Richard Goldstone, an esteemed South African jurist who led the panel of experts that spent months examining the Gaza war, wrote in an opinion article in The Washington Post that Israeli investigations into the conflict “indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”Never mind that Goldstone's claims were easily rebutted by the factual evidence within hours of those incidents, but Goldstone put politics ahead of the facts and that adversely affected Israel and its ability to defend itself from ongoing terror attacks emanating from Gaza.
“If I had known then what I know now,” he wrote, “the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
His article, which was posted on The Post’s Web site on Friday night, follows a report submitted two weeks ago by a committee of independent experts led by Mary McGowan Davis, a former New York judge, that said that Hamas had not conducted any internal investigations of its own but that Israel had devoted considerable resources in looking into more than 400 accusations of misconduct.
Mr. Goldstone’s article fell like a bomb in Israel, where many people considered the 2009 publication of the Goldstone report as one of the most harmful events in recent years. It was viewed as offering spurious justification for damaging accusations, which Israelis considered to be part of a campaign to delegitimize the state and label it as a war criminal.
“We face three major strategic challenges,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last year, “the Iranian nuclear program, rockets aimed at our citizens and Goldstone.”
On Saturday night, Mr. Netanyahu called on the United Nations to retract the entire Goldstone report. “Everything we said has proven to be true,” he said. “Israel did not intentionally harm civilians. Its institutions and investigative bodies are worthy, while Hamas intentionally fired upon innocent civilians and did not examine anything.”
“The fact that Goldstone backtracked,” Mr. Netanyahu added, “must lead to the shelving of this report once and for all.” The Goldstone report documented numerous examples of the mistreatment of Palestinian civilians by Israeli soldiers, and he did not back away from those findings in his article in The Washington Post.
Efforts to reach Mr. Goldstone by telephone and e-mail on Saturday were unsuccessful. Farhan Haq, a deputy spokesman for the United Nations, said it was up to member nations to decide whether to re-evaluate the report.
Hamas used human shields and purposefully fought from civilian areas in order to attack Israel. Those civilians killed in the fighting are the result of actions by Hamas, not Israel. Goldstone claimed that Israel purposefully targeted civilians, which was simply false.
Months after the fighting ended, even Hamas officials conceded that the overwhelming majority of those killed in the fighting were terrorists.
And Israel carried out military judicial proceedings against some of its soldiers for actions as varied as possibly misreading drone imagery to authorize an airstrike that killed 29 members of a family and the extrajudicial shooting of civilians.
The retraction comes as a backdrop to renewed terror attacks from Gaza - dozens of rockets and mortars fired at Israel and Israel redoubling efforts to go after terrorists in Gaza. Hamas is once again threatening massive reprisals for Israel defending itself - from Hamas terror attacks.