“Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity,” announced Justice Richard Goldstone, head of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council investigation into last winter’s Gaza war, announced this morning in New York. Based on photographic evidence and testimony from dozens of interviews, he said at a press conference, the Israeli military violated international law in 36 instances under review, including one in which a mosque was bombed during prayers, causing unnecessary civilian deaths. Hamas, he said, was also guilty of possible war crimes, for firing rockets into civilian areas of southern Israel, but, relatively speaking, he said, the Israelis—who did not cooperate with the inquiry—had more to answer for. “We didn’t choose to give more attention to one side than the other,” Goldstone said. “Those were the facts as we found them.”
Goldstone, formerly head of the International Criminal Tribunals for both Yugoslavia and Rwanda, said he would hold off on recommendations that leaders of either Israel or Hamas be thrown in the dock at The Hague. Both sides, he said, have sufficiently independent and transparent procedures in place to conduct thorough investigations—but, he added, he’s recommending that the Security Council set a six-month deadline, and refer any outstanding issues to the International Criminal Court if either side drags their feet. (A 164-page IDF report released in July suffered because only Israelis were interviewed, Goldstone said, comparing it to an NYPD murder investigation that only included testimony from the suspect.)
Goldstone, a South African Jew who was president of World ORT, the Jewish educational charity, from 1997 to 2004, brushed off suggestions from reporters that he was being too hard on Israel. “It’s obviously a great disappointment to me, putting it mildly, that Israelis have behaved in the way described in the report,” Goldstone said. “To accuse me of being anti-Israel is ridiculous. It seems to me that it’s in the interest of Israel and in the interest of Palestinians that the truth be established.”
Israeli officials in Geneva, who were given a copy of the report only a few minutes before its public release, told the Associated Press that they planned to read it “carefully,” but had no immediate comment.