Co-authors of scathing UN report into Israeli conduct defend conclusions

THE three co-authors of a scathing United Nations report on Israel’s conduct during its 2008-2009 offensive in Gaza have said they stand by their work.

They hit back at critics who have pushed to have its findings withdrawn after the report’s lead author, Richard Goldstone, aired doubts about one of its central conclusions.

Goldstone’s three colleagues — former Irish peacekeeper Desmond Travers, Pakistani human rights lawyer Hina Jilani and international law professor Christine Chinkin — said there was “no justification” for any move to review or rescind the 575-page report.

The Gladstone Report accuses Israel of deliberately targeting civilians in its campaign against Hamas militants and condemns 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,” the three co-authors said in a statement. “We firmly stand by these conclusions.”

The Goldstone Report has been the subject of fierce controversy since its inception.

The Israeli government emphatically rejected conclusions it may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the battle in Gaza.

The United States also rejected the report, calling it flawed and one-sided.

Their comments follow Gladstone’s surprise article in the editorial pages of the Washington Post on April 1 in which he cast doubt on one of the report’s most damning allegations: that Israel deliberately targeted civilians as its forces tore through the 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Israelis seized upon the admission to argue that the report was fatally compromised and should be officially withdrawn, even though Goldstone later said he saw no reason to revoke the document.

Yesterday’s statement from his three colleagues was even more categorical, suggesting that Goldstone had split with his co-authors by writing in the American newspaper.

Jilani confirmed she and her colleagues disagreed with Goldstone’s assessment, saying she could not see “anything of substance now in the public domain that merits a rethinking on the findings of the report”.

Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, said the Israeli position on the Goldstone document remains the same.

“The whole process was deeply tainted by political bias and an extremist dominance over the UN Human Rights Commission by non-democratic countries,” he said, adding that the Israelis are still studying the “implications” of Goldstone’s newspaper article.

“We will try to take whatever steps are possible in order to minimise the unjust damage caused by the original report,” Palmor said.

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