Goldstone, We’re Disappointed

The pieces of the puzzle just don’t fit. Why would Justice Richard Goldstone backtrack on a report he penned and defended tooth and nail two years ago only to say he would have written things “differently” now? There has to be something more than just a sudden epiphanic reconsideration into Israel’s Cast Lead Operation into Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009, which left 1,400 Palestinians dead. The only possible and credible explanation for his strange and unbecoming Washington Post article on April 1 is that Goldstone succumbed to pressure –” from Israel or even from his own South African Jewish community, which has ostracized him ever since the report came out. No other explanation is fathomable for the simple reason that no dynamics of the conflict in Gaza have changed, except maybe for the worse.

In his article, Goldstone basically says that, one, Israel did not intentionally target Palestinian civilians in Cast Lead and two, that “Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza,” in sharp contrast to Hamas, which he says carried out the first but not the second. “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”

So, what does Goldstone know now? No “investigation” has ever been concluded that charges Israeli soldiers with the murder of innocent Palestinians. We know whole neighborhoods were blasted to ashy rubble and that children lost their homes, their parents and sometimes their own lives.

What doesn’t Goldstone know? That Israel continues to maintain a stranglehold on the Gaza Strip, undermining the area’s development and its people’s freedom and dignity, keeping the coastal enclave on the brink of a humanitarian disaster at all times? Does he not know that Israel’s occupation has only been consolidated in the Gaza Strip even though Jewish settlers no longer live on its land through its control of the borders, airspace and “right” to attack at any time it chooses?

No, Goldstone knows all about Israel’s atrocities during Cast Lead; how ambulances were not allowed to reach dying and dead bodies for days; how whole families were slaughtered in their homes when Israeli officers bombed their neighborhoods even as they knew people were sleeping inside.

Justice Goldstone first charged Israel with possible war crimes in the report that has now lost its luster. At the time, the Palestinians praised the judge for his impartiality, something rarely seen in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Israel, of course, was livid, calling the report one-sided and wrongly criticizing it for its right to defend its citizens.

It looks now that the once-deemed courageous Judge Goldstone is a bit of a cowardly lion. Understandably, the man must have come under tremendous pressure from even his own community. Last year, the South African Zionist Federation barred Goldstone from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah, justifying the move by saying they were “pro-Israel.” One can only imagine what other unpublicized pressures Justice Goldstone might have come under.

Still, it is disappointing that a prestigious and highly credible judge would cower in the face of coercion. His Washington Post article was full of scathing criticism of Hamas more probably as a way of countering his backtracking on Israel. What Justice Goldstone fails to point out is that Hamas is not a “responsible and democratic” government of a sovereign state by which it can be held to the same standards as Israel. This is not to deflect from any wrongdoing that Hamas has committed –” which it has –” but to ensure that Hamas (no matter how much we want to demonize it) cannot be compared to Israel and its military might.

In this sense, Israel is much guiltier than Hamas could ever be. It has a moral duty to uphold the democracy it claims to embrace –” a democracy obviously applicable only to its Jewish Israeli citizens. The Gaza war caused unspeakable destruction and misery to its residents, and regardless of whether we condone Hamas’ tactics or not, it is disappointing to see a dignified man such as Richard Goldstone excuse Israel’s atrocities because he could not take the heat.