Richard Goldstone’s sad and cautionary tale is all over this newspaper. For a judge, he was shockingly injudicious and naÃ¯ve for even undertaking the so-called fact-finding mission to investigate alleged war crimes during the 2008-09 Israeli incursion into Gaza. The “facts” he “found” resulted in the report that – to his eternal disgrace – bears his name and darkened Israel’s image and perhaps even its future.
One fact, however, is certainly true: that it emanated from the inaptly named U.N. Human Rights Council – which includes such high-profile human-rights abusers as Saudi Arabia, China, and Cuba – should have warned him off. And another: that Israel would not cooperate with his investigation – which may have been an error on the government’s part – should have led him to recognize that any report would be, perforce, unreliable.
Now, of course, he has recanted parts of the report, writing in an April 1 op-ed in the Washington Post, “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
The report, he wrote, “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.”
Meanwhile, he continued, 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.”
He noted, as well, that the “final report by the U.N. committee of independent experts â€¦ 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.'”
“In the end,” he wrote, “asking Hamas to investigate may have been a mistaken enterprise. So, too, the Human Rights Council should condemn the inexcusable and cold-blooded recent slaughter of a young Israeli couple and three of their small children in their beds.”
We’d like to see that, too – and the retraction of the ill-advised report. But somehow we think they are not going to happen.