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Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

An open letter to the authors of the Chatham House Report on the Goldstone Report

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An open letter to the authors of the Chatham House Report on the Goldstone Report
Ms Elizabeth Wilmshurst (Chair); Professor Matthew Craven; Dr Catriona   Drew;   Professor   Charles   Garraway; Professor   Steven Haines;  Professor  Francoise  Hampson;  and  Professor  Sir  Nigel Rodley.
 
From Maurice Ostroff                                                  
December 20, 2009

Report of an Expert Meeting which Assessed Procedural Criticisms made of the UN Fact- Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (The Goldstone Report)
 
Your measured and balanced report in the Chatham House spirit of independent analysis, informed debate and influential ideas, is indeed a welcome change from the hyperbole, characteristic of some of the dissertations on the Goldstone report that abound in the media. Having studied the Goldstone report in some detail I intend to submit a few comments to you, but in this letter I confine myself to one disturbing aspect.
 
Evidence Withheld
Your report states that the meeting addressed the criticism that witnesses heard by the Goldstone Mission were pre-screened and pre-selected. I add that the UN Fact-finding Mission (FFM) was evidently also highly selective in choosing which of the available evidence to address in depth and which to ignore completely. For example it failed to address several submissions it had received from members of the public and NGO's, which contradicted the report's conclusions. These ignored memoranda included submissions by a group of fifteen Australian lawyers, Take-a-Pen, Yvonne Green, NGO Monitor, Dr. Elihu Richter, Ian Lacey, Bnai Brith and Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, as well as the writer of this letter, among others.
 
In view of the credibility of the authors and the serious and sincere nature of their submissions it is disturbing that their representations were rejected without being addressed, even superficially. Moreover neither the UNHRC nor the GA was apprised of the inconvenient contents of these memoranda which may well have influenced their votes on endorsement of the Goldstone report.
 
In the circumstances, I trust that you will agree unhesitatingly that it would be a serious failure of common justice if the UN Security Council considers the Goldstone Report before all available relevant evidence is made available.
 
In open email correspondence with Judge Goldstone he readily agreed to support my request that all memoranda received by the FFM be made available on the FFM's web site for the benefit of the public and more importantly for members of the UNHRC, the Security Council and the General Assembly. It is indeed strange that the OHCHR secretariat refuses to comply with Judge Goldstone's agreement that this be done.
 
Below is the text of a reply I received from the Secretariat on October 24, 2009.
"In relation to your query as to whether the submissions made to the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict in response to the Mission's call of 8 June 2009 would be posted on the UNFFMGC webpage, after further reviewing the material, we have concluded that it would not be appropriate to post them. The reason is that some of the submissions include names of individuals who are indicated as sources of some of the information provided, without indication of their consent to be named publicly.  In doubt, and out of respect for those individuals, it would not be possible to make such information public. In the circumstances, doing otherwise would be contrary to established practice with regard to source protection.  Rather than being selective in posting information, we have preferred to adopt one standard and all submissions will be retained in the Mission's archives, together with all other documentation received by the Mission.  It goes without saying that it remains the prerogative of the authors of the submissions that do not present such problems to publicize them as they consider most appropriate. We have already indicated so to those submitting organizations who have inquired about the same matter".
The reason given by the secretariat is clearly unacceptable as it directly conflicts with the spirit of the FFM's published call for submissions which states unambiguously "Unless otherwise indicated by the author, the Mission will assume that submissions can be made public."
 
It is also relevant to mention that in the acknowledgment I received from the OHCHR to a memorandum I sent as an attachment, a note was added to the effect that the attachment had been deleted.
 
If you wish to verify the above information, I will gladly supply the email address and telephone number of the person at the OHCHR with whom the above mentioned correspondence took place.
 
Since research is core to all Chatham House activities, I trust you will agree that the Goldstone Report cannot be subjected to the independent and rigorous analysis for which Chatham house is known, while portion of the evidence received by the FFM continues to be withheld from public scrutiny.
 
This open letter will be published as will any replies I hope to receive from you
 
Sincerely,
 
Maurice Ostroff
 
 

 

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