The Goldstone Saga

By Iqbal Jassat – Pretoria

It’s certainly turning out to be a farce. And one wonders whether a highly experienced jurist such as Judge Richard Goldstone underestimated the potential of his Washington Post op-ed turning into an embarrassing saga, not only for himself, but also for his beloved Israel?

Since the publication of his controversial op-ed wherein he expressed misgivings about the central finding of the UN Human Rights Council probe on the Gaza massacre of 2008-9 named after him as “The Goldstone Report”, media has been awash with new – and not so new – accounts of Operation Cast Lead.

And as the saga unfolds there is a rush to claim credit for Goldstone’s apparent about turn. From South Africa groups that operate as pro-Israeli fronts have staked their claim too. Avrom Krengel of the SA Zionist Federation is quoted as saying that the “Jewish lobby” in South Africa be credited for Goldstone’s reversal.

On the other hand, Israeli leaders such as the extreme right winger Lieberman who heads the apartheid regime’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims that it was due to pressure exerted by him and his colleagues especially from Military Intelligence that got Goldstone to crack.

In the midst of these claimants seeking accolades for subjecting the internationally renowned war crimes prosecutor to having “suffered greatly, especially in the city he comes from” and that “made him…regret his remarks” as Krengel is quoted, Goldstone is now caught in a new spat with Israel.

In an interview with Associated Press, Goldstone has been at pains to deny Israeli claims that he will nullify the “Goldstone Report”. This follows claims attributed to Interior Minister Eli Yishai who said that Goldstone had undertaken to do so. This spat is equally farcical for it reveals how Goldstone’s revised view has now turned him being used as a useful idiot and pawn in Israel’s vicious campaign to escape the full might of International Law for the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Israel’s hasty embrace of Goldstone’s reconsideration and their overwhelming emphasis on him backing away from allegations of “intentionality” betrays their real intent: to be saved from the Hague’s hangmen!

This is borne out by the disgraceful contempt for UN processes by the US envoy Susan Rice. Her view encapsulates the mood in the Obama administration as spurred on by the Netanyahu regime. She told a congressional hearing that she wants the report to “disappear” and no longer be a subject of “discussion and debate” in the Human Rights Council or the General Assembly and “beyond”.

While Rice’s outrageous remarks display an amazing disregard for institutions within the United Nations, it is becoming clear that collusion between Israel and America seeks to persuade the UN to cancel the Goldstone Report.

Unfortunately for Israel the revised view of Goldstone is not going entirely their way as they had hoped. Apart from rekindling a fresh debate on Israeli culpability during Operation Cast Lead, Israel would have hoped that the Washington Post op-ed did not leave any room for ambiguity. For instance Goldstone talks about “probably” – which is a euphemism for uncertainty in regard to “intentionality”!

He also concedes that concerns reflected in the McGowan Davis report reveal that “few of Israel’s inquiries have been concluded” and proceedings were not held in a “public forum” thus not transparent and hence in violation of recommendations in the Goldstone Report!

Crucially too, Goldstone has not disavowed the view that Israel violated laws of war in using white phosphorus and heavy artillery in densely populated Palestinian refugee camps reminds Nimer Sultany, a civil rights attorney in Israel in an op-ed in the Boston Globe.

Sultany thus warns that Goldstone’s silence on it allows views advocated by Israel to take hold. It is as unfair as the rest of the distortions now being exploited by Israel to hide behind vagueness. Its not surprising therefore to read the analysis of this farce by Prof John Dugard, who emphatically asserts that there are no new facts which exonerate Israel and which could possibly have led Goldstone to change his mind!

Dugard’s opinion of Goldstone’s op-ed leads him to conclude that it makes “strange reading” and by suggesting that the indiscriminate bombing and shooting of Palestinians in Gaza by the IDF, which resulted in nearly a thousand civilian deaths, was not “intentional” is a “mystery” for the former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Israel’s euphoria may be short lived despite the excitement generated by his “ill-considered” op-ed. As Dugard reminds us, Goldstone is a former judge and knows full well that a Fact Finding Report by four persons, of which he was only one, like the judgement of a court of law, cannot be changed by the subsequent reflections of a single member of the committee.

Indeed this can only be done by the full committee itself with the approval of the body that established the Fact Finding Mission – the UN Human Rights Council. And this is highly unlikely in view of the fact that the three other members of the Committee – Prof Christine Chinkin of the LSE, Ms Hina Jilani, an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Colonel Desmond Travers, formerly an officer in the Irish Defence Force – have indicated that they do not share Goldstone’s misgivings.

– Iqbal Jassat is the chairperson of Media Review Network, Pretoria – South Africa. He contributed this article to Visit:

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