Bar-Ilan University law professor Avi Bell said he can’t swear he was
responsible for changing Judge Richard Goldstone’s mind. But Bell can’t
help but note the timing of Goldstone’s opinion piece in Friday’s Washington
Post, in which he said he erroneously accused Israel of targeting innocent
civilians in Gaza in his infamous report to the United Nations Human Rights
Council in September 2009.
On March 28, Bell was among a number of
academics who participated in a debate with Goldstone at Stanford University Law
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Five days later, Goldstone published his opinion
However, he did that after The New York Times, on March 22,
rejected an opinion piece he wrote which bore no relation to The Washington Post
So, Bell said, something changed in that week.
recalled for The Jerusalem Post how there was a moment in the debate where
Goldstone claimed he stood by the facts in his report. “I had cited
contradictory evidence and I stared at him – a minute later he backed down,”
He added that he would not say that the debate, which occurred
in front of some 200 people, was the reason that Goldstone decided to rescind a
critical allegation in his report.
“But it strikes me that it is
reasonable to speculate that this was a factor,” he said.
that as time has gone on, Goldstone has become increasingly concerned by the
rejection of the report among his judicial peers and the Jewish
In his Washington Post piece, Goldstone stated that he was
influenced by a follow-up report to his document, submitted to the UNHRC on
March 18 by Judge Mary McGowan Davis.
“I do not think that has anything
to do with it,” said Bell.
“He is using it as a ladder to climb down
“He is running into a hard time in audiences that are important to
him, academics and Jewish groups. I suspect these encounters are making him very
uncomfortable,” he added.
Peter Berkowitz, who chairs the Hoover Task
Force of National Security and Law at Stanford University, and who debated
Goldstone along with Bell, said that the March event was a follow- up to a
debate with Goldstone held in January.
Unlike Bell, he did not want to
speculate as to what changed Goldstone’s mind. But he said he spent time in the
debate attacking the assertion in Goldstone’s report that Israel had
deliberately targeted civilians.
While he said it was reasonable to
conclude that Goldstone could have been influenced by the McGowan Davis report,
even in 2009 Goldstone lacked the evidence necessary to reach the conclusions in
Bell is not the only person to believe that he may have
Maurice Ostroff – a South African-born industrial
engineer who fought during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 before making
aliya in 1980 – began exchanging letters with Goldstone in 2009, when the judge
began to prepare his report.
“When the Goldstone mission came to Gaza, I
sent several memoranda to them, and Goldstone replied very courteously – even
though I was highly critical of the way it went about,” he said. “I never
attacked him personally; I never do that in my writing. We found an intellectual
common ground... He started writing personal letters, but the understanding was
that I don’t publish them, which I don’t,” Ostroff said.
have given the impression this has been a sudden epiphany,” he
continued. “At one of the panels he was asked by a participant how would
he feel if his report was proved wrong; his answer was that he’d be rejoiced.
It’s been a gradual process, nothing sudden.”