Comment: Goldstone the belated penitent

By alleging, unfoundedly, that we were an immoral enemy, the sanctimonious judge put all of our lives at greater risk.

Judge Richard Goldstone 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Judge Richard Goldstone 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
Yom Kippur has evidently come early this year for Richard Goldstone.
He couldn’t quite bring himself, in his Friday article “Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes,” to write, “I have sinned, forgive me.”
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But the astounding piece in The Washington Post by the Jewish justice, who presided over the Goldstone Report that accused Israel of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, represents nothing less than an apology to Israel.
“If I had known then what I know now,” he writes in the first extraordinary paragraph of his mea culpa, “the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
How dramatic the about-face. And how terrible that it was necessitated.
How tragic, that is, that Goldstone so misplaced his moral compass in the first place as to have produced a report that has caused such irreversible damage to Israel’s good name. Tragic least of all forthe utterly discredited Goldstone himself, and most of all for our unfairly besmirched armed forces and the country they were putting their lives on the line to honorably defend against a ruthless, murderous, terrorist government in Gaza.
The “if I had know then what I know now” defense Goldstone invokes to try to justify his perfidy is typically flimsy, of course.
Sanctimonious even now, Goldstone complains about Israel’s “lack of cooperation with our investigation.” But as he knows full well, Israel could not possibly have formally cooperated with his inquiry, which had been constructed by the obsessively anti-Israel UN Human Rights Council with the precise intention of blackening Israel’s name, legitimizing its enemies and curtailing its capacity to defend itself in future conflicts – such as the one Israel may have to fight quite soon if the current upsurge in Hamas rocket fire continues.
To have formally subjected itself to examination by his committee and the institutionally biased UN Human Rights Council that had formed it – a bias which Goldstone now acknowledges in his article – would merely have given his work greater purported credibility.
Notwithstanding that absent formal cooperation, however, the truth about what happened in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 – the truth that Goldstone now disingenuously claims to have discovered only after he filed his malicious indictment of the IDF and of Israel – was readily available to him at the time.
Israel did informally make the necessary information available to his committee in the shape of detailed reports on what had unfolded. And open sources, honestly evaluated, left no doubt that Hamas was the provocateur, that Hamas was deliberately placing Palestinians in harm’s way, that Hamas was lying about the proportion of combatants among the Gaza dead. Open sources also left no doubt that the IDF – far from deliberately targeting civilians; the bitter accusation at the heart of Goldstone’s report – was doing more than most any military force has ever done to minimize civilian deaths, even as it sought to destroy the terrorist infrastructure and pick out the terrorists who had been firing relentlessly into Israel’s residential areas.
Only now, 18 months after he submitted his incendiary accusations against Israel, has Goldstone brought himself to acknowledge what a fair-minded investigation would have established from the start – that the IDF emphatically did not seek to kill civilians in Gaza. As he puts it in the simple phrase that should reverberate inside every foreign parliament and every human rights organization that rushed to demonize Israel: “Civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”
Risibly, Goldstone asserts that his report’s “allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion.”
In truth, the only reasonable conclusion that an honest investigation could possibly have drawn – given the evidence available, given the Hamas track record and given the IDF’s moral tradition – was that Israel had not intentionally killed Palestinian civilians. But, again, his was no honest investigation.
Unfortunately, Goldstone’s “reconsideration” will not garner a thousandth of the publicity or have a thousandth of the impact that his original, baseless accusations against Israel drew. Governments – including, to what should be their abiding shame, self-styled friends of Israel in Europe and beyond who failed to vote against this report – will not rush to deliver the apology they owe our government and our soldiers.
They will not rush to recalibrate their policies.
They will not now rush to issue statements expressing their confidence in Israel’s capacity to properly investigate allegations of misdoings by its military, even though the man who had previously given cover for their criticisms has now reversed himself and penned an article endorsing Israel’s processes for self-investigation.
The statesmen and the NGOs that savaged us, using the Goldstone Report as their “proof,” will not now, prompted by Goldstone’s reversal, ratchet up their criticisms of Hamas. They will not now express their outrage at the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to exploit the Goldstone Report to harm Israel – a key milestone on the PA’s road toward international recognition for a unilateral declaration of statehood.
They will not now demand that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas abandon his current effort to negotiate “unity” with Hamas, a terrorist group avowedly working for the destruction of Israel and, as Goldstone now writes, “purposefully and indiscriminately” targeting Israel’s civilians.
They should, but they will not. They have moved on now.
Israel’s guilt has long-since been “established.” And no matter that the man who certified it has belatedly internalized the gravity of the big lie he helped facilitate.
Nor either, pitifully, will the media organizations that so hyped the baseless allegations of Israeli war crimes now allocate similar broadcast-topping coverage and front page space to Goldstone’s belated exoneration of Israel. It will be a surprise, indeed, if we see the world’s most resonant newspapers following Goldstone’s lead and penning texts acknowledging that their reports and their analyses and their expert opinion pieces were wide of the mark.
And we had best not hold our breath, either, for Israel’s own internal critics – including certain widely cited newspapers and so-called watchdog groups that amplified the allegations of deliberate killings of civilians, and that so often seem to want to believe the very worst about Israel in the face of all reasonable evidence to the contrary – to emulate the judge’s shift.
The hollow Goldstone now writes that “I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the UN Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.”
Given that “history of bias” at the council, one can only wonder, yet again, why Goldstone consented to do its dirty work for it, to such devastating effect.
His duplicitous investigation has had a toxic effect everywhere on the second battlefield – in diplomatic and legal forums, in the media, on university campuses, in global public discourse. He poisoned Israel’s name.
And on the real battlefield, he gave succor to our enemies, encouraging them to believe that they could kill us not with mere impunity, but with active international empathy and support.
He alleged that we were an immoral enemy, and thus he put all of our lives at greater risk.
An apology just isn’t good enough. The very least he owes Israel is to work unstintingly from now on to try to undo the damage he has caused.
Yom Kippur came early this year for Richard Goldstone. His show of penitence has come far too late.