Gold­stone: I was not a traitor to Is­rael

The Jewish Chronicle - - Front Page - BY SI­MON ROCKER AND AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

JUDGE RICHARD Gold­stone, au­thor of a con­tro­ver­sial United Na­tions re­port highly crit­i­cal of Is­rael’s ac­tions in Gaza, has de­fended his role in an in­ter­view with the JC.

The South African ju­rist said he was “a tra­di­tional Zion­ist” who found it hard to un­der­stand the sug­ges­tion that he had be­trayed Is­rael by agree­ing to lead the in­quiry. “On the con­trary, I be­lieved that what I agreed to do would be in the in­ter­ests of Is­rael and the re­gion,” he said.

He also re­vealed that he had not an­tic­i­pated the strength of re­ac­tion against the re­port from Is­raeli leaders “from whom I ex­pected bet­ter”.

The re­port, com­mis­sioned by the United Na­tions Hu­man Rights Coun­cil, which en­dorsed it last Fri­day by 25 votes to six, ac­cused Is­rael of fir­ing on civil­ian tar­gets and the dis­pro­por­tion­ate use of force, and Ha­mas of at­tack­ing Is­raeli civil­ians.

“The ev­i­dence that we found in re­spect of some of the in­ci­dents clearly in­di­cated an in­ten­tional tar­get­ing of civil­ians and civil­ian sites,” he said.

But he ex­plained that his four-per­son in­quiry team “did not ap­ply a crim­i­nal stan­dard of proof — proof be­yond a rea­son­able doubt. We based our find­ing on what we saw with our own eyes, and the ev­i­dence we heard with our own ears.”

Whether any Is­raelis would end up charged with war crimes, he said, would de­pend on whether there were “good-faith do­mes­tic in­ves­ti­ga­tions,” and also on the at­ti­tude of the per­ma­nent mem­bers of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

As sup­port ap­peared to be grow­ing in Is­rael for an in­de­pen­dent in­quiry into its con­duct in Op­er­a­tion Cast Lead in Gaza in De­cem­ber and Jan­uary, Judge Gold­stone said: “I cer­tainly hope that Is­rael will launch its own… in­ves­ti­ga­tion. A re­fusal to launch such an in­quiry will be fairly in­ter­preted as an at­tempt to hide the true state of af­fairs.”

At an Is­raeli Cab­i­net meet­ing on Tues­day, sev­eral min­is­ters, in­clud­ing Likud’s Dan Meri­dor and Labour’s Isaac Her­zog, backed an of­fi­cial in­quiry as a way of ward­ing off in­ter­na­tional pro­ceed­ings against Is­raeli of­fi­cers and min­is­ters.

But there is stiff op­po­si­tion to this from the IDF — sup­ported by De­fence Min­is­ter Ehud Barak — whose top brass pri­vately ac­cuse the pro-in­quiry min­is­ters of “leav­ing the army out in the cold”.

Prime Min­is­ter Binyamin Ne­tanyahu, mean­while, has in­structed Jus­tice Min­is­ter Ya’akov Nee­man to form a spe­cial task force to deal with any le­gal ac­tions be­ing taken against Is­raeli of­fi­cers and of­fi­cials over war crimes al­le­ga­tions.

He has also asked him to cam­paign with other West­ern gov­ern­ments to change the laws of war in or­der to be more rel­e­vant to anti-ter­ror op­er­a­tions.

Al­though the United States voted against the re­port last week, Bri­tain chose to cast no vote at all in a ges­ture that ap­par­ently re­flected con­cern at Is­rael’s use of white phos­pho­rous dur­ing Cast Lead.

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