On Friday, South African judge Richard Goldstone offered a half-hearted apology for and retraction of his 2009 "Goldstone Report," a particularly damaging and libelous document accusing Israel of war crimes and "crimes against humanity" during Operation Cast Lead in late 2008.
Goldstone's "oops," given in a Washington Post op-ed, blames his jumping to the worst possible -- and obviously wrong -- conclusions on "Israel's lack of cooperation with our investigation." Had any nation but Israel been treated this way, the international community would have rightly castigated Goldstone and his report as propaganda rather than investigation.
As I reported in 2009, the Goldstone Report "(was) not just more of the same from the U.N.: it's much worse." It accused Israel of deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians as a matter of policy despite this testimony by Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan:
During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.
Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population…
The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy's hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.
Goldstone nevertheless released a 575-page report creating a UN-sanctioned moral equivalence between the terrorist murder of civilians by Hamas and Israel's defensive response based on what Goldstone now calls "potential war crimes" and "possibly crimes against humanity" (emphasis mine.) Israeli columnist Assaf Wohl said that Goldstone "constituted the kosher stamp for this blood libel."
What should have been a forgiveness-begging mea culpa by Goldstone is instead a weak attempt to blame the victim and justify behavior that a judge in particular should have avoided: "Although the Israeli evidence that has emerged since publication of our report doesn't negate the tragic loss of civilian life, I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes."
In other words, Goldstone was Israel's judge, jury, and co-executioner (along with the Islamofascists in Hamas) because Israel's unwillingness to prove to him that they were innocent of intentionally targeting civilians. Israel was guilty until proven innocent.
But why should Israel have wasted its time "cooperating" with the UNHRC, an organization which, according to Eye on the UN, has since its founding in 2006 issued 38 "resolutions" condemning Israel, one short of half of all the resolutions ever issued by that body? In 2009, the year during which the Goldstone Report was being "researched" (UN-speak for "justifying pre-determined conclusions without evidence"), members of the UN Human Rights Council included Pakistan, Algeria, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. Israel was on solid ground to assume that nothing it would have said would have made any difference to a group looking for confirmation, not information.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a cabinet meeting on Sunday, responded to Goldstone's non-apology:
There are very few instances in which those who disseminate libels retract their libel. This happened in the case of the Goldstone Report. Goldstone himself said that all of the things that we have been saying all along are correct -- that Israel never intentionally fired at civilians and that our inquiries operated according to the highest international standards. Of course, this is in complete contrast to Hamas, which intentionally attacked and murdered civilians and, naturally, never carried out any sort of inquiry. This leads us to call for the immediate cancellation of the Goldstone Report.
I have asked National Security Council Chairman Yaakov Amidror to convene a special staff meeting of people from the Foreign, Justice and Defense ministries to formulate practical and public diplomacy measures, in order to reverse and minimize the great damage that has been done by this campaign of denigration against the State of Israel. I expect their recommendations in the coming days. We will act on the public diplomacy front, and on other fronts, with the international community and the UN in order to demand the justice that is due to Israel.
Not surprisingly, the Palestinian reaction has been a conspiracy theory-fueled anger. Ynet News reports the Palestinian Intelligence Service chief saying "If Goldstone went back on his word, it was most probably as a result of heavy pressure from Israel, otherwise he would not have done so,” reflecting similar views among Hamas and Fatah spokesmen.
Another anti-Israel website expresses the obvious Arab reaction when it observes that "The Washington Post is not the United Nations." On this point, at least, who can disagree? It's something Judge Goldstone should have kept in mind before releasing his report; perhaps it too should have been printed in the Washington Post.
Israel and its few allies -- it's hard to say whether the U.S. is actually an ally under the Obama Administration -- will do what they can, but it will be very difficult to un-ring this bell. As the New York Times reported on Sunday, the possibility of a September UN vote recognizing "the State of Palestine as a member whose territory includes all of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem" puts Israel in an existential political vise.
The Goldstone Report eliminated even a pretense of support for Israel from many European countries, allowing the Palestinians to feel free to refuse any Israeli peace offer. With the impending UN vote, the Palestinians believe they can have their land and eat the Jews too. Proposing any peace treaty to the Palestinians now would be a fool's errand on the part of the Israelis. Hamas and Fatah will refuse to agree to anything, but will use a proposal as the baseline from which to begin a "negotiation" that will feel like the world versus Israel.
Thus, while opponents of Israel and their useful idiots like Judge Goldstone are calling for Israel to make a "grand gesture" of their most-generous-possible peace offer, that is exactly what Israel must not do, at least not until the issue of a UN vote on membership for a Palestinian State is settled.
This is not an ordinary negotiation, not a question of reducing travel barriers or determining whether a tariff should be 5% or 7%. This "negotiation" will be the next tactical step in the Palestinian and wider Arab desire for the destruction of the Jewish state. It will have only one honest participant, namely Israel, which is no basis for a fair or sustainable outcome.
Perhaps -- just perhaps -- a real negotiation might have been possible in 2009 or early 2010. But the existence of Goldstone's "investigation" followed by his libelous "report" gave the Palestinians a sense of inevitable victory, especially when even the UK abstained from voting on the report rather than vote against it, a move that former UN Ambassador John Bolton called "simultaneously inexplicable and gutless."
Judge Goldstone's retraction of his report's baseless condemnation of Israel, while welcome, is too little, too late. The judge and all who supported his pre-judgment of Israel and the moral equivalence he created between terrorists attacking civilians and a democratic nation defending itself have blood on their hands. Unfortunately, the damage they have done to the prospects for a real Mideast peace will be long lasting, perhaps permanent; they'll be washing blood off their hands for years to come.
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