A Forward investigation suggests maybe so:
When Richard Goldstone returned home to South Africa last May for his grandson’s bar mitzvah — an event that he was almost unable to paticipate in because of protests planned against him — he also attended a separate meeting whose details were kept secret until now.
In the wake of Goldstone’s bombshell retraction of a key finding in the famous report that bears his name, those present at that meeting, individuals who have known him through the years, felt moved to disclose what happened. They joined many others in puzzling over what had prompted the famous jurist to change his mind — and, they hoped, Israel’s fate.
The meeting, an official parlay between Goldstone and top officials of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, had an impact on Goldstone like nothing they had ever seen before, the participants said.
“Debating face to face with the community really shook him,” recalled David Saks, one of 10 senior board officals who attended. “When he saw the extent of the anger and he couldn’t answer the accusations against him… I think he realized he was wrong.”
Since April 2, friends, acquaintances and many people who have never met the man have been debating what motivated Goldstone to declare in a Washington Post opinion piece that he no longer believed that Israel had a policy of targeting Palestinian civilians during its military incursion into Gaza in 2008–2009. It has been two-and-a-half years since the United Nations committee he chaired issued the report that contained this allegation as one of its key findings. Why now?
Observers point to several possible turning points in Goldstone’s view, including the South Africa meeting. Some who have been following Goldstone say a public debate he had at Stanford University in March also seemed to have an impact.…
Goldstone declined a request to be interviewed for this article. But speculation now by others about Goldstone’s personal change of mind ranges from the psychological to the view that Goldstone’s Washington Post claim should be taken simply at face value: that recent information the Israel Defense Forces has brought to light through its own investigations compels a different view.
Some see a combination of both. Avrom Krengel, chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, who aggressively critiqued Goldstone’s report at the meeting with him last May, said: “It’s interesting with Goldstone. He’s not an assimilated Jew. He very much regards himself as, and wants to be, part of the community. That always came into play. He’s not a Finkelstein or Chomsky.”
Krengel’s reference was to the American public intellectuals Norman Finkelstein and linguist Noam Chomsky, who, he claimed, invoke their Jewishness “in order to use it as a weapon of credibility, to criticize and attack Israel.”