Alan Baker 58.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Over the past few days, Israel has witnessed a unique and unexpected turn of
events, with Judge Richard Goldstone’s volte face in admitting, after more than
two years of bitter accusations and immeasurable damage to Israel’s reputation,
he is now convinced it did not commit war crimes in the Gaza war of 2008-9, and
did not systematically and intentionally target the Palestinian population. “If
I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a
different document,” he admitted in his oped piece in The Washington Post on
Israel’s political leaders, government ministers and Knesset
members, former ambassadors to the UN and batteries of professors, legal
advisers, experts and others have been publicly bathing in a wave of shock and
indignation. If indeed Goldstone has finally come out of the closet and admitted
that his UN ‘fact-finding’ committee was misguided and wrong, that he misjudged
Israel and gave unmerited credit to Hamas, why now, after so much damage has
What is the use of admitting this now, when the disastrous
misperception and blood libel as to perceived war crimes has become a staple of
the international community’s menu? Why now, when the genie is long out of the
bottle and the international hate-fest is in full swing?
We could torment
ourselves by asking whether, had Israel cooperated with Goldstone to begin with,
the outcome would have been different, despite the blatantly biased mandate of
the committee as dictated by the UN Human Rights Council, and despite members of
the committee being on record as openly hostile?
THE QUESTION raised by senior
Israeli political figures as to whether it is possible to have the Goldstone
Report revoked, and thereby place the genie back in the bottle, touches on legal
and political UN issues .
The answer is similar to the infamous
“Zionism=racism” resolution adopted by the General Assembly in November 1975
(Resolution 3379). That resolution was, in fact, never revoked, because there is
no mechanism for revoking UN resolutions.
Nonetheless, its content was
emptied of all substance by a further resolution (46/86) in 1991.
should be the way to proceed to revoke the dangerous content of the Goldstone
Goldstone’s choice of The Washington Post as the forum in which
to explain his about-face, and to admit that his assumptions and allegations
were without basis, while certainly publicly important, is unfortunately not
In the UN milieu of formal resolutions of the Human Rights
Council and General Assembly, and official mandates of factfinding and
independent experts’ committees, any such admission by the chairman of the
Goldstone fact-finding mission must be formally presented to the UN – the only
forum with the authority to revoke the contents of the report.
Goldstone sincerely regrets his report and the damage it has caused, the only
way to minimize such damage would be to formally address his message to the
secretarygeneral and to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. This would
involve an appearance before the Human Rights Council which commissioned and
mandated his report, and before the General Assembly, which endorsed it, as well
as a meeting with the secretary-general, who has recently voiced considerable
criticism of Israel.
Since both bodies, in their resolutions on the
Goldstone Report, demand progress reports by Israel and the Palestinians on its
implementation, such a formal presentation by Goldstone would have to be
recorded by the secretary-general and the High Commissioner for Human
On the strength of such reports, both the Human Rights Council
and the General Assembly would then have to adopt resolutions revoking the
content of their earlier resolutions, made on the strength of Goldstone’s
This somewhat procedural exercise is easier said than done.
Even after the recent report by the UN committee of experts as to Israel’s
compliance with international humanitarian norms, upon which Goldstone based his
article, the infamous Human Rights Council, in its latest resolution of March 24
(less than two weeks ago), nevertheless condemned Israel’s “noncooperation” and
reiterated its demand that the Goldstone Report be submitted to the Security
Council and then to the International Criminal Court. This resolution was
introduced by such paragons of international virtue as Palestine, Pakistan,
Cuba, Iraq and Venezuela.
Ultimately, this entire exercise, as
devastating as it has been for Israel’s good name, has shown the Human Rights
Council in its true light – as a morally bankrupt and useless organ, easily
manipulated by states and shaming the entire UN framework.
It is high
time the UN take a good look at itself. Is it really fulfilling its mandate as
set out in its charter? The writer, a former legal adviser to the Foreign
Ministry and ambassador to Canada, is a partner in the law firm of Moshe,
Bloomfield, Kobo, Baker & Co. and director of the Institute for Contemporary
Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.