Author alters war crimes stand
By Ben Birnbaum
The Washington Times
Israel's prime minister launched a diplomatic offensive Sunday to pressure the United Nations to retract a report accusing the Jewish state of war crimes in Gaza, after its lead author publicly disavowed some of its most incendiary charges.
"There are very few instances in which those who disseminate libels retract their libel. This happened in the case of the Goldstone Report," Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet, saying he had ordered the formation of a committee to pursue the matter.
"I expect their recommendations in the coming days," he said. "We will act on the public-diplomacy front and on other fronts with the international community and the U.N. in order to demand the justice that is due to Israel."
Richard Goldstone, the South African judge who chaired the U.N. commission that produced the report, wrote an opinion piece in Saturday's editions of The Washington Post in which he said that if "I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document."
The report accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes and "possibly crimes against humanity" in the 2008-09 Gaza war and called on both parties to launch their own internal investigations.
In his opinion piece, Mr. Goldstone praised Israeli authorities for investigating more than 400 incidents. "Hamas has done nothing," he wrote.
Mr. Goldstone, who did not respond to an email seeking comment, also retreated from the report's claim that the Israeli army had targeted innocent civilians as a matter of policy.
"Although the Israeli evidence that has emerged since publication of our report doesn't negate the tragic loss of civilian life," Mr. Goldstone wrote, "I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes."
More than 1,000 Palestinians were killed in the 22-day conflict, which Israel launched in response to intensified Hamas rocket attacks on towns near its Gaza border.
Israel said most of the dead were combatants — a claim the Goldstone Report roundly dismissed. In his opinion piece, however, Mr. Goldstone acknowledged that "the Israeli military's numbers have turned out to be similar to those recently furnished by Hamas."
Mr. Goldstone's about-face was celebrated in Israel, where his report was seen as part of a global campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state.
"We face three major strategic challenges: the Iranian nuclear program, rockets aimed at our citizens and Goldstone," Mr. Netanyahu said last year.
The Israeli government boycotted Mr. Goldstone's commission on the grounds that the Human Rights Council, the U.N. panel that ordered the report, had a history of anti-Israel bias — a fact that Mr. Goldstone wrote "cannot be doubted."
In a recent interview, Avi Dichter — formerly the chief of Israel's Shin Bet intelligence service and now a Knesset member — said he thinks Israel might have fared better in the Goldstone Report had it cooperated more fully with the commission.
"I'm not sure we could've changed the report 180 degrees, but I think we could've done a little better if we handed over more information," Mr. Dichter said. Still, he accused the commission of blatant dishonesty.
"They refused to be convinced by hard evidence," he said. "It was a fully biased team."
© Copyright 2011 The Washington Times, LLC.
Goldstone's OPED is here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinio...1JC_story.html
A few excerpts:
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.Ya think? Perhaps a new report should be issued: Goldstone II: Nevermind
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.” Okay, so Hamas deliberately committed crimes against humanity and didn't investigate them. Again, who is shocked by this?
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.Again, exactly what everyone who hadn't been blinded by bias knew.
I insisted on changing the original mandate adopted by the Human Rights Council, which 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. 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. I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.Except by those who share that bias.
Indeed, our main recommendation was for each party to investigate, transparently and in good faith, the incidents referred to in our report. McGowan Davis has found that Israel has done this to a significant degree; Hamas has done nothing.Surprise, surprise, surprise...
Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.Don't hold your breath.
In the end, asking Hamas to investigate may have been a mistaken enterprise. So, too, the Human Rights Council should condemn the inexcusable and cold-blooded recent slaughter of a young Israeli couple and three of their small children in their beds.What color is the sky in this clown's world?
Simply put, the laws of armed conflict apply no less to non-state actors such as Hamas than they do to national armies. Ensuring that non-state actors respect these principles, and are investigated when they fail to do so, is one of the most significant challenges facing the law of armed conflict. Only if all parties to armed conflicts are held to these standards will we be able to protect civilians who, through no choice of their own, are caught up in war.The mindless naivete of this clown is astonishing. What did he think that Hamas would do with a strongly worded report about atrocities that they knew that they'd committed? If Hamas gave a damn about the rule of law, they wouldn't have sent a terrorist cell to cut the throats of a family, rained rockets onto civilians or sent suicide bombers to target civilians. They're murderous scum who consider our obsession with legal niceties comedic, and it would be if the results weren't so tragic.