Goldstone's war-crimes reversal: Vindication for Israel?

The author of a hard-hitting U.N. report on Israel's incursion into Gaza revisits the issue in a Washington Post op-ed. Is he clearing Israeli forces of war crimes?

Richard Goldstone, head of the U.N. Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict, seems to be stepping back from his earlier claim that Israel engaged in potential war crimes.
(Image credit: Corbis)

"If I had known then what I know now," begins South African jurist Richard Goldstone in a Washington Post op-ed, then my scathing 2009 U.N. Human Rights Council report on Israel's deadly three-week incursion into Gaza "would have been a different document." Goldstone goes on to distance himself from one of the report's most explosive claims: That Israel deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians, a potential war crime. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has now called on the U.N. to retract the Goldstone Report, saying the op-ed vindicates Israel. Does it?

Yes, Israel deserves an apology: Goldstone's op-ed "can be summarized in two words: Never mind," says the Chicago Tribune in an editorial. He doesn't just undermine his "disastrously wrong report" and its most incendiary findings. He also charges that the U.N. Human Rights Council is embarrassingly anti-Israel. The U.N. needs to formally scrap the Goldstone Report, then admit it isn't "an honest broker in the Middle East."

"Israel and the UN"

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No, this is hardly exonerating: This is a "qualification," not a "retraction," says Ben White in Mondoweiss. Goldstone doesn't dispute the report's central finding, that Israel used "deliberately disproportionate" violence to "punish, humiliate, and terrorize" Gazans. Besides, the Goldstone Report was written by "four respected international jurists" and its findings were independently corraborated by outside groups.

"Goldstone: 'Retractions' vs facts"

This is a "fiasco of politicization" on both sides: The Goldstone Report has, from day one, been distorted by political spin from all sides, says Mitchell Plitnick in The Third Way. "The left interpreted it as an indictment of Israel," and the "so-called 'pro-Israel' pundits" spouted claims of "trumped-up charges of hatred of Israel and even of Jews." No one was right. The report raised important questions, but didn't reach firm conclusions. Goldstone's op-ed largely asks the questions again, because most have yet to be answered.

"Goldstone op-ed shows need for deeper look at Gaza and international law"

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