Judge Richard Goldstone continues to try and salvage his reputation and work. Here’s his latest effort. It is so disingenuous — and that’s being generous — that one has to wonder… Only someone with no background knowledge in this affair can find this apologia convincing. Isn’t that the definition of propaganda — manipulating people with either false information or suppressed information to take your side when, were the readers to know the full story, they would not take your side. For someone who’s publicly, volubly in favor of “the right side, mine or not,” he sure does want it to be “my side, right or wrong.” Curious. I wonder if that’s a pattern.
My mission – and motivation
Oct. 18, 2009
Richard Goldstone , THE JERUSALEM POST
Five weeks after the release of the Report of the Fact Finding Mission on Gaza, there has been no attempt by any of its critics to come to grips with its substance.
As one blogger at Understanding the Goldstone Report put it, “what are we, chopped liver?” Apparently. We’re planning to put the entire report up in HTML (not the impenetrable PDF) and welcome a massive fisking. Maybe then he’ll realize… but I doubt it.
It has been fulsomely approved by those whose interests it is thought to serve and rejected by those of the opposite view. Those who attack it do so too often by making personal attacks on its authors’ motives and those who approve it rely on its authors’ reputations.
Probably more the former than the latter. Our position, at least, is ab re [absurdo] usque ad hominem ipsum (from the matter [the absurd report] to the very person who produced it). But that may be hard to follow for someone who wants to believe he’s been treated unfairly.
Israeli government spokesmen and those who support them have attacked it in the harshest terms and, in particular my participation, in a most personal and hurtful way. The time has now come for more sober reflection on what the report means and appropriate Israeli reactions to it.
People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. You can’t play with the nastiest kids on the block, who systematically bully your own people, give them a major weapon against them, and then expect them to treat you with kid gloves. This personal sensitivity is perhaps the single most eloquent expression of the sense of entitlement of people like Richard Goldstone. As long as they are heroes in their own minds — courageous men of integrity and scrupulous fairness (to others) — then how can anyone accuse them of base motives or base actions. And this from a man whose report repeatedly, gratuitously, even illegitimately, accuses Israel of base motives. He’s too old to be a Dr. Spock baby, but he sure shows all the signs of it.
I begin with my own motivation, as a Jew who has supported Israel and its people all my life, for having agreed to head the Gaza mission. Over the past 20 years, I have investigated serious violations of international law in my own country, South Africa, in the former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda and the alleged fraud and theft by governments and political leaders in a number of countries in connection with the United Nations Iraq Oil for Food program. In all of these, allegations reached the highest political echelons. In every instance, I spoke out strongly in favor of full investigations and, where appropriate, criminal prosecutions. I have spoken out over the years on behalf of the International Bar Association against human rights violations in many countries, including Sri Lanka, China, Russia, Iran, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.
I would have been acting against those principles and my own convictions and conscience if I had refused a request from the United Nations to investigate serious allegations of war crimes against both Israel and Hamas in the context of Operation Cast Lead.
If that were the case, maybe. But the controversy surrounding the establishment and manning of the Mission, especially that concerning Christine Chinkin, in which Goldstone played a key and deeply unattractive role, makes this claim dubious at best.
The history of the UNHRC (and its predecessor, the UNCHR) in providing tyrannical governments a platform with which to attack Israel for human rights violations — the very definition of demopathy — should have been enough of a warning (something even Mary Robinson, who presided over the demopathic hatefest “against racism” at Durban in 2001, knew better. Granted Goldstone did ask for a change in mandate, but it was never officially granted, and although he did make some vague remarks about Hamas’ warcrimes (for bombing Sderot), he did not — despite claims to the contrary — investigate the key issue of human shields.
AS A Jew, I felt a greater and not a lesser obligation to do so. It is well documented that as a condition of my participation I insisted upon and received an evenhanded mandate to investigate all sides and that is what we sought to do.
Now here’s a curious use of the word “documentation.” I quote from our page on this issue at Understanding the Goldstone Report:
Richard Goldstone accepted with a request that the range of the inquiry be enlarged to include Hamas’ behavior, and, in appointing Goldstone and other members of the Mission, the Council President rephrased the charge in accordance with Goldstone’s request. However, the President never requested nor received any UNHRC approval for the change; the “revised” mandate was never legally binding; and the Report reflects the original mandate in almost every aspect of its approach – from its framng narrative, to its selection of evidence and witnesses, to its harsh and grotesquely disproportionate conclusions about “possible crimes against humanity.”
Something’s very wrong here, and I suspect that problems of Jewish self-criticism play a key role here. Goldstone is playing out his own visions of judicial grandeur — I, as a Jews, am going to show the world how fair I am… I’ll criticize my own people.” And then the fly in the ointment — “Damn you, fellow Jews, why didn’t you play the role to which I assigned you. Don’t you trust me to be fair? Others, Jews who protected Goldstone when his anti-apartheid activities put him in danger, feel betrayed. But I suppose Goldstone just considers them parochial.
I sincerely believed that because of my own record and the terms of the mission’s mandate we would receive the cooperation of the Israeli government. Its refusal to cooperate was a grave error. My plea for cooperation was repeated before and during the investigation and it sits, plain as day, in the appendices of the Gaza report for those who actually bother to read it. Our mission obviously could only consider and report on what it saw, heard and read. If the government of Israel failed to bring facts and analyses to our attention, we cannot fairly be blamed for the consequences. Those who feel that our report failed to give adequate attention to specific incidents or issues should be asking the Israeli government why it failed to argue its cause.
Here’s a good example of a combination of self-serving egotism and dishonesty. If he sincerely felt that his reputation and the “mission’s mandate” — not only not officially changed, but reflected in the make-up of the panel of four judges — should have been enough to convince the Israelis and it didn’t, maybe he should have engaged in a moment of self-examination.
As for the failure to give adequate attention to issues, there were plenty of people, most notably Maurice Ostroff and Elihu Richter, who provided him with ample evidence to consider, none of which he did. The dishonesty here is palpable.
Israel missed a golden opportunity to actually have a fair hearing from a UN-sponsored inquiry. Of course, I was aware of and have frequently spoken out against the unfair and exceptional treatment of Israel by the UN and especially by the Human Rights Council.
I did so again last week. Israel could have seized the opportunity provided by the even-handed mandate of our mission and used it as a precedent for a new direction by the United Nations in the Middle East. Instead, we were shut out.
Okay, this is beginning to sound like megalomania. I, Richard Goldstone, eminently fair judge, am capable of turning inside out an organization that is historically and institutionally built for injustice to Israel. Why didn’t the Israelis trust me on this one? They have no one but themselves to blame because I offered them a historic opportunity. And this after he had a chance to see, and admittedly regret, how the UNHRC weaponized his report.
As I stated in response to a recent letter from the mayor of Sderot, I believed strongly that our mission should have been allowed to visit Sderot and other parts of southern Israel that have been at the receiving end of unlawful attacks by many thousands of rockets and mortars fired at civilian targets by Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza. We were prevented from doing so by, what I believe, was a misguided decision by the Israeli government.
In Gaza, I was surprised and shocked by the destruction and misery there. I had not expected it.
More downright dishonesty. Goldstone was deeply involved in the “Human Rights” NGO work on the issue (he’s on the board of HRW) from the earliest period — long before he visited Gaza in June. In late February, before he took the nomination to this Mission, Amnesty put out a report calling for an arms boycott of Israel. The overwhelming majority of Amnesty’s work emphasized the devastation of the infrastructure and the deliberate targeting of civilians. Then in March, Amnesty published a letter, carefully even-handed, calling for an investigation of war crimes “on both sides,” in which the signers — among them Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson, and Richard Goldstone — claimed they were “shocked to the core” by what was going on in Gaza.
Now unless they were shocked by the grotesque way in which Hamas used its own civilians and civilian infrastructure (including hospitals, ambulances, mosques, and schools) as shields from which to operate, what shocked them was Israeli brutality, and there’s no way for them to come to such conclusions, except based on the images and stories brought to them by the MSNM.
In March, Goldstone et al signed the “shocked to the core” letter. Amnesty’s earlier call for an arms embargo on Israel makes it clear what they thought about the problem.
Then in early summer, before he went to Gaza for hearings, Amnesty came out with its major report on the War and the outline of the Goldstone report closely matches that of the Amnesty report. Again, in May, before going to Gaza, Goldstone held a “town hall” with NGOs in Geneva in which the well rehearsed narrative of victimization of the Gazans got spelled out in detail. At that point, Amnesty provided Goldstone with a proposed outline he could use for his report. And sure enough one might even say that outline is a roadmap to the Amnesty Report.
There’s gambling going on here? I’m shocked, shocked.
I did not anticipate that the IDF would have targeted civilians and civilian objects.
Then on what basis did you think there was a call for investigating Israeli war crimes? Because they didn’t target civilians? This is bearing false witness.
I did not anticipate seeing the vast destruction of the economic infrastructure of Gaza including its agricultural lands, industrial factories, water supply and sanitation works. These are not military targets. I have not heard or read any government justification for this destruction.
Ditto. What exactly had “shocked you to the core” back in March, if not the belief that all this had happened?
OF COURSE the children of Sderot and the children of Gaza have the same rights to protection under international law and that is why, notwithstanding the decision of the government of Israel, we took whatever steps were open to us to obtain information from victims and experts in southern Israel about the effects on their lives of sustained rocket and mortar attacks over a period of years. It was on the strength of those investigations that we held those attacks to constitute serious war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.
There’s another double deception here, maybe self-deception. First, although Goldstone did rule that the bombing of Sderot by Gazans was a war-crime, possibly a crime against humanity, he made sure that such a ruling did not serve as an excuse for Israel’s actions. Second, the Hamas crimes against the citizens of Sderot are nothing compared to what they’ve done to their own people, something Goldstone managed to dismiss from consideration as unproven!
The Mission notes, however, that the incident occurred in 2007. No such incidents are alleged by the Israeli Government with regard to the military operations that began on 27 December 2008. (467)
Doesn’t having your military operations HQ underneath the main hospital in the Gaza Strip constitute using human shields?
The refusal of cooperation by the government of Israel did not prevent us from reacting positively to a request from Gilad Schalit’s father to speak personally to our mission at its public session in Geneva. No one who heard his evidence could fail to have been moved by the unspeakable pain of a parent whose young son was being held for over three years in unlawful circumstances without any contact with the outside world and not even allowed visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross. The mission called for his release.
It would be ungrateful of me to suggest that the treatment of Shalit — no details of his conditions of incarceration — was perfunctory. But it is striking that in the final statement of the Report on the matter, we find Israeli efforts to force his release unacceptable:
1344. The Mission is concerned by the declarations referred to above, made by various Israeli officials, who have indicated the intention of maintaining the blockade of the Gaza Strip until the release of Gilad Shalit. The Mission is of the opinion that this would constitute collective punishment of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.
How about: “The Mission is of the opinion that Hamas refusal to release a kidnapped soldier no matter what the consequences for the Gazans, is an unconscionable use of their own people as hostages in a game of negotiations.”
Israel and its courts have always recognized that they are bound by norms of international law that it has formally ratified or that have become binding as customary international law upon all nations. The fact that the United Nations and too many members of the international community have unfairly singled out Israel for condemnation and failed to investigate horrible human rights violations in other countries cannot make Israel immune from the very standards it has accepted as binding upon it.
But it can render them immune to kangaroo courts, especially when their enemy is not only not bound by such laws, but openly and deliberately flaunts them — and the Fact-Finding Mission doesn’t consider that in their [illegitimate] judgments.
Israel has a strong history of investigating allegations made against its own officials reaching to the highest levels of government: the inquiries into the Yom Kippur War, Sabra and Shatila, Bus 300 and the Second Lebanon War.
Israel has an internationally renowned and respected judiciary that should be envy of many other countries in the region. It has the means and ability to investigate itself. Has it the will?
The writer led the UN-mandated Gaza Fact-Finding Mission established to investigate alleged crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead earlier this year. The mission released its 575-page report last month
I’m on record here. The real travesty of justice here is dual: Goldstone’s Report and Hamas’ unexamined and scarcely denounced behavior. Once one cuts through the lethal narratives that have no support outside of highly suspect “testimony”, the Israeli army behaved no worse than any, and better than most. So to demand that Israel wash its dirty linen in public so that war and hatemongers can have a field day picking through the corpses is completely uncalled for. Israel — including the IDF — has a longstanding tradition of self-regulation.
What Israel should do is hit back at the grotesque work of the FFM — it’s ludicrous credulity, its inexcusable excursions into judgments even Goldstone admits were not in their purview, its treatment, especially, of the three nastiest lethal narratives: Abed Rabbo, Al Fakhoura UN School, and Samouni Street. And they should do it sooner rather than later.
I rarely (to my knowledge never have) agree(d) with Richard Silverstein of Tikkun Olam. But he made an interesting proposal at the end of his post on a collective call with Goldstein:
Listening to this discussion, I devised a proposal for Israel. We all know how politically unpalatable an Israeli investigation into potential war crimes during Operation Cast Lead would be. But what if we reinterpreted the mandate of such a commission? Instead of merely investigating and punishing IDF violators, why not incorporate the attacks on southern Israel into the mandate? In effect, do what Judge Goldstone wanted to do himself but was refused permission by the Israeli government. Gather massive amounts of evidence of Palestinians attacks on Israeli civilians. Interview victims. Determine as well as possible who on the Palestinian side might be culpable. Then present such evidence to the United Nations and demand that they act upon it. Present it as well to Hamas and demand that it act upon it.
If Israel undertakes such a project, it will place Hamas under a massive amount of pressure to do the same. This would be a very smart tactical move for Israel and place the moral onus on the other side. If Hamas responded favorably, then it might actually be possible for both sides to perform a credible investigation of their own respective potential crimes. Right now, we have impunity on both sides. Both the IDF and Gaza militants have literally gotten away with murder. It should be clear to Israel by now that the world is no longer prepared to sit back and allow such things to happen. Cast Lead was the watershed.
I wouldn’t have put it that way, but it’s an interesting proposal.