October 23, 2009
BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the Journal. There could not have been a more thankless job in the world this year than investigating allegations of war crimes between Israelis and Palestinians. You're about to meet the man who shouldered that task after others had turned it down. And sure enough, he is at the center now of a raging controversy.
Judge Richard Goldstone was born and raised in South Africa, where he came to prominence investigating the vicious behavior of white security forces during apartheid.
In 1994, the UN named him to lead its investigation of war crimes in what was once Yugoslavia, including ethnic cleansing, the deadliest violence in Europe since the Second World War. That same year he was asked to prosecute genocide in Rwanda, where almost a million people were slaughtered. Goldstone went on to uncover Nazi war criminals hiding in Argentina, and to lead an independent inquiry into war crimes in Kosovo.
Time and again he has placed himself in harm's way and smack in the middle of controversy, but a few months ago he took on what was to become the greatest challenge of his legal career.It came after years of Hamas militants firing their missiles from the Gaza strip into southern Israel. Israel retaliated last December with Operation Cast Lead: 22 days of military action targeting Gaza, those 139 square miles between Israel and Egypt that are recognized as Palestinian territory. More than twelve hundred Palestinians died. Three Israeli civilians were killed and 10 soldiers, four of them the result of friendly fire.When Israeli forces withdrew, Gaza was left devastated and reeling. Not only had military targets been destroyed but thousands of homes as well as hospitals, schools and mosques. The United Nations Human Rights Council called for an investigation. And Goldstone agreed to lead it, but only after expanding the fact-finding mission's mandate to include charges against Hamas as well as Israel.
Over the next several months, Judge Goldstone and his team would thread their way through a minefield of accusation and denial.
In September, he submitted their report, 574 pages, scorching in their detail. The report accused both the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas of war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. While condemning Palestinian rocket attacks, the report's harshest language was reserved for Israel's treatment of civilians in Gaza.
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: These attacks amounted to reprisals and collective punishment, and constitute war crimes. The government of Israel obviously has a duty to protect its own citizens. That in no way justifies a policy of collective punishment of a people under effective occupation, destroying their means to live a dignified life and the trauma caused by the kind of military intervention the Israeli government called Operation Cast Lead.
The report and the angry debate surrounding it have exposed Goldstone to strident and bitter criticism. Nonetheless, late last week, the UN's Human Rights Council officially endorsed his findings.Richard Goldstone joins me now. Currently a visiting professor at Fordham Law School in New York, last spring he received the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Award for International Justice. His books include "For Humanity: Reflections of a War Crimes Investigator."
Judge Richard Goldstone, welcome to the Journal.
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