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Goldstone defends UN Gaza report

Published: November 6, 2009
Section: Front Page


The Goldstone Report: Head of the United Nations fact-finding mission about the 2008-2009 Gaza War Justice Richard Goldstone spoke to community members about the report yesterday evening in Levin Ball Room.<br /><i>PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot</i>

The Goldstone Report: Head of the United Nations fact-finding mission about the 2008-2009 Gaza War Justice Richard Goldstone spoke to community members about the report yesterday evening in Levin Ball Room.
PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

Gallery

A dozen Pro-Palestinian protesters briefly disrupted a campus forum yesterday featuring Justice Richard Goldstone of South Africa, head of the U.N. Fact Finding Mission for the Gaza Conflict, and former Israeli Ambassador Dore Gold.

The event, held in Levin Ball Room of the Usdan Student Center, addressed Goldstone’s report accusing both Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinian Militants committing war crimes during the 22-day Gaza War last winter, and angered some because it did not feature a Palestinian representative.

As Gold began to defend the IDF’s use of military force during the Gaza War and criticize the Goldstone report, protesters silently stood up with signs taped to their back, claiming that the Goldstone report was accurate to fault Israel and that it was not a fair debate without a Palestinian representative present.

When asked about this protest, Goldstone responded, “I would have liked to see a representative of the Palestinian people.”

“Ambassador Gold was brought here specifically to contest it and present a side favorable to Israel which is fine,” said Hyder Kazmi ’12 in an interview with the Hoot.

“But because Justice Goldstone is not espousing a pro Palestinian view…we feel that the debate or forum immediately became biased there is a purportedly neutral side, there is a pro-Israeli side, and there is no one to contest it,” he said.

In an event Goldstone called a debate, the audience loudly applauded Dore’s comments, with a smaller, quieter group applauding Goldstone. Goldstone’s report continued to draw international spotlight this week.

The House of Representatives voted 334 to 36 to condemn the Goldstone report in a resolution passed this week. Goldstone strongly criticized such action, saying it was “ill conceived, and that the resolution was based on a number of incorrect facts, misconceptions.”

“I would love to know how many of these members who voted for it read the report,” Goldstone said in an interview with The Hoot.

Goldstone’s report has been endorsed by the U.N. Human Rights Council and is up for discussion in the General Assembly this week. Yet Goldstone addressed that further legal action is very unlikely.

“I think it’s unlikely that there’s going to be any compulsion on Israel. It seems to me highly unlikely that this will get to the Security Council, even if it did, it’s not going to get to the International Criminal Court,” Goldstone said.

Goldstone opened his remarks by addressing the agreement between himself and Gold about the “desire for peace and justice for all of the people of the Middle East.”

Explaining the mission of the 575 page report, which includes many specific incidences of unjust and disproportionate military force that “call and scream out for investigation,” Goldstone stated that he rejected the original mandate of the fact-finding mission to only investigate Israeli transgression during the Gaza conflict because it was biased, and believes that the current report addresses necessary issues that demand investigation.

Gold strictly opposed Goldstone’s remarks, claiming that “this [Gaza] war would never have happened if rockets weren’t fired at the state of Israel.”

Gold explained that Israel acted in defense after eight years of rocket attacks.

“It’s no secret that the U.N. Human Rights Council…mistreats the state of Israel systematically,” Dore said. “It [the Human Rights Council] will be judged on how it treats minorities and the Jewish state is a minority in the international system.”

In a speech and power point presentation, Dore explained that the IDF takes several precautions in an attempt to minimize civilian casualties. Dore said that Hamas hides weapons and ammunition in military bases in residential neighborhoods, thus endangering civilians.

According to Gold, the Israeli army dropped leaflets and placed phone calls to Palestinians warning them to evacuate their homes.

“What would you do if your population was facing repeated rocket attacks for eight years?” he asked.

Gold explained that the IDF was faced with three options regarding the attacks: unrestricted bombing, surrendering, or attempting to separate civilians from Hamas and attack. Israel chose the later option, according to Gold.

“The IDF is not what appears in this report. The report simply distorts the very essence of what Israel stands for,” Dore said.

Goldstone insisted that the amount and intensity of the Israeli force during the Gaza war was disproportionate. The Gaza War completely destroyed over 5,000 homes and damaged over 200 industrial factories, according to Goldstone. He also stated that in Gaza, 90% of the people live on one dollar a day.

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 has been the target of recent 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.

“I don’t think it [the report] was biased. I think most objective reviewers of the report who have actually read the report, have indicated that its exceptionally balanced on all the issues, and I think the criticisms are more political than substantive,” said Howard Lenow, a supporter of the organization American Jews for a Just Peace.

Others also passed out fliers explaining the factual inaccuracies of the report.

“This is what the University is about. It’s terrific that we have a real discussion, an opportunity to ask people questions directly. To the best of my knowledge, it’s the first time that this has been happening on a college campus,” President Reinharz said.

Following their speeches, both Goldstone and Gold answered questions from the audience before delivering brief concluding remarks, and shaking hands at the end of the forum.

“Brandeis really has lived up to its reputation of seeking the truth,” Goldstone said.