Goldstone Report

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Publication.png Goldstone Report Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Publication date27 Feb 2009
Author(s)Richard Goldstone
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The Goldstone Report is the report written by members of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict[1] headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone.[2]

This article is an adjunct to the Wikipedia article "Goldstone Report". It aims to fill in some otherwise puzzling gaps, presenting missing information from a "Neutral Point of View" to the same "Reliable Source" standard as claimed by Wikipedia.

Important elements of the report inadequately covered at WP

The Goldstone Mission report of Feb 2009

Gaps appear in the genesis of this report as described in the Wikipedia. It is surprising to see the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) as a source for the fact that they instigated sending a UN mission to investigate the events in Gaza. Goldstone appears to have accused the UN of severe bias against Israel, but not until well after he'd suffered vilification for the report. Mary Robinson is quoted as having made statements regarding bias at the UN that cannot immediately be verified.

Goldstone "reconsiders" April 2011

On April 1, 2011 Richard Goldstone published a piece titled "Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes"[3] in the Washington Post.

Goldstone made one significant change to the findings of the report, that Israel had not intentionally targeted civilians as a matter of policy whereas that "the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying". He said that the lack of Israeli cooperation had meant that no Israeli officers were interviewed during the writing of the report. In hindsight, incidents which had been interpreted as the deliberate targeting of civilians may have had other explanations, such as poor intelligence information.

Goldstone also expressed the hope that: "inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the UN Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted".[3] and: "That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The UN Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms."

Goldstone commended Israel for responding to his report by revising military procedures to e.g. limit the use of white phosphorus in civilian areas.[3]

The statement at the beginning of the "reconsideration" was considered particularly notable by many commentators: "If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document."

"Not intentionally targeted civilians"

Goldstone appeared to justify his change of view by reference to a later UN report on the investigations carried out by each party. The investigation (chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis) found that "Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza" while "the de facto authorities (i.e., Hamas) have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel." (There is a WS summary of the Judge Mary McGowan Davies report here).

The other authors of the UN report, Hina Jilani, Christine Chinkin and Desmond Travers rejected Goldstone's reassessment arguing that there is "no justification for any demand or expectation for reconsideration of the report as nothing of substance has appeared that would in anyway change the context, findings or conclusions of that report with respect to any of the parties to the Gaza conflict".[4]

Al-Jazeera commented that Goldstone's revised view concerned the intentional targeting of civilians, not other war crimes alleged in the report to have been committed by Israel. Such other crimes included causing civilian casualties by using a disproportionate level of force and attacks on buildings concerning which there was no indication they were legitimate military targets.[5] The same point was made in detail at the popular Mondoweiss blog, listing the siz unchanged broad findings of war-crimes viz (1) Siege on Gaza (2) Attack on political institutions and buildings of Gaza (3) taking insufficient measures to protect civilians (4) "indiscriminate" attacks (as distinct from "deliberate" attacks) (5) illegal weapons, such as white phosphorous and flechette missiles and (6) deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure.[6]

"Goldstone Report would have been different"

The opening paragraph of the "reconsideration" reads "We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 ... If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document."

This statement was headlined in Israel and amongst supporters of Israel, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman claiming "we had no doubt the truth would eventually come out".[7]

The popular blog Mondoweiss commented that the statement "is so patently obvious as to be meaningless, particularly given Israel’s steadfast non-cooperation at the time of the investigation."[6]

"history of bias" at UNHRC

The original resolution for the UN urged it to "dispatch an urgent, independent international fact-finding mission" to Gaza[8] (passed Jan 12, while the violence was going on) had only called for an investigation of Israel's actions. Upon being asked to lead the Mission, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson expressed disappointment with the mandate and refused to head the Mission for that reason.[citation needed] She stated that the resolution adopted by UN Human Rights Council was one-sided and "guided not by human rights but by politics." She later expressed full support for the report.[9]

The Wikipedia quotes Goldstone saying that he hoped to see "a new era of evenhandedness at the UN Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted"[10] but this quote is well after the events as he defends Israel from the charge of apartheid (Apr 2011).

Reactions to the April 2011 reconsideration

Unsurprisingly, critical reactions to the original Goldstone report and complimentary reaction to the "reconsideration" receive more coverage at Wikipedia articles than the original report received.

Less well reported is that Goldstone maintained that, although the one correction should be made, he had "no reason to believe any part of the report needs to be reconsidered at this time" and that he didn't plan to pursue nullifying the report.[11]

Human rights organisations said that much of the report remained valid.[12] Hamas justice minister Mohammad al-Ghoul was quoted as saying there was nothing to investigate because shooting rockets was "a right of self-defence of the Palestinian people in the face of the Israeli invasion and mass killing of Palestinians."[12]

On the 14th of April 2011 the other three authors of the Goldstone report released a statement regarding Goldstones article in the Washington Post. Hina Jilani, Christine Chinkin and Desmond Travers claimed that the significance of the Goldstone retractions had been "misrepresented facts in an attempt to delegitimise the findings of this report and to cast doubts on its credibility". They pointed out that the follow-up committee (on investigations by Israel and Hamas) did not contradict the report and concluded that Israel and Hamas had yet to establish any convincing basis to contradict the report. While Israel had conducted some 400 command investigations into allegations by the fact-finding mission and other organisations these are operational, not legal, and were conducted by personnel from the same command structure as those under investigation. They noted that just three of the incidents had been submitted for prosecution, with two of them completed and resulting in convictions (one for theft of a credit card and another for using a Palestinian child as a human shield). "The committee has expressed serious concerns about the late start and slow pace of the proceedings, their insufficient transparency and the participation of victims and witnesses". The authors also stated that there is "no indication that Israel has opened investigations into the actions of those who designed, planned, ordered and oversaw Operation Cast Lead". One of the most serious allegations about the conduct of Israel's military operations remained completely unaddressed.

The PA had attempted to investigate the allegations made in the Goldstone Report, but had been denied access to Gaza by Israel and the relevant controlling authority. Hamas had not started any investigations on the firing of thousands of rockets into southern Israel.[4]

Typical of over-reaction and misquoting was American Jewish Committee (AJC) Executive Director, David Harris, saying that "Judge Goldstone should apologise to the State of Israel for the accusations of intentionally targeting civilians, which he now admits were unfounded. He should present his updated conclusions to the UN Human Rights Council, as well as to the General Assembly, which endorsed the skewed report, and press for its rejection."[13]

Goldstone defends Israel over apartheid Oct 2011

Richard Goldstone published another statement on 31st Oct 2011 stating that "One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues “apartheid” policies".[14] Popular blogger Mondoweiss said he was sugarcoating persecution to try and save Israel.[15]


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Goldstone: An act of negligenceArticle4 April 2011Noura ErakatDownplay of Israeli aggression towards civilians during the Gaza War, causes scholars to question Richard Goldstone. Regardless of what may have been his best intentions, Goldstone has negligently, one hopes not deliberately, undermined the laws of armed conflict and emboldened those states, like Israel, who believe that it is a surmountable nuisance.
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  1. The Goldstone Report "found that there is sufficient information to establish the objective elements of the crimes in question." UNHCR, 27 Feb 2009.
  2. Head of the UN Fact Finding Mission Justice Richard Goldstone presented the report of the Mission to the Human Rights Council in Geneva United Nations Human Rights Council, 29 Sept 2009.
  3. a b c Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes "if I [Goldstone] had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document" Richard Goldstone, Washington Post 1st April 2004.
  4. a b Goldstone report: Statement issued by members of UN mission on Gaza war The Guardian, April 14, 2011.
  5. Goldstone recants, but how much is changed? Al Jazeera, 05 Apr 2011.
  6. a b What the Goldstone op-ed doesn’t say Mondoweiss blog, April 2, 2011.
  7. Foreign Minister Lieberman lauds new Goldstone conclusions "we had no doubt the truth would eventually come out" Haaretz 2nd April 2011.
  8. 'OIC initiated Goldstone inquiry' - reference used at the Wikipedia quotes the OIC claiming it initiated the mission. Al Jazeera, 28 October 2009
  9. Accounting for Gaza Mary Robinson stated that the resolution adopted by UN Human Rights Council was one-sided and "guided not by human rights but by politics." She later expressed full support for the report. 30 September 2009. DEAD LINK is the one used at Wikipedia.
  10. Lieberman lauds new Goldstone conclusions about Gaza war Goldstone quoted "a new era of evenhandedness at the UN Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted" Haaretz 2nd Apr 2011.
  11. Goldstone won't seek Gaza report nullification "no reason to believe any part of the report needs to be reconsidered at this time" Associated Press, April 6, 2011.
  12. a b Israel Grapples With Retraction on U.N. Report "the report was essentially dismissed in Israel ... human rights organizations say that much of it remains valid." Hamas: "nothing to investigate" New York Times, April 3, 2011.
  13. US Jewish groups urge Goldstone to retract report Report "has become a tool in the arsenal of those who demonize Israel;" NGO monitor slams anti-Israel NGOs as "lacking credibility." Jerusalem Post. 3rd Apr 2011.
  14. Israel and the Apartheid Slander "One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues “apartheid” policies" New York Times October 31, 2011.
  15. Goldstone sugarcoats persecution to try to save Israel "It is shocking that the eminent judge, who damaged his international reputation last spring by stepping away from a UN report he had co-authored in 2009 that was highly critical of Israel, would now step out as an Israel apologist, employing hackneyed and cookie-cutter arguments about a little democracy contending with hostile neighbours" Mondoweiss, Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz. Nov 01, 2011.