“If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone report would have been a different document.” Thus opens Judge Richard Goldstone’s much-discussed op-ed in The Washington Post. I have a strong feeling that the editor might have tampered with the text and that the original sentence ought to have read something like: “If I had known then that the report would turn me into a self-hating Jew in the eyes of my beloved Israel and my own Jewish community in South Africa, the Goldstone report would never have been written at all.” And if that wasn’t the original sentence, it is certainly the subtext of Goldstone’s article.
This shameful U-turn did not happen this week. It comes after more than a year and a half of a sustained campaign of intimidation and character assassination against the judge, a campaign whose like in the past destroyed mighty people such as US Senator William Fulbright who was shot down politically for his brave attempt to disclose AIPAC’s illegal dealings with the State of Israel.
Winning Zionist love in the short-term is far less important than losing the world’s respect in the long-run. Palestine should choose its friends with care: they cannot be faint-hearted nor can they claim to be Zionists as well as champions of peace, justice and human rights in Palestine.
Goldstone’s praise of Israel’s investigations seems a bit premature. Of the 52 criminal investigations Israel opened into incidents in Cast Lead, only three have led to indictments. Nearly 2½ years after the operation, we do not know the status of the remainder of the investigations. Furthermore, these investigations look at individual incidents and at the behavior of individual soldiers. There have been no investigations into the policy questions.
Of course, as Goldstone wrote Sunday, this is far more than Hamas has done to investigate its crimes. And that is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Goldstone’s opinion piece and the Israeli spin of it: the measuring of Israel against Hamas. Israel did not willfully target civilians; Hamas did. Israel initiated investigations; Hamas did not. When the bar is set so low, Israel easily clears it.
The Goldstone Report’s shortcomings contributed to a polarization that left little room to address the complexity of the issues involved. The Israeli army was either a gang of criminals or the most moral army in the world. Operation Cast Lead was either flawlessly executed or a crime against humanity. Goldstone’s op-ed presents an opportunity to break down these false dichotomies and generate a more nuanced understanding of the operation, both in the domestic Israeli discourse and among the international community.
It is therefore regrettable that the Israeli government and many in the media have portrayed Goldstone’s op-ed as a retraction of everything in the 575-page report. “The one point of light,” Gabriela Shalev, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, said of Goldstone’s op-ed, “is that if we have to defend ourselves against terror organizations again, we will be able to say there is no way to deal with this terror other than the same way we did in Cast Lead.”