Goldstone’s example

Judge's reversal needs to mark the beginning of a more fair-minded approach to Israel, which in turn would, of course, produce a changed Israeli mindset in response.

Judge Richard Goldstone 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Judge Richard Goldstone 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
The single most damning, and specious, allegation made by Richard Goldstone in the infamous report that bears his name was intentionality – the claim that during its military operation in Gaza between December 2008 and January 2009, known as Operation Cast Lead, the IDF purposely killed Palestinian civilians. It is precisely this claim which Goldstone, 18 months late, has now retracted.
“The 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,” the Jewish justice wrote in his astounding retraction, which appeared Friday in The Washington Post.
“While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the UN committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”
Unfortunately, the damage has been done. As the prophet Isaiah (49,17) lamented, “...thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth from thee.”
Goldstone and other members of the tribe have over the ages made unique contributions to anti-Semitic and anti- Zionist perceptions; from Spanish Conversos who took the lead in deriding their Jewish brethren before the Catholic Church, to Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky and Karl Radek who denied the existence of any “special Jewish sorrows,” to the Canaanite ideology of the 1940s promoted by Yonatan Ratosh among young pre-state sabras who attacked traditional Judaism as a “sickness,” to contemporary versions of rabid anti-Zionism.
Perhaps this phenomenon is an attempt to distance oneself from non-Jews’ irrational hostility. By, say, loudly denouncing the Jewish state’s military actions in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, the individual Jew (Goldstone) publicly transfers his loyalties to the seemingly stronger group (anti-Zionists), thus avoiding being implicated in purportedly immoral behavior supposedly perpetrated by one’s own people.
Goldstone’s decision to break with the tendency of Jewish self-hatred is worthy of respect and reflects a high level of honesty and integrity, two truly Jewish traits.
But it is too little, too late. In the present atmosphere so conducive to Israel-bashing, Goldstone’s note of contrition will enjoy none of the fanfare received by his report, which was widely used to give credence to the tendentious claim that the Jewish state was a perpetrator of war crimes, a murderer of innocent women and children – a message that fell on the receptive ears of Israel’s many enemies.
Goldstone’s latest “reconsiderations” are receiving much less play. And some are attempting to downplay Goldstone’s oped by claiming that is does not constitute a volteface.
IN FACT, Goldstone’s belated mea culpa endorses precisely the criticism leveled at his committee in October 2009, shortly after the report was released, by Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem: “...the mission’s conclusions regarding Israel’s overall objectives in carrying out the operation were not sufficiently supported by facts arising from the mission’s research,” B’Tselem noted at the time.
In other words, B’Tselem found that Goldstone leaped to conclusions about intent unsupported by the evidence – the very flaw that points to the profound distortion and bias at the core of the Goldstone Commission, and the very flaw which the South African justice has now sought to correct.
A B’Tselem spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that it was precisely the assertion of intentionality that it felt was unproven in the Goldstone Report. Unfortunately, B’Tselem and other human rights organizations did not take sufficient pains to articulate more nuanced criticism and were, as a result, lumped together with the Goldstone Report as part of a concerted and tendentious attack on Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism.
Much of the Israeli public and many of its elected officials rightly viewed this attack on the IDF as a threat, if not to Israel’s very existence, then at the very least to the personal security of every citizen within the range of Hamas’s rockets.
It is to be hoped, now, that Goldstone’s change of heart will serve as an example and that some of the international and domestic human rights organizations that have been so hyper-critical of the IDF will admit to their failings too, a move which might begin to restore, in some small way, Israeli mainstream confidence in them.
It is unfortunate that Israel has come to regard so many international and domestic watch-dog groups as skewed, misrepresentative and disposed to leap to the worst conclusions about Israel. But the Goldstone Report exemplified the reasons for that attitude.
Goldstone’s reversal needs to mark the beginning of a more fair-minded approach to Israel, which in turn would, of course, produce a changed Israeli mindset in response.