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.
Indeed, notwithstanding Goldstone’s apparent mystification as to why anyone should find his report objectionable, that failure to distinguish between democratic Israel and a dictatorship like Hamas-ruled Gaza goes to the heart of its problems. As Israeli researcher Jonathan Dahoah Halevi notes:
The Hamas de-facto administration in the Gaza Strip received nothing but respect from the Goldstone [Commission], which never mentioned it was an Islamist, fascist, terrorist organization, that it supported the murder of the Jews in “Palestine …,” threw rival Fatah supporters off roofs and shot them in the knee, had taken over the administrative institutions of the Gaza Strip in a military bloodbath and were currently imposing on the Gaza Strip Islamic law (the Sharia), with its binding restrictions on women and with its gross, blatant disregard for basic human rights.
On the contrary, the Goldstone [Commission] viewed the Hamas de-facto administration as legitimate in every respect and made an artificial distinction between it and the “Palestinian armed groups operating in the Gaza Strip,” as if such “groups” did not kowtow to Hamas and had somehow spent eight years methodically launching rockets and mortar shells into Israel in opposition to Hamas policy.
Add to this facts such as the following:
1. All four members of the Goldstone Commission had previously made or signed public statements indicting Israel’s military operation in Gaza.
2. The UN resolution establishing the mission had already condemned Israel in clear language before the “fact-finding” had begun.
3. The commission’s sponsor, the UN Human Rights Council, consists mostly of dictatorships and terror states and has adopted more resolutions condemning Israel than all 191 UN member states combined.
4. Goldstone refused to watch videos, readily available on the internet, showing Hamas terrorists routinely using human shields when firing rockets at Israel.
5. He also refused to allow testimony by Richard Kemp, the British colonel who has stated that Israel took historically unprecedented steps to avoid harming civilians in Gaza, including hundreds of thousands of leaflets and telephone calls.
One can understand why Warren Goldstein, legal scholar and chief rabbi of Goldstone’s native South Africa, wrote: “The Goldstone Mission is a disgrace to the most basic notions of justice, equality and the rule of law.”
And one hopes that those, both in Israel and international politics, who favor restricting the Goldstone report to the “Human Rights Council” — synonymous with trashing it — will prevail, to the disappointment of its author.