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Judge Richard Goldstone's Stunning Re-evaluation of His Own Report

One suspects that Judge Goldstone might have read Peter Berkowitz’s recently published article, “The Goldstone Mess,” that appears in the latest Policy Review. Reviewing a new book on the report published by The Nation magazine (of course) and edited by three vociferous pro-Hamas and anti-Israeli American Jews, Berkowitz begins by quoting from the introduction written by Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, who wrote that Israel’s “misconduct” was an example of “reckless, even deliberate, destruction of life and property” -- the very charges most people got out of the report, and which now Goldstone argues was not his or the report’s intention or actual conclusion.

As Berkowitz correctly writes, “even a cursory glance gives reason to believe that the Goldstone Report is more interested in taking sides than discovering the truth.” He writes -- and now it is clear Goldstone himself would agree with Berkowitz -- the following:

The report overwhelmingly focuses on allegations of Israeli unlawfulness; the “documented evidence of Israeli misconduct” — as opposed to victims’ testimony and unsubstantiated speculations about Israeli war aims and conduct of the war — is thin; and its urging of Hamas, which respects neither rights nor the rule of law, to undertake investigations of war crimes allegations is a risible indulgence.

It is not surprising that as a result of their reading the Goldstone Report, these three editors conclude “the specious assumption that legal liability for the death and destruction in Gaza falls automatically on Israel lie at the heart of the book” -- a conclusion he notes is encouraged by the Goldstone Report’s “false equation and specious assumption” about Israel’s sole fault.

Quoting from the report itself, Berkowitz writes:

The report’s central and gravest finding, the takeaway heard around the world, was that Israel’s conduct of the Gaza operation was in itself unlawful. The report did not deny the legitimacy of Israel’s overall purpose in Operation Cast Lead, which was to stop the more than 12,000 rockets and missiles — every one a war crime — that Palestinian fighters directed at civilian targets in southern Israel over the previous eight years. Nevertheless, the report found that Israel launched “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability” (paragraph 1690).

The proof of the case is in Goldstone’s own report. So now, when Goldstone argues that this was not in it, he is dissembling.  As Berkowitz puts it, “The moral, or immoral, distinction is between Hamas, whose cause the report treats with kid gloves, and Israel, for whose rights and interests it shows little sympathy.”

Berkowitz also notes that in regard to Hamas, the report “obscures Hamas’s erasure of the difference between combatants and noncombatants and prefers Hamas’s cause to Israel’s rights and interests in several ways.” It also “failed to accurately characterize Hamas,” refusing to characterize it as a terrorist organization. Most importantly, “The report misconceives proportionality, which requires that parties refrain from attacks in which expected civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects will be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage.”

So whatever Judge Goldstone’s current obfuscations, and his intent to pass off his report’s failures as the fault of Israel’s non-cooperation rather than his own weaknesses and lack of impartiality, his current re-evaluation is more than welcome. Despite its limitations, Goldstone’s article today helps minimize the damage attempted by those like Adam Horowitz, Lizzy Ratner and Philip Weiss -- the left-wing enemies of Israel who compiled the volume that Berkowitz reviews.

So I, for one, thank Judge Richard Goldstone for his going public to help minimize the damage to Israel that he and his report have already produced. From this point on, his article will do a great deal to help people referring to the report as a document to be considered seriously.