Goldstone’s New Tune


Published April 06, 2011, issue of April 15, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The United Nations report that bears Richard Goldstone’s name stung so very deeply, felt so very wrong, because its most incendiary claim struck at the heart of Israel’s character. In asserting that Israel intentionally targeted civilians during the Gaza military operation of 2008-2009, the Goldstone Report recklessly impugned the Israel Defense Forces and, by extension, the state itself. It implied an equivalency with Hamas’s behavior that seemed abhorrent and unreal to those who thought they knew Israel. And it gave succor to those who wished to view Israel as no better — or maybe worse — than the terrorists it was trying to fight.

Now Goldstone wishes to take back that part about intentionality, as in: “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy,” he wrote in The Washington Post. That it is difficult to rescind his original verdict is an understatement. Unfortunately, just as Goldstone himself, once a respected jurist, will likely never be able to entirely reclaim his good name, Israel faces the laborious task of righting its reputation before a world not exactly eager to give the Jewish state the benefit of the doubt.

What next? First, it seems to us, it is necessary to note the subtext of Goldstone’s mea culpa. He didn’t just excuse Israel; he excoriated Hamas. The United Nations should do so, too.

While Israel complied with the Goldstone Report’s recommendations to investigate allegations of misconduct in Gaza, Goldstone noted, “Hamas has done nothing.” Indeed, Hamas’s prevarications and stonewalling have been obvious to anyone paying attention, but too few were. As Goldstone himself wrote: “the laws of armed conflict apply no less to non-state actors such as Hamas than they do to national armies.”

One way that the U.N. Human Rights Council can begin to right this terrible wrong is to condemn Hamas’s intransigence and terrorist behavior. Sure, sure, that sounds about as likely to happen as the issuance of a written letter of apology from Muammar Gadhafi, but at some point the world body has to stop patronizing nonstate actors who want to be taken seriously only on their own dangerous terms.

Even if Hamas and the U.N. do nothing, however, Israel cannot afford to declare a kind of retroactive victory and cease investigating disturbing allegations of misconduct from the Gaza incursion. Many of the probes that Goldstone praised are not complete, and there has been no equivalent, wide-ranging inquiry into Operation Cast Lead of the sort that followed previous Israeli military campaigns.

The willingness to be publicly transparent and to hold leaders accountable is part of Israel’s character, too, part of what clearly distinguishes it from Hamas and other less democratic actors in the region. Goldstone’s belated change of heart does not absolve Israel of the need for continuing that necessary work.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.