Judge Goldstone

Yesterday, the author of the “Goldstone Report”, qualified his opinion in the original report that ostensibly accused Israel of “war crimes” in 2009.


The original report severely criticized Israel’s policy formation process, determination of operational scale of Operation Cast Lead, guidelines to field officers and squad leaders, the choice and manner of airstrike targets, and the conduct of soldiers on the ground. The report also severely criticized Hamas, although the scope of damage caused by their actions was much much smaller.

Yesterday’s qualification recanted the original report’s criticism of most operational conduct of the Israel Defense Forces. Based on apparent observation of subsequent evidence, Goldstone clarified that the report would not have been written in the manner it was had the evidence been available. (Israel restricted his access to physical and internal evidence on the basis that they asserted that the UN Human Rights Council was biased).

In the op-ed, he did not make any comments on the wisdom or efficacy of Israel’s policy relative to Gaza and Hamas, and one can assume remains critical.

The political impact of the op-ed is monumentous. His credentials and identity provided a great deal of credibility to the assertions of Israeli war crimes, and gave a lot of fuel to those dissenters that conclude that Israel’s policies should not be reformed, but that Israel should be punished, or further, that Israel’s legitimacy as a state is in question.

In particular, the op-ed described Israel as responsibly conducting its own investigations, incorporating the observations and recommendations of the Goldstone Report into its rules of engagement, and in effect undertaking reforms as a legitimate state seeking to conform to international law would do.

The accusation that Israel is a “rogue nation”, ostensibly nazi-like, sadistic, was countered.

That change in tone from definition as pariah state to responsible state is profound.

There is a danger that that will go to its head, that being “vindicated”, investigations in process will be forgotten, that reforms in training, definition of rules of engagement, review of policies, will be forgotten. That, the necessity to pursue peace in earnest will be forgotten.

The Palestinian solidarity movement is angry, angry at Goldstone for his “disloyalty”, angry at liberals that propose reform (an action) rather than condemnation (name-calling), angry at the world for the loss of a tool to affect change for the status of Palestinians.

My dissenting position on Israel/Palestine is that name-calling is ONLY useful for the subsequent effort at reform. I am very happy that Goldstone definitively clarified his opinion. It compels a shift in the dissenting community from vain name-calling to actual responsible action that could result in peace.

Many have speculated on why Goldstone chose to write the op-ed. Some declared that he was coerced. Others declared that it is because ‘He is Jewish, and they will always pick loyalty to justice’ (Yes, that level of anti-semitism is common in leftist and solidarity discource).

I speculate that a portion of his motivation is to preserve the possibility of peace through a two-state approach, that he observed that that desired effort was straining, and largely because the demonization of Israel was acceptable among dissenters, and that his report comprised a validating component of that demonization.

The fundamental moral question to him is “Do you really believe that Israel has undertaken sincere reforms?” If his answer is a sincere yes, then to choose to convey that publicly with the eye to eliminating a distraction from the effort for peace, is a rational moral conviction.

If he didn’t believe that Israel had undertaken sincere reforms, then his motivations may be questioned.

In vehemently partisan politics, nuanced truth does not last. The complexities of tensions of reconciling conflicting or qualified truths don’t stand.

I use the metaphor of a continental divide. The rain may fall in the Rockies, but the water eventually ends 1000 miles to the east in the Mississippi River watershed or 1000 miles to the west in the Pacific drainages.

It doesn’t stay at nuanced truth.

So, Netanyahu and Avigdor Leiberman are describing the op-ed as summary vindication. While the Palestinian solidarity movement is positioning to violently discredit Goldstone as political panderer. It is similar to the change in tone towards the work of Benny Morris, who was a hero of the left when he aired Zionist dirty laundry in the early – mid 80’s, but then qualified his criticisms.

Continental divides are not what we need now.

An after the fact note. I am actually worried that Goldstone was coerced in some direct way to write the op-ed and in the manner that he did. I believe that it is possible that his family was threatened, but that is a speculation.

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22 Responses to Judge Goldstone

  1. fuster says:

    Richard, the report is a mess in some ways, but Judge Goldstone’s re-evaluation does not change everything about what happened in the ground war.
    Pointing out that Israel is investigating, somewhat glacially, extremely questionable decisions and actions is not tantamount to a statement that Israel is now blameless for them or an affirmation that they never occurred or were never intended to have occurred.

    Do the arithmetic, Richard. Use the IDF figures. Count the number of Palestinians killed in the operation. Subtract the number killed in the aerial bombardment prior to the ground invasion.
    Then look at the remainder and note the proportion of combatants and non-combatants killed by IDF fire.

    It’s very wrong and indicative of an operation conducted with a high priority placed on avioding IDF casualties, and killing enemy combatants with a lower priority on securing the general population.

    This really was an operation intended to demonstrate that Israel would not accept Hamas’ criminal targeting of Israeli civilians without replying in kind.

    What happened to civilians in Gaza was not accidental. The IDF was tasked with demonstrating to Hamas and the people of Gaza that the specious claim that the “right of resistance” excuses criminality would be answered with criminality in kind.

  2. There is no question that Israel was very destructive in the effort.

    The important assertion that the left makes is that Cast Lead was not a war, but only intentional, only a war crime.

    The Goldstone op-ed at least casts doubt on that qualitative distinction. It is an entirely different beast to have negligent individual officers than to have a sadistic state.

    It is a naive and gullible fantasy to assume that Hamas and particularly their Al Qassam Brigades have no material responsibility for Cast Lead itself and for the extent of it. It was their statements that compelled the IDF to undertake a maximalist scale military effort (to safely fight against guerilla movement). Even if their military intelligence was aware of the Al Qassam Brigades’ puffing, the Israeli electorate no longer tolerates wasted IDF kids lives, and ALL IDF military actions are therefore now more careful (as in not putting their soldiers in harms way).

    To respond, “well, then they should just negotiate honestly with Hamas” is an ignorant statement. Hamas is a uniquely opportunist organization.

  3. fuster says:

    and my position is that Cast Lead was an intentionally dirty part of a dirty war. The negligence ascribed to field officers was not entirely aberrant, Richard, just as it wasn’t sadism. It was, at bottom, a deliberate decision to fight dirty (or “imprecisely”) for dirty.

    • It was definitely a war. Israel has no remaining tolerance for shelling civilians, which Hamas continues even in the first day that Hamas offered via channels, and Israel accepted via channels a cease-fire.

  4. fuster says:

    Richard, Israel indeed has “tolerance for shelling civilians” and engages in the practice fairly regularly.

    Try not to provide a mirror-image of your friend Philip’s other friends.
    Allow yourself to understand that both sides are up to their necks in criminality and immorality.
    Hamas is a vile organization and countering them has (cast) lead to some vile actions from the Israelis.

    • I’m looking for paths to reconciliation and reform, and I only see them blocked.

      And, I primarily see them blocked by those with “backbone” to get more militant. The discussions on Goldstone have soured my view of dissent, even moreso than my formerly hopeful regard for compassion as the primary motivation.

      I look at the language that Phil Weiss, Adam Horowitz, other published commenters at Mondoweiss used to describe Goldstone, and I was appalled.

      The same person that they literally used for credibility for their theses, they trashed abusively when he mentioned once that he had rethought some of his original conclusions.

      I didn’t hear a word of respect for the man, and no indication of respect for his thinking.

  5. fuster says:

    Richard, MondoWeiss is a vast disappointment. It’s a site that should be of great value, but it’s ultimately sterile. This is no respect for people or for ideas that challenge the LCD “anti-Zionism” of the commenters and whatever person or persons that control the content of the site.

    I have some small hope that the seething sophomoric anger, intolerance for dissent and absolute failure to enforce the posted policy against personal attacks can not fully be laid at the feet of Philip Weiss.

    As much as I disagree with some of his writings, I’ve not gotten the sense that he exudes the malignity and small-mindedness that pervades the blog’s commentary.

    I don’t know if you and Weiss are still friends Richard, but, if you are, I might suggest that you write to him and suggest that he take the time to review the comments.

    The ugliness of the personal attacks allowed against yourself and the few other non-anti-Zionists, combined with the fact that the moderation zealously removes comments that reply in kind to the aggressors, is disgraceful.

    Just a suggestion, but I mention it because it’s a part of what you’ve noticed about the absurd personal disrespect brought to bear against Goldstone. He was a hero when he was castigating the Israelis, and suddenly he was a bum .
    That’s the pattern on MondoWeiss. There’s an utter lack of humanity and respect for human complexity. People have no real value except as they serve some two-dimensional conception of what’s acceptable.

    • CK MacLeod says:

      well-said, fuster – but you left out the anti-semitic garbage so frequently dumped on the discussion, sometimes under the guise of de-mystifying or compensating for mainstream philo-Zionist narratives, sometimes not really under any guise at all.

  6. Gay State Girl says:

    I’m glad you started your own blog, I have enjoyed your comments for quite some time now. I actually like to read Mondoweiss. It does attract its share of interesting characters and from them I’ve gained a deeper appreciation and respect for my Orthodox background, which I could not have found anywhere else. On behalf of my dad, I credit Phil for being the first person who made the idea of marrying another jew desirable for me-when I think of future marriage prospects I can’t decide who I want to P’O more-Phil or my dad 🙂

    On a more serious note, Mondoweiss was destined to fail. Apart from his colorful commenters, Phil embraced “the Palestinian cause” with heavy emotional bagage, his own set of issues. He clearly has ulterior motives and has his own set agenda for American jews particularly those of my generation. I don’t understand his beef with the jewish day school movement or his fascination with intermarriage and was quite disappointed when he gloated when the day school movement lost hundreds of million with Madoff or when he celebrates the intermarriages of prominent jews who he has never met. He does make a lot of blanket generalizations particularly about jews of my generation, which he should steer clear of completely and focus on prominent Jewish Baby Boomers or those of previous generations. I am quite pleased you asked him that question on his biases against jews who self identify and practice openly and hope that he has the decency to not skirt your questions.

  7. Gabriel says:

    Richard, thank you for starting this blog. I often would cringe while reading the comment section on Mondo only to see your attempt at level-headed discourse be relegated to the rantings of a ‘zionazi’. Phil also seems to have a beef with any successful Jew in the west. I don’t know the emotional or personal story behind his political awakenings and to be quite honest I don’t really give a damn. Hopefully this blog gets updated more.

    Thank you.

    • Gay State Girl says:

      If it’s any consolidation to you, I don’t think most of his commenters behave that way in real life. Most of them are just resentful with US support for Israel and all that comes with it, and rightly so. Mondoweiss has become a safe haven for attitudes that would not be accepted in the outside world. I can understand their mentality even if I don’t like it. Some are justified in their attitudes. For example, commenter Citizen married a jewish woman and his jewish inlaws treated him very badly. But I find it amusing that their disillusionment would lead them to embrace “the Palestinian cause” as many are paleoconvservatives. While I have no problem with those who advocate for basic human rigghts and self determination, I think the Palerstinian entails much more. Leftists are quick to embrace the Palestinian cause over others because Zionism is an example of a European group colonizing a darker group. I also believe Arabs and Muslims both in the Muslim world and in the West are using their newly acquired status as a victim group to whitewash and promote their culture and religion. PSMs will follow them unquestionly simply because they are disillusioned with US support for Israel and prolonged Holocaust guilt. Dinosaurs (paleocons) are jumping on the bandwagon simply because it is an excuse to bash jews.

      As for Phil Weiss, it seems he is just exploiting the Israel/Palestinian conflict to make a name for himself and possibly a few extra bucks off his book. He was a mediocre journalist at best, working for a third rate newspaper and he saw this conflict as an opportunity to become a some kind of legend and ultimately to cement his name the history textbooks.

      Just my two cents. You obviously know more than I do so I would appreciate it if you would correct me if I am wrong. I’d like to hear your opinion.

      • Phil and I and his older brother, whom he’s also written about, spent a few summers together as teenagers (a couple weeks each time). His parents and my aunt were very close friends.

        During our subsequent lifetimes, Phil succeeded academically, went to Harvard and pursued an interesting, elite, journalistic career. I went to a small alternative college in Vermont took up meditation and green politics.

        In the early 90’s, I started an audio-book production company emphasizing leftish writers: Howard Zinn, Marge Piercy (both Jewish), other feminist writers, African writers. The company morphed into a spoken word lending library collection run on the netflix subscription model.

        It was visionary and included a hundred or so tapes of Noam Chomsky and a couple of Norman Finkelstein. We were connected to the left community, of artists, of dramatists, of writers, not so much of out and out activists. I regarded Israel as progressive, and Judaism as progressive, largely on the model of progressive idealistic Jewish writers that found a way to embrace both.

        It later became a divide. I was exposed to the Palestinian narrative through writings and lectures by Edward Said (in our library), Chomsky, Finkelstein, others. A primary source of our political tapes, David Barsamian, was committed to Palestinian solidarity.

        Edward Said’s rejection of the Oslo efforts confused me. I met him and found him to be warm, open, not outwardly harsh to liberal Zionists. His work though, was adopted as rejection of Israel. His followers adopted his conclusions, but not his warmth and decency.

        My impression of Noam Chomsky was of periodic illuminating insight, and also glaring gratuitous condemnation, and what seemed to be self-talking leaps of logic framed as “what other option is possible?” I could think of many other options. And worse, presented to a fawning, obedient audience, in the name of free thinking and deeply questioning research.

        The divide amplified for me in posting on another discussion site through the late 90’s and early 00’s, culminating in a couple phoned threats to family, and an “idealistic” poster citing holocaust revision sites to support quotes from Norman Finkelstein.

        Phil’s parents early loaned me a small amount of money to start the library. Phil expressed no interest, even though it was very progressive institution, and our generation of progressive focus.

        Later, when I heard of Phil starting the site, and encountered some less than laudatory descriptions of his brother and parents on the site, I started posting. Phil was self-inquiring, but airing dirty laundry. At a bar mitzvah, I met Phil’s mother and she asked about his fixation on Walt – Mearsheimer which she feared was a fascist theme. I don’t know to what extent she had read his blog or Walt-Mearsheimer. I told her that I thought that Phil was sincere, and motivated for good, and exploring, even as I disagreed with his and their writing.

        Early, I invited Phil to join me in a business to host public discussion of topical progressive issues, a traveling Chautaqua, which we would film and distribute. I also invited him to speak in my home region, in dialog with me personally in a public forum. We’ve periodically e-mailed, but I never got the sense that he was candid with me, ultimately distrusted me, and he really doesn’t return my e-mails currently.

        It is what it is.

        He definitely is trying to make a living from the sight. In his previous incarnation as Mondoweiss on the NY Observer, his personality was the content, his meanderings. On the new Mondoweiss, he’s definitely been influenced by Adam, who is much more an activist, more partisan. He’s also acknowledged that his views are malleable, that he is influenced by the people that he converses with.

        His family is definitely within the liberal/democratic socialist tradition, and is part of him. His political contacts include the radical solidarity left and they are part of him. And, they include the paleo-conservative world of Pat Buchanon and proteges and some ex-proteges.

        I doubt that he has much contacts with Zionists, and therefore that doesn’t seem to be part of his stretch, even people like Uri Avneri, or Akiva Eldar.

        In my life, my stretch includes my native idealism and predisposition of respect and acceptance, but also extends to contacts within the orthodox community (my older son is a chasid) and conventional shul life community (I was treasurer of my local shul for a couple years).

        I’ve definitely soured relative to the materialist left. The left that is motivated by ideals and compassion, I can live with.

  8. Gay State Girl says:

    Thank you for sharing that.

    Do yourself a favor and don’t frequent Mondoweiss anymore or try to communicate with Phil. You will just end up upsetting yourself.

    I spent some time in Vermont as well.

    I am not quite as sensitive to the antisemitic attitudes that I see on Mondoweiss. I guess being part of a later generation has made me less sensitive to antisemitism as I haven’t really been exposed to it. I feel more offended when I see an airheaded shiksas pretend to take interest in Judaism when they are really just looking for Jewish Sugar Daddies. I understand that many people who take antisemitic attitudes are simply resentful of US aid for Israel, which should be used for domestic issues and undue holocaust guilt. What I don’t like is that Phil has an explicit agenda for my generation of jews. A funny thing happened when I read Mondoweiss. Prior to reading Mondoweiss, I had every reason to resent the Jewish Community and had absolutely no problem with intermarriage or assimilation. I had an adverse reaction and now I am more defensive of jewish culture and I feel that if I intermarried or assimilated, I would be fulfilling Phil’s plan and I don’t want to do that. I also don’t like the fact that Weiss and others feel that Palestinians should be immune to criticism because they are an oppressed minority. Yes, it is true that they been the subjects of unfair criticism in the past, but that does not mean that any criticism is invalid. I wish that Weiss and his ilk would recognize this. I wish Weiss and his commenters would adopt a more complex approach to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the Israeli Lobby and Jewish power in the West, Jewish/Gentile relations and not hesitate to question their own positions and biases. I’m glad you brought that up with him and believe he is a hypocrite if he will not address his own positions and biases. Secondly, he should adopt a more neutral approach to intermarriage or assimilation. While I don’t think we should mourn those who intermarry, I certainly don’t think we should view intermarriage as an accomplishment or a measure for jewish success in the West. So Phil, if you ever read this, please don’t be afraid to question your own beliefs. Thank you for your time.

    • Robert says:

      “A funny thing happened when I read Mondoweiss. Prior to reading Mondoweiss, I had every reason to resent the Jewish Community and had absolutely no problem with intermarriage or assimilation. I had an adverse reaction and now I am more defensive of jewish culture and I feel that if I intermarried or assimilated, I would be fulfilling Phil’s plan and I don’t want to do that.”

      Gay State Girl, why do you feel that intermarriage is fulfilling Phil’s plan? Phil is proud/guilty of his own intermarriage, but I don’t get a sense that he has an agenda for other people. Could you show me an example?

      “I also don’t like the fact that Weiss and others feel that Palestinians should be immune to criticism because they are an oppressed minority. Yes, it is true that they been the subjects of unfair criticism in the past, but that does not mean that any criticism is invalid. I wish that Weiss and his ilk would recognize this. I wish Weiss and his commenters would adopt a more complex approach to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the Israeli Lobby and Jewish power in the West, Jewish/Gentile relations and not hesitate to question their own positions and biases. ”

      I think that MW has taken the role of being an anti-hasbara machine. Part of the strategy of hasbara is to “relativize” Israeli wrong-doing, by comparing it to other countries, or the Palestinians, and thus win absolution. Phil is trying to turn back Israeli hasbara with information and perspective.

      It’s fair to say that MW is not a “general purpose” news source, but rather a specialty blog that deliberately take an adversarial perspective against Israel and hasbara. Our court system uses the adversarial perspective to ensure that truth about the two sides is aggressively pursued. MW extends that to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

      • CK MacLeod says:

        I think that MW has taken the role of being an anti-hasbara machine. Part of the strategy of hasbara is to “relativize” Israeli wrong-doing, by comparing it to other countries, or the Palestinians, and thus win absolution. Phil is trying to turn back Israeli hasbara with information and perspective.

        Leaving aside the question of whether “absolution” is really the issue, the problem with that perspective is that it defines hasbara as “one rational approach to understanding the world and all of the things and people in it” and Mondoweissian anti-hasbara as “irrational fixation on holding Israel and Israel alone to unrealistic and one-sided, de-contextualized standards of morality and justice.”

        And that problem ends up controlling how things at MW develop, and not just in the comment threads.

        (I don’t claim to understand PW – for instance, why he linked to this thread at MW, but to one of the least – no offense, GSG – political, most personal/parochial comments on it. It’s as though he wants to direct people to a critical discussion and alternative to MW, but doesn’t want to admit that he’s doing so… A confusing person, he can be.)

      • Gay State Girl says:

        The fact that you and other Mondoweiss regulars could not understand that my comments were said in jest (and I probably did come off immaturely) indicates an unhealthy obsession on your part, to say the least. It shows that you’ve become completely deaf to humor or sarcasm. You should heed your own call and try to keep an open mind.

        Phil I did not amalethize you. YHou don’t know anything about me and quite frankly I have more reason to be resentful of the jewish community than you and your wife. When I said your blog was destined for failure, I meant it was by the company you keep and the commenters you attract. There are a few commenters I enjoy. Mooser always finds a way to lighten up the tense atmosphere. I liked Annie before she called me a fruitcake. When I said your blog was destined for failure, I meant that instead of becomming a place for an open dialog, it has instead become a safe haven for attitudes that would not be considered acceptable in the real world. I was hopeful about Phil’s blog because I myself can not justify supporting a foreign country at the expense of my own. But at the same time, I don’t feel as if I or anyone else has any obligation to help the Palestinians. Many people will rush to support the Palestinians simply out of “white guilt” or because they themselves are members of an underpriveleged minority. They deduce that because the Palestinians are a people of color, they can do no wrong. Norman Finkelstein is an extreme case. I know that he is gay and put his whole reputation and career in jeopardy to become a tireless advocate for a group which oppresses his kind without being guaranteed anything in return

        I was being facetious when I made that comment about intermarriage. I really don’t care who marries who. I won’t shun the concept of intermarriage, but at the same time I wouldn’t actively promote it either. We certainly shouldn’t treat it as if it were some sort of accomplishment. But Phil gets warm in his pants whenever some jew-who he has never even met-decides to intermarry as if he has a vested interest in it. Also I have deep respect for the tribal jews such as those in Kiryas Joel who are keeping the Yiddish language alive even though I would not choose such a lifestyle for myself.

  9. fuster says:

    gotta be Goddard. it did strange things to my friends.

    • I went to Marlboro College from 1974- 1978 and attempted to write an independant study project quantifying a measure of social welfare using Maslow’s heirarchy of needs as basis of measurement and scoring.

      It was over my head and I didn’t finish it by the time of graduation. I later moved to the west coast and earned a business degree in accounting at Portland State University, and worked as a CPA and controller for mostly progressive and artistic organizations.

      I have recently completed the methodology for the Maslow based metric, finally (33 years later). I also developed and promote a metric entitled LOCUS which is meant to support the local food and local economy emphasis, by defining the geographic mean of value addition for individual products and services.

      Its described at another blog of mine. http://rwitty.wordpress.com/

  10. Pingback: There is a concept in law– that a person cannot control his own reputation

  11. DBG says:

    Congrats on your blog. I am often disgusted by the comment section @ Mondoweiss and their constant berating of you. It is extremely childish and doesn’t bode will for the pro-Palestinian movement.

    • It bothers me. I agree that the negative and very personal insulting, entirely diminishes the likelihood of masses paying attention.

      Its just not worth it to most people, to get attacked for politically incorrect nuance.

  12. fuster says:

    the comments section at Weiss’ blog is as vile as it is only because Weiss lends his name to shield the person or persons doing the moderating and allows any sort of crap to be flung as long as it’s coming from “anti-Zionists”.

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