Richard Goldstone, the special United Nations investigator for the 2008-2009 Gaza offensive, has recanted his charge of human rights violations allegedly committed by Israel.
Goldstone said his conclusions are different now
In an article written for the US newspaper The Washington Post, United Nations investigator Richard Goldstone has revised his assessment of the brief Israeli-Gaza offensive of three years ago, recanting his earlier statements that Israel had committed human rights violations by targeting civilians.
In a surprise about-face, Goldstone, a South African judge, said the conclusions in his September 2009 report would have been different had he been aware of additional information now brought to his attention. Goldstone headed the UN investigation into the offensive.
"If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document," he wrote in the Post, regretting that Israel had not cooperated with the fact-finding mission.
The report, which examined potential war crimes on both sides in the 22-day conflict, triggered widespread condemnation of the Israeli assault on Hamas-ruled Gaza, which left some 1,400 Palestinians dead, mostly civilians. Israel suffered three civilian deaths and lost 10 soldiers.
Israel welcomes retraction
Israel condemned the 547-page report, calling it distorted and biased. In it, Goldstone appealed to the UN Security Council to refer the case to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The UN report accused Israeli troops of war crimes
"The fact that Goldstone backtracked must lead to the shelving of this report once and for all. We expect this farce to be rectified immediately," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday, on learning of the Post article.
"Everything we said has proven to be true: Israel did not intentionally harm civilians, its institutions and investigative bodies are worthy, while Hamas intentionally fired upon innocent civilians and did not examine anything," he added.
Netanyahu also stressed that "the biggest absurdity" in the approval of the Goldstone Report was that Moammar Gadhafi's Libya was one of the members of the UN Human Rights Council at the time. Libya has since been suspended from the council by the UN General Assembly.
Hamas dismisses remarks
A UN committee of independent experts that followed up the Goldstone Report found later that Israel had "dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza."
In contrast, Hamas leaders "did not conduct any investigations" into rocket and mortar attacks against Israel, which were Israel's grounds for going to war, the follow-up report said.
Goldstone also admitted in the Washington Post article that Hamas rocket attacks on Israel were "purposefully and indiscriminately" aimed at civilians.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, has dismissed Goldstone's remarks, saying "his retreat does not change the fact war crimes had been committed against the people of Gaza." He said the group cooperated fully with the fact-finding mission.
Author: Gregg Benzow (dpa, AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Nicole Goebel