Judge Goldstone Needs to Do More
MYTH: Justice Richard Goldstone remains convinced that Israel committed war crimes documented in the 'Goldstone Report.
Mitchell Bard-Myths and Facts 04/06/11
In an April 1, 2011 editorial published by the Washington Post, Justice Richard Goldstone retracted his accusations that Israel intentionally targeted civilians and was guilty of war crimes during its conflict with Hamas in Gaza in December 2008.517 The principal author of the 575 page report bearing his name, commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate allegations of criminal misconduct during the Gaza conflict, Goldstone now admits the work used by Israel's detractors to vilify Israel was based on incomplete information and falsely accused Israel of wrongdoing. Goldstone conceded that "if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document." 518
The report, which erroneously claimed that Israel led a "deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population," became a tool for Israel's detractors to demonize the Jewish state and denigrate its right to self-defense. 519
Goldstone now accepts that "civilians were not intentionally targeted [by Israel] as a matter of policy" and that in the aftermath of having thousands of rockets and missiles fired at its cities. Israel had the "right and obligation to defend itself and its citizens against such attacks."520 In fact, as Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander British Forces in Afghanistan, testified to the Goldstone committee in 2009, "The IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare."521
Israel's claims regarding casualties also have proved correct, Goldstone acknowledges. "The Israeli military's numbers have turned out to be similar to those recently furnished by Hamas." He is referring to the recent Hamas admission that, as Israel maintained, most of the Palestinians who were killed in the fighting were terrorists and not bystanders. 522
Goldstone also takes the UN Human Rights Council to task, noting that its original mandate was "skewed against Israel." He said he "hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the UN Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted." 523
Goldstone also now rightfully focuses his criticism on Hamas. "That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza," Goldstone writes, "in no way minimizes their criminality." 524 He added that Hamas' actions during the conflict were intentional and "purposefully indiscriminate" and he excoriates them for failing to investigate any of the war crimes accusations. By contrast, Goldstone acknowledged that Israel has "dedicated significant resources to investigate" allegations of misconduct.
Though long overdue, Goldstone's retraction is timely because Hamas has resumed rocket attacks on Israeli civilians and Israel may again be forced to reengage Hamas to defend its citizens. Nevertheless, the damage caused to Israel by the Goldstone Report is incalculable. Public protests, university forums and official declarations have used the "evidence" released in the report to smear Israel and its brave soldiers. Unfortunately, renouncing his report will not stem the tide of anti-Israel propaganda based on its mendacious claims. Goldstone nevertheless has an obligation to go to all the forums where his report was misused and set the record straight. As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, the United States should demand that the Goldstone Report be denounced as a sham and erased from the record.
"We always said that the IDF was a moral army that acted according to international law. Judge Goldstone needs to publish his present conclusions before all international bodies where he published his distorted report ... It is unfortunate that it took Goldstone such a long time to change his mind, but its better late than never."
- Ehud Barak, Israeli Defense Minister 526
517 Richard Goldstone, "Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes", Washington Post, (April 1, 2011).
519 Editorial, "Mr. Goldstone Recants", Wall Street Journal, (April 5, 2011).
520 Richard Goldstone, "Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes", Washington Post, (April 1, 2011).
521 Colonel Richard Kemp, "Goldstone Gaza Report", UN Watch, (October 16, 2009).
522 David Harris, "Hamas Admits Up to 700 Fighters Killed in Operation Cast Lead", The Israel Project, (November 1, 2010).
523 Richard Goldstone, "Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes", Washington Post, (April 1, 2011).
526 Haaretz Service, "Barak: Goldstone should retract Gaza report in International Forum", Haaretz, (April 3, 2011).