April 04, 2011

Why is Goldstone now covering for Israel?

I'm revisiting this Goldstone affair because it's so troubling:

If you see Goldstone's op-ed piece in the Washington Post about his report and how it would be different if only the Israelis had co-operated and if he knew then what he knows now, the immediate issue is that he wrote the op-ed on his own and without any reference to his colleagues on the original report team.  Why was that?  Who authorised him to do this?  If he simply woke up one morning and phoned the Post and asked if he could jot down a quick and implausible mea culpa that would be weird in itself.  But how did it happen that the Washington Post was prepared to allow an eminent judge, Goldstone, to write such a ludicrous article and hammer a nail into the coffin of his career or at least his credibility as a judge of international conduct?

So the mere fact that he has written the article, no matter what it was saying, is both bizarre and plain morally, and possibly legally wrong.  But his logic is bizarre too. In my previous post on this I took issue with his focus on one case to the exclusion of others. But let's look again at how Goldstone tries to exonerate Israel this time around:

the most serious attack the Goldstone Report focused on was the killing of some 29 members of the al-Simouni family in their home. The shelling of the home was apparently the consequence of an Israeli commander’s erroneous interpretation of a drone image, and an Israeli officer is under investigation for having ordered the attack. While the length of this investigation is frustrating, it appears that an appropriate process is underway, and I am confident that if the officer is found to have been negligent, Israel will respond accordingly. The purpose of these investigations, as I have always said, is to ensure accountability for improper actions, not to second-guess, with the benefit of hindsight, commanders making difficult battlefield decisions.
But if Goldstone is telling the truth now, then second guessing is precisely what he was doing then. Poor old Israel thought that there was some kind of weaponry in a house that happened to have 29 civilians inside. Poor old Israel responded in the only way a responsible state could respond. Of course, it could have been negligent in which case, Goldstone is confident it will "respond accordingly". But when a suspect exercises their right to silence, judges usually direct juries to refrain from presumptions of guilt, don't they? If what Goldstone is saying now is true, then he presumed Israel guilty. But let's take a look at how the 29 members of the al-Samouni family died. Here's the Washington Post from the time:

Just before dawn on Jan. 4, a sledgehammer crashed through the living-room wall of the home of Almaz al-Samuni in this southern enclave of Gaza City, pounding a hole wide enough for someone to poke a rifle through while shouting in a language she didn't understand.
"Get out of the house now," an Israeli soldier ordered, this time in accented Arabic, she recalled. Almaz, small for her age of 13, and her family quickly did as they were told, heading for her uncle Wael's house nearby, where by daybreak 92 family members had packed in thigh-to-thigh. It was a week into Israel's 22-day war with Hamas.
So some al-Samouni's were ordered into the house of another al-Samouni. I mention that because Goldstone didn't.
At least 29 members of the Samuni family died over the next two weeks -- including Almaz's mother and two brothers. Sixteen or more were killed Jan. 5 when at least two Israeli shells smashed Wael al-Samuni's crowded house. 
So it took two weeks for Israel's possible negligence, over which it will "respond accordingly", to result in the killing of 29 members of the same family. Again, I mention this because from reading the Goldstone re-report you would never know that. And there's more:
At least six others wounded in that attack died more slowly, over more than three days when the Israeli army kept emergency vehicles from entering the neighborhood, according to another teenager who had been stranded and later rescued from the house.
So Israel "kept emergency vehicles from entering the neighborhood". Negligence? Is Goldstone calling the witnesses liars? Just a little caveat here:
This account of the Zaytoun attack and its aftermath was taken primarily from interviews with a dozen members of the Samuni family who survived the assault, as well as statements and patient logs from Gaza City's Shifa and al-Quds hospitals. The information largely parallels an earlier account given by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which concluded that by thwarting rescue efforts for four days Israel had "failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law."
It's that absence of Israeli testimony again but Goldstone has severely glossed over the case of 29 members of the same family as if they were killed in one erroneous shelling when it took two weeks for them all to be killed and many appear to have died specifically because the Israeli army denied them emergency medical attention.

Well, in fairness, Judge Goldstone was only writing an op-ed for the Washington Post. He wasn't rewriting his entire report. Otherwise he might have mentioned the complaints of Israel using blindfolded civilians as human shields.  But somehow he managed to mention the recent murders at Itamar. He doesn't mention Itamar by name but see this:
the Human Rights Council should condemn the inexcusable and cold-blooded recent slaughter of a young Israeli couple and three of their small children in their beds.
Now why should the Human Rights Council condemn a straightfoward, admittedly heinous, case of murder? Is Judge Goldstone accusing a political or state actor of these murders? If so, he has one up on the Israeli authorities who appear to be as clueless now about the atrocity that took place under their own jurisdiction in a very secure settlement from which Palestinians are barred as they were at the time.  Is he doing again what he is basically accusing himself of doing in his original report? Assuming guilt by accusation? And who is he accusing? Will he now involve himself in unsolved murders the world over? I'm guessing not.

So where does this leave us? Goldstone has pretty much shredded his credibility which means he has in many ways shredded the original report. We can speculate as to why he wrote such a ludicrous article but the result is to undermine his credibility on just about anything, certainly anything involving Israel or any other pet project of the west.

I should point out that there is a certain amount of hedging in the op-ed.  There are ifs and buts blaming Israel for not co-operating and little hints that there were individual cases if wrong-doing but the negation of a general policy of war criminality  whilst hurling tabloid style abuse at Hamas does shows the general thrust of the op-ed to be an apology to Israel and an apologetic for Israel.

The best zionist approach to this would be to simply leave well alone now but many want a feed frenzy as  Conal Urquhart reports on the op-ed in The Guardian.
Israeli media responded to Goldstone's article with jubilation. The columnists of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper offered a conciliatory tone to the judge for having the courage to question his initial findings, while Ma'ariv writers were unforgiving.
One wrote: "He is undeserving of either forgiveness or mercy" and had perpetrated "a despicable and shameful act".
Urquhart picks up, uncritically, the story of the 29 members of the al-Samouni family. I think that says as much about Urquhart as it does about the harm that Goldstone has now done whatever the latter's motive.

We can speculate as to why so eminent a judge has made himself look so ludicrous and in so widely read a newspaper. People will say that he simply couldn't take the pressure, I think we can rule out bribery.  He could have been directly threatened or had members of his family threatened but all of that speculation would miss the point that Goldstone has written an utterly ludicrous article in order to cover for the racist war criminals of the State of Israel.


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