The Washington Post published a highly controversial op-ed by Richard Goldstone, who led the UNHRC fact-finding mission to investigate international human rights and humanitarian law violations related to the Gaza war (Dec '08-Jan '09). In the article, Goldstone retracts from some of the UNHRC's earlier findings, writing that Israel did not have a policy of targeting civilians. Additionally he accuses the UNHRC of conducting itself with a bias towards Israel. Goldstone adds that Israel has “undertaken credible internal processes to assess its own conduct of hostilities” while Hamas has “not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel. That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying — its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.”
While Israeli media and politicians have jumped on the bandwagon, inviting Goldstone to Israel and amplifying certain aspects of the op-ed, there have been a plethora of interpretations disagreeing with the interpretation of Goldstone's intentions, and overall, the op-ed's implications on the validity of the UNHRC report.
Idan Landau questions the hypocricy in Israeli society, and the media “spin” the story has been receiving across Israeli mainstream media:
Whatever Goldstone writes, Israelis do not understand him. When he discussed witnesses of Israeli war crimes in his report, he was called an antisemite. Now, when he takes specific claims back, he is embraced as if a long lost son coming back to the motherland.
Idan urges his audience to read the actual op-ed and not second hand media “spins”. He continues:
Goldstone regrets one thing and favors another. He regrets blaming Israel for intentionally attacking civilians in Gaza, and supports the internal investigations conducted by the IDF…
The joyous calls this report aroused within Israels critics, will turn into victory cries by its supporters. All this media noise is missing the key point: the crimes themselves. The television studios will continue to discuss if there were intentions to harm citizens, or not. At the same time, Israel will continue to kill civilians in Gaza, without intent of course, kill fishermen in front of the Gaza shore, without intent of course, kill farmers in their fields, without intent of course, kill sick by delaying them, without intent of course, kill elderly in their bed while under arrest, without intent of course, and continue the ethnic cleansing in the West Bank, with no one making any effort to come against it.
The common Israeli and American Jewish reaction was extremely supportive of judge Goldstone's retraction, though many claim that the “damage is already done”. Rick Moran writes:
If the Judge wants to do some good, he can start an international tour to make the points he does in his new article in venues around the world where the hatred of Israel only intensified as a result of his initial one sided report. That report created a moral equivalence between a civilized nation state defending its civilian population, and a murderous death cult fueled by Islamic extremism and anti-Semitism, whose rocket firing supported a long time goal of indiscriminate killing of Jews.
On a similar note, David Merhave writes:
Goldstone crossed the line. He gave international legitimacy to the fascist regime in Gaza. Although in Jewish spirit, giving respect for those with an answer not necessarily those who are righteous, we can forgive him. Question is if he takes one more step forward and declares his regret for “grazing in the enemy's fields”. Whats clear, is that this evil initiative – the Goldstone Report – has collapsed and disappeared.
David's post spawned a series of reactions.
Maybe we should begin with the endless, repetitive stupidity of the Israeli government. Lack of strategic thought; reactionist instead of being pro-active. Lack of cooperation yields a heavy price in international relations. And then self-righteousness. One cannot run a country this way!
Goldstone is only one of the committee members. After it was published, Goldstone's opinion is a personal one. After you hear witnesses from Shovrim Shtika, you have no need for an int'l report. The operation's policy was to kill many Palestinians so that the rest will be deterred from shooting missiles… Its enough that a soldier thinks that a child in front of him can kill him, that he can shoot, justifying his fear at a later investigation. In the beginning of the operation, Israeli forces waited for Palestinian police to gather in order to kill as many as possible with one explosion.
Jerry Haber composes an insightful post on the +972 blog describing the Goldstone op-ed as misrepresented and misleading:
It is the unfortunate fate of Judge Richard Goldstone to be condemned and praised for what he doesn’t write. The responses to his op-ed in Washington Post from the Israel advocates are laughable. Even a superficial reading of the op-ed shows that he has not retracted a single comma in the Goldstone Report, nor does he express any regret for having written the report the way it was written. He simply says that had he known then what he knows now, the report would have been different.
About #Goldstone backtrack: the reason bullies bully is because it often works. Entire operation was collective punishment. #Gaza
The organization Im Tirtzu published a post titled “throwing the Goldstone Report into History's trash” – a call to action, for people to gather in front of Naomi Chazan‘s home (President of the New Israel Fund) in Jerusalem and demand Naomi Chazan and the Keren to publically apologize for taking part in Goldstone's fraudulent tales.
Dahlia Scheindlin asks if Israelis are missing the point? That even the best of “hasbara” (a.k.a “PR”) won't end their international woes. It's the policy:
The fetishization of the Goldstone episode won’t help a single soldier who saw combat in Gaza erase what he did or saw.
Nor will Israel’s Goldstone obsession make the world any more sympathetic to its failed policies. Just as the report did not cause Hamas to become suddenly circumspect about its terrible civilian attacks, the reservations about the report will not suddenly whitewash Israel’s behavior.
But maybe this latest development will finally prove something Israelis keep missing: even the most vindicating “hasbara” in the world won’t end Israel’s international trouble. It’s the policy, stupid.
Perhaps Goldstone will offer his explanation, and help the world understand his intent in publishing this op-ed. But until then, we'll be trying to makes sense of the discussions happening on blogs and in social media spaces.