OpinionIsrael at War

The ghost of the Goldstone Report

People still remember the Goldstone Report. The Goldstone Recantation never caught on.

Richard Goldstone, pictured at left, during a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council in September 2009. Credit: U.N. Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré.
Richard Goldstone, pictured at left, during a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council in September 2009. Credit: U.N. Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré.
Thane Rosenbaum. Credit: Courtesy.
Thane Rosenbaum
Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, law professor and Distinguished University Professor at Touro University, where he directs the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. His most recent book is “Saving Free Speech ... From Itself.”

A United Nations fact-finding mission, charged with investigating Israel’s war against Hamas, concluded in a widely disseminated and exploited report that the Israel Defense Forces deliberately targets Palestinian civilians.

Not surprisingly, the report failed to condemn Hamas for sacrificing its own people as human shields or for indiscriminately launching rockets at Israeli civilian population centers—both indisputable war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law.

No, you didn’t miss the news about this report, although the feeling of deja vu is unavoidable. The investigation, known as the Goldstone Report, dates back to 2009, after an earlier war in which Israel was forced to enter the moral morass of Hamas’s war strategy, where there can be no victory without large numbers of dead Palestinians.

The U.N.’s Human Rights Council ordered the investigation and selected a former South African high court judge, and war crimes prosecutor, Richard Goldstone, to head the mission.

Goldstone is Jewish, which no doubt added moral weight to the report’s scandalous accusations against the Jewish state. Several years later, however, after analyzing Israel’s own exhaustive inquiry, Goldstone recanted the most damning factual conclusions about the IDF. He acknowledged that he may have rushed to judgment on the charge of targeting civilians. Perhaps it was a bad idea to rely on Hamas’s word, alone.

Of course, the damage had already been done. People still remember the Goldstone Report. The Goldstone Recantation never caught on.

Years later, when one of Goldstone’s grandchildren was having his bar mitzvah in Jerusalem, Goldstone was denied entry into the country—probably the only Jew for whom aliyah no longer applied.

I hope the same thing happens one day to Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer.

A tragic military mistake occurred last week when seven humanitarian aid workers were accidentally killed by Israeli airstrikes. Drone operatives believed that a three-car convoy was carrying a Hamas commander. No such high-value target was in any of the vehicles, regrettably.

Israel already has a major PR problem. These were American civilians with no terrorists in sight. The targets were not tunnels or command centers, either.

Feeling the political pressure, President Biden read the Riot Act to Prime Minister Netanyahu—specifically, be more precise in your targets, use the right weapons package, allow for more humanitarian aid, or we’ll stop rearming you.

Israel got the message, but it didn’t need the public scolding. Jews are usually hard enough on themselves. A quick internal investigation followed (a more complete one is underway). Both Israel’s prime minister and IDF chief of staff apologized and took full responsibility. Two senior IDF officers were dismissed; three others were reprimanded. Investigations will continue, and criminal charges might be pursued.

Meanwhile, over 100 hostages sit in Gaza without the protections guaranteed by the Geneva Convention. Has Hamas apologized for beheading Israeli infants and gang-raping teenagers? Have they ever investigated their own “military” conduct?

Forget remorse. How about rewards for barbarism? Palestinians who commit acts of terror receive lavish monthly stipends and a guaranteed government job if they are ever released from prison. Should they die a martyr, their parents receive death benefits for steering their children toward terrorism as a career path. Public parks and street signs are named in their memory.

Israel made a mistake and instantly acknowledged it and took legal and remedial steps. Extreme acts of violence by Islamists, however, are always excused. Nothing is ever asked of them. Talk about moral equivocation.

But let’s take a closer look at the accident. Three cars were driving through the most densely dangerous battlefield on Earth—at night! These aid workers were exceptionally brave, and most certainly not risk averse. Civilians die in war—not just locals, but humanitarian groups and media personnel. Gaza is no ordinary battlefield. It’s a minefield where no one is wearing a uniform and everyone is potentially carrying a weapon. In this instance, Israeli operatives, and their legal advisers, made the wrong call.

Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if a Goldstone Report sequel is already underway, or if its conclusions blame Israel entirely. For two millennia, blood libels provided an easy excuse to demonize, pillage and murder Jews. Passover is soon upon us. All over the world, antisemites once propagated the rumor that Jews kidnap and kill Christian children and use their blood as the special ingredient to make matzoh. (It doesn’t taste bad enough without the secret sauce?)

Those days of superstitious aspersions are long gone, but the latest blood libel against Jews centers on Israel’s army. Israelis kill Palestinian children. When not killing them, they deliberately stunt their growth. The IDF harvests their organs. You can actually find college professors who spew this nonsense.

Back in 2009, the world seethed at the disproportionate body count, otherwise known as collateral damage. Today “collateral damage” isn’t damning enough. The same casualties of war, now, are designated victims of “genocide.”

Israel is at war with Hamas. Hamas instigates these wars, and then wages them among its own people. In each of these encounters, the number of dead civilians is actually unknown. Gaza’s Health Ministry is notorious for inflating the overall numbers, and discounting the number of terrorists among the dead. To Hamas, everyone Israel kills is a civilian. We are taking the word of terrorists, not accountants, over that of our democratic ally.

To call this a genocide when the overall Palestinian population has more than doubled since 1967 is an insult to all peoples decimated by actual genocides. It is yet another blood libel against Jews.

And Biden is buying it—with consequences for Israel. Ayatollahs who just threatened the Jewish state are sitting pretty on their Persian rugs, knowing that Israel was browbeaten by its American patron.

Biden made an impossible war zone even more unmanageable by making demands of Israel it would never impose on itself. Israel is forced to justify every action. Compelled to place more of its own soldiers at risk. Told to ignore the principles of military necessity. These are the demands of an American president seeking to placate the Muslims of Michigan and Minnesota who might otherwise not vote for him.

No army—especially not one that goes to such great lengths to provide warnings, reveal targets and create humanitarian corridors—has ever been expected to endure this kind of armchair quarterbacking. This is not the same United States that on Oct. 8 blamed anticipated civilian casualties on Hamas and happily resupplied Israel’s military stockpile.

This is an America without moral clarity, interfering with the military judgment of generals who know the moral logic of the Middle East better than anyone. Most everyone agrees that the world is better off without Hamas. Step aside then, and allow Israel to finish the job.

Originally published by The Jewish Journal.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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