For more than a year, people such as the PCUSA’s Israel Palestine Mission Network and the mainline church-supported U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation have been using something called the Goldstone Report to bash Israel unmercifully. They have used the report–commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council–to accuse Israel of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and specifically the intentional targeting of civilians, in Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza during January 2009. They have ignored anything it said that was critical of Hamas, but there wasn’t that much of that in it.
For instance, last June the IPMN wrote in support of the unchanged Middle East Study Commission’s report to the PCUSA General Assembly:
We often hear about rockets being fired out of Gaza, for instance, that have affected a relatively small number of Israelis; and yet officially as a nation we refuse to hear, and therefore accept, the numbers of casualties and deaths reported in the Goldstone Report to the United Nations regarding the unbridled mayhem in Gaza caused by countless hi-tech Israeli weapons over a sustained period of time.
As you may know, last week Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced H.Res.867, trashing the Goldstone Report on war crimes committed before, during, and after Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” assault on the Gaza Strip. Please join the US Campaign in our attempt to stop this terrible resolution.
Anyway, yesterday the Washington Post offers us an Emily Littella moment from the man whose name is on the report:
We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.
The final report by the U.N. committee of independent experts — chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis — that followed up on the recommendations of the Goldstone Report has found 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.”
The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.
For example, the most serious attack the Goldstone Report focused on was the killing of some 29 members of the al-Simouni family in their home. The shelling of the home was apparently the consequence of an Israeli commander’s erroneous interpretation of a drone image, and an Israeli officer is under investigation for having ordered the attack. While the length of this investigation is frustrating, it appears that an appropriate process is underway, and I am confident that if the officer is found to have been negligent, Israel will respond accordingly. The purpose of these investigations, as I have always said, is to ensure accountability for improper actions, not to second-guess, with the benefit of hindsight, commanders making difficult battlefield decisions.
Oh, and guess what? Hamas has not acted likewise:
We made our recommendations based on the record before us, which unfortunately did not include any evidence provided by the Israeli government. Indeed, our main recommendation was for each party to investigate, transparently and in good faith, the incidents referred to in our report. McGowan Davis has found that Israel has done this to a significant degree; Hamas has done nothing.
Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.
In the end, asking Hamas to investigate may have been a mistaken enterprise. [Emphases added.]
Goldstone was extraordinarily naive both to think that Hamas would take his recommendations seriously, and to not recognize that those who wish Israel ill would use his report in a one-sided fashion to delegitimize Israel’s defense of its people. Nevertheless I applaud the fact that his eyes have been opened, and look forward to IPMN, USCEIO, and their allies correcting the mistaken impressions, one-sided citations, and misstatements of facts that have followed in the report’s wake.
I also believe in the Easter bunny, and look forward to his coming on April 24.