Is Richard Goldstone a naïve dupe of Hamas terrorists or a legitimate hero of the Zionist left? I’m guessing more than a little of both.
Alan Dershowitz predictably took the former view, and you would hardly know from reading his assault on Goldstone, published on the Huffington Post, that Dersh had a law degree, much less that he is a Harvard law professor and respected legal mind. Lumping Goldstone not just with Noam Chomsky but with Norman Finkelstein, a Jew known for nothing at all except his virulent anti-Israel rants, seems to me to discredit Dershowitz’s own commentary, which does little to illuminate the issues of international law.
Goldstone is a world-renowned jurist who helped bring about an end to apartheid and then helped engineer the reconciliation that prevented the new South Africa from degenerating into civil war. He was instrumental in shedding light and bringing judgment upon war crimes and crimes against humanity in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a former president of the respected Jewish charity ORT. Everyone who knows him says he loves and supports Israel. His daughter lived there for years and very recently gave an interview in Hebrew to Israeli Army Radio saying her father agonized over the decision to take on the UN Human Rights Council mandate to expose Israel as guilty of the gravest crimes. He did it, she said, to keep the resulting report from being even worse than it was, and to make Israel live up to its best self.
Could such a man be duped by Hamas operatives into telling the world what they wanted it to hear about Israel’s actions in Gaza? Certainly. Can he be dismissed with flippant remarks about “Planet Goldstone” as Dersh effectively slammed “Planet Chomsky”? I don’t think so. Dershowitz followed up with a more serious article, but his attacks on Goldstone do not reflect well on him.
Passions are high and positions are far apart. Consider two editorials in Haaretz in the past few days.
Gideon Levy says, “There’s a name on every bullet, and there’s someone responsible for every crime. The Teflon cloak Israel has wrapped around itself since Operation Cast Lead has been ripped off, once and for all, and now the difficult questions must be faced. It has become superfluous to ask whether war crimes were committed in Gaza, because authoritative and clear-cut answers have already been given. So the follow-up question has to be addressed: Who’s to blame? If war crimes were committed in Gaza, it follows that there are war criminals at large among us. They must be held accountable and punished. This is the harsh conclusion to be drawn from the detailed United Nations report.”
But Avi Shavit says, “Some two weeks ago American airplanes fired on two oil tankers in northern Afghanistan . . . The attack was successful – the two tankers were hit, went up in flames and were destroyed. But the overwhelming American-German air attack killed some 70 people. Some of those brought to hospitals were severely injured – with mutilated faces, burned hands and charred bodies . . .
“If the international community is committed to international law and universal ethics – which do not discriminate between one sort of killing and another – then it should investigate this villainous assault . . .
“Obama would probably be the principal defendant in this case. He was the one who believed in the war in Afghanistan and intensified it. As U.S. commander-in-chief, he bears direct responsibility not only for the deaths of those who were burned with the tankers, but the death of many hundreds of innocent Afghan civilians.
“If there are is such a thing as an international community, international law and universal ethics, they must seriously consider putting Obama on trial for his responsibility for severe war crimes.
“Absurd? Yes, it’s absurd. No sane person in the world believes that the United States, Russia or China could be subjected to purist international law. The United States has killed thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the last few months encouraged Pakistan to make an extremely brutal military move in its Swat Valley. The United States was not required to account for it because everyone understands that this is the price of the terrible War on Terror. Russia committed blood-curdling war crimes in Chechnya, while China deprives its citizens of basic rights and is conducting a wicked occupation in Tibet. They are not asked to pay for this because everyone understands that you don’t mess with superpowers.
“But not only superpowers are immune. Saudi Arabia practices an open, declared policy of discrimination against women and the international community does not see. Sri Lanka is crushing the Tamil national movement, causing a ghastly humanitarian disaster, and the international community does not hear. Turkey is brutally oppressing the Kurdish minority, and the international community does not speak.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, in the three years since the UN Human Rights Council came into existence, it has criticized or condemned Israel more often than all other 191 UN member nations combined.
The Goldstone Report gives short shrift to critiques of Hamas for sending thousands of rockets against civilian targets in Israel, for systematically and consistently using civilians as human shields, for storing weapons in and firing them from schools and mosques, and for torture and other crimes against Palestinian opponents in Gaza.
One clear sign of the committee’s bias is that they refused to interview Colonel Richard Kemp, an authority on urban conflict who has strongly defended the IDF’s efforts to protect civilians during the Gaza war, saying “I don’t think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people.” What justifies omitting his testimony?
Were there avoidable errors and even crimes committed by the IDF in Gaza? Almost certainly, and they are under investigation in Israel, not just in international organizations. But the UN and Justice Goldstone only discredit themselves with their vastly disproportionate criticism of Israel.