Last Friday, Judge Richard Goldstone dramatically retracted the central findings of this now infamous UN report into the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in December 2008.
Goldstone’s Washington Post op-ed didn’t beat around the bush: “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document”. The senior South African jurist modestly confirmed that Israel had “dedicated significant resources” to investigations, 400 in fact, into accusations made against its forces, before withdrawing the report’s infamous conclusion that Israel had intentionally targeted citizens in Gaza.
Such a recantation is pretty remarkable when one considers that the original report had concluded that Israel was guilty of “deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population”.
By contrast, Goldstone noted that Hamas authorities had done nothing to respond to accusations that their militants committed war crimes. The judge reiterated the reports criticism of Hamas: “That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying – its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets”.
Tragically, much damage has already been done. The findings of the Goldstone Report heavily contributed towards the on-going delegitimisation campaign against Israel, with the document used by critics as conclusive proof of Israel’s pariah status. It must be hoped that the discrediting of the Goldstone Report will begin to heal the feelings of isolation and frustration amongst Israel’s citizens at the international communities’ repeated failure to take into consideration the country’s legitimate strategic concerns and the role of hostile actors, namely Hamas.
The original report was endorsed by a UN General Assembly motion. The motion, exclusively focused on the role of Israel with no mention of Hamas, was unbalanced to say the least. That it was criticised at the time of its passing by our esteemed Foreign Secretary William Hague is of major relevance.
Mr Hague made it perfectly clear that a Conservative Government would have voted against it because of the complete failure to attribute any responsibility to Hamas. Our Foreign Secretary justifiably criticised the then Labour Governments “abject failure to vote or even to abstain at the UN”.
Mr Hague expressed his hope that a Conservative Government would have been “more decisive and clear”. Now that Goldstone has himself repudiated his own findings, it is time for the Foreign Secretary to show that much needed decisiveness. He can start by adding his voice to the growing campaign for the UN to rescind the effectively baseless Goldstone Report, or at the very least, push the UN General Assembly to adopt a new resolution invalidating their earlier one-sided diatribe.