Let’s go back to the blueprint for the official nullification of the Goldstone Report: Ethan Bronner’s story in the New York Times on Saturday that said that Goldstone is an unreliable narrator and no one in Israel believes that the country targeted civilians in the Gaza onslaught. Bronner’s money quote came from an Israeli general:
Maj. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit, the Israeli military advocate general, said in an interview that those assertions [Israel waged “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population," per Goldstone] went beyond anything of which others had accused Israel.
“I have read every report, from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Arab League,” he said at his desk in the military’s Tel Aviv headquarters. “We ourselves set up investigations into 140 complaints. It is when you read these other reports and complaints that you realize how truly vicious the Goldstone report is. He made it look like we set out to go after the economic infrastructure and civilians, that it was intentional. It’s a vicious lie.”
Mandelbit’s statement is simply false. Whether Bronner knew it to be false is a different question; but it is false. Here is John Dugard, the South African professor of international law who prepared the Arab League report, writing to me [emphasis mine]:
It is unfair to say that the Goldstone report went further than that of the Arab league. We were in substantial agreement on all the incidents considered. However, as Goldstone considered more cases/incidents it is certrainly a more comprehensive report and in that sense more damning. The Arab League went further than the Goldstone report in important respects. For instance we considered, but largely rejected, the suggestion that Israel had committed genocide.
Genocide? Yes. The Arab League actually found that Israeli soldiers might be prosecuted for genocide. I know this from Norman Finkelstein, who’s read all the reports. (I haven’t.) Below is an excerpt from Finkelstein’s forthcoming book: "This Time We Went Too Far: Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion," which comes out in a month or so from OR Books. Here is Finkelstein’s comparison of Goldstone and the Arab League reports [again, emphasis mine]:
The Goldstone Report found that in seeking to “punish, humiliate and terrorize” the Gazan civilian population Israel committed numerous violations of customary and conventional international law. It also ticked off a lengthy list of war crimes that Israel committed such as “willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment,” “willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health,” “extensive destruction of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly,” and “use of human shields.” It further found that Israeli actions that “deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of sustenance, employment, housing and water, that deny their freedom of movement and their right to leave and enter their own country, that limit their access to courts of law and effective remedies…might justify a competent court finding that crimes against humanity have been committed.
The fact finding committee chaired by Goldstone’s distinguished South African colleague John Dugard went somewhat further. It concluded that during Israel’s “heinous and inhuman” attack it was culpable for war crimes such as “indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilians,” “killing, wounding and terrorizing civilians,” “wanton destruction of property,” and the bombing and shelling of hospitals and ambulances and obstructing the evacuation of the wounded. It further found that Israel was guilty of crimes against humanity including the intentional and “reckless” killing of civilians, “mass killings—‘extermination’—in certain cases,” and “persecution.”
It did not however hold Israel culpable for the crime of genocide: “the main reason for the operation was not to destroy a group, as required for the crime of genocide, but to engage in a vicious exercise of collective punishment designed either to compel the population to reject Hamas as the governing authority of Gaza or to subdue the population into a state of submission.” Still, it found that “individual soldiers may well have had such an intent and might therefore be prosecuted for this crime.”
Report of the Independent Fact Finding Committee on Gaza: No safe place. Presented to the League of Arab States (30 April 2009).