Judge Richard Goldstone has presented his report on Gaza and, among other recommendations, suggested that Israel conduct its own inquiry. Israeli government officials, assuming he meant an investigation like his into Israel's misdeeds, declined, noting that that they have and continue to investigate their army's behavior on a constant basis.
But after reading most of the report, another possibility presents itself. It rapidly becomes clear to any reader not driven by a thirst for "dirt" on Israel, that Goldstone's work represents a new low in the tragically deteriorating world of international justice. It fails on every count, from its handling of evidence, to its legal reasoning, to its unstated but pervasive assumptions of Israeli guilt and Palestinian innocence, to its astonishing conclusion (from someone who knows the gruesome details of Bosnia and Rwanda), that Israeli behavior was so bad it might well constitute "crimes against humanity."
As a result this report takes the army with the best record in the history of warfare for protecting enemy civilians and accuses it of targeting them. Goldstone makes Kafka's Trial seem fair.
Nor is this legal and moral travesty just a "free shot" at Israel. It's a direct assault on the right of any civilized nation to defend itself against enemies who worship death and hide among their civilians. Goldstone presents himself as someone who wants peace and decency in the world, and yet he could not have written something more encouraging to the worst war-mongers and war criminals around the globe, a roadmap for them on how to conduct an asymmetrical war with Western democracies. So the question arises: How could such an inversion of both deeds and intentions have happened, especially given Goldstone's previously sterling reputation?
GIVEN ALL this, I'd like to suggest a different approach to the question of "investigation." I propose that either the State of Israel, or an International Citizens' Tribunal, should begin an investigation into the Goldstone Fact-Finding Mission's proceedings.
In it they should ask the fundamental question: "How could this Mission have conducted itself with such systematic violation of the simplest rules of equity in judgment?"
In doing so Israel could bring to light three fundamental issues that the Goldstone report systematically downplayed in its considerations: Israel's plight (Sderot, surrounding population, long-term negative trends); the repugnant behavior of Hamas - its use of human shields, indoctrination of genocidal hatred, suicidal death cult; and the role of the mainstream news media and NGOs in giving credence to Palestinian claims, many of which could not stand up to serious examination.
An investigation team should gather high-level legal and military experts, summon witness testimony that Goldstone either refused to hear - Yvonne Green, Richard Kemp; or ignored - Dr. Siderer, Noam Bedein; people who have worked on the "data" - Jonathan Dahoah Halevy, Elihu Richter, as well as specialists on urban warfare to compare Israel's records to other nations. Not just to those like Sri Lanka and the Soviet Union, who have no concern for civilians, or to Arab "armies" who target civilians as in Sudan and Iraq, but also to the US, Great Britain and other countries who uphold the Geneva Conventions.
Legal experts could highlight the way in which the commission violated basic principles of legal procedure, equity, and reasoning.
At the same time, Israel could address a series of problems that Goldstone either ignored or dismissed, which lie at the heart, not only of his own Commission's failures, but of why Israel has been so maligned and the Palestinians treated so gently by both journalists and NGOs. Israel must examine the role of intimidation, of advocacy, and of access in distorting and falsifying evidence, the role of political correctness in making us incapable of discussing the problem and the astonishing lack of critical thinking in assessing witnesses.
With these factors in mind, the investigation might reexamine the Palestinian testimony to the Goldstone Mission and offer some of the hard questions that, had these judges had any self-respect, they would have raised to challenge the extraordinarily dishonest testimony they systematically accepted. Alas, the proceedings were geared at getting damning testimony - reliability be damned.
After going through these crucial issues with very broad implications for the way the rest of the world views this conflict, Israel could then conclude the investigation by interviewing people who could testify to the nature of the cognitive war that Jihadis like Hamas, Hizbullah, Hizb ut-tahrir, the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida and so many others wage against the West. They could illuminate the way in which Israel, for peculiar reasons, represents the soft underbelly of the ultimate target in this war, the West.
Goldstone gave Israel the floor; let Israel take up the challenge, and strike back.
To paraphrase Ecclesiastes: "there's a time for receiving rebuke and a time for rebuking..." and the time for rebuke has come.
The writer teaches history at Boston University, blogs at the Augean Stables (http://www.theaugeanstables.com) and the Second Draft (http://www.seconddraft.org), and has just launched a new collective website: Understanding the Goldstone Report (http://www.goldstonereport.org). The internet version of this article contains numerous links.