By Richard Irvine
A year and a half ago Judge Richard Goldstone presented the findings of his Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict. Conveniently forgetting his condemnation of Hamas rocket fire opponents and supporters alike focused instead upon the Report’s accusations towards Israel: disproportionate use of violence; intentional targeting of civilians; terrorising the people of Gaza as a whole; war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.
Amongst pro-Israeli supporters Goldstone immediately became a pariah, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz going as far as to call the Report “a defamation written by an evil, evil man;" other detractors went on to dredge up his record as a judge under Apartheid in an attempt to discredit him whilst Spectator columnist Melanie Phillips went so far as to call the Report “a blood libel against Israel.” Yet Judge Goldstone, partly because of his Jewish background, his support for Zionism and his record as Chief Prosecutor under the International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, appeared untouchable.
Indeed Judge Goldstone remained remarkably aloof to it all, merely commenting upon his detractors, “It would have been hypocritical for me not to speak out about Israeli violations of international law simply because I am Jewish. I only wish that the energy that the government of Israel and its supporters had put into discrediting the report had been invested in cooperating with our mission.”
That was until last Friday, then in a reversal of fortune which has former opponents jumping with glee and previous supporters shaking their heads with disbelief, Judge Goldstone announced his report was wrong. Writing in The Washington Post he declared that, “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
Expanding further he then withdrew one of the Report’s main findings, that Israel deliberately targeted civilians; and in light of subsequent Israeli investigations he now concludes “that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.” Indeed, his opinion piece makes uncomfortable reading for pro-Palestinian supporters, for whilst he praises Israel for dedicating “significant resources” to investigate alleged operational misconduct, he slams the Hamas government for doing nothing and for continuing to fire rockets. Then for good measure he finishes by denouncing the UN Human Rights Council for its “history of bias against Israel.”
In Israel these revelations have been greeted as the vindication of the righteous. Foreign Minister Liebermann has declared that he had no doubt "the truth would eventually come out," whilst Prime Minister Netanyahu has now called for the whole Report to be scrapped, asserting, "Everything that we said proved to be true. Israel did not intentionally target civilians and it has proper investigatory bodies. In contrast, Hamas intentionally directed strikes toward innocent civilians and did not conduct any kind of probe."
Whatever way one reads it, this is a major propaganda defeat for the Palestinian side. But more than that it may also be a huge defeat for justice.
Amongst the swelling clamour of outraged vindication that is sure to follow over the next few days and weeks, surely Judge Goldstone’s comments leave more room for doubt than certainty. Does he for example now mean that the whole report should be scrapped, or only part of it? Is the perhaps most serious allegation of the whole report, that Israeli policies of depriving Palestinians in Gaza of “means of sustenance, employment, housing and water… freedom of movement… and effective remedies… [which] could amount to persecution, a crime against humanity” also now invalid?
Without doubt the Goldstone Report is now dead, but if Judge Goldstone wishes to prevent its corpse being paraded in defense of policies the International Committee of the Red Cross has condemned as collective punishment and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, Judge Goldstone needs to speak again and clarify what aspects of his Report he still stands by and which he now refutes.
– Richard Irvine is based in Belfast, Ireland. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.