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.