New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner and reporter Jennifer Medina summarized on Wednesday the outcry after the dramatic reversal earlier this month by Judge Richard Goldstone. The judge authored the notorious "Goldstone report" for the United Nations Human Rights Council, blaming the state of Israel, but not the terrorist group Hamas, for making targets of civilians during the three-week Gaza war in 2008.
In an April 3 op-ed for the Washington Post (one rejected by the New York Times), Goldstone admitted that the data vindicated Israel’s concerns about his report: “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
Since then, as CAMERA reports, the Times has described the resulting political machinations in a way to make Israel look cynical rather than truth-seeking, while softening the blow to Goldstone’s credibility, by refusing to give up on Goldstone’s initial accusations that Israel deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians: “Investigator On Gaza Was Guided By His Past – Goldstone Once Led South Africa Inquiry.”
Like the headline, the report itself assumed Goldstone was acting in good faith all along:
Two decades ago, Richard Goldstone, a Jewish South African judge, played a vital role in reconciling his country’s white minority government and rising black majority movement by leading a fact-finding mission into black violence that offered a Solomonic conclusion.
The violence, he found, was endemic, but a covert government campaign was sponsoring black killings to undermine the opposition. Heads rolled, hands were shaken and Mr. Goldstone was hailed as the most trusted man in the country, going on to a distinguished international career.
In 2009, he tried to do the same thing in the other country close to his heart: Israel. Mr. Goldstone, a Zionist who believes that political reconciliation will result when both sides face the unbiased rigors of international law, agreed to lead a United Nations inquiry into the war between Israel and Hamas, telling friends that the mission could make a real contribution to Middle East peace.
The Times soft-pedaled Goldstone’s skewed anti-Israel findings.
The resulting report that bears his name accused each side of wrongdoing -- deliberately making civilians targets. But the report not only failed to bring peace to the region and universal honor to its author. It also hardened positions and brought a storm of attacks on Mr. Goldstone, especially from within his community.
In trying to understand why he published an essay on April 1 in The Washington Post retracting his harshest accusation against Israel and toughening his stand toward Hamas and the United Nations -- an essay that has been rejected by the fellow members of his investigation panel -- the South African precedent is important. For Mr. Goldstone, it was the model of how the Gaza report would work. Instead, it helped drive Israeli politics farther to the right, gave fuel to Israel’s enemies and brought no notable censure on Hamas.
The Times suggested that hostility from fellow Jews was a primary reason for Goldstone’s change of heart.
In describing his new position, Mr. Goldstone wrote, “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone report would have been a different document.” He has declined requests to elaborate. Interviews with two dozen people who know him suggest a combination of reasons: the hostility from his community, disappointment about Hamas’s continuing attacks on civilians, and new understanding of Israel’s conduct in a few of the most deadly incidents of the war.
Bronner and Medina step lightly onto the fact of the long-time, viciously anti-Israel stand of the United Nations.
When Mr. Goldstone was asked to investigate the three-week Gaza war, which started in late 2008, he was told by many friends of Israel that he was stepping into a trap. There had never been a United Nations Human Rights Council investigation into possible war crimes in Chechnya or Sri Lanka, but there had been multiple ones into Israel’s actions.
Not until paragraph 22 did the Times get to the heart of the false and incendiary allegations made in the Goldstone report:
In truth, even many who hailed the Goldstone report in the human rights world, in Israel and the United States, were uncomfortable with its assertion that Israel intended to kill civilians.