Sunday, April 3, 2011

JUDGE GOLDSTONE SEES THE LIGHT? NOT QUITE

In  Day 354 of my Countdown to Egyptian Democracy, posted on February 23rd, I made mention of a fight amongst Jewish lawyers in my home community of Sacramento over the invitation issued by the local Jewish lawyers group to Judge Richard Goldstone, author of, depending on one's view, the famous or infamous UN sanctioned Goldstone Report on Israel's conduct during the Gaza War, a war initiated by Israel after the civilians in the south of Israel suffered for years from over 7,000 rockets aimed at them.

The fight was the nastiest and most personal I ever experienced in 40 years of Jewish community involvement in Sacramento.  Things got so bad that the daughter of the esteemed California Court of Appeals Justice, outspoken Zionist, and Jewish community leader for whom the group was named finally weighed in.  She took no position on the merits.  She instead stated that she knew that her father would have been livid over the bitterness and divisiveness the debate was causing "in the family," and she asked that for the sake of peace in the community that the invitation be rescinded or the event postponed until a format more acceptable to all could be agreed upon.  Her wishes were not respected.

Now that Judge Goldstone has published in the Washington Post what appears to be a partial mea culpa, if such an animal is possible, I have received several e-mails  from folks who thought the LMFBA (Leonard M. Friedman Bar Association) was correct in inviting Goldstone and contending that his talk and the recent column demonstrate that he is not such a terrible person, that he loves Israel, and that reasonable discussion can help bring reasonable minds to fair conclusions.

These folks missed the point of many of the objections to the Goldstone invitation in the first place.  As Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic points out, once the blood libel genie is out of the bottle, it's pretty darn hard to put back in.  The maliciously conceived and fatally biased UN Mandate for the Goldstone Report, the biased commission appointed to conduct it, and the sloppy job done by the commission, all resulted in a gift to those that would use it to engage in further efforts to isolate, demonize, and delegitimize Israel.  And they have put their gift to effective use. 

My objections to a Jewish lawyers group giving Goldstone a forum had virtually nothing to do with what he would say or whether there would be a forum for a good debate, which there wasn't.  I argued that even if the judge read from the telephone book, those that have been bludgeoning Israel with the Report would use the fact that a Jewish lawyers group had given him a forum to further credential and affirm the Report.  I argued that the Jewish lawyers needed to look beyond our insular, ideal world of civil discussion and see the broader context surrounding the Goldstone Report.

In the months following the Report's issuance, Judge Goldstone has been treated like a pariah by much of the world Jewish community.  Moreover, the many false conclusions, mistatements, and errors in the Report have become increasingly apparent. It seems clear that Judge Goldstone has been slowly backing away from the report out of a desire to be welcomed back into the Jewish community or, at least, not to be branded enemy No. 1, and perhaps out of sheer embarrassment at having been the author of such a discredited work and at having been so blatantly used by Jew haters out to destroy Israel. 

Those who have opposed giving Goldstone a forum never contended that he would not come across like a reasonable, wonderful person, even like one who loves Israel.  Judge Goldstone is undoubtedly a smooth talker seasoned by years of manuevering in and moving up in Apartheid South Africa and world forums.  One, particularly a Jew and a self-proclaimed Zionist, doesn't weave the needles his ascent required without a fair amount of political smarts and a good amount of charm.  Some of the most self-serving jerks I knew in 30 years of lobbying were the nicest, most reasonable sounding guys you would ever meet. I understand Joe Stalin was a great guy to chat it up with.

Judge Goldstone did not suddenly wake up and see new facts. This apparent light bulb would not have illuminated his brain but for the huge controversies surrounding his appearances such as the one in Sacramento's Jewish community.

Despite his seeming newfound awareness that there was no evidence to support his conclusion that Israel targeted civilians, Judge Goldstone wrote in his Post piece that the victim of his sloppy work is to blame:  If only Israel had cooperated in its lynching, the outcome would have been different.  He does not mention that the commission either refused to hear or gave short shrift to witnesses, such as retired British Colonel Richard Kemp, who defended Israel's efforts at avoiding civilian casualties. He does not mention that Israel did not cooperate because, among other things:


1. The mandate pre-determined that Israel was guilty.
2. Several of the other commission members were notoriously anti-Israel and had made statements pre-judging the outcome, something any judge would know is totally inappropriate.
3. Contrary to Judge Goldstone's assertion, though he was allowed to investigate some Hamas conduct, the mandate was not changed.
4. Mary Robinson, a former UN official responsible for refugees who is not known as a great supporter of Israel, refused the position before Goldstone because she judged it as a pre-determined and flawed assignment.

The fact that Judge Goldstone now realizes that a lot of the evidence was not there is a joke. He is not stupid. But he either thinks the public is or he is desperate to rehabilitate himself. He knew at the time that the statements that he took as truth were not reliable. They were not corroborated, they were often made under duress, or they were made by very biased "witnesses."

Judge Goldstone was known by many in the South African Jewish community as an ambitious person who knew how to play politics, how to ingratiate himself with the winning side.  For example, he managed to  move from an Apartheid judge who hung South African blacks (later explained as "working within the system") to an author of a report condemning the Apartheid government's violence without much focus on the ANC's.  Very smooth.

Judge Goldstone is widely believed to desire a high position at the UN or on the International Criminal Court. His report would have advanced that. However, he apparently did not anticipate just how vigorously and consistently it would be torn apart by those who care about the truth and what a pariah he would become in the Jewish community.

 For several months now Judge Goldstone has been backing away slowly from the report, trying to re-ingratiate himself with the Jewish community and to re-establish whatever credentials he has as a judge. The fact that he has now repudiated some of the report is simply a recognition that that is what it would take. My guess is that he knew that he would not get a plum position with all of the controversy surrounding the report. He seems to have opted for re-inclusion in the Jewish community as the next best thing.

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Below are some astutue observations from the blog of George Rooks of Davis and Ashkelon.  Rooks blogs at
 
4.3.11 The Misguided Israeli Rush To Embrace Goldstone's Article
Pardon me dear reader for dwelling on the hideous Richard Goldstone for one more day. This morning, the Israeli news is awash with everyone who is anybody rushing to publicize Goldstone’s "Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes" as a sign that Goldstone has penitently changed his mind about the information in his infamous report. Netanyahu, Lieberman, and Barak
I don’t think any of these people have actually read Goldstone’s article.

As I reported yesterday, the most positive statement that Goldstone makes about Israel is that he expressly states that Gazan "civilians were not targeted as a matter of policy." But before and after making this obvious comment, the unremorseful Goldstone devolves into a scathing series of self-serving attacks against Israel by commenting:
*that "investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report established the validity of some incidents that we have investigated in cases involving individual soldiers." In other words, individual IDF soldiers are guilty of intentionally targeting civilians. (By the way, most accusations against IDF soldiers have been dismissed as ‘groundless’).
 
*that he is confident that the officer who ordered the shelling of the al-Simouni family based on "an erroneous interpretation of a drone image" will be found negligent and punished accordingly. In other words, the IDF commander is guilty of a crime. (By the way, the IDF commander has not been accused of a crime, though "Judge" Goldstone is more than willing to prejudge him
 
*that he is concerned that "few of Israel’s inquiries have been concluded"
 
*that Israel demonstrated a "lack of cooperation with our investigation" and that the Goldstone Report recommendations "were based on the record before us which unfortunately did not include any evidence provided by the Israeli government." In other words, the Israeli government is responsible for the misinformation in the report. (By the way, Israel presented the Goldstone Commission with thousands of documents, and many people who asked to testifyCommission in support of Israel were refused the opportunity).
 
*that one effect of this lack of cooperation was that Goldstone’s committee was "not able to corroborate" how many civilians were killed. In other words, Israel is responsible for whatever incorrect numbers were reported. As I pointed out yesterday, Goldstone actually accuses Israel of lying about the number of civilian deaths. (By the way, even Hamas now agrees with Israel about the number of civilians who were killed.)
 
To repeat what I said yesterday, the odious Goldstone shows no remorse for the inestimable harm he has done to Israel. Each sentence of his article drips with narcissism and is designed to be self-serving. Goldstone’s bias against Israel is as strong as ever, and Israelis and others would do well to read his article carefully before jumping on the ‘penitent Goldstone’ bandwagon.
all think the article should serve as the basis for having the Goldstone Report overturned in the United Nations. Even the Palestinians are "furious" that Goldstone has "changed his mind." just like he prejudged all of the black South Africans he hung in South Africa during the 1980s).and that they have not been "held in a public forum." In other words, Israel’s investigations have been slow, and their conclusions are questionable because the investigations are non-transparent. (By the way, how does Goldstone even know about the investigations? How does he know that the al-Simouni commander is being investigated?)
www.israelstreet.org

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