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Does a the New "Goldstone Report" Stand to Reconfigure the U.S.'s Israel Policy?

Does Obama want to build on the good work he started in Turkey and Egypt and send a signal to Israel? Or is he prepared to let unprincipled lobbyists hijack his foreign policy?

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Targeting Goldstone

Almost as bad as a veto in the Security Council for Obama's reputation and his broader diplomacy would be any visible pressure at the Human Rights Council to thwart the recommendations. At the very least the administration could defend Goldstone against the fervent witch-hunt now being mounted by a government that refused to cooperate with the inquiry and yet assured him that this refusal should not "in anyway be taken as an aspersion on your integrity or commitment to impartiality."

While Goldstone is indeed a revered jurist, a human rights stalwart from South Africa, a staunchly independent member of Paul Volcker's Oil For Food Inquiry, and a longstanding prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, such a disclaimer from the Israeli government is unusual. But of course there are reasons. Goldstone is Jewish and Zionist. He is chair of Friends of the Hebrew University, president emeritus of the World ORT Jewish school system, and has a devoted Zionist Hebrew-speaking daughter who made aliyah to Israel.

Yet, critics have derided his report as "one-sided" and, even more hilariously, "anti-Semitic." Apparently, even if he came to the conclusion that Hamas' activities bore examination as well, he didn't give as many pages to the evidence against them as he did to allegations against Israel.

Anyone who has ever met Goldstone, or had dealings with him, knows him to be a person of deep integrity, as the Israeli government had previously affirmed, firmly committed to human rights and very sensitive to suggestions of bias. He must have really screwed his courage to the sticking place to take this position, and on all evidence of his past career, weighed every word very carefully.

He deserves support from anyone who has called for justice in Rwanda, in the Balkans, in Cambodia or in Darfur. He deserves support from all those who pursue universal jurisdiction against Nazi war criminals.

Obama's Call

The administration would do well to note what Goldstone said in his op-ed in The New York Times. "Pursuing justice in this case is essential because no state or armed group should be above the law. Western governments in particular face a challenge because they have pushed for accountability in places like Darfur, but now must do the same with Israel, an ally and a democratic state. Failing to pursue justice for serious violations during the fighting will have a deeply corrosive effect on international justice, and reveal an unacceptable hypocrisy."

It is up to Obama. Does he want to build on the good work he started in Turkey and Egypt and send a signal to Netanyahu and the Israeli electorate? Or is he prepared to let the ethical dimension of his entire foreign policy be hijacked by unprincipled but powerful lobbyists?

"So why did the Israeli government boycott the commission?" Israeli dissident Uri Avnery has asked. "The real answer is quite simple: they knew full well that the commission, any commission, would have to reach the conclusions it did reach." And any adamantine refusal by Israel to carry out the impartial investigation that Goldstone called for, and any administration support for that refusal, would carry the same implication across the world.

Ian Williams writes on the United Nations for AlterNet. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus, the Nation and Salon. He is also the author of Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776 .

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