April 4, 2011
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.