According to Reports: Prof’s Rebuttal Highlights Goldstone’s Flaws

In his weekly Canadian Jewish News media analysis column “According to Reports,” Paul Michaels, CIC Director of Communications, discusses an excellent piece about the controversial UN-sponsored Goldstone report.

The Goldstone report, which accused Israel of war crimes during last winter’s Gaza conflict, continues to wend its way through the United Nations, and the General Assembly was set to debate it on Nov. 4.

The controversial report’s flaws were succinctly highlighted in “Goldstone report undermines faith in international law” (Toronto Star, Oct. 21), by University of Toronto law professor Ed Morgan.

Morgan explained how the report’s author, South African judge Richard Goldstone, failed to maintain proper standards of evidence in arriving at the grave charge that Israel deliberately targeted and killed Palestinian civilians.

Morgan, an expert in international law, provided an important retort to Star columnist Haroon Siddiqui, who (as noted in last week’s column) has accepted, without question, all of the report’s allegations against Israel.

Morgan pointed out that time and again, Goldstone’s “fact-finding” mission in Gaza dealt with the facts in a highly partial manner. It either took Palestinian testimony against Israel at face value – Goldstone has since admitted that such testimony would not be convincing in a court of law – or failed to find evidence, readily available from Palestinian sources, that would have weighed in Israel’s defence.

For example, Morgan noted that the mission said it could find no evidence that Gaza’s Islamic University, which was struck by Israeli fire, had been used “as a military facility.”

On the contrary, Morgan wrote, such evidence was abundant: “The Islamic University was previously featured as the site of clashes between Fatah and Hamas gunmen, with Fatah soldiers identifying it as a weapons laboratory for the new and improved Qassam rockets that Hamas fires by the thousands into Israel. Palestinian Authority television had a full display of the weapons cache found in the Islamic University at the time.”

Goldstone turned a virtual blind eye to Hamas’ deliberate policy of using civilians as human shields in order to fire rockets at Israeli civilian centres. Morgan noted that Goldstone even ignored the declaration of Hamas spokesman Fathi Hammad: “‘This is why [we] have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine.'”

To be sure, Israelis are not indifferent or callous about the loss of innocent Palestinian lives, but they also know, contra the Goldstone report, that the overwhelming responsibility lies with Hamas for having intentionally put its own people in harm’s way.

Israeli officials argue that international law, and specifically the rules of war, need to catch up with the reality of conflict posed by groups such as Hamas that hide among civilians. By failing to acknowledge this reality, and by gathering evidence in a biased manner that played into Hamas’ hands, Goldstone, Morgan concluded, not only damaged his own reputation, he also inflicted damage on international law.

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In an interview with Newsweek writer Lally Weymouth (“Peace Out of Necessity” Oct. 23), Israeli president Shimon Peres said: “I think [the Goldestone report is] a great victory for terror. Never before did any terrorist organization gain such recognition, in the most unfair way…

“First of all, we have a problem in the United Nations: There is a built-in majority against Israel. Israel doesn’t stand a chance to win any single issue because the Muslim and the Arab nations and the ones who follow them are a majority. I think Mr. Goldstone made a mistake by agreeing to preside over a committee which has an anti-Israeli majority – it cannot be objective if the judges are not objective. And the terms of reference were one-sided: to investigate the war crimes of Israel. And the conclusions – they’re one sided. There are 26 recommendations. Not one deals with terror. The terrorists are flying free and high. It’s unbelievable. Israel does not occupy Gaza. We left Gaza completely. We are the only country that forced our own settlers and army without any foreign pressure to leave Gaza. And for eight years we restrained [while they fired missiles]. No reference to it.”