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(photo credit: AP [file])
In a first quick review, the 575-page report of the Goldstone mission seems as bad as or worse than was expected - the critics who warned of a "kangaroo court" created to find Israel guilty will claim that they were correct.
Goldstone's press conference in New York on Tuesday and the report's recommendations constitute another step in the Durban strategy, in which the language of human rights and international law are misused as weapons in the political war to isolate and demonize Israel.
The tenor of the document, the "balance" between charges of war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas, and the effort to involve the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court all constitute a frontal attack against Israel. As a result, the damage may not stop with the publication of this report, and the Israeli government is faced with a serious and difficult strategic challenge in demonstrating that the committee and its membership were fundamentally flawed from the beginning.
But when the report is examined in detail, a number of basic errors are likely to emerge - perhaps enough to expose the entire process as invalid and morally tainted.
The evidence, as Goldstone stated, was based almost entirely on unverifiable Palestinian claims and publications from politicized pro-Palestinian NGOs - the report cites B'Tselem and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights more than 70 times each, Al-Haq allegations get more than 30 mentions, and there are many more NGO co-authors.
Human Rights Watch is referenced 33 times, including the "Rain of Fire" report co-authored by Marc Garlasco. He was HRW's "senior military expert" (until suspended on Monday after the exposure of his Nazi-memorabilia fetish), but his analyses are tainted by false claims and speculation masquerading as expertise. Goldstone's long association with HRW essentially means that in this report, he is quoting his own highly problematic organization.
More generally, the methodology used in the 36 incidents examined by the committee will give critics of the report and the commission the strongest basis for rejecting its conclusions.
At the same time, Goldstone's report is full of statements of "fact" that defy belief and come without any evidentiary source. For instance, contrary to numerous contemporary reports in media outlets like The New York Times, the report denies, without citing any of the evidence, that Hamas fighters dressed in civilian clothing hid in hospital facilities and used ambulances to transport combatants and for other military purposes.
Even more shockingly, the Goldstone report repeatedly accuses Israel of violating international law by committing acts of terror, while it refrains from directly accusing Hamas of violating those laws. Worse, the report never even admits that Hamas is a terrorist organization.
If this were a real court process, and not a faÃ§ade based on a political mandate from the inherently biased United Nations Human Rights Council, both Goldstone and Prof. Christine Chinkin would have been disqualified from participating. As UN Watch noted in its 28-page legal brief to the UN, Chinkin's bias was reflected in statements that "categorically rejected" Israel's right to self-defense against rocket attacks from Gaza and accused Israel of "aggression" and "prima facie war crimes." But without any due process, this brief was simply dismissed.
In parallel, the choice of Goldstone was seen as an insurance policy against charges of anti-Semitism. Indeed, when the issue came up at the press conference in New York, Goldstone invoked his Jewish background and his involvement with Israel as a defense. He expressed sadness over Israel's being found (at least by his committee and its allies) to have committed war crimes.
Near the end of his statement, Goldstone told his audience that they should "rejoice that we are living in a world today in which there is accountability for war crimes."
Sadly, the rejoicing will come from exactly those quarters that fear true accountability. The Hamas leadership and its supporters, including the Iranian regime, will gladly accept the result, but few Israelis or fair-minded individuals will view this mission, its report or its recommendations as having provided accountability or restored the morality of the United Nations.
Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg heads NGO Monitor and is on the political science faculty of Bar-Ilan University.
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