The conversation: Can Goldstone's flip-flop change the way the world views Israel?
It was the op-ed article read around the world. On Friday -- and on April Fool's Day, of all days -- Richard Goldstone wrote a piece for the Washington Post denouncing the central claims made in his 2009 Goldstone Report, which concluded Israel had committed war crimes that resulted in the deaths of innocent Palestinian civilians. Here's a cross-section of the reaction:
Goldstone owes us a better explanation
Acknowledging one's mistakes is generally considered a virtue. But is it really that easy? The original report contained 575 pages of damning details — attacks on mosques, hospitals, apartment buildings, refugee shelters. The fact-finding mission made three trips to the region over four months, conducted 188 interviews, reviewed 300 reports, solicited testimony and held public hearings. In case after case, the final report alleged that Palestinian civilians were targeted by Israel in violation of a host of international laws. But now the chairman of the panel says … never mind? […]
The charges leveled by the Goldstone report were extremely tough — tough enough to help reframe the Israeli-Palestinian debate around the world. If any of them were wrong, then Goldstone owes the world a detailed explanation so that the truth can be revealed.
The U.N. should formally retract the Goldstone report
Israeli leaders have complained for years that the U.N. is biased against the Jewish state, that it judges almost every action of Israel through a Palestinian prism.
And now … evidence. Not just a disastrously wrong report. But evidence that the entire enterprise was skewed against Israel from the start.
That should surprise no one. Israel has hardly been blameless in the decades of Middle East strife, but the U.N. human rights panel has overlooked slaughter and genocide in places around the world and focused almost exclusively, year after year, on Israel's alleged misdeeds. The human rights panel once elevated Libya to leadership and coddled the worst human rights abusers around the globe, including Iran and Sudan. […]
The U.N. should formally retract the Goldstone report. But it can't stop there. The U.N. needs to acknowledge that it has not been an honest broker in the Middle East. It needs to acknowledge that its human rights panel continues to be an embarrassment that greatly undermines the standing of the world body.
You cannot undo slander
Goldstone claims to be moved now by evidence that Israel has investigated more than 400 claims of misconduct against its armed forces whereas Hamas has done nothing to police itself. Rubbish. The aforementioned 10-year-old could have predicted that.
No, apparently, Goldstone's conscience troubled him. While that's progress for him, the retraction cannot possibly correct his shameful contribution to lies, slander and the moral perversion of the so-called "international community."
Debunking the report won't influence anti-Israel activists
Of course, there's no reason to think a withdrawal of the report will change the mind of the most vehement anti-Israel activists, who cling to it delusionally even after it's been debunked, universally condemned, and recanted by its author. Even if Goldstone does make the request, at least one of the members of his “fact-finding” mission in Gaza seems prepared to fight Goldstone on the issue.
Goldstone’s report and his reputation are the poison gas with which the whole Israeli-Palestinian dispute has been made rancid
Goldstone's report and his reputation (a drastically scrubbed-up reputation if you haven't researched his years as an apartheid judge) have since September 2009 become the poison gas with which the whole Israeli-Palestinian dispute has been made rancid and fiendishly immune to facts, let alone to the truth.
The lopsidedness of the voting in international institutions speaks neither to the alleged depravity of Israel nor to the justice of the immoveable ultimata made by the Abbas regime. It reflects a widespread contempt in the world for the Jews—for their intrinsic peoplehood and their achievements, embodied in the State of Israel, in modern nation-building and daring renewal. Believe me: I do not gloat. Still, the comparison between pluralistic Zion and the deteriorating state of just about each and every Arab society, now on display in rancor and in blood, could have, should have evoked some identification with Israel’s cause. It will not, and not least because the very structure of global power is based in and has been routinized by illegitimate authority. It is gangster dictators who decide what will fly in the United Nations.
Goldstone's second thoughts only matter to those who have consistently defended an indefensible war
The jubilation over Goldstone's minor edit is also misplaced because the strong opposition felt in most quarters to the Gaza onslaught had nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not the killings of civilians were intentional but that they took place at all. Even if it could be proven that the United Nations school was destroyed by accident, what difference would it make? It was destroyed. Would Israel exonerate Hamas if it, by accident, hit an Israeli hospital when its target was a nearby army base. It is a distinction without a difference and only the morally bankrupt would point to it with pride.
Furthermore, opponents of the Gaza war were outraged by Israel's actions in Gaza right from the start not following publication of the Goldstone report. The outrage was produced when it became clear that Israel was not exercising its legitimate right to defend itself against rocket fire from Gaza by targeting the people launching the missiles but by targeting the whole Gazan population.
--Alexandra Le Tellier
Photo: Few recent events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been as controversial as the release of the Goldstone report, a U.N.-sponsored study prepared by South African former judge and U.N. prosecutor Richard Goldstone, shown here in 2009, in the aftermath of Israel's three-week-long assault on the Gaza Strip in 2008-09. Credit: Salvatore Di Nolfi / EPA