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Once defiant, Goldstone changes tune 16 months after Brandeis visit

Published: April 8, 2011
Section: Front Page, Top Stories

South African Justice Richard Goldstone, head of the United Nations fact-finding mission on the 2008-2009 Gaza War, said in a Washington Post column last week that there were both inaccuracies and mistakes in his 2009 report.

In November 2009, Goldstone and former Israeli Ambassador Dore Gold participated in an on-campus forum in Levin Ballroom. Then, Goldstone defended the report, which accused both Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinian Militants of committing war crimes during the 22-day Gaza War.

“We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report,” Goldstone wrote in an April 1 column in The Post titled “Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes.” “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”

At a town hall meeting with members of Israel’s Knesset on campus Monday evening, Professor Ilan Troen (NEJS) pointed out the inaccuracies of Goldstone’s presentation in 2009.

“I know that unlike that event [in 2009], that everything that our speakers will say tonight will not need to be taken back,” Troen said.

Goldstone insisted that the amount and intensity of the Israeli force during the Gaza War were disproportionate. The Gaza War completely destroyed more than 5,000 homes and damaged more than 200 industrial factories, according to what Goldstone said in 2009. He also stated that in Gaza, 90 percent of the people live on one dollar a day.

“The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion,” Goldstone wrote in the column last week. “While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”

Goldstone, the chair of the International Advisory Board of the Ethics Center at Brandeis , also served as a prosecutor for war crimes in Rwanda. Goldstone had been the target in 2009 of individual criticism as a Jew opposing Israel.

“I’ve had many sleepless nights and I continue to go over this issue, and one of the questions my wife and I debate is had I known what was going to happen, would I do it. If I was to be absolutely honest I don’t know,” Goldstone said in a November 2009 interview with The Hoot.

In the column, Goldstone said that Israel accepted the recommendations to conduct internal investigations while Hamas neglected them.

“Indeed, our main recommendation was for each party to investigate, transparently and in good faith, the incidents referred to in our report. McGowan Davis has found that Israel has done this to a significant degree; Hamas has done nothing,” Goldstone wrote.