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Goldstone Retracts War Crimes Claim against Israel

Bridges For Peace (Link) - BFP Israel Mosaic Radio - Joshua Spurlock (April 4, 2011)

The chairman of the UN Human Rights Council fact-finding team that accused Israel of possibly committing war crimes during the 2008-09 Gaza war effectively retracted those claims on Friday [April 1] in an Op-Ed in The Washington Post. Judge Richard Goldstone, of the UN�s Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead, said in The Washington Post that if he had known then what he knew now, the report would have been different. He said Israel�s own investigations into the war which were recognized in a UN follow-up committee�s report have indicated that �civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.�

The Israelis welcomed Goldstone�s comments, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying in a statement posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site that the UN should shelve the original Goldstone Report.

�Everything we said has proven to be true: Israel did not intentionally harm civilians, its institutions and investigative bodies are worthy, while Hamas intentionally fired upon innocent civilians and did not examine anything [of accusations of war crimes],� said Netanyahu. �The fact that Goldstone backtracked must lead to the shelving of this report once and for all.�

Prime Minister�s Office spokesman Mark Regev, in an interview with Bridges for Peace, noted the importance of Goldstone�s comments. �We think that this is a very significant admission,� said Regev. �Ultimately, if the author of the report says the report is not accurate, there�s no reason for the United Nations to lend any credence to this report.�

Regev noted that Israel was acting in �justified self-defense� in Gaza against terrorists there, who had fired thousands of rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians. He said the Gaza terrorists �had no qualms whatsoever about targeting civilians and about using Gaza�s civilian population as a human shield.� Regev said that outside of Israel, the nation�s approach has not only been defended as having acted appropriately with regard to civilians, it has even been praised.

�We�ve seen military officials from other democracies who have said, �Study the Israeli tactics,� and have actually praised us,� said Regev. �I think it was a British colonel, Richard Kemp�who was in charge of British combat forces in Afghanistan�who said that after looking at the tactics that we used said that we went above and beyond what most armies do when it comes to protecting the civilian population.

�We were trying to be as surgical as is possible, to seek out Hamas, to neutralize their ability to hurt us, to shoot rockets at the Israeli public�We didn�t seek to hurt Gaza�s civilian population.�

One of the reasons behind Judge Goldstone�s retraction was Israel�s investigation into its own military conduct, which he said has indicated that Israel�s military policy was not to intentionally target civilians.

In his comments with Bridges for Peace, Regev said that Israel�s military judge advocate answers not to the military chief-of-staff, but to the civilian court system. �Israel holds itself to the highest international standards�We would argue that Israel�s system of military justice is one of the most advanced in the world,� said Regev.

Goldstone attempted to partly blame Israel for the results of his report, since Israel elected not to officially cooperate with the UN team, which was established by the UN Human Rights Council. The council is well known for its anti-Israel bias. While Israel did not officially cooperate with the fact-finding mission, Ynet reported in September 2009 that an Israeli source said they did provide the Goldstone team with a 160-page report from the Foreign Ministry detailing Israel�s claims.

Regev explained that Israel�s decision not to cooperate officially was based on concerns of the Council�s bias against Israel. �We debated internally that issue; we had different opinions within the Israeli government, but in the end, it was decided that we simply could not cooperate with a mission that was sent by this very one-sided, anti-Israel, biased human rights commission,� said Regev. �We saw this as a kangaroo court. And the truth is, we weren�t wrong.�

Looking ahead, Netanyahu told Israel�s weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday [April 3] in comments posted on the Prime Minister�s Office Web site that Israel is considering diplomacy measures �in order to reverse and minimize the great damage that has been done by this campaign of denigration against the State of Israel.� He said he expects recommendations from a special staff meeting on the topic in the coming days. �

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