Sunday, April 3, 2011

Has Goldstone done teshuva? Dershowitz, Yishai say so

On Friday, Richard Goldstone published a retraction (see below) of the infamously anti-Israel Goldstone report, stating that "if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document." Goldstone highlights the fact that while Israel has investigated hundreds of cases of potential misconduct from the Gaza war, Hamas has done nothing. Also, Goldstone established once and for all which side is truly liable for crimes against humanity: Goldstone states that Israel's post-war investigations "indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy." On the other hand, when it comes to Hamas, Goldstone states that it "goes without saying" that Hamas launches rockets indiscriminately on civilian targets.

Goldstone's retraction was published after Interior Minister Eli Yishai wrote a letter to the South African judge last week, blaming the Goldstone report for providing conscienceless killers the legitimacy to murder innocent children, and demanding Goldstone condemn the incessant rocket fire from Gaza. In his Friday retraction, Goldstone calls on the UN to condemn Hamas rocket fire on Israel and the Fogel family murder in the strongest terms (in case any "vanguards of human rights" were still on the fence about that one).

And so, how shall we accept Goldstone's double-take? Some are saying he indeed has done teshuva. Eli Yishai personally wrote Goldstone back, surprised by the latter's willingness to admit error (my translation): "Your words today surprised me as well, and indicate your ability to come out with courage and admit your error, and for this you deserve appreciation. The Jewish tradition places a special value on those who acknowledge their mistakes." Meanwhile, Alan Dershowitz called the retraction a "good start", and added that "Jews must always accept those who repent back into the fold and this is the case here."

The Goldstone report has been the #1 weapon used against Israel since the end of Cast Lead, and any retraction from it and towards the truth is honorable. Still, I'm waiting for the day that Goldstone, overwhelmed by the moral clarity of the complex situation he continues to piece together, will write letters to all MKs begging Israel to do a favor for all of humanity, and finish the job.

In the meantime, Goldstone's retraction is big and should be widely circulated. The reason teshuva is such a powerful concept is that to err and then to correct oneself brings even more glory to the side on which truth and justice lie. Hopefully Goldstone's reassessment will ripple throughout the international community and inspire others to clean their glasses and hone in on humanity's true foe.

Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes
By Richard Goldstone, The Washington Post, Friday, April 1
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 mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.

The final report by the U.N. committee of independent experts — chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis — that followed up on the recommendations of the Goldstone Report has found that “Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza” while “the de facto authorities (i.e., Hamas) have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.”

Our report found evidence of potential war crimes and “possibly crimes against humanity” by both Israel and Hamas. That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying — its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.

The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.

...Indeed, our main recommendation was for each party to investigate, transparently and in good faith, the incidents referred to in our report. McGowan Davis has found that Israel has done this to a significant degree; Hamas has done nothing. Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.

In the end, asking Hamas to investigate may have been a mistaken enterprise. So, too, the Human Rights Council should condemn the inexcusable and cold-blooded recent slaughter of a young Israeli couple and three of their small children in their beds.

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