goldstoneIsrael is missing the boat here. Attacking Goldstone is not going to win the day. The only way they can actually rebut the challenges in the Goldstone report is with FACTS. They need to present facts about their attacks, the reasoning for the attacks, the intelligence (if any) gathered prior to the attack, the proportionality of the attack, etc.

If they are dreaming that somehow they will be able to ignore the presentation of facts as a counterweight to a 600 page report filled with information, they need to wake up. It is also in the interest of objective justice that they present counter-evidence. There can be no acceptance by Israel of crimes by its own soldiers. Their investigations can avoid the bias that Goldstone permitted in his research, but they need to be authentic investigations with real outcomes – whether the parties are innocent or guilty.

The problem for Israel now is that Goldstone doesn’t want his efforts wasted. He has decided that this report should not end up in the dustbin of history. In light of this, he had his daughter provide Israeli newspapers with a heartwarming tale about his Zionism and her passionate love for Israel. After buying his bona fides as a good Zionist and Jew (she mentioned he was visiting her for Rosh Hashanah), today Goldstone wrote an op-ed in the NY Times (so that a certain US President would be certain to see it) in which he stands by the objectivity of his committee and actually justifies their flawed mandate. Then he presses hard for international bodies, the International Criminal Court and the UN Security Council, to take steps that follow his report’s recommendations.

I assume Goldstone is doing this because he realizes that Israel is going to use all diplomatic tools at its disposal to try to bury this report. They do have some good points to make. The original mandate from the UN Human Rights Council was deeply flawed because it placed the blame on Israel prior to the investigation and it limited the dates under the committee’s purview just to the war itself, thus depriving any serious discussion of the environment and causes leading up to the war. While the report restricted itself to those date limitations, the commission had no problem attacking Israel on subjects that are unrelated to Gaza, which is very odd. Also, the report accepted the testimonies of Palestinians even as it admitted that they might have felt threatened, which leads to some absurdities like the claim that the Commission didn’t know to what extent Hamas combatants intermingled with civilians.

There are many other points that Israel could raise in objection to the report including the fact that apparently Israel’s Foreign Ministry did provide Goldstone with a 160 page report about the war and its origins, a report he apparently ignored in his report. Also, there is today’s story in Yediot Aharonot told by a Sderot man who decided to testify before the Commission, and felt the judges were not really attentive as was proven by Goldstone’s falling asleep as this Israeli was testifying.

But countering claims such as these is not the reasons that Goldstone is taking an offensive posture regarding his report. He’s doing it because the biggest argument Israel is going to make, and it will be made behind closed doors, is that if Israel is going to be held to the standards laid out in this report and if the conclusions (i.e. war crimes) are upheld by a serious organization like the Security Council, then every member of NATO and especially the three superpowers, USA, Russia and China, need to be concerned because they are guilty of at least the same actions as Israel in their wars, and probably to a much greater degree of culpability than Israel.

Now here is Goldstone’s chutzpah. Until I read this, I was on the fence because I had not read much about him. Now I have lost all confidence in him. He is talking about ways to punish Israel (he also mentions Hamas, but as you will read, he is focused on Israel):

The International Criminal Court and the exercise of universal jurisdiction by other countries against violators of the Geneva Conventions are among them. But they all share one overarching aim: to hold accountable those who violate the laws of war. They are built on the premise that abusive fighters and their commanders can face justice, even if their government or ruling authority is not willing to take that step.

Pursuing justice in this case is essential because no state or armed group should be above the law. Western governments in particular face a challenge because they have pushed for accountability in places like Darfur, but now must do the same with Israel, an ally and a democratic state.

Failing to pursue justice for serious violations during the fighting will have a deeply corrosive effect on international justice, and reveal an unacceptable hypocrisy.

Did you read that? The crimes of Darfur are like Israel’s in Gaza.

Unadulterated chutzpah.

He writes,

In Gaza, hundreds of civilians died. They died from disproportionate attacks on legitimate military targets and from attacks on hospitals and other civilian structures. They died from precision weapons like missiles from aerial drones as well as from heavy artillery. Repeatedly, the Israel Defense Forces failed to adequately distinguish between combatants and civilians, as the laws of war strictly require.

Israel is correct that identifying combatants in a heavily populated area is difficult, and that Hamas fighters at times mixed and mingled with civilians. But that reality did not lift Israel’s obligation to take all feasible measures to minimize harm to civilians.

This he compares to Darfur!!!

And then he compares, as he does in his report, Hamas to Israel:

Unfortunately, both Israel and Hamas have dismal records of investigating their own forces. I am unaware of any case where a Hamas fighter was punished for deliberately shooting a rocket into a civilian area in Israel — on the contrary, Hamas leaders repeatedly praise such acts. While Israel has begun investigations into alleged violations by its forces in the Gaza conflict, they are unlikely to be serious and objective.

In his report he claims they aren’t equal and Israel still controls Gaza.

Goldstone appears to have a difficult time differentiating between defensive and offensive actions, between targeting of civilians and targeting of combatants that results in the death of civilians, between those who seek to fight in this way and those who did what they could to avoid fighting in this way. For example, his report actually acknowledges the small warning bombs that Israel dropped on building to inform the inhabitants to flee before attacking the buildings…and calls these precautionary measures which not only warn the civilians but also the combatants hiding among them…a crime.

He concludes with righteousness and indignation:

As a service to the hundreds of civilians who needlessly died and for the equal application of international justice, the perpetrators of serious violations must be held to account.

Yes. This is why Israel has to respond with facts, to prove that few of the hundreds of civilians died “needlessly.”

The world will now have to decide what to do. It could certainly put Israeli leaders and army commanders on trial for Gaza and using the methodology Goldstone used, they will find these soldiers and politicians guilty of war crimes. After all, if as a judge you know that an enemy is hiding among civilians but continue to blame the side trying to avoid civilian casualties that they are guilty anyway when civilians are hurt, then there is no defense here. This also means, however that there is nothing an army can do to protect its country’s civilians other than to do nothing. You apparently just have to let the Hamas bombs keep falling on your head without much recourse to protecting your own population.

The Israelis claim to have tried to minimize civilian casualties, but they had to deal with the Hamas fighters hiding among civilians. This is what the world will have to decide. Is Goldstone right or is Israel right? Because if this logic pertains to Israel, it also pertains to Russia, China, NATO and especially the United States.

War is impossible, according to Goldstone, between a group and a state. He knows Hamas uses certain tactics such as mingling with civilians, but then dictates that this does not absolve the country fighting in these impossible circumstances of not hitting the civilians. This philosophy actually provides cover for Iran’s Israel strategy of bleeding it slowly from Lebanon with Hizbullah and from Gaza with Hamas. They can bleed Israel as small guerrilla groups, but Israeli responses have to be so cautious as to be virtually sterile – an impossibility in war.

I do believe those little despotic countries running the show at the UN Human Rights Council finally have the West by the balls.

It took a Jewish judge to put them in this beneficial position, with Israel as the punching bag. God praise the shill.

There are conclusions that can be drawn from this. The first is that maybe I was wrong that Israel should have left Gaza. Had it remained, then as a belligerent occupation under the auspices of UNSCR 242, they could have stayed there indefinitely just like in Judea and Samaria. Of course, extrapolating from this, it may be that leaving the West Bank will be militarily impossible. If there are attacks from there and Israel responds, it will be accused of war crimes again.

The second conclusion is the other possibility, which is that I was right to support the Israeli departure from Gaza, but I was also right to wish that any time Palestinians attacked Israel, there would have been a robust Israel military response instead of the constant diplomatic and media appeals for the rockets to stop. That would have prevented a large scale incursion by Israel and would have prevented Hamas from gaining the time they needed to prepare for this war.

The third conclusion drawn from this situation is that giving the Palestinians a “cease fire” was a grave error because it enabled them to plan for the war and improve their resources, as they did with the increased range of their rockets.

I’ll bet there are lots of people, people close to the centers of power, up tonight in Beijing, Moscow, Paris, London and Washington, DC, cursing Israel, cursing the Palestinians, cursing Goldstone, cursing the UN and cursing the Human Rights Council. There are also some people in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem who are doing the same. All of these people are wondering one thing: how to escape an impossible situation?

About the author



  • Well, Middle, this is a confusing post. I don’t read Goldstone as comparing Gaza to Darfur. The anodyne passage quoted is a familiar, pro forma plea for international accountability for war crimes.

    You want Israel to counter his report with facts, yet you proceed to mimic Israeli government reaction, with an ad hominem attack on Goldstone’s Jewishness thrown in. (One can imagine a Hamas apologist scoffing at his holy day observance just as you do.)

    Predictably, you cherrypick the report for findings you portray as concessions, e.g. that Israel faced difficulty distinguishing combatants from civilians. No good deed goes unpunished, and when Goldstone seeks balance you portray it as concession and weakness.

    This is the sort of tendentious, dismissive stock-response that has earned Israel its reputation for incompetent public relations.

    Israel didn’t cooperate with Goldstone and tried to impede his inquiry. Israel’s now paying the price. When a party to a dispute simply refuses to show up, the finder of fact will necessarily rely on the other side’s witnesses and documents. Much of what Goldstone presents is prima facie persuasive, but only because Israel decided (for good or ill) not to make its case. You mock Goldstone and defend boycotting him, then even as you urge Israel to respond in detail. Say what?

    In any event, unless and until Israel supplements Goldstone’s report, the latter will receive– and deserve– deference as the world community’s best effort at determining what happened in Gaza.

  • Facts?
    Where’s the remote?

    … and besides the boredom factor, arguing facts falls into the trap: No nation argues its right to self defense – to do so subtly reinforces the delegitimization of Israel, and the authority of its self-appointed moral judges.

    But world opinion definitely has consequences, and can’t be ignored.

    Try it this way:

    This report is the result of decades of PR work on the EMOTIONAL level to paint Palestinian terrorists as freedom-fighters – Davids against Israel’s Goliath.

    With emotion – and PC victim culture – on your side, you only need half-truths to prevail.

    Israel has to counter this with EMOTIONAL public relations work. There are many ways to get people to VISCERALLY understand:

    – what it means to live in terror
    – the dilemmas of fighting thugs who blend into the ‘hood

    That kind of visceral understanding – the underlying assumptions people bring to this or that news report, UN study, or whatever – is what is important.

    It has to be built up over time – using creative PR tools.

  • “This is the sort of tendentious, dismissive stock-response that has earned Israel its reputation for incompetent public relations.”

    I didn’t dismiss him at all. I indicated that Israel will have to respond with facts. If they don’t have facts to respond to his report’s charges, then no amount of diplomatic dancing is going to help them. I made that clear as well.

    That’s why I dispute your “cherrypicking” claim. I may doubt some of the claims he makes and his commission’s reasoning, but I don’t say they are untrue because I don’t know. This is why I want Israel to respond. What greater respect can I show him and his report?

    I do think that he compared Darfur to Israel in Gaza, it isn’t by accident that he brought that up as a comparison. I also resent the interviews with his daughter where SHE points out that he’s coming to her house for a Jewish holiday and that she’s a good Zionist and so is he. The next day he compares Israel to Darfur. It appears to me to be a calculated move. It may be a fair one since he is under vicious attack from many corners, but I have trouble with it.

    Finally, I do criticize him and I do so based on some of his decisions. Read the Cotler articles carefully. He deserves this criticism and scrutiny. But I don’t say here that Israel is going to get a pass. I say that now Israel HAS to respond in detail AND whatever happens, Goldstone is lobbying to have his report dealt with seriously by the world powers…which in turn is causing them a serious problem because if they apply these standards to Israel, they will sit on the docket next. The US first in line.

  • I agree with your very last point, which echoes a portion of the Goldstone op-ed. I get the sense from Israel’s reaction that it objects to equating Israel and Hamas and Goldstone’s alleged ignoring of the context of a defensive action. That hasn’t much merit, it seems to me. If US soldiers engage in torture, wanton killing of civilians, or any other war crime, they should be held to account, regardless of the braoder aims and merits of US policy. Just because Israel was provoked, doesn’t mean it’s shielded from inquiry.

    I’m afraid a very great mistake is being made by anathemizing the report as another exercise in UN bias and meddling. I think the report is a credible piece of work, though with flaws (from this lawyer’s perspective) that are disturbing. But even if you disagree, consider: Goldstone comes up with specific, credible instances of alleged misconduct. Israel could’ve have produced information– hell, flooded Goldstone with it– and either gotten a different finding or laid the groundwork for a far more effective subsequent attack on the report.

    As a South African, Goldstone is a product of the British legal tradition and is well aware that criminal liability requires intent (mens rea). Interestingly, he distinguishes between criminal conduct– in which such intent is present– and what he terms “state responsiblity” for tragic accidents of war. Even if Israel could not have rebutted the facts (actus reus) surrounding the key incidents, its cooperation could’ve swayed Goldstone to view some or all of them as matters of “state responsibility” in which criminal intent was absent.

    All of this is, of course, speculative. What’s emerged here is a hugely powerful cudgel for Israel’s foes to beat it with. The failure to cooperate with the commission may prove an enormous and enduring mistake.

  • Goldstone is also surely aware that testimony obtained from witnesses in the presence of Hamas members is very likely coercion, and therefore inadmissible. He acknowledges this likelihood in the report, but accepts these testimonies as factual anyway.

    Again, we’ve seen all this before. The UN Jenin report was full of testimony from people attesting to all sorts of terrible atrocities, and virtually none of it was supported by any credible physical evidence.

    Israel doesn’t need to waste its time responding to a bogus report. Israel, the US, and the EU wouldn’t cooperate with the ICJ’s investigation into the separation fence for basically the same reasons. After the ruling was handed down, they promptly ignored it and the ruling has virtually zero credibility today. The Goldstone report, if deservedly ignored, will also fade into the dustbin of history.

    Along those lines, Israel’s Supreme Court conducted its own investigation into the route of the fence, forcing changes to be made. The Winograd Commission released its final report just last year. And yet Goldstone still criticizes Israel’s judiciary, essentially claiming that *his* report is necessary because the Israelis can’t be trusted to conduct an honest investigation. Embarrassing.

  • I wrote my last comment in a hurry and forgot to make a key point about Goldstone’s Jewish faith. It is not accidental that the Human Rights Council has selected a Jewish judge to head this commission, just as it’s not an accident that the new rapporteur for Israel, Falk, is Jewish, just like it’s not an accident that the “protest” letter writers to the Toronto film festival were either all Jewish and included a gay man, while not a single Arab name and virtually no non-Jews are listed. It is a cynical tactic that is intended to impress the non-Jewish public of the “fairness” of the party behind the manipulative event. In this case, Goldstone is a fig leaf for the biased Human Rights Council and at the film festival the idea appears to be to hide a network of anti-Israel groups with many Palestinian members who were conveniently left “out of sight.”

    it’s difficult not to be offended by this cynicism, and I found it offensive that after a report of this nature, I’m suddenly reading interviews with his Zionist daughter ensuring we know that he’s a good Jew and lover of Israel. That should not have been relevant and in theory is immaterial, and yet it is material and cynical.

  • Barry, you make a bad-faith criticism of the report. At the end of the day, Goldstone has to go with the evidence that he’s adduced and the parties have placed before him. Like Middle, you criticize him for being fair, in your case treating his forthright acknowledgement of problems with the Palestinian testimony as some sort of concession of weakness.

    If Goldstone were investigating, say, mistreatment of Tamil refugees in the camps controlled by the Sri Lankan government, and that government refused to cooperate, we would hardly expect him to throw up his hands and go home.

    Moving away from the merits and demerits of the report– who, exactly, does Israel persuade with its instant, over-the-top lambasting of Goldstone? I think Middle’s with me on this (I think). It’s red meat to the domestic audience. But it was obviously put out before anyone had a chance to read and digest it. Israel’s failure to make any effort to engage the report on its merits was egregious. Does this serve the state’s interests, and if so, how?

  • I think Israel is trying to create an opening for others to be critical of this report. Again, I think the implications of this report are meaningful to many other major and powerful countries because you can’t judge Israel by standards that aren’t applied to other democratic, Western countries. If you take Israel down for Gaza, the US goes down for Iraq and Afghanistan, NATO for Kosovo, Russia for Chechnya and China for Tibet. The type of dancing you’d have to do to deal harshly with Israel but evade similar judgments towards these others may hold up briefly but the precedent will now exist and, let’s face it, the actions of NATO, Russia, China and the US far exceed and exceeded Israel’s in Gaza.

    The function of the governmental yelling about this report is to make sure the other states know that there is a way out of treating Israel harshly. That’s my theory anyway.

    That’s not to say they aren’t genuinely angry about this report, I believe they are. Maybe some of the yelling comes from that, but if they are serious about the report’s unjust accusations, they need to start delivering counter-information.

    I say this as a supporter of Israel, by the way, and as someone who strongly believed that Israel had to go into Gaza. Israel spent a great deal of effort stating publicly that they were doing their utmost to protect civilians and prevent casualties among civilians during the Gaza war. I believe them, but now that Goldstone’s report is out, I need more than just their words, I need some evidence. For example, there have been over 100 investigations opened, of which 77 have been closed. I assume many of these overlap with information in Goldstone’s report, so why can’t Israel provide us with the details? They should be able to and, in fact, they should just do it.

  • This is just outrageous now. They are trying to show that both sides are at fault and then they expect muslim world to stay quiet? How can we stay quiet after we’ve observed the most gruesome atrocities launched upon the innocent civilian, non-combatant population of Gaza. Most of the 1,383 deaths in last year’s operation ‘Cast Lead’, conducted by the Israeli forces, were civilians, 333 of them being children. In the aftermath, Gaza has now become one of the world’s largest concentration camps. The fact is that currently, more than 80% of the civilians in Gaza can’t find reliable sources of food (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Locked in: The Humanitarian Impact of Two Years of Blockade on the Gaza Strip, August 2009). This is as a direct result of the inhumane Israeli restrictions placed on Life-Sustaining International food aid. They’re blocking food for God’s sake, not unnecessary items, but food!! Our US Tax dollars were used to inflict the original loss of life, think about it, that’s more than a third of the lives lost on 9/11. Now US aid is being used to block basic food aid from reaching civilians? What does Israel gain from this, other than prolonging the suffering of those who have already lost so much? Can you imagine yourself and your family being in a situation where they don’t know if they’ll get their next meal? Visit to find out more on how you can help in bringing to an end the use of our tax dollars in perpetuating this torture and injustice!!

    • Oh my goodness! Gaza is a giant concentration camp! Watch your fucking language AR. You clearly don’t know what a real concentration camp is. You make it sound like there’s mass starvation in Gaza, like we’re doing to the Gazans what Stalin did to the Ukrainian farmers. Any minute now we’ll have photos of Palestinian kids with distended stomachs à la Biaffra. No really, any minute now. There’s plenty of food in Gaza. The Egyptians aren’t preventing food from getting through are they? Friggin idiot. And your casualty numbers are all off – your sources are counting Hamas policemen as non-combatants when most of them were members of terrorist factions. And what? Are you not ascribing any blame for the deaths on the madmen that launched all those rockets into Israel for years? No blame? They had nothing to do with the retaliatory deaths? Really? Can’t see a little cause and effect there? No?

  • Tom, taking coerced testimony at face value is hardly “fair”. Taking “Breaking the Silence” as representative of the conduct of Israeli soldiers in the field is also not exactly “fair”. On the matters of, for example, Hamas’ fighters mingling among the civilian population, or the use of mosques and the Islamic University of Gaza for military purposes, he did in fact “throw up his hands and go home”. He wrote that there was no evidence to support those claims, and Hamas wasn’t willing to comment on those matters (he doesn’t write that but of course we know it to be true), so that was that. He could have pursued those matters further, using any number of Israeli or international media sources, but he didn’t. A fair investigator doesn’t just collect as much data as possible, he must also judge what type of data to include, and what to discard. His judgment was poor on both counts.

  • What’s “fucking outrageous,” AR, is that for 8 years rockets were launched at Israeli civilians. That is fucking outrageous. What’s even more outrageous is that the bombings continued even after Israel left Gaza and pulled out (at the PA’s demand) every last Jew from there.

    What’s truly, incredibly, fucking outrageous, is that in those early days after Israel left, they kept trying to open the border passages, and almost every time – and I believe it was actually EVERY time – there would be either an attack on the crossing or inside Israel, or an attempted attack, or an attempt of terrorists to infiltrate Israel or a successful infiltration. Every single fucking outrageous time, AR.

    And people like you justified it. “Occupation”, you said.

    And then when Israel closed the crossings, or made life more difficult for the Palestinians in an effort to put a stop to these ATTACKS ON INNOCENT CIVILIANS, people like you kept yelling about how unreasonable and criminal Israel was being. And when the people of Gaza elected a criminal terrorist organization to lead them, people like you defended this choice by calling it democratic – even if the Hamas men liked to throw their opponents off building to see if they’d have a spring in their step – and justified their continued rocket attacks as well as their continued verbal assaults on Israel and on Jews.

    That’s fucking outrageous.

    It is fucking outrageous that after years of absorbing those rockets and appealing to the UN, to Egypt and to the US, Israel could not get anybody to have Hamas and other Palestinian groups stop attacking the INNOCENT ISRAELI CIVILIANS. Just as the international community can’t even get Hamas to allow a single Red Cross worker to have even one minute with Gilad Schalit after 3 years of holding him. That’s fucking outrageous.

    You know what else is outrageous? While you complain about a lack of food, there are articles in the paper about the Palestinians smuggling NEW CARS through tunnels from Egypt. Must be a food shortage, but at least they have the latest Toyota. Oops, I meant BMW.

    Israel was right to go to war against Gaza after thousands of rockets launched against its civilians. Of course, you won’t find deep discussion of this in the Goldstone Report because it was purposely omitted from his mandate. Now that’s fucking outrageous. Don’t you think?

  • And…we have a first reaction from the US:

    Rice told reporters following a Security Council session that the US “is reviewing very carefully what is a very lengthy document. We have long expressed our very serious concern with the mandate that was given (to Goldstone’s team) by the Human Rights Council prior to our joining the Council, which we viewed as unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable.

    “We will expect and believe that the appropriate venue for this report to be considered is the Human Rights Council (in Geneva) and that’s our strong view. And most importantly, our view is that we need to be focused on the future,” she said.

    “This is a time to work to cement progress towards the resumption of negotiations (between Israel and the Palestinians) and their early and successful conclusion.”

  • Well, no one is better at invective than Dershowitz, unless it’s Justice Scalia. He engages in cherrypicking Goldstone’s findings, and doesn’t come up with much, given the report is 500-plus pages long. But the problem with his piece, and with the Israeli reaction, is that it’s a day late and a dollar short. It’s like a litigant who fails to show up for trial, gets defaulted with the judge largely adopting his opponent’s evidence, then gives a press conference on the courthouse steps accusing the court of bias. Even if he’s right, his eloquence won’t impress neutral observers.

    Don’t get distracted by ad hominem attacks on Goldstone (self-hating Jew, anyone?). Remember: Goldstone identifies specific incidents he says constitute war crimes. Israel could have and should have addressed them in timely fashion– and if Israel had still felt compelled to walk out on the commission, so be it. Now, the task is a lot harder, but still worth it, as Middle says.

  • In the interview, Nehushtan offered a fierce defense of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009.

    He defended Israel’s opening bombardment, including the attack on Hamas policemen, which the UN’s Richard Goldstone-led fact-finding mission this week branded a violation of international law.

    “We need to look at Hamas from top to bottom,” Nehushtan said, in answer to a question about the legitimacy of targeting Hamas police forces. “Look at the way they [Hamas] killed Fatah. Who do you think did that? This is how they killed their own people. We need to disconnect from traditional military concepts and understand that Hamas doesn’t work that way. They don’t come in uniforms or in tanks to a battlefield.”

    No other military in the world, Nehushtan said, was as careful as Israel’s when operating in a densely-populated urban setting.

    “This was demonstrated by our accuracy as well as [by] the attention we gave to every single target, with exact planning to prevent collateral damage, even by calling the people there to let them leave their homes, which in some cases were storehouses for weapons,” the air force chief said. “We then kept our eye on the homes and ensured that they left. We gave this service and only then attacked.”

  • The Report all but ignores the deliberate terrorist strategy of operating in the heart of densely populated civilian areas which dictated the arena of battle. Even when the Hamas terrorists mixed among civilians, the Report rejects the notion that there was an intention to put the civilian population at risk.

    The Report also ignores Israel’s extensive efforts, even in the midst of fighting, to maintain humanitarian standards. While it does, reluctantly, acknowledge Israel’s “significant efforts” to issue warnings before attacks, it does not find any of these efforts to be effective