BY JONATHAN TOBIN, COMMENTARY MAG—
In what must be considered as shocking a turnaround as any we have seen in recent years, Richard Goldstone, the chair of the United Nations Human Rights Commission’s fact-finding commission about the conflict in Gaza, has retracted his claim that Israel deliberately sought to target and kill Palestinian civilians.
A product of the Human Rights Council, an organization that is singularly dedicated to besmirching and attacking Israel while ignoring serious crimes elsewhere (including those committed by the nations that makes up its membership), the Goldstone Report was widely criticized for its one-sided nature and the inaccuracy of its claims. But with Goldstone, who is a prominent South African Jew, as its front man, the report became the centerpiece of a new round of efforts aimed at both delegitimizing the Jewish state and its right of self-defense. His claims were taken up by anti-Zionists across the globe and in particular by those American left-wingers such as the J Street lobby and Michael Lerner’s Tikkun, which have both sought to establish themselves as Jewish critics of both Israel and its defenders in this country.
But in an op-ed penned by Goldstone that was first published by the Washington Post on Friday night, the former judge admitted that his report was wrong. He said that Israel’s efforts to follow up on every accusation of illegal conduct of its forces proved that there was no deliberate effort aimed at civilians. By contrast, Israel’s Hamas foes have made no effort to investigate the credible accusations of war crimes that have been leveled at the terrorist group for both deliberately targeting Israeli civilians and their practice of using non-combatants as human shields. He also admitted that the number of Palestinian civilian casualties reported by Israel – which was far below the inflated numbers claimed by so-called human rights groups — was accurate. As it turns out the vast majority of Palestinians who died in the fighting were Hamas fighters, not civilians as his report had charged.
“If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document,” wrote the document’s author.
Goldstone said that a subsequent investigation by a UN committee of independent experts—chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis—that followed his report’s recommendations and noted Israel’s investigations and their results as well as Hamas’s lack of accountability. Apparently it was the release of this report that convinced Goldstone to recant.
Goldstone’s recantation should, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Saturday night, cause the Goldstone report to be discarded as the one-sided and inaccurate compilation of unfair and unsubstantiated charges that it has always been.
But the follow-up to Goldstone’s statement must not be limited to either its now somewhat penitent author or the vicious UN agency that promoted his flawed document. The Goldstone report was a pivotal moment in the growing effort to wrongly delegitimize Israel. What we must now hear are similar apologies from all those groups and individuals, from Human Rights Watch to J Street to mainstream bloggers like Andrew Sullivan and minor Palestinian mouthpieces like Hussein Ibish, that either defended Goldstone’s false allegations or sought to aid efforts to promote his scandalous charges. There must be an accounting from all of Goldstone’s previous champions. Like Goldstone’s report, their credibility on this issue is finished.