Academic journal article Middle East Review of International Affairs (Online)

Goldstone's Gaza Report: Part One: A Failure of Intelligence

Academic journal article Middle East Review of International Affairs (Online)

Goldstone's Gaza Report: Part One: A Failure of Intelligence

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION1

In response to the Israeli attack on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead (December 27-January 18, 2009), several major NGOs and public figures called for an investigation. On April 3, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed a "Fact-Finding Mission." The mission was made up of four members, including Hina Jilani, Desmond Travers, Christine Chinkin, and at its head, Richard Goldstone, former member of the South African Supreme Court and distinguished international jurist. On the basis of the animus of the founding organization (UNHRC) and the pervasive bias of the members of the team, Israel refused to cooperate with what some observers called "a kangaroo court."2 In May 2009, the mission met in Geneva. It later made two visits to Gaza (from June 1-5, 2009 and June 26-July 1, 2009), held further hearings in Geneva (in early July 2009), and eventually presented its findings to the UNHRC (first draft, 575 pages, September 15, 2009; final draft, 430 pages, September 25, 2009).

The report found both Israel and unspecified "Palestinian armed forces" guilty of "war crimes" and "possibly crimes against humanity." It focused primarily on Israel, concluding that Israel had deliberately targeted civilians and sought to destroy the viable infrastructure of Gazan life, providing numerous detailed and specific cases of these crimes. The Goldstone Report constitutes the most high-level, extensive international indictment of Israel to date, and may play a significant role in the attempt to pursue Israel before various international judicial venues such as the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

The report met with instantaneous hostility from Israeli sources-even those normally quite critical of the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) behavior3-and with almost instantaneous approval from Palestinian sources, including Hamas.4 It then became the focus of both UN and diplomatic struggles that involved the larger dynamics of peacemaking in the Middle East.5 Goldstone has given numerous media interviews (Amanpour, Zakaria, al-Jazeera, Tikkun, and Moyers),6 engaged in one quasi-debate (with Dore Gold at Brandeis University),7 and visibly ducked another (with Alan Dershowitz at Fordham University, where Goldstone is a visiting professor).8 On the one hand, critics have laid to bare the extensive flaws and emphasized the unintended negative consequences,9 while on the other, supporters have hailed it as a major victory in the campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel in the world of public opinion and as a major source of diplomatic leverage.10 "The Goldstone Report," noted one pro-Palestinian writer, "represents the highest and most prestigious leverage of the Palestinian initiative throughout their 60 years of oppression..."11

There is perhaps no subject that embodies and sheds light on so many of the issues that torment the early twenty-first century, more than the Goldstone Report and its controversies. The report's many and complex facets detail the dysfunctions of global public discourse, from the themes it explicitly addresses (universal human rights, international law of war, terrorism, asymmetrical warfare, the Arab-Israeli conflict), to its framework (politics of the UN Human Rights Council, reporting of the mainstream news media, the role of NGO research), to the dynamics of its reception in public discourse (critique, Israeli and Palestinian ambivalences, Western and UN politics, and Goldstone's public appearances). Indeed, a close analysis of the report's method and conclusions raises some of the fundamental cognitive issues of our time: religious and cultural discontinuities, scapegoating, cognitive egocentrism, postmodern epistemology, jihadi mentalities, antisemitism, and Jewish self-criticism. Anyone who understands the Goldstone report and its devastating ironies of content and impact gains a basic insight into how and why the very nations that have inaugurated modernity and globalization are losing a cognitive war with pre-modern forces. …

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