On Judge Goldstone’s Gaza war report

On Judge Goldstone’s Gaza war report

From the beginning of the recent Gaza war, we at Meretz USA called for an immediate mutual ceasefire. In these blog postings, I don’t speak for Meretz USA in an official way, but I shared fully in this organizational view as these tragic and sickening events unfolded last December and January.

South Africa’s Judge Richard Goldstone identifies himself as a Jew and a Zionist. His daughter spoke fluent Hebrew when interviewed on Israeli radio about his father. Yet even the dovish former US diplomat Daniel Kurtzer (in an appearance at the Manhattan JCC on Sept. 17), was “troubled” by the Goldstone report, characterizing it as “not a fair summary” and “perverse” for placing Israeli actions in a similar category to the genocidal events in Darfur.

This op-ed in Saturday’s NY Times, by David Landau, the former editor of the dovish Haaretz daily newspaper, discusses “The Gaza Report’s Wasted Opportunity,” in intelligent terms:

ISRAEL intentionally went after civilians in Gaza — and wrapped its intention in lies.

That chilling — and misguided — accusation is the key conclusion of the United Nations investigation, led by Richard Goldstone, into the three-week war last winter. “While the Israeli government has sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercises of its right to self-defense,” the report said, “the mission considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a different target: the people of Gaza as a whole.” …

The report stunned even seasoned Israeli diplomats who expected no quarter from an inquiry set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council, which they believe to be deeply biased against Israel. They expected the military operation to be condemned as grossly disproportionate. They expected Israel to be lambasted for not taking sufficient care to avoid civilian casualties. But they never imagined that the report would accuse the Jewish state of intentionally aiming at civilians.

Israelis believe that their army did not deliberately kill the hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including children, who died during “Operation Cast Lead.” They believe, therefore, that Israel is not culpable, morally or criminally, for these civilian deaths, which were collateral to the true aim of the operation — killing Hamas gunmen. …

[But] When does negligence become recklessness, and when does recklessness slip into wanton callousness, and then into deliberate disregard for innocent human life?

But that is the point — and it should have been the focus of the investigation. Judge Goldstone’s real mandate was, or should have been, to bring Israel to confront this fundamental question, a question inherent in the waging of war by all civilized societies against irregular armed groups. Are widespread civilian casualties inevitable when a modern army pounds terrorist targets in a heavily populated area with purportedly smart ordnance? Are they acceptable? Does the enemy’s deployment in the heart of the civilian area shift the line between right and wrong, in morality and in law? …

But Judge Goldstone has thwarted any such honest debate — within Israel or concerning Israel. His fundamental premise, that the Israelis went after civilians, shut down the argument before it began. [The entire article is online here.]

By | 2009-09-21T13:42:00-04:00 September 21st, 2009|Blog|2 Comments


  1. David Ehrens September 21, 2009 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    Ralph, I am glad to see that you are calling for the allegations to be investigated. If Israel (and the PA on its side) can do that, some progress has been made. I didn’t care for the Landau op-ed, however. He writes, “His fundamental premise, that the Israelis went after civilians, shut down the argument before it began.” This was not a “premise” but a number of serious allegations of human rights abuse. It’s too bad if such things reflexively shut down discussion in Israel, but this is an Israeli problem as well. The best thing Israel can do now is to use this opportunity to tell its own story based on the allegations in the report, and if it finds some of them cannot be defended, then it must take action to discipline commanders who participated in the abuses.

  2. marie October 8, 2009 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    Ralph, I agree with your take on the Goldstone Report.
    Abdul Latif Musa’s asassination in Gaza by Hamas and the incident in his mosque escaped U.N. and world condemnation.

    The Lebanese destruction of a palestinian refugee camp two years ago similarly escaped condemnation.

    When Israel is condemned for doing things that arab “governments” also do we can’t expect the Israeli public to take seriously things like the Goldstone report.

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