- In a major turnaround, Judge Richard Goldstone has withdrawn the accusation that Israel intentionally targeted civilians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.
- In a Washington Post article, he accepted that Israel ‘dedicated significant resources’ to investigations into accusations made against its forces, and that the results, ‘indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted.’
- He maintains that Hamas intentionally targeted Israel civilians and has done nothing to respond to accusations that they committed war crimes.
What has Judge Goldstone said?
- In an article for the Washington Post on Friday 1 April, Judge Richard Goldstone withdrew the central accusations made against Israel in the report he conducted for the UN Human Rights Council into Operation Cast Lead.
- His article follows the final report of a committee of experts, commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council to look at Israel and Hamas’s responses to the Goldstone Report. This committee was led by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis. Judge Goldstone acknowledges that the committee of experts report shows that:
- The IDF’s investigations into accusations made against its forces, ‘indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.’
- Judge Goldstone accepts the findings of the committee of experts, ‘that “Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza” while “the de facto authorities (i.e., Hamas) have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.”‘
- Goldstone states that had he regretted that his inquiry did not have access to the evidence now available from Israel’s internal inquiries, because, ‘it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.’
- With regards to the number of Palestinian casualties who were civilians, Goldstone states: ‘The Israeli military’s numbers have turned out to be similar to those recently furnished by Hamas.’
- The Goldstone Report into the conduct of Israel and Hamas during Operation Cast Lead was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council and published in September 2009.
- It claimed that there was evidence of war crimes against both Israel and Hamas.
- The most damaging claim made against Israeli forces, now withdrawn by Goldstone, was that the IDF deliberately targeted civilians in Gaza as a matter of policy.
- Israel refused to cooperate with the inquiry because of the inherent bias against Israel in the Human Rights Council which commissioned it. The Council, which includes among its members China, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and until recently Libya, is widely regarded as biased against Israel, a point explicitly accepted by Goldstone in his article.
- Israel completely rejected the report when it was published, both because of the bias of the Human Rights Council, and due to its flawed methodology, based on unsubstantiated testimonies from Palestinians in Gaza and NGOs.
- Israel nonetheless committed to investigate all the individual cases brought by Goldstone, and has published several reports based on its inquiries. Israel has already enacted several changes in its military procedures to try and learn lessons from incidents where civilians were unintentionally hurt.
- Israel also undertook to review its own processes of internal inquiry. The Turkel Commission set up to investigate the Mavi Marmara incident, on which Lord Trimble serves as an international advisor, was also commissioned to examine this issue. It is due to report on this issue later this year.
Further BICOM resources
- BICOM Briefing: Israel’s latest response to Goldstone (Summary of Israeli government update including specific cases) – 21/7/2010
- BICOM Briefing: Israel’s response to Goldstone (Summary of Israeli government update including specific cases) – 3/2/2010
- BICOM Briefing: Israeli Inquiries into Operation Cast Lead(Includes details of IDF investigations procedure) – 24/12/2009
- BICOM Briefing: IDF inquiry into accusations relating to Operation Cast Lead (Includes specific cases and lessons learned by IDF to further protect civilian life) – 24/4/2009
- BICOM Spotlight: Gaza facts and analysis (further background and analysis on Gaza)
Official Israeli reports
- Israeli government document,Gaza Operation Investigations: Second Update – July 2010
- Israeli government documentGazaOperation Investigations: Update- January 2010
- These documents updated an earlier report,The Operation in Gaza: Factual and Legal Aspects – July 2009