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.