By Baruch C. Cohen, Esq.
In 2009, a United Nations panel led by South African Judge Richard Goldstone – picked by the U.N. precisely because he was a Jewish international lawyer of some repute who would lend credibility to the widely discredited U.N. Human Rights Council – issued a scathing 575-page malicious indictment report, fueling a new blood libel, accusing the State of Israel of committing war crimes against the Palestinians in a three-week Gaza invasion and possible crimes against humanity and suggested that the matter be referred to the International Court of Justice. The absurdity here, was that the UN Human Rights Council, the body that called for the report, had Libya as a member.
Israel had refused to cooperate with Goldstone’s excoriating fact-finding mission into its military operation in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009, known as Operation Cast Lead, and rejected the September 2009 report. Goldstone’s report accused that Israel intentionally killed civilians during its offensive in the Gaza Strip two years ago. Israel launched the operation to put a stop to thousands of rockets being fired by the Hamas overlords of Gaza into southern Israel.
It was ugly urban warfare. The terrorists, as they always do, hid out among civilians. Despite extensive Israeli efforts to warn civilians with thousands of phone calls and leaflets dropped from planes, civilians were among the 1,400 Palestinians killed during three weeks of fighting. The truth was that Hamas was the provocateur, that Hamas was deliberately placing Palestinians in harm’s way, that Hamas was lying about the proportion of combatants among the Gaza dead. It is also without doubt that the IDF – far from deliberately targeting civilians; the bitter accusation at the heart of Goldstone’s report – was doing more than most any military force has ever done to minimize civilian deaths, even as it sought to destroy the terrorist infrastructure and pick out the terrorists who had been firing relentlessly into Israel’s residential areas.
The Goldstone report was a diplomatic coup for Israel’s enemies, and caused some Israeli officials stopped traveling abroad for fear they’d be arrested for war crimes. His duplicitous investigation has had a toxic effect everywhere on the second battlefield – in diplomatic and legal forums, in the media, on university campuses, in global public discourse. He poisoned Israel’s good name. And on the real battlefield, he gave succor to her enemies, encouraging them to believe that they could kill Israelis and Jews not with mere impunity, but with active international empathy and support.
Last week, Judge Goldstone wrote an about-face mea culpa op-ed about his report in The Washington Post entitled: “Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes,” stating: “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone report would have been a different document.” Goldstone said he no longer believed his most incendiary charge: that Israeli soldiers deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians during its invasion of Gaza. As an example, Goldstone pointed to one of the most serious attacks his committee investigated, in which 29 members of the al-Simouni family were killed in their home, apparently because of an erroneous IDF interpretation of a drone image. “An Israeli officer is under investigation for having ordered the attack,” he said. But now, Judge Goldstone reversed himself and reported: “I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.”
Goldstone’s protestation that he had no alternative but to believe Hamas was quite astounding. Hamas is a terrorist organization with a solid track record of lies, distortions and fabrications as a strategy of aggressive warfare. Israel, the victim of that aggression, has a solid record of telling the truth. Yet Goldstone chose to believe the Hamas version of events.
By his own admission, Goldstone revealed himself as at best an abject idiot and at worst a moral and judicial bankrupt. His report blackened Israel’s name for defending itself against existential attack; encouraged its attackers to ratchet up their onslaught safe in the knowledge that the international community now had official confirmation that Israel was morally beyond the pale; put Israeli civilians, along with Israel’s very survival, at increased risk by helping delegitimise Israel as a global pariah; and fuelled the pressure on Israel not to defend its civilians by military means against the attacks which have relentlessly increased in audacity and scope
Goldstone’s concession that he didn’t have enough facts when he equated Israel with Hamas in deliberately targeting innocents, carries inescapable consequences. All those who have used Goldstone’s report as a basis for their own delegitimisation of Israel now also stand revealed as having endorsed one of the worst officially sanctioned international falsehoods in history. All their attacks on Israel which relied upon Goldstone’s report are now shown to be equally baseless and discredited. Any future such attacks which use this report as an authority will be demonstrably false and malicious. But of course, like all previous blood libels against the Jews, the poison this one has injected into the global bloodstream has no antidote. The damage is done – and no amount of self-serving recantations by Richard Goldstone will undo the terrible harm he has done. Unfortunately, Goldstone’s “reconsideration” will not garner a thousandth of the publicity or have a thousandth of the impact that his original, baseless accusations against Israel drew. Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic says that Goldstone contributed, more than any other individual, to the delegitimization and demonization of the Jewish state.
Israeli leaders have complained for years that the UN is biased against the Jewish state, that it judges almost every action of Israel through a Palestinian prism. And now … evidence. Not just a disastrously wrong report. But evidence that the entire enterprise was skewed against Israel from the start.
So where does a nation go to get its reputation back? Perhaps, to court. I would urge the State of Israel to file a libel class action suit against Goldstone for his false allegations and distortions, and demand both an official apology as well as symbolic compensation to be paid to the State of Israel.
Attorney Baruch C. Cohen is an accomplished trial attorney who handles a variety of personal injury, corporate chapter 7 bankruptcies, litigation in bankruptcy court, commercial and business litigation matters (in state and federal courts & in Bais Din).