Ken Roth could have attacked his own organization for employing well-known anti-Israel activists such as Joe Stork and Sarah Whitson, or analysts who have a passion for Nazi uniforms and insignia. He could have asked himself whether years of bias against Israel including being a driving force in the bigoted, one-sided attacks on Israel at Durban I, or going to fund-raise in Saudi Arabia of all countries while pointing to HRW’s critiques of Israel as a selling point give him or his organization any right to speak about Israel at all.
But no, instead Ken Roth decided to attack Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian Minister of Justice, for publishing criticism of the Goldstone Commission. We have published parts of Mr. Cotler’s powerful argument against the Goldstone Commission, but now I have to publish part of his response to Ken Roth who wrote about Cotler:
Irwin Cotler’s attack in these pages on Judge Richard Goldstone’s UN-mandated investigation of the conflict is of a piece with these efforts (“The Goldstone Mission – Tainted to the core,” August 17 and 19). Rather than addressing the sad reality in Gaza, he effectively offers an apology for Israeli abuse.
Cotler, like other uncritical defenders of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, undoubtedly feels that he is doing Israel a service by deflecting criticism of the serious abuses committed.
The problem is not the messenger carrying news of that misconduct, whether Judge Goldstone or the human rights groups that have been the target of a disinformation campaign launched by the Israeli government and some supporters. The problem is the conduct of the Israeli military.
The government does great harm to the security of its people if it uses the kind of diversionary public-relations techniques favored by Cotler rather than acknowledging, and correcting, that disturbing reality.
That is pretty harsh stuff and Cotler did not take it lying down.
Never mind that I have appeared in Israeli courts and made representations to the Israeli government on subjects ranging from the protection of Palestinian refugees to the status of Ethiopian Jews; never mind that I served as international legal counsel to the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group – until I became minister of justice and attorney-general of Canada – on issues regarding human rights violations in the occupied territories and in Israel; or that I have visited Israel and Gaza more than Ken Roth has, including meeting with Palestinian government leaders and leaders of Palestinian civil society in Ramallah this past August.
Roth ignores that I write as a Canadian for whom the UN is an organizing idiom of Canadian foreign policy; for whom international law is part of my Canadian DNA as well as my DNA as a law professor; for whom human rights has been my country’s – and my own – clarion call. That is what concerns me so much about the Goldstone mission, and it is this very concern which Roth chooses to ignore or misrepresent.
Simply put, this flawed mission is not only established under the authority of the obsessively discriminatory UN Human Rights Council, it is irredeemably tainted by the prejudicial resolution establishing the mission itself. Roth should read – or reread – the resolution; it is a star-chamber indictment. It is precisely Goldstone’s participation and distinction that is used to sanitize the resolution, which Goldstone acknowledged was one-sided, though he believed he had a more even-handed mandate given to him by the president of the UN Human Rights Council.
In a word, Roth writes not like a lawyer – let alone a human rights lawyer – but as a propagandist. There is an old adage that if you are weak on the facts, argue the law; if you are weak on the law, argue the facts; if you are weak on both, smear. At the end of the day it is what Roth’s article was all about.
I’ve been reading the Goldstone report and while the charges against Israel are strong, at every turn I keep asking two questions: how can anybody fight a war differently when the enemy uses civilians and civilian areas as cover, and, how can Goldstone trust any witness accounts since the report acknowledges that witnesses may have been intimidated.
It is also surprising to see that despite the clear limits of his mandate, limits which precluded Goldstone from deeply delving into the years of Hamas attacks on Israel and the Israeli DIPLOMATIC attempts to have these attacks stopped, he had no problem attacking the Israeli judiciary as well as parts of Israel’s “occupation” which include, according to his report’s language, “Occupied Palestinian Territory: the West Bank, including east Jerusalem.”
It ain’t Palestinian territory, and unless they come to a peace agreement, it won’t be. Also, UNSCR 242 ensures that Jerusalem will not be treated as “Palestinian territory” and at best will require a compromise over its sovereignty. To remind Goldstone and even the UN, while acquisition of territory by force is impermissible, the territory must have been in the legal possession of a high contracting authority – a state. Jordan’s rule over the West Bank was (correctly) never accepted by the international community and there was no ownership of that territory prior to the Jordanian conquest since the Ottomans lost all rights to it and the British only controlled it in order to, as the League of Nations demanded in their mandate handed to the British, prepare the area to become a home for the Jewish people.
My sense is that just as Israel told the Commission to go stick it, perhaps the head of the Commission was a tad offended or angry – which would be understandable – and maybe for a brief moment forgot the need for impartiality and decided to stick it right back to the Israelis. If they weren’t going to give him the information he sought, then he would force them to provide it anyway, hence his recommendations to have Israel provide investigation information to key UN bodies DESPITE the fact that Israel has been investigating its forces and their actions during the Gaza War.
Hamas, which of course is not held to any such obligations, is laughing their beards off. So is the Palestinian Authority.
I should add that in a surreal turn of events, Nicole Goldstone, daughter of the now infamous judge, actually gave interviews to Israeli papers defending her dad. She proclaimed her fervent love for Israel and acknowledged the report was harsh but she loves her dad. Yay.