Goldstone Report: Reexamining 5 key findings

The controversial Goldstone Report, the result of a UN fact finding mission following allegations of human rights violations during the 2008 to 2009 Israel-Gaza conflict, is under scrutiny again. In a column published April 1 in The Washington Post, Richard Goldstone, the South African judge who led the mission, retracted one of the most contested findings of the group’s September 2009 report.

“If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document,” he wrote. What findings makes this nonbinding UN report such a flashpoint?

Israel targeted Gazan civilians

Ashraf Amra/AP/File
In this June 3, 2009, file photo, UN investigator Richard Goldstone visits the destroyed house where members of the Samouni family were killed in an artillery strike during Israel's offensive in January 2009 in Gaza City.

The Goldstone Report claimed that Israel intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians as a matter of policy, which is a violation of international law. Judge Goldstone's column last week retracted that charge, which may have been the most controversial allegation leveled against Israel in the report.

Paragraph 1,886 from the original report:

“The Mission recognizes that not all deaths constitute violations of international humanitarian law. The principle of proportionality acknowledges that, under certain strict conditions, actions resulting in the loss of civilian life may not be unlawful. … Deeds by the Israeli armed forces and words of military and political leaders prior to and during the operations indicate that, as a whole, they were premised on a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed not at the enemy but at the ‘supporting infrastructure.’ In practice, this appears to have meant the civilian population.”

Paragraph 1,893:

“The Mission concludes that what occurred in just over three weeks at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 was a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate, and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”

In his Friday column, Goldstone wrote that while a later Israeli military investigation affirmed that there were civilian deaths as a result of Israel’s attacks, it disproved the finding that civilians were intentionally targeted – a major coup for Israel, which is claiming vindication of its actions, the Monitor reported.

"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."

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