Take 2 on Goldstone Report on Gaza war

Take 2 on Goldstone Report on Gaza war

The Goldstone Report has caused quite a government and media uproar here. Government spokespeople seem to believe that the best defense is an attack on the report. They, and many of the media commentators, think that the whole world was living in the self-imposed bubble that Israelis lived in during Dec/Jan. 08/09. The reason that 95% of the Jewish public supported Cast Lead was the minimal Israeli military and civilian casualties during the fighting, due to the use of disproportionate fire-power, and the fact that Israelis weren’t exposed to the pain and suffering on the other side, only to the Hamas rockets being fired at civilian centers in the Israeli south, disrupting civilian life, and particularly education for the kids.

So the harshness of the findings of the Goldstone Report came as a surprise.

It’s hard to discredit Judge Goldstone himself, since he is a declared Zionist, member of the Hebrew University’s board of governors, has a daughter who lived here for years, etc. It’s much easier to discredit the UN, the Human Rights Council, etc., which have frequently shown bias towards Israel.

Nine years ago he appeared at the Yakar Center for Social Concern, run by Palestine-Israel Journal’s editorial board member, Benjamin Pogrund. According to a report in Haaretz, Goldstone was introduced by Israeli Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, who described him as “a dear friend” with “very deep ties to Israel.” Goldstone, in turn, said Barak was his hero and inspiration (see Goldstone: Holocaust shaped view on war crimes – Haaretz – Israel News).

As Goldstone himself noted, both Israel and Hamas have a “dismal record” (his words) when it comes to investigating their own forces, and his report accuses both sides of possible war crimes (see Op-Ed Contributor – Justice in Gaza – NYTimes.com).

Clearly, the Israeli government should have cooperated with Goldstone’s commission, and it should have authorized an independent commission of inquiry, like it did after Sabra and Shatila, and after October 2000 when it established the Orr Commission. And it may yet do so. It was never enough to have the IDF investigate itself.

The official U.S. reaction to the report wasn’t a total rejection, “just” a criticism. That reaction was strongly attacked by Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as being too mild, and he clearly reflects Israeli government thinking on this. The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has said that the Human Rights Council, which the U.S. recently rejoined, and not the U.N. Security Council, is the appropriate venue for a serious discussion of the report and its implications.

My main concern is that the Israeli government will not use the Goldstone Report to avoid its responsibilities connected to the peace process. The key remains President Obama and his envoy Senator George Mitchell, and how they will deal with things. The fact that Obama managed to convene a triangular summit meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas in New York is grounds for cautious hope.

For a good appraisal of the Goldstone Report and its implications, I strongly recommend reading the piece by Daniel Levy of the New America Foundation in the Guardian, which calls upon the Israeli government to mandate an independent commission of inquiry, and to end the use of disproportionate force and collective punishment — Israel must now heal itself | Daniel Levy | Comment is free ….

It is to be hoped that one of the lessons that the Israeli government will learn from the experience of the Goldstone Report is the old slogan used by the anti-war demonstrators in Chicago back in 1968 – “The whole world is watching” – and hopefully that realization will temper their actions in the future.

By | 2009-09-22T14:23:00-04:00 September 22nd, 2009|Blog|6 Comments


  1. Ralph Seliger September 22, 2009 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    In my reading of David Landau’s piece, he’s saying that Hillel’s concerns re Gaza are the sort of questions that Israelis need to address. But because the Goldstone Report comes across as an over-the-top indictment of Israel, they will be ignored.

    For example, for Goldstone to state that both Israel and Hamas have “dismal records” in investigating war crimes, while probably true, totally disregards that Hamas’s mode of waging war is mostly about inflicting civilian casualties. War crimes and crimes against humanity are par for the course for Hamas. By way of contrast, Israel needs to be influenced back to a more complete adherence to its professed humanitarian standards.

  2. David Ehrens September 22, 2009 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Ralph seems to be suggesting that Hamas is a tad worse than Israel because its goal is always to inflict civilian casualties while Israel employs both good and bad methods. When Hamas can kill Israelis with the same ruthless efficiency that Israel does Palestinians, and when Hamas can exert control over and punish an entire population like Israel does, we can reconsider this flawed argument.

  3. Gene September 22, 2009 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    What do you think of the report’s many rebuttals, such as at http://samsonblinded.org/blog/goldstone-report-the-rebuttal.htm ?

  4. Ralph Seliger September 22, 2009 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    The fact that the Goldstone Report appears to equate the moral culpability of both sides, will mean that Goldstone has, in David Landau’s words, “missed an opportunity” to cause most Israelis to honestly assess the morality of how Israel fights its enemies. This argument deals with the bottom-line political impact of the report.

  5. Arieh Lebowitz September 25, 2009 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    Just to be sure you see this, see here:

    Wednesday, 16 September 2009
    Meretz UK Statement on Goldstone UN Report on Gaza

    Whilst we have no insights into the events on the ground we believe that the Israeli government has missed an opportunity in its peremptory reactions to the recently released UN Goldstone Report.

    In the view of Meretz UK, the government ought now to follow their commendations contained within the report to investigate the alleged violations, and then report back to the UN within the given period. By contrast, the government has chosen to reject the report out of hand as somehow inevitably biased against Israel. This approach, we feel, will ultimately prove counter-productive, not least because it sends the message that Israel has something to hide.

    To date the Israeli government has not acted in a democratic manner, through only allowing internal military investigations. Surely it would have boosted Israeli credibility to have ordered independent investigations into the matter? Instead its position was always that their entire strategy was right, and that none of the IDF soldiers could have done any wrong, with the exception of some “unavoidable mistakes.”

    Moreover, the Israeli government chose not to help the UN fact finding teams in their investigations. Having done so, does that not erode its right to criticize now? Nor has the government recognised that the techniques and strategies of Hamas were likewise condemned as possible war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity, and that the report also calls for the immediate release of Gillad Shalit.

    Meretz UK believes that direct negotiations and improvement of human conditions in Gaza could have brought about far better conditions for an end to the terrorising rocket attacks. This avenue had not been tested, because of a stubborn position of not talking to Hamas. We remember that there was a time when Israel refused to speak to the PLO and the PLO to Israel, and that since they do, conditions have improved.

    Several Israeli NGO’s, registered and run by Israelis, and representing Jewish Israelis, have declared that Human Rights violations have occurred,amongst them most prominently Breaking The Silence and B’tselem. Meretz UK believes that it is the duty of any moral and law obeying country to investigate any claims properly before an independent tribunal.

    A true democratic spirit starts with allowing questions to be asked and investigated, and fails with questions being disallowed and thrown over board at face value.

    We understand that the U.N. has at times been biased and hostile towards Israel, but the U.N. was also instrumental in securing for Israel its right to become a member state, and to become a nation in law amidst other nations.

    Furthermore Jews like Rene Cassin were instrumental in the creation of the UN in the shadow of the Shoa. We also believe that if the Israeli government cooperated more within a democratic and legal spirit, it would command the respect and support it tries to gain so strongly. It is this democratic, law obeying and morally conscious Israel that Meretz UK wishes for and works towards.

    Meretz UK was not in support of military actions in 2009, and acknowledges and regrets that a very high number of people perished as a result on the Palestinian side, including a considerable proportion of innocent civilians.

    We support further independent investigations,and request that Israel investigate any claims properly.

  6. Anonymous November 22, 2009 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    It was certainly interesting for me to read that blog. Thanx for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.

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