Goldstone: If I Had Known Then What I Know Now…

April 3, 2011 18:34 by Alex Margolin

Judge Richard Goldstone, head of the infamous UN panel that issued the Goldstone Report in 2009, backtracked on his most serious accusations on Friday.

The Goldstone Report had accused Israel and Hamas of “actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity” during the 2008 Gaza War.

Goldstone’s about-face includes a reversal on the contentious claim that Israel intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians.

Investigations into some 400 incidents from the war, cited by another recent UN report, “indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy,” Goldstone wrote in an op-ed published in the Washington Post:

“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 starkly admitted, “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”

Despite the mea culpa, Goldstone repeated his excuse that his work was hindered by Israel’s refusal to cooperate with his investigation, conceding however, that the UN Human Rights Council, which sponsored his report, has a “history of bias against Israel [that] cannot be doubted.”

But according to Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz, commenting on Goldstone’s latest revelations, Goldstone should not have been surprised by Israel’s decision not to cooperate with his mission:

To have formally subjected itself to examination by his committee and the institutionally biased UN Human Rights Council that had formed it – a bias which Goldstone now acknowledges in his article – would merely have given his work greater purported credibility.

Notwithstanding that absent formal cooperation, however, the truth about what happened in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 – the truth that Goldstone now disingenuously claims to have discovered only after he filed his malicious indictment of the IDF and of Israel – was readily available to him at the time.

Israel did informally make the necessary information available to his committee in the shape of detailed reports on what had unfolded. And open sources, honestly evaluated, left no doubt that Hamas was the provocateur, that Hamas was deliberately placing Palestinians in harm’s way, that Hamas was lying about the proportion of combatants among the Gaza dead.

Indeed, Honestreporting first reported on the fallacies and false accusations in the Goldstone Report back in September of 2009 using information that was available to the public. HonestReporting also provided a long list of resources for countering the report, all of which drew on public sources.

Along with accusations of war crimes, Goldstone’s op-ed also puts an end to the dispute over casualty figures.

While the Goldstone Report cited civilian casualty numbers obtained from Hamas, which were considerably higher than the IDF’s figures, Goldstone now admits that “the Israeli military’s numbers have turned out to be similar to those recently furnished by Hamas (emphasis added), adding however, that Hamas may now be exaggerating the number of terrorists killed by the IDF.

Put simply, the IDF’s figures were correct all along.

But it remains to be seen if  the media recognizes that the commonly quoted numbers of “1,400 dead, including mostly civilians” – cited by the Goldstone Report – are inaccurate. The caption for the following image, taken from BBC’s coverage of Goldstone’s revelations, shows that the Beeb has yet to assimilate the new information.

In an exclusive comment to HonestReporting, Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, called on the UN to take decisive action in light of Goldstone’s revelations.

Now that the core finding of the Goldstone Report has been discredited by its author, the norms of international law, ethics, and morality require Judge Goldstone to urgently request the UN Human Rights Council to convene a special session to officially repudiate the report and halt its ongoing proceedings to implement it.

An op-ed is not enough.  Goldstone must officially inform all other bodies which received his false report: the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly, the International Criminal Court, and all the 192 UN member states which — based on his recommendations — were officially asked by the world body to open criminal prosecutions of Israeli leaders and officers.

Goldstone must also write to the Swiss government to call off their effort, based on the Goldstone Report, to convene an international conference of the Geneva Convention signatories to condemn Israel.  Goldstone will never be able to undo the poisonous anti-Israel libel that he spread around the globe, but as a judge we call on him to do the bare minimum that legal ethics and common sense require.

While most of the mainstream media has covered the story, two of Goldstone’s biggest cheerleaders , The Guardian and The Independent have yet to report on the about-face. In particular, The Guardian’s over-reporting of Israel —  as expressed by this map produced by British Views of the World (read more background and signficance) – behooves the paper to follow through.

Goldstone’s commentary was published on Friday, and yet as we go to press, neither paper has picked up on the story.

It is impossible to know exactly what prompted Goldstone to reverse his positions at this time. But one thing is certain: it couldn’t have happened without the many people who refused to accept the Goldstone Report’s false conclusions and continued to fight in the public arena. Everyone who spoke out against the report deserves a share in the credit for bringing the truth to the surface, however delayed.

The fight, however, is far from over. The Goldstone Report has caused great damage since its publication nearly two years ago. It is now up to the media to promote the truth about the Gaza war with the same intensity it promoted the conclusions of the Goldstone Report. And it is up to all of us to hold the media to account to ensure the truth is revealed.


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