April 6, 2011

The Goldstone Retraction: Additional Comments

(Updated Below)

Three items today.

(1) Yesterday Richard Goldstone told the Associated Press that he did not intend to ask the UN to rescind the Goldstone Report.  Although Goldstone continues to hold that the Report's conclusions about the January 5 shelling of Wa'el al-Samouni's house should be retracted, he does not believe that any other part of the Report should be retracted (AP).

(2) I've spent the past few days looking through the Goldstone Report.  One thing that struck me, and that I hadn't realized, is that the Reports spends just 8 paragraphs on the shelling of Wa'el al-Samouni's home.  Eight paragraphs out of a total of 1,776 paragraphs.  Recall that this shelling is the only part of the Report that Goldstone has retracted.  (As I've explained, unlike he implied in the op-ed, the Report never claimed that Israel had a policy of intentionally targeting civilians.)  So it should go without saying that even if we excised these 8 paragraphs, the Report would remain essentially unchanged.

(3) I'd like to thank Samaa Elibyari for interviewing me about the Goldstone op-ed on her radio show on CKUT-FM in Montreal.  You can listen to the show here.  My interview begins at 15:50.

* * * * *

UPDATE: I try not to be a cut-and-paste blogger, but sometimes I just can't help myself.  Here's a letter someone sent to Norman Finkelstein in response to the Goldstone op-ed:

An amazing magic trick by Israel. Now you see it…now you don’t.

Judge Goldstone wrote:

“Simply put, the laws of armed conflict apply no less to non-state actors such as Hamas than they do to national armies. Ensuring that non-state actors respect these principles, and are investigated when they fail to do so, is one of the most significant challenges facing the law of armed conflict. Only if all parties to armed conflicts are held to these standards will we be able to protect civilians who, through no choice of their own, are caught up in war.”

I wonder if Judge Goldstone would also agree that non-state actors have the right to defend their population against foreign occupation using proportional responses. If he does, I wonder as to what Judge Goldstone suggests a proportionate response from Hamas could look like? Because in my opinion offering to renew a ceasefire is quite a proportional response to caging in a civilian population under military occupation and causing the majority of children to become anemic. I wonder if he also agrees that international law protects civilians in non-state regions from foreign aggression. I’m also curious as to how Judge Goldstone’s opinion has changed on the legality of dropping white phosphorous on schools and hospital[s] or on what the military purpose of destroying chickens and flour mills is. How has Judge Goldstone’s opinion on incinerating policemen at a graduation ceremony changed. Perhaps he feels that they are legitimate targets because they are within the Hamas organization. Would he then also agree that an IDF soldier sitting in a cafe is also a legitimate military target for a suicide bombing and that any Israeli civilians killed would be tragic but not “intentionally targeted as a matter of policy” by Hamas? Hamas is no angel, they receive NO sympathy from me. But they appear to be much more efficient than Israel at not killing civilians using makeshift rockets and suicide bombings even though Israel is using state of the art U.S weaponry. Perhaps Israel should get some pointers from Hamas on how to avoid civilian deaths. And as far as I know Hamas hasn’t prevented freedom of movement or the oportunity to have a future for Israeli civilians. Funny how opinions can change. It’s like magic.

UPDATE 2 (4/7): William A. Schabas, director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, points out what I've been emphasizing for the past several days: "I have reread the Commission’s Report in light of Judge Goldstone’s statement. I do not believe that the Commission ever alleged that there was an Israeli policy of intentionally targeting civilians. The furthest it goes, I think, is to talk of a ‘low threshold for the use of lethal fire against the civilian population’ (para. 44), which is not the same thing as intentionally targeting civilians. Judge Goldstone could not retract a conclusion that the Commission did not make" (Shabas) (h/t Mondoweiss).

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