U.N. officials defend report critical of Israel’s Gaza assault
Responding to an Israeli call for retraction, the principal researchers behind the United Nations’ Goldstone Report — which was highly critical of the Israeli military’s actions during the major assault on Gaza in 2008-2009 — insisted that no details have come to light that would contradict their findings.
Though critical of the Israeli government, the report also focused on Palestinian resistance group Hamas, accusing both of potential war crimes.
“In the case of the Gaza conflict, we believe that both parties held responsible in this respect, have yet to establish a convincing basis for any claims that contradict the findings of the mission’s report,” the report’s authors wrote.
South African judge Richard Goldstone has faced enormous criticism since the report was published, and he recently said that he no longer believed Israel had intentionally targeted civilians during the 22-day assault that left over 1,400 Palestinians dead and thousands more wounded.
Just 13 Israelis perished in the assault, which allegedly began as a response to home-made rocket attacks from Gaza to Jerusalem.
Goldstone wrote that his personal assessment had been changed by the fact that, whereas Israel had thoroughly investigated the concerns raised by his panel, Hamas had not.
“If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document,” he wrote in a commentary for The Washington Post.
Israeli officials have since hammered the Goldstone Report and called on the U.N. to retract the report’s findings.
However, in an ardent defense published by The Guardian on Thursday, the report’s authors did some hammering of their own.
“Many of those calling for the nullification of our report imply that the final report by the follow-up committee’s two members, Judge Mary McGowan Davis and Judge Lennart Aspergren, presented to the human rights council in March 2011, somehow contradicts the fact-finding mission’s report or invalidates it,” they wrote.
“In the light of the observations of this committee such claims are completely misplaced, and a clear distortion of their findings.”
Goldstone also said he felt the commission had exhibited a bias against Israel.
“We consider that calls to reconsider or even retract the report, as well as attempts at misrepresenting its nature and purpose, disregard the right of victims, Palestinian and Israeli, to truth and justice,” the commission members concluded. “They also ignore the responsibility of the relevant parties under international law to conduct prompt, thorough, effective and independent investigations. We regret the personal attacks and the extraordinary pressure placed on members of the fact-finding mission since we began our work in May 2009. This campaign has been clearly aimed at undermining the integrity of the report and its authors.”