The U.N.’s Anti-Israel Problem: Quick to Judge Israel, Slow to Judge Hamas

In September of 2009, Richard Goldstone submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. The document, a 575-page inquiry into Israel’s 2008-2009 military incursions into Gaza, became a lightening rod due to its conclusion that Israel had possibly committed war crimes in its military attacks on Gaza, that Israel had intentionally targeted civilians, had likely intentionally killed civilians.

On Friday, Richard Goldstone published an Op-ed in The Washington Post in which he admitted that such accusations were hastily and mistakenly levied, writing:

We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.

What would be different? Oh, just those pesky war crimes accusations based on intentionality. Nothing more.

And people wonder why Israel constantly complains of an anti-Israel U.N. bias, why Israel refused to cooperate with the Goldstone commission in the first place.

However, all of this is secondary to the most significant point made by Goldstone in his Washington Post mea culpa:

Something that has not been recognized often enough is the fact that our report marked the first time illegal acts of terrorism from Hamas were being investigated and condemned by the United Nations. I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted. The Goldstone Report was the first time the UNHRC had investigated and condemned terror activities by Hamas.

One can almost visualize Goldstone wiggling while writing the above paragraph, for in order to defend his report as having attempted to be balanced – our report marked the first time illegal acts of terrorism from Hamas were being investigated and condemned by the United Nations – he must simultaneously indict the U.N. for its blatant, repeated anti-Israel biases.

Today, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is demanding that the Goldstone Report be withdrawn by the U.N.

And while Goldstone didn’t go this far in his WP piece, he did demanded that the UNHRC do more regarding its view of Hamas, writing:

Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.

How the UNHRC responds to Goldstone’s admissions will say much about whether the organization is willing to admit its past biases, and thus gain a shred of legitimacy with Israel, or whether it will continue to be a farcical organization with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The chances of any official UNHRC corrections to the Goldstone Report are, however, slim. Meanwhile, Goldstone’s words will continue to reverberate.


About David Harris-Gershon

David Harris-Gershon – a blogger for Tikkun magazine and a freelance writer on Israel, the Middle East and America’s role in the region – has recently published work in The Jerusalem Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, AlterNet, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Colorado Review and elsewhere. His memoir – What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife? – is forthcoming from Oneworld Publications (2013). He received his MFA from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and has worked extensively as an educator, teaching creative writing and Israeli History / Jewish Studies in university and high school classrooms. Follow David on Twitter @David_EHG

Posted on April 2, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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