PA still intends to pursue Israeli ‘war crimes’ at UN, ICC

Palestinians unimpressed with Goldstone’s about-face; UN should pursue truth, “regardless of whether Goldstone changes position," PA spokesman says.

Abbas311 reuters (photo credit: reuters)
Abbas311 reuters
(photo credit: reuters)
The Palestinian Authority on Sunday said it still intends to use the Goldstone Report to push for condemnation of Israeli “war crimes” in Gaza – both at the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.
Statements in Friday’s Washington Post by South-African jurist Richard Goldstone that his report had erred when it accused Israel of intentionally targeting civilians, has not changed Palestinian opinion or strategy.
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Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said that Goldstone’s retracted findings will not change the fact that Israel had committed “war crimes and massacres in the Gaza Strip” during Israeli’s military actions in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.
Rudaineh said Goldstone’s findings were part of a UN report that is no longer dependent on his personal views.
The UN, the spokesman added, should pursue its efforts to reach the truth, “regardless of whether Goldstone changes his position, or not, as a result of unreal and known pressure.”
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which commissioned the report, endorsed it in 2009 and sent it to the General Assembly, which similarly backed the document.
Last month the UNHRC once again endorsed the report, and asked that it again be sent to the General Assembly in September and that the Security Council consider referring the situation of the “occupied Palestinian territories” to the International Criminal Court.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Saturday that the UN should shelve the report.
Diplomats told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that Israel was studying the matter, but that no strategy had been formulated with regard to preventing further UN action.
The Palestinian representative to the UN in Geneva, Ibrahim Khraishi, told the The Jerusalem Post that the fact-finding mission had finished its work, and the UN’s process was moving forward.
“This is now a matter for the General Assembly, the Security Council and the ICC,” he said.
The Palestinians believe that Israeli actions in Gaza constitute a “war crime,” and the matter should now be in the hands of the ICC investigators, he said.
Many Palestinians accused Goldstone of “surrendering to Zionist pressure and threats,” while others said that the article he published in The Washington Post does not exonerate Israel from its alleged war crimes.
PA negotiator Nabil Sha’ath said that Goldstone could not tolerate “Israeli terror” practiced against him.
“It’s regrettable to see a respected and esteemed man like Justice Goldstone being subjected to Israeli terror,” Sha’ath said.
Ghassan Khatib, spokesman for the PA government in the West Bank, claimed that Goldstone did not change his position as Israeli media is claiming.
Noting that Goldstone, in his article, blamed Israel for refusing to cooperate with his fact-finding mission, Khatib said that Israel was waging a “propaganda campaign” ahead of a UN General Assembly session to discuss the findings of the report.
Top Fatah official Nabil al-Ramlawi said Goldstone’s remarks did not carry any legal or political weight. He claimed that Goldstone had come under “horrific pressure” and death threats.
Al-Ramlawi said that the report that Goldstone is talking about belongs to the fact-finding mission that was established by the UNHRC in April 2009. He said that Goldstone alone was not authorized to change the report because there are three other members of his factfinding mission.
“The report he’s talking about has been endorsed as an official UN document that can’t be scrapped through a statement made by any person, even if he’s the head of the fact-finding mission,” the Fatah official explained.
The PLO Executive Committee said that Goldstone’s statements don’t “cancel” the report’s “big credibility, especially since it was based on testimonies and credible and tangible investigations.”
The committee warned that Goldstone’s remarks could pave the way for a new Israeli military strike in the Gaza Strip.
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi condemned Goldstone’s remarks as “disgraceful and painful.” She said that his latest statements were a “historic moral and legal scandal.”
Ashrawi also claimed that Goldstone had succumbed to Israeli “pressure and blackmail, thus destroying his reputation and credibility.”
She added that Israel’s media succeeded in their “campaign of intimidation” in the international arena.
She also cautioned that Goldstone’s statements would grant Israel a “green light” to step up its attacks on the Palestinians.
The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip said it was completely surprised by Goldstone’s article, adding that it contradicted the findings of his report.
“We care basically about the report that indicted the Zionist entity, and not the person himself,” the government said, noting that the report had been endorsed by many international bodies.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said he was surprised that Goldstone had backtracked “and was now endorsing the Zionist version.”
Abu Zuhri said that his movement had cooperated with Goldstone and his team by receiving them in the Gaza Strip at a time when Israel had refused to work with him.