Goldstone “apology” won’t make us stop talking of occupation’s crimes

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, this is personal, war | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Some initial thoughts regarding Judge Richard Goldstone’s op-ed, in which he retracted some of the allegations against Israel made in his report

Israel wouldn't have investigated all those killings of civilians if it had not been for Goldstone (photo: United Nations Information Service - Geneva)

Israel wouldn't have investigated all those killings of civilians if it had not been for Goldstone (photo: United Nations Information Service - Geneva)

A strange combination of thrill and anger seems to be the immediate response to Judge Goldstone’s surprising op-ed on the Washington post today. Goldstone wrote that while Israel was investigating the allegations of crimes perpetrated during the 2008 Gaza invasion, Hamas had failed to do so; he expressed disappointment in the UN’s Human Rights Council and its treatment of Israel, and demanded condemnation of the Fogel family murder. The key sentence in the article was this:

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.

It is somewhat difficult to retract a blood libel,” wrote Jeffrey Goldberg in response. Comments on Israeli news sites were even harsher, promising never to “forgive or forget” Goldstone’s crime. “The traitor got tired of being a pariah,” wrote one of my Facebook friends on his wall – and this was a mild comment, compared to others I saw and heard. Since the popular way to discredit anyone criticizing Israeli policy over the past two year was to link them to Goldstone, the government’s PR people jumped on the opportunity to take punches at progressive voices (check, for example, Noah Pollak’s Twitter feed – he is clearly having the day of his life). Prime Minister Netanyahu, a PR expert himself, gave a national speech, in which he demanded that the UN throw the Goldstone report “into history’s garbage can” (what a great opportunity to make the public forget the latest travel scandal). In a sense, this op-ed and the responses it received made me appreciate Judge Goldstone more. He probably knew that everyone would hate him for it – those who adopted the report and are clearly embarrassed, and those who rejected it and now received their validation. Now he really is alone. What is also clear is that many people missed Goldstone’s point: if Israel had provided his committee with the information it requested, the report would have been different. The fact that Goldstone is ready to retract some of the allegations could serve as an indication that he would have taken evidence coming from Israel seriously, if it had been presented to him at the time of the investigation (Israel refused to have anything to do with the investigation). In that sense, Jeffrey Goldberg is right: you can’t go back in time – Israel’s decision not to investigate its army’s behavior during the attack on Gaza turned out to be a strategic mistake. Another point that needs to be made is that Israel wouldn’t have investigated all those killings of civilians if it had not been for Goldstone. Even now, the army is doing everything it can to prevent prosecution of some of its officers and soldiers. Only international pressure forced the IDF to being searching for those soldiers who shot innocent civilians – some of them carrying white flags – or looted Palestinian homes. And that’s another thing people are missing now: nobody is denying that such crimes occurred. And there are additional incidents – like the execution of defenseless policemen by an Israeli gunship on the first day of the war – which Israel views as “legal” and other (myself included) see as a war crime, planned at the highest levels. On the other hand, and at the risk of making many friends angry at me, I would also say that Goldstone should not have spoken of a “policy” of targeting civilians only because he saw numerous cases in which civilians were killed. These are not accusations to be made or take lightly. Saying now that “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy” is a big deal – and the explanation given in the Washington Post op-ed to this sentence is hardly satisfying. ————— Since I mentioned the Goldstone report on this blog more than once, and also contributed a chapter to the book on report (which discusses the way the report was received in Israel – and I stand behind every word I wrote there), I would like to add something personal regarding the way I feel today. Many people claimed that “the IDF couldn’t have done the things Goldstone said it did.” Most of them never even read the report, but that’s beside the point. But I felt, and I still do, that targeting civilians could have been an Israeli policy. That’s why I supported an external investigation of Operation Cast Lead. That’s why I still want a public report on the military operation that would include Israeli evidence. The reason I think the IDF could, in certain cases, target civilians (just like any army would, at times), is that I saw it with my own eyes when I served as an infantry officer in South Lebanon. I described this incident in detail here. More than anything I read in Haaretz, my own experiences as a soldier and an officer led me to reflect on the crimes of Israel’s 44 year-old occupation of the West Bank. I have seen beating of civilians, settlers’ violence and mistreatment of Palestinians with my own eyes (I am happy to report I haven’t been part of killing – but that’s pure luck, I guess). Some of those things I continue to see in the occupied territories these days, only now I don’t go there in uniform. Right after the Goldstone op-ed was posted on the Washington post’s site, +972 Magazine received a tweet calling us to “retract” on charges of Israeli war crimes. To that I answer: the entire occupation is a crime. The blockade on Gaza is a crime. The settlements are a crime. The killing of civilians is a crime – even if it wasn’t part of a policy, it was part of the occupation. And I don’t need Judge Goldstone to tell me that.

2 Comments on “Goldstone “apology” won’t make us stop talking of occupation’s crimes”

  1. 1 maayan said at 5:07 am on April 3rd, 2011:

    Just as David Horovitz from the Jerusalem Post predicted, the supporters of the Goldstone Report, who tend to be critics of Israel, will not let his new position divert them for one moment from their activities. It was helpful to you then, and now that it’s no longer as helpful, you can just pick and choose what you like and continue with the criticism of Israel and the IDF.

    Let’s be clear that I’ve read the Report.

    It was mostly bullshit. He got information from biased sources, interrogated Palestinians that were admittedly intimidated by Hamas and came to conclusions that had nothing to do with reality, especially for those of us who know the army personally.

    Still, you want to somehow press on with your mission. Hamas fighters trained as policemen and who were going to be used as Hamas fighter in any conflict, are not civilians. They are soldiers. It’s not Israel’s fault that Hamas functions on both the civilian and military level. If you have any questions about this, ask them of Hamas which admitted that its casualty figures are the same as the IDF’s. The IDF counted the policemen as Hamas operatives.

    And it continues from there. The blockade on Gaza is not a crime. Capturing the ship with Iranian ammo also makes the blockade’s importance obvious.

    The settlements are not a crime, and anyway, they would mostly disappear if you convinced the Palestinians to sign a peace deal that gives them all of Gaza and 95% of Judea and Samaria. Killing of civilians in war is not a crime unless it happens with intentionality and under certain circumstances, which don’t appear to have existed in Cast Lead. Even your story about shooting at house in a Lebanese village doesn’t really show what you want it to show – that Israel targets civilians. For all you know, Israel may have had an intelligence operation there and assumed there were no civilians in the houses, which as you admitted, were indeed empty.

    Come on, Noam. You know you weren’t trained to hate Arabs. You know you weren’t trained to kill or target civilians. You know the IDF does teach you to avoid such situations to the best of your ability and within confines of ensuring soldiers remain safe. Let’s be honest about these fundamental issues.

    Now back to Goldstone and his report. You really don’t seem to get what has happened here. Israel refused to participate in this report for excellent reasons. The Human Rights Council at the UN is an evil joke on humanity. You are relying on a body that showed Libya great honor and respect while attacking Israel to a degree that no other country has experienced. This is the organizations that gave Dugard, Falk and Goldstone their mandates. That Israel recognizes the hypocrisy here and refuses to play along is the right and ethical thing to do.

    If I called you thief while ignoring the real thieves, and then appointed a biased detective and gave him a biased mandate to investigate you and only under a certain unflattering light, would you participate in his investigation thereby giving his foregone conclusions legitimacy or would you avoid him? It’s not complicated to know what to do.

    Goldstone got a flawed mandate from an organization that focuses on Israel in a way no other nation receives attention, even though there are many, many nations that commit real crimes and cause far, far more harm than Israel ever has.

    That Goldstone chose to pursue the investigation anyway, is his own mistake. That Israel chose to ignore it OFFICIALLY, is Israel’s ethical right. Unofficially, all Goldstone had to do was listen to the Israeli witnesses who came to speak out, to view Youtube videos that we could all see and use common sense.

    He is still trying to avoid a complete apology, but he owes a huge one. For that matter, so do all of those people who have used the Report to attack Israel and continue to do so now. You know, suggesting that he has done this because he is a pariah is a sad joke. This guy was unafraid to use the media to publicize the issue with his grandchild’s bar mitzvah and certainly unafraid to go on his own little hasbara tour to not just defend his report but DEMAND that Israel and the UN take action about it. He is not some shy, weak person.

    There is no thrill to any of this, Noam. These is fury. What his report has done to Israel and its soldiers is a crime. That he is backtracking now only reveals what many of us have been saying all along. You can state otherwise all you want, but even the person who had the most to gain by being right is now going back on the report that bears his name. Think about that.

  2. 2 maayan said at 1:23 am on April 26th, 2011:

    A reminder: