The Guardian and Goldstone

A Guest post by AKUS


By now many reading this will have read, or been informed about, Richard Goldstone’s semi-apology in the Washington Post on Friday, April 1 (Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes) for his role in defaming Israel via the infamous “Goldstone Report”.

At the request of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Goldstone led an inquiry into the events of Israel’s “Cast Lead” action against Hamas in Gaza in December 2009. The report has been used ever since as a primary document for the condemnation of Israel, and as recently as last month formed the basis for six more resolutions condemning Israel at the UNHRC.

(The irony of this inquiry and the continuing focus of the UNHRC on Israel’s imagined transgressions can hardly be lost on those witnessing the current war in Libya – and the regime’s vicious assault on anti-Gadaffi forces – given that Libya was one of the primary instigators of the Goldstone report).

Melanie Phillips, in her inimitable style, has adeptly dissected Goldstone’s attempt to shift the blame for his failures, but I will content myself by pointing out just five of the ways in which Goldstone admitted that his report was inaccurate, or based on false information or no information at all (for which he blames Israel), that Israel (but not Hamas) has actually implemented his request to conduct inquiries (which it would have done anyway, as a matter of course) and his revelation that the UNHRC is hopelessly biased against Israel:

“If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document”.

“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 andf 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.”

“Israel’s lack of cooperation with our investigation meant that we were not able to corroborate how many Gazans killed were civilians and how many were combatants. The Israeli military’s numbers have turned out to be similar to those recently furnished by Hamas (although Hamas may have reason to inflate the number of its combatants).”

“We made our recommendations based on the record before us, which unfortunately did not include any evidence provided by the Israeli government. Indeed, our main recommendation was for each party to investigate, transparently and in good faith, the incidents referred to in our report. [The UNHRC independent investigator] McGowan Davis has found that Israel has done this to a significant degree; Hamas has done nothing.”

“I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.”

In light of his latest article, his admission of his naiveté, to say the least, and his retractions, is it any wonder that Israel decided to have nothing to do with this hanging judge?

Evidence of Goldstone’s high opinion of himself is never absent for long in his column. He apparently believed that he, a South African Jew would have influence with Hamas.

In fact, he was carefully selected by the cynical rogues at the UNHRC because of the credibility he would provide precisely because he is a Jew, who, despite his actual record, claimed to have been an opponent of apartheid, the accusation so commonly leveled at Israel:

At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.

It apparently took an investigation committee of independent experts led by Mary McGowan Davis to cause the supposedly independent Goldstone to reconsider. An alternative explanation is available here: What made Goldstone change his mind about the Gaza war report? A third is that since it appears he will not be offered a job he treasured at the UN, he feels betrayed and decided to turn on his former sponsors.

When Goldstone issued his infamous report, the Guardian did not hesitate to use it to darken Israel’s name.

(I have appended a list of some of the numerous columns the Guardian published about the report, or that reference the report.)

They even had Goldstone himself, in the role of the classic useful idiot, contribute an article on CiF explaining why “as-a-Jew” he felt compelled to take on the task that Mary Robinson, the former Irish President and frequent critic of Israel, refused, saying that it smacked more of politics than of human rights when she realized that she would simply be a tool in the hands of the automatic anti-Israeli lobby at the UNHRC.

Here is an excerpt from Goldstone’s article that appeared on “Comment is Free” on October 21st, 2009. I emphasize the classic claim of the “as-a-Jew”, which makes people like Goldstone so useful:

Israel’s missed opportunity

I would have been acting against those principles and my own convictions and conscience if I had refused a request from the United Nations to investigate serious allegations of war crimes against both Israel and Hamas in the context of Operation Cast Lead.

As a Jew, I felt a greater and not a lesser obligation to do so. It is well documented that as a condition of my participation I insisted upon and received an even-handed mandate to investigate all sides, and that is what we sought to do.

The Guardian, which would have pounced on any other report Goldstone might have issued that contained anything, no matter how small, that could be used to condemn Israel once again, has not republished Goldstone’s April 1 retraction.  It took until April 3rd to bring his mea culpa to its readers’ attention in an article by Conal Urquhart. Urquhart, married to a Palestinian supporter named Kirstie Campbell, who worked for the British Red Cross in Gaza and is now a spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme (UNRWA), is apparently relieving Harriet Sherwood while she is back in the UK (though the relief at being spared more of her fatuous articles may be shared by us and the Guardian editors equally).

Note the language in these excerpts from Urquhart’s article:

Judge Goldstone expresses regrets about his report into Gaza war

However, in a new article in the Washington Post, Goldstone appeared to backtrack from some of his findings.

He wrote that subsequent Israeli military investigations had confirmed some of the report’s findings but also indicated that, “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy” by Israel.

According to Urquhart, Goldstone only “appears to backtrack” when, in fact, Goldstone flatly admits that the report’s core findings were false (of course, Goldstone claims the blame lies with Israel for not cooperating with him).

Urquhart also brushes aside Goldstone’s retraction of the most damaging accusation he made – that Israel deliberately targeted civilians. Instead of writing “but also indicated that, “civilians were not intentionally targeted” the words “and stated” is the correct summary of Goldstone’s most important retraction.

The second article (as I write this) is by Aluf Benn of Ha’aretz, who now appears to have been added to the Guardian’s stable of reliable Israeli writers who can be trusted to cast a negative view on anything that Israel does “as-an-Israeli”.

The Guardian headlines the article in a way that makes it appear to provide valuable and much-needed guidance for what it continues to spin as criminal behavior typical of Israel:

Despite its flaws, the Goldstone report has changed Israel’s behaviour in Gaza

In 2009, Goldstone portrayed Israel and Hamas as morally equal; in 2011, he grants Israel, which conducted hundreds of inquiries over its military behaviour in Gaza, a higher moral stance than Hamas.

This is obviously good news. But it’s doubtful whether the Israeli inquiries, few of which have led to indictments and convictions, would have been carried out without his report and its threat of referral to the Hague. Moreover, the fear of another incriminating report serves as a powerful deterrent against a sequel. Israel has changed its behaviour in Gaza, favouring pinpoint strikes in response to rockets and mortar bombs. But it would not forget and forgive the reprimand from the South African judge, even after his public about-face.

It is simply not true that Goldstone’s report forced Israel to carry out investigations into its soldiers’ behavior during Cast Lead. Israel carries out investigations after every major military action and it was reports, mostly later shown to be false, in the Israeli press that led to the excessively large number of investigations (compare, for example, Israel’s 400 inquiries with the negligible number the Allies have carried out in Iraq). The report is also seen as a deterrent against Israel repeating Cast Lead – but there is no mention of it acting as a deterrent to the terrorists running Gaza, or Goldstone’s apology for thinking that it would:

Compare the version that Aluf Benn wrote for the Guardian with what he wrote in Ha’aretz:

Goldstone retraction shows West’s changed attitude toward Israel in light of Arab world turmoil

Israel achieved a major public relations coup this weekend, comparable to the United Nations rescission of its notorious resolution equating Zionism with racism. South African Judge Richard Goldstone, who came to symbolize more than anyone else the efforts to delegitimize Israel as a civilized and law-abiding country, has now retracted his allegations that Israel had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during Operation Cast Lead.

In his opinion piece published in Friday’s Washington Post, Goldstone underlined Israel’s clear moral superiority over Hamas, saying the Israel Defense Forces did not intentionally hit civilians in its operation in the Gaza Strip, while Gazans by contrast did in fact deliberately hit Israeli civilians.

Goldstone also acknowledged being naive in thinking Hamas would conduct itself as a law-abiding government and investigate allegations of its own war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by those firing rockets and mortar shells from the Strip into Israel. He has come to the understanding, however belatedly, that Hamas is not interested in humanitarian laws or human rights, but rather only in waging war against Israel.

The Guardian has delighted in spreading the worst lies about Israel. It was instrumental in spreading the Al Durrah libel, the “Jenin Massacre” libel and the lies about the Mavi Marmara affair. It used Goldstone’s report as a primary source for spreading the lies about Israel after Cast Lead – that Israel deliberately targeted civilians, that most of the dead were civilians (now denied by Hamas itself!), that it used Arab civilians as human shields during Cast Lead, that it targeted schools and mosques for no reason (even UNRWA’s John Ging retracted that accusation after the Guardian immediately spread the initial reports that Israel had shelled a school).

Will the Guardian finally admit that the source for true and accurate reporting about Israel and the Palestinians come from the IDF and Israeli government sources? One of Israel’s great strengths, and not a small factor in its resounding defeats of powerful Arab armies, has been to tell the truth about what is happening on the battlefield. In the end, the truth comes out, whether it is pictures of destroyed tanks spread across miles of desert in Sinai or the realization by Hamas that claiming that it is counter-productive to claim that the majority of those killed during Cast Lead were civilians. Now the truth about the infamous Goldstone report has emerged from the pen of the very man responsible for it.  Goldstone has finally realized that he was nothing but a useful idiot, played by those who needed a Jewish Judas sheep to lead, they hoped, Israel to the slaughterhouse.

It is past time for the Guardian to take down its “Gaza page”, left in place to provide fodder for those who wish to ignore Hamas’ attacks against Israeli civilians and show a one-sided, biased view of Gaza, and admit that they were wrong. They were wrong about Al Durrah, they were wrong about Jenin, they were wrong about the Mavi Marmara, they were wrong about Cast Lead, they are wrong about Hamas, they are wrong about Gaza, and they were wrong about Goldstone. They are wrong about Israel, and it is beyond time for them to admit it, and issue their own retraction, let alone publish Goldstone’s.

That being said, Goldstone has done damage to Israel and Jews of historic proportions. There will be those who continue to cite his report, or selected portions from it, as if he had never published his retraction. He is a man who has placed himself outside the Jewish community, and should be rejected by all Jews. In an earlier time, Jewish communities would have issued a cherem against him – a rule decreeing that he is no longer recognized as a Jew, nor welcomed where Jews congregate. His is a name that will go down in the long annals of Jewish history with a few select others who betrayed their people in order to try to win praise and position among those who would destroy us.

(Here you will find a partial of articles and letters from the Guardian referencing Goldstone’s report either above the line or below the line, even on matters that have little or nothing to do with Israel. The sheer volume, written by one member after another of the rogue’s gallery that the Guardian employs directly or on contract to demonize Israel, is indicative of the obsession with Cast Lead and support for Hamas that permeates the Guardian’s reporting about Israel and, in fact, the Middle East.)

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