Goldstone’s co-authors reject his change of heart

Three mission members say they stood firmly behind their work, reject calls for retraction; J'lem: We had low expectations, they were met.

Judge Richard Goldstone 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Judge Richard Goldstone 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
Three co-authors of the Goldstone Report on Gaza said on Thursday they stood firmly behind their work and rejected recent calls to reconsider or retract the document.
“The report of the [2009] fact-finding mission contains the conclusions made after diligent, independent and objective consideration of the information related to the events within our mandate, and careful assessment of its reliability and credibility,” they said. “We firmly stand by these conclusions,” the trio wrote in a letter they published in The Guardian newspaper.
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The three mission members, attorney Hina Jilani of Pakistan, Prof. Christine Chinkin of Britain (she also holds Australian citizenship), and Col. (ret.) Desmond Travers of Ireland, spoke out after their former chairman, Judge Richard Goldstone, wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post on April 1 saying that “if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
In that piece, Goldstone wrote that the report erroneously accused Israel of intentionally targeting civilians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 and January 2009.
He also wrote that he concurred with a follow-up UN report that stated that Israel had investigated, transparently and in good faith, allegations made in the Goldstone Report, while Hamas “has done nothing.”
Israeli diplomatic officials said they were not surprised by the letter from Goldstone’s former colleagues. “We had low expectations, and they were met,” one Foreign Ministry official said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other political leaders used Goldstone’s piece in the Washington Post to call on the UN to scrap the report, even though Goldstone later told The Associated Press he had no intention of making such a request.
Still, the three members other members of his committee wrote on Thursday that they felt it was important to lay to rest any misconceptions.
They did not reference Goldstone by name in their letter. “Members of the mission, signatories to this statement, find it necessary to dispel any impression that subsequent developments have rendered any part of the mission’s report unsubstantiated, erroneous or inaccurate,” they wrote.
They noted that both the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly had endorsed the document.
“We concur in our view that there is no justification for any demand or expectation for reconsideration of the report as nothing of substance has appeared that would in any way change the context, findings or conclusions,” they wrote.
They said that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians had provided evidence that contradicted the report’s conclusions.
The two-member UN panel lead by Judge Mary McGowan Davis of the US, which monitored compliance with the Goldstone Report, had similarly not provided any information that invalidated the document, the mission members said.
They chastised both Israel and the Palestinians for failing to comply with the report’s conclusions, even as they acknowledged that the IDF had opened 400 “command inquiries” into wrongdoings, out of which 52 led to criminal investigations.
There was, however, no indication that Israel had opened an investigation into the actions of those who designed, planned and oversaw Operation Cast Lead, they said.
“In other words, one of the most serious allegations about the conduct of Israel’s military operations remains completely unaddressed,” they wrote.
“We regret that no domestic investigations at all have been started into any of the allegations of international crimes committed by members of Palestinian armed groups in Gaza which have fired thousands of rockets into southern Israel,” they said.
Since the UN Human Rights Council asked them to prepare the report in 2009, they had been pressured with regard to their work and endured personal attacks, they said.
“We consider that calls to reconsider or even retract the report... disregard the right of victims, Palestinian and Israeli, to truth and justice,” they said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Israel’s “view of the Goldstone Report, the process by which the committee was established and how the findings have been handled,” had been, and remained, very critical.
“The whole process was deeply tainted by bias, extremism and profoundly flawed methodology,” Palmor said. “And the handling of the report by the UN Human Rights Council was an extraordinary manifestation of politicized hypocrisy and bad faith.”
Palmor said Israel conducted its investigations into Operation Cast Lead on its own initiative and without the need of prompting or advice from any foreign body. “These investigations, and the transparency with which the findings were presented, are the best answer to critics wherever they are.”
The Foreign Ministry, which from the outset was opposed to high-profile statements calling for the withdrawal of the document, is continuing to work through diplomatic and legal channels to see how Goldstone’s change of mind could be leveraged to Israel’s benefit.

For instance, there are efforts to see whether it might be possible for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon, who has been mandated with issuing a follow-up report on the Goldstone Commission findings and their implementation, to recommend ending dealing with the matter.
There is no expectation, however, that the UN is about to retract the report.
Likewise, Israeli legal and diplomatic officials are using the op-ed piece in countries where there is universal jurisdiction, to show that even Goldstone recognizes that Israel is capable of investigating itself.