Can Richard Goldstone's tarnished reputation be rehabilitated without him acknowledging that the evidence, including new information, proves he was wrong? There is a politically motivated effort underway to rehabilitate the tarnished reputation of Richard Goldstone. His reputation suffered not only from his association with the discredited Goldstone report regarding the war in Gaza, but also from recent revelations of the ignoble role he played as a hanging and torturing judge, while serving the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
For strident enemies of Israel, such as the hard left Nation magazine, Goldstone was a hero. They couldn't care less that the "findings" of the Goldstone report were contradicted by the physical evidence, including video and audiotapes. They ignored the fact that a leading Hamas figure acknowledged that most of those killed by Israeli fire were combatants, including police officers trained to fight against Israel. They couldn't be bothered by the disclosure that their hero had ordered the torture of black prisoners and the execution of black defendants who never would have been subject to whipping or capital punishment had they been white. "He was just doing his job," his defenders claimed, an excuse reminiscent of even darker times.
The Nation, and others who toe to their "Israel is always wrong" line, cared only that Goldstone, a Jew and a Zionist to boot, had concluded that it was Israeli policy -- determined at the highest level -- to target Palestinian civilians, and that it was not Hamas policy to fire their rockets at Israeli civilians while hiding among Palestinian civilians and using them as human shields.
Almost no reasonable observers, who are knowledgeable of Israeli and Hamas policies and actions, credit these conclusions. Even Israel's most strident internal critics -- and there are many and they are quite vocal -- disbelieve these extreme exaggerations.
The only reason the Goldstone report has been given any credibility by anyone is because Goldstone himself is Jewish and purports to be a Zionist. Indeed those seeking to rehabilitate his reputation constantly point to his Jewish background.
Consider a recent article by Letty Pogrebin in The Forward, which appears to be an opening salvo in the battle to rehabilitate Goldstone. It is part of a forthcoming book being published by -- you guessed it -- "The Nation Press." She argues that Israeli efforts to "bury" the report have been "complicated" from the start by "an inconvenient truth: Goldstone was one of them -- a Jew, and not just any Jew, an exemplary one." But the fact that Goldstone is a Jew is not simply a passive "truth." Instead the decision to hire Goldstone precisely because he is as Jew was a critical tactical decision made by the United Nations Human Rights Council, whose long history of applying a double standard to Israel has denied it any credibility.
Pogrebin's defense of Richard Goldstone is as factually inaccurate as the Goldstone report itself. Pogrebin's thesis can be summarized in her own words, "Rather than discuss the contents of the report -- which concluded that during the 2008-2009 Gaza War, Israel, as well as Hamas, may have committed war crimes -- Israel's defenders launched an all-points campaign to bury it." She claims that "almost no one is talking about his findings." She is dead wrong. Within days of the report's publication, there were numerous discussions of the contents and findings of the report. I myself published a 49 page point by point specific criticism of the report's contents entitled "The Case against the Goldstone Report: A Study in Evidentiary Bias." In it I focused on the report's main findings that the 1) Israeli government had a policy of targeting civilians; and 2) that Hamas did not have a policy of hiding behind civilians. I proved that both these findings were contradicted by the evidence. Goldstone has never responded to my substantive criticism.
The Israeli government issued very specific point by point rebuttals of Goldstone's findings, to which he has never responded. Moreover, when students at the Fordham Law School invited Goldstone and me to discuss the contents of the report, Goldstone declined, even though he was teaching at Fordham at the time. I accepted and presented a specific response to the contents of the report. Most recently, I wrote an op-ed showing that an important Hamas leader had made admissions undercutting the report's findings. Again, no response from Goldstone. So Pogrebin is simply incorrect when she says that Israel's defenders refuse to "discuss the contents of the report."
Richard Goldstone can be rehabilitated only if he comes forward and acknowledges that the totality of the evidence -- including the recent admissions of the Hamas leader -- demonstrates that the central conclusions of the Goldstone report were wrong. Goldstone has said that he hopes that new evidence proves them wrong. Now is the time for him to show whether he is "mensch" enough to step forward and set the record straight. So far he has been silent. The world is waiting to hear what he has to say.
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