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Saturday, April 02, 2011

Goldstone starts to find his conscience

Shavua tov, a good week to everyone. This is the first post I am doing live on Saturday night - the previous one was prepared before the Sabbath as was the next one.

In an article published in Saturday's Washington Post - about a year and a half too late - South African Judge Richard Goldstone starts to walk back some of the horrific lies he told about the Israel Defense Forces in the infamous report that bears his name (more comments from Memeorandum here). He still criticizes Israel for not cooperating with him - as if it would have helped. But the findings of a UN Commission that Israel is conducting real investigations into incidents that took place during Operation Cast Lead have forced Goldstone to backtrack.

Israel Radio report that in response, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has stated that the Goldstone Report should be tossed into the trashbin of history, citing the absurdity that the United Nations 'Human Rights Commission,' in which Libya was an honored member, having commissioned the Goldstone Report.

Here's part of Goldstone's article with my comments appended. In a word, it's too little, too late.
The final report by the U.N. committee of independent experts — chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis — that followed up on the recommendations of the Goldstone Report has found that “Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza” while “the de facto authorities (i.e., Hamas) have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.”

Our report found evidence of potential war crimes and “possibly crimes against humanity” by both Israel and Hamas. That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying — its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.
Funny, I don't recall any acknowledgment in the Goldstone Report like that. Maybe it was there, but it sure wasn't emphasized.
The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.
'Intent' is not a default state in criminal law. 'Intent' requires mens rea (bad intentions). It must always be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and can never be assumed. Sometimes, people do something that is so reckless (like shoot a missile in an unprovoked manner into a civilian area) that it leaves no doubt about intent. But those instances are rare. The bottom line is that Israel does not, as a matter of policy, target innocent civilians. Even Goldstone has now been forced to admit that.
For example, the most serious attack the Goldstone Report focused on was the killing of some 29 members of the al-Simouni family in their home. The shelling of the home was apparently the consequence of an Israeli commander’s erroneous interpretation of a drone image, and an Israeli officer is under investigation for having ordered the attack. While the length of this investigation is frustrating, it appears that an appropriate process is underway, and I am confident that if the officer is found to have been negligent, Israel will respond accordingly.
Real investigations in which the accused have a chance to defend themselves take time. Goldstone didn't conduct an investigation. He conducted a smear job.
Although the Israeli evidence that has emerged since publication of our report doesn’t negate the tragic loss of civilian life, I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.
Goldstone was offered that evidence by unofficial bodies. It was not offered by the Israeli government because the Israeli government was not going to cooperate in an 'investigation' in which all three 'investigators' had condemned Israel before they were ever appointed to the panel. But the information was offered to him by unofficial sources (like Noam Bedein of the Sderot Media Center - whose testimony Goldstone slept through). In fact, had Israel cooperated with Goldstone, it is highly unlikely that the McGowan Davis Commission would ever have been appointed. After all, why would it have been necessary? And that was the best of reason of all for Israel not to cooperate with Goldstone.

As to the question of what might have influenced Goldstone and his commission, if the man had one ounce of integrity, he would have reconvened his commission and repudiated its findings seventeen months ago, after Dore Gold mopped the floor at Brandeis with him. But Goldstone continued to defend his 'findings' since that debate, refused to debate others, and even attempted to defend his 'findings' on Capitol Hill with the help of J Street.
Israel’s lack of cooperation with our investigation meant that we were not able to corroborate how many Gazans killed were civilians and how many were combatants. The Israeli military’s numbers have turned out to be similar to those recently furnished by Hamas (although Hamas may have reason to inflate the number of its combatants).
So Goldstone took Hamas' numbers instead. No, not the ones to which he now refers. The earlier numbers which claimed Israel killed mostly civilians. In November 2010, Hamas admitted (in effect) that Israel's numbers were accurate. In the five months since then, Goldstone has not previously spoken out.
As I indicated from the very beginning, I would have welcomed Israel’s cooperation. The purpose of the Goldstone Report was never to prove a foregone conclusion against Israel. I insisted on changing the original mandate adopted by the Human Rights Council, which was skewed against Israel.
And for the umpteenth time, he did not change the mandate and could not have done so on his own. The mandate was never legally changed.
Some have charged that the process we followed did not live up to judicial standards. To be clear: Our mission was in no way a judicial or even quasi-judicial proceeding.
Then why did his report have a section called "findings of fact and conclusions of law?" Only judicial processes purport to make "findings of fact and conclusions of law."
Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations.
Yeah, right. Go here to see how well thought out that was. Watch the video and see him criticize Israel for not doing enough and then watch what he says when they ask if he really expects Hamas to investigate. He's so disingenuous it reeks.

Read the whole thing if you can stand it. Like the Page 1 headline that is corrected on Page 18 a week later, it's too little, too late to undo the damage. We will not forgive and we will not forget Richard Goldstone.

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At 7:48 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Richard Goldstone is a despicable worm of a little man.

Now he says he's sorry?

Where does the State Of Israel go to get its reputation back?

If he had integrity in the first place, he would have never chaired that panel.

The horse fled the barn. His mea culpa comes as too little, too late.


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