Today at 5:00 PM Brandeis University hosted Richard Goldstone and Dore Gold to discuss the Goldstone Report.

Well Dore Gold, Israel’s former ambassador to the UN and probably one of the primary intellectuals whose ideas influence Israel’s current government, bumped into a South African Jewish judge by the name of Richard Goldstone. The icy body language and the stern look on Gold’s face told half the story – there is a deep and profound anger among those who love and care deeply about Israel towards Goldstone and what he has, wittingly or unwittingly, wrought upon Israel.

There were a couple of things that stood out for me in the discussion. The first was that Goldstone’s report was indeed colored, tainted actually, by his palpable anger at Israel for not cooperating with him or letting him visit with his commission in an official capacity. It may even be pettiness, but he seemed to relish saying over and over that had Israel participated, then the report would likely have been different.

Along those lines, however, not only is it troubling that such a damaging report was written with some immature petulance at the key accused in the report, but it was even more troubling when Goldstone suggested that his report would have been different had the Israeli government supplied the same information that Gold provided in his presentation today.

This is exceptionally troubling because most of what Gold said was publicly available information. For example, he showed the clip from Colonel Kemp saying that Israel had fought a war that more than any other war in history sought safety for civilians. Kemp had made himself available to the commission which had no interest in hearing him. The speech he gave at the UNHRC hearing about the Goldstone Report, however, was first given three months ago and is available in full on the internet. So, for that matter, are the Hamas speeches shown by Gold. So are the maps by Israel of how the Palestinians organized their preparations for the upcoming war. Is Goldstone actually saying they couldn’t do some research on the internet?

Gold also spoke about how the scale of destruction that so affected Goldstone, which may have been misleading because about 20% of the houses in some neighborhoods had been booby-trapped by Hamas. In one stunning moment, he mentioned that the IDF has no record of attacking the mosque that according to Goldstone was attacked in daylight while worshippers were inside. The IDF says it has no record of this attack. If the IDF can prove this, that alone would undermine the credibility of this report permanently.

Also troubling was that Goldstone has clearly not thought through the implications of his report. When asked how Israel could fight wars where the enemy is embedded in civilian centers, he recommended commando raids. Great idea! Except for the possibility of capture by Palestinians that increases exponentially. Goldstone is familiar with what happens to Israeli captives and even took credit for bringing up Gilad Shalit. Does he think that a few more Israeli soldiers in Palestinian captivity for years without any Red Cross visits will help anybody? The short of it is that he doesn’t have a clue about how to fight a war like this with the limitations he has placed on Israel.

Dore Gold stressed that one of the key reasons this report is flawed is that it is the product of a UN full of bias toward Israel, which he called a minority state because it has no bloc to protect it. He acknowledged that the US helps Israel in the UN, but compared that to the automatic votes other countries can garner because of these blocs. He stressed the partiality of the UN Human Rights Commission and the absolute chutzpah of calling into question Israel’s abilities to investigate itself. Goldstone tried to rebuff by claiming the IDF should not be investigating itself and the absence of real convictions to date indicates their investigations are not meaningful. Gold bristled at this and twice spoke about how there are other bodies in Israel that also have authority to investigate Israeli conduct.

More than anything, this was a sad, sad event. Goldstone has put Israel in a difficult corner and those of us who see the many flaws with the report, flaws that undermine any objective reader’s assessment of this work, are outraged and deeply saddened by this report, its implications and its consequences.

Here are questions I’d like to ask Richard Goldstone:

– Why did you agree to work for a UN body that you acknowledge is anti-Israel?

– Why did you agree to do so when the country in question is Israel?

– Why did you not consider that your Zionism and Jewish faith made you an ideal candidate to ward off the criticism that a report from this tainted body would justifiably encounter?

– Why do you believe it’s fair to critique the validity of IDF investigations, but it’s reasonable for your committee to bring aboard people who accused Israel of war crimes before the commission ever met or had evidence presented?

– Why did you permit Israel’s refusal to collaborate with your mission, that was sent by this tainted UN body, to color your views as displayed in your constant complaints about this?

– Why did you accept testimonies from people that your own report acknowledges may have been intimidated?

– Why did you not research using readily available material such as videos, maps, images, speeches and even the Israeli government’s own materials, all of which are readily and easily available on the internet?

– Why have your comments about the report differed when addressing a Jewish audience and other audiences, as can be seen in your Forward interview? There you dicount the actual legal meaning of the report, which is very different than the claims made in the report or claims you have made since the report’s publication in other media outlets?

– Since you claim to have identified that Hamas was playing a “shrewd” game with their claim that the political body doesn’t have a connection with their military body, why did you trust anything that involved them or people who might be influenced or scared by them?

– Why do you provide leniency to Hamas and their crimes by using soft language and avoiding mention of them in lieu of using “armed groups” to deflect their responsibility?

– How is it conceivable that in a report such as this, where you claim the mandate was modified at your behest to investigate both sides, that you would deny or equivocate the accusations against Hamas that it used civilian areas and installations to conduct this war?

– How could you do so when there is available evidence in the public statements and speeches of Hamas leaders?

– Considering that you now know information you claim you didn’t have before, why have you not backtracked on any of your claims?

– When the UNHRC made a mockery of your report – and especially of your claim that the mandate of the commission had been changed – by planning to vote on a document about the report which charged Israel at length but did not mention the Palestinian crimes, why did you simply express your disappointment and agree to a neutral addition to the language which still did not mention the Palestinians or Hamas?

Very sad.

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  • the middle – more than anything, it seems to me that you can’t even consider the possibility that the IDF committed war crimes.

    (btw, asking the IDF to investigate itself is a joke. the army is known for its cover-ups)

  • noam – why should the IDF give itself over to the UN whose bias is blatant? And I note that you don’t insist that the UN investigate Hamas human rights crimes against its own people.

  • Noam, thanks for the substantive response. I liked the way you addressed my comments with a serious critique.

    Here’s more or less what you wrote:

    Noam – more than anything it seems to me that you can’t even consider the possibility that a biased investigation mandated by a tarnished UN body that singles out one country while ignoring far worse activities by other countries is not the way to learn about alleged Israeli war crimes.

    Dore Gold’s point was that aside from the army, the AG, the government and the High Court all have the ability to investigate whether something went wrong here. As you must know, the IDF handed the results of its investigations to Mazuz. The IDF also claimed no knowledge of 11 of the 36 incidents mentioned by Goldstone and is currently investigating them. Is it possible they are covering up? Yes. Is it possible they committed war crimes? Very possibly, since this is an unconventional war and sometimes things go very wrong in wartime. However, does the IDF resemble the military which is described in the Goldstone Report? Maybe you can’t bring yourself to acknowledge what we all know: the IDF is not even remotely close to the army described there.

  • Well, Middle, after initially reacting sensibly upon release of the report, you’ve lapsed into ad hominem attacks and an undue focus on Goldstone– just what you initially said was unwise.

    Perhaps heaping abuse on Goldstone’s character is of interest in a Jewish-insidery sort of way. But it’s beside the point, and Israel’s friends do the country no service by making this controversy about him.

    Israel not hvaing cooperated with Goldstone, and in the absence of a credible, independent investigation of his allegations, your post and the apologist commentary it exemplifies comes across as changing the subject. Attacking Goldstone for “immature petulance” is no way to respond to the very serious charges he made. Something far more substantive than what you and others offer is required.

    The clock is ticking. Where’s the independent investigation? Where’s the point-by-point treatment of the specifics of Goldstone’s report?

  • Hey Tom, I’m not a Jewish-insider and I also call for an investigation if only because of the genie he has let out of the bottle.

    But I have every reason to be outraged by some of his unserious answers yesterday. Commando raids? There were 8 years of rockets that Israel couldn’t stop. You can bet there were commando raids during that time. Information unavailable? No, it was readily available. Etc.

    It’s not an ad hominem attack to ask how a person conducting an investigation could ignore information that’s sitting right there. Nor is it when asking an investigator who openly admits that his witnesses were intimidated and who admits that one party was “shrewd” in its game handling of his investigation. These are valid and serious queries considering the seriousness and implications of his charges.

    Please read this last paragraph and try to address it. I’m not asking to hear another fan in the stands tell us how, in hindsight, Israel should have done this or that. I think over time some serious questions and issues have been raised about this investigation. Goldstone may have decided to put himself out there to promote and defend his findings, but that doesn’t mean that he gets a pass.

  • I’m not inclined to defend Goldstone, Middle. Though if you want to criticize the UNHRC, Obama’s decision to rejoin the panel had far greater import than anything Goldstone may have done– the US’s presence lends the UNHRC and its decisions more credibility.

    My point is simply that all of the bandwith is going to beating up on Goldstone, and I can agree with your every criticism and it doesn’t help in addressing the report. I suspect many informed people in other countries are prepared to agree that the UN has long had it in for Israel, but are not satisfied that this bias disposes of the Gaza controversy. In my own work, experience shows that judges really aren’t interested in defenses based on the other guy’s bias. They get that, they’ll even assume it arguendo– but they want substantive approaches to the issues.

    At some point all of this leeches over into mere stubbornness and changing-the-subject. One infers that Israel can’t bear giving an inch of legitimacy, or the slightest appearance of it, to the UN, Goldstone, the human rights community, etc. The ambient emotions aren’t producing smart policy.

    Re Noam’s point, I think it’s also problematic to announce, as you do, that the IDF cannot possibly have engaged in the conduct Goldstone describes. I hope official Israel avoids such comment. Very few countries, and perhaps only two– the US and Israel– deploy the world’s most advanced and lethal munitions on a regular basis in urban settings, against unscrupulous foes. The history in this country, dating back at least to Lt. Calley, counsels humility and the need to expose the military’s conduct to the world’s scutiny. This is not weakness, but its opposite.

    The use of overwhelming force in highly populated environment, for any period of time, will have tragic outcomes, as the high civilian casualties in Gaza show. Let’s take a deep breath and examine what happened.

  • Tom, per your last two paragraphs, I am not disputing any of it. What I am disputing is, if such war crimes occurred were they part of a larger enterprise or were they mistakes or renegade soldiers? I believe the Goldstone Report suggests the former and I reject that view of the IDF.