Judge Richard Goldstone, who headed the UN fact-finding mission's recent investigation into the IDF's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, rejected on Sunday criticism expressed by Sderot Mayor David Buskila, stressing that the Hamas rocket fire on Israel was condemned in the report.
"We stated that the launch of rockets and mortars constituted war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity," Goldstone wrote in a letter to Buskila.
The judge added that he would be happy to visit Sderot.
Last week, Buskila wrote Goldstone an angry letter, in which he accused the members of the UN commission of intentionally ignoring the suffering of the residents of Sderot.
Sderot "suffered more than anyone from Hamas terrorists, who fired thousands of rockets, causing deaths, destruction and damage," he wrote in the letter.
"There is no atonement, no forgiveness for the blood of a young boy whose short experience of life hadn't taught him that hatred and wars exist," wrote Buskila.
The Sderot mayor went on to slam Golstone and the members of the team for failng to condemn the constant rocket and mortar shell attacks on his town.
"The world, you included, was silent. Silent in face of our children's bodies, silent in face of our children's scared eyes. Silent in face of every one of the 8,000 rockets that hit our town," Buskila wrote in his letter to Goldstone.
"Your silence was terrifying and reminiscent of things past," Buskila wrote, in an apparent reference to the Nazi era.
Earlier Sunday, Goldstone said Jews around the world should welcome the UN fact-finding mission's recent investigation into Cast Lead.
Speaking to CNN, Goldstone expressed dismay that he had been branded a "self-hating Jew, anti-Israel and anti-Zionist," following the release of the commission's report that accused the IDF of war crimes during its campaign against Gaza terrorists in December 2008-January 2009.
"There is obviously no truth in it," Goldstone told his interviewer, Fareed Zakaria, when confronted with the accusations. "I have great love for Israel and have worked for many Israeli causes. What saddens me is that Jews, whether inside or outside of Israel, think that because I am a Jew, I should not investigate Israel. That should be welcomed," Goldstone insisted.
While Goldstone said he had no immediate plans to visit Israel, he stressed that he had many friends living there that he would like to see.
Regarding the report itself, Goldstone stressed that the commission aimed to investigate the means used both by Israel and Hamas, rather than the legitimacy of the operation. He accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of "misunderstanding the basis on which we investigated," saying that "we didn't question the right [of Israel] to defend itself, we looked at the method." Goldstone said that Hamas's methods of action were examined in the same way.
The judge cited "a short timeline and scarce resources" as justification for only investigating isolated incidents. "We investigated specific incidents, we didn't find the Israeli claims to be justified.
"The attitude and policy of Israel since the election of Hamas has been to turn the screw on Gaza, the policy to make life so difficult for Gazans that they would turn their backs on Hamas, and lose support," he said.
Reiterating the report submitted to the UN, Goldstone claimed that "Infrastructure damage had no military justification at all." Specifically, he mentioned the "bulldozing of agricultural fields" as unjustified. "The only flour factory in Gaza was effectively destroyed, Israel destroyed most of egg production. [These actions had] nothing to do with firing rockets and mortars," Goldstone maintained.
Goldstone went on to mention Hamas's role in the campaign, confirming that it was guilty of "serious war crimes and crimes against humanity" by both targeting civilian areas and failing to "protect civilians."
Furthermore, Goldstone asserted that he refrained from comparing the situation between Israel and the Palestinians to other conflicts. "I don't like making comparisons." The case of Israel is not such as that of genocide in Yugoslavia, he told his interviewer. "It is also not apartheid. I don't like that comparison, there are some similarities but there are more differences."