ADL: Goldstone retraction spurs Arab anti-Semitism

Richard Goldstone’s retraction of key findings in his report to the United Nations on the Gaza war has spurred a new round of anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories in the Arab world, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

“Just as the original report was celebrated by Arab cartoonists as ‘proof’ of the evil nature of Israel and Jews, so too has the decision by Judge Richard Goldstone to reconsider his findings inspired another round of hateful caricatures and stereotypes in the Arab Media,” said Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director. “Newspapers across the Arab world have responded to the Goldstone developments with a series of hideous caricatures, many of them viciously anti-Semitic.”

The Arab cartoons include conspiracy theories suggesting that the Jewish lobby played a sinister role in pressuring Goldstone to change his mind, or accusing Jews and Israelis of attempting to whitewash the report’s findings, the ADL said. The organization also said that several use creative wordplay to suggest that Israel bribed the jurist with “Gold” while hurling “stones” against the Palestinians, or burying dead Palestinians in a shallow grave marked with a “stone.”

A sampling of the cartoons is available on the ADL website.

Dear Mr. Goldstone: Six months until Kol Nidre

Dear Mr. Goldstone:

You really screwed up. You screwed up so badly that Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic says you contributed, more than any other individual, to the delegitimization and demonization of the Jewish state.

The deliberate killing of innocent civilians is the equivalent of murder. As far as accusations go, that’s about as low as you can go. Your report accused Israel of a lot of things, but that accusation was the most lethal: targeting innocent civilians.

Now you write that you were wrong. Israel is not the war criminal she was made out to be. It was Hamas that targeted innocent civilians, not Israel. Well, like Goldberg says, “It is somewhat difficult to retract a blood libel, once it has been broadcast across the world.”

Remember, this was no ordinary blood libel. This was an official indictment bearing the stamp of approval of the closest thing we have to a global legislative body — the United Nations. Thanks to this stamp of approval, Israel’s enemies have feasted on Israel’s good name like vultures on a carcass.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the global campaign to delegitimize Israel, as well as the flourishing BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement that is turning Israel into a pariah state. Sadly, much of the ammunition for these movements has come from the Goldstone report — the same report you now have repudiated with a phrase that might go down in Jewish infamy: “Civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”

I wonder what went through your mind as you wrote those words: “Why did I rush to judgment? Should I have paid more attention to the hundreds of thousands of Israeli leaflets and phone calls that warned civilians, and to the preliminary Israel Defense Forces reports and other publicly available information that contradicted our conclusions? Should I have put Israel’s behavior in the proper context of defending its people after years of Hamas rockets? Should I have been more skeptical of sources I knew were unreliable?”

A friend told me over Shabbat that I should cut you some slack because you had the courage to eat your words in public after getting “new information.” That’s fine, but another friend told me a parable that made him somewhat less forgiving.

It’s the story of a man who goes to his rabbi to ask for forgiveness because he spread false rumors about him. The rabbi instructs him to take a feathered pillow and a knife, go to a nearby forest and slice open the pillow. When the man returned, the rabbi said to him, “Now go try to retrieve all those feathers.”

Now go try, Mr. Goldstone, to “retrieve” all the damage your report inflicted on Israel. Go to every television and radio station, to every newspaper and magazine, to every Web site and blogger, to every Jew and non-Jew on the planet who inhaled your dark accusations against Israel, and try to take those accusations back. Try telling them you didn’t mean it.

Surely you must have known that so many past accusations of Israeli “massacres” have been proved false (see Jenin). And as an international jurist who is familiar with the phenomenon of anti-Israel bias, surely you must have anticipated the vermin that would rain on the Jewish state if a Zionist jurist formally accused it of targeting innocent civilians.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve had more than a few sleepless nights since then. Why? Because I do believe there is a piece of your heart that loves Israel, that believes in Israel and that now cries for Israel because of the damage you have inflicted upon her.

While you can never undo that damage, there is still something you can undo: the report itself. Given your deep knowledge of international law, with all its arcane rules and procedures, if anyone can formally retract the report or officially amend it, it is you.

It won’t be easy. You will be going up against the many enemies of Israel, those who dream of turning the Jewish state into an illegal enterprise, those for whom the Goldstone report is the gift that keeps on giving — their little gold mine rich with never-ending ammunition against the hated Zionist entity. They won’t let you take away their gold mine that easily.

But I have confidence you can do it. I have seen how you can be dogged and relentless in front of intense opposition. I have seen how when you put your mind to something, nothing can stop you, not even your own people. I have seen you go the distance.

Now go the distance on this one, Mr. Goldstone. Make this your cause. Put the Goldstone report where it belongs, in the delete button of history. You can replace it, amend it, retract it or do whatever you feel will correct it. You will not undo the damage, but you might at least stanch some of the bleeding — not just in Israel’s name, but perhaps in yours, as well.

Kol Nidre is still six months away, but you don’t have to wait that long.

After bombshell Op-Ed, questions for Richard Goldstone and Israel

Richard Goldstone’s original U.N. report on the Gaza war of 2008-09 landed like a bombshell in the PR war over Israel, damaging Israel’s reputation around the world with its finding that Israel potentially committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during its three-week war against Hamas.

Now that Goldstone has issued a retraction of sorts—in the form of an Op-Ed in The Washington Post exculpating Israel from the report’s harshest allegations, including the claim that Israel intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians in Gaza—the question is whether the destruction wreaked by that bombshell can be undone.

“We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report,” Goldstone wrote in the Op-Ed published April 1. “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”

What can be done a year and a half after the fact about a report that Israeli President Shimon Peres described at the time of its publication as a blood libel against the Jewish people? It’s just one of a host of questions raised by Goldstone’s piece, titled “Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes.”

For one thing, if Goldstone really wanted to retract or amend his original report, why didn’t he do so in the same forum in which he submitted the report, the United Nations?

“U.N. reports are not canceled on the basis of an Op-Ed in a newspaper,” a spokesman for the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Cedric Sapey, told The Associated Press on Monday.

Sapey said Goldstone would have to submit a formal request to the council to void the report; he has not.

The reason probably lies in a Talmudic reading of Goldstone’s Op-Ed. Goldstone doesn’t admit culpability. Rather, he regrets that his “fact-finding mission did not have evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.”

For that, Goldstone blames “Israel’s lack of cooperation.”

Leaving aside for the moment whether Goldstone did a subpar job in his original investigation by failing to get Israel’s side of the story, or that the report’s conclusion that Israel may have committed war crimes impugned Israel by disguising conjecture as culpability, Goldstone’s reconsideration raises the question of whether Israel would have been better off cooperating with the investigation rather than boycotting it.

In his Op-Ed, Goldstone ascribes his change of position to subsequent Israeli investigations that have presented new, credible evidence that was not available to him when he conducted his original probe.

“The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion,” Goldstone wrote. “While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”

Had Israel shared that information while he was conducting his investigation, Goldstone suggests, the report would have been much different.

At the time, Israeli officials decided to boycott and discredit Goldstone’s investigation. Israel argued that the probe’s mandate from the U.N. Human Rights Council, a body hopelessly biased against Israel, made it impossible to get a fair shake. Indeed, the council’s original mandate for the investigation prejudged Israel as guilty, calling for a probe into Israel’s “massive violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people” but not including a similar call to investigate Hamas.

But that was before the council turned the investigation over to Goldstone, who had bona fide credentials as a friend of Israel and the Jewish people. Goldstone, who is Jewish, was a member of the board of governors of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University (he was subsequently ejected), a former president of the Jewish educational organization World ORT and a board member of a Brandeis University ethics institute.

Goldstone agreed to undertake the investigation only if the mandate was changed to include a probe of Palestinian actions in the Israel-Hamas conflict. The council obliged.

But Israel’s stance remained unchanged, and it opted to ignore Goldstone, at a heavy price.

This week, Israeli officials welcomed what they described as Goldstone’s retraction, saying it vindicated not only Israel’s actions in the Gaza war but the humanitarian nature of the Israel Defense Forces’ approach to combat.

They did not address the question of whether or not it had been a mistake to boycott Goldstone’s probe in the first place, and whether cooperating would have changed the crux of a report that caused irreparable harm to Israel’s reputation.

“There are very few instances in which those who disseminate libels retract their libel; this happened in the case of the Goldstone Report,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of his weekly Cabinet meeting.

“Goldstone himself said that all of the things that we have been saying all along are correct: that Israel never intentionally fired at civilians and that our inquiries operated according to the highest international standards,” the Israeli leader said. “This leads us to call for the immediate cancellation of the Goldstone Report.”

For his part, Goldstone declined to talk to reporters this week about his reconsideration, why he published it as an Op-Ed rather than straightening the record in the United Nations, and why he decided to write it now. Goldstone declined to respond to JTA requests for comment.

U.N. Human Rights Council: Goldstone Report stands

South African Jewish leaders meet with Goldstone

A delegation of senior South African Jewish communal leaders met with Richard Goldstone.

Monday’s meeting, to discuss Goldstone’s participation in the 2009 United Nations fact-finding mission into the Gaza war and the contents of his committee’s report, was held as part of a deal brokered between the South African Zionist Federation and Goldstone that allowed the judge to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah on May 1 in the absence of threatened protests.

Goldstone, who now resides in the United States, initially had said he would not attend the religious ceremony.

According to a news release issued by the South African Zionist Federation, the discussion was “frank and open” and included “the hurt and concerns of the South African Jewish community regarding the findings and impact of the report.” Goldstone

The Goldstone report accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Explaining his participation in the mission, Goldstone said he had spent much of his professional life championing international criminal justice.

“It would have been hypocritical for me to continue to speak out against violations of international law and impunity for war crimes around the world but remain silent when it came to Israel simply because I am Jewish,” he said.

Goldstone noted that it was the first time that the U.N. Human Rights Council had offered Israel the opportunity to tell its story to a U.N. inquiry and said he had hoped it might herald a new approach by the council.

“But sadly for everyone, the Israeli government squandered that opportunity,” he said. “Had Israel provided us with credible information to respond to the allegations we received, they would have been given appropriate consideration and could potentially have influenced our findings.”

In his opening statement, South African Zionist Federation Chairman Avrom Krengel expressed “our deep disappointment and dissatisfaction with your involvement, as a South African Jew, in leading the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict.” Referring to “glaring disparities” in the way the parties had been treated by the mission, Krengel said certain aspects of the report were “highly prejudicial to Israel while being extremely favorable towards Hamas.”

Krengel said that without Goldstone’s credentials as a Jew and pre-eminent human rights jurist, the report “would have lacked all credibility and would have failed to gain any traction.”

Goldstone will attend grandson’s bar mitzvah

Richard Goldstone will attend his grandson’s upcoming bar mitzvah in South Africa, following an agreement with local Jewish groups.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies brokered a deal between Goldstone and community organizations angry with Goldstone for his authorship of a U.N. report on Gaza war seen as grossly unfair to Israel. Under the agreement, Jewish groups agreed not to protest during the bar mitzvah celebrations and Goldstone agreed to meet with the leadership of South African Jewish communal organizations, according to an e-mail released late Friday by both Goldstone and the Board of Deputies.

The meeting, to be hosted by the South African Zionist Federation, is set to discuss the Jewish community’s reaction to the Goldstone report, which accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

“My whole family feels joyful that we’ll be able to celebrate the bar mitzvah together,” Goldstone told JTA following the agreement.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies said it “respectfully requests, in light of the agreement reached, that all parties immediately desist all public activities on this matter so that the young man’s bar mitzvah celebration can be returned to the privacy and dignity that it deserves.”

Goldstone originally had planned to skip his grandson’s bar mitzvah next month after the Zionist Federation threatened to protest Goldstone outside the synagogue.

Jewish magazine to honor Goldstone

Tikkun magazine will give its 25th annual ethics award next year to Richard Goldstone, author of the U.N. report on the Gaza war.

The announcement of the award came amid the controversy over Goldstone’s attendance of his grandson’s bar mitzvah in South Africa. Goldstone initially said he would skip the family simcha to avoid planned protests at the event by Zionist groups in South Africa, but late last week an agreement was reached to allow Goldstone to attend the bar mitzvah without protest.

Goldstone, a respected jurist in South Africa, has been persona non grata in pro-Israel circles since the publication last year of his U.N.-sponsored report on Israel’s 2009 war with Hamas in Gaza that said both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. Israeli officials denounced the report as dangerously biased and inaccurate.

Tikkun’s founder and editor, Rabbi Michael Lerner, told JTA that the decision to recognize Goldstone was made prior to the bar mitzvah brouhaha and that the timing of the announcement was the result of his “outrageous” treatment by his fellow South African Jews.

Goldstone is doing a service “for the Jewish people in reinforcing the notion that our ethical judgments are not tied to blind support for any government,” Lerner said.

He said the award stems from Goldstone’s record on human rights and is a “reflection on his contribution to the Jewish people in affirming the independence of loyalty to the policies of the State of Israel.”

Before the bar mitzvah situation was resolved, Lerner issued an invitation last week to Goldstone to relocate his grandson’s bar mitzvah to Lerner’s congregation in Berkeley, Calif.

Goldstone: Protest threats keeping me from simcha

Richard Goldstone said he will not attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah because of information his family received from the synagogue and a group’s protest threat.

Goldstone, a former South Africa judge who has taken heat for his commission’s report on the Gaza war in 2009, made the fullest account of his decision to stay away from the simcha in a letter that appeared Thursday in the daily South African newspaper Business Day.

“Acting on information that we received from the synagogue, and the recent threat by the leader of the South African Zionist Federation of demonstrations if I attend the synagogue service, it was decided that it would be better if I did not attend the bar mitzvah,” he wrote.

His decision to skip the bar mitzvah next month, under pressure from the Zionist federation’s threat to protest, was reported last week. The letter was written in protest of an Op-Ed in the same paper the day before by South Africa’s chief rabbi, Warren Goldstein.

Goldstein sought to distance himself from the threats of protest, saying that although Goldstone’s U.N. report charging Israel and Hamas with war crimes in last year’s Gaza war had “unfairly done enormous damage to the reputation and safety of the state of Israel and her citizens,” it was his policy to promote “open synagogues.”

“I am proud and grateful that in SA, our synagogues have consistently been beacons of openness and inclusiveness,” Goldstein wrote. “We do not turn away any congregants because of what they have done, or not done, or who they are, or what opinions they hold.”

Goldstone angrily refuted this claim.

“His rhetoric about ‘open synagogues’ simply does not coincide with how my family and I have been treated,” Goldstone wrote. “I must state that at no time whatsoever has the chief rabbi reached out to my family.”

Group warns of Goldstone protest at bar mitzvah

A Jewish group in South Africa still plans to protest if Richard Goldstone attends his grandson’s bar mitzvah.

South African Zionist Federation Chairman Avrom Krengel told the daily Cape Times Monday that his organization would still protest should Judge Richard Goldstone change his mind and decide to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah in Johannesburg next month.

Following negotiations between the federation and the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol synagogue in Sandton acting on behalf of the family, Goldstone told JTA last week that “In the interests of my grandson, I’ve decided not to attend the ceremony at the synagogue.”

Goldstone was the head of a United Nations-appointed commission that investigated the Gaza war in the winter of 2008-09. The commission’s final report accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Krengel stressed that Goldstone had “definitely not” been barred from the bar mitzvah, but that he would not receive a welcome reception should he choose to attend.

“We’ll exercise our constitutional right to protest,” he said.