At Brandeis, Goldstone defends UN war crimes report
Justice Richard Goldstone, at a Brandeis University forum, defended the UN report on war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas in the Gaza war. It was the first time he has publicly discussed the report with a high-level Israeli official.
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“Our investigation, in fact, shows that that doctrine was applied in Operation Cast Lead,” Goldstone said, using the code name for last winter’s attack on Gaza. (According to international law, he said, disproportionate force constitutes a war crime.) Goldstone quoted the Israeli deputy prime minister’s proposal to “destroy Gaza,” and he listed some instances where attacks on civilians and infrastructure seemed to go beyond attempts to target Hamas. Among them was an attack on a mosque during prayer, one on a UN compound, another on the American International School – a bastion of anti-Hamas sentiment – using white phosphorus shells, and others on sources of food and industry. “If that isn’t collective punishment, what is?” he asked.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Gold asserted that the attack on the mosque was not carried out by Israelis, and that Hamas is to blame for the high civilian toll, because they provoked Israel with rocket attacks and then established themselves in civilian areas. “I think one of the central elements of our disagreement is how to treat the Hamas regime,” he said. “Do you relate and recognize it as the legitimate authority in the Gaza Strip, or do you say, ‘Wait a minute, this organization is an international terrorist organization?’ ”
Though Gold said much of the world also recognizes Hamas as terrorists, he concluded his remarks by describing Israel as a persecuted minority in the UN. “It’s no secret that that UN Human Rights Council and that other bodies of the United Nations mistreat the nation of Israel systematically,” he said. Adding that the UN does not defend Israel, he concluded, to applause, “That is good enough reason for Israel to not cooperate with an investigation of this sort.”
During Goldstone’s fact-finding mission, Israel refused to comply. It declined interview requests and denied access to Israel and the West Bank. Gold insisted that Israel's own military and civilian justice systems are adequate to investigate any reported wrong-doing, but Goldstone said that option lacks transparency.
Goldstone concluded his comments Thursday night by saying, “I still hope, against all the odds, and against the strong objections … that there will be an open investigation, and not, in darkness, the military investigating itself.”
Closing out the event after more than two hours, moderator and Jewish studies professor Ilan Troen told the student audience: “The event is not over; we hope that this event has not resolved everything for you.”
As audience members filed out of the building, many professed strengthened love or hate for the Goldstone report, but also a desire to continue the conversation.