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Peres: Investigate Goldstone, not Israel

Nov. 12, 2009 3:07 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 13, 2009 5:48 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Richard Golstone, the celebrated war crimes prosecutor who lead UN inquiries on Rwanda, Yugoslavia and Gaza, is obsessed with Israel and cares little for justice, according to Israeli President Shimon Peres.

"Goldstone is a small man, devoid of any sense of justice, a technocrat with no real understanding of jurisprudence," Peres was quoted as telling Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Wednesday.

The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported on Thursday that Peres termed Goldstone's UN-backed fact-finding inquiry on alleged war crimes committed in Gaza was "a one-sided mission to hurt Israel... If anyone should be investigated, it should be him."

A few hours later, Goldstone responded, "I am content to be judged by my actions over the course of my career both in terms of my professional judicial career and my voluntary service," Haaretz reported.

He also said he understood Peres' disappointment with the report, but not the attacks on his character.

"After all, no one likes to be accused of committing serious war crimes," Goldstone said. "However, I was surprised at the many nasty attacks made against me personally. In my view, it was a classic case of attacking the messenger rather than addressing the message."

It was the harshest personal attack on Goldstone by a senior Israeli official since the conclusions of his inquiry were made public in late September. In general, the country's leadership has avoided criticizing the author, a South African Jew and committed Zionist, and focused more on the Human Rights Council, which critics say focuses undue attention on Israel at the expense of more pressing human rights violators.

Speaking to the president of Brazil, which has voted to endorse the mission twice - once at the UN Human Rights Council and again at the General Assembly - Peres said the South American country had made a grave mistake, Haaretz reported.

"[W]hen needed, Israel is a country that can and does investigate and question its actions," Peres reportedly said in response to calls that Israel take seriously the mission's findings. "We have ejected defense ministers and army chiefs following wars."

In recent weeks, Peres has called the Goldstone report "a great victory for terror" and a "mockery of history" for "failing to distinguish between the aggressor and a state exercising its right for self-defense."

Hamas, which was found along with other armed groups to have violated international law by firing on civilian population centers, has similarly criticized the report as failing equating "the resistance and the occupier."

Goldstone served as a judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda before he was selected by the UN's rights body to head an inquiry into Israel's assault on Gaza last winter, which left some 1,400 dead in three weeks.
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