World and Nation

Three colleagues rebuke Gaza report author’s essay

JERUSALEM — Three members of the United Nations panel that investigated Israel’s Gaza war two years ago rejected on Thursday an essay written by the fourth, the former chairman Richard Goldstone, in which he retracted the panel’s key conclusions, especially that Israel had deliberately made civilians targets.

The three — Hina Jilani of Pakistan, Desmond Travers of Ireland, and Christine Chinkin of Britain — issued a statement to The Guardian in London saying that any attempt to backtrack on their report amounted to yielding to outside pressure, and that doing so would deprive the victims of justice.

Although their statement did not refer directly to Goldstone’s commentary in The Washington Post or to the issue of whether armed force was used intentionally against civilians, it was nonetheless a firm rebuke of Goldstone and of efforts to reconsider and even nullify the report the panel submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council in September 2009. The report is headed for the Security Council and General Assembly this year.

“In recent days some articles and comments appearing in the press with respect to the report of the United Nations (U.N.) fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict of 2008-2009 have misrepresented facts in an attempt to delegitimize the findings of this report and to cast doubts on its credibility,” their joint statement began.

“Members of the mission, signatories to this statement, find it necessary to dispel any impression that subsequent developments have rendered any part of the mission’s report unsubstantiated, erroneous or inaccurate,” it said.

Goldstone said by email that he declined to respond to his colleagues’ statement.

His Washington Post essay included this broad statement: “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”

In particular, he said that what his panel believed to be an intentional attack on a Palestinian family, gathered by Israeli troops into one building that was then bombed, now appeared to have been caused instead by the fog of war — a misread drone report that, he had noted elsewhere, showed men carrying firewood that may have looked like rockets.

Goldstone, who is Jewish and South African, said that Israeli military investigations — while slow and incomplete — were showing him that civilians were probably not targets. Meanwhile, he complained that Hamas had conducted no internal investigation of its firing of rockets at Israeli civilians, that it continued to launch such rockets and that the council should make a point of condemning those attacks.

He added, “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 biggest complaints that Israel and its backers had about the panel’s original report was that it accused Israel of aiming to kill civilians and that it was too soft on Hamas.