A few days ago, Judge Goldstone wrote an Op-Ed in the Washington Post.
The piece begins by backtracking earlier claims concerning whether or not it is Israeli policy to target civilians. Or should I say, by suggesting that it is NOT. Indeed, this is the main flavour of the article.
“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. The purpose of these investigations, as I have always said, is to ensure accountability for improper actions, not to second-guess, with the benefit of hindsight, commanders making difficult battlefield decisions.”
Goldstone is suggesting that, the team’s findings offered no solid evidence to suggest that it is Israeli Policy to target civilians, and it is better, instead to take the word of investigations being undertaken by the actual defendant. In this case, the Israeli military.
He does mention how difficult the Israeli Government and Military made the UN Investigation, yet does not explore this further. By this I mean, he doesn’t question the validity of the Israeli investigations based on the fact that they were completely uncooperative with the International Investigation from the get go. How disinterested can it really appear to be? Consider; the Israeli Military is under investigation by an International Body. The Israeli Military refuses to comply. The Israeli Military then says it will investigate itself.
Does anyone remember the Turkel Committee? The investigation into the Gaza Flotilla Massacre, headed by a man who didn’t believe it should exist, including a retired Israeli General with countless links to the military, who personally castrated an Arab man. And for the sake of impartiality, observed by one of the co-founders (David Trimble) of “Friends of Israel”. Again, this commission was set up following a UN proposal for an International Probe and subsequent refusal by Israel. It’s not hard to imagine what the commission concluded.
My point being, that this is eerily similar to the flotilla probe. Only, in this case, the Head of the International Investigation has, in a way, endorsed the not-yet-found findings of the Israeli Inquiry.
Israeli Proffessor of Political Science, Illan Pappe suggests that this backflip was a result of a campaign of continuous pressure and character assassination, to which Goldstone eventually gave way.
It is important to remember that while Goldstone was appointed to head the commission, there were also 3 other appointed members; Professor Christine Chinkin, Professor of International Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Ms. Hina Jilani, Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and former Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders and Colonel Desmond Travers, a former Officer in Ireland’s Defence Forces and member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations.
Ms Jilani had this to say about the Op-Ed:
“…no process or acceptable procedure would invalidate the UN Report; if it does happen, it would be seen as a ‘suspect move”.
“Looking ahead, she insisted the Report ‘is and remains an important report.’ She added that the UN Security Council now needs to investigate further to see how both parties – Israel and Hamas – have violated international law: ‘The UN cannot allow impunity to remain,’ she stressed, ‘and will have to act if it wants to remain a credible international governing body.’”
Consider the following analysis from Lizzy Ratner and Adam Horowitz. The pair recently co-edited an abridged version of the Goldstone Report: “The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict.”
The interview brings to light the kind of obstacles that Israel put in the UN’s way during the investigation. It also brings to light how Israel is trying to use the small Op-Ed to try to pressure the UN to retract the report in its entirety. Ratner points out that Goldstone seems a lot more convinced about the legitimacy of Israeli Investigations than the Committe of Experts’ Report that he refers to in the Op-Ed.