Monday, April 4, 2011

Judge Goldstone’s Washington Post Op-Ed – Why Now and Why?

(What follows is speculation and has not been shown to, or approved by, Judge Goldstone.)

In my post yesterday I wondered out loud why Judge Richard Goldstone published an op-ed expressing his views now. Had I read the op-ed more carefully, I think I would have understood the timing.

Why now? On March 18, the final report of the Independent Experts Committee of the Human Rights Council, chaired by Mary McGowan Davis, was distributed on the internet here. (For background on that process that led to that report see Jared Malsin's report here ). According to Judge Goldstone, that committee found that "Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza". He also writes of the committee, "While I welcome Israel's investigations into allegations, I share the concerns reflected in the McGowan Davis report that few of Israel's inquiries have been concluded and believe that the proceedings should have been held in a public forum. In other words, Judge Goldstone feels, with the Committee, that the IDF investigations were insufficient, and he thus continues his call for an independent, public, judicial inquiry.

So I think that the timing is simply the occasion of the distribution of the report, although I also imagine that Judge Goldstone has been thinking of these things for some time.

Adam Horowitz has shown that the Committee's actual report differs significantly from the tenor of the Goldstone op-ed. In particular, Judge Goldstone appears to consider the process undertaken by the IDF MAG investigating the al-Simouni family to be – so far – satisfactory. He does not say that this is the conclusion of the committee, and in fact, it is not. What we see a glimpse of, in Judge Goldstone's op-ed, is a tendency to cut Israel some slack with respect to some of the MAG's investigations. Of course, there are hedges, as others have pointed out – several "appears to"s and "apparently"s and "I hope"s. But there is a certain amount of charity towards Israel that may have been lacking in the original Report and is lacking in the McGowan Davis report.

What bothers folks on the Left is not so much why now, but why? Why doesn't Judge Goldstone sound like other members of the Goldstone mission, or, for that matter, like the McGowan Davis Committee, even if we allow for the different venues? Why has he changed so much?

As an occasional "Goldstone watcher", I venture the following observation: the man is, and as always been, an ohev yisrael, and an ohev medinat yisrael , a lover of Jews and a lover of the State of Israel. What we see in the op-ed is what we, on the left and on the right, have been partially blind to for over the last two years. Judge Goldstone wanted justice to be served, but he also wanted the State of Israel to live up to its promise and to do its duty as a civilized, Jewish state. His relationship with one of the parties under investigation was different from the other. Judge Goldstone is a life-long Zionist, and some people opposed his appointment for that reason. He even stated that his motivation for accepting the position was due, in part, to his commitment to Israel (or words to that effect).

One can only speculate how the refusal of Israel to cooperate with the Goldstone Mission shaped the somewhat uncharitable tone of some of the report. Had Richard Falk, rather than Richard Goldstone, chaired the mission, would it have had the same tone? It certainly would not have had the same effect. Israel's refusal to cooperate has now been criticized by mainstream Israelis like Nahum Barnea and Amnon Rubenstein, and I hope that is one lesson that Israel has learned. Even with the refusal, the Goldstone report devoted space and resources to Israel's side of the story.

At appearances following the report, Judge Goldstone showed his discomfort and displeasure with those who wanted to use the Goldstone Report to "delegitimize Israel." He was deeply offended by those who questioned his love of Israel. One incident is particularly telling. At Yale, a banner was unfolded with listed the Dreyfuss Affair, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and the Goldstone Report. Now imagine if that had happened to Norm Finkelstein. Finkelstein would have known how to react and what to say; he would be eminently non-plussed. But the act not only flustered Judge Goldstone; he virtually lost his composure. After that speech, the judge was accosted by the Chabad rabbi, Rabbi Shmuely Hecht, who asked him, "What are you going to do when the facts are unraveled and the evidence is clear that Goldstone report was a sham and not credible based on video and audio coverage of the war?" The judge replied, much to the puzzlement of the rabbi, "Should that occur, I will rejoice." (Read about it here.)

That answer puzzles people on the left and the right. The left needs Israel to be publicly shamed; the right needs Israel to be attacked by "traitors". How many people remain who will stand up and criticize Israel out of a commitment to human rights and a commitment to Zionism? (Go to the J Street Convention and to Sheikh Jarrah and count – they are all "some of my best friends".) Heck, the lefties I hang out with think progressive Zionism is an oxymoron.

As one who is on the right wing of the extreme left , I was puzzled and somewhat pained by Judge Goldstone's op-ed, even after I read it carefully. My immediate thought was, "Oh, no, what will the hasbaraniks do with this?" and "Will this hurt the greater cause?" But that's me, and it is not, nor was it ever, Judge Goldstone. Let's face it; when it comes to Zionism, Judge Goldstone and I are not in the same corner.

So I cannot really be surprised by this latest round. The Richard Goldstone of the op-ed is not precisely identical with the Richard Goldstone of the Goldstone report. Folks don't stay in the same place, especially those who have seen their lives turned upside down.

But for those of us who have been watching the judge, this latest publication, for better or for worse, hardly comes as a surprise.


Jess said...

Many thanks for this insightful commentary. I can honestly say you've gotten me to reconsider my thoughts on the matter.

Anonymous said...

or maybe it has something to do with his attending a debate at stanford in late march, where he was faced with blatant jew hate on the part of his supporters

finkelstein would have been non plussed? then you havent watched many or any of his talks

when challenged, norman turns to ad homonym attacks, such as the one at uci, where he told elderly protesters that "this is not a bingo game" or in canada, where he attacked a second gen survivor for having "crocodile tears"

when will you accept the fact that your side of the debate has no moral compass, that the unhrc is a fraudulent org whose whole purpose in being is the demonetization of israel and that the goldstone report is a joke?

Unknown said...

When will you accept the fact that your side of the debate has no moral compass ? When there an iota of truth in that claim, we might start to consider whether it can be expanded into a scintilla of truth . Then and only then!

Juan said...

After reflection, I am wondering why a Jew was included in the Commission at all, let alone permitted to chair it. The possible conflict of interest seems self-evident...

Juan said...

Upon reflection, I am wondering why the Comission selected a Jew to even be included in the investigation, let alone, chair it! Wasn't the possible conflict of interest apparent?

Anonymous said...


when the goldstone report was you know who was the leading voice on the unhrc pushing for it???

let me give you a hint

allied planes are bombing the hell out of that country as i type

i will say this once more...your side has no moral compass

need another example?

this morning...this woman was doing her best at spinning the op ed piece

idiots who pine away for those wonderful days in poland, and wonder why the jews didnt go back (maybe because when they tried they were massacred) have no moral compass

two truths...and much more than a scintilla of evidence

know thyself oh immoral one

Nachum said...

"My immediate thought was, 'Oh, no, what will the hasbaraniks do with this?' and 'Will this hurt the greater cause?'"

Huh. If we are to believe your description of yourself, your first reaction should have been "Good to know." A key:

Rightist: "We knew this anyway."

Israel supporter who cares, well, somewhat more about Palestinians: "Good to know."

Your reaction: I hesitate to say.