The Israeli feminist organisation Coalition of Women for Peace released an open letter to Justice Richard Goldstone on April 6. It is published below. It is in response to Goldstone’s recent statements retracting some of the findings of the United Nations-commissioned Goldstone report into Israel’s 2008-09 war on Gaza that were critical of Israel. It is abridged from Coalitionofwomen.org.
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Dear Justice Richard Goldstone,
The recent escalation in the Israeli army incursions into the Gaza strip is of grave concern to us. The prospect of yet another flare out of large-scale violence against civilians is alarming.
Your recent comments on the Goldstone report are already interpreted by Israeli officials and the mainstream media as complete and full absolution of Israel’s military conduct in its entirety.
Yet the conclusions drawn from your statement with respect to Israel’s conduct during the Cast Lead military campaign and especially its aftermath are not backed by any new facts or findings.
This seriously undermines the international, Israeli and Palestinian civil society struggle for accountability and against impunity from grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law.
You state that “we know more today about what happened in Gaza”.
But we who monitor the Israeli government and the situation on the ground closely know that no information was brought out to contradict the meticulous documentation of the fact finding mission you headed.
In fact, it is the international pressure generated by the publication of the Goldstone report that has forced Israel to launch a significant number of investigations in the first place.
These investigations corroborate what the Israeli and Palestinian civil societies already know: Israel systematically fails to conduct thorough and impartial investigations meeting international standards.
As a matter of fact, most investigations prompted by the Goldstone report have not been completed yet. Those that have generated only three minor indictments of lower rank soldiers.
Considering the scope of destruction and civilian deaths during operation Cast Lead, it cannot be said that those responsible for grave violations that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity have been brought to justice.
A key contribution of the Goldstone report to the public comprehension of the Israeli/Palestinian reality has been its readiness to approach seriously the actual context of the outbreak of violence in Gaza. This is the persistent blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip, and its continued control on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
The recommendations to Israel — carrying your distinguished signature as a world-renowned jurist — clearly addressed the blockade on Gaza, calling on Israel to immediately cease the border closures and allow free passage of goods and people to and from the Strip.
The report recommends that Israel release Palestinian political prisoners, and cease actions that limit the expression of dissent by civil society organisations.
Israel ignored the report and its recommendations. It did not lift the blockade or stop the persecution of Palestinian civilians and human rights defenders.
Instead, immediately after the publication of the Goldstone report, the Israeli government escalated its attacks on, and attempts to deligitimise, human rights organisations and civil society.
The Israeli government is promoting legislation aimed at curbing our freedom of expression, freedom of association and basic social and political liberties.
This political persecution is further marginalising and excluding Palestinian and Jewish women in Israel, who oppose the militarised political establishment.
The Goldstone report gave an official international force to the ever increasing demand to hold Israel accountable for grave violations of international law.
Your statements undermine the credibility of the United Nations and its ability to effectively enforce international standards of conduct and international humanitarian and human rights law.
Now more than ever, the stakes are high for those struggling for accountability and against impunity in Israel/Palestine. Your statement raises the stakes further by granting Israel legitimacy it so desperately needs to continue its aggressive campaigns of repression of dissent on the domestic and international front.
Dear Justice Goldstone, we are asking you to do all that is in your power to enable the international community to hold Israeli leaders accountable. As it stands now, your statement is already used to justify and legitimise future crimes, even before the next war has started.