Two years ago, (South African Jewish) Judge Richard Goldstone wrote a report for the UN about the war in Gaza. It faulted both Israel and Hamas. Right-wing Jews have been screaming about it — and sometimes demonizing Judge Goldstone — since. Left-wing Jews have been defending Judge Goldstone’s integrity and, by extension, the findings of the report.
This month, Judge Goldstone himself retracted much of what he found about Israel in the report. See what he wrote in the Washington Post on April 1 (and no, it’s not an April Fool’s joke): http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/reconsidering-the-goldstone-report-on-israel-and-war-crimes/2011/04/01/AFg111JC_story.html
I have a lot more to say about this, but it is absolutely crucial that those of us who love and support Israel publicize this far and wide. In particular, one of Judge Goldstone’s most damaging conclusions two years ago was that Israel *may* have had a policy of targeting civilians. Knowing what he knows today, he says that that is false. He also emphasizes that, in contrast, Hamas did and does deliberately target civiliams. (We did know that already. It’s what terrorist groups do.)
He also acknowledges that Israel has since then conducted a credible internal investigation of its own civilians.
Something I read this morning — sorry, I can’t find it again — says that it’s pretty well accepted in Israel that Israel should have cooperated with Goldstone. He says that if he had had access to the information brought out by Israel’s investigations, the report would have been quite different.
He has also apparently figured out that there’s an anti-Israel bias on the UN Security Council and Human Rights Council (see for instance this from October 2009: http://www.haaretz.com/news/richard-goldstone-slams-un-for-failing-to-censure-hamas-1.5967)
The UN Human Rights Council says it cannot withdraw the report unless Judge Goldstone and all the original committee members submit a formal request to that end: http://www.jta.org/news/article/2011/04/05/3086725/unhcr-says-goldstone-report-still-stands Judge Goldstone should pen this formal request and start trying to get those signatures.
And unfortunately, the HRC voted last month to send the report to the General Assembly, with a recommendation that it be sent to the International Court at the Hague to investigate possible war crimes.
Will they investigate Hamas? This isn’t looking good.
NEVERTHELESS. Judge Goldstone has a reputation as a man of integrity. He may have caused harm to Israel. His responsibility now is to work just as hard to protect the integrity of his retraction, and to mitigate harm, as he did in creating the original report.
It is a rare person who is capable of saying, “I was wrong” this publically. I was wrong, too; the people I listen to, whose integrity I trust, did not have enough information … and we were willing to consider the possibility that Israel was behaving deliberately in ways that we find reprehensible.
You understand, of course, that the reason I can conceive of Israel behaving that way is that there are times and places where it’s happening. I am grateful that this was *not* such a time or place. I pray that there will be more clarity, truth, and honesty.
And reasonable people will continue to disagree about the best way to support Israel’s continued flourishing. But please, please, let us do it with civility and respect for each other.
By the way, see today’s one-day-ahead-of-time announcement of a new peace plan to be put forward by prominent Israelis — people who are to the left of Netanyahu, but including among them former heads of Shin Bet (security agency), Mossad (Israel’s CIA), etc: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/05/world/middleeast/05israel.html?_r=2