The Dangerous Bias of the United Nations Goldstone Report

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

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However, the Goldstone panel did not want to consider the possibility that the Gaza War was part of an emerging battlefield, in which private homes, mosques, and innocent civilians are being intentionally exploited by terrorist groups that seek to fight the West. In February 2010, Afghan officials reported that the Taliban were increasingly using human shields against U.S. and allied forces trying to make inroads in Helmand province. Similar tactics have been employed by the Taliban in Pakistan as well. 

With respect to the Gaza Strip, the Goldstone Report recommended that states open up criminal investigations against those whom it alleges may have committed war crimes. It also seeks the intervention of the International Criminal Court. Already, British courts have sought the arrest of former Israeli officers on the basis of complaints issued by Islamic and radical left-wing groups in London. Might not U.S. and other NATO officers be exposed to the same treatment on the basis of these precedents? Hamas created a legal arm, called al-Tawthiq (lit. documentation), which fed information to the Goldstone panel and today provides British lawyers with material to seek the arrest of Israelis in Britain. Why can't the Taliban find lawyers to do the same? 

What needs to be done is to recognize that Western armies are going to be dealing increasingly with situations in which terrorist groups are embedding their military capabilities in the heart of civilian areas. In these circumstances, Western armies have three choices if their countries come under attack: to give up and not defend their citizens, to act like the Russians in Chechnya and use indiscriminate firepower, or to find a way to separate the civilians from the military capabilities they hope to destroy. Israel clearly chose the last option, using a system of warnings to the population, by means of leaflets, breaking into Hamas radio broadcasts with special Arabic transmissions, and finally by telephone calls and text messages to the residents of a targeted area to evacuate and avoid danger. 

The Goldstone Report never suggests how Israel was supposed to respond to seven years of rocket fire. Despite the warnings that Israel issued, the report has the audacity to charge that Israeli soldiers "deliberately" killed Palestinian civilians, basing this accusation on biased interviews with Gaza residents whom it admitted were in "fear of reprisals." But rather than being discredited, unfortunately the Goldstone report has been picking up steam. The U.N. General Assembly voted on the report on November 5. Countries with forces deployed in insurgent wars, like in Afghanistan, either opposed or abstained. In a second vote in late February 2010, Britain and France changed their vote from abstention to support for the Goldstone Report. In mid-March 2010, the European Parliament voted to endorse the report as well. 

No one is suggesting that human rights be sacrificed on the altar of national security. The laws of war need to be carefully protected along with the lives of the innocent. The problem with the Goldstone Report is not the result of the need to revise those laws: They need to be applied correctly and not in a way that ignores what insurgent forces are doing on the ground. If a public building filled with munitions needs to be attacked at night when civilians are not present, it is not for reasons of revenge but rather from military necessity. The Goldstone panel did not want to consider that possibility because of its own prejudices and mind-set. Should that mind-set spread, then not only will Israel's security be endangered but also the security of the West as a whole. 

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