The Goldstone Report Reconsidered (By Goldstone Himself)

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on April 3, 2011

Back in September, 2009, Richard Goldstone issued a report on the Gaza war that was prompted by terrorist attacks against Israel. The report was surprisingly harsh and critical of Israel, and ever since its publication, anti-Zionists, and their closely related anti-Semitic friends (and let us not pretend anymore that there isn’t a close relationship between the two groups) have used to bash Israel to no end. Now, Goldstone himself comes out with this:

We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.

[. . .]

As I indicated from the very beginning, I would have welcomed Israel’s cooperation. The purpose of the Goldstone Report was never to prove a foregone conclusion against Israel. I insisted on changing the original mandate adopted by the Human Rights Council, which was skewed against Israel. I have always been clear that Israel, like any other sovereign nation, has the right and obligation to defend itself and its citizens against attacks from abroad and within. Something that has not been recognized often enough is the fact that our report marked the first time illegal acts of terrorism from Hamas were being investigated and condemned by the United Nations. I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.

Some have charged that the process we followed did not live up to judicial standards. To be clear: Our mission was in no way a judicial or even quasi-judicial proceeding. We did not investigate criminal conduct on the part of any individual in Israel, Gaza or the West Bank. We made our recommendations based on the record before us, which unfortunately did not include any evidence provided by the Israeli government. Indeed, our main recommendation was for each party to investigate, transparently and in good faith, the incidents referred to in our report. McGowan Davis has found that Israel has done this to a significant degree; Hamas has done nothing.

Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.

In the end, asking Hamas to investigate may have been a mistaken enterprise. So, too, the Human Rights Council should condemn the inexcusable and cold-blooded recent slaughter of a young Israeli couple and three of their small children in their beds.

There remains some Israel-bashing in the editorial, but it fails to disguise Goldstone’s startling admission that he had been utterly naïve regarding Hamas’s behavior. Of course, Goldstone’s half-hearted mea culpa is only that, and it comes almost two years too late; in the time between the publication of his report, and his editorial, Israel’s enemies have used the Goldstone report to dishonestly further their own propaganda ends.

David Bernstein has it right with the following observation:

. . . Of the three other panelists besides Goldstone, one had already accused Israel of war crimes before the investigation and (verdict first, trial later), and another is so wildly anti-Israel that he holds an acknowledged grudge against Israel for purportedly murdering Irish U.N. peacekeepers (an event that never happened), and who also disclaimed his willingness to give any credence to photographic evidence of Hamas crimes presented by Israel. Goldstone himself was serving at the time as a board member of Human Rights Watch, which has hardly shown itself to be a neutral observer of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And indeed, NGO Monitor has shown that big chunks of the Report’s accusations were lifted from unsubstantiated HRW material.

Goldstone apparently is starting to regret his role in the whole fiasco, and it’s certainly amusing to read various anti-Israel blogs that formerly lauded Goldstone as a hero for speaking truth to power now worrying about the “damage” he is doing to their cause. The key lines in his op-ed: while “the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional,” “civilians were not intentionally targeted [by Israel] as a matter of policy.”

But Goldstone agreed to lead a kangaroo court appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council, which includes such human rights stalwarts as China, Cuba, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Penance is always welcome, but Goldstone will go down in history as the head kangaroo.

John Podhoretz properly piles on:

. . . That Richard Goldstone did not know in 2009 that Hamas is a terrorist monstrosity which functions parasitically off civilian populaces while Israel is a beacon of war-fighting restraint in a manner practically unknown in the course of human history suggests even more plainly than the report itself that he is a dupe, a fool, a clown, and a worldwide embarrassment. Not to mention a special kind of reprehensible and appalling figure of inglorious, hideous shame to his own people through the delivery and promulgation of a false document that helped anti-Semites everywhere feel themselves justified.

He was then, and is now, an entirely despicable public figure—and so is his op-ed, by the way, which continues to act as though it is appropriate to draw parallel inferences about Hamas and the state of Israel. It would be right for world Jewry that his name be hereafter summoned as we summon Benedict Arnold’s, or Tokyo Rose’s.

As Jeffrey Goldberg notes, “[u]nfortunately, it is somewhat difficult to retract a blood libel, once it has been broadcast across the world.” Israel deserved better than the hearing and the judgment Richard Goldstone gave it, and while he may offer his kinda-sorta-almost apology for having thoroughly bolloxed his investigation, that apology comes far too late.

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