Reading Goldstone


Why should we trust the Goldstone report if it was produced by the UN Human Rights Commission – a body which has a notorious history of focusing overwhelmingly on Israel to the near exclusion of other potential human rights abusers around the world?

I posed this very question to Fred Abrahams, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch’s emergencies division who, together with B’tselem Executive Director Jessica Montell, participated in a remarkable conference call organized by Ta’anit Tzedek yesterday.

Fred, who is currently in Geneva attending the UN discusion of the report, answered that there is ample reason to be concerned about the HRC’s undue attention on Israel, but that this particular mission presented a very real “opportunity” for the council to prove otherwise.

In fact, Justice Richard Goldstone initially refused to chair the mission until it was agreed that Palestinian wartime behavior would be investigated in addition to Israel’s.  Indeed, in the end, both sides were taken to task in the report’s final recommendations. It was a shame, Fred said, that Israel’s abject dismissal of Goldstone might actually be thwarting the HRC in its first genuine attempt to realize its true mandate.

For her part, Jessica pointed out that B’tselem did have some concerns about possible bias in the report – a point she also made in a recent Jerusalem Post article. She did add, however, that Goldstone largely confirms the findings of B’tselem’s own investigations, including the huge number of civilian casualties and the targeting of civilian neighborhoods and Gazan infrastructure that had no clear military objective.

I’ve started reading the Goldstone report myself – all 575 pages of it – and encourage you to do the same (but recommend that like me you save some trees by reading it off your computer screen.)  My initial impression: this report is an honorable and good faith attempt to elucidate the facts of what occurred. Quite frankly, it makes for compelling and often devastating reading.  I am certainly aware that it is not a perfect document, but in the end I cannot accept that it deserves to be dismissed without due consideration  (let alone be painted as “blood libel.”)

And I will only add that after reading the report, I consider Richard Goldstone to be a heroic individual who should be lauded for taking on this enormously difficult task with such moral courage.

I was particularly moved by his willingness to address the critical context of this tragic crisis. Witness this excerpt from his opening statement to the UN upon presenting the report:

The Mission decided that in order to understand the effect of the Israeli military operations on the infrastructure and economy of Gaza, and especially its food supplies, it was necessary to have regard to the effects of the blockade that Israel has imposed on the Gaza Strip for some years and has been tightened since Hamas became the controlling authority of Gaza.

The Mission found that the attack on the only remaining flour producing factory, the destruction of a large part of the Gaza egg production, the bulldozing of huge tracts of agricultural land, and the bombing of some two hundred industrial facilities, could not on any basis be justified on military grounds. Those attacks had nothing whatever to do with the firing of rockets and mortars at Israel.

The Mission looked closely and sets out in the Report statements made by Israeli political and military leaders in which they stated in clear terms that they would hit at the “Hamas infrastructure.”

If “infrastructure” were to be understood in that way and become a justifiable military objective, it would completely subvert the whole purpose of International Human rights Law built up over the last 100 years and more. It would make civilians and civilian buildings justifiable targets.

These attacks amounted to reprisals and collective punishment and constitute war crimes.

The Government of Israel has a duty to protect its citizens. That in no way justifies a policy of collective punishment of a people under effective occupation, destroying their means to live a dignified life and the trauma caused by the kind of military intervention the Israeli Government called Operation Cast Lead. This contributes to a situation where young people grow up in a culture of hatred and violence, with little hope for change in the future.

Finally, the teaching of hate and dehumanization by each side against the other contributes to the destabilization of the whole region.

A transcript of our conference call will be posted on the Ta’anit Tzedek website soon. I’m excited to report that Ta’anit Tzedek is sponsoring a conference call between Justice Goldstone and Jewish clergy on October 18.  We have a great deal to learn from him and I look forward to reporting on our conversation.

6 thoughts on “Reading Goldstone

  1. ZionistJew

    Again, more of your nonsense. The Goldstone report is a disgrace to Israel and world Jewry. It is NOT an honest attempt at disseminating the truth. It only makes brief references to Hamas’ gross infractions of human rights. It doesn’t even bluntly say at they attempt to spread terror. The Goldstone Report has been lambasted by Democrats and Republicans in the U.S and even human rights advocates (even B’Tzelem which would be first to condemn Israel) and even Mary Robinson, the head of the UN Human Rights Council which commissioned the report in the first place!

    1. emilylhauser

      I’m a Zionist Jew, too, and I must say I take exception to your tone. “Again, more of your nonsense”? Really?

      Why don’t you (and I say this very sincerely) read the report, and take notes, and come back and break down what you don’t like about it, and why it is “a disgrace to Israel and world Jewry.” I am confident that Rabbi Rosen would be happy to engage in an honest conversation with you, as would others who visit this blog.

      But “again, more of your nonsense” furthers nothing and convinces no one.

  2. Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg

    Rabbi’s op ed Tribune article 100% wrong
    Reaction to this Rabbi written article in the Chicago Tribune on Erev Yom Kippur. In a nutshell: He has it totally backwards: This biased, dishonest report of the UN distances us from a just and peaceful solution. No country in the world does a more thorough job than Israel insuring it’s armed forced operate morally, often imperiling its soldiers lives. Rosen focuses again completely on the wrong issues of morality. He sides with the murderers and not the innocent. There is a life and death struggle here- Hamas of Gaza has said it’s stated goal is to destroy Israel, that Israel has no right to be a Jewish state and the Holocaust is a lie. Yom Kippur Minha Haftarah reading is Jonah where Jonah tries to avoid his responsibility to tell others who need to repent to do so. Rabbi Rosen has completely twisted the central issue and the true call for repentance by directing his call to the innocent nation of Israel who simply wants to live in peace with its neighbors, who unilaterally pulled out of Gaza, hoping the Gazans would be able to run their own country peace fully, and instead were greeted by thousands of missiles. Finally its citizens demanded that Israel do something to stop the missiles, so their army went in to protect their families and nation, finding the shooters in schools and hospitals and hiding behind children. Predictably the UN decided before it started that Israel committed war crimes, and this rabbi, who leads a fast for Gaza and writes extensively about our “misunderstnding Iran”, focuses his words of repentance on Israel and not the murderous Hamas in Gaza. He has Judaism and morality 100% backwards.

    ROSEN WROTE: On Sunday night, the Jewish community will begin our annual Yom Kippur fast.
    My response: TRUE

    ROSEN WROTE: The physical deprivation is a crucial element of the day, but as with many faith traditions, the fasting itself isn’t really the point. Going without food and water is, rather, a device, intended to sharpen our senses and lead to reflection.
    My Response TRUE

    ROSEN WROTE This reflection is notably, pointedly, not a personal pursuit. All through the Yom Kippur prayers, we’re called to do “cheshbon nefesh,” a moral accounting, as a community: “We have sinned,” we pray. “Forgive us.”

    My response: TRUE

    ROSEN WROTE : But though the rituals are ancient, they’re never far removed from modern life. Between our prayers, American Jews are sure also to discuss the current events that touch our community most deeply: the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace, President Barack Obama’s recent meetings with the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the United Nations’ recent Goldstone Report, in which both Israel and the Hamas government are accused of war crimes. To my great sorrow, however, many in the Jewish community have already rejected the latter out of hand.

    My response” AS THEY SHOULD. It is completely biased from the get go. The report should be investigated as to its bias.

    ROSEN WROTE :Rather than jointly consider Israel’s acts in Gaza, carry out real cheshbon nefesh, and accept our communal responsibility, it has proven easier for many of us to employ communal defense mechanisms, and insist that in this particular case, there’s no need for reflection.

    My response: THAT IS NOT WHAT HAS BEEN SAID. He Employs classic logical fallacy of red herring.

    ROSEN WROTE : Since the report’s publication, the UN and commission chair Judge Richard Goldstone have been vilified and disparaged, by both the Israeli government and American Jewish leaders.

    My response: AS he should be, as I will demonstrate below.

    ROSEN WROTE : There has been little consideration of the actual findings, or the fact that Israel refused to cooperate with the commission, or conduct its own investigation.

    My response: Thye knew it would be 100% biased from the get go, as are all UN reports. Overwhelmingly the UN consistently attacks Israel, and never once, for example, chastised Hamas for sending thousands of missiles at Israel, sending suicide bombers etc.

    ROSEN WROTE : As a rabbi, this grieves me deeply. For, painful as it is for us to admit, Israel’s behavior in Gaza has consistently betrayed our shared Jewish ethical legacy.

    My response: A lie.
    Israel conducted itself more nobly there than any army in history and under provocation of thousands of missiles sent from schools and hospitals by the monsters in Gaza.

    ROSEN WROTE :This was true before the war, when the Israeli blockade denied Palestinians basic necessities; it was true during the war, when Israel responded with disproportionate force to Hamas rockets; and it has been true since the war, as Israel has deepened the blockade, preventing Gazans from rebuilding their homes. As a result of Israeli actions, some 60 percent of Gazans don’t have continual access to water and face near-daily power outages of up to 10 hours at a time, while hundreds of thousands are dependent on foreign aid agencies for food.

    My response: Very simple-tell Gazans to force its democratically elected government to stop shelling its neighbors with thousands of missiles and no problem at all. Israel unilaterally pulled out of Gaza and all it got was missiles and a clearly stated desire by the tyrants who control it to destroy Israel.
    Israel was unbelievably compassionate towards the Palestinians in Gaza because what they should really do is what America and Britain did to the Germans during WWII and that is bomb the entire country into submission for having launched a war against us that we didn’t ask for and did nothing to deserve. England and America killed tens of thousands of German citizens and America – hundreds of thousands of Japanese – because they refused to put their arms down, surrender and make peace. Israel has never done anything like that at all. The sadness of the Cast Lead operation and that is Israeli soldiers died because they did not want to end these attacks by just bombing the Gazan cities into submission but rather went in with troops – lost precious Jewish lives – in order to limit tremendously the number of civilian casualties. That was an great act of kindness and compassion on the part of Israel and some Israeli parents buried their sons because of that act of kindness and compassion.
    As for the Palestinians who lost their lives – I feel very bad for their families (assuming they weren’t actually Hamas) and I say to them. You elected Hamas – you stand by and let them attack a neighboring sovereign nation – this is what you have brought upon yourself. And if you didnt vote for Hamas – we are truly sorry for what your fellow Palestinians have brought upon you.

    There are consequences to launching war and I’m sorry that you think the Palestinians should somehow be protected from those consequences.

    HE WROTE: A humanitarian crisis of this magnitude demands a response from within the Jewish faith community — and knee-jerk rejection of any and all criticism of Israel won’t change the facts. It will only distance us from a just and peaceful solution to this conflict.

    My response:
    It is not a humanitarian crisis-and no mention at allof the humanitarian crisis of growing up facing thousands of missiles?
    He has it totally backwards: This biased, dishonest report of the UN distances us from a just and peaceful solution. Here is why:

    ARTICLE! Response to the Goldstone Report on Gaza (Economist-UK)

    •The UN report on the fighting in Gaza is deeply flawed. The risk is that both sides will now conclude the wrong thing: Arabs that Israel has just been found guilty; and Israel that it will never get a fair hearing in a hostile world.
    •From the very start, this report had to overcome the taint of prejudice. It was mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, a notorious anti-Israeli outfit.
    •Israel’s attempts to drop warning leaflets, direct civilians out of danger zones and call daily humanitarian pauses may well have been inadequate, but the report counts them for nought. It is a grisly thought, but if Israel really had wanted to make Palestinian civilians suffer, the toll could have been vastly higher.
    •Israel has argued that Hamas fighters endangered civilians by basing themselves around schools, mosques and hospitals. Yet the mission’s fact-finders could detect little or no evidence for this – despite plenty of reports in the public domain to support it.
    •And there is a danger of double standards. American and European forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo caused thousands of civilian deaths, without attracting a Goldstone.
    •The peace process was never going to be easy. With its thimbleful of poison, the Goldstone report has made the job all the harder.

    Article 2. Netanyahu on the report in an interview
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “I do not think so. I know that there are other opinions but I do not think so for one simple reason – this game was fixed. This was a field trial, the result of which was known in advance. Look at the mandate which this commission operated under, a mandate which – by the way – most Western countries opposed and had reservations about. From this mandate, they say in advance that Israel carried out war crimes and now they are filling in the blanks. ..Then there was the first missile, and the second and the thousandth. There were thousands of missiles and finally Israel responded, as is its right, against the terrorists who hide inside civilian populations and fire at civilian populations. Now the same international public that applauded when we left there points an accusing finger and accuses us and not Hamas, of being war criminals

    Article 3 From The Guardian, Wednesday 16 September 2009, by Dan Kosky:
    Richard Goldstone’s long-awaited report has confirmed suspicions that his investigation is guided by an agenda to isolate Israel. The farcical investigative process has produced a report which vilifies Israel but helps little in better understanding the Gaza conflict. Much was rightly made of the investigation’s one-sided mandate, which erased Hamas’s culpability. Panel member Christine Chinkin, branded Israel’s Gaza operation a “war crime” before the inquiry had even begun. As a result, the Israeli government rightly recognised the warning signs and stayed away from the Goldstone process.
    On the basis of such flimsy testimony, Goldstone’s recommendations are particularly sinister. Although “the findings do not pretend to reach the standard of proof applicable in criminal trials”, they will undoubtedly fuel a judicial campaign against Israel. Both Israel and the euphemistic “Gaza authorities” have been given six months to prove their mettle in investigating potential war crimes or face the prospect of becoming international pariahs at the international criminal court (ICC).
    Realistically, no one can expect to hold to account a non-state actor such as Hamas, supported by Iran. Fewer still can imagine that any Israeli investigation will be judged by the UN framework as satisfactory. The Israeli authorities have already investigated more than 100 allegations of wrongdoing, with 23 cases still pending. These efforts were deemed insufficient before they began and one wonders how many convictions would have to be secured in Israeli courts to ward off the wrath of Goldstone.

    Rosen of course ignores the moral pervisty of the UN and the report to focus condemnation on the innocent.
    Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    The Goldstone Report

    •President Peres: Goldstone Report Makes a Mockery of History – Roni Sofer
    Israeli President Shimon Peres responded to the UN Goldstone Report saying that it “makes a mockery of history” and that “it does not distinguish between the aggressor and the defender.” “War is crime and the attacker is the criminal. The defender has no choice. The Hamas terror organization is the one who started the war and also carried out other awful crimes. Hamas has used terrorism for years against Israeli children….The report gives de facto legitimacy to terrorist initiatives and ignores the obligation and right of every country to defend itself.” (Ynet News)
    See also Justice in Gaza – Richard Goldstone (New York Times)
    •UN Investigation of Israel Discredits Itself and Undercuts Human Rights – Alan M. Dershowitz
    The report commissioned by the notorious UN Human Rights Council is so filled with lies, distortions and blood libels that it could have been drafted by Hamas extremists. In effect, it actually was. Members were accompanied on their investigations in Gaza by Hamas activists who showed them only what they wanted them to see. The group was eager to find or manufacture “evidence” to support what the Human Rights Council itself had directed them to find, namely that Israel committed “grave violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip.” This conclusion was reached before any investigation.
    The lowest blow and the worst canard is the claim that the Israeli judicial system “has major structural flaws that make the system inconsistent with international standards.” This is a direct attack on the Israeli Supreme Court by a lawyer who knows full well that there is no country in the world that has a judicial system that demands more accountability than the Israeli system does. There is no judicial system in the world that takes more seriously its responsibility to bring its military into compliance with international law.
    The report is not intended to establish general principles of international law, applicable to all nations. It is directed at one nation and one nation only: the Jew among nations – Israel. (Hudson Institute New York)
    •IDF Judge-Advocate General: Israel Right Not to Cooperate with Goldstone – Yaakov Katz
    The distorted and one-sided UN report proves that Israel had been right not to cooperate with the Goldstone mission, IDF Judge-Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit said Wednesday. “From an initial review of the report it is clear that it is biased, astonishingly extreme, lacks any basis in reality and is a sharp deviation from the mandate given to the mission.” Mandelblit spoke of a new “legal front” that the IDF was facing and warned of attempts by numerous NGOs – and possibly European countries which support them – to deter Israel from launching future military operations by threatening its officers with legal action.
    Prof. Asa Kasher, author of the IDF’s code of ethics, noted that “this report was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that unfairly deals mostly with Israel. These are anti-Israel politics that contain a level of anti-Semitism in them.” Kasher noted how the report opened with a detailed description of the Israeli blockade on Gaza. “It is as if this is how it all started,” he said. “They did not bother to ask why there was a siege, which was done out of self-defense.” (Jerusalem Post)
    •UN Smears Israeli Self-Defense as “War Crimes” – Gerald M. Steinberg
    The tendentious and extremely biased report succeeded in angering Israelis from across the political spectrum. The report condemned every Israeli response to the 8,000 rockets fired by Hamas, but its recommendations did not include any steps to end this aggression. And while Israel is accused of committing acts of terror, the report never acknowledges that Hamas committed acts of terror, even though it is legally banned as a terrorist organization by the U.S and EU. The Goldstone report will increase Israeli cynicism regarding the viability of international institutions and guarantees of Israeli security and fair treatment. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
    •The Moral Inversion of the Goldstone Report – Melanie Phillips
    The Goldstone report does worse than establish a moral equivalence between the instigators of genocidal violence and those who were attempting to defend themselves against it. It presents Israel, the victims of such aggression, as war criminals and the Palestinians, the actual instigators of terror, as its victims. This is not moral equivalence but moral inversion. Even worse, Goldstone presents the Palestinian aggressors as victims of Israel, requiring Israel to make reparation to those from whose houses and streets it was attacked. No reparations to Israel are required from any Palestinians, even though Goldstone accepts that Hamas committed war crimes and crimes against humanity by firing thousands of missiles at its civilians.
    This disreputable piece of work will embolden and empower Hamas and Palestinian terrorism, provide the jihadis of the UN and their accomplices with the means further to persecute Israel and endorse its genocidal attackers, and incite the Arab and Muslim world still further to aggression and to war. (Spectator-UK)
    •The Goldstone Report: 575 Pages of NGO “Cut and Paste”
    The 575-page Goldstone report is primarily based on NGO statements, publications, and submissions, in numerous cases simply copying false and unsubstantiated allegations. (NGO Monitor)

    UN Must Hold U.S. to Same Standard as Israel – Ari Shavit (Ha’aretz)

    •Two weeks ago American airplanes fired on two oil tankers in northern Afghanistan at the request of a German military officer, killing some 70 people. The U.S. and Germany are responsible for the attack, together with NATO members Britain, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway. If the international community is committed to international law and universal ethics, it should investigate the assault.
    •If the U.S., Germany and NATO refuse to cooperate with investigators, the UN should consider transferring the case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. It may be necessary to put the U.S. president and the German chancellor on trial for committing a severe war crime that did not distinguish between civilians and combatants. Absurd? Yes.
    •The U.S. has killed thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the last few months encouraged Pakistan to make an extremely brutal military move in its Swat Valley. The U.S. was not required to account for it because everyone understands that this is the price of the terrible war on terror.
    •Only Israel is required to uphold a moral standard no superpower or Middle Eastern state is required to uphold.
    See also Will U.S. Now Let Goldstone into Afghanistan? – Amir Oren (Ha’aretz)

    Article 4. from Camera UN’s Goldstone Report Contains Major Error that Calls into Question Work’s Credibility
    The vast majority of the report’s 575 pages are taken up with indicting Israel as a serial violator of human rights and the laws of war.
    The seriousness of these charges certainly requires meticulous fact finding and painstaking documentation, but this is precisely where the Goldstone report is woefully inadequate…
    A prime example of the report’s shoddiness is its analysis of the Israeli attacks on January 15 in the area of the Al Quds Hospital in Gaza City. The report devotes more than eight full pages to this one event (pages 174 to 182), considering on the one hand Palestinian testimony that there were no Palestinian attacks from the area, and also quoting from a prior Israeli report that reached the opposite conclusion.
    One should note first that, of course, Israel did have intelligence information that armed groups were present in the hospital. That’s why they fired back at them. ..Thus, rather than dealing with the evidence in the Israeli report, Goldstone and his colleagues simply ignored those parts that disproved their charges. The UN should immediately and forthrightly correct this error and should apologize to the government of Israel. The UN should also withdraw the Goldstone report pending a complete, independent and genuinely objective review of its procedures and its conclusions.”

    In the end, the report’s most critical recommendation is that Israel and Hamas thoroughly and credibly investigate themselves, and hold accountable any combatants or commanders who violated the law.

    My response: It is laughable to suggest hamas will hold accountable anyone who violates the law. Is he serious or far worse? Everything Hamas does is against the law-they call for the obliteration of a sovereign state!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Remember these are people that deny Jews have any ties to Jerusalem. See my blog

    Rosen writes: The actions of the Jewish State ultimately reflect upon the Jewish people throughout the world. We in the Diaspora Jewish community have long taken pride in the accomplishments of the Jewish State. As with any family, the success of some reflects a warm light on us all. But pride cannot blind us to the capacity for error on the part of the country we hold so dear. We cannot identify with the successes, but refuse to see the failures.”

    They are a proxy of Iran, where this rabbi visited last year. see him here sitting with an Iranian Muslim leader.

    Here is what he wrote on his blog
    “While I prefer not to weigh in on the rhetorical hairsplitting debate on Ahmadinejad’s notorious 2005 “threat” to “wipe Israel off the map,” I’ll only suggest that our attitudes (not to mention our foreign policy) must be based on real intelligence and understanding, and not fear-based, knee-jerk assumptions.”

    My response: :By the way Ahmadinejad’s did not just say in in 2005, he says it often, as well as denying the holocaust.

    Here is a man who lives in the comfort of Evanston Illinois, who seems to support those who seek to destroy Israel and the US and works actively to undermine Israel in world opinion. .

    Rosen concludes: let this be the Yom Kippur on which we act on the Scriptural imperative to “seek peace and pursue it,” by calling ourselves and Israel to account.

    My response: NOT the UN who is a thousand times more biased against the greatest democracy in the world than the totalitarian tyrants he seems to sympathize with?
    Not call the murderous Hamas of Gaza to account

    1. emilylhauser

      Rabbi Ginsburg,

      Nothing on this earth, nothing created by human hands, nothing that is not in the realm of the Divine or Satan himself, is 100% anything.

      Israel is not always in the right, the UN is not always in the wrong, the Palestinians are not the devil you seem so badly to want to believe them to be. Any argument which cannot admit to nuance and the very humanity of the people in question (the Israeli government and military are, after all, made up not of angels or even tzadikim, but humans) will not be able to move the conversation forward, no matter how loud the shouting. Afilu haTorah, sheevi’im panim la — even the Torah has 70 faces.

      If you are unwilling to accept any of Rabbi Rosen’s arguments because “Here is a man who lives in the comfort of Evanston Illinois,” I would direct you to the Israeli former combat soldiers in Combatants for Peace, or the Israeli families in the Bereaved Families Forum, both organizations in which Israelis and Palestinians who have paid the ultimate price for their people are struggling together to find peace and reconciliation. Both organizations are listed in Rabbi Rosen’s “Favorite Orgs” section — I urge you to learn about each.

  3. Stewart Mills

    Thank you Rabbi Rosen for your dedication to truth, justice and shalom. This is the same spirit that so obviously has driven Richard Goldstone in his report. The report that so many criticise without even reading it.

    Thank you Emily for your response to Rabbi Ginsburg.

    Brother Ginsburg I wish you peace. I pray that we will all be able to see the humanity in the other. Take the example of Uri Avnery’s story. He was a soldier for Irgun in the late 30s and early 1940s but left when he realised the destructiveness of terror tactics. His experience in Irgun shaped his book ‘Terrorism, the Infantile Disease of the Hebrew Revolution’ (1945) .

    Uri Avnery has lived a rich life devoted to showing compassion and understanding to the neighbour. He has survived numerous assassination attempts. Although he would deny G_d, he is certainly a man of G_d. There is much that we can all learn from his example.

    Violence is a symptom; the occupation is the disease

    Uri Avnery Biography


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s