Goldstone recants — but does it matter?

Everyone has by now heard that Richard Goldstone has made a remarkable statement: that the conclusion of his eponymous report was wrong. In these words, he repudiates the primary blood libel of the report, that the intent of the IDF in Gaza was to punish Palestinian civilians for their support of Hamas:

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.

Much of what he writes is self-serving, and some of it astonishing, such as his hope that “in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks.” And many have asked why he did not know then what he knows now.

But the question now is not ‘whither the soul of Judge Goldstone’, rather whether his recanting will matter in any practical sense. The Goldstone report, adopted as a UN document, has been used as ‘evidence’ for filing war crimes complaints against Israeli soldiers and politicians in various places under the principle of ‘universal jurisdiction’. It will certainly be called upon as a justification to demand that Israel withdraw, if — as will certainly be the case — there is another Gaza war.

Hamas understands:

In a statement Sunday, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri questioned Goldstone’s regret over the report, and noted that Israel refused to cooperate with the UN investigators “while in Gaza they were welcomed and their work was facilitated.”

The Hamas official also noted that Goldstone did not have sole authority over the report, which was an international document and not his “private production.”

Abu Zuhri added: “The report is not the private property of Goldstone, as it was co-authored by him and a group of international judges.

“Furthermore, the report was based on documents and testimonies giving it credibility and strength.” — Ma’an News

In reality, the ‘documents and testimonies’ were fabricated and false, the ‘international judges’ biased. But can we expect the UN to turn around and say “oops, sorry, now it’s null and void?” Why should they? Goldstone, after all, merely lent his good Jewish name to the document which was pasted together from hostile NGO reports. So what if he takes it back?

Nothing is likely to change in the court of public opinion either. With very few exceptions the IDF’s behavior in Gaza was exactly opposite to that portrayed in the report, with the army taking every possible step to prevent civilian casualties. These facts were made evident (video), and were found unpersuasive by media predisposed against Israel. Goldstone’s remarks today are unlikely to change the perception that what happened in Gaza was a brutal massacre.

PM Netanyahu, nevertheless, is both demanding an official ‘cancellation’ of the report and planning a public-relations effort to undo the damage:

There are very few instances in which those who disseminate libels retract their libel. This happened in the case of the Goldstone Report. Goldstone himself said that all of the things that we have been saying all along are correct – that Israel never intentionally fired at civilians and that our inquiries operated according to the highest international standards. Of course, this is in complete contrast to Hamas, which intentionally attacked and murdered civilians and, naturally, never carried out any sort of inquiry. This leads us to call for the immediate cancellation of the Goldstone Report.

I have asked … to formulate practical and public diplomacy measures, in order to reverse and minimize the great damage that has been done by this campaign of denigration against the State of Israel. I expect their recommendations in the coming days. We will act on the public diplomacy front, and on other fronts, with the international community and the UN in order to demand the justice that is due to Israel. — Israel Prime Minister’s Office

Strong words, but unlikely to make a difference. The damage has been done. Goldstone himself will now be cast aside — he’s already being attacked — thus showing that at the end of the day, nobody likes a traitor.

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