Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Goldstone Report Redux

The Greatest Blood Libel Against Israel

Over the years, the Arab propaganda  machine, aided and abetted by a hostile United Nations and by ill-informed and malevolent media, have engaged in a series of blood libels against the nation of Israel.

These include false charges of  organ harvesting by Israelis, a massacre in Jenin that never happened, and the supposed murder of Muhammed al-Dura by Israeli soldiers. But the granddaddy of all blood libels was the Goldstone report, named after the South African  jurist, Richard Goldstone, who agreed to be the water carrier for the UN  Human Rights Commission.

The history of this tragic episode, a deliberate miscarriage of justice carried out by a man who was willing to be used and should have know better, is worth repeating.

Israel withdrew totally from Gaza in the summer of 2005. In a violent civil war between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, Hamas took control of Gaza in June 2006, and shortly thereafter began to fire rockets across the border into Israel. During 2006 and 2007, Hamas sent 697 rockets and 822 mortar bombs into Israel. During 2008, Hamas sent over 3000 rockets across the border.

Pleas were sent to the UN, but nothing was done. . Finally, at the end of December 2008, Israel launched a series of air strikes against Hamas, followed by a land war (Operation Cast Lead). Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the operation had three  goals: "to hit Hamas hard, to change the situation radically, and to prevent the continuation of rocket fire at Israeli civilians”  The war lasted 22 days, followed by a cease fire. Israel has maintained an arms blockade of Gaza since then.

Hamas claimed that most of the casualties were civilians. Israel claimed that these were really Hamas fighters. Hamas charged Israel with war crimes. Israel charged that Hamas used human shields, and fired rockets from the area of schools and hospitals. . The UN Human Rights Commission, an organization with a long history of anti-Israel bigotry, initiated an investigation, and appointed Richard Goldstone, a South African jurist, to lead the effort. Goldstone was used by the UN, but it is clear that at that time he was more than willing to be used.

At the end of the investigation, a report was written (by biased "experts," with a pre-determined result). The Human rights Commission had such nations as Libya as members, and had a long history of bias against Israel. Not surprisingly the commission concluded that   Israel used the more than 8,000 rocket attacks on its civilians merely as a pretext, an excuse, a cover for the real purpose of Operation Cast Lead, which was to target innocent Palestinian civilians -- children, women, the elderly -- for death. According to the report, this criminal objective was explicitly decided upon by the highest levels of the Israeli government and military and constitutes a deliberate and willful war crime. The report found these serious charges "to be firmly based in fact" and had "no doubt" of their “truth”.
In contrast, the Commission decided that Hamas was not guilty of deliberately and willfully using the civilian population as human shields. It found "no evidence" that Hamas fighters "engaged in combat in civilian dress," "no evidence" that "Palestinian combatants mingled with the civilian population with the intention of shielding themselves from attack," and no support for the claim that mosques were used to store weapons.
Almost immediately prominent  analysts were easily able to pick the report apart. Alan Dershowitz, among many others,  published a number of articles, (see here and here) pointing out how scurrilous the report was.

 The central and critical issue was that of intentionality. According to the report, the most serious accusation against Israel was that the killing of civilians, was intentional and planned at the highest levels. At the same time, the report claimed that the accusations made against Hamas, namely that their combatants wore civilian clothing to shield themselves from attack, mingled among the civilian populations and used civilians as human shields, was unintentional
Hard  evidence conclusively proved  the exact opposite of the report’s conclusions, specifically that Israel did not have a policy of targeting innocent civilians for death. (indeed the IDF went to unprecedented lengths to minimize civilian casualties)  and that Hamas did have a deliberate policy of having its combatants dress in civilian clothing, fire their rockets from densely populated areas, use civilians as human shields, and store weapons in mosques. Dershowitz  showed conclusively that the evidence relied on by the report, as well as the publicly available evidence it deliberately chose to ignore, disproved its own conclusions. 
The report was seized on by Israel’s enemies, as well as by anti-Semites everywhere. Israeli military and political figures faced arrest and charges of war crimes if they travelled outside of Israel. The Goldstone report has been one of the most widely quoted documents by all those who seek to delegitimize Israel, and has done enormous damage to the Jewish state. Israel is faced with fighting a multifront war, but is also engaged in a deadly propaganda war.
On April 1, 2011, Judge Richard Goldstone  unexpectedly and completely  reversed himself on the findings of the Goldstone Report, and  published a mea culpa in the Washington Post. He acknowledged that “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”  (This is absurd as pointed out by Ron Radosh.   Numerous critics pointed out the flaws and errors as soon as the report was issued, including a detailed  critique by Moshe Halbertal  that appeared in The New Republic, or the many articles  by Alan Dershowitz )
The most significant retraction was that of his original claim that Israel deliberately sought to target and kill Palestinian civilians.
Goldstone went on to say “that the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying –  its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.”  Regarding supposed crimes against civilians that resulted from Israeli defensive action, Goldstone writes that “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy” by Israel. And he added that Israel had a right to defend itself, just like any other sovereign nation.
Goldstone added that  “I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the UN Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted,” He called on the UNHRC to condemn Hamas rocket attacks against Israel and the Itamar attack, in which an Israeli couple and three of their children were killed.
While Israel has investigated its actions, he said, Hamas has not. He said that he had hoped that his report would sway Hamas to halt its rocket attacks against Israel. Instead those attacks have continued, He also admitted that the number of Palestinian civilian casualties reported by Israel – which was far below the inflated numbers claimed by so-called human rights groups — was accurate. As it turns out the vast majority of Palestinians who died in the fighting were Hamas fighters, not civilians as his report had charged.
On the day following Goldstone’s retraction, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on the United Nations to disavow the Goldstone Report. “The fact that Goldstone backtracked must lead to the shelving of this report once and for all,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak, said that Goldstone should send his new conclusions to the same international forums “in which he published his twisted and nonfactual report … Only that way can there be a partial correction of the damage that was caused.”
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu said that Goldstone should travel around the world and go country to country and newspaper to newspaper to try and repair the damage he caused Israel.  “The same morals and Jewish conscience that led us during the operation and our subsequent investigations should lead Judge Goldstone to look in the mirror and realize that it is time to share his feelings with the world,” the IDF spokesman said.
The effect on bloggers, both pro and anti-Israel has been electric. Jonathan S. Tobin refers to the Human Rights Council as an organization that is singularly dedicated to besmirching and attacking Israel while ignoring serious crimes elsewhere (including those committed by the nations that makes up its membership),
He  points out that “the report became the centerpiece of a new round of efforts aimed at both delegitimizing the Jewish state and its right of self-defense. His claims were taken up by anti-Zionists across the globe and in particular by those American left-wingers such as the J Street lobby and Michael Lerner’s Tikkun, which have both sought to establish themselves as Jewish critics of Israel and its defenders in this country”
 In fact, Michael Lerner invited Goldstone to San Francisco, where he praised him and gave him a "human rights" award. And J Street went door to door in the US Congress trying to set up meetings between Goldstone and members of Congress. One can only wonder what Tikkun and J Street  think now that Goldstone has had his Yom Kippur moment.
John Podhoretz, writing in Commentary Contentions,  has stated  “that Richard Goldstone did not know in 2009 that Hamas is a terrorist monstrosity which functions parasitically off civilian populaces while Israel is a beacon of war-fighting restraint in a manner practically unknown in the course of human history suggests even more plainly than the report itself that he is a dupe, a fool, a clown, and a worldwide embarrassment. Not to mention a special kind of reprehensible and appalling figure of inglorious, hideous shame to his own people through the delivery and promulgation of a false document that helped anti-Semites everywhere feel themselves justified. He was then, and is now, an entirely despicable public figure”
Tobin has specific recommendations.  “The follow-up to Goldstone’s statement must not be limited to either its now somewhat penitent author or the vicious UN agency that promoted his flawed document. The Goldstone report was a pivotal moment in the growing effort to delegitimize Israel. What we must now hear are similar apologies from all those groups and individuals, from Human Rights Watch to J Street to mainstream bloggers like Andrew Sullivan and minor Palestinian mouthpieces like Hussein Ibish, that either defended Goldstone’s false allegations or sought to aid  efforts to promote his scandalous charges. There must be an accounting from all of Goldstone’s previous champions. Like Goldstone’s report, their credibility on this issue is finished”
I hope he is correct. However, I fear that Michael Lerner, J Street, and others will simply explain all this away and continue their scurrilous attacks on Israel. The movement to delegitimize the Jewish state will not go away so easily.

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1 comment:

  1. When we examine the truth, the IDF targets only combatants and when non-combatants get killed it is because the Hamas fighters put them in harm's way by firing rockets from residential neighborhoods and schoolyards. They know that the Israelis will bomb the rocket launchers and Arab civilians die. It's what the Hamas murderers want. We Jews sanctify life while the Arab Jihadists sanctify death. Therefore, there can be no compromise. However, time is not on our side. We are losing the propaganda war because there are too many media outlets with anti-Jewish bias and the more they repeat the same lie, the more the court of public opinion accepts it as truth. Therefore, Israel needs to deliver a swift decisive blow with boots on the ground in Gaza to route out the Hamas terrorists and destroy their weapons. When Mexican drug gangs cross our borders to murder American citizens, no one has any problem with hunting them down like the dogs they are for a little payback. When it comes to Jews in Israel, that's a different story.