Goldstone To U.S. Congress: Your Resolution Condemning Gaza Investigation Is Rife With Factual Errors
Steven Rosen, former director of foreign-policy issues at AIPAC — the right-winged Israel Lobby powerhouse — once told Jeffrey Goldberg:
“You see this napkin?” he said. “In twenty-four hours, we could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin.”
Well apparently, a ‘dirty napkin’ — of sorts — was passed around this week in the form of a new U.S. Congressional resolution condemning the Goldstone Report — the 574 page UN Human Rights Council’s investigative report on Israel’s Gaza incursion — which accuses Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes. And the authors / signatories to the Congressional resolution are being taken to task on the factual merit of nearly each and every assertion within its contents.
You just gotta love this guy, Justice Richard Goldstone! He has been directly involved in investigating some of the most horrific crimes against humanity over the last quarter century, and has been awarded some of the world’s most prestigious awards for his efforts. He is not going to sit back and let a bunch of sleazy ‘lapdog’ U.S. politicians defame his work and his integrity as they pander to the Israel Lobby.
Goldstone’s response is apparently floating around Capitol Hill right now. I got a copy (courtesy of Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard) which you can view below. By the way, I’ve inserted the relevant parts of the Congressional Resolution before each of Goldstone’s responses so that you’ll understand what exactly he was responding to:
Calling on the President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the `Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’ in multilateral fora.
Here are some comments on this resolution in an effort to correct factual errors:
Whereas the resolution pre-judged the outcome of its investigation, by one-sidedly mandating the `fact-finding mission’ to `investigate all violations of international human rights law and International Humanitarian Law by . . . Israel, against the Palestinian people . . .particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression’;
That is why I and others refused the original mandate – it only called for an investigation into violations committed by Israel. The mandate given to and accepted by me and under which we worked and reported reads as follows:
“. . .to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 20089, whether before, during or after”.
That mandate clearly included rocket and mortar attacks on Israel and as the report makes clear was so interpreted and implemented. It was the report with that mandate that was adopted by the Human Rights Council and that included the serious findings made against Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups.
Whereas the mandate of the `fact-finding mission’ makes no mention of the relentless rocket and mortar attacks, which numbered in the thousands and spanned a period of eight years, by Hamas and other violent militant groups in Gaza against civilian targets in Israel, that necessitated Israel’s defensive measures;
This is factually incorrect. Chapter XXIV of the Report considers in detail the relentless rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and the terror it caused to the people living within their range. The finding is made that they constituted serious war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.
Whereas the `fact-finding mission’ included a member who, beforejoining the mission, had already declared Israel guilty of committing atrocities in Operation Cast Lead by signing a public letter onJanuary 11, 2009, published in the Sunday Times, that called Israel’s actions `war crimes’;
The member concerned, Professor Christine Chinkin of the London School of Economics, in the same letter, together with other leading international lawyers, also condemned as war crimes the Hamas rockets fired into Israel.
Whereas the mission’s flawed and biased mandate gave serious concern to many United Nations Human Rights Council Member States which refused to support it, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland;
The mandate that was given to the Mission was certainly not opposed by all or even a majority of the States to which reference is made. That is factually incorrect. I am happy to provide further details if necessary.
Whereas the mission’s flawed and biased mandate troubled many distinguished individuals who refused invitations to head the mission;
This too is factually incorrect. The mandate that had been rejected was the one I rejected. Mary Robinson, for example, has written in support of the mandate given to and accepted by me.
Whereas the report repeatedly made sweeping and unsubstantiated determinations that the Israeli military had deliberately attacked civilians during Operation Cast Lead;
The words quoted relate to the decision we made that it would have been unfair to investigate and make finding on situations where decisions had been made by Israeli soldiers “in the fog of battle”. This was a decision made in favor and not against the interests of Israel.
I do not consider that it is fair or just to label the findings as “sweeping and unsubstantiated determinations”.
Whereas in the October 16th edition of the Jewish Daily Forward, Richard Goldstone, the head of the `United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’, is quoted as saying, with respect to the mission’s evidence-collection methods, `If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.’;
What I had explained to The Forward was that the Report itself would not constitute evidence admissible in court of law and that investigators would have to investigate which allegations they considered relevant. That, too, was why we recommended domestic investigations into the allegations. The remark as quoted is both inaccurate and taken completely out of context.
Whereas the report, in effect, denied the State of Israel the right to self-defense, and never noted the fact that Israel had the right to defend its citizens from the repeated violent attacks committed against civilian targets in southern Israel by Hamas and other Foreig Terrorist Organizations operating from Gaza;
It is again factually incorrect to state that the Report denied Israel the right of self-defense. The report examined how that right was implemented by the standards of international law. What is commonly called ius ad bellum, the right to use military force was not considered to fall within our mandate. Israel’s right to use military force was not questioned.
Whereas the report largely ignored the culpability of the Government of Iran and the Government of Syria, both of whom sponsor Hamas and other Foreign Terrorist Organizations;
This is the first suggestion that I have come across to the effect that we should have investigated the provenance of the rockets. It was simply not on the agenda, and in any event, we would not have had the facilities or capability of investigating these allegations. If the Government of Israel has requested us to investigate that issue I have no doubt that we have done our best to do so.
Whereas the report usually considered public statements made by Israeli officials not to be credible, while frequently giving uncritical credence to statements taken from what it called the `Gaza authorities’, i.e. the Gaza leadership of Hamas;
This is a sweeping and unfair characterization of the Report. I hope that the Report will be read by those tasked with considering the resolution.
Whereas in one notable instance, the report stated that it did not consider the admission of a Hamas official that Hamas often `created a human shield of women, children, the elderly and the mujahideen, against [the Israeli military]‘ specifically to `constitute evidence that Hamas forced Palestinian civilians to shield military objectives against attack.’;
Again, this is an unfair and selective quotation taken our of context.
Whereas Hamas was able to significantly shape the findings of the investigation mission’s report by selecting and prescreening some of the witnesses and intimidating others, as the report acknowledges when it notes that `those interviewed in Gaza appeared reluctant to speak about the presence of or conduct of hostilities by the Palestinian armed groups . . . from a fear of reprisals’;
That Hamas was able to shape the findings or that it pre-screened the witnesses is devoid of truth and I challenge anyone to produce evidence in support of it.
Finally, I note that there is not a word to record that notwithstanding repeated pleas to the Government of Israel, it refused all cooperation with the Mission. Amongst others, I requested the views of Israel with regard to the implementation of the mandate and details of any issues that the Government of Israel might wish us to investigate.
He responded to just about every single point raised by the Congressional Resolution — effectively demonstrating how each was factually incorrect. If this weren’t about crimes against humanity, I’d probably find this ‘dirty napkin’ episode hilarious.
Harper’s Magazine Interviews Desmond Travers On Goldstone Report
Here’s an interesting read: Ken Silverstein interviews Den Travers, one of the four members of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. “Travers is a retired Colonel of the Army of the Irish Defence Forces. His last appointment was as Commandant of its Military College. He also served in command of troops with various UN and EU peace support missions.”
Silverstein asks Travers six questions about the Goldstone Report — which found that Israel and Hamas committed war crimes:
1. Were you surprised by the criticism of the report?
There was a lot of criticism even before the report came out, primarily against individuals, especially Justice Richard Goldstone. So we were not unduly surprised by the whinging when the report was released, except for the intensity and viciousness of the personal attacks. Justice Goldstone has publicly invited the critics, especially within the U.S. government, to come forward with substantive evidence of incorrect or inaccurate statements. But there has been no credible criticism of the report itself or of the information elucidated in it.
2. Douglas Griffiths, the American delegate to the Human Rights Council, said, “While Justice Goldstone acknowledged Hamas’s crimes, in examining Israel’s response sufficient weight was not given to the difficulties faced in fighting this kind of enemy in this environment.” Is that a fair criticism?
I was a soldier for 42 years and I reject that criticism, which seems intended to excuse alleged Israeli breaches of the laws of warfare. I retired as a colonel in the Irish army in 2001 having served in war zones in Cyprus, Lebanon, Bosnia and Croatia, and I would not underestimate the challenge of combat in built-up areas. Nonetheless, armies have never had the technological luxury that they do today when it comes to taking out targets without inflicting collateral damage.
Read the last four Q&As here: Six Questions for Desmond Travers on the Goldstone Report
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).