Judge Richard Goldstone (archives)
Photo: AFP

Goldstone: As Jew, it's my duty to probe war crimes

Judge who headed UN investigation committee into Israeli operation in Gaza tells CNN he is saddened by fact that Jews feel he should not be investigating Israel because he is Jewish. I probed war crimes in other countries, he says, so why should Israel be different?

United Nations investigator Richard Goldstone said Sunday that he was saddened by the fact that Jews felt he should not be investigating Israel because he is Jewish. As a Jew, he told CNN, I have an even bigger duty to investigate war crimes. I probed war crimes in other countries, he said, so why should Israel be different?


In an interview to Fareed Zakaria's GPS show, the South African judge who composed the harsh report accusing Israel of committing war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, said that what happened in the territories cannot be compared to what happened in Yugoslavia or to the apartheid in South Africa.


Asked whether he believed the IDF had targeted civilians in Gaza, Goldstone said "Not as a policy. A fully fledged formal investigation will find that out. We didn't get near being judicial."


However, he added that "some of the killing...was certainly intentional. There was no mistake in bombing factories. The Israeli intelligence has very precise information."


He expressed his hope that the report he had written would serve as a "road map" for both sides to investigate things themselves.


Responding to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement that he would establish an investigative commission to investigate the report's findings, Goldstone said "I would be delighted if Israel established a committee to investigate our allegations. That's what we asked for - a transparent open investigation into our allegation I hope Hamas will also go for it." 


Asked whether he had plans to visit Israel soon, Goldstone said that he had many friends in the Jewish state but that a visit would likely not be held any time soon.


Addressing accusations that he was an anti-Zionist, Goldstone stressed that he had a lot of love for Israel and had visited the country many times. I have worked for many Israeli courts and will continue to do so, he said.


Goldstone was asked by the interviewer to address Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claim at the UN General Assembly that his report fails to distinguish between a democratic country threatened by rockets and a terror organization attempting to randomly target innocent civilians.


With all due respect, the judge replied, I believe Mr. Netanyahu did not properly understand the basis of our investigation. He added that the report did not doubt obvious Israel's right to defend itself, but looked into the methods used, examining whether the Jewish state's response was proportional or disproportional.


We did not check whether Hamas had the right to use military power to obtain independence for the Palestinian people, he added, but rather examined the methods its used and found them to be illegal.


'Israel reached opposite outcome'

In the interview, Goldstone described the damage caused to the Gaza Strip during the Israeli operation, stressing that the damage caused to the infrastructure had no military justification.


According to the UN investigator, agricultural fields were razed with tanks and bulldozers, the Strip's only flour factory was destroyed and most of the egg production industry was ruined. Tens of thousands of hens were killed, he said, and this had nothing to do with the firing of rockets or mortar shells.


He stressed that both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, and that both sides did not do enough to defend civilians from getting hurt.


Goldstone was also confronted with the Israeli claim that Hamas gunmen had been hiding in Gaza's hospitals, forcing Israel to attack them. We did not reject all these claims, he said, as we had a very tight schedule and limited resources.


He added that his committee had investigated specific incidents and did not find the Israeli claims to be justified. He noted, however, that these claims could not be completely overruled.


Goldstone went on to criticize the Israeli policy on the practical level, saying that the Israeli government sought to make life so difficult for Gaza's residents that they would stop supporting Hamas. In practice, he said, my impression was that the outcome was the complete opposite.


UN defers vote, PA minister resigns

On Friday, the UN put off taking action on the Goldstone Report, after US pressure aimed at getting the peace process back on track. The move was an early concrete result of the Obama administration's engagement in the Human Rights Council, which Washington joined in June.


Pakistan, speaking for Arab, Islamic, and African sponsors of a resolution, formally asked the forum to defer action on their text until the next regular session in March.


This would "give more time for a broad-based and comprehensive consideration" of the report, Pakistan's envoy Zamir Akram told the 47-member-state forum.


Palestinian Economy Minister Bassem Khoury resigned on Saturday "to protest the Palestinian Authority's agreement not to discuss the Goldstone Report," an official close to him said.


פרסום ראשון: 10.04.09, 15:10
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