Monday, November 2, 2009

"Understanding the Goldstone Report" - New Resource

On September 15, 2009, Judge Richard Goldstone and his Commission presented their 575-page Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict to its mandating authority, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). From the beginning, observers raised serious questions about the Commission’s propriety. These involved its mandate and terms of reference, the sponsoring body’s domination by dictatorships that regularly abuse human rights in their own countries, the biases and prejudices of members of the Commission itself. And yet, the report will play a key role in the effort to specifically target Israeli troops in both boycott movements and lawfare attacks, and more broadly to establish a reigning paradigm of international law as applied to 21st century asymmetrical conflicts.

Those of us who have constructed Understanding the Goldstone Report, have been following the claims under contention since the events themselves almost a year ago, and have read the report in detail. We offer a wide range of analysis, from careful examination of specific incidents and controversies to broader legal and conceptual issues. In so doing, we have come to the following conclusions:

  • The report violates international standards for inquries, including UN rules on fact-finding, replicating earlier UNHRC biased statements. The Commission systematically favored witnesses and evidence put forward by anti-Israel advocates, and dismissed evidence and testimony that would undermine its case.
  • The commission relied extensively on mediating agencies, especially UN and NGOs, which have a documented hostility to Israel; the report reproduces earlier reports and claims from these agencies.
  • At the same time, the Commission inexplicably downplayed or ignored substantial evidence of Hamas’ commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of terror, including specifically its victimization of the Palestinian population by its use of human shields, civilian dress for combatants, and combat use of protected objects like ambulances, hospitals and mosques.
  • The Commission openly denies a presumption of innocence to the Israelis accused of crimes (while honoring Hamas’ presumed innocence) and acknowledges that it made accusations of crimes without proof that would stand up in court.
  • The report contains numerous gratuitous digressions into issues beyond the purview of a fact-finding commission that are inaccurate and profoundly hostile to Israel and Jews.
  • The Commission distorted legal standards, imposing on Israel standards that reverse their generally understood and applied meaning, while ignoring important rules of international law that put the onus of responsibility on an organization as base, by Goldstone’s own standards, as Hamas.