Ron Kampeas
Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
October 18, 2009 - 12:00am

Israel could stop the Goldstone report process if it openly investigated its army's conduct in the Gaza War, Richard Goldstone said.

"If the Israeli government set up an appropriate investigation it would really be the end of the matter," said Goldstone, the former South African judge and international human rights prosecutor who authored the report alleging war crimes by both sides in last winter's war between Israel and Hamas. "The heart of the report would become pretty irrelevant if there was an open, bonafide investigation."

Goldstone was addressing a Sunday evening conference call of about 150 rabbis affiliated with Ta'anit Tzedek, the Jewish Fast for Gaza; Rabbis for Human Rights-North America; and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom.

He fielded a number of questions having to do with tough criticism of his report, which arose out of a mandate by the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Israel and the United States want the report stopped before it is referred to the U.N. Security Council, which has enforcement powers, although the United States would likely veto any Security Council action based on the report. The report recommends international war crimes prosecutions within six months unless the sides launch independent and open inquiries into the war.

Goldstone rejected Israeli criticism that the controversy engendered by the report is inhibiting the peace process. "This is a shallow, false allegation," he said. "What peace process are they talking about? There isn't one, the israeli foreign minister doesn't want one at all." Israeli-Palestinian talks are stalled; Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has reportedly recommended suspending for now the quest for final status talks.

Goldstone said he had moderated his criticism last week of a draft resolution of the UNHCR endorsing the report; a draft resolution he had seen Wednesday endorsed the report, but criticized only Israel, while not mentioning Hamas. After his complaint was reported, Goldstone said, the resolution's drafters added language addressing Hamas' role, and that's what passed Thursday.

"It resulted in an additional paragraph being inserted into the passage dealing with the report condemning the targeting of any civilians and for the accounting of all parties," he said, which he said he believed clearly referenced Hamas.

He was still unhappy that the council added references to Israeli actions unconnected to the report, including recent actions in Jerusalem.

Goldstone, who has worked in the past with Israeli institutions and pro-Israel groups, said his views of the country have not changed.

"My love for Israel remains unaffected," he said. "I'm critical of the Israeli government, I'm critical of the leaders of the" Israel army.

Israel refused to cooperate with Goldstone because the original UNHRC mandate presumed Israel had "violated" laws and did not account for Hamas; Goldstone insisted on broadening the mandate to consider Hamas' crimes.

Israeli officials have said that Goildstone allowed himself to be manipulated and influenced by Hamas officials in preparing the report.

"Let me immediately refute with all the conviction I can muster the mischievous and untruthful suggestion that there was any Hamas in or near the witnesses," he said. "I would have immediately stopped the process -- it just didn't happen." Goldstone, in the phone call, rejected the claim outright.

He said that personal attacks from some Israelis and some in the Jewish community keeps him "awake at night." "I expected criticism but I didn't expect the venom and what I consider to be unfair personal attacks," he said.


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