Goldstone Agonistes

Judge Richard Goldstone is hinting these days at possible disappointment.

His dream -- that Israel will launch a judicial investigation into its own war last winter in Gaza or, failing that, that Israeli leaders will be hauled before the International Criminal Court in the Hague -- is in doubt. The idea of an investigation has run into staunch opposition in Israel, particularly from Defense Minister Ehud Barak. And the possibility of the UN Security Council referring Israel to The Hague looks dimmer by the day with veto-wielding council members like the United States and China saying last week that they oppose it.

Indeed, in an interview last Thursday to the Qatar-based Arab TV station Al Jazeera, Goldstone expresses his displeasure with the U.S. -- saying, with a mien of wounded innocence, that he “ha[s] yet to hear from the Obama administration what the flaws in the report that they have identified are. I would be happy to respond to them, if and when I know what they are.”

Goldstone is even less content with Israel. The interviewer -- clearly no lover of the Jewish state -- declares: “You talked in the past about the need for international humanitarian law, the designation of crimes against humanity as having sprung from the Holocaust, as being so important, and now you have the Israeli government saying, well, we’re being criticized, perhaps we should change international humanitarian law to fit what we do, what do you think of that?”

Could the interviewer be implying that the Israelis are the “new Nazis” -- a charge so common in the Arab world as to be atmospheric? Goldstone -- showing no sign of having noticed, let alone being offended as a Jew -- replies: “Well, I think it’s sad and I think it’s clutching at straws, because international law can’t be changed because one party doesn’t like the rules, it’s much more complex than that.”

Yes, indeed more complex -- as Goldstone, to his less-than-philo-Semitic interlocutor, casts the Israeli government as both criminal and boorish. The argument, of course, is that the classic documents of international law were written before the era when Hamas and other terror organizations routinely took shelter among civilians so as to exploit the scruples of democratic armies that were fighting them.

The interviewer presses on: “The report has these very horrific examples, I mean, in one case, the shooting of children at pointblank range whose family members were holding white flags, what are we supposed to think about how this happens?”

Nothing new there -- horrible Israel, Jews as child killers; if you think there’s been any substantial change in the Arab world toward accepting Israel, watch the words and expressions of the intelligent, polished interviewer. In this case -- to the interviewer’s chagrin -- Goldstone gets around to saying he “would have confidence” in an Israeli investigation of the war. But clearly the Al Jazeera venue, ethos, and audience of the interview Goldstone is granting and the fact that he’s further stoking flames of hatred don't trouble him a whit.