Who ‘screwed up’?
Did Richard Goldstone, the architect of the 2009 United Nations report that suggested Israel committed war crimes, “screw up,” as at least one columnist has written?
Those words were written by David Suissa, founder of OLAM magazine, in an April 4 column published by the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. Suissa also suggested that Goldstone still has penance to perform (“Kol Nidre is still six months away, but you don’t have to wait that long.”) and that he can never repair the damage to Israel even if he visits every newspaper, television station, network and blogger to preach his new message.
OK, let’s examine this. Did Goldstone screw up?
Well, in light of his April 2 Op-Ed in The Washington Post, yes.
In case you haven’t heard, Goldstone’s Post column disavowed the key finding of his infamous report: that Israel had committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity during the 2009 Gaza war, also known as Operation Cast Lead.
He noted a more recent U.N. study that concluded Israel made a considerable effort to investigate 400-plus allegations of misconduct, while Hamas, which Goldstone also found culpable, had made no effort at all.
Nevertheless, the 2009 finding has been a potent weapon for anti-Israel forces seeking to delegitimize the Jewish state. Even President Shimon Peres, one of the most moderate voices in Israeli politics, labeled the Goldstone Report “a blood libel.”
So, yes, Goldstone screwed up.
But he’s not the only one.
Goldstone said the findings of his report might have been very different had the Israeli government cooperated with his fact-finding mission. It never did.
At first blush, one can understand why. Goldstone was investigating for the U.N. Human Rights Council, a panel that has been historically hostile to Israel.
But this was Goldstone leading the inquiry, a Jewish, pro-Israel South African judge with impeccable credentials, a man who insisted that the mission focus equally on Hamas, not just the Jewish state.
If Israel was ever to get a fair shake before this committee, this was the time. Sometimes, a state’s leaders have to take a chance.
So the Israeli government screwed up, too.
And who else? Well, we did — the media, the readers, public figures whom we regularly quote.
We treated Goldstone like a pariah. Efforts were made to ostracize him, demonize him. In his native South Africa Jewish leaders actually tried to stop him from attending his grandson’s bar mitzva — inexcusable.
In this country, high-profile Jews excoriated the man. Alan Dershowitz called Goldstone a “traitor” and an “evil man” — way over the top.
In addition, Goldstone has received several threats, forcing him to change his telephone number and e-mail address. Is such behavior in keeping with Jewish values?
And when Rabbi Michael Lerner announced that his organization, Tikkun, would present its 25th annual ethics award to Goldstone, his house in northern California was vandalized.
Even now, some media sources are suggesting Goldstone is changing his position in a desperate attempt to salvage his reputation.
It just doesn’t end.
Certainly, not all Jewish leaders sank so low. Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called on Goldstone in a 2009 open letter to repudiate the very report that bears his name. In the same letter, though, he wrote, “I have had great respect for you over the years. Your work at the head of the South Africa Reconciliation Commission and in helping to find a just solution to the Bosnian conflict deserves the highest commendation. Moreover, I know you to be a proud Jew who serves on the Board of Trustees of Hebrew University and who has a daughter living in Israel.”
Yes, Goldstone’s screw-up wasn’t the only one.
The question — really, the only question that matters — is have any of us learned from our screw-ups?