Better late than never, but not much better. How else can one respond to the belated retraction by Judge Richard Goldstone of the key allegations in the outrageous report he authored into Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against Hamas terrorists in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009? Blatantly dishonest and biased, what became known as the Goldstone Report served as the most vicious instrument of defamation and delegitimization against the Jewish state for decades. It gave heart to terrorists; it gave hope to anti-Semites; and it gave every twisted calumny against the State of Israel a new lease on life.
So now we find that even its author can no longer stomach it. Writing in the Washington Post last week, we learn that he now knows that its central allegation was a lie: “Civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy,” he says. Referring to evidence provided by Israel, he adds: “I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such 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.”
Well, this is better late than never. But a mere statement of regret is surely not enough. Let us recall that the Goldstone Report has served as a pretext for “war crimes” charges leveled against Israeli officials across the world. The least Goldstone can now do is issue a public statement calling on his report to be withdrawn from the United Nations, through whose institutions it is still making its passage. He should do it at the U.N. itself, and he should encourage the head of the U.N. Human Rights Council — where the report originated — to do likewise.
But there are even bigger issues to consider, and they go far wider than the pangs of conscience of a partially repentant judge. After all, Goldstone’s retraction tells us nothing that decent, honest and objective observers didn’t know already. That “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy”? But Israel never targets civilians as a matter of policy. It is not that kind of country. It is a humane, liberal democracy. It is governed by the rule of law. It is a normal Western country whose people, and soldiers, abide by normal Western values.
So, why were so many governments around the world so willing to jump on board the anti-Israeli bandwagon that the Goldstone Report represented? Why did so many countries in Europe, countries that call themselves allies of Israel and friends of the Jewish people, give it credence at the United Nations, many in the last ballot at the General Assembly voting in favor of its continued passage?
Why were so many of Israel’s nominal friends so willing to believe the worst about her? Why were transparently obvious lies and libels not instantly dismissed with the contempt that they so richly deserved? Why was Israel put on the same footing, perhaps even a lower footing, as Hamas, an organization committed to the obliteration of the Jewish state, an organization for which the notorious anti-Semitic forgery, the Protocols of Zion, functions as the inspiration for its founding charter?
Surely, it is not just Goldstone who should be apologizing but every government and international body that gave his report the time of day.
In short, if anything good at all can come out of this affair, despite all the damage that has been done, despite all the pain and humiliation that has been suffered, then let it be this. Let this be a watershed moment in the way the world deals with the Jewish state. Let Israel now be treated by a common standard, and not by a double standard. Let it be a moment of true catharsis. Let it be a new beginning where truth, honor and decency reassert themselves and where reflexive hostility to the State of Israel is finally put to rest.
The Jewish people do not ask for much from the world, but we do ask for this: Treat us as you would like to be treated yourselves. Is that really too much to ask?
Ronald S. Lauder is president of the World Jewish Congress.