Bill Moyers Interviews Justice Richard Goldstone About Gaza Investigations
Here’s a must see for those interested in learning more about the UN Human Rights Council’s investigation into Israel’s military incursion into Gaza, and its controversial findings: namely that both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes.
BILL MOYERS: What did you see with your own eyes when you went there [to Gaza]?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, I saw the destruction of the only flour-producing factory in Gaza. I saw fields plowed up by Israeli tank bulldozers. I saw chicken farms, for egg production, completely destroyed. Tens of thousands of chickens killed. I met with families who lost their loved ones in homes in which they were seeking shelter from the Israeli ground forces. I had to have the very emotional and difficult interviews with fathers whose little daughters were killed, whose family were killed. One family, over 21 members, killed by Israeli mortars. So, it was a very difficult investigation, which will give me nightmares for the rest of my life.
BILL MOYERS: What makes those acts war crimes, as you say?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, humanitarian law, really fundamentally is what’s known as the “principle of distinction.” It requires all people involved, commanders, troops, all people involved in making war, it requires them to distinguish between civilians and combatants. And then there’s a question-
BILL MOYERS: Combatants, right?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: -and combatants. And then there’s a question of proportionality. One can, in war, target a military target. And there can be what’s euphemistically referred to as ‘collateral damage,’ but the ‘collateral damage’ must be proportionate to the military aim. If you can take out a munitions factory in an urban area with a loss of 100 lives, or you can use a bomb twice as large and take out the same factory and kill 2000 people, the latter would be a war crime, the former wouldn’t.
BILL MOYERS: You wrote, quote, the military operation, this military operation in Gaza, was a result of the disrespect for the fundamental principle of ‘distinction’ in international humanitarian law. So in layman’s language, the distinction between what and what?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Between combatants and innocent civilians.
BILL MOYERS: And you’re saying Israel did not do that, in many of these incidents.
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: That’s correct.
BILL MOYERS: Did you find evidence that that is deliberate on their part?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, we did. We found evidence in statements made by present and former political and military leaders, who said, quite openly, that there’s going to be a disproportionate attack. They said that if rockets are going to continue, we’re going to hit back disproportionately. We’re going to punish you for doing it. And that’s not countenanced by the law of war.
BILL MOYERS: So they were doing, on the ground, what they had said earlier they intended to do.
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: That’s correct.
BILL MOYERS: -so there was intention.
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, certainly. You know, one thing one can’t say about the Israel Defense Forces is that they make too many mistakes. They’re very, a sophisticated army. And if they attack a mosque or attack a factory, and over 200 factories were bombed, there’s just no basis to ascribe that to error. That must be intentional.
BILL MOYERS: Did you find war crimes by Hamas?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Oh, indeed.
BILL MOYERS: What were they?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: We found that the firing of many thousands of rockets and mortars at a civilian population to constitute a very serious war crime. And we said possibly crimes against humanity.
BILL MOYERS: But when the terrorists, the militants, whatever one wants to call them, are known to be embedded in, as you say, those tight, complex, concentrated areas, what’s the other army to do?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: It’s for example, to launch commando actions, to get at the militants and not the innocent civilians. And there’s an element of punishment, if one looks at the attacks on the infrastructure, on the food infrastructure, one sees a pattern of attacking all of the people of Gaza, not simply the militants.
BILL MOYERS: Why do you think they bombed the infrastructure so thoroughly?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, we’ve found that the only logical reason is collective punishment against the people of Gaza for voting into power Hamas, and a form of reprisal for the rocket attacks and mortar attacks on southern Israel.
BILL MOYERS: So that would be the explanation for why, if they were interested only in stopping the bombing, they didn’t have to destroy the land.
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: No, this was a political decision, I think, and not a military one. I think they were telling the people of Gaza that if you support Hamas, this is what we’re going to do to you.
BILL MOYERS: The “Financial Times” says it is your reputation, Judge Richard Goldstone’s reputation, the Israeli government fears and not your methods. What do they have to be afraid of?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: The only thing they can be afraid of is the truth. And I think this is why they’re attacking the messenger and not the message.
BILL MOYERS: What do you hope happens now?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, I certainly hope that there’ll be sufficient drive within Israel, within the government and in the general public to force the Israeli government to set up an independent, open inquiry. And it can do it. It’s got a wonderful legal system, its got a great judicial system, its got retired judges who certainly, in my book, would earn the respect of the overwhelming number of people around the world, including the Arab world, who, if they held open, good faith inquiries, would put an end to this.
BILL MOYERS: The Israeli Cabinet this week set up a special cabinet lobbying group to urge the United States to use its veto power in the Security Council to prevent any legal action against the Israelis. What do you make of that?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, you know, that’s the sort of politics you and I were talking about, not too many minutes ago. That’s using the political route rather than the legal route.
BILL MOYERS: Our state department has come right out and said, your findings are unfair toward Israel.
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, you know, those are statements it’s impossible to respond to, because there’s no detail. They haven’t said why it’s unbalanced. They’ve said there are flaws in the report. And I really do hope and invite the administration to indicate where the report is flawed or unbalanced. And I certainly would welcome learning where we went wrong, and if and I’m easily- I would be easily convinced. And if we if we made mistakes in those are pointed out, I would be the first person to admit it.
I highly recommend that everyone go to Bill Moyers Journal and watch this enlightening interview — there’s a lot more to it (this was merely a teaser — so to speak). See what Justice Golstone says, so that you can draw your own conclusions on this issue (and not just swallow the defamatory rhetoric being leveled at him by the pro-Israel right).