by Peter Berkowitz
Business as usual at the U.N.
With the possible exception of the
No military in the history of warfare has tried harder, when obliged to fight, to protect noncombatants than the
It is therefore a bitter irony, fraught with consequences for the legitimacy of international law, that -- with the same possible exception -- no country's military, judiciary, and democracy have been the target of greater vilification for alleged human rights violations, war crimes, and crimes against humanity than
The continuing controversy over the Goldstone Report is a case in point.
In April 2009, the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council appointed Richard Goldstone, judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, to head a mission to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.
On September 15, the mission released its 575-page report. The bulk was devoted to alleged Israeli misconduct in Operation Cast Lead, which aimed to stop the more than 12,000 rockets and mortars fired over eight years by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups at civilian targets in southern
The document recommended that the Security Council require
On November 3, the U.S. House of Representatives, by a vote of 344-36, passed a nonbinding resolution rejecting the report as "irredeemably biased." Two days later, the U.N. General Assembly, by a vote of 114-18, adopted the report and sent it to the Security Council.
The Goldstone Report hands Islamic extremists another propaganda victory.
The Security Council has declined to take action. But damage has been done. By pervasively insinuating that
Goldstone's mission was suspect in
Consequently, the Israeli government's decision not to cooperate with Goldstone, while still controversial in
A careful reading thoroughly discredits the Goldstone Report. So demonstrated
University philosophy professor and
- First, it presents as settled that, despite completely withdrawing from
- Second, the report blames
- Third, the report accuses
More generally, the Goldstone Report suffers from fatal methodological flaws. While subjecting Israeli accounts of wartime operations to hyper-exacting scrutiny and relentless skepticism, it routinely accepts Palestinian testimony of alleged
The Goldstone Report barely mentions Hamas and glosses over the terrorism to which it is devoted.
Finally, while the Goldstone Report goes to extravagant and irrelevant lengths to put
No doubt, like all armies, the IDF made errors in Operation Cast Lead. And in the infernal smoke and fire of asymmetric urban warfare its soldiers and officers may have committed crimes. In the short term,
The long-term stakes, according to General Halamish, are high: "The fundamental problem applies not just to
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