The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict
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The following is an essay excerpted from The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict, edited by Adam Horowitz, Lizzy Ratner, and Philip Weiss (Nation Books, 2011)
Discrediting Goldstone, Delegitimizing Israel
At its heart, the controversy over Judge Richard Goldstone’s “Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict” is not about Goldstone. It’s about Israel.
Goldstone and his fellow commission members are human, and therefore fallible, and there may well be legitimate grounds for criticizing some specific aspects of the report. Indeed, an expert panel of distinguished international lawyers who convened at Chatham House, the British think tank, to assess procedural criticisms of the Goldstone Mission identified aspects of the report that contributed to perceptions of bias. Nevertheless, they concluded that “the Report was very far from being invalidated by the criticisms. The Report raised extremely serious issues which had to be addressed. It contained compelling evidence on some incidents.”
One need not be an expert, but only possess a decent respect for human life, to conclude that any military operation in which the kill ratio is over 100 Palestinians — mostly civilians — to 1 Israeli soldier requires an immediate, honest, and open investigation to determine the reasons for such vast and tragic a disparity.
That Israel’s government did not launch such an investigation on its own is a profoundly saddening indication of its growing indifference to the lives of Palestinian civilians. It constitutes an abandonment of the humanism that was so essential a feature of early Zionism and a betrayal of the most fundamental principles of Judaism. Israel’s government demands that its neighbors formally recognize the legitimacy of the state’s Jewish identity. But nothing threatens to bring the legitimacy of that identity into greater question than the State of Israel’s own behavior—i.e., its seeming indifference to the possibility of the loss of innocent life on so vast a scale as occurred in Operation Cast Lead.
According to the prophets of Israel—invoked in Israel’s Declaration of Independence as defining the identity and purposes of the Jewish state—the legitimacy of Jewish existence in Palestine is determined by its adherence to the demands of justice. Isaiah declared God’s disdainful rejection of the Israelites’ religious observances and, indeed, their very presence in the land if they desecrate its holiness by rampant injustice and oppression. That Hamas, which for years had its suicide bombers target innocent Israeli citizens, has a worse record than Israel is hardly a source of comfort for those who saw the rebirth of Jewish independence as signifying something more than the success of one more nationalist enterprise.
Particularly ugly are efforts by Israel’s government to discredit Goldstone personally because of his role as a justice in South Africa’s Apartheid government. That role may be one for which Goldstone deserves to be criticized. But Goldstone’s past failings tell us nothing about the integrity of his report twenty years later, following his distinguished and widely respected contributions as an international jurist — not to speak of the role he played, at President Mandela’s request, in helping guide the transition of South Africa’s courts from Apartheid to the rule of law in a democratic society.
And if, as oddly suggested by some members of Netanyahu’s government whose own political views are decidedly neo-fascist, Goldstone’s role in South Africa’s Apartheid government compromised his legitimacy, what legitimacy is left for the State of Israel, which secretly collaborated with that Apartheid government in the 1970s and ‘80s, supplying it with arms and partnering with it in the development of nuclear technology?