peace for everyone in Israel or that it would have hindered such efforts, he would not have accepted the job.”

Before taking the job, Goldstone insisted on expanding the mission’s mandate so that it would cover Palestinian acts. Far from being one-sided, the report concluded that Hamas rocket and mortar barrages on southern Israel were “indiscriminate attacks upon the civilian population,” acts that “would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.” International law expert (and Nation editorial board member)

Richard Falk

has concluded that “no credible international commission could reach any set of conclusions other than those reached by the Goldstone Report on the central allegations.”

Falk points out that there are good reasons for Israel’s panicked reaction. Goldstone recommends that Israel and Hamas carry out serious, comprehensive investigations of their own into the alleged crimes, and that if they do not do so within six months, the

UN Security Council

should consider referring the matter to the

International Criminal Court

in The Hague. That’s highly unlikely, given US veto power on the Security Council. But the report will further diminish Israel’s reputation and will probably strengthen the growing international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. In his column on the report, Levy darkly concludes, “On the eve of the Jewish New Year, Israel, deservedly, is becoming an outcast and detested country. We must not forget it for a minute.”   ROANE CAREY


It is not often that the chairman of the

Federal Communications Commission

makes a historic announcement. But FCC chair

Julius Genachowski

did just that on September 21, when he proposed “net neutrality” rules that should preserve a free and open Internet. For years, grassroots groups have squared off against telecommunications giants over the question of whether the government would allow service providers to discriminate against certain websites and applications that cannot pay them for faster service and easier access. Genachowski wants to prevent the information superhighway from becoming a toll road. And all indications are that he has the votes–his own and those of FCC commissioners

Michael Copps


Mignon Clyburn

–to enshrine net neutrality protections and defend what has been called “the Internet’s first amendment.”

The battle to define whether any new medium will operate in the public interest or as a fresh “profit center” for old-media corporations is invariably won or lost when the technologies are young. The public interest won in Britain when a muscular BBC was developed at the dawn of the radio age; it lost in the United States when the airwaves were handed off to commercial interests that eventually used their economic and political power to gut federal rules and regulations designed to serve the public. Thanks to Genachowski and the FCC majority, it looks like the good guys will have a real say in defining the quality and character of a new medium.   JOHN NICHOLS