Israel after Goldstone

TOLEDO – Israel’s predicament with the Judge Richard Goldstone’s report accusing it of war crimes in Gaza, and the report’s subsequent endorsement by the United Nations Human Rights Council, brings to mind the reaction of United States Vice-President Spiro Agnew to his indictment on corruption charges in 1973: “The bastards, they changed the rules, but they never told me.”

Indeed, the rules have changed, and Israel cannot say that it was not warned that this is an era in which international law and universal justice are being forcefully promoted as pillars of an improved world order. That was not the case when the Arab-Israeli conflict started more than 60 years ago. Now, however, the international community is bound to scrutinize how wars are conducted, and crimes of war will not be allowed to go unpunished.

Or so it should be. Alas, the new rules apply in fact only to those countries that are not world powers. The UN’s Human Rights Council would not have dared to put Russia in the dock for razing Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, or China for brutally suppressing the people of Tibet and the Muslim Uighur minority.

In her first visit to Beijing, indeed, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it clear that when it comes to China, order and stability take priority over human rights. After all, she explained to a European colleague, one is not supposed to abuse one’s banker. And this particular banker finances the Pentagon’s entire budget.