Goldstone Was Right
You remember, no doubt, the rage that greeted Justice Richard Goldstone‘s UN report on the Gaza massacre in which members of his faith, my faith, called him a traitor to his race, accused him of blood libel, called him a moser (betrayer of Jews)? You remember the hate-filled invective from figures as esteemed (by some) as Elie Wiesel and as rancid as Alan Dershowitz? You remember the immense hostility from his own South African Jewish community which caused him to cancel his own attendance at his grandson’s bar mitzvah (which was only saved at the last minute when the Jewish communal leadership had a change of heart, realizing the damage it was doing to its own image)? Richard Goldstone was hounded from pillar to post by his fellow Jews the world over. They accused his report of every sin in the books and some not even in them.
But a strange thing has happened over the past few months: Goldstone, a man who appeared to some a fool and a traitor only a few months ago has begun looking awfully smart. In other words, Goldstone and his report have been largely redeemed by investigations performed by none other than the Israeli army. In a sharp rebuke to Goldstone’s attackers, specifically South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, noted journalist and activist Allister Sparks recounts the restoration of Goldstone’s good name:
AFTER carrying out its own investigation into last year’s Gaza War, the Israeli military has finally confirmed several of the most serious incidents committed by its troops in that 22-day assault, which a United Nations commission of inquiry, headed by our own Judge Richard Goldstone, reported on last September.
In a low-key report released two weeks ago…the military has confirmed that three of the most serious findings of Goldstone’s egregiously vilified report were true.
It has confirmed the fatal shooting by a marksman of an unarmed man (the Goldstone commission said a man and a woman were killed) walking with a group of Palestinians waving a white “surrender” flag; the shelling of a mosque during a prayer service, causing casualties among the worshippers; and the ordering of a criminal investigation into a fatal air strike on a house where about 100 members of an extended Palestinian family, the Samounis, were sheltering on the advice of the Israeli Defence Force.
…The real importance of this military investigation is that it vindicates the Goldstone commission. It is worth recalling that Israel refused to co-operate with the commission. It also resisted calls by Israeli and international human rights organisations for an independent Israeli investigation outside the military framework.
For Judge Richard Goldstone, particularly, this is a personal vindication, for he was excoriated by leading members of the local Jewish community for chairing the commission. He was told his commission’s findings were lies; that he was naive and gullible for accepting the version of events given by terrorists; and that, since he is a Jew, he was a traitor to his people.
His critics were given support by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, who chastised Goldstone for “doing great damage to the state of Israel”.
Furthermore, the IDF announced that it was investigating no less than 550 possible serious violations of its regulations by soldiers during Cast Lead. It must be added that while this number at first glance sounds promising as a step toward accountability, it may not be as substantive as it appears. The IDF has a long history of exonerating its own in such circumstances. An investigation doesn’t mean charges will be filed and even less does it mean a conviction or punishment will result. Still, as Sparks and the IDF report makes clear, some officers have been charged with crimes and punishments, though lenient, have been levied.
All this is thanks to the courage and conviction of Justice Goldstone. Had he not taken on this task, Israel would doubtless have “stiff-armed” the world community and tried to get away with murder, literally. Against all odds, his Report has become the document that would not die no matter how hard Israel tried to kill it. Sparks demands that Rabbi Goldstein issue an abject apology to Goldstone for smearing his good name. I fear the latter will be waiting a long time for what is rightfully his. But if Goldstein has any understanding of the traditional teachings about evils of lashon hara and obligation to repent after doing deliberate harm to someone’s reputation, he will do so.
All that being said, Israel has learned absolutely no lessons from the mistakes of the past. Facing a similar investigation of the Gaza flotilla killings by the same UN Human Rights Council which appointed Goldstone, the State is once again burying its head in the sand and refusing to cooperate. No doubt, this short-sighted decision will end as badly for Israel as its decision to boycott Goldstone.
H/t Helena Cobban.
22 thoughts on “Goldstone Was Right – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Of course the Israelis are going to do a “mea culpa” right now – they would rather do so than face the UN Security Council this fall when it’s headed by none other than Turkey.
They’d rather admit to a few things now than face the music later.
Good point Mary. I always get this sneaking suspicion Israel will wiggle out of the UN “dog and pony show” once again, so hopefully this will get things started in a more circumspect way, not some orchestrated event we are likely to be outraged by once again.
Just a reminder to everyone, the bombs dropped in Gaza say “Made in USA” on them.
Yes, there’s nothing like a “special relationship” to make us feel all warm and fuzzy.
The family of Bassem Abu Rahmeh, the young Palestinian man who was killed in Bilin last year by a tear gas canister fired into his chest, has also been able to push successfully for a full investigation into his death. Israel has insisted that the death was accidental despite three videos showing otherwise.
Israel is figuring it is better to do its own inquiries and make its own amends than to face international scrutiny and punishment.
Give credit where credit is due.
Although a majority of Israelis would like to see any investigation buried along with it’s investigators, there are still people out there who think and act otherwise.
Despite the IDF’s track record, the fact that so many claims are being investigating, means that there are individuals in the IDF who are managing to further justice along, and I think they deserve a lot of credit for that – It’s a lot harder fighting from within.
Even if most of the investigated end up being “vindicated”, I think that these investigations serve a strong deterrent to commanders, possibly saving human lives in the future.
Deterrent? I beg to differ. Palestinians are killed almost every day, almost all their murders are unjustified and uninvestigated, or the investigations are simply window dressing. It’s common knowledge, and that is why the killing goes on.
I hope you’re right. I would prefer giving the benefit of the doubt to the Israeli gov’t & IDF but they’ve betrayed trust so routinely that it makes one deeply cynical. We’ll see whether yr optimism or my pessimism is more justified.
The IDF investigations are likely to stop with the military, and not implicate the political leaders who set the whole thing off. That would not necessarily be the case if the report (which is really a prosecutor’s brief) were ever to be acted upon by the ICC.
No one wanted THAT to happen — the report was repudiated by Israel, the US, Fatah and Hamas.
But the IDF investigations go ‘way beyond the eight specific actions covered in the Goldstone Report. Would be interesting to see where it all leads.
“No one wanted THAT to happen — the report was repudiated by Israel, the US, Fatah and Hamas.”
That’s similar to a point I often make–the last thing that Western governments ever want to see are high-ranking officials of any Western government brought before the ICC on war crimes charges. It’s a precedent they wish to avoid establishing.
As for Hamas and Fatah, obviously they wouldn’t be too keen on war crimes trials for their own members either.
RE: “You remember, no doubt, the rage that greeted Justice Richard Goldstone‘s UN report on the Gaza massacre…” – R.S.
FACEBOOK GROUP: Richard J. Goldstone: Integrity Personified
Category: Common Interest – Beliefs & Causes
Description: A group for individuals who respect Justice Goldstone and admire his integrity.
Open: All content is public.
LINK – http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=152832719154
You are missing the point.
Have any of you watched dore gold on aljazeera interview on this subject or the debate between dore gold and goldstone. Aljazeera interviewer asked Gold wouldn’t this report be objective because it was written by a “pro-israeli” jew Goldstone, Dore replied: I don’t care whether the writer is buddhist, muslim christian or jew. He criticisied the fundamental flaws in the report. And the conclusion that the only purpose why IDF went to Gaza was to kill as many palestinians as possible. Not once did dore gold mention or accuse goldstone personally and that is also the official position of the israeli government. Now to Dershowitz, he is a free agent and he doesn’t represent the whole jewish community and Richard you also have accused Dershowitz on many things. The gloves really came off between you and Dershowitz.
The fact that israeli inquiry finds mistakes doesn’t mean that the Goldstone report is off the hook. In many places the Goldstone report takes the witness reports on its face value. They didn’t even cross check the narratives. It almost seems like the report was a copypasted from human rights groups.
One last point Betselem director personally critisized the Goldstone Report on the fundamental flaw, that IDF was committing horrible massacre.
From betselem website:”B’Tselem indeed criticized some of the report’s findings. Among other things, B’Tselem argued that the criticism of the way that Hamas members chose to fight did not reflect the severity of their acts, and that in some of the cases the threshold of proof demanded by the mission for determining that Hamas violated international humanitarian law was a higher threshold than that applied to Israel. Also the mission’s conclusions regarding Israel’s overall objectives in carrying out the operation were not sufficiently supported by facts arising from the mission’s research”
No mention on any massacre.
First, no one here finds Dore Gold credible in way shape or form. So don’t bother recommending any of his smokescreen material as something to be taken seriously.
That wasn’t the conclusion of the Goldstone report. Don’t characterize what the report said unless you do so accurately & precisely. If you continue making gross misstatements I’ll conclude that you are a propagandist rather than someone seeking a reasonable argument on the issues.
That too is a lie since multiple government ministers have accused Goldstone himself personally of perpetrating a blood libel not just against Israel, but against the Jewish people.
This too is dissembling. Bibi has begged Dersh to become Israel’s UN ambassador. THe latter is Bibi’s go to international hasbarist, which is why he wanted him in the UN. I”m only shocked Dersh didn’t take him up on the offer.
This too is a lie. Goldstone, who has compiled similar reports on other world conflict regions & has deep experience in this subject, cross checked everything & never relied on a single witness to confirm any incident. He even paid for Israelis to travel to Geneva to testify & begged Israel to send its own witnesses to testify, which Israel refused to do. So falsely claiming he didn’t seek confirming accounts when Israel could’ve offered contradicting witnesses & refused to do so is laughable & only shows yr own bad faith. In fact, besides the Gazan witnesses, he checked newspaper accounts, Israeli media accounts, independent witnesses when he could find them, death statistics, etc. He was meticulous. You, not so much.
Again you exagerrate. B’Tselem criticized several small aspects of the report and was largely commendatory toward the report as a whole. You left that out of course. Jessica Montell wrote an entire Jerusalem Post op ed making this clear. Where’s the link to that? Or did you miss it? You know we’ve been over all this ground before. You’re merely repeating arguments others have brought here & which have been refused quite sufficiently.
So this will be yr last comment on the subject of the Goldstone report’s alleged weaknesses, because you bring nothing new & nothing credible. You’re just continuing the right wing smear campaign which was never based on any real substance to begin with.
Oh, how cute! You are defending Dore Gold.
Yes, Dore is quite cuddly & cute.
I am astonished by your comments. I forgot the quote from Jessica Montell, sorry for that. Here it is:
This is not to say that the report has no faults. I was disturbed by the framing of Israel’s military operation as part of “an overall policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population for its resilience.” The facts presented in the report itself would not seem to support such a far-reaching conclusion. In light of the sweeping conclusions regarding Israel, the very careful phrasing regarding Hamas abuses is particularly conspicuous. The mission did not find conclusive evidence regarding Hamas’ use of mosques and civilian buildings for military purposes, nor does it criticize Hamas’ firing from and shielding themselves within civilian areas. The evidence accumulated over the past eight months regarding both these phenomenon cannot be ignored.
“Don’t characterize what the report said unless you do so accurately & precisely. If you continue making gross misstatements I’ll conclude that you are a propagandist rather than someone seeking a reasonable argument on the issues.”
The Executive Director of Betselem herself critisized the fundamental accusation that israel objective was to punish the Gaza people. Don’t trust my word listen to her opinion.
I dont know what you call punishing gaza population and then accusing idf of deliberate and disproportionate attack against civilians. If thats not accusing of killing of many people or using your word massacre then what would you call it.
i am sorry but human shielding, mosques and civilian structures are the main issues in this report. These key issues will decide whether israel deliberately and disproportionately attacked civilians. If for example “armed groups” were engaging from civilian structure that would make it military target as long as proportionality is abided. This report found no cases that “armed groups” were operating in civilian structrures or hiding ammunitions. Montell is critizing how did the report come that conclusion when “The evidence accumulated over the past eight months regarding both these phenomenon cannot be ignored.”
Quote from the Goldstone report:
“478. Reports on the military operations by NGOs suggest that in general members of
Palestinian armed groups did not wear military uniforms. One report states that after the
destruction caused by the Israeli air strikes at the start of the military operations, members of al-
Qassam Brigades abandoned military dress and patrolled streets “in civilian clothes”.337 A
second report states that members of the Palestinian armed groups “also mixed with the civilian
population, although this would be difficult to avoid in the small and overcrowded Gaza Strip,
and there is no evidence that they did so with the intent of shielding themselves”.338”
First the report states, “no they didnt generally do it, but wait we found cases where it actually happened.”
It was reported that armed groups mixed with civilian but never hid themselves among civilians and causing harm to civilians by doing so. I didn’t said, Goldstone report did. How fools are we to think by engaging in combat or in a state of war hiding in civilian clothes might not put civilian population in harms a way, must be out of his mind. Are you kidding me.
“While reports reviewed by the Mission credibly indicate that members
of Palestinian armed groups were not always dressed in a way that distinguished them from
civilians, the Mission found no evidence that Palestinian combatants mingled with the civilian
population with the intention of shielding themselves from attack.340
How can you come to that conclusion that by wearing civilian clothes in active combat you are not intentionally endangering civilians close to your perimeter. The only reason why a military person would wear civilian clothes is to disguise himself for enemy troops by mingling with civilians. Or did he forget his uniform in a laundry.
480. On the basis of the information it gathered, the Mission finds that there are indications
that Palestinian armed groups launched rockets from urban areas. The Mission has not been able
to obtain any direct evidence that this was done with the specific intent of shielding the rocket
launchers from counterstrokes by the Israeli armed forces. The Mission also notes, however, that
Palestinian armed groups do not appear to have given Gaza residents sufficient warning of their
intention to launch rockets from their neighbourhoods to allow them to leave and protect
themselves against Israeli strikes at the rocket launching sites.
The report itself admit that “armed groups” engaged battle in urban areas and didn’t warn the people around and yet the report comes not to the conclusion that this was intentional.
If I go outside my house and fire a rocket from the middle of the street knowing that very spot will most likely be targeted and by doing so, I am endangering civilians in the area intentionally. Especially if I am not warning my neighbours or the civilians around my military operation. Or worse, not allowing civilians to evacuate.
Wouldn’t you agree. Isn’t that a war crime.
I agree that if there were war crimes the perpetrators should be punished but I find this report to have major flwas in its conclusions that I can’t take it on it’s face value.
And i would appreciate that you stopped namecalling. That is unproductive and insulting. You are doing the same exact thing what you are accusing Dershowitz and other people, attacking personally.
I read that too & frankly I think Montell had a wire missing when she wrote it. ANd I told her so. And many hundreds of other Israeli & international peace activists did as well. ANyone with eyes in their head can see that this statement from the Goldstone report was entirely accurate. Cast Lead was a form of bloody collective punishment directed at the Gaza population in its entirety. Even IDF documents about its military tactics make this perfectly clear.
Montell in her reply to me acknowledged that there are many others who disagreed with what she wrote. She explained that because of the scrutiny under which they function they have to be super careful about what they say. And that she was exercising an abundance of caution in taking issue w. Goldstone. She also clearly as a matter of principle doesn’t like the idea that an external body has the right to judge Israeli crimes. She vastly prefers that Israelis judge themselves–while ignoring Israel’s almost total inability to ever do this seriously. I still don’t buy her position. But I understand the underlying motive.
And as you yrself state, she’s expressing her opinion. And I’ve got news for you–even B’Tselem can be wrong & in this case they are. I wrote a post saying this at the time. You can go read it.
The major issue here is that the IDF has a choice about its response. Either it can precisely & carefully respond to your act by targeting you specifically or it can treat your entire neighborhood as the enemy & open up in a free fire zone. This is precisely what the IDF did not just once but routinely. That is a war crime because the IDF is showing that while it may have some interest in getting you for your act, it’s perfectly willing to punish & even kill every one of yr neighbors for your act.
The war crime is the choice made by the IDF to target an entire civilian population massively & disproportionately. As for Palestinian war crimes, those lie in targeting Israeli civilians & I have said multiple times here that I’d like to see Hamas rocketeers, Islamic Jihad leaders, etc. in the dock at the Hague along w. Halutz, Barak & the lot.
And why have you ignored the major preponderance of support that Montell expressed for Goldstone in her op ed? Why do you cherry pick her words for just the ones you support all the while ignoring the ones that are inconvenient to you? Here is something a bit hard to explain:
I support Oliver Stone
You should too
I don’t support anyone who can’t tell the diff. bet. the Israel lobby and the Jewish lobby. When he can get that straight then I’ll support him.
As judge Goldstone has said, proportionality is judged case by case. Military target objective vs civilian casulties. Now if civilian structures were used as military bases, that becomes a military target. Problem is when you return to investigate the scene of war, i can imagine that in 5 months hamas would of cleaned up the place of any weapon material. I would.
The media has used the term proportionality wrongly. It’s not when hamas kills israeli, idf has to match it. Its about minimizing casualties.
Do you believe that israeli army planted boobytrap bombs inside houses as a coverup? and ammunition to mosques? That it was conspiracy.
Because when the fact finding mission went there to investigate they could’nt find any evidence that civilian structures like mosques were used as military bases and they found no boobytrapped civilian houses. There can be only two answers to that question
a) israeli planted the evidence as a conspiracy(hamas nor human rights groups didn’t mention that idf did such things)
b) hamas removed the evidence months before the team arrived.
Then, what is the Jewish lobby?
I have no idea what that is. It’s a figment of an anti Semite’s imagination I guess.
B’Tselem views the Goldstone report as the result of serious, professional research that is genuinely concerned with promoting justice. All the tendentious mudslinging and the more grounded criticism cannot delegitimize the report’s central recommendation: that Israel must conduct credible investigations into its own conduct.
Yes it says that the research were in the right direction but left out serious issues and neglected information: THE GOLDSTONE Report is unsettling. I was disturbed by the framing of Israel’s military operation as part of “an overall policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population for its resilience.” The facts presented in the report itself would not seem to support such a far-reaching conclusion. In light of the sweeping conclusions regarding Israel, the very careful phrasing regarding Hamas abuses is particularly conspicuous. The mission did not find conclusive evidence regarding Hamas’s use of mosques and civilian buildings for military purposes, nor does it criticize Hamas’s firing from and shielding themselves within civilian areas.
What Jessica Montell said was that overall the investigation was professional but has it’s flaws dealing mosques, civilian structures, endagering population, firing next to civilian areas. Very serious issues.
Betselem recommends that Israel conducts it’s own independent investigation to the serious allegations. Not once did jump to the conclusion that Israel is automatically guilty, which is the objective way to report.
As for why didn’t Israel co-operate with the Goldstone investigation. Hypothetically lets assume that a person is a faculty member and is in a conflict with another professor. The most members of that panel which is in charge of disciplinary action announces without hearing a testimony or investigating evidence that one of the professors is guilty. And that panel is generally known to discredit that professor on many occasions before., that professor is on the agenda more than any other member of the staff. Then that panel forms a fact finding commission. Most of the members of that commission have already declared one of the professors guilty at advance. Now the commission asks the professor to co-operate with the panel in investigating conflict between the two professors.
Now would you think that professor would co-operate with that commission in which majority of members have already declared him guilty. Also the disciplinary organisation has gave its verdict in advance. Even if the chairman promises objective verdict. So many flaws in that prosess that no one would go through that.
Neither did Goldstone. He did painstaking research & indeed says that he wanted to find that Hamas made use of human shields & attempted to document the practice but could not. After all this research he drew conclusions which he was careful not to frame as legally binding judgments, but as findings that should be followed up on by Israel & Hamas, which neither did until very recently. As to B’Tselem, it couldn’t jump to any conclusion regarding Cast Lead since it wasn’t doing the sort of comprehensive investigation that GOldstone did. Besides, even if it wanted to it couldn’t since Israeli law prohibits access to Gaza for Israelis.
Yr academic hypothetical is a useless exercise. Israel chose to thumb its nose at Goldstone & paid the price. It could’ve made its opposition known & cooperated in protest & made its protest known if the Report went against it. But it didn’t even do that just as it’s refusing to cooperate w the UN investigation into the Mavi Marmara. Big mistake repeated.