I was led to this interview by screeching and yelling pro-Palestinian (read: anti-Israel) internet activists who complained about the unfairness of this interview and the manner in which Bill Moyers “took Israel’s side” in his interview of Richard Goldstone. So I actually took the time to listen and watch the entire interview and realized that many pro-Palestinians are idiots. This is an exceptional interview and one that gives Goldstone a great deal of credibility even if the really tough questions are not asked of him.

The bottom line of this interview is that Israel can play the political game all it wants, but it will not be able to avoid the inevitable investigation that the Goldstone Commission has called for. By postponing the inevitable, the Israelis are only hurting their own credibility. They should have taken on the challenge of an open investigation within days of this report coming out.

Goldstone is a sophisticated, articulate foe who is able to calmly counter most points raised to criticize his commission and responses to his most challenging questions have not been addressed by any party. The key questions and concerns he raises publicly relate to the destruction of agricultural and food producing sources, namely the flour mill and large chicken farm, as well as 200 industrial factories. I have less of a concern about the factories, since many may have been used for military efforts, but the food production sources raise legitimate questions that should be addressed by Israel.

The bottom line is that Goldstone is doing the media circuit across the globe but particularly in the US. His claims lie there on the table and even skeptical, skilled journalists are not challenging him on the details of his report or his mandate to the degree they should. For example, Moyers takes at face value that Goldstone’s mandate from the UNHRC was modified, but there is no actual modification to the original mandate and there is no challenge to Goldstone’s assertion that he was able to have the UNHRC change the language of their response to the Report. In that instance, Goldstone acknowledges that the UNHRC wrote a document full of anti-Israel bias but claims that he was able to influence an addition of a short paragraph demanding that all violence against civilians. Of course, the tough questions that are never asked of him are:
– Why do you accept any document that shows such anti-Israel bias?
– Why are you satisfied with a modification that still does not even hold the Palestinians minimally responsible for their actions and does not even mention the accusations against them specifically?
– Why do you contend that the mandate for your investigation was changed when in fact the outcome at the UNHRC reflects the original mandate and not the one you claimed you had?

And so on. There are many points on which to challenge Goldstone, but this is not going to happen on his current media circuit and with every interview he gives such as this, his credibility increases and Israel’s diminishes. Israel needs to stop procrastinating and delaying the inevitable investigation it will have to conduct.

Here is the Bill Moyers – Richard Goldstone interview, Part I.

Here is Part II.

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themiddle

13 Comments

  • Joel, that should be fascinating. I almost wish they would do it sooner.

    Mark, you think he’s a friend of Israel’s? How is Israel going to ever leave the Judea and Samaria/West Bank now? Is he going to guarantee that Palestinians attacking Israel won’t use mosques, hospitals and civilian homes for cover when Israel tries to retaliate against the rockets they launch against Kfar Saba, Ra’anana and Ben Gurion airport? He couldn’t even get the UNHRC to modify their one-sided attack on Israel last week other than to add a non-specific demand to deal with harm to all citizens. He has undermined Israel’s ability to fight these proxy armies on Israel’s western and northern borders by defining this type of warfare as war crimes. He has labeled the careful war they conducted a war of war crimes. He has undermined any future possibility that Israel would be able to trust their ability to defend Israeli citizens from future Palestinian attacks.

  • Middle, you’ve taken a fairly nuanced view of Goldstone’s work, so it’s disappointing when you insist he be viewed as either a ‘friend’ or ‘foe’ of Israel. It’s the sort of language that contributes to that much-reported phenomenon, fatigue among Israel’s supporters, here and presumably elsewhere.

    There’s no place for complexity, ambivalence etc. in your categorical, he’s-either-for-us-or-against-us viewpoint, and many people will stop reading and give up.

    Even now, it’s not too late for a sophisticated response to Goldstone which advances Israel’s interests– though you’d never glean that from the center-right echo chamber, Foxman, Commentary Contentions etc., which your last comment evokes.

  • I’m not giving you a choice of how you should view him. I’s stating how I view his actions at this point. I’m permitted to have an opinion. I didn’t think of him this way initially, just as a misguided do-gooder who had found himself in a difficult situation and was truly shocked by what he saw in Gaza.

    Now, however, as I watch him do the media circuit – which he strangely appears to be avoiding in Israel, by the way – it reminds me of the Carter and Walt/Mearsheimer road shows. He now knows that his report is being used by the UNHRC and Israel’s enemies, including Hamas and Fatah, to beat up Israel in the most serious manner. We’re talking about Israel on trial at the Hague here, nothing less. But rather than let the powerful UNHRC, the powerful anti-Israel bloc at the UN, and the Palestinian diplomacy machine fight Israel with the ammunition he’s given them, he has become the primary advocate for acceptance of his report and for demanding its implementation which he knows and essentially states so in his Moyers interview, will primarily fall on Israel.

    And I repeat, he is entirely misguided. His interpretation of the laws of war and Israel’s fighting in Gaza has created a situation that benefits those who seek to maintain the status quo while he undermines any of us who want to change the situation by taking active steps to move forward. Israel is essentially forced by this report to maintain a permanent presence in the WB/Judea and Samaria while the Palestinians have virtual immunity and impunity from their actions. Even if they achieve statehood, they will be able to attack Israel using the Hizbullah/Hamas (read: Iran proxy war) strategy and Israel will not be able to respond.

    Friend? Foe? Who cares. The damage to Israel is so grave that it leaves Israel with no recourse on two borders and undermines any possibility of peace in the WB/Judea and Samaria. In time, this report will become a historic watershed…one that Israel will long regret…and Goldstone is fighting hard to make sure this will happen.

  • it is quite possible that operation cast lead will become a historic watershed, and if so, it might be because of the report, but the report itself is just paper. operation cast lead was a mistake, it’s not goldstone’s fault but the fault of a misguided government fighting for its political survival (and failing).

    i’m not saying that inaction would have been better, in fact, i have no recommendation in a situation like this, but one look at the situation on the ground (before the war) and the law could have told everyone that the outcome would be pretty much like it is now. i’ve said several times already that one reason for this is that the law as it exists is for different types of warfare, but it is just plain stupid to accuse goldstone of having done “damage to israel”. he did what he was sent out to do, apply the law you may or may not like and come up with an opinion (it obviously is no more, albeit one with some weight and disputed legitimacy).

    and we’re not talking about “israel on trial at the hague” here. in the very very limited way this claim makes any sense (legally speaking), any danger of any trial can easily be overcome by proper investigation and accountability on the national level. that’s the only thing “forced” upon israel by this report.

  • “he did what he was sent out to do, apply the law”

    Even he says that’s not what he did. Well, that’s what he told The Forward. In other places he says he is applying the law. He most certainly has done damage to Israel. Israel has enemies that fight a certain way and now Israel cannot fight them on the terms these enemies set. That leaves it virtually impossible to fight them without committing war crimes if Goldstone is right.

    Cast Lead was far from misguided. If anything, it was two years late. There should never have been any acceptance of the rocket attacks against Israel and the response to the rockets should have been consistent and strong. The crime here is the years of rockets against Israeli civilians and that crime should have been handled by Israel (since the UN did nothing despite many requests) on an ongoing basis with attacks against the rocket launchers and the Hamas leadership. If it came to a war, it’s only because for all those years, Hamas was freely building an arsenal for war.

    When you write that you have “no recommendation in a situation like this,” you are doing exactly what he does. He is saying that he knows Israel is justified in going to war because the attacks warranted war. It’s just that you can’t fight the war the way Israel fought it. Except that Israel was very cautious in its approach and had to deal with an enemy that used civilians and civilian buildings for cover. Unlike you and Goldstone, both the government and the IDF need to ensure the safety of their civilians and need to protect them. They don’t have the luxury of judging after the fact.

    As for the proper investigation, we agree it should take place. But not because it needs to take place. The IDF has investigated itself. The only reason for an investigation is that Goldstone put Israel in a corner. Israel and not the Palestinians, you’ll note. That is one of the key problem with the results of his report. There’s a good reason Hamas is all for supporting the report. When they’re not choking on their laughter, that is.

  • I have a hard time believing Netanyahu is going to decline steps to defend Israel out of fear of what Goldstone may think. But I agree the damage to Israel could be long-lasting– unless Israel acts quickly and shrewdly now. You were the one who (I believe rightly) suggested initially that ad hominem attacks on Goldstone be avoided (though you seem to have lapsed into them yourself). It’s a losing strategy. Goldstone is too canny a media performer, and is too establishment a figure in the human rights community, to turn him successfully into a caricature.

    Maybe Jews and Israelis have an unheathy facination with his Jewishness. Whatever may be the case, the only smart thing to do is focus, not on him, but on the specific incidents he identifies, and conduct an independent and open investigation. Every other strategy is a loser. If you wanted still another example of how Israel and its supporters do not have their public-relations act together, this is it.

  • Well, today Hamas outmaneuvered Israel (again) by stating they are planning an investigation of their actions during the war. I think the Israeli government just doesn’t get that they won’t be able to talk their way out of this.

    As for ad hominem attacks on Goldstone, if I am committing those now and not earlier, it may be because I know much more now than I did before. Despite my anger at what he’s done, I’ve tried to be fair in my comments about him and his report. Consider this post which praises his performance in interviews and links to a particularly strong interview he gave.

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