Goldstone: ‘retractions’ vs facts

on 60 Comments

The publication of Richard Goldstone’s op-ed in The Washington Post on Friday heralded a weekend of frenzied hasbara. Goldstone’s “retraction” (though ‘qualification’ is more accurate) of the report into Operation Cast Lead was welcomed by Israeli leaders, Israel advocates in the USA, and others. Ha’aretz columnist Aluf Benn described Goldstone’s op-ed has “a major public relations coup”, claiming that Goldstone had “retracted his allegations that Israel had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during Operation Cast Lead”.

These responses ironically paralleled the fallout to the Report itself, with sound and fury (and in this case, delight) preferable to cold facts. Since the Israeli government and its propagandists have a track record in establishing certain ‘myths’ and ‘truths’ that are then repeated for years to come, here are five points about the Goldstone op-ed and the fallout.

1. The Washington Post is not the United Nations.

Or, in other words, an opinion column in a newspaper does not have the same weight – to say the least – as a UN-commissioned report stretching over 500 pages, written by four respected international jurists. Sounds obvious I know, but you wouldn’t think it, to see some of the Israel lobby responses. Oh, and just to reiterate a point – the Report was written by four jurists, not Goldstone by himself.

2. What the Report actually claimed about the targeting of civilians.

In his op-ed, Goldstone wrote that Israel’s own investigations (see below) “indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy”. This in particular has been seized on as an indication that a core element of the Report has been ‘retracted’.

This is misleading. The Report never claimed that Israel set out to intentionally murder civilians, but said that Cast Lead was “deliberately disproportionate” and intended “to punish, humiliate and terrorize”. Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, has been making this point on Twitter. He commented, that the “crime of indiscriminate warfare” – not “deliberate killing” – was indeed “state policy”, and that there had been “no retraction” on that part.

There is no shortage of evidence regarding Israel’s deliberately disproportionate use of force. Even during the attacks, Israel was preparing for the ‘day after’, under “the working assumption” that “Israel has suffered a blow to its image in the West in the wake of heavy civilian casualties” –a “negative sentiment” that would “only grow as the full picture of destruction emerges”.

An IDF spokesperson said that: “Anything affiliated with Hamas is a legitimate target”, while on 14 January, as the military assault continued, The Jerusalem Post reported Shimon Peres’ description of Israel’s aim as “to provide a strong blow to the people of Gaza so that they would lose their appetite for shooting at Israel”.

Then there’s the so-called ‘Dahiya Doctrine’ (after the Lebanon war in 2006) – coined when the IDF Northern Command chief in October 2008 discussed how Israel would conduct the next war: “civilian villages” would be considered as “military bases”, an “approved” plan, he affirmed.  Another paper written by a reserve Colonel for the Institute of National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University – titled ‘Disproportionate Force’- observed:

With an outbreak of hostilities, the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy’s actions and the threat it poses. Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes.

These recommendations were noted by Ha’aretz, two months before Operation Cast Lead, in an article titled, ‘IDF plans to use disproportionate force in next war’.

One could go on – there are the booklets given to soldiers by the Israeli army’s chief rabbinate, especially produced for Cast Lead, that in one section compared “Palestinians to the Philistines”, or the disclosures by Israeli military personnel since the attack, such as one commander’s admission that the IDF “rewrote the rules of war for Gaza”

3. The Goldstone Report’s findings were corroborated by other groups and investigations…

…such as the Human Rights Watch report on white phosphorus, Breaking the Silence’s testimonies, and evidence from PCHR in Gaza. B’Tselem documented 252 dead children, a report by two Israeli used testimonies to allege the use of human shields, and Amnesty International concluded that “Israeli forces committed war crimes and other serious breaches of international law”, including “indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against civilians”. There is also the report[PDF] by the US National Lawyers Guild delegation to Gaza, and the Independent Fact Finding Committee report [PDF] commissioned by the Arab League, and made up of experts from South Africa, Netherlands, Norway, Chile/Germany, Portugal, and Australia.

An important side point here –remember how in the wake of the publication of the Goldstone Report, Israeli military officials and politicians spoke about the need “for changes in the international laws of war”. Why the imperative to ‘change’ the laws, if Israel had not broken any?

4. When the accused conducts ‘independent’ investigations of itself.

In his op-ed, Goldstone makes reference to Israel’s own internal investigations of allegations regarding Cast Lead, commenting that “Israel has done this [investigate ‘transparently and in good faith’] to a significant degree”. Goldstone cited the UN report into how the original Report’s recommendations are being implemented, yet there is a strange discrepancy.

While Goldstone felt able in his op-ed to refer to what was (or wasn’t) being endorsed by Israel as “a matter of policy”, the UN Committee[PDF] repeats testimony by Israel’s Military Attorney General (MAG) that “the military investigations system he heads is not a viable mechanism to investigate and assess high-level policy decisions”. The Committee also (somewhat drily) noted that the MAG’s “dual responsibilities” as both “legal advisor” to the “military authorities”, as well as “his role as supervisor of criminal investigations…raises concerns” [my emphasis]. In other words, Israel’s internal investigations are conducted by the lawyer of the subject of the investigation.

The Goldstone Report itself noted that the Israeli system “to deal with allegations of serious wrongdoing by armed forces personnel does not comply” with the relevant international principles. There is no shortage of examples of the culture of impunity. Amnesty International slammed the Turkel Commission into the murderous assault on the flotilla as a “whitewash”. Last November, The Jerusalem Post reported that the IDF had investigated 400 “complaints” related to Operation Cast Lead, interviewed “more than 600 officers and soldiers”, and the total number of indictments to date was three. A report by Israeli NGO Yesh Din revealed that between 2000 and 2009, less than 6 percent of investigations by the military police “against soldiers suspected of committing offenses against Palestinians and their property” led to indictments. B’Tselem’s report last year, ‘Void of Responsibility’, featured similar statistics: out of 148 cases in which Palestinians were killed between 2006 and 2009, only 22 resulted in a military police probe.

5. What the op-ed did not even mention.

As others have pointed out, the Goldstone Report’s findings were not just related to the deaths of civilians; on the contrary, there were numerous other aspects of Israel’s conduct in Gaza that the Report considered unlawful, including: use of certain weapons, the use of human shields, and the destruction of property.

Not only that, but the Report also focused on the context for the assault, and described Israel’s “blockade policies” as a “violation” of the Geneva Convention. The Report said that Operation Cast Lead cannot be viewed “in isolation” from the Israel’s general policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, many of which constitute “violations of international law”.

None of this was even mentioned, let alone ‘retracted’, in Goldstone’s op-ed. As ‘The Magnes Zionist’ blog pointed out, “even a superficial reading of the op-ed shows that he has not retracted a single comma in the Goldstone Report”. Indeed. In fact, Goldstone restates the Report’s original position: “Our report found evidence of potential war crimes and ‘possibly crimes against humanity’ by both Israel and Hamas.” Perhaps for the sake of closure then, though I’m not sure Israel’s propagandists will concur, it’s time to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court.

The post originally appeared on the A Just Peace for Palestine blog.

About Ben White

Ben White is author of 'Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide' and 'Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, discrimination and democracy'. Follow him on twitter at @benabyad and on his website

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60 Responses

  1. MRW
    April 3, 2011, 9:05 pm

    Perhaps for the sake of closure then, though I’m not sure Israel’s propagandists will concur, it’s time to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court.


    • Potsherd2
      April 3, 2011, 10:11 pm

      Backfire bigtime!

    • Sumud
      April 4, 2011, 5:04 am

      I think that’s a very sensible idea.

    • pabelmont
      April 4, 2011, 9:06 am

      In the alternative, it is high time that serious lawyers and judges open a discussion about creating an international body for investigation — as distinguished from prosecution — of allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity and genocide. The work that led to the Goldstone Report was seriously handicapped and flawed, in that the team of investigators had no subpoena power inside Israel (or elsewhere), no power to compel testimony from persons, no power to compel production of documents. The ICC is itself flawed (as I understand it, and I have not studied it) by a rule which allows the alleged miscreants to investigate (and punish) themselves, their own people, etc. It would seem that such an investigation is what Hamas did not do and what Israel may have done, in part or in whole. But these self-investigations have an aura of unsatisfactoriness; few Israelis would be satisfied with a Hamas investigation which ruled that all Hamas-fired rockets were aimed at military targets. And few anywhere in the world are satisfied with Israel’s investigations following publication of the Goldstone Report.

  2. DICKERSON3870
    April 3, 2011, 9:09 pm

    RE: “The Washington Post is not the United Nations.” – Ben White
    MY SNARK: Yes it is! And Fred Hiatt is the Grand Poobah!
    Grand Poobahlink to
    Groucho Goes to War on False Pretenses (VIDEO, 01:59) – link to

  3. Richard Witty
    April 3, 2011, 9:10 pm

    If the matter has not been referred to the ICC yet, it is very unlikely that that will occur now. The Goldstone report was a fact finding exercise, as a preliminary phase prior to even consideration of prosecution.

    That the author of the report described the report now as fundamentally flawed in scope of investigation, that the incompleteness of the evidence collection, rendered the reports conclusions unreliable, is a very big consideration.

    Jerry Haber is wrong about the op-ed. It did modify many “commas”, as it cast the report in an entirely different context than originally. The report is now cast in the context of ‘the scope of the Israeli invasion was not irrational’, and ‘the method of operation was not intended to disregard international law’ (not quotes, inferences).

    The scope of potential violations of international law are much more limited. The accusation that attacking electrical infrastructure is a war crime, is now questioned. The accusation of removing buildings from a ‘line of site’ was regarded as a deliberate attack on civilian property. Its not now.

    If Goldstone is consistent in his reasoning, and the only difference between the original publication and now is that he has been exposed to evidence that he had not been prior, then its likely that the report itself, the content, would not substantiate the assertions of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, etc. who each had similar access (and restrictions from access) to evidence.

    If the Goldstone Report resulted in a conclusion of ‘a few incidents of war crimes were indicated’, would you have felt confident in that report, or object to it?

    • Donald
      April 3, 2011, 10:17 pm

      Any evidence for any of this, Richard?

      And I visited your blog just now (ten seconds of my life I’ll never get back) and found this gem–

      “It is similar to the change in tone towards the work of Benny Morris, who was a hero of the left when he aired Zionist dirty laundry in the early – mid 80′s, but then qualified his criticisms.”

      You mean the Benny Morris who “qualified his criticisms” by saying that ethnic cleansing was justified? I understand why you wouldn’t be able to see why the “left” would stop seeing him as a hero after that.

      • Chaos4700
        April 3, 2011, 10:26 pm

        Dick Witty, champion of segregation, fierce advocate of ethnic cleansing, vociferous patriot… of Israel.

      • James North
        April 3, 2011, 10:28 pm

        Donald: Don’t you love Richard’s euphemism? Benny Morris found that the founders of Israel had massacred and driven into exile huge numbers of Palestinians — and Richard calls this “airing Zionist dirty laundry!!”

      • Richard Witty
        April 3, 2011, 10:38 pm

        I have a higher opinion of Benny Morris than you guys. And, the point about the turning on Richard Goldstone is apt.

        Its a point about the fickleness of the left when individuals choose to divert from the party line.

        You don’t see that?

      • Donald
        April 3, 2011, 10:41 pm

        Euphemisms and bad writing are an essential part of RW’s defense of Israel and that’s not snark. He only writes clearly when he thinks the evidence is on his side–hence the exceptional clarity of his initial posts when this Goldstone backflip was first aired here. Otherwise it’s all fog, euphemisms, and writing that is barely recognizable as English. Orwell explained all this in “Politics and the English Language”.

      • Donald
        April 3, 2011, 10:50 pm

        “I have a higher opinion of Benny Morris than you guys.”

        He supports ethnic cleansing and so do you, so it’s only natural. And that’s not snark–that’s the literal truth.

        ” And, the point about the turning on Richard Goldstone is apt.

        Its a point about the fickleness of the left when individuals choose to divert from the party line.”

        The party line here is having a consistent standard on human rights. Morris and you think ethnic cleansing is okay when Israel does it–Morris also thought it was okay when the US did it to the Native Americans.

        With Goldstone, people here supported him when he was consistent in his condemnations of Hamas, the PA, and Israel. Now he’s backtracking. So people who are consistent about caring about human rights no longer feel he represents our point of view.

        There’s no mystery here, Richard. You support people when they make excuses for Israeli crimes. You get upset when people here criticize apologists for Israeli crimes.

        You don’t see that?

      • James North
        April 3, 2011, 11:01 pm

        Donald: There is a difference between Benny Morris and Richard Witty. Morris documented that Israel had carried out ethnic cleansing back in the late ’40s — but then he endorsed it to found Israel. He never as far as I know recanted his findings of fact. He was refreshingly direct, like our own 3e. “We did it, and too bad.”
        Richard, by contrast, only under extreme duress recognized Israel’s ethnic cleansing “as not currently necessary.” The overwhelming majority of his comments — 9280 and counting — avoid admitting discussing such crimes, or deny they ever took place.

      • Richard Witty
        April 3, 2011, 11:03 pm

        Read my own blog. Please refrain from misrepresenting my views.

        Quote if you like.

        You guys vehemently attack anyone that differs from the simplistic party line an iota. Did you read back on the commentary of Jerome Slater’s articles supporting a two-state solution. He was called “racist”, “panderer”, “closet likud”.

        Its the same.

        Morris is hated for saying “I’m glad that there is an Israel, rather than none, and if it took struggle, wonderful.”

        The reason that its the same is that your politics are about judgment, rather than about engagement and improvement.

        Its always been that way. It won’t change mass movements. But, at some point you will have a role in life that isn’t of critic, but of leader in some respect. And, that entails entirely different modes of thinking, always involving some moral compromise.

        It requires you to think about what is important, and what is less so.

        What is the punishment for war crime? Execution, imprisonment, or obligation to enact reforms.

      • James North
        April 3, 2011, 11:13 pm

        Here’s Richard above, on Benny Morris:

        “Its a point about the fickleness of the left when individuals choose to divert from the party line.”

        In the early 2000s, Benny Morris suddenly endorsed Israel’s murder and expulsion of masses of Palestinian human beings back in the late ’40s. Richard calls this “a diversion from the party line.” People like us — including the great Israeli historian, Avi Shlaim — denounce Morris’s change. Richard calls this “fickle.”

        Again, he does all this because his conscience continues to bother him.

      • Richard Witty
        April 3, 2011, 11:19 pm

        Benny Morris maintains a sense of tension in his views. He acknowledges and lives with multiple contradictory truths, and then makes a personal judgement as to his own agenda, efforts.

        You are still ranting about thought-police type stuff. The range of people that you will trust is thin.

        I’m powerless, so not worth trusting to enact a liberal agenda in the US or Israel.

        But, the way I weigh the multiple facts of the Israel/Palestinian conflict over an extended period, is really quite common. If anything, my views are relatively far to the left of the mainstream, of the Jewish community and general.

        But, I’m 56, old and in the way. And Jerome Slater is even older and only periodically in the way.

        My conscience does bother me. Tensions are difficult to reconcile. They would be easier if the forms of options of dissent presented here weren’t so puritanical, and denunciatory for those that differ an iota.

      • Donald
        April 3, 2011, 11:38 pm

        Richard also says–

        “Morris is hated for saying “I’m glad that there is an Israel, rather than none, and if it took struggle, wonderful.””

        Euphemisms again. I won’t object to the quote marks–Richard uses those for paraphrasing as he understands what the person said. Or to misrepresent what the person said. Morris didn’t just say he was glad there was an Israel and if it took struggle, wonderful. That’s one of the most bizarre misreadings I’ve ever seen, even from Richard. Morris said that Israel became a Jewish state through ethnic cleansing and that it was okay to do that to Palestinians, just as it was okay for European-Americans to do it to Native Americans, because the one culture was superior to the other.

        Richard apparently can’t bring himself to tell the truth about this, because the truth is ugly.

        In all seriousness, Richard, you have a big problem with handling truths about what you call Zionism’s “dirty laundry”. It seriously effects your credibility as a peace advocate. To the extent that this matters you should try to fix it by being more honest.

        As for Jerry Slater, some of us criticized him on some points while defending his overall record of honesty, some criticized him quite harshly (more than I liked to see) and some didn’t criticize him at all. It’s not a very friendly place for honest liberal Zionists, but that’s got nothing to do with you. You’re a denier of Israeli brutality. Slater isn’t.

      • Donald
        April 3, 2011, 11:44 pm

        “Benny Morris maintains a sense of tension in his views. He acknowledges and lives with multiple contradictory truths, and then makes a personal judgement as to his own agenda, efforts.”

        You are still ranting about thought-police type stuff. The range of people that you will trust is thin.”

        That’s Richard, dancing around the fact that Morris defended ethnic cleansing and that’s why the left dislikes him. “Thought police stuff” is when you are opposed to someone justifying a crime against humanity.

        To translate into an idiom Richard understands, suppose “solidarity” all claimed it was okay for Hamas to use suicide bombing attacks against Israeli civilians. I bet he’d see a reason to be upset. Just a hunch.

      • Shingo
        April 4, 2011, 12:30 am

        I have a higher opinion of Benny Morris than you guys.

        But not high enough to warrent reading any of his books though, rigth Witty?

      • Sonja
        April 4, 2011, 2:12 am

        “Benny Morris maintains a sense of tension in his views.”

        And so does Jersey Shore and Dr. Phil.

        “Liberal zionism”, what a joke.

      • Richard Witty
        April 4, 2011, 3:58 am

        My read of Morris is different than your description, Donald.

        1948 must have been a very anguished year. I respect the complexes of anguish that were at play.

        If you read the history, you will have to note that harms were mutual. It was not a sadistic agenda as you apparently naively repeat, though there certainly was brutality that I would not do.

        Leave room in your thinking for more than just gospel, please.

      • Sumud
        April 4, 2011, 5:17 am

        I have a higher opinion of Benny Morris than you guys.

        Naturally, you’re as cosy as two peas in a pod.

        …Whoops, make that three: let’s not forget you also advocate an even more extreme version of Avigdor Lieberman’s plan to ethnically cleanse Palestinian Israelis as part of a two-state settlement (your innovation being to reserve the right for Israeli jews to ethnically cleanse Palestinians indefinitely).

        Its a point about the fickleness of the left when individuals choose to divert from the party line.

        You don’t see that?

        Morris was (and is) lauded for his work as a historian, and lost all moral credibility for advocating ethnic cleansing. Goldstone was lauded for his humane, brave and scholarly approach to the atrocities he witnessed in Gaza. His editorial is vague and at points dishonest.

        The “party line” is not ‘those who criticise Israel = good’, it is displaying a commitment to universal human rights, and honest, rigorous journalism, research and reportage. That’s why the Palestinian rights movement and BDS is growing so fast Richard. Telling the truth tends to win people over.

      • Sumud
        April 4, 2011, 5:21 am

        Morris is hated for saying “I’m glad that there is an Israel, rather than none, and if it took struggle, wonderful.”

        I see quotation marks but no link or source Richard. Where and when did Morris say this? How did you get the impression that Morris is “hated for saying this”?

      • seafoid
        April 4, 2011, 6:40 am

        I”t was not a sadistic agenda”?

        The Zionists ethnically cleansed the natives from their land.

        “Trader found the jeweled land
        Was occupied before he came
        By humans of a second look
        Who couldn’t even write their names shame
        Trader said they’re not as good
        As folks who wear velvet robes
        Wrote home again and asked, Please help
        Their breasts I see; they’re not like me
        Banish them from our prairies and our hillsides
        Clear them from our mountains and our seaside
        I want them off our lakes so please reply
        Signed sincerely.
        Trader he got the crown okay
        Cleared humanity from his way”

        1948 was a tragedy for the Jewish people. Because it will never, ever be forgiven.

        You should read “Publish it not”. Zionism is a total disaster that can only end in tears.

      • Donald
        April 4, 2011, 6:46 am

        “My read of Morris is different than your description, Donald.”

        My description of Morris’ stand was factually accurate, something you won’t acknowledge because like many fatuous bores with nothing substantive to say, you can’t refute the facts and so you pretend to wisdom when you can’t even acknowledge statements of fact. Here’s some fortune cookie wisdom for you, oh great guru of the smoke screen–if you can’t handle the boring literal truth and won’t even acknowledge it when it is typed out, don’t claim to be on a higher plane. It’s a trick you try to play all the time and I strongly suspect it is meant to fool yourself more than anyone else. James is probably right–it is you running from your conscience. This is why you type essentially the same content-free responses to almost anything that is said to you (“My reading of X is different from ….”)–on those rare occasions when you deal with the dirty laundry in plain English you say something horrible. I suspect you regret that you ever openly stated that ethnic cleansing was necessary–it was an uncharacteristically open admission of the ruthlessness that lies behind your ideology. You could have just ignored the substance of what was done as you are doing here and typed your self-congratulatory prose on how judgement-free you are when an Israeli murders someone.

        Here is Morris’s interview. He throws in that “complexity” you admire, which is no different from the apologetics for terrorism that some on the left would type on behalf of suicide bombing. He also says just what I reported above.


      • Richard Witty
        April 4, 2011, 7:28 am

        Have you read “Righteous Victims”?

        Two narratives, each true to themselves, untrue to the other.

        That is what complexity is constructed of.

        It is a moral dilemma. One that you don’t bear, of concern for a “we” as well some opportunistically impersonal judgment.

        I sincerely regard the importance of electoral shift in Israel as critical to realize an improvement for the two communities, and hope that motivated activists will engage rather than disengage so that peaceable election is the path of history there rather than warring confrontation.

        I do observe that whenever the tone of dissent shifts to vitriol, to condemnation (rather than productive criticism), that the Israeli electorate shifts right. Those that are not likudniks end up voting likud.

        On Morris, are you intellectually strong enough to consider his arguments? What do you agree with, disagree with?

      • LeaNder
        April 4, 2011, 8:29 am

        Sumud, it’s a while back that we discussed RW’s spiritual mentor:
        Survival of the Fittest?

        Ben-Gurion was a “transferist”?

        Of course. Ben-Gurion was a transferist. He understood that there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst. There would be no such state. It would not be able to exist.

        I don’t hear you condemning him.

        Ben-Gurion was right. If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here.

        After you read about “brave iconoclast” Bennie Morris, read the late Baruch Zimmermann (pdf.file) take on both Morris and on the issue. That’s even more interesting.

      • Donald
        April 4, 2011, 8:48 am

        I agree with Morris that both sides committed atrocities. I disagree that atrocities on either side are justified. Ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity–full stop. It was wrong when the whites did it in the US and it was wrong when the Zionists did it and it was wrong when Arabs did it. This isn’t rocket science, Richard and you know it. You are quite clear about right and wrong when Arabs attack Jews and you turn into a moral relativist when Jews attack Arabs. It never changes.

        And you’re not fooling anyone. You’re not saying anything specific about Morris’s and your approval of ethnic cleansing, because you know if you get specific we’ll remember what you said. That’s smart, Richard, from your hypocritical perspective.

      • Donald
        April 4, 2011, 8:54 am

        “though there certainly was brutality that I would not do.”

        A lot of squeamish people approve of atrocities they wouldn’t do with their own hands. They want the result, but they want someone else to do the dirty work.

      • Andre
        April 4, 2011, 8:57 am

        RW wrote: “It is a moral dilemma.”

        Ethnic cleansing and acts of Genocide only pose a dilemma to those who are suffering from a dysfunctional conscience.

        “I do observe that whenever the tone of dissent shifts to vitriol, to condemnation (rather than productive criticism), that the Israeli electorate shifts right.”

        How does one “productively criticize” a fascist occupier and Apartheid regime?

        And thank you Ben White, for your excellent post. Well done!

      • mig
        April 4, 2011, 9:30 am

        “”If you read the history, you will have to note that harms were mutual.””

        ++++ 711 000 removed palestinians vs. 7000 are truly mutual. And yes, i support right of those removed jews return back to palestinian side, where they belong.

      • LeaNder
        April 4, 2011, 12:13 pm

        “My read of Morris is different than your description, Donald.”
        We know and we drew our conclusions a long time ago. And you take care we do not forget.

        Remember, it’s not about the past it’s about the future, it is not necessary now, but it might need to be done in the future again, never mind how how unlikely the scenario is he presents. But the war on terrorism might offers undreamed-of-possiblities, if only the world understood who these Arabs are. (pdf.file Baruch Kimmerling Logos 3.1 – Winter 2004.

        However the issue is less about what happened in past and more about Morris’ wishful thinking and prophecy about the future: To the interviewer’s question if Morris advocates a new ethnic cleansing today he replies: “If you are asking me whether I support the transfer and expulsion of the Arabs from the West Bank, Gaza and perhaps even from Galilee and the Triangle [Israel], I say not at this moment. I am not willing to be a partner to that act. In the present circumstances, it is neither moral nor realistic. The world would not allow it, the Arab world would not allow it, it would destroy the Jewish society from within. But I am ready to tell you that under other circumstances, apocalyptic ones, which are liable to be realized in five or ten years, I can see expulsions. If we find ourselves with atomic weapons around us, or if there is a general Arab attack on us and a situation of warfare on the front with Arabs in the rear shooting at convoys on their way to the front, acts of expulsion will be entirely reasonable. They may even be essential.”

        This doomsday scenario drawn by Morris is so fantastical not only because the Palestinian citizens of Israel proved, despite very harsh conditions and generational discrimination their “loyalty” to the state, but also because the existence of dense Arab population within the narrow strip of the Holy Land is the best insurance Israel has against being attacked by strategic nuclear or other WMDs. Otherwise, Morris is unable to understand that the moment that nuclear, biological and chemical weapons were used in the context of the Middle East by any side, it is already too late to save anything in the region.

        A balanced historian, or a an inciter of hate, you tell me:

        But one cannot ask for much logic in an emotional outburst by an archivist, when he tries to compose a generalized and coherent picture from his thousands of details. Then he turns to his own prejudices and stereotypes of the Islamic and Arabic culture that happen to be fashionable and well fit the present moods of the Israeli-Jewish and some parts of Western political culture since the September 11 calamity. But the historian is not just a part of the collective mood and expresses it, he also provide historical and intellectual legitimacy to the most primitive and self-destructive impulse of a very troubled society. Perhaps it is indicative that to the interviewer’s question—“if Zionism is so dangerous for the Jews and if Zionism makes the Arabs so wretched, maybe it was [from the start] a mistake?”—Morris lacks any meaningful answers.

    • Chaos4700
      April 3, 2011, 10:20 pm

      If Goldstone is consistent in his reasoning

      He isn’t. So quantify this for us, Witty. Was Goldstone lying during the investigation? Or is he lying now?

      Also, your posting rate has skyrocketed to about TWELVE TIMES as high, give or take, as during the initial release of the Goldstone Report. Which you never read at the time. Why is that?

      The murder of 350 children couldn’t move you, but an op ed in the Washington “WMDs in Iraq” Post does?

  4. Western Sky
    April 3, 2011, 9:29 pm


    “Or, in other words, an opinion column in a newspaper does not have the same weight – to say the least – as a UN-commissioned report stretching over 500 pages, written by four respected international jurists.”

    To most rational people, the Washington Post commands much more respect than the UN “Human Rights” Council, which is filled with some of the most barbaric countries on Earth.

    • Potsherd2
      April 3, 2011, 10:12 pm

      For some definitions of “rational people” that mean “committed Zionists.”

      • Western Sky
        April 3, 2011, 10:16 pm

        How many members of the “Human Rights” Council have, in their own countries, an acceptable measure of true human rights?

      • mig
        April 4, 2011, 1:09 am

        None ( including USA which is now also member in council ), none in the world ( including my country, which is in the top of the world a’la human rights ).

        So if not a one country has a clean human rights record, it cant be judged by anyone. Cool huh ?

    • Chaos4700
      April 3, 2011, 10:27 pm

      The Washington Post also told us that there were WMDs in Iraq and that Saddam Hussein was arm and arm with Osama bin Laden.

    • Sonja
      April 4, 2011, 2:29 am

      The Human Rights Council’s statements are endorsed, or not. If “the most barbaric countries on Earth” claim something ‘the most civilized countries on Earth’ agree with, then all is hunky dory. Also ‘the most civilized countries on Earth’ seriously lack ethical or moral judgement when it comes to making money. That is barbarism too, only the self-rightious kind. Who calls the kettle black.

  5. Shingo
    April 4, 2011, 12:35 am

    This is an outstanding analysis Ben,

    As I was readiong through your powerful arguments, I couldn’t help but wonder what has happened to Goldstone. I don’t just mean in terms of his “retraction” but more in terms of how shoddy his op ed appears, compared to the detail fo his original arguments.

    As you pointed out, he sounds as thuogh he’s forgotten what appeared in the original report. It’s as though his mind has gone, or he’s lost touch with reality.

    I was almost left wondering if he didn’t interntionall place all those red herrigns in op ed for some smart investigative writer like yourself to discover.

    • seafoid
      April 4, 2011, 4:21 am

      Agreed, a superb analysis. Perhaps Goldstone wanted to send a message to the outside world from captivity and the vehicle was the crap selection of hasbara the article was dripping in. Imagine Richard Ford writing in the style of MSN celebrity news. Something very fishy.

    • dubitante
      April 4, 2011, 5:22 am

      As Naomi Klein said last night, there’s a reason bullies bully – it usually works.

      Goldstone is highly intelligent. He would have known that by misrepresenting the McGowan Davis report to the extent to which he did that he would create headlines, but he would know that no one who is serious about the subject would possibly take his words on board without fact checking.

      Given that his allegations about what the report says are demonstrably false, one wonders just who he is kidding – certainly the corporate media, but was he expecting his excommunication from the Zionist flock to be ended?

  6. VR
    April 4, 2011, 1:02 am

    The point about the other jurists is very good. A dose of needed reality.

    I appreciated the second point, however much of it is quibbling about words – like the talk about “disproportionate,” if you use disproportionate force to the tune of shells – rockets – bomb tonnage – and massive amounts of white phosphorous what is going to be the result? Large amounts of injury and death among a civilian population on the most densely populated real estate in the region. So the quibble about the correct use of terms under the circumstances is moot – therefore what is Mr. Goldstone saying – that this has been the practice and the result has not been numerous civilian casualties? Just look at the numbers, the correct use of terms is acceptable but does not change the equation – to say that it is not “deliberate killing” is preposterous. ‘The criminal shot numerous bullets indiscriminately in the room filled with unarmed inhabitants, many died – he used disproportionate force?’ The Israelis intentionally murder civilians, whether they see them eye to eye or not, etc.

    Corroborated by other groups and investigations is a powerful point, sometimes meant to be lost in the fervor of desperate Zionist claims. The only retort to this is the same one that Mr. Goldstone used about the UN in the article – their picking on us (loosely paraphrased), and is no argument against incontrovertible facts which involve repetitious atrocious and murderous behavior.

    Of course, investigations of itself (Israel) is what I saw as a problem from the outset. This is almost self-explanatory.

    The other factors like the Gaza blockade and willful destruction of civilian property is strong. Showing that even though there was great restraint in bringing out the common condition of the Palestinians, it could not be avoided – to attempt to do so would be to lift it completely out of the context of reality.

    However, I think the author knows that this will never be handed over to the International Criminal Court, no matter how eloquently it is called for here. That is because when push comes to shove these instruments of the UN serve the dominant nations, you can see this in the remedies between nations (and I have developed this before, so I am not going to repeat myself). One thing that shows this gravitation to the power dominant is the use of Mr. Goldstone presiding over the report. Why was it necessary to use a confessed Zionist? I think you will see why when you go through the background of Mr. Goldstone’s work – take for instance what transpired in the former Yugoslavia (which refused to follow the lead of the “world order”), or Rwanda (which was really and essentially undone by interest in the West, which is what really caused the ensuing tragic deaths) – the results served empire. I have never seen anyone ever address why it was necessary to use Mr. Goldstone in this instance – I think I know the answer, do you?

  7. dubitante
    April 4, 2011, 4:08 am

    I’ve also done some comparison of Goldstone’s op-ed with the documentary record here:

    link to

    It covers a couple of additional things, particularly Goldstone’s claims about the death toll being wrong, which is simply baseless and stems from Israel’s classification of the Gazan Police force as combatants, rather than civilians.

    It’s still the case that pretty much every one of Goldstone’s claims about what the McGowan David report says is demonstrably false.

    • Donald
      April 4, 2011, 7:49 am

      That’s a good post. Phil should link to it or (with your permission) put it on the front page here.

      • dubitante
        April 4, 2011, 8:40 am

        Thanks Donald. Phil is welcome to use it in any way he sees fit, I wouldn’t know how to contact him though.

    • annie
      April 4, 2011, 10:44 am

      dubitante, phil and adam’s contact email’s are available on the ‘about’ page (look above the mondoweiss logo).

  8. petersz
    April 4, 2011, 9:01 am

    Watch this video of Goldstone in 2009 stating Israel DELIBERATELY HIT CIVILIAN TARGETS. He says Israel has very precise weapons knew what targets it was bombing and these were civilian ones not military ones such as food factories:-

    link to

  9. Kathleen
    April 4, 2011, 9:33 am

    Goldstone ” they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”

    This is the line that gets me. So what if Israel’s policy does not state that they intentionally target civilians” Their actions speak louder than their written policy

    • dubitante
      April 4, 2011, 9:41 am

      His assertion that the McGowan Davis report states that “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy” is demonstrably false.

      The Committee (confirming the UNFFM’s report) found significant prima facie evidence of high level policies of the targeting of civilians.

      • Kathleen
        April 4, 2011, 11:28 am

        And what does it matter if it is not a “matter or policy” The facts on the ground, the dead, injured , those killed at the UN office, the evidence in the investigators faces would seem like it should trump what Israel says or has written down in some policy.

        A Matter of Policy…so what. Can a peasant use that argument after they commit a crime. Well Judge as a “matter of policy” I have never stated or written down that I do not believe in stealing, killing etc. But hey the fact that someone saw me kill a particular person who was unarmed or I used them as a human shield etc…but again that is not a “matter of policy” for me. what the hell does that mean anyway. Seems like that argument could not hold any water in front of an International Criminal Court.

        If Gaddafi said that it is “not a matter of policy” for me to target civilians and please just ignore that pile of bodies that I had my thugs knock off.

        Policy shmolicy….evidence, facts on the ground trumps “matter of policy” or is that only in a just world

      • dubitante
        April 4, 2011, 4:19 pm

        I know what you are saying. The actual act is no different regardless of policy. It is only important insomuch as it has implications for criminal culpability.

  10. petersz
    April 4, 2011, 10:49 am

    Great analysis by Ilan Pappe in new article “Goldstone’s shameful U-turn”
    This is explains Goldstone’s U-turn in a nutshell:-
    “You cannot claim to be one(a Zionist) if you oppose the ideology of the apartheid State of Israel. You can remain one if you just rebuke the state for a certain criminal policy and fail to see the connection between the ideology and that policy. “I am a Zionist” is a declaration of loyalty to a frame of mind that cannot accept the 2009 Goldstone Report. You can either be a Zionist or blame Israel for war crimes and crimes against humanity — if you do both, you will crack sooner rather than later”.
    link to

    • Kathleen
      April 4, 2011, 11:51 am

      Ilan Pappe nails it again. thanks for that link

      “Professionally, both Morris and Goldstone tried to retreat to a position that claimed, as Goldstone does in The Washington Post article, that Israel can only be judged by its intentions not the consequences of its deeds. Therefore only the Israeli army, in both cases, can be a reliable source for knowing what these intentions were. Very few decent and intelligent people in the world would accept such a bizarre analysis and explanation.

      Goldstone has not entered as yet the lunatic fringe of ultra-Zionism as Morris did. But if he is not careful the future promises to be a pleasant journey with the likes of Morris, Alan Dershowitz (who already said that Goldstone is a “repentant Jew”) between annual meetings of the AIPAC rottweilers and the wacky conventions of the Christian Zionists. He would soon find out that once you cower in the face of Zionism — you are expected to go all the way or be at the very same spot you thought you had successfully left behind you.

      Winning Zionist love in the short-term is far less important than losing the world’s respect in the long-run. Palestine should choose its friends with care: they cannot be faint-hearted nor can they claim to be Zionists as well as champions of peace, justice and human rights in Palestine.”

      • annie
        April 4, 2011, 12:18 pm

        Israel can only be judged by its intentions not the consequences of its deeds

        does international law work like this?

  11. Nigel Parry
    April 4, 2011, 10:51 am

    Ben White writes: “The Report never claimed that Israel set out to intentionally murder civilians…”

    It does at several points. Do an internal search of the document for the word “intention”.

  12. NickJOCW
    April 4, 2011, 11:32 am

    Hi, I just registered here to make a simple point that seems to have fallen foul of monitors elsewhere. Commonsense suggests that if Goldstone came to the conclusion that his eponymous report was flawed, he would have contacted the others who shared in its preparation and, were they similarly persuaded, they, or he alone if they were not so persuaded, would have drawn up a detailed erratum document for the UN Human Rights Council, which had appointed them to the investigation, presumably paid their expenses, and to whom they had delivered their report. Surely that is what anyone would do. It beggars belief that he would instead simply pen an ambiguous op-ed for a US newspaper.

    In Ynetnews, Avram Krengel, chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, is quoted boasting with distasteful self-satisfaction of the pressure Goldstone was exposed to at home.: “He (Goldstone) suffered greatly, especially in the city he comes from. We took sides against him, and it encourages us to know that our way had an effect against the international pressure and made him admit and regret his remarks.” link to

    Goldstone is a man of a certain age, he is retired, he has a family. His piece is carefully non-committal and I think I can guess how he was persuaded unload it.

    • Chaos4700
      April 4, 2011, 12:36 pm

      EXACTLY. Please do stick around, we need more people with this sort of common sense and the capacity to articulate it without going ballistic (which, admittedly, I’ve been doing since Goldstone bared that yellow streak on his back.)

    • MRW
      April 4, 2011, 2:42 pm


      Commonsense suggests that if Goldstone came to the conclusion that his eponymous report was flawed, he would have …. drawn up a detailed erratum document….It beggars belief that he would instead simply pen an ambiguous op-ed for a US newspaper.


    • Kathleen
      April 4, 2011, 6:15 pm


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