In Israel, Goldstone's Gaza war retraction triggers 'earthquake' of vindication
South African Judge Richard Goldstone's recent retraction of accusations of Israeli war crimes during its war with Hamas in Gaza two years ago is still rippling throughout Israel.
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Mr. Goldstone, who headed a panel of the United Nations Human Rights Council that made the accusations in more than 500 pages worth of reports in 2009, wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece published Friday that Israeli inquires into the reports' allegations have made it clear that its army didn’t intentionally target Gaza civilians. He shifted criticism to the militant Islamist group Hamas for "heinous" acts of shooting rockets at Israeli cities and for refusing to investigate itself.
The Goldstone report was widely seen in Israel as unjust and aimed at isolating the Jewish state as a pariah while negating its right to defend itself from rocket attacks. And although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the United Nations to consign the report to the "dustbin of history," it isn’t likely to be forgotten any time soon.
Palestinians who had encouraged the UN to refer the report to its judicial arm accused Goldstone of caving in to pro-Israel pressure over the report. Israeli commentators, meanwhile, called the South African justice’s article a "PR coup" and an "earthquake."
"The most serious of accusation was that Israel deliberately killed Palestinian civilians," said Dore Gold, a former Israeli United Nations Ambassador who debated Goldstone in 2009. "It was like a blood libel for the Israel Defense Force, and contributed directly to the global effort to delegitimize the Jewish state. This is an important turning point."