Judge Richard Goldstone, who wrote damning report on Israel's 2009 offensive in the Gaza Strip, told the mayor of Sderot in a letter on Sunday that he would have liked to visit the rocket-battered town during his investigation but was unable to do so due to objections by the Israeli government.
Goldstone's report awakened criticism of a one-sided investigation, as he accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes during the January conflict. He wrote the letter in response to a missive received on the first of the month from Sderot Mayor David Buskila.
Buskila, whose city of Sderot has been bombarded by Qassam rockets fired from Gaza for eight years, accused Goldstone in his own letter of remaining silent while "8,000 rockets pounded us."
In response, Goldstone wrote:
"Dear Mayor Buskila,
I acknowledge with thanks your letter of 1 October 2009. If you have read our report you will see that:
1. We set out the details and an analysis of the terror that the firing of rockets and mortars from the Gaza Strip caused to the people of Southern Israel including Sderot and especially to the children.
2. We stated that the firing of rockets and mortars at civilian targets in Southern Israel constituted serious war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.
3. The members of the Mission wished to visit Southern Israel and especially Sderot but permission for such a visit was not agreed to by the Government of Israel.
I fully share you hope that peace will come your region and when I next visit Israel I would like to accept your invitation to visit Sderot.
With my best wishes for the New Year,
In his letter on October 1, Buskila wrote that his city had suffered from Hamas' aggression more than any other Israeli city, with death and destruction that left an indelible mark on the residents of the city.
"The world, and you in it, was silent. You were silent in the face of the dead bodies of our children, in the face of our children's frightened eyes, you were silent in the face of every one of the 8,000 Qassam rockets that hit our city," Buskila wrote.
"Your silence was frightening, and reminiscent of things forgotten," he added.
The letter began with the mention of three Sderot children who were killed in rocket attacks. "The blood of the children whose lives were cut short is screaming out from the earth, there is no redemption and no forgiveness for the blood of a little child whose short existence had not yet taught him that there is evil and that there are wars," Buskila wrote, attaching pictures of the three children "who will never grow up" to the letter.
The Sderot mayor also expressed his identification with the Palestinian people, writing that "I regret and am sorry for the death of every Palestinian child, I feel the pain of the Palestinian civilians, but let's not ignore the facts - the leaders of Hamas and other fundamental Islamic terror organizations are to blame for the suffering of Sderot residents and their children, as well as the suffering of Gaza's residents. These people, whose sole purpose in life are war crimes, and to whom the norms of the West do not apply, are to blame."
Buskila concluded his letter by expressing hope that "peace will prevail in our region, and I invite you to personally examine the suffering of the residents of Sderot, who represent the other part of the equation, the part you didn't bother understanding."
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