Saturday, April 2, 2011

Goldstone recants? (Updated)

by Rick Moran

The notorious report by Richard Goldstone from the Israeli-Hamas war that accused Israel of war crimes is often cited by Israeli defenders as prima facia evidence of bias by the international community - especially the UN - against Israel.

But today, in a Washington Post op-ed, Mr. Goldstone appears to walk back from at least some of his conclusions in that report:

We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document. (Emphasis mine).

How different?

The final report by the U.N. committee of independent experts - chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis - that followed up on the recommendations of the Goldstone Report has found that "Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza" while "the de facto authorities (i.e., Hamas) have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel."

Our report found evidence of potential war crimes and "possibly crimes against humanity" by both Israel and Hamas. That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying - its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.

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. (Emphasis mine).

Perhaps even more remarkably, the Jerusalem Post notices that Goldstone, in his op-ed today, criticizes the Human Rights Council for giving him an original mandate "skewed against Israel:"

Goldstone also slammed the United Nations Human Rights Council, which commissioned the report, saying that the original mandate given to him was "skewed against Israel."

"I have always been clear that Israel, like any other sovereign nation, has the right and obligation to defend itself and its citizens against attacks from abroad and within," he wrote.

Saying that he changed the original mandate handed to him in order to investigate Hamas as well as Israel, he noted, "something that has not been recognized often enough is the fact that our report marked the first time illegal acts of terrorism from Hamas were being investigated and condemned by the United Nations." He added that he had hoped his inquiry would usher in an era of even-handedness in the UNHRC, whose bias against Israel "cannot be doubted." (Emphasis mine)

One could ask why Israel, who knew full well the bias of the UNHRC, would want to place the rope around its own neck and cooperate in its own hanging by working with Goldstone's commission. But Goldstone's comments are very unusual as it is not common for one UN bureaucrat to criticize another in the pages of a major media outlet.

Unfortunately, the narrative of the Goldstone report is set and it is doubtful that this will have any beneficial effects. Nevertheless, any correction to the historical record is welcome and Goldstone should be recognized for this partial recantation.


Clarice Feldman writes:

Ron Radosh at Pajamas Media reports that Lord Goldstone has revised his iniquitous report:

In a stunning and unexpected reversal, Judge Richard Goldstone has essentially reversed himself on the findings of the Goldstone Report. He does, of course, qualify his remarks to make it appear that he has not reversed himself. What he does, in effect, is to say that if only Israel had cooperated with his investigation from the start, he would not have reached the incorrect conclusions of the now famous and highly influential Report.

Israel, of course, had quite good reasons to distrust Goldstone, and his Report did major damage. But one would rather have Judge Goldstone now blame Israel for his original damaging conclusions than to have him blame Israel for intentionally being the major human rights violator in the Middle East.

Now, Goldstone asserts, "We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding commission." Poppycock! As Goldstone's numerous critics have pointed out as soon as the Report was issued, its many vulnerabilities were known at that very moment. One can look no further than the lengthy and devastating critique by Moshe Halbertal that appeared in The New Republic, or the many commentaries on it by Alan Dershowitz. As Dershowitz wrote at the time: "It is far more accusatory of Israel, far less balanced in its criticism of Hamas, far less honest in its evaluation of the evidence, far less responsible in drawing its conclusion, far more biased against Israeli than Palestinian witnesses, and far more willing to draw adverse inferences of intentionality from Israeli conduct and statements than from comparable Palestinian conduct and statements."

Mr. Goldstone may prefer that we forget all this, but savvy readers will have no problem finding many sources that pointed to its many flaws in 2009. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to find today that Goldstone now says "That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying - its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets." As for serious crimes against civilians that resulted from Israeli defensive action, Goldstone now writes that "civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy" by Israel. The moral equivalence, thankfully, has now disappeared in the Judge's new conclusions. Moreover, where possible violations of human rights were committed by Israel, Goldstone now writes that in one case if an Israeli officer was found to have acted inappropriately, and is "found to have been negligent, Israel will respond accordingly."

AT Political Correspondent Rich Baehr adds:

The op ed by Richard Goldstone in today's Washington Post is a welcome corrective to his persistent defense of the Report he authored, and that is now associated with his name, on the Israeli incursion into Gaza in December 2008 . Regrettably, this corrective comes well after the time his initial report was accepted by the human rights community, the United Nations, and international tribunals, and cynically used by " lawfare" opponents of Israel.

If the Judge wants to do some good, he can start an international tour to make the points he does in his new article in venues around the world where the hatred of Israel only intensified as a result of his initial one sided report. That report created a moral equivalence between a civilized nation state defending its civilian population, and a murderous death cult fueled by Islamic extremism and anti-Semitism, whose rocket firing supported a long time goal of indiscriminate killing of Jews.

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Rick Moran

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