/ 17 September 2009

Goldstone rejects bias charges over UN Gaza report

The head of the United Nations commission that this week issued a damning report on the Gaza War on Thursday rejected Israeli criticism that it was biased from the start.

“I deny that completely,” Judge Richard Goldstone said in remarks broadcast on Thursday on public radio, a replay of an earlier interview with Israeli television.

“I was completely independent, nobody dictated any outcome, and the outcome was a result of the independent inquiries that our mission made,” he said.

The UN report, which Goldstone presented at the UN on Tuesday and which accused both Israel and Palestinian militants of committing war crimes, has faced stinging criticism in Israel for being one-sided and biased.

But Goldstone, former chief prosecutor on the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, rejected the charges and said the only thing he regretted was that Israel refused to cooperate with his team.

“There is really nothing I can think of that I would do differently,” he said.

“If there is any difference that I would have preferred, [it] would have been that we could have got cooperation from Israel and in particular, I would have liked the Israeli government to assist us and decide what we should investigate because that’s what I asked them to do.”

In the wake of the UN report, numerous Israeli commentators have launched personal attacks on Goldstone, with one right-wing paper writing: “The liberal anti-Semitism strides delicately, appoints a hostile commission and finds an obsequious Jew to dance to the tune of the gentile landowner.”

Goldstone (70) is a South African judge who also headed the public inquiry into violence and intimidation in the run-up to South Africa’s first post-apartheid elections in 1994.

The impartial inquiry, which became known as the Goldstone Commission, was widely credited with preventing South Africa’s slide into widespread violence with the demise of the apartheid regime. — AFP