Last Monday, I debated with Richard Goldstone about the controversial Goldstone
Report at Stanford Law School. Three days later, Justice Goldstone finally
admitted, in The Washington Post, that, contrary to the report’s assertions,
Israel did not intentionally target civilians. A Palestinian outfit called the
International Middle East Media Center carried a story this weekend lamenting
that two “racist Zionists” at the debate – Peter Berkowitz and I – were
responsible for convincing Goldstone of the error of his ways. Sadly, this is,
at best, only partly true.
The debate at Stanford was not designed for
enlightenment. Besides the moderator, there were five of us debating under a
format that let Goldstone avoid responding directly. The debate had too many
participants, too large a topic and too crimped a format to allow a serious
probing of the report’s defects. The International Law Society, which organized
the debate, tipped its hand by inviting an organization called “Students
Confronting Apartheid by Israel” to cosponsor the event.
Even with the
friendly format, Richard Goldstone cannot have enjoyed the criticism. As I
watched him sitting through the debate stone-faced, his wife sitting next to
him, and as I thought back on his lengthy resumé, I recognized the enormous
tragedy of a man, once lauded as a champion of human rights, becoming a shill
for a terrorist organization.
Goldstone had been proud to take credit for
his work in prosecuting war criminals before such institutions as the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. And now he had to
listen to his professional colleagues demonstrate how the Goldstone Report
distorted international law and, as The Washington Post editorialized, made a
“mockery of impartiality, with its judgment of facts.”
When the Goldstone
Report was first published in 2009, with a brew of blood libels and legal
fallacies that exceeded even the usual anti-Israel vitriol produced by the UN
Human Rights Council, Goldstone went on a PR offensive. He took to the airwaves
to try to sell the idea that the report, which conspicuously and repeatedly
denied or whitewashed nearly all of Hamas’s crimes, was accurate in accusing
Israelis and Israel’s leadership of the most monstrous crimes and motives. Even
then, Goldstone’s going was not easy. The Economist, generally cold to Israel,
condemned the report as “deeply flawed,” and a “thimbleful of poison.” A
barrelful is more like it.
Now Goldstone has produced less than a
thimbleful of contrition. He still refuses to acknowledge the cocktail of lies
and distortions that comprise the Goldstone Report. Goldstone has refused to
disavow the report’s attempt to eliminate laws against terrorism from the
international legal codex, and its refusal to acknowledge that Hamas is a
terrorist organization. He has not renounced the preposterous characterization
of Gaza as territory under Israeli occupation, or the report’s shocking claim
that Israel’s limited economic sanctions against the Hamas government are an
unlawful form of collective punishment. He continues to remain silent on the
report labeling all Israelis liars to stamp Hamas’s anti-Israel libels with the
imprimatur of truth. He has not yet expressed remorse about the report’s
gratuitous inclusion of anti- Jewish slurs, such as its endorsement of the
bigoted claim that Israeli Jews are dehumanized and paranoid.
said during the debate that no one has disputed the report’s factual
allegations. But this is demonstrably false and Goldstone knew it, because he
was looking right at me when I reminded him of this fact during the debate. He
did not repeat the claim in The Washington Post.
At Stanford and
afterward in The Washington Post, Goldstone took credit for prompting and
helping internal Israeli investigations, and claimed that the report’s main
demand was for further investigation, but this is a lie.
None of the
report’s nine demands directed at Israel included a call to investigate.
Instead, after falsely accusing Israel of crimes, the report scandalously
slandered its entire legal system and called for the “international community”
to prosecute Israelis while economically punishing the Jewish
Israel’s investigations started before the Goldstone Report, just
as they do after every major IDF combat operation. Being professional and
thorough, Israeli investigators gathered all the relevant evidence, and
continued for as long as it took to arrive at answers that would hold up in
court. Unsurprisingly, the investigators could not corroborate even one of the
Goldstone Report’s accusations as printed.
The Palestinians, by contrast,
never have and never will impose any criminal price upon Palestinians for crimes
against humanity victimizing Jews; indeed, both the Fatah-led and Hamas-led
Palestinian governments still name public buildings after terrorists. No one has
investigated Hamas’s use of civilian shields, its commandeering of hospitals and
ambulances, or many of its other war crimes.
Goldstone excused the
report’s harsh pronouncements of Israeli guilt on the grounds that his mission
did not have contrary evidence. But this is both false and irrelevant. The
mission had plenty of contrary evidence, including photographs and testimony,
which it willfully disregarded. Where evidence was lacking, the responsible
course was to admit that the mission did not know what had happened. Instead,
the report repeatedly and unjustifiably presumed Israel guilty and Hamas
GOLDSTONE’S BELATED and partial acknowledgement of error has
not undone the report’s damage. The reputation of the UN Human Rights Council is
at a nadir. Legal scholars have observed that if the Goldstone Report’s
perverted legal standards become those of international law, international law
will no longer have any relevance to modern warfare.
newfound legitimacy as it pursues its express goals of destroying the Jewish
state, waging eternal war on the Jewish people, and subjecting its own citizens
to its puritanical and xenophobic interpretation of Islamic law. The UN
continues to falsely claim, like the Goldstone Report, that international law
requires Israel to assist Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Israelis, meanwhile, are
harassed around the world by opponents of the Jewish state hiding behind the
report’s distorted version of international law; last week, President Shimon
Peres was threatened with arrest in Switzerland by activists claiming that the
Goldstone Report “proves” his guilt.
It is a legacy to be ashamed of. And
it is now Richard Goldstone’s.
The writer is a professor at Bar-Ilan
University’s Faculty of Law and the University of San Diego School of Law. He
participated in a debate on “The Goldstone Report and the Application of
International Law to the Arab-Israeli Conflict.”