Some six weeks ago, on Wednesday, September 23, Bill Moyers interviewed Judge Richard Goldstone on the PBS “Journal.” The judge had just released his Report in which he had accused Israel (and, much less urgently, Hamas) of “war crimes” in the conduct of the 2008-9 Gaza war.
(It should be noted parenthetically that while Judge Goldstone has made numerous Recommendations to Israel for improving its behavior, his Report has nothing to recommend to Hamas, at least not to Hamas by name.)
As I listened to these two gentlemen in September, Moyers and Goldstone — each more compassionate than the other, each more exuding compassion and good will than the other — one accusation struck me as the most frightening of them all: it appears that Israel, in Goldstone’s telling, had actually and deliberately shot prisoners to death whose hands were shackled behind them. The image stuck in my mind. No, I didn’t believe that Jewish boys, even in the midst of war, would deliberately shoot captured and “shackled” men to death. And yet … Jews, God knows, are no angels. Some are terribly cruel, not doubt. Could a terrible thing like this have happened ? I decided to look into the matter as much as I could. And I found out, as we shall see, that the best short answer to the question is that this alleged cruelty did not take place.
First of all, my memory played a trick on me. (I would suggest that others must have had the same experience.) I had remembered that, in the interview, Goldstone had actually used the words “shooting people whose hands were shackled behind them.” It turns out that it wasn’t Goldstone but Moyers who used the words, and that Goldstone — shall I say merely ? — that Goldstone assented to this telling of the story. Here (right below the video) is the relevant transcript:
BILL MOYERS: Your report, as you know, basically accuses Israel of waging war on the entire population of Gaza.
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: That’s correct.
BILL MOYERS: I mean, there are allegations in here, some very tough allegations of Israeli soldiers shooting unarmed civilians who pose no threat, of shooting people whose hands were shackled behind them, of shooting two teenagers who’d been ordered off a tractor that they were driving, apparently carrying wounded civilians to a hospital, of homes, hundreds, maybe thousands of homes destroyed, left in rubble, of hospitals bombed. I mean there are some questions about one or two of your examples here, but it’s a damning indictment of Israel’s conduct in Gaza, right?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, it is outrageous, and there should have been an outrage. You know, the response has not been to deal with the substance of those allegations. I’ve really seen or read no detailed response in respect of the incidents on which we report.
Now, in his Report itself, the accusation by the Judge is very far from what it appears to be in this interview.
First of all, nowhere that I can see does the Report accuse Israeli soldiers of shooting “people” (i.e. plural) whose hands were shackled. I did not read every word of this 575-page report, but I looked at every use of the words “tied,” “shackled,” and “bound.” There was only one instance that I could find in which the Report alleges that an Arab prisoner died while his hands were bound, the case of Iyad al-Samouni, which the Report takes up in paragraphs 739-742. These tell a confused story, completely based on Palestinian sources, about which Goldstone himself, it seems, had some doubts:
741. While the fire directed at Iyad al-Samouni [in shackles] could have been intended to incapacitate rather than to kill, by threatening his family members and friends with lethal fire, the Israeli armed forces ensured that he did not receive lifesaving medical help. They deliberately let him bleed to death.
So, it turns out, there was no cold-blooded deliberate killing of “people,” or even of one person, as far as the Judge’s actual Report goes.
Judge Goldstone’s Report, relying on Palestinian and pro-Palestinian sources, paints the al-Samouni family as totally pacifist and innocent of terrorist activities. Other reports have claimed that this family has been involved in terrorist activities. On the whole, Judge Goldstone relies on biased sources, makes light of Hamas terror, and, overall, falls short of the blind justice that he is sworn to uphold. All that has been documented in the sources that I cite below. But in this case of “shackled hands” he has colluded with Bill Moyers in something that goes far beyond bias: a truly dreadful allegation, made orally on national TV, for which he could find no evidence in his own Report.
UPDATE (Feb. 3, 2010): Israeli Government Reply to Goldstone
Watch the debate at Brandeis University between Judge Goldstone and former Israeli Ambassador Dore Gold
Read more about Goldstone and his Report:
Dershowitz’s detailed case against Goldstone
Update 2/9/10: The Goldstone Report relied heavily on the work of extreme leftist groups in Israel. These groups were largely financed from abroad. Among their most important financial sources was the New York-based New Israel Fund, headed by the American-educated former member of Knesset, Naomi Chazan. Here is a full report of how NIF-financed groups contributed to the Goldstone bias.
Update 3/15/10: A very detailed response to Goldstone — about 350 pages — is now available from the Intelligence and Terrorism Information, an Israel NGO: “Hamas and the Terrorist Threat from Gaza.”
Update 5/7/10: The Israeli press has uncovered sordid details about Goldstone’s past, especially how, as an appellate judge for the apartheid regime, he routinely approved death sentences against Blacks.