Coauthors stand by UN report on Israel
Dispute lead writer, critics
LONDON — The coauthors of a scathing UN report on Israel’s conduct during its 2008-2009 offensive in Gaza said yesterday that they stand by their work, hitting back at critics who have pushed to have its findings withdrawn after the report’s lead author, Richard Goldstone, aired doubts about one of its central conclusions.
In a statement published on the website of Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Goldstone’s three colleagues said there was “no justification’’ for any move to review or rescind the 575-page report — which among other things accuses Israel of deliberately targeting civilians in its campaign against Hamas militants.
The report also condemned Hamas for targeting Israeli civilians by firing rockets at Israeli cities.
“Nothing of substance has appeared that would in any way change the context, findings, or conclusions of that report with respect to any of the parties to the Gaza conflict,’’ they said in the statement. “We firmly stand by these conclusions.’’
The Goldstone report has been the object of fierce controversy since its inception, and the Israeli government energetically rejected conclusions that it may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the battle in Gaza.
The United States has also rejected the report, calling it flawed and one-sided.
But in a surprise move that heartened critics of the report, Goldstone wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post on April 1 that cast doubt on one of its most damning allegations: that Israel deliberately targeted civilians as its forces tore through the tiny coastal strip.
Subsequent Israeli investigations, he said, “indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy,’’ adding that “if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.’’
Israelis seized upon the admission to argue that the report was fatally compromised and should be officially withdrawn — even though Goldstone himself later said that he saw no reason to revoke the document.
Yesterday’s statement from Goldstone’s colleagues — Pakistani human rights lawyer Hina Jilani, former Irish peacekeeper Desmond Travers, and international law professor Christine Chinkin — was even more categorical, suggesting that Goldstone had split with his coauthors by writing in the Post.