One of the big questions surrounding the Goldstone report is whether the Israeli government made a mistake by refusing to cooperate with the mission. It was, admittedly, a serious gamble: If Goldstone’s “fact-finding” commission were in any way sincere in its efforts to present a balanced view, Israel would be giving up on a real opportunity to make its case to the world; on the other hand, if the commission had already decided from the outset to blast Israel and accuse it of atrocities, then to cooperate with the commission would have been to grant it a legitimacy it might not otherwise have had.
Part of an answer came in recent weeks from the mouth of none other than Desmond Travers, a retired Irish army colonel who was one of the commission’s members (h/t, JCPA and Haaretz). In an interview with the Middle East Monitor, Travers unleashes a pile of telling quotes. First, he points out that “the number of rockets that had been fired into Israel in the month preceding their operations was something like two.” For this reason, he “reject[s]… entirely” Israel’s excuse for the whole operation, since Hamas had anyway stopped terrorizing. This statement, blithely ignoring the thousands of rockets Israelis endured in the years leading up to the operation, or the fact that Hamas continued shooting rockets at Israeli civilians despite many warnings and more limited retaliations, is infuriating to anyone who watched as Israelis in Sederot and other communities suffered repeated barrages, and should alone be enough to call Travers’s objectivity, or at least his judgment, into question.
Second, he dismisses Israel’s claims that Hamas hid its missile stockpiles in Gaza mosques as “spurious.” What about the photographs? “Unless they can give me absolute forensic proof, I do not believe the photographs.” Well, we do have to wonder: If incriminating photos of missile stockpiles do not meet the threshold of “facts” that the commission was meant to find, why the head-spinning gullibility in repeating all those accusations of Israeli war crimes, which were almost entirely based on unverified hearsay?
Third, he makes the claim that when the IDF was in Lebanon, “a significant number” of Irish peacekeepers had been “taken out deliberately and shot” by Israeli forces. This of course would be a grave accusation if it could be taken even slightly seriously. Maybe I’m out of the loop, but I confess I’ve never heard this one before, although it’s true that some of these rumors rise and fall so quickly that it’s hard to follow them all. But I couldn’t find a trace of it in a Google search. Could it be that he’s heard a rumor and repeated it to justify his evident bias? Or that he made it up himself? Either way, it has nothing to do with Gaza, and therefore can only add to our sense that this man was anything but objective from the outset.
There is so much more, and it’s worth reading the interview in full. Not least, for example, is the evident glee with which he watches as Israeli officials have difficulty traveling in European countries because of accusations like those in the Goldstone report. Or the telling revelation that Goldstone himself was responsible for the one-sided mandate of the mission, which was supposed to look into Israeli violations but not those of Hamas. Or his flat-out denial of any of the mission’s members having ever made statements that might suggest their anti-Israel bias in advance of the inquiry — even though Goldstone himself has been a notorious basher of Israeli security measures for many years now, and other members of the mission made their bias about the Gaza war well known before the commission was appointed. (For a few examples, see this report by the European Center for Law and Justice, scroll down to p. 26.)
If Travers is in any way representative of Goldstone’s commission, we can all feel a little more comfortable with Israel’s decision not to cooperate.