The Dangerous Bias of the United Nations Goldstone Report

It condemns self-defense and lets the aggressor off the hook.

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In January 2010, the Israel Defense Force completed its own internal investigation of many of the incidents that appear in the Goldstone Report, including the case of Abu Askar. Israeli representatives submitted their findings to the U.N. secretary-general. It turned out that the cellar and other parts of Abu Askar's house served as a storage facility for large stockpiles of weapons and ammunition, including Iranian-supplied Grad rockets that had been used against Israeli cities like Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Beersheba. Indeed, the area around the house had been used as a launch site for attacking many Israeli towns and villages. If someone in the U.N.'s research division would have bothered to check the Arabic website of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades of Hamas they would have disclosed that Khaled Abu Askar, Muhammad's son, worked for the military supply unit of Hamas and provided its operatives with rockets and military equipment. 

The Abu Askar case is only one of many incidents that appear in the Goldstone Report, but it is representative of a pervasive problem that appears throughout. In trying to reconstruct the reality of what occurred in the Gaza War, the team members refused to consider that Hamas was exploiting civilian areas to gain military advantage. In late October 2009, Colonel Travers confidently told Harper's: "We found no evidence that mosques were used to store munitions." He then added his own ideological position on the matter that helped him make such a conclusive assertion: "Those charges reflect Western perceptions in some quarters that Islam is a violent religion." 

When Travers was asked how many mosques he inspected, he answered that he visited two. He did not even think that he needed to be more thorough for he dismissed the very possibility that anyone would hide munitions in a place of worship. In contrast, earlier this year, Col. Tim Collins, a British veteran of the Iraq War, visited Gaza for BBC Newsnight and actually inspected the ruins of a mosque that Israel had destroyed because it had been a weapons depot. He found that there was evidence of secondary explosions caused by munitions stored in the mosque cellar. Travers clearly did not think it was necessary to make the same effort. 

In other theaters of war in the Middle East, the militarization of mosques was very common. In 2004, U.S. forces in Iraq found weapons and insurgents in no less than 60 mosques in the town of Fallujah. While the Goldstone Report itself stated that it was unable to make a determination whether mosques were used for military purposes by the Palestinians, it nonetheless concluded that mosques were a "civilian object" and that Israeli operations against them were a violation of international law. 

More generally, the Goldstone team simply refused to accept the argument that Hamas had used the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip, as well as its civilian infrastructure, as human shields—a hallmark of the asymmetric warfare used by insurgents. Speaking about Hamas, Travers in his 2010 interview states point blank: "We found no evidence for the human shield phenomenon…" Travers, in particular, was operating with ideological filters that prevented him from seeing evidence that contradicted his worldview. 

From Israel's military experience, it was clear that Hamas used human shields effectively. A new report by Israel's Intelligence and Information Center contains Israeli Air Force video showing how on Dec. 27, 2008, the first day of the Gaza War, after the residents of a building serving as a munitions storehouse were warned of an imminent Israeli air operation, they did not evacuate but ran to the roof of the building. As a result, Israel aborted the air strike it had planned. Other Israeli Air Force videos show Hamas operatives deliberately moving toward groups of children or using them in the fighting in order to escape any possible Israeli attack. Detained Hamas combatants confirmed this had been part of their military tactics.