On April 1, Judge Richard Goldstone published an opinion in the Washington Post where he reconsidered his U.N. report on Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza in 2008-09. In the column, Goldstone renounces many of the report’s conclusions as factually inaccurate and based on insubstantial evidence. It is fortunate that the South African judge finally decided to publicly recognize a more balanced account of Operation Cast Lead, and as the saying goes, “better late than never.”
Sanctioned by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and endorsed by the U.N. General Assembly, the original Goldstone Report criticized both Hamas and Israel for intentionally targeting civilians and called for each side to open internal investigations. Since then, only Israel has launched investigations to explore these accusations, and new details about what really transpired during the war have subsequently emerged.
Because of this new evidence, Goldstone retracted his claim that Israel purposefully targeted civilians and said that Israel’s judiciary met the highest international standards for investigating its own military conduct. Goldstone even admitted to the accuracy of Israel’s reports about the war and conceded that the vast majority of Gaza fatalities were combatants from Hamas and other terrorist organizations. In his own words, Goldstone directly acknowledged, “if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
Regardless of his intentions, Richard Goldstone published a report making very serious accusations without all of the facts, and this is unacceptable. Israel’s reputation was tarnished internationally for crimes they did not commit, all because Goldstone released his report prematurely. This episode demonstrates the importance of comprehensive research founded on a concrete factual basis and stresses the relevance of the wider socio-political situation in Gaza and the Middle East.
For instance, it is crucial to realize that prior to Operation Cast Lead, the state of affairs in Gaza was one full of terrorism, oppression, and political strife. The situation only worsened in 2007 after Hamas murdered and tortured hundreds of its political opponents and ultimately gained full control of Gaza. In that same year, Hamas sent nearly 3,000 rockets into civilian and residential areas of southern Israel. These rockets showered kindergartens, playgrounds, and markets indiscriminately. Some Israeli cities, like Sderot, were so severely affected by the attacks that residents could not manage to maintain regular lives. Playgrounds had to be built in bomb shelters, and possibly over 90 percent of the town’s children had symptoms of post-traumatic stress, according to a 2008 study from the Israel Center for Victims of Terror and War. People were forced to live in fear, and the constant rocket barrages inflicted immense psychological trauma.
Hamas’ rocket fire into Israel, which hit an Israeli school bus only last week, is consistent with the Hamas goal of destroying Israel. This notion is clearly articulated in the Hamas charter, which states that “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” It is clear that Hamas’ goal is not to end the Israeli “occupation,” since Israel cleared out of the entirety of Gaza in 2005. Instead, Hamas is more concerned with oppressing their own people in order to maintain control, and they use Israel as a scapegoat to avert political and economic dissatisfaction. Hamas needs to stop tyrannizing the people of Gaza and valuing the destruction of Israel over their own success and quality of life.
Therefore Israel, like every other sovereign nation, has the right to defend her citizens from harm. Israel’s goal is not arbitrary war with innocent Palestinians; her goal is to prevent Hamas from attacking Israel. It is unfortunate when innocent civilians are hurt on both sides. However, if Hamas did not fire rockets from within mosques and densely populated areas, the casualty rates could be greatly reduced.
Even when Israel was bombarded with rockets, they continued to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza. For example, Israel allowed nearly 814,000 tons of humanitarian aid into Gaza between Feb. 27 and June 19, 2009. The Israel Defense Force (IDF) goes to extremes to ensure that casualties are minimized. What other army phones residents of buildings about to be bombed to warn innocents to leave? It is the IDF that drops pamphlets from the sky warning civilians to flee, while Hamas simultaneously broadcasts television commercials calling for human shields to come to rooftops.
Thankfully, Goldstone has seen the error of his ways and realized Israel’s true motivation in 2008 was to protect her citizens. Although one can never take back words once they are spoken, Goldstone was able to disavow a falsehood. Nevertheless, because the Goldstone Report was admittedly based on inaccuracies and insufficient evidence, the entire document is discredited. The report made ruthless accusations that were simply false, and undoubtedly the U.N. should reevaluate Goldstone’s claims. Israel is currently pushing for the international community to repeal the Goldstone report, and in light of recent events and in pursuit of the truth, it is the United Nations’ moral obligation to do so.