The amount of rubbish circulating on the internet from the left and the right about the Goldstone Washington Post op-ed is staggering. The right's distortions, though more egregious, is understandable; after all, the rightwingers never read the Goldstone Report so why should they read the op-ed?
But even those who should know better, like Roger Cohen, seem to have flunked reading comprehension. In an op-ed in the Times, he twists Goldstone to fit his preconceived notions.
Nuance, apparently, is not Cohen's forte. Here are a few examples
For example, Goldstone writes:
The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee's report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy
The judge is now convinced that Gaza "civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy."
But Goldstone says nothing more than "Had this evidence been presented to the committee, it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes." In fact, it certainly would have, and, indeed, even the McGowan Davis report, which is not satisfied with the IDF investigation (neither is Judge Goldstone) has not dismissed the alternate explanation provided by the Israeli investigation. And why should it?
To understand how badly Cohen (and others) misreads the op-ed, consider the following story:
You walk next to a swimming pool and see a puddle. You believe that the puddle indicates that there was a rainstorm, and that's what you tell people. But then you are told by your son that he saw a neighbor swimming in the pool. Does that mean you are now convinced that the puddle is from the neighbor and not from rain? No, it means simply that the evidentiary picture is a bit more complex than had been thought, and your initial conclusion, warranted then, must be revised in light of new information. Had your son's testimony been available then, you would have altered your report.
Now, here's the point: It seems reasonable to revise your opinoin, even if your son has not always been the most accurate source of information, and even if it is in his interest to claim that he had not been swimming with his girlfriend. (Sorry, just saw Ferris Bueller again)
Had Judge Goldstone changed his mind on what happened, he could simply say, "I have now come to believe that there was no intentional policy of killing civilians." That's what Cohen understands him to be saying. But he does not say that; he only says that "IDF investigation indicates that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy" and that were the results of that investigation known then (quite impossible, of course), that the report would have looked different.
The report would have said something like, "Although there is incontrovertible evidence that the killing of the al-Samouni family was deliberate, the motivation behind the killing has yet to be clarified since investigations have yielded differing explanations."
For Israel advocates, no investigation is necessary because the IDF can do nothing wrong. For opponents of Israel, no Goldstone investigation is necessary because the IDF can do nothing right. But it would be outrageous for the Goldstone mission to have neglected examining alternative explanations. And, in fact, it did not – such alternatives are mentioned frequently. The mission did not reject Israel's explanations because they were Israel's explanation. They rejected them when they seemed implausible or unsubstantiated.
Here's another Cohen distortion. Goldstone writes:
I am confident that if the officer is found to have been negligent, Israel will respond accordingly.
Goldstone expresses confidence that the Israeli officer responsible for the killing of 29 members of the al-Samouni family will be properly punished.
Perhaps Justice Goldstone should not be so confident, as many have pointed out; IDF justice is to justice as IDF music is to music. But the Goldstone report never questioned the ability of the IDF to punish its soldiers – when the IDF found them to be negligent . Nor was its call for a public, independent, judicial inquiry intended to rule out a military investigation.
And here is where many of the op-ed misreaders really stumble. Judge Goldstone today has not ceased to call for such a commission, which would investigate, inter alia, things that a military investigation cannot investigate.
The op-ed was misleading and it may be that it has not helped the cause of the Goldstone Report or Judge Goldstone. But Judge Goldstone should be judged for what he says, and not for what others have misread him to say.