At least three categories of person need to give serious thought to Richard Goldstone's reconsideration over war crimes during the Gaza war. The first category is Richard Goldstone himself. There has, by now, been much coverage of his reassessment, but to my knowledge not many have noted an element in this paragraph of it that is surely remarkable, coming from a former judge:
The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee's report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy. [Emphasis added.]
The first statement in bold here seems to appeal to a lack of adequate evidence as the basis for a conclusion by the UN Human Rights Council's fact-finding mission that was damning of Israel. Later, Goldstone writes in confirmation of this:
Although the Israeli evidence that has emerged since publication of our report doesn't negate the tragic loss of civilian life, I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.
Goldstone may lament 'lack of cooperation [by Israel] with our investigation' all he wants, but for a man with his legal training and experience to think it appropriate to draw conclusions of such grave import where, in the nature of the evidence before him, he knew he didn't have enough, is a disgrace. Avi Bell is one commentator who has registered this point:
Goldstone excused the report's harsh pronouncements of Israeli guilt on the grounds that his mission did not have contrary evidence. But this is both false and irrelevant. The mission had plenty of contrary evidence, including photographs and testimony, which it willfully disregarded. Where evidence was lacking, the responsible course was to admit that the mission did not know what had happened. Instead, the report repeatedly and unjustifiably presumed Israel guilty and Hamas innocent.
The second category of person who has some rethinking to do is made up of all those who just knew at the time that Israel was guilty of war crimes. To recapture (should you need to) the atmosphere of presumption and outrage against Israel during those weeks, take a look at Part I of the post here. Will people who accused Israel of war crimes at the time now reconsider? To this question may be added another, addressed to my third category of person. I have in mind those for whom it was the sign of mere pro-Israel bias and apologia to reserve judgement, as some of us did, about whether Israel had in fact committed war crimes in Gaza, and to see various ugly tendencies in the widespread certainty that it had (see Part 4 of the same post). Will those who expressed themselves to this effect also now reconsider and retract? I'm not holding my breath; and I'm not expecting much at the usual sites where Israel gets vilified and Hamas and co get the easiest of rides.