It’s something of a long month of climb-downs for Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the UN report that bears his name, accuses Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza, and has whipped up a frenzy of international coverage. First, Goldstone told the Forward on October 8 that “we had to do the best we could with the material we had. If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.” Moreover, he wouldn’t find it at all embarrassing if “many of the allegations turn out to be disproved,” a position that the Forward shows contradicts Goldstone’s earlier pronouncement in a New York Times editorial that “[r]epeatedly, the Israel Defense Forces failed to adequately distinguish between combatants and civilians, as the laws of war strictly require.”
There is also the matter of Goldstone’s flagging faith in the body that commissioned the report in the first place—the United National Human Rights Council, which in its decision to pass the report onto the General Assembly affirmed only those claims critical of Israel. The HRC’s language, Goldstone charges, did not reflect the even-handedness with which he indicted both sides in the war. The jurist told Agence France-Press, “There is not a single phrase condemning Hamas as we have done in the report.” Yes well, anyone familiar with the short but sordid history of the Human Rights Council—an organization that, with the encouragement of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, has called five out of ten special sessions to condemn Israel, yet none to call to account Sudan for the ongoing genocide in Darfur—might have anticipated.
The question now becomes this: If Goldstone wishes to portray his own report as a tentative first-draft study and not a thorough and responsible basis for legal action, and he wishes to distance himself from the organization that commissioned it—where does that leave the 575-page document responsible for so much mayhem and ill will around the world?