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Tel Aviv Journal: Richard Goldstone Recants a Blood Libel

The ancient rabbis declared that, “even though a Jew has sinned”—which in this context means sinned against his own—“he remains Israel.” We can leave it for the Lord Almighty to decide whether Richard Goldstone remains among His chosen. But, whether the judge can worship with members of the congregation, as he was finally permitted to do at his grandson’s bar mitzvah last spring, remains in the hands of those who’d have to pray with him; and, if I were them, I would not allow him. Not for one moment. Let him pray with the Hamas Islamists who he believed, or pretended to believe, in his famous Gaza war crimes report would, as Israel has done, “investigate, transparently and in good faith,” the charges made against them.

Goldstone was crystal clear in his Washington Post disavowal of the report’s accusations of intentional killing by Israel of non-Hamas Palestinians: “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.” Hamas’s rockets, by contrast, “were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.” Here is the judge’s pathetic confession: “If I had known then what I know now, the ‘Goldstone Report’ would have been a different document.”

But why didn’t Goldstone and his fellow judges know? Well, for one thing, two of his three companions on the U.N. Human Rights Council judicial panel on Gaza—Christine Chinkin of the London School of Economics and Hina Jilani, a Pakistani jurist—had already condemned Israel even before the hanging court had been formed. And Richard Falk, the Council’s designated rapporteur on these issues, has been nothing less than an enemy of the Jewish state for decades. You don’t believe me? Google Falk and Israel. There will be no surprises. Anyway, the Council endorsed the report by a margin of 25 to 6. Were you surprised by that?

It turns out that The New York Times may have passed on publishing Goldstone’s sensational contrition, and the paper of record took two days to publish anything in print (and only on an inside page) about Goldstone’s sudden repudiation of his own work. (Up to a few weeks ago, he was peddling his old wares to anyone who would buy.) Is this the Times’s way of saying that such a recantation has little meaning? But really it is not only the Times that is allergic to admitting the falsehoods to which it gave currency, and without any critical scrutiny of its own. Goldstone’s report and his reputation (a drastically scrubbed-up reputation, in case you haven’t researched his years as an apartheid judge) have since September 2009 become the poison gas with which the whole Israeli-Palestinian dispute has been made rancid and fiendishly immune to facts.

The lopsidedness of the voting in international institutions speaks neither to the alleged depravity of Israel nor to the justice of the immovable ultimata made by the Abbas regime. It reflects a widespread contempt in the world for the Jews—for their intrinsic peoplehood and their achievements, embodied in the state of Israel, in modern nation-building and daring renewal. Believe me, I do not gloat—but the comparison between pluralistic Zion and the deteriorating state of just about each and every Arab society, now at last acknowledged by many angry and aspiring young people in the Arab countries, should have evoked some identification with Israel’s cause. But it will not and not least because the very structure of global power is based in and has been routinized by illegitimate authority. It is gangster dictators who decide what will fly in the United Nations. More than that: These tyrants have been succored by the Western democratic powers, to say nothing of the gargantuan dictatorships of the People’s Republic of China and Russia. Recall to mind the photograph of the Western diplomats meeting in London to decide on what to do about Libya at arms. Each of them (representatives of the United Kingdom, the United States, and France, for example) had done dirty work—really filthy work—for the mad tyrant, and they were now negotiating with his sons.

Israel apparently will try to get the General Assembly to recant its endorsement of the Goldstone verdict on the Jewish crimes in Gaza. After all, the judge himself has recanted. Es vet helfn vi a toit’n bankes, as my mother used to say: It will help like hot suction cups will help a dead man. Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic made the point early on after the judge confessed to his sins: “Unfortunately, it is somewhat difficult to retract a blood libel, once it has been broadcast across the world.” Maybe Washington, which voted against the report, will take the leadership role on this. The president, the secretary of state, and the American ambassador to the United Nations have, it bears remembering, argued that our presence at the Human Rights Council can make a difference. Will President Obama even try? It would mean that another one of his exemplary lessons in creative engagement will collapse.

There should be many shamed faces in the crowd. The foreign high priest of the Palestinian cause is Desmond Tutu, who, like his rival Jimmy Carter, finds no charge against Israel too preposterous to leave to, well, the gagasphere. But they have neither been heard from on Goldstone nor explained their silence. The Financial Times, which is the most consistent and hyperbolic critic of Israel in the United Kingdom, initially went bananas in praise of the “Goldstone Report.” It has now welcomed the jurist’s mea culpa, but reiterated its criticism of Israel. Human Rights Watch? Ditto. Stephen Walt, Juan Cole, John Esposito, Naomi Klein, Michael Lerner, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, J Street (which peddled the report door-to-door on Capitol Hill): I predict that not one of them will come clean. As is the case with the Israeli “peace left”: not Peace Now, not the New Israel Fund, not B’tselem, not Agudah Lezchuyot Haezrch. And not Ha’aretz, either. They have too much invested in Goldstone’s original lie.

Martin Peretz is editor-in-chief emeritus of The New Republic. This article originally ran in the April 28, 2011, issue of the magazine.

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