The Case Against the Goldstone Report

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The Goldstone Report is much more scurrilous than most of its detractors (and supporters) believe. According to the report, Israel used the more than 8,000 rocket attacks on its civilians merely as a pretext, an excuse, a cover for the real purpose of Operation Cast Lead, which was to target innocent Palestinian civilians—children, women, the elderly—for death.  This criminal objective was explicitly decided upon by the highest levels of the Israeli government and military and constitutes a deliberate and willful war crime.  The report found these serious charges “to be firmly based in fact” and had “no doubt” of their truth.

In contrast, the Mission decided that Hamas was not guilty of deliberately and willfully using the civilian population as human shields.  It found “no evidence” that Hamas fighters “engaged in combat in civilian dress,” “no evidence” that “Palestinian combatants mingled with the civilian population with the intention of shielding themselves from attack,” and no support for the claim that mosques were used to store weapons.

The report is demonstrably wrong about both of these critical conclusions.  The hard evidence conclusively proves that the exact opposite is true, namely that:

[1] Israel did not have a policy of targeting innocent civilians for death.  Indeed the IDF went to unprecedented lengths to minimize civilian casualties; and

[2] That Hamas did have a deliberate policy of having its combatants dress in civilian clothing, fire their rockets from densely populated areas, use civilians as human shields, and store weapons in mosques.

What is even more telling than its erroneous conclusions, however, is its deliberately skewed methodology, particularly the manner in which it used and evaluated similar evidence very differently, depending on whether it favored the Hamas or Israeli side.

I have written a detailed analysis of the Goldstone Methodology, which is now available online.  It is being sent to the Secretary General of the United Nations for inclusion in critiques of the Goldstone report received by the United Nations.  This analysis documents the distortions, misuses of evidence and bias of the report and those who wrote it.  It demonstrates that the evidence relied on by the report, as well as the publicly available evidence it deliberately chose to ignore, disproves its own conclusions.

The central issue that distinguishes the conclusions the Goldstone Report reached regarding Israel, on the one hand, and Hamas, on the other, is intentionality.  The report finds that the most serious accusation against Israel, namely the killing of civilians, was intentional (and deliberately planned at the highest levels).  The report also finds that the most serious accusations made against Hamas, namely that their combatants wore civilian clothing to shield themselves from attack, mingled among the civilian populations and used civilians as human shields, was unintentional.

These issues are, of course, closely related.  If it were to turn out that there was no evidence that Hamas ever operated from civilians areas, and that the IDF knew this, then the allegation that the IDF, by firing into civilian areas, deliberately intended to kill Palestinian civilians, would be strengthened.  But if it were to turn out that the IDF reasonably believed that Hamas fighters were deliberately using civilians as shields, then this fact would weaken the claim that the IDF had no military purpose in firing into civilian areas.  Moreover, if Hamas did use human shields then the deaths of Palestinian civilian shields would be more justly attributable to Hamas then to Israel.

Since intentionality, or lack thereof, was so important to the report’s conclusions, it would seem essential that the report would apply the same evidentiary standards, rules and criteria in determining the intent of Israel and in determining the intent of Hamas.  Yet a careful review of the report makes it crystal clear that its writers applied totally different standards, rules and criteria in evaluating the intent of the parties to the conflict.  The report resolved doubts against Israel in concluding that its leaders intended to kill civilians, while resolving doubts in favor of Hamas in concluding that it did not intend to use Palestinian civilians as human shields.  Moreover, when it had precisely the same sort of evidence in relation to both sides—for example, statements by leaders prior to the commencement of the operation—it attributed significant weight to the Israeli statements, while entirely discounting comparable Hamas statements.  This sort of evidentiary bias, though subtle, permeates the entire report.

In addition to the statements of leaders, which are treated so differently, the report takes a completely different view regarding the inferring of intent from action.  When it comes to Israel, the report repeatedly looks to results and infers from the results that they must have been intended.  But when it comes to Hamas, it refuses to draw inferences regarding intent from results.  For example, it acknowledges that some combatants wore civilian clothes, and it offers no reasonable explanation for why this would be so other than to mingle indistinguishably from civilians.  Yet it refuses to infer intent from these actions.

Highly relevant to the report’s conclusion that militants did not intend for their actions to shield themselves from counterattack is that the Mission was “unable to make any determination on the general allegation that Palestinian armed groups used mosques for military purpose,” “did not find any evidence to support the allegations that hospital facilities were used by the Gaza authorities or by Palestinian armed groups to shield military activities,”  did not find evidence “that ambulances were used to transport combatants or for other military purposes,” and did not find “that Palestinian armed groups engaged in combat actives from United Nations facilities that were used as shelters during the military operations.”

There is, however, hard evidence that Hamas did operate in mosques and, at the very least, near hospitals.  Circumstantial evidence (precise weaponry) was used to prove Israeli intent.  Regarding Hamas, the circumstantial evidence even stronger in inferring intent.  It is beyond obvious that militants do not fire rockets in the vicinity of mosques or hospitals because it is easier to launch rockets near community institutions.  Rather, they do so only because of the special protections afforded to hospitals and religious centers in war.

The report—commissioned by an organization with a long history of anti-Israel bigotry, and written by biased “experts,” with limited experience and a pre-ordained result—is one-sided and wrong in its fundamental conclusions.  This should not be surprising since conclusions can be no better than the methodology employed, and the methodology employed in this report is fundamentally flawed.

So now it is up to Richard Goldstone to explain the evidentiary bias that is so obviously reflected in the report, and that is documented in my lengthier analysis available online.  The burden is on him to justify the very different methodologies used in the report to arrive at its conclusions regarding the intentions of Israel and the intentions of Hamas.  Failure to assume that burden will constitute an implicit admission that the conclusions reached in the Goldstone report are not worthy of consideration by people of good will.

  • aliko

    Why don't you remind us, Mr. Dershowitz, what was you opinion about the Israel withdrawal from the Gaza strip, transferring and dismantling even the cemeteries? Why don't you remind us what was your motivation for supporting this move that ended in with this operation?

    Let's not forget how the left covered for Sharon's withdrawal despite him being accused with his sons for tax evasion, accepting bribe and else. He promised to act after one rocket but failed to anything until he went into coma, many rocket attacks after. This is the very same left you supported Mr. Dershowitz.

    This is an article written by Dershowitz in 2005:

    http://www.law.harvard.edu/news/2005/09/09_dersho

    I sure miss Ephraim Kishon and Dosh who'd have a field day with their satire with this hypocrisy.

    • aliko

      "A Chekhovian compromise is the only true road to peace."

      One more thing Mr. Dershowitz, people like you supported Chamberlain's compromise and it got the Jewish people to near extinction. The same kind of people led us to the Oslo agreements that imported 10,000 terrorists from Tunisia. The same people tried to pass Arafat as Kosher despite his backing up the terror that took place and his own admittance in a mosque in Johannesburg that this 'Koresh' like peace is a fake – all for the sake of compromise.

      So no, Mr Dershowitz, it's not compromise but Churchillian uncompromising with terror, fascist and holocaust tendencies that made peace with Germany and Japan. If you didn't learn this basic lesson, you're a failed Jew.

    • gary

      This has got to be the dumbest reply I have read in a long time! It demonstrates a complete and willing ignorance of all the basics fo common sense.
      Cemeteries dismantled? Of course. For them the loss of Gaza meant the certain loss of all that was in the cemeteries, forever out of reach to them, and also that the Palestinians, who hate all things Jewish would desecrate them over time like they also did to the Church of the Seplchre in Bethlehem!!! Oh but you forgot all about that, right? They used priceless old Iconic books and art work as their toilet paper while they accupied the church….. then , they blew up when they thought somebody might have mistreated copy of the Quran?? You talk so freely of hypocrisy when you are dripping with it yourself. What a foolish and wilingly blind person. Most people are not stupid enough believe your crap fortunately.

      • Steve

        I believe his point is that Professor Dershowitz is wrong to support a two state solution; that he was wrong to support "disengagement" from Gaza.

      • aliko

        gary: You must be the dumbest guy I've read in a long time. Obviously I pointed out to what extend did Israel go to clear the Gaza strip of Jewish traces so we won't be blamed for "occupation" and for what? for appeasing people who are the easiest to predict they'll just shoot the next available Jewish targets like Sderot and the rest of the surrounding villages.

        What you idiot fail to see is that Dershowitz belongs to a long list of people who were willing and still are to tear this tiny country just to appease people who will never have enough and that includes the Fatah.

        I don't need to be reminded of Bethlehem as I'm typing from Israel, born here and served the in the IDF so I'm paying the price myself, how about you?

        "Believe my crap"? I posted a link to an article Dershowitz published in 2005 that shows how strongly he feels and how deep he's rooted into the left mindset. Maybe you are too stupid to click on the link? maybe just too stupid to understand what I wrote, either way get lost.

    • Steve

      As it turned out, "those who are more Israeli than most Israelis; (those who) oppose any territorial compromise; (those who) resisted leaving Gaza and (those) who will resist giving up any of the West Bank…."

      As it turned out, we were / are right.

  • eerie Steve

    How cool would it be if Schwarzenegger came in guns blazing and just gerrymandered something like "The Zionist Israeli Colony of California" and used the new exodus to get the bond rating of California back to prime status. F@ck it. Israel. Ur moving, and really, u ain't that different than the Arabs.

    Hey. Free weed isn't working. If you need something making money, just higher an Israeli prostitute.

  • eerie Steve

    oh yeah pr 10

  • Joy

    Such hateful commentaries! Dershowitz defends Israel and Zionism with a passion that I've read many times before. Mainly here, he's exposed the Goldstone report for the biased, lying piece of garbage that it is (as if this is the first serious critique – but it does come from a credible source!). I've read criticisms of Dershowitz in the past, and I'm not all that famliar with everything he's said & written, but his defense here is honest, passionate and to the point. In fact, we can't have enough voices of reason in this debate – and the other posters are typical of the anti-semitic and anti-Zionist trolls that are found under every dark & slimy rock.

    • KathmandouTiger

      We all can read in Internet how Hamas brags for Palestinians using human shields. No wonder civilians die in Gaza.

  • Joy

    Agreed that Dershowitz' positions on & support of the pullout from Gaza and a two-state solution were both dead wrong (although many of us, before Operation Cast Lead, that a 2-state solution MIGHT be possible), but his reasoning was clouded by hope and optimism – even in the face of stark reality. His support of Israel, however, has been consistently strong; it's just that his views (and those of past Israeli Prime Ministers as well) on the stranglehold Hamas has on Gaza (and beyond) were misguided at best. Now most people understand the cold, hard realtiy – but how can we marry that sad fact with our eternal hope for peace?

  • andrew nitzberg

    Hooray for Alan Deshowitz: a sincere and passionate supporter of Israel.

    Everyone makes mistakes. However, this story does not yet have an ending. The Gaza withdrawal might yet have an 'unexpected consequence' favoriable to Israel. Oslo certainly did not work out well for anyone but Iran. But, again, this story is not yet over.

    There is a self-governing Arab West Bank territory coming. The question is what form it shall take. Since Oslo, the justification for Israel having a checkpoint at the Jordan border of the West Bank has clearly been strengthened.

    The world is a dynamic not a static place. A little faith can go a long way and I have no reservations abouit placing my faith and confidence in the sincerity and love of Israel of a man like Alan Dershowitz.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JosephWiess JosephWiess

    I would posit that anyone that prepares a report for the UN should be politically neutral, and should base their report only on the facts as reported, and keep their personal feelings out of it.
    However, if such a person were found and he did investigate completely what had happened, he might find out that palestinians don't want peace, they want Israel in pieces and destroyed.

  • LucyQ

    To be brief and I join Prof Dershowitz in condemming the Goldstone Report is if Israel is 'targeting civilians,' then why does hamas hide among the same civilians who Israel is supposedly targeting?