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Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Goldstone not the Gold Standard for Accuracy

After having led a UN panel that condemned Israel for targeting civilians during the Gaza war, South African former Justice Robert (?) Goldstone has recanted. But it is messy work trying to put this blood libel whine back in the decanter.

The UN report was what Apartheid era South African Justice was to actual justice: a political and immoral farce. The allegations, that now two years later Goldstone finds no longer credible, have done their damage. And the central charge is so important and, were it true, so reprehensible that to put it out even as unproven allegation is reckless and dangerous. But to have reported as true and to have given it the imprimatur of the UN is monstrous. Only now does Goldstone find that he didn't have any evidence--only after the libel.
Goldstone wrote in a Washington Post op-ed:
"I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence [provided by Israel] explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes."
The charge, the false charge that Israel intentionally targeted innocent civilians for killing and torture, was of course, damning. To intentionally target civilians is indeed a war crime and a crime against humanity. We know in wars that civilians are killed--and it is always a tragedy. The key is intention.
We Americans have been killing civilians at quite a rate in both Afghanistan and Iraq--along with our CIA in Pakistan. But we do not target them.(!) Yes, I know this distinction doesn't mean much to the dead, the wounded or their families, but there is, none-the-less, both a moral and legal distinction. I'm sure that the families of the two Americans killed by the friendly fire of a Hellfire Predator drone this week are in deep and terrible grief. Maybe we could and should have been more careful. Still, it must be clear through the tears that we did not murder or assassinate our own. We erred; we didn't as a matter of policy decide to kill them. And, as it turns out, neither did Israel intentionally target innocent civilians.
But Goldstone's report also contains other sloppy errors of both judgment and fact. My favorite piece of either willful ignorance or incompetence is this: "Israel's blockade of Gaza amounts to a violation of Israel's obligations as an Occupying Power under the Fourth Geneva Convention."
As for Israel's duty as an occupying nation...well, I truly don't understand the charge. The Gaza war, you may remember, took place after Israel abandoned its occupation and withdrew from all of Gaza. It took place after Israel tried to trade some land for peace and left Gaza, leaving greenhouses for the Palestinians to grow crops and houses for them to live in. Israel's gesture of good will and hope was met with a self-destructive paroxysm of destruction of the homes and greenhouses and then rocket attacks raining down on Israel.(JOEGAAI!)
Now Israel may be open to charges, as all warring parties are, of not taking enough care, of not making extra extra sure not to harm civilians even when Hamas intentionally placed rockets and bomb factories in residential neighborhood. Any warring party is open to charges of some negligence, but this is a moral universe away from intentionally targeting civilians.
Then there was Goldstone's charge that Israel used human shields. Please just try to picture this as a matter of policy and not happenstance. Yes, I'm sure that some soldier being fired upon could try to hide among civilians--even forcibly restrain a civilian for protection. Given the Palestinian history of self-slaughter, this could hardly be an intentional policy. It just would not be effective--however moral or legal it might or might not be.
You have to ask about all of these allegations, that Goldstone once promulgated as facts, who do we know who clearly and regularly actually does all of these terrible acts? Well, the Palestinians of Gaza. The have fired hundred of Katusha rockets at Israeli towns in Israel--not the West Bank. They have regularly as policy used civilians as shields by putting their rockets in residential areas. Only last week they fired a rocket propelled grenade at a school bus. Where is the outrage, I wonder? Where is Justice(sic.)(sic) Goldstone?
Goldstone's actions symbolize the issue. As his report alleges intentional acts of wanton destruction, many defenders of Israel see his actions as wanton and beyond careless; they see him as being intentionally destructive of the Jewish state. Now Goldstone sees Israel's acts as careless but not intentional. What am I to believe about Goldstone? Was he intentionally libeling Israel/South Africa or is he simply incompetent and reckless?
©2011 Jonathan Dobrer

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