Could Israel have helped make the findings of the U.N. fact-finding mission on the Gaza war fairer and more constructive by cooperating with U.N. investigators? Richard Goldstone — the Jew and self-professed friend of Israel who led the mission but now is being excoriated by Israel supporters for producing a biased report — says the answer is yes. He writes in the Jerusalem Post:
The responses from the government of Israel to the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Gaza have been deeply disappointing. The mission’s mandate enabled Israel to bring its concerns and facts relating to Operation Cast Lead publicly before a UN inquiry. It could have been used by Israel to encourage the UN and especially the Human Rights Council to move in a new direction beneficial to the interests of Israel. I repeatedly requested the government of Israel to do that, and to meet with me in Jerusalem to discuss how the Fact-Finding Mission should approach its mandate.
Even after that approach was rejected, the mission sent a substantial list of questions to the government requesting information on issues in respect of which we proposed to report. We did not wish to make findings adverse to Israel public without having the benefit of the facts and its views on them. That request for information also fell on deaf ears.
So it is hardly fair for Israel to accuse the mission of "getting its facts wrong." In short, the benefits of an even-handed mandate from the Human Rights Council were squandered by Israel.
I am also surprised and disappointed that some critics of the Report have dismissed its criticisms of Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza, who have committed serious war crimes against the civilian population of southern Israel. These have been fully documented and the terror they have caused to so many has been comprehensively described and condemned. There has been criticism of the Report on the basis that it devotes disproportionate attention to the conduct of Israel. That was unavoidable considering the many incidents the mission was obliged to investigate in Gaza. The factual inquiries we were called upon to make relating to a severe three-week military operation from the air, sea and land were far more complex than the comparatively unsophisticated launch of thousands of rockets into Israel as acts of terror…
I still nurture the hope that in the coming days, people of goodwill in Israel and the occupied territories do some soul-searching and come to realize that unaccountability for serious violations of international law creates a barrier to peace.
Full column here.
Alan Dershowitz, in a blog post, calls Goldstone’s report the barrier to peace:
There are many things wrong with the Goldstone report, which accuses Israel of deliberately targeting civilians in order to punish the people of Gaza.
First, its primary conclusions are entirely false as a matter of demonstrable fact. Second, it defames one of the most moral military forces in the world, along with one of the most responsive legal systems and one of the freest nations in the world when it comes to dissent. Third, it destroys the credibility of "international human rights" and proves that this honorable concept has been hijacked for political purposes directed primarily against one nation – Israel.
But fourth, and most important, it has set back prospects of peace by making it far more difficult for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank.