Justice and Libel

April 4, 2011

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Richard Goldstone has really put the cat among the pigeons.

The UN Human Rights Commission report that bears his name accuses Israel of deliberately attacking civilians, and committing war crimes. Since its publication it has been at the heart of all critique of Israeli foreign policy. Judge Goldstone has now published an article in the Washington Post, admitting that, knowing what he knows now, the report would have been different. In particular he notes that Israel did not have a policy of deliberately targeting civilians, and that Hamas certainly did. He also goes on to point out that Israel has investigated instances of civilian casualties, whereas Hamas has not, and that the UN Human Rights Commission has a woeful record of bias against Israel.

Not unsurprisingly, responses in the Jewish world have been split according to politics, and Jewish values.

There are those who respect Goldstone’s integrity and courage for continuing to pursue justice and the truth. When the (limited) evidence showed one thing, he called it. When now the evidence shows something different, he has also called it. Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, called to congratulate him, and to invite him on a visit to Israel. Beyond this, many welcome the fact that the IDF has revised its approach to combat in civilian areas, and will now take even more care to avoid civilian casualties: this they see as a positive result of the Goldstone report.

On the other hand there are those who point to the horrendous damage the report has done to Israel’s reputation and its ability to operate in the world. They suggest that the limited evidence before Goldstone did not force him to come to the conclusions he came to in the first place, and his partial correction comes too little, too late. They will point out that it is no coincidence that his Washington Post article emerged as we read the Bible Portion of Tazria-Metzora in synagogue. The rabbis explain that Miriam’s pariah status was due to her slander – a terrible crime in Jewish tradition. The damage of libel can be as easily corrected as can the feathers of a split pillow be collected in the wind.


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