Category Archives: Goldstone Report

How to Be a Progressive Jew

In his important book “Trials of the Diaspora,” Anthony Julius has a section on “oppositionist Jews.” They are also, I think, Progressive Jews. This is what Julius writes about them:

There has always been in Jewish circles the harshest self-criticism. These criticisms foster the taking of public stands by some Jews against their community or its established institutions. They often preface their criticisms with the phrase, ‘As Jews, we …..’, by impaction claiming to champion the ‘true’ Jewish perspective — an embattled, minority position, for sure, calling for a certain moral heroism, and articulating fidelity to an idea of Jewishness, rather than more mundane solidarity with Jews. In modern times, they often deprecated Jewry’s ‘narrow-minded provincialism’, ‘narrow bigotry’, ‘religious intransigence’, and so on — what Bruno Bettelheim disparaged as ‘ghetto thinking’. Some oppositionists have rather complex relations with Judaism that repay study; others are no better than posturers, without real knowledge or understanding of the religion. There are oppositionists who are prophetic excoriators of Israel, and they speak or write of of a love of Israel. There are an equivalent number (perhaps a greater number) of oppositionists, who lack that commitment, and are driven instead by embarrassment, fear, or a desire to ingratiate themselves with non-Jews or to distance themselves from their fellow Jews’ reprehensible conduct — or some combination of these motives. … Many oppositionist Jews have now taken up positions as scourges of the Jewish State. Out of perversity, some oppositionist Jews now place themselves in the company of anti-Semites.

Moyers, Goldstone, and the Shackled Hands

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.

A new website devoted to the "Goldstone Report"

There is a new website, Understanding the Goldstone Report. I find the site marked by sobriety and restraint, and think that it is an important resource that you will wish to consult. The site’s sponsors outline the conclusions that they have reached about the Report, as follows:

  • The report violates international standards for inquries, including UN rules on fact-finding, replicating earlier UNHRC biased statements.
  • The Commission systematically favored witnesses and evidence put forward by anti-Israel advocates, and dismissed evidence and testimony that would undermine its case.
  • The commission relied extensively on mediating agencies, especially UN and NGOs, which have a documented hostility to Israel; the report reproduces earlier reports and claims from these agencies.
  • At the same time, the Commission inexplicably downplayed or ignored substantial evidence of Hamas’ commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of terror, including specifically its victimization of the Palestinian population by its use of human shields, civilian dress for combatants, and combat use of protected objects like ambulances, hospitals and mosques.
  • The Commission openly denies a presumption of innocence to the Israelis accused of crimes (while honoring Hamas’ presumed innocence) and acknowledges that it made accusations of crimes without proof that would stand up in court.
  • The report contains numerous gratuitous digressions into issues beyond the purview of a fact-finding commission that are inaccurate and profoundly hostile to Israel and Jews.
  • The Commission distorted legal standards, imposing on Israel standards that reverse their generally understood and applied meaning, while ignoring important rules of international law that put the onus of responsibility on an organization as base, by Goldstone’s own standards, as Hamas.

Here is the testimony of Col. Richard Kemp of the UK Army, Ret.