Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Goldstone retracts criminal accusations against Israel

Goldstone has basically retracted the criminal accusations against Israel in the report bearing his name. If he feels an apology or justification is an order, this is better than nothing. Nonetheless, the accusations of war crimes have already done their damage. In order to achieve the desired effects, the accusations don't need to hold up in an actual court--which Goldstone did clarify his commission was not (rather a "fact-finding" endeavor).  That is the nature of these things. The dirt remains on your face. Accusations stain your reputation whether they are substantiated ultimately or not.

For example, here's how the State Dept's reaction to the op-ed was summarized in the news: "Goldstone affirms US position Israel did not commit war crimes in Gaza."

Certainly, this will not persuade anyone deeply committed to the idea that Israel is a brutal, inhumane people, to whom all Palestinian suffering is to be attributed.  Their judgment of Operation Cast Lead was always based on their opinion of Israel's character more than anything else. What seems most offensive to this crowd is Goldstone's implication that Israeli internal investigations were credible--that such a people could possibly be trusted to scrutinize their own actions and characters. And we are asked believe that a group calling itself the Independent Committee of Experts is more authoritative than the Israel government, because, well, they are called the Independent Committee of Experts.

Others insist that Israel is still terrible and should feel terrible because civilians were killed in the attacks against Hamas. It is an uncomfortable fact that decent nations must sometimes use violence and other forms of coercion to defend themselves, at least in the world we live in.  No amount of lashing out at the bearer of this painful lesson will change that fact. It may well make things worse. Warfare always carries the prospect of the wrong people getting killed. Hamas knows this quite well, and exploits it, with the deserved confidence that important figures abroad will blame Israel and not them.

While it won't circulate and gain traction with nearly among nearly as many as the original report, hopefully there will be some well-meaning but naive internationalists who will be a little more skeptical in the future when there is a fervor to assume the worst of Israeli soldiers (because we all know they are like that) and declare a multilateral commission to bring 'em to justice.

Jon Haber explains the tragic naivete of Goldstone in the face of the task he was invited to take up with the UNHRC.

Here's one rather humorous interpretation of the letter, mocking Goldstone for explaining that he sincerely thought Hamas would investigate its own actions during Cast Lead

Some have also suggested it was absurd to expect the Cookie Monster, a being that has a policy to eat cookies, to investigate what we said were serious crimes against cookies. In the end, asking Cookie Monster to investigate may have been a mistaken enterprise.