Richard Goldstone’s statement that there was no evidence that Israel intentionally targeted civilians has been a Godsend to Israel apologists–whose default position is to claim that this entirely compromises the entire report. This is definitely not the case:
As many others have pointed out, Goldstone’s op-ed does not stand as a recantation of the Goldstone Report. Even if one accepts Judge Goldstone’s claim that Israel did not intentionally target civilians during Operation Cast Lead – a position that the U.N. Committee of Experts, the official body charged with monitoring Israeli and Palestinian investigations into Cast Lead, does not support – the vast majority of the report stands as written. As Judge Goldstone has said himself in an interview with the Associated Press, “I have no reason to believe any part of the report needs to be reconsidered at this time.”
This means that Judge Goldstone still believes that Israel and the Palestinian authorities committed war crimes during the conflict, that Israel intentionally targeted Gaza’s civilian infrastructure and used “deliberately disproportionate force designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize the civilian population.” These are the damning charges that remain unchallenged and that demand international action. (‘The Goldstone Report’ now belongs to the world by Adam Horowitz, Lizzy Ratner and Phil Weiss, Mondoweiss, April 7, 2011)
What’s interesting is that, according to a Forward article, Goldstone’s op-ed seems to have resulted from intense Jewish pressure on someone with a strong Jewish identity (Did a Private Meeting Prompt Goldstone To Change His Mind?). There was a meeting with officials of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies:
“Debating face to face with the community really shook him,” recalled David Saks, one of 10 senior board officals who attended. “When he saw the extent of the anger and he couldn’t answer the accusations against him… I think he realized he was wrong.”
Either that or Goldstone realized that the report had fatally compromised his ties with the Jewish community. For a strongly identified Jew, it must be difficult indeed to be confronted with accusations of blood libel against his own people. And there is no question that Goldstone is in fact a committed Jew:
Avrom Krengel, chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, who aggressively critiqued Goldstone’s report at the meeting with him last May, said: “It’s interesting with Goldstone. He’s not an assimilated Jew. He very much regards himself as, and wants to be, part of the community. That always came into play. He’s not a Finkelstein or Chomsky.” …
“It has been like watching an innocent man whipped at the stake,” said Goldstone’s friend Letty Cottin Pogrebin, founder of Ms. magazine. “His dedication to Israel is so strong and rooted. He suffered at the thought that his work was being used to delegitimize Israel. It truly wounded and pained him.”
The real question is why the UN would tap a strongly identified Jew to do a report on Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians. The surprise is that it wasn’t a complete whitewash.
As in traditional in Jewish culture (an aspect of Jewish collectivism), the stain on the individual spreads to his entire family:
“His family is taking terrible strain,” reported a close South African friend who would speak only on condition of anonymity. “He told us, ‘If I had known what it would do to my family, I wouldn’t have done it.
Indeed, the entire incident can be seen as an example of the very traditional consequences of Mesirah (i.e., informing to the civil authorities on illegal or immoral activities within the Jewish community). The penalty for Mesirah was often death. (See “Is the Madoff Scandal Paradigmatic?“)
At this point, Goldstone may well think that death would be the easier way out. He should be aware that his recent statements will not be enough. It never is. Yesterday on Shepard Smith’s show on FOX News, Charles Krauthammer repeated the blood libel charge even after Goldstone’s Washington Post op-ed. (The other two guests on with Krauthammer completely sided with Israel, after which Smith repeated the FOX mantra of “fair and balanced reporting.”)
Indeed, since his “recantation,” Goldstone is being sued in both the US and Israel by Jews who claim that he committed blood libel:
“The Goldstone Report is nothing less than a modern version of the infamous blood libels against the Jewish people,” said [Israeli lawmaker Danny] Danon. “The distorted image that Judge Goldstone spread about Israel and the Israel Defense Forces has caused immeasurable damage to our citizens, and it will continue to do so for many years to come. I call on Goldstone to publicly apologize for his erroneous report with the hope that perhaps this will begin to repair some of the immense damage that has been inflicted on the international standing of the State of Israel.”
Maybe if he claims that a Hamas agent held a gun to his head forcing him to sign the original report.
Nah, they’d say he should have martyred himself.