JERUSALEM, Sept. 16, 2009 -- Israelis are angry over the findings of the Goldstone Report claiming that Israel deliberately targeted civilians during its three-week military operation in the Gaza Strip launched in late December.
The U.N. investigation, led by former South African judge Richard Goldstone, concluded that "there is evidence that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity."
The 574-page report was released Tuesday at a news conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
According to a statement released by the Foreign Ministry, "Israel is appalled and disappointed by the report, which compares it to Hamas and rewards acts of terror. We will treat it accordingly… The report attempts to rewrite a shameful chapter in the history of international law and nations' right to defend themselves."
The statement also says that "the committee did nothing but gather biased testimonies against Israel."
Tal Semo, a 26-year-old law student, echoed sentiments expressed by the Israeli government. "The point of view expressed [in the report] was one that prefers the suffering of the Palestinian people over Israel's suffering, and blames Israel while ignoring the causes.
"The bottom line is that war is war, and it's never nice," Semo said. "But you need to get a more rounded picture. Most of the sources were Palestinian, because the Palestinian side was hurt the most, but the report seems to ignore the years of missiles in Israel, the kidnapped soldier whom no one knows is still alive [Gilad Shalit, held hostage by Hezbollah since 2006]. You can't gloss over Palestinian crimes."
The report does state that there is evidence that Palestinian-armed groups committed war crimes by not distinguishing between military and civilian targets in its repeated rocket and mortar launching into Israel from the territories, while it is highly critical of Israel.
Ayal, a 25-year-old Israeli graduate student of international relations who preferred not to be named, said that the problem was with the U.N. as an investigator, not the results. Ayal is politically to the left and critical of Israel's policies, yet he said he doubts the ability of the UN committee.
Israeli Residents Question U.N. Report's Credibility
"Most Israelis are very skeptical of the United Nations and both its impartiality and ability to investigate," Ayal said. "I do believe an investigation is needed, and that the report should not be completely discredited, but the U.N. is problematic both to investigate or to have any credibility over here."
Many said they were angry to hear that the report had a lack of focus on the Israeli "desperation" that led to the war. "Israel is right to dismiss the report—they don't have the right to judge Israel," Freda Cansino, who moved from England to Jerusalem 22 years ago, said. "The war was in self defense—they were firing rockets and they are still firing rockets. For them to say they killed civilians and children on purpose is a wicked lie."
Israel refused to cooperate with the mission, claiming it the report was "biased" before its launch, because its initial mission statement failed to mention Hamas and seemed to place blame on Israel. Government spokesperson Mark Regev said Israel was correct in its decision. "The mandate was biased from the beginning and it would have been a mistake to give credibility to a mission that has more in common with a kangaroo court than it does with a serious investigation," Regev said, according to the Associated Press.
Initially, Goldstone refused to accept his leadership position on the report until the terms were further stipulated that the investigation would cover all sides, including Palestinian rocket fire and elevated tensions along the border, according to the Jerusalem Post.
"[With the expanded mandate] there is really no justification now for any government, including Israel, to refuse to cooperate with the mission," Goldstone said in the Post.
As the report comes under debate in Israel, questions about possible anti-Semitism are being raised. Though Goldstone himself is Jewish, Uri Bloch said that even a Jewish person can be anti-Israel. "I never had any expectations for a better-sounding report, even though Goldstone himself is a decent Jewish man," Bloch, a tour guide from Haifa, said.
Israel Will Not Launch an Independent Probe into Gaza War Crimes
Nicole Goldstone, daughter of Richard Goldstone, said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post that her father "is a Zionist and loves Israel… It wasn't easy for him…I think he heard and saw things he didn't expect to see and hear. I am one-hundred-percent sure he [conducted the investigation] in the hope that the Israelis would come to cooperate, and he wanted to help find a long-term solution for the state of Israel," she said from her home in Toronto.
Israel announced today it will reject one of the reports suggestions: that it launch its own independent probe into alleged war crimes during the Gaza War. This attitude is the most problematic of all, Ayal said. "We brought this report on ourselves," he said. "If we [through the Israeli government] had done something ourselves, we wouldn't have people from the outside lecturing us on morals or getting involved."