Goldstone to JPost: If only Israel had cooperated…

As a result of the dust-up about his grandson’s bar-mitzvah in South Africa, Goldstone had to address the concerns of the Jewish community there. Here’s his apologia. I’ll be writing a column in the JPost in response later this week. My initial responses here; suggestions welcome. For readers unaware of my substantive quibbles with Goldstone, see the two part article at MERIA.

If only Israel had cooperated
By RICHARD GOLDSTONE
05/05/2010

Excerpts from a statement by Judge Richard Goldstone for the meeting with South African Jewish community leaders on Monday.

Let me say that I have taken no pleasure in seeing people around the world criticize the South African Jewish community, and I commend the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and all responsible for bringing an end to the unfortunate public issues that had arisen relating to my grandson’s bar mitzva. My family and I are delighted that I was able to attend the bar mitzva on Saturday, and that it was such a joyous and meaningful occasion. I am deeply grateful to Rabbi Suchard, the members of the committee and the congregation at Sandton Synagogue for having made this possible.

Imagine the reaction of Gazans were Mosab Youssef to come back for a wedding. People take this “amicable” resolution for granted. It’s actually testimony to the extraordinary tolerance of the Jewish community in South Africa.

Without more, allow me to turn to the Gaza report that has caused so much anger in this and other Jewish communities. It is well-known that initially I refused to become involved with what I considered to be a mandate that was unfair to Israel by concentrating only on war crimes alleged to have been committed by the IDF. When I was offered an even-handed mandate that included war crimes alleged to have been committed against Israel by Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza, my position changed.

Let’s leave the quibbles about whether or not the mandate did change. Let’s say it really did empower you to go after “both sides.” What did you do with Hamas? Here’s a wordle of your report.

If I hadn’t marked it, you’d never find Hamas.

If you had been “even-handed,” then half (at least) of your work would have been about Hamas using their own civilians as shields. Instead, you indirectly accused them of what everyone already knew – they targeted civilians in Israel. The real story, the one your allegedly changed mandate would have permitted you to reveal to the world, was how they targeted their own civilians.

I have spent much of my professional life in the cause of international criminal justice. It would have been hypocritical for me to continue to speak out against violations of international law and impunity for war crimes around the world but remain silent when it came to Israel simply because I am Jewish.

No one is after you for speaking out about Israeli military misdeeds. Everyone can do that, none so energetically as Israelis. It’s the eagerness to judge them “war crimes” and “possible crimes against humanity” on the one hand, and the reluctance to look at the context of Hamas’ use of civilian shields on the other, that has people up in arms. Your defense, tiresomely repeated, is either dishonestly jejeune, or a deliberate feint. In either case, it’s unworthy of someone who would have us take him seriously as a major contributor to the culture of human rights that we all would like to succeed.

The State of Israel was established in 1948 by the United Nations acting on the principles of international law. It should not be surprising that Israel has always committed itself to being bound by the norms and practices of international law. I have always assumed that Israel would wish to be judged by the highest standards of international law.

Now we slide into interesting terrain. When you spoke at Yale, you argued that the same standards should apply to everyone, which a number of questioners pointed out, was not the case. Then in personal remarks afterwards said, “I hold Israel to a higher standard.” Only a masochist wants to be held to the (outsider’s hostile application of the) highest standards, while his nemesis is held to the lowest.

One of the cardinal norms, accepted by Israel, is that of “distinction” – the requirement that there be proportionality between a military goal and civilian casualties caused in achieving that goal.

And that’s where Hamas hiding behind their civilians renders making that “distinction” so difficult. Your technique: believe whatever Palestinians told you, ignore evidence of Hamas’ presence, and then find Israel guilty of needlessly attacking civilians.

THIS WAS the first occasion in which the UN Human Rights Council was prepared to consider military operations between Israel and the militant organizations from all perspectives and offer Israel the opportunity of telling its story to a United Nations inquiry. I also anticipated that this might herald the start of a new approach by the Human Rights Council in which all similar human rights valuations around the world receive equal attention.

Well this is a nice dream. But if, as subsequent developments indicate, it was a kangaroo court you wanted Israel to appear before, then you basically wanted Israel to sacrifice itself on the altar of your (mistaken/misguided) hopes for a new era in world justice. You are convinced of your good faith. But when you’re foolish enough to surround yourself with the likes of Hina – “it would be cruel not to give their testimony credence” – Jilani, Desmond – “if I were Hamas I wouldn’t hide weapons in mosques” – Travers, and Christine – “Israel is guilty of war crimes before I’ve even seen the evidence” – Chinkin, you’ll have to excuse Israelis for being suspicious of the high-mindedness of the endeavor.

But sadly for everyone, the Israeli government squandered that opportunity. That did not prevent the mission from finding that serious war crimes appeared to have been committed by Hamas and other militant groups operating from Gaza. That finding was also accepted by the UN General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and the European Parliament. The right of Israel to act in self-defense was also not questioned by the report.

Since repetition doesn’t seem to bore you, let me repeat: You only found Hamas guilty of what they’re proud of – targeting Israeli civilians. You said nothing about their use of human shields, which bears directly on the connection between Israel’s defending herself and Palestinian civilian casualties. The level of analysis underlying your logic is stunningly superficial: Hamas commits war crimes by attacking Israeli civilians; the Israelis wait years before striking back; Hamas fires from among its own civilians, and, since you ignore this last detail, Israel is guilty of killing civilians. You may not say Israel has no right to defend itself; you just make it impossible.

The letters that passed between me and both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Israeli ambassador to Geneva are attached to the Gaza report and tell the story, most openly, of my desire for Israeli cooperation and the concerns of Israel with regard to cooperating with our mission. That Israel refused to cooperate meant we had to do the best we could with the information we were able to gather.

Now we move from disingenuous superficiality to dishonesty. You had available, submitted to your Mission as requested by June 30, 2009, a wide range of material evidence against Hamas for incitement to genocide and use of Palestinian human shields – precisely what I and so many others reproach you for not considering. Not only did you dismiss the evidence with facile evasions (Report ¶478), but you have so far, despite explicit requests, failed to make it available to those who come to your report’s website.

I only wish that the energy the government of Israel and its supporters had put into discrediting the report had been invested in cooperating with our mission.

Let me rephrase that: I wish the government and its supporters had put this energy into dealing with the “fact-finding” mission while it happened.

It is obvious but must be stated: Had Israel provided us with credible information to respond to the allegations we received, it would have been given appropriate consideration and could potentially have influenced our findings. That was unfortunately not forthcoming. We cannot undo the past.

This is grotesque. You had credible information; you dismissed it; and you can undo the past or at least correct yourself. You remind me of the character in a Jackie Mason dialogue: “I could have had a million dollars, but those bastards didn’t tell me. Now? Oh no. Now is too late… those bastards.”

In conclusion, I would state that it is regrettable that the majority of the Israeli government decided against accepting the first and primary recommendation of the Gaza mission, namely to launch its own open and credible investigation into the findings contained in the report. That is still a course open to it and, if adopted and implemented in good faith, would effectively put an end to calls for international criminal investigations.

More of your well-meaning fantasies for which you want Israel to pay the price.

I am not aware that the UN Gaza report has or is being used to delegitimize Israel by questioning its right to exist as a member of the international community. I would object to any such use being made of it.

This is vintage Goldstone… on the order of, “No one has offered serious criticism of our report.” In fact the use of the Goldstone report in the BDS movement can be found in its very language (¶ 8, 9, and note 2), its supporters like Omar Barghouti and with other delegitimators of Israel like Norman Finkelstein is pervasive. Whether you know it or not, that’s the purpose of your report. So please, say something about Norman Finkelstein or the BDS.

I also express my expectation and hope that the UN Human Rights Council will treat all violations of humanitarian law, no matter by who, in an evenhanded manner, and hold all members of the United Nations to the same standards.

Who do you think can take you seriously with a statement like this? Even you expressed brief concern with their use of your report. Even if, for a brief (and for some of us, nonexistent) moment, the UNHRC sought fairness, it rapidly returned to business as usual: the bad joke of the human rights universe. You knew how bad it was before? What evidence (besides your stellar moment) do you have that it’s better?

The writer led the UN-mandated Gaza Fact-Finding Mission established to investigate alleged crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead.

Less fact-finding than testimony-broadcasting.

Lorenzo Cremonesi, an Italian journalist with enough initiative to slip into Gaza while the hostilities still went on, reported the following from a Gazan civilian:

    “The Hamas militants looked for good places to provoke the Israelis. They were usually youths, 16 or 17 years old, armed with submachine guns. They couldn’t do anything against a tank or jet. They knew they were much weaker. But they wanted the [Israelis] to shoot at the [the civilians’] houses so they could accuse them of more war crimes [emphasis added].”

Judge Goldstone, you did their bidding.

For more information on the Goldstone Report, go to Understanding the Goldstone Report.

29 Responses to Goldstone to JPost: If only Israel had cooperated…

  1. obsy says:

    It would have been hypocritical for me to continue to speak out against violations of international law and impunity for war crimes around the world but remain silent when it came to Israel simply because I am Jewish.

    That is complete garbage!
    When a judge says that he is emotionally involved and would prefer that another one takes the job, this is far from being hypocritical. Isn’t that common practice in courts? Is Goldstone insulting judges that choose the usual procedure?

    No serious voice would have accused him for a refusal. Here (again), he is showing complete errant moral judgement.

    Following loosely his kind of thought:
    Would taking this job and being hypercritical against Israel (which would silence suspicions that he is hypocritical) prove his superiority?

  2. S says:

    Goldstone is still lying about his critics being unable to refute any of his facts:

    http://blog.camera.org/archives/2010/05/how_long_can_goldstone_keep_on.html

  3. Daniel Bielak says:

    obsy,

    “Following loosely his kind of thought:
    Would taking this job and being hypercritical against Israel (which would silence suspicions that he is hypocritical) prove his superiority?”

    That the answer to that question is “yes” is *exactly* what Goldstone wrongly believes, at a deep psychological level, and is *exactly* what the very many Jewish people who engage in similar actions wrongly believe, at a deep psychological level, about their actions.

    They think to themselves – they narrate to themselves,

    “See, non-Jewish people (and, see, me – who I view as myself), I am not evil; (See, I am not “an Evil Jew”); I am nobly, virtuously, self-critical; (I am a nobly virtuously “self”-critical “Good Jew”(“Real Jew”); (So, non-Jewish people, please don’t hate me).

    What exists is,

    Horrific surreal nightmarish bigotry towards Jewish people – perverse obscene wrong views held about, and antipathy felt toward, Jewish people, by very many people in the world.

    Egocentric wrong self-views held by many Jewish people.

    Overwhelming fear of being disliked by non-Jewish people felt by almost all Jewish people.

    Resultant delusion and derangement in the minds of those Jewish people.

    Immoral perverse attacks on the Jewish people, by those delusional and deranged Jewish people, which are attacks that hugely contribute to, and continue, and propagate, horrific surreal nightmarish bigotry towards Jewish people, and which are attacks that are currently manifest as immoral obscene attacks on the country of the Jewish people.

  4. Daniel Bielak says:

    Correction:

    …immoral perverse obscene attacks on the country of the Jewish people.

  5. Daniel Bielak says:

    Correction:

    …They think to themselves – they narrate to themselves,…

    …I am nobly, virtuously, (“)self(“)-critical…

  6. Daniel Bielak says:

    Clarifying correction:

    …Resultant delusion and derangement in the minds of Jewish people who hold egocentric wrong self-views and feel overwhelming fear of being disliked by non-Jewish people…

    Also, almost all people in the world hold wrong egocentric self-views – almost every person in the world (including myself) holds a wrong egocentric self-view.

  7. Daniel Bielak says:

    Correction:

    …egocentric wrong self-view(s)…

  8. Daniel Bielak says:

    The egocentric wrong self-view that many Jewish people hold, and that I referred to, is just a particular egocentric wrong self-view that is influenced by a particular wrong chauvanistic (but inhernetly-benign-to-others (and harmful-to-oneself)) cultural-view that is promoted by the culture of the social group to which one belongs, and by huge traumatizing oppressive perverse obscene vicious bigotry that exists toward the social group to which one belongs (which is bigotry that is exacerbated by the particular wrong chauvanistic (but inherently-benign-to-others (and harmful-to-oneself)) cultural view that is promoted by the culture of the social group to which one belongs).

  9. Daniel Bielak says:

    Also, that chauvanistic cultural view is not unique to the Jewish culture. Far from it.

    The cultures of most social groups are chauvanistic.

    In the case of Jewish people, who are a very small group of people, the chauvanistic cultural view is…”corresponding” – “corresponding” to the abilities, in general, and achievments, in general, of the members, in general, of the social group; (the chauvanistic cultural view involves wrong views, and is not beneficial, but, in the way of the faulty way of things in this world, it is “corresponding” – “corresponding” in the way which I have described).

    People who are Jewish are, just like people who are not Jewish, are also flawed in many ways.

    These factors breed resentment and contempt toward Jewish people in the minds of people who are not Jewish and who hold very egocentric wrong self-views.

    I, myself, have learned from my observing qualities which, and I admire, and have tried to develop in myself, qualities which, I have observed in certain, and many, people who are not Jewish.

    We are all here together.

    Each of us is responsible for our own self.

    May we all be happy.

  10. Daniel Bielak says:

    Clarifying correction:

    Each one of us is responsible for our own self.

  11. Daniel Bielak says:

    …I’m sorry about my many mistakes-and-corrections.

  12. Daniel Bielak says:

    And, also,

    When I referred to “Jewish culture” I was referring largely to tenets of the traditional religion of the Jewish people, Judaism, (mainly the tenet that states that Jewish people are special “chosen people” of what/who the traditional religion of the Jewish people states, as a tenet, is the creator being of the universe), and which is a religion, a religious ideology, which was the most influencing and prominent part of the foundational parts of Jewish culture, and which has influenced Jewish culture, but which, in-and-of-itself, is not, currently, and has not been, for a long time, a major part of Jewish culture in general.

    And Jewish culture, like Jewish people as a group, who were exiled to throughout the whole world, is vast and widespread, and has many different obvious, and subtle, groupings.

    Jewish culture is a culture just like – is a culture in the same way as, and in the same way that – the cultures of all other ethnic groups are cultures.

  13. Daniel Bielak says:

    And, also,

    I think that the tenet of the traditional religion of the Jewish people that states that the members of the ethnic group (and the adherents of the traditional religion of the ethnic group), are special “chosen people” of what/who the religion states is the being what/who is the creator-being of the universe, is a tenet that is not unique to the traditional religion of the Jewish people.

    I think that the traditional religions of some other ethnic groups have similar tenets – tenets which state that the members of those ethnic groups are special “chosen people” of what/who the traditional religions of the members of those ethnic groups state, as tenets, is the being that/who is the creator being of the universe.

  14. E.G. says:

    The State of Israel was established in 1948 by the United Nations acting on the principles of international law. It should not be surprising that Israel has always committed itself to being bound by the norms and practices of international law. I have always assumed that Israel would wish to be judged by the highest standards of international law.

    Israel was not established by the UN. The establishment of the state of Israel was recommended by the UN GA on Nov. 29, 1947 (as any non-expert in matters of Intl. law knows, GA resolutions are not binding). Once Israel declared independence, on May 14th 1948, the new state was recognised by various states, each one acting individually, not at or by the UN.
    Israel was admitted to the UN on May 11, 1949. It is upon entering the UN that acting according to Intl. law is stipulated. Nonetheless, Israel committed itself to adhere to Intl. law in the declaration of Independence.

    So one does not need to assume anything about Israel’s wishes to act according to Intl. law. It’s clearly stated. As for being judged, one is indeed entitled to assume that the state of Israel wishes to be judged, if and when necessary, via a fair procedure holding her accountable by strictly the same criteria used for any other UN member state.

  15. E.G. says:

    One of the cardinal norms, accepted by Israel, is that of “distinction” – the requirement that there be proportionality between a military goal and civilian casualties caused in achieving that goal.

    While I agree that dropping leaflets preventing both the civilian population and the civilian-looking armed combatants of an imminent attack is not a distinctive measure, it’s harder to argue the same about personal phone calls.
    It’s also quite difficult to argue that Israeli bombing was not targeted in the most precise way, and that it was sometimes aborted due to civilians acting as shields, or preceded by a non-lethal shelling to drive civilian shields away, so as to avoid as many as possible non-armed civilian casualties.

    Insinuating that the IDF did not do its best to distinguish between armed civilians from unarmed ones is a problematic presumption. It’s very different than stating that there are suspicions that it may not always have done so.

  16. E.G. says:

    THIS WAS the first occasion in which the UN Human Rights Council was prepared to consider military operations between Israel and the militant organizations from all perspectives and offer Israel the opportunity of telling its story to a United Nations inquiry. I also anticipated that this might herald the start of a new approach by the Human Rights Council in which all similar human rights valuations around the world receive equal attention.

    Find yourself another Guinea-pig to start experimenting on. There’s no lack of them.

  17. E.G. says:

    I also express my expectation and hope that the UN Human Rights Council will treat all violations of humanitarian law, no matter by who, in an evenhanded manner, and hold all members of the United Nations to the same standards.

    We all do, your Judgeship. But apart waiting for a Godot that may or may not come, sooner or later, what else?

  18. Independent Observer says:

    Actually, the Jewish state was not established by the Partition Plan; it was established much earlier, at San Remo, with the full accord of the major powers and of Arab representatives – both at the conference itself and in the preceding Faisal-Weizmann Agreement.

    The region allotted to the Jewish state was to include not only the whole of modern-day Palestine but also parts of modern-day Jordan.

    Now, if both the Arabs and the major powers backtracked upon the San Remo agreement, what does that tell us about the wisdom (or lack thereof) of Israel placing any confidence in other agreements or “guarantees,” such as Oslo or future documents?

  19. Daniel Bielak says:

    Many of the teachings of Jesus – many of the teachings of morality that he taught, and some of the existential religious teachings that he taught – as they are recorded in the religious texts of the Christian religion, are simplified versions of, and in some cases, slightly distorted versions of, and also, in some cases, quite distorted versions of, some of the teachings of the Buddha.

    I once watched a documentary on public television about India which, I think, said that during the time which was around the time when Jesus was alive, Jewish merchants traveled to India to do trade.

    Jesus (Yeshua) was Jewish (Yehoudi).

    I think that some members of Yeshua’s (Jesus’) family may have been merchants, or that one member of Yeshua’s family may have been a merchant, and I think that Yeshua may have traveled to India, when he was young, with those members of his family who, I think, may have been merchants, or that Yeshua may have travelled to India, when he was young, with some of, or one of, those members of his family who, I think, may have been merchants, or, alternatively, that Yeshua may have travelled to India, when he was young, with that one member of his family who, I think, may have been a merchant, and I think that when Yeshua may have been in India, he may have learned some of the teachings of the Buddha.

    The following is a link to an article that has good introductory information about Theravada Buddhism. Theravada (“Doctrine of the Elders”) Buddhism is the oldest school of Buddhism and is the school of Buddhism which adheres to the oldest surviving recordings of the teachings of the Buddha.

    “What is Theravada Buddhism?”, by John T. Bullitt
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bullitt/theravada.html

  20. E.G. says:

    Derfner: Desperately smearing Goldstone
    http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=175401

    In the saner parts of the world, they can trust Mandela’s conclusions about the judge, or they can trust Yediot Aharonot’s.

    I wonder what sanity scale Derfner is using.
    Anyway, he may not be wrong about people trusting some person or news outlet in order to shape their own assessment. That’s what Finkelkraut candidly explained about signing Jcall (he trusted David Grossman’s advice).
    Somehow, I distrust Derfner’s call to trust a fellow and follow.
    Probably because it reminds me of unpleasant regimes.

  21. JD says:

    “Your technique: believe whatever Palestinians told you,”

    You put that to bluntly. The Goldstone way, and I have seen it numerous times with HRW folks, is to say “prima facie evidence”, and to invoke “prima facie” as if it is proof given its fancy Latin provenance, rather than being an “allegation,” which is what verbal prima facie evidence really is.

    They are deploying a lawyer’s trick.

    Again, don’t discount other pressures on him, like political. South Africa is tight with Iran.

  22. Ben says:

    Professor Landes,
    Thanks for this excellent rejoinder. Having just read a fatuous little piece of credulity by Letty Cottin Pogrebin in the February Moment magazine about how Goldstone has been subjected to “Jewish McCarthyism,” I feel much better after reading your article. One question: you credit Goldstone with having “found Hamas guilty of what they’re proud of – targeting Israeli civilians,” but did the report ever actually claim that Hamas was guilty of anything? I thought it levelled these claims against unnamed Palestinian groups. This omission by the Goldstone gang tracks quite nicely with his refusal to credit footage of actual events and actual admissions as evidence of Hamas’ use of human shields. By refusing to accuse Hamas directly, Goldstone didn’t need to worry about the very context of the Israeli actions he was “investigating” – Hamas’ continued efforts to carry out its genocidal mission. Finally, I understand that the resolution appointing him to head the “investigation” defined the substance of his inquiry, and was never amended. His continued insistence that his inquiry was broader than as stated in that resolution is probative of his probity, and was effectively repudiated by the rest of the world.

  23. Eliyahu says:

    EG, goldstone’s statement that you quote in #16 demonstrates his gross ignorance of international law. How the hell can he claim to operate in the field of int’l law with statement which fails both in knowledge of the UN charter and int’l law AND in the field of modern history.

    I will add for those who seek to know what the powers of the UN general assembly are, that the UN charter delineates the relevant ones in Articles 10 to 14. Anybody can check for himself.

    AS to Letty Cottin Pogrebin, she has been beating the same drum for 35-40 years. She has long been a tool in a psywar campaign against Israel. She is in the same camp with mearsheimer & chomsky [who is said to have plagiarized his linguistic “discoveries” from Zellig Harris] and Tim McGurk of Time mag. & rashid khalidi & so on. Obama needs psywarriors like these to push his policy of bringing down Israel and humiliating the Jews and …

  24. E.G. says:

    obsy,

    Here’s an example of the cleanliness obsession:
    http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/little-goldstones-1.290277

  25. obsy says:

    E.G,

    taking Yossi Sarid’s argument …
    Israel also should strictly avoid to cooperate with Islamic regimes and organizations like Fatah and Hamas.

    And now we are entering dream world: “with him his report will fall”
    Outside the Jewish communities, hardly anyone has noticed the recent discoveries about Goldstone. And even if they would have, Libya was recently voted in UN’s human rights council, Iran in UN’s state of women group, …
    The world is not build on the high “moral” principles of Haaretz.

  26. E.G. says:

    obsy,

    From Haaretz’s perspective the world is divided between enlightened countries and dark ones. Israel must aspire to resemble the first and avoid the last but, alas, according to their reports it’s progressing faster and faster towards the dark, Levantine, fascist camp. Worse, at the same time, according to their reports, Levantine countries such as Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Greece, are becoming so enlightened that Israel should do well to follow their example.

  27. Eliyahu says:

    EG, is Turkey one of those dark countries OR, now that it is officially anti-Israel and anti-Jewish, is it enlightened & progressive and truly representative of the glorious Tird Woyeld still bravely marching towards a Brave New World on the Road to Development [en voie de developpement — in via di sviluppo] for the past fifty years?? Is Turkey’s continuing membership in NATO now forgiven since it is anti-Israel? Will the Armenian genocide be finally recognized as a fundamentally progressive accomplishment since those Armenians were really all middle class anyway?? Be that as it may, the Armenian genocide cleared eastern Anatolia of its most sizable civilized and civilizing element. So shouldn’t it be heralded the way the narodnaya volya hailed the pogroms against Jews??

    http://ziontruth.blogspot.com/2005/10/bolsheviks-for-jihad-genocide-stalins.html

  28. Eliyahu says:

    EG, reading your comment #27 over again, I note that Turkey is indeed enlightened and progressive. Let us not not be so small, so petty as to remember the unfortunate episode of those middle class Armenians. Some very advanced voices are not telling us that if only Israel will make all the needed concessions, then the Arabs will agree in their overwheliming majority that the Holocaust really happened. The reason that the Arabs refuse to believe it is because Israel is politically intransigent. Obviously.

    By the way, the esteemed 19th century German progressive, Herr Friedrich Engels, wrote very explicitly that genocide could be progressive. To be sure, he was not referring to Jews but to all the Slavs but the Poles who were progressive Slavs, you see.

    http://ziontruth.blogspot.com/2006/11/socialists-for-genocide-engels-and.html

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