In what is certainly the most bizarre instance of public self-repudiation in my lifetime, the South African judge ( who administered numerous death sentences in the apartheid era) took to the opinion pages of The Post to announce he was wrong about Israel’s conduct in Gaza:

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 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.

The recantation is bizarre on multiple levels. Was there really “no evidence” then that Israel was combating terrorist groups hiding among civilians in order to maximize Palestinian casualties? (Israeli officials repeatedly explained the dilemma in public press conferences and interviews.) Could he not figure out that Israel is a democratic state with a history of self-investigation while Hamas is an entity devoted to genocide? (“Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations.”) And, wow, it turns out that the U.N. Human Right Council’s “history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.” Who knew? (I wonder why he accepted an assignment from a group uninterested in unbiased investigation.)

Even in confessional mode, Richard Goldstone blames the victim — Israel brought this all on itself by not giving him information. In all his glorious ignorance he therefore had no qualms about accusing Israel of war crimes. You see, he had no choice. (There is a theme running through his career, isn’t there? Playing the role of hanging judge in South Africa wasn’t his idea, mind you.)

I have no idea what motivated Goldstone’s reversal. I leave to others whether he can atone for actions as despicable as his by merely saying, “Never mind. And not my fault.” I do however agree entirely with Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, who observes, “Unfortunately, it is somewhat difficult to retract a blood libel, once it has been broadcast across the world.” Maybe Goldstone will enlighten us on how he will try to undo the damage he has caused.

But what now? There is a fleet of nongovernmental organizations that has used the Goldstone report for fodder in the campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state. Will these groups recant? ( J Street helped pen Goldstone’s defense and showed him around Capitol Hill, so it seems that group has a special obligation to recant its role in popularizing the Goldstone libel.) Professor Gerald Steinberg, whose group NGO Monitor has exposed the agenda and biases of purported human rights groups, explained in a written statement:

Goldstone’s reversal is further evidence of the central role played by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in the exploitation of human rights and in promoting the bogus conclusions of the Goldstone Report. . . .

HRW has been at the forefront of demonization and distortions since the infamous 2001 Durban conference, and used its influence to promote Goldstone, who was on HRW’s board. The leaders of this organization’s Middle East division have a long history of involvement in hard-core anti-Israel advocacy. This immoral behavior led HRW’s founder, Robert Bernstein, to denounce his own organization, presaging Richard Goldstone’s reconsideration.

Israeli NGOs funded by European governments and the New Israel Fund have also played a central role in advancing the one-sided agenda of repressive regimes at the Human Rights Council. These groups have continued to lobby at the U.S. Congress, European Parliament, and the Knesset. Goldstone’s Washington Post article has exposed these campaigns as nothing more than anti-Israel propaganda.

Moreover, as a colleague pointed out during a vigorous panel discussion on Israel and the media at the Germantown Jewish Center, what happens to all the “lawfare” cases waged against Israel and its officials based on the lie that Israel was guilty of war crimes in targeting civilians? And if Goldstone can acknowledge the UNHRC is a fraud, maybe this could be the time to withdraw our representative and insist the council be disbanded. (And maybe the left-wing Tikkun can see fit to yank its award given to Goldstone?)

Bibi Netanyahu announced at Sunday’s cabinet meeting:

There are very few instances in which those who disseminate libels retract their libel. This happened in the case of the Goldstone Report. Goldstone himself said that all of the things that we have been saying all along are correct – that Israel never intentionally fired at civilians and that our inquiries operated according to the highest international standards. Of course, this is in complete contrast to Hamas, which intentionally attacked and murdered civilians and, naturally, never carried out any sort of inquiry. This leads us to call for the immediate cancellation of the Goldstone Report.

I have asked National Security Council Chairman Yaakov Amidror to convene a special staff meeting of people from the Foreign, Justice and Defense ministries to formulate practical and public diplomacy measures, in order to reverse and minimize the great damage that has been done by this campaign of denigration against the State of Israel. I expect their recommendations in the coming days. We will act on the public diplomacy front, and on other fronts, with the international community and the UN in order to demand the justice that is due to Israel .

Israel has not been all that adept in defending itself against delegitimizers or in going on the offense against NGOs that foster the effort to diplomatically isolate and undermine Israel’s right to exist. Let’s see if the Israelis now can make up for lost ground and time.