Part V of the fisking of Goldstone’s Response to Berman.
[Note: Justice Goldstone counts the descriptive paragraph as Paragraph 1. Therefore, “Paragraph 3” refers to Whereas 2 (and accordingly throughout his text).]
Whereas clause #10: ‘Whereas in the October 16th edition of the Jewish Daily Forward, Richard Goldstone, the head of the `United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’, is quoted as saying, with respect to the mission’s evidence-collection methods, `If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.’”
[Goldstone:] “7. Paragraph 11: What I had explained to The Forward was that the Report itself would not constitute evidence admissible in court of law and that investigators would have to investigate which allegations they considered relevant. That, too, was why we recommended domestic investigations into the allegations. The remark as quoted is both inaccurate and taken completely out of context.”
[Berman Response]: Here is the relevant quote, as well as the passages that directly precede and follow it, taken directly from the article in the Jewish Daily Forward:
“Goldstone defended the report’s reliance on eyewitness accounts, noting his mission had cross-checked those accounts against each other and sought corroboration from photos, satellite photos, contemporaneous reports, forensic evidence and the mission’s own inspections of the sites in question.
For all that gathered information, though, he said, “We had to do the best we could with the material we had. If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.”
Goldstone emphasized that his conclusion that war crimes had been committed was always intended as conditional. He still hopes that independent investigations carried out by Israel and the Palestinians will use the allegations as, he said, “a useful road map.”
We consider the quote in the whereas to be fully in context.
I’d have taken a different tack. First of all, Goldstone’s claim to having cross-checked his witnesses accounts is either dishonest or, if sincere, testimony to how sloppy the work of his Mission. To take the most salient — and vicious — accusation in the entire report, the claims of the Abed Rabbo family, there are dozens of versions many of which are mutually contradictory, and contradict testimony given previously to NGOs.
And yet, there’s not a trace of “cross-examination” or even friendly efforts to clarify contradictions in the testimony. On the contrary, the Report concludes after detailing the terrible claims of of Khalid and Kawthar Abd Rabbo that an Israeli soldier shot their three little girls and an mother in cold blood, that:
777. The Mission found Khalid and Kawthar Abd Rabbo to be credible and reliable witnesses. It has no reason to doubt the veracity of the main elements of their testimony. The Mission also reviewed several sworn statements they and other eyewitnesses gave to NGOs about the incident and found them to be consistent with the account it received.
But, apparently, they didn’t even check the Palestinian news agency, Maan’s report from the day after the event that the girls were killed in an airstrike. He prefers to go with the media reports and the NGOs, who have never heard a lethal narrative about Israel they didn’t like.
Even when aware of the inconsistencies and contradictions in testimony, the Report has no problem dismissing them out of hand:
1091. The Mission notes in particular that Mr. Majdi Abd Rabbo has told the story of his experience from 5 to 7 January 2009 to several NGOs, to several journalists and to the Mission without any material inconsistencies. There are some minor inconsistencies, which are not, in the opinion of the Mission, sufficiently weighty to cast doubt on the general reliability of Majdi Abd Rabbo. There are also, not surprisingly, some elements of the long account which appear in some versions and not in others. The Mission finds that these inconsistencies do not undermine the credibility of Majdi Abd Rabbo’s account.
After a close examination of the evidence, Tamar Sternthall concludes:
This analysis is only a partial expose of the many inconsistencies between Khaled and Kawthar Abed Rabbo’s testimonies to the Goldstone committee, as well as disparities between the family members’ account to Goldstone versus earlier NGO accounts and media reports. While the mission says “it has no reason to doubt the veracity of the main elements of their testimony,” an objective observer would have no trouble identifying literally dozens of reasons to discount the Abed Rabbos’ testimony.
The most strikingly unprofessional comment on the attitude of the Goldstone Mission to testimony came from Mission member Hina Jilani:
“I think it’d be very cruel to not give credence to their voices.”
I think it’s terribly cruel of “fact-finders” and amateur judges to believe lethal narratives.