WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel did not intentionally target civilians as a policy during the Gaza War, Richard Goldstone said, withdrawing a critical allegation in his report.
"We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report," the South African judge wrote in an op-ed Saturday for the Washington Post. "If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document."
Goldstone withdrew what was, perhaps, his most damaging conclusion: That there was evidence suggesting Israel had deliberately targeted civilians during its war with Hamas.
He referred to a U.N. committee’s recent independent assessment of his report.
"While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy," he said.
Goldstone said he might have drawn different conclusions had Israel cooperated with his inquiry; Israel refused to do so, seeing the U.N. Human Rights Council as irredeemably biased.
He also said that it "goes without saying" that Hamas intentionally targeted civilians, and noted that unlike Israel, the group did not investigate its own actions.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the United Nations to "cancel" the report in light of Goldstone’s article, although he did not make clear what this would involve.
"Everything we said has proven to be true," he said in a statement. "Israel did not intentionally harm civilians, its institutions and investigative bodies are worthy, while Hamas intentionally fired upon innocent civilians and did not examine anything. The fact that Goldstone backtracked must lead to the shelving of this report once and for all."
The American Jewish Committee said Goldstone should ask the United Nations to "revise and update" the report.
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), a member of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, called on the U.N. Human Rights Council to "retract" the report, which it had adopted.