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Goldstone ‘has not recanted’

Judge Richard Goldstone

Judge Richard Goldstone

Published Apr 4, 2011


Peter Fabricius, SAPA-DPA and Sapa-afp

Foreign Editor

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Former South African judge Richard Goldstone has not retracted his controversial report into the Gaza war-despite the Israeli government’s demand that he had now recanted.

Israel demanded yesterday that Goldstone apologise for the report and said the UN should rescind it after Goldstone reversed his original conclusion that Israel had intentionally targeted civilians.

“If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone report would have been a different document,” Goldstone wrote in an opinion article published in The Washington Post on Friday.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that Goldstone’s report “should be thrown into the wastebin of history”, and yesterday Israeli President Shimon Peres demanded an apology from Goldstone, who headed the UN fact-finding mission into the Gaza war two years ago.

Goldstone himself declined to comment on the controversy apart from suggesting that his article should be read carefully.

His defenders have pointed out that a careful reading shows he has not retracted his original report in the article, nor has he exonerated the Israeli Defence Force for all its conduct in the Gaza war.

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What he had done was to say if that the Israeli government had co-operated with his inquiry, he would have discovered facts which have only subsequently come to light in the Israeli Defence Force’s own investigations.

In the article Goldstone said that although he believed there had been some incidents of human rights violations involving individual Israeli soldiers, investigations conducted by the Israeli military, and recognised by the UN, “indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy”.

For example, the most serious attack the Goldstone report focused on was the killing of 29 members of the al-Simouni family, but the shelling of their home “was apparently the consequence of an Israeli commander’s erroneous interpretation of a drone image”.

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Goldstone explained in a Stanford University address this year that the Israeli Defence Force had probed this incident and concluded that an Israeli soldier analysing a drone image had concluded that someone was carrying a rocket-launcher, whereas this had turned out to be firewood.

He said had the Israeli Defence Force provided him with that information before, it would probably have influenced his report.

But Goldstone’s defenders have also pointed out that he has never said he believes the Israeli Defence Force’s internal investigations are adequate.

The Goldstone report, in September 2009, said it had found strong evidence that Israel and Hamas committed potential “war crimes”, and possibly “crimes against humanity”.

See page 13

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