If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
With these words of contrition, Judge Richard Goldstone managed to eke out an apology for his horrid blood libel against the IDF, countless Israeli soldiers, and the entire nation of Israel, acknowledging “that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”
By way of background, Operation Cast Lead took place in 2008 in response to years of almost daily rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel, which killed and maimed Israeli civilians. During the three weeks of Cast Lead, some 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including hundreds of civilians. Thirteen Israelis were killed as well. Israel blamed Hamas for the heavy civilian toll, saying that the terrorist group deliberately staged attacks from heavily populated residential areas, from mosques, and from schools.
The UN’s Human Rights Council undertook an investigation in 2009, but Israel refused to participate, citing the obvious bias of the UN’s investigating the charge. Instead, Israel undertook its own thorough investigation that has been recognized by the UN, indicating that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.
Nevertheless, the HRC’s investigation, headed up by Judge Goldstone, originally charged Israel with alleged abuses of military power by deliberately targeting civilians in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
Could any thoughtful, human being ignore a charge of such gravity?
And especially as Jews, how were we to respond to these claims that echoed back to the most horrific genocide committed against us? The words themselves seemed too awful to contemplate for a modern, ethical Jewish army. And, just as awful, the report was authored by a Jewish jurist of Zionist affiliation, with a daughter living in Israel.
The Goldstone Report served its purpose. The cynical commissioners of the report, the oxymoronic “Human Rights Council” led by such human rights luminaries as Libya (only recently suspended), Saudi Arabia, and Cuba picked the perfect foil to author the report. The only “targeted civilian” in this sorry saga was Goldstone himself —— he was deliberately recruited by the Human Rights Council to provide the report with a veneer of integrity and ballast before the world community. Had the report been authored by the Syrian “justice” minister or an Iranian governmental functionary, would anyone have paid attention?
The report was never about investigating possible violations of humanitarian rights. The charge was to investigate the war crimes that were assumed to have occurred. Goldstone was only to serve as the cover, the fig leaf. To our eternal regret, Goldstone played the part and delivered everything the Syrians, the Cubans, the Iranians, and the Libyans hoped for back in Geneva.
And, in fact, just before Goldstone’s retraction in The Washington Post, the Human Rights Council submitted the Goldstone Report to the UN Security Council for “consideration and appropriate action, including consideration of referral of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.” (Human Rights Council Roundup, March 25)
The saddest truths of Goldstone’s apologia are twofold. First, Goldstone, to this day, blames Israel for the predicament into which he allowed himself to be drawn. Goldstone wrote: “I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such [exonerating] evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted [from Israel], because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.”
So, it is Israel’s fault that Goldstone relied on untruthful evidence to convict an entire army, its commanders, its politicians, and its people? Since when does a person, a people, a society, or a country have to prove a negative when the underlying crime is preordained? It is only through the painstaking effort of collecting evidence, questioning witnesses, and reviewing events in their proper context that a judicial process has any integrity. The IDF’s ongoing review of civilian claims and charges, which continues to this day, is the only evaluative process with the ability to determine truths, as Goldstone now reluctantly concedes.
Second, the damage is done. Israeli politicians have called for a retraction from the Human Rights Council. It will not happen. Those who campaign against Israel in public forums and commercial boycotts in order to undermine Israel as a state will continue to cite Goldstone’s Report as Exhibit A. Every newspaper editor knows that the retraction is rarely as impactful as the original erroneous charge. Goldstone himself will keep largely silent, beleaguered by both those he unalterably stained with his irresponsible charges and those who consider him an apostate.
At this time, as Goldstone sorrowfully noted, Hamas has not conducted any investigation of its own, claiming that no such investigation is warranted by Hamas’ “armed resistance.” Rockets continue to rain down on Israel from Gaza.