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Update – 4 April 2011

Posted by Emily Gian on 4 April 2011 at 10:43pm:

Dear All,

If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.

This short sentence from the UN reports author, Judge Richard Goldstone, seems to be a complete game-changer (see more).

In the wake of Operation Cast Lead, Richard Goldstone was sent on a fact-finding mission. His findings, which were released in September 2009, suggested that the Israelis and the Palestinians might have committed acts amounting to war crimes. It called for both sides to investigate these allegations. Soon after, the UN Human Rights Council endorsed the report by a vote of 25-6.

At about that time, Goldstone acknowledged in an interviewed in the Jewish Forward that “we had to do the best we could with the material we had. If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven” (see more).

This comment was widely ignored by those in the media who were happy to plough on with the narrative that it was the Israelis who were solely at fault for everything that occurred during the course of the Gaza operation. The Goldstone Report came to be virtually synonymous in some quarters with Israel’s guilt for crimes committed during the war.

Then came the bombshell released by Goldstone himself last Friday with an opinion piece in the Washington Post entitled Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes. He opens by telling his audience that 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.

Really, Judge Goldstone?

How much of what you know now did you really not know then?

You mention that the final report by the UN committee of independent experts found that Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza.

When the Goldstone Report was tabled, there were military experts from outside of the conflict prepared to testify they were in no doubt that the Israeli army acted morally in its prosecution of the war. British Colonel Richard Kemp said the following: More than anything, the civilian casualties were a consequence of Hamas way of fighting Mr President, Israel had no choice apart from defending its people, to stop Hamas from attacking them with rockets. And I say this again: the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare (see more).

Statements such as these were ignored as Goldstone and others continued on with their condemnation.

In his article, Goldstone reflects on Hamas by stating, some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organisation that has a policy to destroy the State of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. He continues, 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.

This sounds more than a trifle nave coming from a highly credentialed judge but Goldstone himself has a poor human rights record. In 2010, it was reported in the Israeli press that Goldstone was responsible for sending at least 28 black South Africans to death when they appeared before him during the 1980s and 1990s in apartheid South Africa. To these claims he responded that he was part of the system and had to respect the laws of the state (see more).

In 2009 Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal declared in an interview that Hamas respects the international law and is ready to cooperate with this law If the report has any reservations on Hamas actions, we are ready to explain them and we will form an honest and neutral investigation committee in Gaza to give Goldstone and its committee and the international community the facts(see more). Despite this, no investigation has ever been carried out and, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting.

Goldstone also expresses the hope that based on the findings of his report, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Again, don’t hold your breath as he continues, 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 minimises the criminality. The U.N Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.

The Age and the Australian have both reported on the issue today.

In an article entitled Israel calls on UN to revoke critical Goldstone report Jason Koutsoukis continually mentions how Israeli leaders now want to begin an aggressive campaign to have the report rescinded. Prime Minister Netanyahu is quoted as saying, everything that we said has been proven true This report should be thrown in the garbage can of history.  Koutsoukis then declares that Israeli officials are gearing up for a worldwide campaign based on the Post article. This is all leading up to perhaps Koutsoukis major point. He seems to be unable to resist the temptation to raise the idea that the “Jewish lobby” is behind this about-face. He quotes Mahmoud Abu Rahma, the international relations co-ordinator of the Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, as saying, it is clear to us that heavy pressure was applied on him by the Jewish lobby and that is what led him to write the article. To drive this point home, Koutsoukis mentions that Dan Gillerman, Israels former ambassador to the United Nations, had made the apology following pressure mounted on him in the past year. Palestinian leaders from both Hamas and Fatah have come out with statements with similar sentiments (see more).

A more nuanced approach is contained in the report from John Lyons that appeared in the Australian today entitled Put war crimes report in the bin, says Israel, after judge admits mistakes.

Here are some more articles, I have come across since the publication of Goldstones piece:
*Honest Reporting: Goldstone: If I have known then what I know now
*Yom Kippur comes early for Goldstone
*What made Goldstone change his mind about Gaza?
*Richard Goldstones legacy
*Behind the headlines: The Goldstone Report refuted by Goldstone himself

Some time ago in these pages, the key findings of the Goldstone Report and some of the other myths spread about the Jewish State were discussed in light of a quote by the Afghan father in the novel, The Kite Runner,

“When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth.”

The Goldstone Report denied the world the right to the truth about the way Israel conducted its war of self defence against Hamas in 2008-9 and, in doing so, it inflicted a grave wrong against the Jewish State and its people. However, one doubts whether the exposure of what is yet another anti-Israel myth, even by its own creator, will see an end to the lies and deceit of its enemies.

Best wishes,