The UN Human Rights Council report on the December-January Gaza conflict, released recently on the eve of
‘s attempt to jump-start comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, was but the latest in a series of investigations, most of them by human rights organizations. Like its predecessors, the so-called Goldstone report, named after chief investigator
, is devastating in its critique of Israeli actions: indiscriminate use of firepower; deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian structures, including hospitals, schools, mosques and water plants; use of human shields; abusive treatment of detainees; imposition of a blockade on Gaza before and after the attack itself. The report concludes that Israel violated international humanitarian law, committed “grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of wilful killings and wilfully causing great suffering to protected persons,” and war crimes, possibly even crimes against humanity. Courageous Israeli journalist
summed it up well in Ha’aretz: it was “an unrestrained assault on a besieged, totally unprotected civilian population which showed almost no signs of resistance during this operation.”
Predictably, the Goldstone report was met with a wave of angry denunciations from the Israeli government–which had refused to cooperate with the investigators–and most of the Israeli press. The mainstream media have downplayed the report’s significance; news coverage has been sparse, and not one major US daily has seen fit to editorialize on it. US pundits and politicians–including UN Ambassador
, who called it “unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable”– have been overwhelmingly critical.
But it’s not so easy to dismiss these findings. For one thing, the nearly 600-page report is carefully documented and comprehensive, based on field visits, public hearings, almost 200 individual interviews, photos and satellite imagery, and a review of more than 300 other reports. For another, Goldstone is one of the most respected and experienced international jurists, having served as a justice on South Africa’s Constitutional Court and chief UN prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
And then there are Goldstone’s personal connections: he’s Jewish and, according to his daughter, herself an ardent Zionist, he’s “a Zionist and loves Israel.” Indeed, she said of her father, who serves on the Board of Governors of Hebrew University, “I know that if he thought what he did would not somehow be for the sake of peace for everyone in Israel or that it would have hindered such efforts, he would not have accepted the job.”