Goldstone discusses war crimes in Gaza

Justice Richard J. Goldstone, head of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, received both warm support and vocal criticism during his speech Wednesday.

Goldstone, former member of the South African Constitutional Court, delivered the George Herbert Walker, Jr. Lecture in International Studies, entitled “Accountability for War Crimes.” Goldstone addressed issues of proportional retaliation in wartime, demanded accountability for war crimes and expressed support for the International Criminal Court to a standing-room only crowd in the Luce Hall auditorium.

Goldstone, previously the Chief Prosecutor of the UN International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, has been vilified by many Israeli politicians, and prominent American Jews for the “Goldstone Report,” produced by the Fact Finding Mission, which found that both Israeli and Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity during the 2009 war in Gaza. However, majority of the blame is placed on the Israelis, who are also accused of violating international human rights and humanitarian laws. The Israeli military’s Operation Cast Lead targeted Gaza “in a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed at the civilian population,” the report said.

“Israel claims the international laws of armed conflict should be changed to allow disproportionate military responses to attack terrorist group,” Goldstone said in the speech. “This can only be interpreted as a plea to take measures that are regarded as unlawful under present rules of international law.”

Goldstone also criticized the second Bush Administration’s attempts to avoid the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction, arguing that America’s support for the court would give it more widespread credibility.

At the beginning of the question-and-answer session, the lecture was disrupted by two men carrying a long white banner. It listed the Dreyfus Affair, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion ­(both expressions of anti-Semitism) and the Goldstone Report. Goldstone refused to continue until the protesters lowered the banner.

Goldstone also addressed recent media reports that say Israel is preparing to submit a rebuttal to the United Nations. Goldstone said that he believes it is important that Israel conduct “objective, independent” investigations into these accusations, but that “a rebuttal” is not likely to include investigations.

Goldstone also conceded “Israel is treated unfairly in my view,” in regards to the many UN Security Council resolutions passed against Israel. “It’s about politics, not morality. The issue of Palestine is very important to the non-aligned groups. South Africa used to receive this attention. But ultimately, this was an even-handed mandate that I received.”

Audience members had mixed reactions to Goldstone’s lecture — some clapped and others booed.

Ian Shapiro, Sterling Professor of Political Science, who introduced Goldstone, said in an interview that there was no resistance among Yale administrators to inviting Goldstone to speak. Shapiro also said that he disagreed with a Jan. 26 column in the News (“A different forum needed for Goldstone” by Adam Yoffie and Noah Pollak), which argued that by allowing Goldstone to deliver the address, the Yale administration was taking sides in the controversy.

Two other students interviewed said they enjoyed Goldstone’s speech.

“I was impressed with his professionalism and objectivity,” Luke Beland ’11 said.


  • News Flash

    Wait, Adam Yoffie’s column made an argument?

    Missed that.

  • Recent Alum

    I would love to see Yale giving a similar forum for someone from the other side like Geert Wilders to express his views. No chance of this ever happening.

  • david

    Goldstone himself said about his report in an interview with The Forward “If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven. I wouldn’t consider it in any way embarrassing if many of the allegations turn out to be disproved.” Unfortunately, the tone and content of the report didn’t reflect that and not surprisingly many of the reports conclusions have been disproved. It would have been more honest to have had a debate but after Goldstone’s showing at Brandeis he might not have been willing to engage in such a challenging discussion. You can go to the following link and decide for yourself.

  • league of nations 2

    Oh, a United Nations fact finding mission. Well that must mean it’s factual and unbiased. The UN has long been merely a pawn for the anti-western elements of the globe. It trots out the usual reports on Israel and the United States as being the font of all evil. But nary a whisper to the muslim terrorists. The UN has long lost any real relevance, paid mere lip service if that by the worst offenders against humanity, while we just pay for the UN.

  • Yale ’08


    “The UN has long been merely a pawn for the anti-western elements of the globe”.

    Are you serious?! What a joke! You mean the same UN that ignored Rwanda? The same UN whose original constitution was signed only by Western nations? The same UN that didn’t bat an eye when the US invaded Iraq?

    The Goldstone Report has some flaws, but should we honestly be so taken by surprise when a thorough report concludes that Israel uses disproportionate force? Give me a break!

    Israel’s agenda is so clear and disgusting that it’s painful when the Jewish and American Right dismiss reports like this as ‘anti-semitism’.

  • Sorry to confuse you with the facts


    Your factual inaccuracies are embarrassing.

    1) The UN officially came into existence when the five permanent members of the security council ratified the charter. Two of those countries were non-Western: China and the Soviet Union.

    2) The fact that the U.N. ignored Rwanda is part and parcel of the very problem number 4 is outlining–that the U.N selectively picks and chooses its battles based on politics and not morality. And, regardless of whether it was western influence or not that caused the U.N. to abandon Rwanda, the fact that it did only strengthens any claim against their impartiality and effectiveness.

    3) The U.N. was up in arms when we invaded Iraq. Please.

    4) The Goldstone report did not conclude that Israel uses disproportionate force (which it obviously does). It concluded that Israel targets and deliberately tries to kill civilians (which it absolutely doesn’t).

    5) The report probably is not anti-semitic. But it is absolutely counterfactual and grossly biased. I do not know what you mean by Israel’s clear and disgusting agenda, but what is clear is that you are the subject of either false information or deep-seated prejudice against Israel. I hope that it’s just the misinformation.

    Regardless, your ignorance is so astounding I can hardly comprehend how you managed to graduate from this institution.