Richard Goldstone, the leader of a United Nations panel that investigated Israel’s Operation Cast Lead into Gaza two years ago, has retracted the central and most explosive assertion of his final report – that Israel intentionally killed Palestinian civilians.
“That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying – its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets,” Goldstone wrote in an article posted on the Washington Post‘s website late Friday evening. However, Israeli investigations into the operation, he added, “indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”
Judge Richard Goldstone
“If I had known then what I know now,” he wrote, “the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.” Goldstone’s article also noted that while Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate its conduct during the operation, Hamas has not carried out any investigations into attacks from Gaza against Israel. Moreover, he criticized the UN Human Rights Council, writing that the council’s “history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.”
Israel understandably feels a sense of vindication right now. In a statement on Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “The fact that Goldstone has backtracked means the report should be buried once and for all.” Unsurprisingly, Goldstone’s article finally gave the Palestinian parties something to agree on, with both Hamas and Fatah condemning it.
The damage that the Goldstone Report caused Israel cannot be underestimated. Because of it, a British court issued an arrest warrant in 2009 for Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister, over war crimes and Israel has experienced increasing levels of international criticism for actions it carries out in self defense, such as during last summer’s Gaza flotilla incident. Indeed, Goldstone’s article in the Washington Post is not enough to exonerate the judge; he must now put in a formal request with the UN to withdraw and repeal the false document.