Ever since its release in September 2009, the Goldstone "Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict" has been the catalyst for contentious debate over the legitimacy of the Jewish state. With the overwhelming thrust of the report condemning Israel for war crimes and crimes against humanity, it is invoked by the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and drives a lawfare campaign against the country's leaders, using the law and legal systems for strategic political ends. Supporters of Israel from across the political spectrum have criticized the mission for its biased mandate, lack of objectivity, and duplicitous methodology. With the report already thoroughly scrutinized and dissected, is there anything significant to add?
There is, but readers will not find it in this book.
There is nothing, for example, about the challenges to the assumption that the vast majority of Gazan fatalities were civilian. The authors never mention reports indicating that many of those killed in Gaza were young men who fit the age and gender profile of combatants. Indeed, Hamas's recent revelations confirming many combatants among the fatalities underscore these findings, confirm Israel's original estimates, and invalidate the Goldstone report's central thesis that Israel was intentionally targeting civilians.
But the authors, all journalists, find no room for facts that might undermine the underlying assumptions of the report. Instead, they devote the bulk of the book to reprinting large sections of the report, interspersed with excerpts from witness testimonies although this material is readily available in its entirety online. There is no serious attempt to probe the report or analyze its shortcomings. The last quarter of the book consists of eleven selected essays, written by prominent anti-Israel activists or emotional pro-Palestinian advocates, with one exception. Their arguments are tiresomely familiar: "The real purpose of the 2005 withdrawal of Jewish settlements in Gaza was to consolidate Israel's continued occupation"; "Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians and civilian objects"; "None of the Goldstone Mission's major factual findings have been successfully refuted," etc. Actually such claims have been widely disputed, but these arguments are not included.
The single negative assessment—a reprint of an article by Moshe Halbertal—contains thoughtful if relatively mild criticism but is immediately followed by an attempt to discredit it. Its inclusion does not succeed in masking the book's overt, political agenda—to bolster the pro-BDS-delegitimize-Israel position.