Israel calls for UN to retract Goldstone report

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 3 called on the UN to retract the Goldstone Report following statements made by Richard Goldstone in a Washington Post op-ed. Netanyahu said the Goldstone Report, which found that Israel committed war crimes in Operation Cast Lead after a fact finding mission, is called into question by Goldstone’s April 1 article, where he wrote: “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.” According to Goldstone, new evidence has shown that Israel never targeted civilians in the conflict as originally alleged.

The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.

Goldstone went on to commend Israel and the Palestinian Authority for conducting investigations into the report’s allegations, noting that Hamas had not done so. He also noted the positive effect the report had in the conflict, leading to reforms in the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces. Citing these statements, Netanyahu called for the report to be nullified.

The report said that Israel regularly and impermissibly disregarded the welfare of civilians and even targeted them during the conflict in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Convention. The report also found that Israel failed to look into alleged misconduct by its soldiers and used white phosphorous in violation of international law. The report accused Palestinian fighters of firing mortars indiscriminately into civilian areas and mistreating prisoner of war Gilad Shalit in violation of the Third Geneva Convention. Israel dismissed the report as prejudiced and one-sided, citing the large number of countries that did not support the fact finding mission.

From Jurist, April 3. Used with permission.

See our last post on the struggle in Gaza.

  1. Goldstone and “collateral damage”
    Goldstone’s equivocation loans dangerous credibility to the Orwellian concept of “collateral damage.” The Palestinian death toll in Operation Cast Lead was some 1,400 (including some 300 children, more than 115 women, some 85 men aged over 50, amounting to hundreds of unarmed civilians). The Israeli death toll was ten soldiers (four killed by “friendly fire”), and three civilians killed in Hamas rocket attacks. (Amnesty International, July 2, 2009) Yet Israel’s hands are clean while Hamas’ are stained with blood because those hundreds of Palestinian non-combatants just happened to be near what Israel intended to bomb? This is monstrous on the face of it, and neither Bibi nor Goldstone should get away with legitimizing this perverse logic.

    Bibi also gloated: “The biggest absurdity is that the United Nations Human Rights Council initiated the report, and one of its members was Qaddafi’s Libya. Therefore we must toss this report into the trash can of history.” (YNet, April 2) The Human Rights Council’s long accommodation of Qaddafi is assuredly a case of “bad facts.” But the irony of Bibi’s complaint is that Qaddafi and the authors of Operation Cast Lead seem to be roughly equal war criminals.

  2. Goldstone Report co-authors reject Goldstone’s recantation
    From The Guardian, April 14:

    Three members of the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza war of 2008-09 have turned on the fourth member and chair of the group, Richard Goldstone, accusing him in all but name of misrepresenting facts in order to cast doubt on the credibility of their joint report.

    In a statement to the Guardian, the three experts in international law are strongly critical of Goldstone’s dramatic change of heart expressed in a Washington Post commentary earlier this month. Goldstone wrote that he regretted aspects of the report that bears his name, especially the suggestion that Israel had potentially committed war crimes by targeting civilian Palestinians in the three-week conflict.

    The three members – the Pakistani human rights lawyer Hina Jilani; Christine Chinkin, professor of international law at the London School of Economics; and former Irish peace-keeper Desmond Travers – have until this moment kept their silence over Goldstone’s bombshell remarks. But their response now is devastating.

    Though they do not mention Goldstone by name, they shoot down several of the main contentions in his article and imply that he has bowed to intense political pressure.

    They write that they cannot leave “aspersions cast on the findings of the [Goldstone] report unchallenged”, adding that those aspersions have “misrepresented facts in an attempt to delegitimise the findings and to cast doubts on its credibility”.

    In their most stinging criticism, the three joint authors say that “calls to reconsider or even retract the report, as well as attempts at misrepresenting its nature and purpose, disregard the rights of victims, Palestinians and Israeli, to truth and justice”. They point to the “personal attacks and the extraordinary pressure placed on members of the fact-finding mission”, adding that “had we given in to pressures from any quarter to sanitise our conclusions, we would be doing a serious injustice to the hundreds of innocent civilians killed during the Gaza conflict, the thousands injured, and the hundreds of thousands whose lives continue to be deeply affected by the conflict and the blockade”.