April 02, 2011

Reconsidering Goldstone?

Judge Richard Goldstone produced a report on Israel's "cast lead" attack on Gaza back in 2008/9.  Here's a small piece from the Washington Post:
In a 574-page report, the four-member panel accused Israel of targeting civilians in mosques and schools, as well as destroying crops and factories, including the only flour factory in Gaza City. The panel also said Israeli soldiers blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinian civilians and, at gunpoint, used them as human shields to enter unsecured homes.


"There is strong evidence to establish that numerous serious violations of international law . . . were committed by the Israel Defense Forces," Goldstone said at a news conference in New York. "The mission concluded that actions amounting to war crimes and possibly in some respect crimes against humanity were committed by the Israel Defense Forces."
Goldstone said there was no question that the Palestinian firing of missiles and mortar shells into Israel "was deliberate and calculated to cause loss of life and injury to civilians and damage to civilian infrastructure." The mission "found that these actions also amounted to serious war crimes and also possibly crimes against humanity."
Now, writing in the same Washington Post Judge Goldstone has had a change of view:
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.
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.”

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.

For example, the most serious attack the Goldstone Report focused on was the killing of some 29 members of the al-Simouni family in their home. The shelling of the home was apparently the consequence of an Israeli commander’s erroneous interpretation of a drone image, and an Israeli officer is under investigation for having ordered the attack. While the length of this investigation is frustrating, it appears that an appropriate process is underway, and I am confident that if the officer is found to have been negligent, Israel will respond accordingly.
So the worse that Goldstone is now accusing Israel of is "negligence" and he is confident that Israel will "respond accordingly" if it finds that negligence was indeed the case. But what negligence could have led to "Israeli soldiers blindfold[ing] and handcuff[ing] Palestinian civilians and, at gunpoint, us[ing] them as human shields to enter unsecured homes"?

Well I'm sure we'll find out as soon as Israel "responds accordingly".

UPDATE: The date of the Washington Post article by Goldstone is April 1st.  Could it be an April fool?  I don't think it can be because it is in the name of Richard Goldstone himself.  Goldstone wouldn't joke about something that nearly cost him his place at his grandson's bar mitzvah and surely the Washington Post wouldn't take in vain the name of so august a personage as Judge Goldstone.  Nope, I don't think it can be an April fool but it is bizarre.  The only example he gives of something he described as an Israeli war crime is now explained away by Israeli negligence.  And yet examples of crimes in the report of the report that he linked to cannot possibly have been negligence.  Goldstone's about turn is bizarre but I don't think it's a joke.  I will however keep in mind the possibility that someone thought it might make a funny April fool.

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