Richard Goldstone: Chief Kangaroo

Ronald Radosh, commenting on Justice Goldstone’s bizarre “just kidding” op-ed in yesterday’s Washington Post about the eponymous Goldstone report on Israel’s conduct in Operation Cast Lead (despite the dateline, it’s not, near as I can tell, an April Fool’s joke):

In a stunning and unexpected turn of events, Judge Richard Goldstone has essentially reversed himself on the findings of the Goldstone Report. He does, of course, qualify his remarks to make it appear that he has not reversed himself. What he does, in effect, is to say that if only Israel had cooperated with his investigation from the start, he would not have reached the incorrect conclusions of the now famous and highly influential report. Israel, of course, had quite good reasons to distrust Goldstone, as his report did major damage. But one would rather have Judge Goldstone now blame Israel for his original damaging conclusions than to have him blame Israel for intentionally being the major human rights violator in the Middle East.

Now, Goldstone asserts, “We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding commission.” Poppycock! ….

He now argues, perhaps out of guilt or perhaps he decided his critics were correct, that “the purpose of the Goldstone Report was never to prove a foregone conclusion against Israel,” and that the original mandate of the UN Human Rights Council “was skewed against Israel.”

No foregone conclusion? Of the three other panelists besides Goldstone, one had already accused Israel of war crimes before the investigation and (verdict first, trial later), and another is so wildly anti-Israel that he holds an acknowledged grudge against Israel for purportedly murdering Irish U.N. peacekeepers (an event that never happened), and who also disclaimed his willingness to give any credence to photographic evidence of Hamas crimes presented by Israel. Goldstone himself was serving at the time as a board member of Human Rights Watch, which has hardly shown itself to be a neutral observer of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And indeed, NGO Monitor has shown that big chunks of the Report’s accusations were lifted from unsubstantiated HRW material.

Goldstone apparently is starting to regret his role in the whole fiasco, and it’s certainly amusing to read various anti-Israel blogs that formerly lauded Goldstone as a hero for speaking truth to power now worrying about the “damage” he is doing to their cause. The key lines in his op-ed: while “the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional,” “civilians were not intentionally targeted [by Israel] as a matter of policy.”

But Goldstone agreed to lead a kangaroo court appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council, which includes such human rights stalwarts as China, Cuba, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Penance is always welcome, but Goldstone will go down in history as the head kangaroo.

UPDATE: David Schraub comments:

My line on Goldstone had always been that the problems in his report were structural, not the result of a malignant heart. It was Goldstone’s determination to play a straight hand in a marked deck that was his undoing. Judge Goldstone was trying his level best, but there was no way to have a full and fair investigation — no matter how diligent one is at crossing t’s and dotting i’s — when the propagating party is the UNHRC and the investigation occurs within a context (the international legal community) that is shot through with bias and prejudice. There seems to be some belated realization by Judge Goldstone that this is true, but I fear it is for naught. Like his original report, his mea culpa is too legalistic to have much of an impact — it is, shall we say, unlikely that the UN will accede to PM Netanyahu’s demand that the original report be retracted in the wake of Judge Goldstone’s recantation. We are, and always were, in the realm of politics, not law. Judge Goldstone tried as hard as he could to imagine that was not so, but there is no way to extract oneself in cases such as this. His colleagues in the system understood the game, and he got rolled.

I think, additionally, that Goldstone took Israel’s refusal to participate in this “game” as a personal affront, rather than causing him, as he should have, to question the whole enterprise.