Richard Goldstone’s remarkable about-face this month was much talked about but incompletely understood. Peter Berkowitz of the Hoover Institution (who debated Goldstone shortly before the judge’s recantation) remedies that deficiency. Writing in the Weekly Standard, he observes that Goldstone did more than simply withdraw “the gravest charge that he and his colleagues had leveled against Israel and its Gaza operation of December 2008-January 2009, which aimed at stopping Hamas’s firing of thousands of mortar shells, rockets, and missiles at civilian populations in southern Israel.”
Berkowitz reminds us that Goldstone’s original conclusion was more sweeping than his retraction. Goldstone had asserted that Israel staged a “deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.” Israel was not only morally equivalent to Hamas, Goldstone claimed, but worse. Berkowitz explains:
It affirmed that Israel was worse than Hamas, since Israel was a state, since Israel used state-of-the-art weaponry, and since the death and destruction it supposedly deliberately inflicted on civilians in Gaza was much greater than the harm to civilians in southern Israel caused by eight years of Hamas bombardment.
Berkowitz brushes aside Goldstone’s excuse (i.e., that Israel didn’t cooperate with him):
For one thing, Goldstone and his colleagues did not leave matters at “allegations”; they made numerous legal findings that Israel, as a matter of strategy and policy, targeted civilians. For another, it was not as Goldstone now contends that he lacked evidence to avoid the conclusion of intentionality. Rather, the evidence he and his team collected and on which they based their legal findings was always insufficient to reasonably conclude that the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity
Goldstone’s report was always a shoddy piece of work, notwithstanding the amount of assistance he received from the Israeli government. In sum, the Goldstone Report accused Israel of employing “disproportionate force without such elementary information as the rules of engagement under which IDF commanders and soldiers operated against terrorists who relentlessly sought to blur the distinction — fundamental in the law of armed conflict — between civilians and combatants by unlawfully positioning themselves in densely populated areas and unlawfully fighting without uniforms.” That monumental error — libel, by any reasonable standard — cannot be palmed off on the victim of his lies.
Despite the insufficiency of the confession, Goldstone inadvertently undermined another serious charge. In his newfound praise for Israel’s devotion of “significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct,”Goldstone made a mockery of another utterly unsubstantiated charge, namely that Israel’s judicial system doesn’t abide by the norms of international law.
You can’t come away from Goldstone’s retraction or Berkowitz’s insightful analysis without concluding that Goldstone was malicious in his findings, as were those who seized upon them. But to be clear, the Goldstone Report is fully representative of the sorry state of the international “human rights” movement, its member NGOs and the individuals who cheer them on..
The United Nations Human Rights Council’s serial denunciations of Israel, the International Criminal Court’s indictment of opposition leader Tzipi Livni and other Israelis, and the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement’s perpetual slander of Israel, like Goldstone’s screed, should be labeled for what they are: anti-Semitism. These developments and other similar conduct all reflect the accepted definition of Jew-hatred (authored by Natan Sharansky and adopted by the State Department as U.S. policy). Sharansky offered a helpful analysis for detecting the “new anti-Semitism”:
I believe that we can apply a simple test — I call it the “3D” test — to help us distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism.
The first “D” is the test of demonization. When the Jewish state is being demonized; when Israel’s actions are blown out of all sensible proportion; when comparisons are made between Israelis and Nazis and between Palestinian refugee camps and Auschwitz — this is anti-Semitism, not legitimate criticism of Israel.
The second “D” is the test of double standards. When criticism of Israel is applied selectively; when Israel is singled out by the United Nations for human rights abuses while the behavior of known and major abusers, such as China, Iran, Cuba and Syria, is ignored; when Israel’s Magen David Adom, alone among the world’s ambulance services, is denied admission to the International Red Cross — this is anti-Semitism.
The third “D” is the test of delegitimization: when Israel’s fundamental right to exist is denied — alone among all peoples in the world — this too is anti-Semitism.
Is there any better description of Goldstone’s work? (That he is Jewish is entirely irrelevant to the discussion.) Israel and international Jewry shrunk for decades from using the term “anti-Semitism” because the accusation was so devastating and the Holocaust still fresh in the world’s conscience that it was reserved for select cases (e.g. the Soviet Union, neo-Nazis). But now anti-Semitism is so pervasive and its practitioners are so “respectable,” it is, I would suggest, time to reintroduce it and conduct U.S. policy accordingly. Do we want to attend meetings of an anti-Semitic club (the Human Rights Council)? Do we entertain anti-Semites (e.g., those who are advocates of the BDS movement) at the White House? That’s how we should begin to assess this crowd and how the American Jewish community should assess groups regardless of their labeling, for it is only then that we will make it socially and politically untenable to practice the new anti-Semitism. Even that may not be enough. But it’s a start.