What are we to make of Richard Goldstone’s partial retraction of the UN report on the Gaza war of 2008-09? There are some very thoughtful reactions that preclude any need for me to comment in my own words. The first one was already contributed by Mitchell Plitnick on this blog. (Mitchell has just posted a follow-up worth reading at his “Third Way” blog, on the fallout from Goldstone’s op-ed.)
The following piece by Bernard Avishai (the Canadian-American-Israeli political economist, author and blogger) is both insightful and pithy:
|Avishai (photo by Amy Thompson)
Richard Goldstone is a good man in need of a good editor. His report would never have attracted so much lightening had it not started off the way it did, trying to chronicle the terrible events of the Gaza operation, along with all the preliminary allegations of war crimes, before getting to context, testimony, caveats, and definitions (see especially pp. 10-26). By the time you got through the first section, you either had to be furious with Israel or with him.
Now Goldstone says in the lead of his Washington Post op-ed piece what everybody will remember, but which he does not really go on to prove, that to have known then what is known now would have meant a materially different report, hence, a different reaction to the Gaza operation.
In effect, he is apologizing for reporting that Israeli soldiers intentionally harmed civilians. …
Hamas missiles, he adds, were of course war crimes. Hamas has not investigated its own actions at all.
As to Israel, “our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion.” You get the idea that Israel was wronged.
… Sadly, what Goldstone does not regret is a report that distracted from the wrongness of Cast Lead in the first place.
I NEVER COMMENTED on the Goldstone report–though (like my colleagues at J Street) I believed its various allegations should have been investigated…. Read it all at Avishai’s blog.
Now I wish to share J Street’s reaction. I provide this brief selection and this link to the entire statement online:
…. While J Street never took a position supporting or opposing the Goldstone Report, we did second calls by prominent Israelis such as Dan Meridor and former attorney general Menahem Mazuz for Israel to launch its own credible, independent investigation, as it had in the past. The Israel Defense Forces did in fact launch internal investigations into some of the charges related to Operation Cast Lead that were in the report and some that were not.
We share Judge Goldstone’s belief that Israel deserves credit from the international community for launching these investigations and further that Hamas should be strongly condemned for its failure to address the charges against it in any way. We hope Israel will vigorously pursue and complete the inquiries it has begun and that it will do so in an open and public way.
As Judge Goldstone emphasizes, and as we noted last February, his report would have been far better and more balanced had the government of Israel chosen to cooperate….