Goldstone's Repentance - A Study in Irrelevancy / DR.Israel Bar - Nir

The libelous document known as “The Goldstone Report” made headlines when it was published in September of 2009. It was regarded as the new Gospel by traditional anti Israeli organizations and individuals. The Emeritus South African Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, for example, saw it as “an historic attempt at seeking and speaking the truth”, while the Human Rights Watch - HRW organization described Goldstone as “A Man of Unmatched Reputation for Fairness and Integrity”. The latter also hastened to declare Goldstone as the “most suitable man to chair a commission set to establish war crimes allegations aimed at Israel”. The UN and the European Union endorsed the report, and had the J-Street organization had its way, the US congress would have followed suit. It is next to impossible to underestimate the harm this report did to Israel’s image.

All of a sudden, to the surprise of one and all, two weeks ago, on April 1, that infamous report was repudiated. Goldstone published in the Washington Post an article in which he implied that the findings of the report might have been a bit off. (to put it mildly). ( The article was not a genuine recant, nor was there a straightforward admission that the “findings” of the report were false. Nonetheless, the Israeli public saw it as such, and went ballistic. It is really hard to see what all the excitement was all about. Is it realistic to expect that the Goldstone article will improve Israel’s image? Is it realistic to expect that one journalistic article would cause figures like Desmond Tutu to overcome their animosity towards the Jewish State? What is baffling in particular is the fact that some in the Israeli public conclude from that article that the Israeli government “erred” by not to collaborating with Goldstone.

There is a basic misunderstanding among the Israeli public regarding the significance of rendering legitimate a call for an “investigation” by whoever of Israel’s policies. It has nothing to do with the findings of the Goldstone report. The original Goldstone report should have been trashed even if it were a whole hearted paean to the State of Israel. Netanyahu’s response to Goldstone’s article was wrong. At issue is the report itself, not its contents. The Israeli government made a very good decision (it does not happen often) when it refused to collaborate with Goldstone’s commission when it came to the region. Responding to the report after its publication was however a mistake, albeit less severe (if I am not mistaken this decision was made by Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak).

The issue is sovereignty. You cannot have it both ways. If you accept, or collaborate, with an investigative body when it finds in your favor, you accept its right to conduct such an investigation, and then you are bound to accept its findings when they are against you as well. No sovereign state can agree to it.

Israel is a sovereign state (a fact rejected by many liberals) and its government is the only authority to decide what measures are to be taken in order to defend the lives of its citizens. The Israeli government can make mistakes, and when it does, it does not have to apologize to anyone. Moreover, the Israeli government has a full discretion as to the excessiveness of the measures it deems appropriate. NO ONE, not Goldstone nor those who have sent him to the region, not the UN nor any other international organization, has the authority to question this fact. Borrowing from the judiciary terminology, none of these bodies has a “standing” in this matter. It is a basic truth though it escapes some in Israel, particularly from the left side of the political spectrum.

After more than sixty years of independence, people in Israel are still acting as if they owe an apology for their existence. The Zionist leader, Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote about it in an article titled “Instead of Excessive Apology”. The original article was written in Russian. An English translation can be found here: A key sentence from that article is:

“Isn’t it long overdue to respond to all these and all future accusations, reproaches, suspicions, slanders and denunciations by simply folding our arms and loudly, clearly, coldly and calmly answer with the only argument that is understandable and accessible to this public: 'Go to Hell!'?”

These words were written a hundred years ago, in 1911 (!). At the time the Turks were still ruling the land and the Balfour declaration was not even a dream.

The correct response to Goldstone would have been to forbid his entry to the country, and had he insisted (a very unlikely scenario) throw him to jail and prosecute him for supporting terror. That’s what Arik Sharon did in 2002. In the wake of operation Defense Shield the BBC published false allegations about a so celled “massacre” that took place in Jenin. Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General at the time, wanted to send an “investigative mission” to the region. Among the Israeli left were many calls to accept such a mission. “What’s so bad about it?”, “We have nothing to hide”, and so on and so forth went the “arguments” in favor. Sharon told Annan to forget it and he backed off. Israel’s image was not tarnished and no one mentioned it any more. In the international arena they understand such language.

I don’t remember who was at the head of Israel’s government when Goldstona came to the region - whether it was still Olmert or whether it was already Netanyahu, but it does not matter. Agreeing to let the mission come, even without collaborating with it, was a big mistake. One did not have to be a rocket scientist to know that the scum of the Israeli left, organizations like “Betzelem”, “Gush Shalom”, “Yesh Gvul”, “Israel New Fund” to name a few, would stand in line to provide the mission with mountains of “evidence” about imaginary “war crimes”.

In his penance article Goldstone purports to have been misled. “I did not know”, “I did not see”, “had I known”, etc. The impression one gets is that Goldstone would have come with a different report if only he had been presented with the truth. Does he expect any one to believe him? There is little doubt that Goldstone knew exactly what was going on. He was well aware that the unending rocket barrages from Gaza were always aimed at civilian targets in Israel (they still are today), while civilians hit in Gaza were unintentional and that the numbers were grossly exaggerated. Did Goldstone care? Not a iota. Goldstone was also well aware that practically all the information supplied by the organizations like Betzelem was pure fabrication. Did Goldstone care? Not a iota. Goldstone also knew that the sole reason to nominate him to head the mission was his Jewish origin. After all who can better serve the goal of demonizing the Jewish State?

To better understand what makes people like Goldstone run, a few words about his career. In biographical articles he wrote, Goldstone depicts himself as an idealist who fought against the Draconian Apartheid laws in South Africa (there’s a lot of stuff about him in the Internet). Yet when he served as a judge in South Africa he sent a number of blacks to the gallows for having committed “crimes” for which whites would not have been prosecuted. When these facts came to light the report was already a fait accompli. It has already been endorsed by the UN, among others. It caused some red faces in liberal circles - after all apartheid is one of the favorite terms in the verbal anti Israeli arsenal. It did not deter them from rallying to defend Goldstone - “the blacks he sentenced to death were ‘criminals’. They had it coming”.

It is not genuine repentance that led Goldstone to publish his article. The man is far more devious. The purpose of the article which made headlines mainly in Israel and in Jewish organs, was designed to legitimize the original report through a back door.

As mentioned earlier here, the problem lies not in the contents of the report but in its very existence. Any move by Israel that might be interpreted as an “acceptance” of the report, no matter how qualified, would serve to legitimize future “investigative” commissions. It will be impossible to reject future Goldstones on the grounds of lack of standing. There’s little doubt in my mind that this is what motivated Goldstone to make this out of character act. The repercussions of the Marmara affair are not yet over, and similar affairs are in the offing. As a matter of fact, reading the full Washington Post article shows clearly that Goldstone’s “repentance” is rather ambiguous.

There are more than 190 member nations in the UN. No one would ever suggest sending to one of them an “investigative” mission or question the defensive measures it deems appropriate to protect its citizens. When it comes to Israel, though, “everything goes”. After more than sixty years of existence as an independent state, Israel is still not accepted as an equal among the international community. The idea of Israel as a sovereign state with the right to look after its own interests without asking permission from anyone is not taken for granted in the halls of the UN.

Unfortunately Israel’s government does little to change this state of affairs. Previous governments were not any better. In the background there has always been a feeling that Israel owes an apology for its very existence. That feeling is still there.

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