On September 15, 2009, Judge Richard Goldstone and his Commission presented their 575-pageÂ Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict to its mandating authority, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). From the beginning, observers raised serious questions about the Commissionâs propriety. These involved its mandate and terms of reference, the sponsoring bodyâs domination by dictatorships that regularly abuse human rights in their own countries, the biases and prejudices of members of the Commission itself. And yet, the report will play a key role in the effort to specifically target Israeli troops in both boycott movements and lawfare attacks, and more broadly to establish a reigning paradigm of international law as applied to 21st century asymmetrical conflicts.
Those of us who have constructed Understanding the Goldstone Report, have been following the claims under contention since the events themselves almost a year ago, and have read the report in detail.Â We offer a wide range of analysis, from careful examination of specific incidents and controversies to broader legal and conceptual issues.Â In so doing, we have come to the following conclusions:
- The report violates international standards for inquries, including UN rules on fact-finding, replicating earlier UNHRC biased statements.
- The Commission systematically favored witnesses and evidence put forward by anti-Israel advocates, and dismissed evidence and testimony that would undermine its case.
- The commission relied extensively on mediating agencies, especially UN and NGOs, which have a documented hostility to Israel; the report reproduces earlier reports and claims from these agencies.
- At the same time, the Commission inexplicably downplayed or ignored substantial evidence of Hamasâ commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of terror, including specifically its victimization of the Palestinian population by its use of human shields, civilian dress for combatants, and combat use of protected objects like ambulances, hospitals and mosques.
- The Commission openly denies a presumption of innocence to the Israelis accused of crimes (while honoring Hamasâ presumed innocence) and acknowledges that it made accusations of crimes without proof that would stand up in court.
- The report contains numerous gratuitous digressions into issues beyond the purview of a fact-finding commission that are inaccurate and profoundly hostile to Israel and Jews.
- The Commission distorted legal standards, imposing on Israel standards that reverse their generally understood and applied meaning, while ignoring important rules of international law that put the onus of responsibility on an organization as base, by Goldstoneâs own standards, as Hamas.
In all our analyses and conclusions, we have adhered to principles of empirical evidence and consistent reasoning.Â Since the skeptical reader might well accuse us of making up our mind in advance, we emphasize that one should not agree or disagree with us because of how one feels about Israel or the Palestinians, but because of the evidence. We invite readers to examine our arguments without prejudice, make up their own minds and, where they see problems, challenge our arguments. Sweeping and inflammatory rhetoric not welcome.
If you find even a portion of what we argue to have merit, you may be interested in some further questions that these observations raise:
- What are the long-term consequences of such judgments on the containment or encouragement of future war crimes in asymmetrical wars like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
- What are the mediated paths by which we receive our information about the Arab-Israeli conflict?
- If Goldstone's approach is misguided, how should people of good will, concerned for both justice and humanity, proceed in dealing with asymmetrical warfare?
We welcome both considered and reasoned comment and submissions of essays to the discussion.Â It is our belief that the most interesting discussions of Goldstone will take place in cyberspace, in the new and raucus âCity of Lettersâ â the blogosphere.
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