Israeli spin on Goldstone Op-Ed doesn’t hold up

It is dizzying to watch the Israeli government and its supporters spin the substance of Judge Richard Goldstone’s column in the Washington Post yesterday.  A closer look at the column, and the Goldstone report itself, shows that the propaganda being churned out by the Netanyahu government is self-serving, misleading and patently false.

Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, thinks that Goldstone should retract the entire report.  Likewise, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to launch an “international campaign to persuade the United Nations to retract the Goldstone Commission’s damning report,” according to Haaretz. Noah Pollak, the executive director of the neoconservative Emergency Committee for Israel, writes on Twitter that Goldstone has “retracted much of his report.”  Jonathan Tobin at Commentary comments that “the former judge admitted that his report was wrong.”

These claims don’t come anywhere close to what Judge Goldstone actually wrote in his column.  The main point of recantation occurs when Goldstone writes (my emphasis):

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.

The Israeli military investigations have led Goldstone to say that “if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”

So yes, Goldstone’s Op-Ed in the Post recants a central, and damning, claim that his report made:  that “Israeli armed forces had carried out direct intentional strikes against civilians” in incidents examined in detail by his team.  But nowhere in his column does he imply that his entire report should be refuted–exactly the claim Israel’s propagandists are now making.

The full scope of his report is no less damning then the “intentionality” allegation Goldstone is now backtracking on.  Here are some of the most important findings in the U.N. report that Goldstone did not recant:

-The aim of the destruction of the el-Bader flour mill was to “destroy the local capacity to produce flour…From the facts ascertained by it, the Mission finds that the destruction of the mill was carried out for the purpose of denying sustenance to the civilian population, which is a violation of customary international law as reflected in article 54 (2) of Additional Protocol I and may constitute a war crime” (page 199).

-The “Israeli armed forces launched direct attacks against residential houses, destroying them,” and “the conduct of the Israeli armed forces in these cases amounted to the grave breach of ‘extensive destruction… of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly’ under article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention” (pages 212, 214).

-“The systematic destruction of food production, water services and construction industries was related to the overall policy of disproportionate destruction of a significant part of Gaza’s infrastructure” (page 218).

-“The Mission finds that Messrs. Majdi Abd Rabbo, Abbas Ahmad Ibrahim Halawa, Mahmoud Abd Rabbo al-Ajrami and AD/03 were captured by the Israeli armed forces while they were in their homes, in some cases together with their families, and were then forced at gunpoint to search houses together with the Israeli armed forces. The Mission also finds on the basis of those facts that they were all subject to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment during their captivity…The Mission also finds that the intentional use as human shields of those whose accounts are presented above qualifies as inhuman treatment of and wilfully causing great suffering to protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention. As such, the Mission considers the conduct of the Israeli armed forces in relation to such persons to amount to grave breaches of the
said Convention. The use of human shields is also a war crime under article 8 (2) (b) (xxiii) of the Rome Statute” (pages 229, 232).

-“The Mission considers that the severe beatings, constant humiliating and degrading treatment and detention in foul conditions allegedly suffered by individuals in the Gaza Strip under the control of the Israelis and in detention in Israel, would constitute torture, and a grave breach under article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and a violation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Such violations also constitute war crimes” (page 249).

-“The restrictions imposed by Israel on the imports to and exports from the Gaza Strip through the border crossings as well as the naval and airspace blockade have had a severe impact on the availability and accessibility of a whole range of goods and services necessary for the people of Gaza to enjoy their human rights. Their already eroded ability to access and buy basic goods was compounded by the effects of the four-week Israeli military campaign, which further restricted access to those essential items and destroyed goods, land, facilities and infrastructure vital for the enjoyment of their fundamental rights. In conjunction, the blockade and the military hostilities have created a situation in which most people are destitute. Women and children have been particularly affected. The current situation has been described as a crisis of human dignity…

The facts ascertained by the Mission, the conditions resulting from the deliberate actions of the Israeli armed forces and the declared policies of the Israeli Government – as they were presented by its authorized representatives – with regard to the Gaza Strip before, during and after the military operation, cumulatively indicate the intention to inflict collective punishment on the people of the Gaza Strip. The Mission, therefore, finds a violation of the provisions of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention” (pages 259, 283).

Goldstone’s entire report matters deeply, and represents a thorough documentation of Israeli, and Palestinian, war crimes and the context in which they occurred.  That is why there is a desperate attempt to use Goldstone’s article as an full exoneration of the Israeli military’s conduct during the war.

For those crowing about a “refutation” of the entire report and the need for the judge to retract it, a full reading of the document is in order.

4 responses to “Israeli spin on Goldstone Op-Ed doesn’t hold up

  1. this is an old Israeli tactic. Ariel Sharon sued Newsweek over one line in their report on the slaughter of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila, Lebanon. The article claimed a Phalange leader said to Sharon there must be blood for blood or something to that affect. When Newsweek couldn’t prove this statement in a NY court, the Israelis claimed total vindication and cited the court case to prove their innocence. they are masters of the mendacious and today’s NYT headline the the Goldstone Report had been “retracted” signals what is to come.

  2. There seems little doubt that Goldstone has been under enormous pressure since the original report was published, but why wait 18 months to make a retraction of issues which were widely reported by other observers who had done thorough investigations about Israel’s brutal attack on Gaza in 2008-9 and of course ongoing ever since.
    Goldstone may have been pressured by the zionists in South Africa and the USA, and of course by the Israeli government supported by the USA, but other than death threats which most well-known opponents of the zionist apartheid regime have probably received over time, what produced this peculiar retraction seems to have been a visit to Berkeley where he was bombarded with questions from all sides.
    Even so, the explanations, retractions apologias are pathetic, and coming from a judge who previously had been highly respected, it has been a big shock for those of us who have read large portions of the report and corroborating evidence from many other groups.
    When is the world going to wake up and support the Palestinians and relieve the largest concentration camps ever known.

  3. Judge Goldstone changed his stance only because of one reason: His Family. Judge’s daughter is an avid Israeli nationalist. She pressured him to change the facts, so Israel remains blameless for war crimes and massacres — and Gaza Genocide (which was confirmed by the United Nations). It was his daughter — precisely — who pressured him to come up with this Washington Post garbage. He knows that Israel deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians, not only in the latest Gaza war, but throughout the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  4. It appears that the pro-Hamas faction now believes Goldstone has no credibility. How humiliating for Muslims.

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