Richard Goldstone, the South African jurist who led the U.N. Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission into the 2009 Gaza war, whose controversial report was endorsed by the council last week, explains his mission and motivation in an Op-Ed piece in the Jerusalem Post. The report, which cited evidence of Israeli and Hamas "war crimes," was denounced by Israel. Goldstone writes:
I begin with my own motivation, as a Jew who has supported Israel and its people all my life, for having agreed to head the Gaza mission. Over the past 20 years, I have investigated serious violations of international law in my own country, South Africa, in the former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda and the alleged fraud and theft by governments and political leaders in a number of countries in connection with the United Nations Iraq Oil for Food program. In all of these, allegations reached the highest political echelons. In every instance, I spoke out strongly in favor of full investigations and, where appropriate, criminal prosecutions. I have spoken out over the years on behalf of the International Bar Association against human rights violations in many countries, including Sri Lanka, China, Russia, Iran, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.
I would have been acting against those principles and my own convictions and conscience if I had refused a request from the United Nations to investigate serious allegations of war crimes against both Israel and Hamas in the context of Operation Cast Lead.
AS A Jew, I felt a greater and not a lesser obligation to do so. It is well documented that as a condition of my participation I insisted upon and received an evenhanded mandate to investigate all sides and that is what we sought to do.
I sincerely believed that because of my own record and the terms of the mission’s mandate we would receive the cooperation of the Israeli government. Its refusal to cooperate was a grave error. My plea for cooperation was repeated before and during the investigation and it sits, plain as day, in the appendices of the Gaza report for those who actually bother to read it. Our mission obviously could only consider and report on what it saw, heard and read. If the government of Israel failed to bring facts and analyses to our attention, we cannot fairly be blamed for the consequences. Those who feel that our report failed to give adequate attention to specific incidents or issues should be asking the Israeli government why it failed to argue its cause.
Israel missed a golden opportunity to actually have a fair hearing from a UN-sponsored inquiry. Of course, I was aware of and have frequently spoken out against the unfair and exceptional treatment of Israel by the UN and especially by the Human Rights Council.
I did so again last week. Israel could have seized the opportunity provided by the even-handed mandate of our mission and used it as a precedent for a new direction by the United Nations in the Middle East. Instead, we were shut out.