At Large

Beware the Next Goldstone

Don't legitimize the UN Human Rights Council.

By 7.21.10

Following Israel's May operation to halt a flotilla seeking to breach Israel's blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) -- true to form -- condemned the Jewish State and passed a resolution calling for an "independent international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law… resulting from the Israeli attacks…. " The human rights paragons from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) demanded the investigation, which has already been dubbed "Goldstone II." The original "Goldstone" refers to last year's UNHRC-sponsored fact-finding report, headed by South African judge Richard Goldstone, which accused Israelis of committing war crimes and terrorism during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008-2009. The controversy following its release should warn anyone who is tempted to participate in another imminent fact-finding charade.

Since its inception, the UNHRC, which succeeded the equally shameful UN Commission on Human Rights, has been reliably embarrassing. During the Bush era, the U.S. refused to partake in the Council's activities and lend it any credibility; the Obama administration reversed that policy. The UNHRC's agenda is dictated by Arab theocrats who aim to humiliate Israel and subtly impose an Islamic agenda on the West through such tactics as banning the "defamation of religion." Unfortunately, however, the UNHRC's very name (emphasizing "human rights") and prominence within the United Nations hierarchy automatically lends it credence in the eyes of casual observers and its Leftist devotees.

This might explain why someone like Richard Goldstone, who previously enjoyed significant international respect, would join one of its officially sanctioned fact-find missions. During Judge Goldstone's career, he was the Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Many also credited him with helping to heal the wounds of South African apartheid. Certain incidents in Goldstone's past raised ethical questions, such as his ICTY indictment against someone who "wasn't an appropriate first person to indict… but if we didn't do it, we would not have got the budget." Nonetheless, he generally was respected as a jurist and as someone who could preside over a fair fact-finding mission. He was. 

While Goldstone's report condemned Israel for its war-time tactics, many in the international legal community condemned Goldstone's politically-driven, disingenuous, and sloppy report. It immediately became clear how badly Goldstone had been played as a pawn, especially given his eagerness to demonstrate his objectivity in spite of his Jewish heritage and supposed affection for Israel. 

Following the report's release, Goldstone seemed genuinely shocked by this criticism, and he repeatedly stressed his intended impartiality and fairness. He publicly professed his love for Israel and called himself a justice and truth-seeking Zionist. But whatever his good intentions, Richard Goldstone's lasting legacy will be the utter nonsense, endorsed by the UNHRC and the UN General Assembly, to which he forever affixed his name -- and reputation. 

UNHRC members may be perverse, but they are not stupid. As they prepare to announce new members to the flotilla fact-finding mission -- it is rumored that former ICC President and Canadian jurist Philippe Kirsch will be named to Chair the mission -- they will seek others to serve as straw men -- just like Goldstone. Individuals who prize justice and the rule of law, or who, perhaps, sympathize with Israel and its right to self-defense, might be attracted to an opportunity to serve as judges on a UN fact-finding investigation. Those who believe they could bring evenhandedness and sensibility to such an investigation might be especially tempted. That sort of motivation would be highly naïve, however. 

The UNHRC is incapable of serious reporting. The institution's very mission taints the legitimacy of everything it does. Especially for those who care about Israel, it would be presumptuous -- and inaccurate -- to think that their well-meaning participation in future investigations could erase that stain. Instead, such participation only will help to cloak the UNHRC in a façade of sanity, while exonerating murderers and terrorists. That is Richard Goldstone's legacy. For anyone who cares about Israel and international law, hopefully it will not be theirs as well.


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About the Author
Brett Joshpe is an attorney and entrepreneur in New York City. He is Of Counsel to the American Center for Law & Justice and co-authored the book Why You're Wrong About the Right (Simon & Schuster, 2008).