Richard Goldstone's Mea Culpa

Richard Goldstone has issued a mea culpa of sorts in the Washington Post for the report he issued, under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), that found “evidence of potential war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity” by both Israel and Hamas during Operation Cast Lead. This was a military operation Israel undertook in late 2008 to suppress, if not stop, Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza from launching repeated rounds of rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilians.

The UNHRC is notoriously anti-Israel. The council has no criteria for membership but a common pattern seems to be dominance by human rights abusers who also share an obsessive antipathy to Israel. Hence, the Council voted overwhelmingly in 2007 to make Israel’s actions a permanent item on the council’s agenda and so it has remained to the present day. Of the 14 country-specific resolutions passed in its current session, six of them deal with Israel.

So it was not a shock when the final Goldstone Report was issued that it was harshly critical of Israel, while seemingly providing a softer approach towards Hamas. Lost in the coverage was the fact that the Israel Defense Forces has long been in the forefront of protecting all civilians, not only its own, when it undertakes defensive operations, and that it was again reviewing its own tactics to see if the rules of engagement (among the most carefully drawn and followed in the world) were followed.

The world also ignored the refusal of Hamas to cooperate with the Goldstone Commission in a review of its own actions. These actions included not only the terrorism practiced against the Israelis but against their own people. There was evidence that, for example, Hamas was using human shields and launching rockets from positions adjacent to schools and places where Israel would refrain from attacking for fear of appearing to target civilians.

The report was criticized by some in the West for its failures to fairly consider the evidence (it is important to note that Goldstone himself was a jurist in South Africa). Alan Dershowitz wrote in the Huffington Post that one of the fatal flaws of the report was that acts that were accidental on the part of the Israeli Defense Forces (such as the death of civilians) were held to be intentional while those intentional acts of Hamas (dressing terrorists as civilians, using civilians as human shields, firing from areas packed with innocents) were  held to be accidental.

Such moral inversions are, of course, standard operating procedure at the United Nations. Dershowitz also noted that a central problem of the report was that different “evidentiary standards, rules and criteria in determining the intent of Israel and determining the intent of Hamas” were used by the writers of the Goldstone Report.