According to Reports: Critics Bash Israel Despite Goldstone’s Doubts

In his weekly Canadian Jewish News media analysis column “According to Reports,” Paul Michaels, CIC Director of Communications, looks at coverage of the contentious UN-sponsored Goldstone report.

The controversial Goldstone report, released in mid-September, remains a hot news topic. Written under a mandate crafted by the notorious UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), it principally accused Israel of war crimes – of deliberately targeting and killing unarmed Palestinian civilians during the war in Gaza last winter.

Beckerman pointed out that Goldstone’s allegations against Israel were “built mostly on testimony of Palestinian eyewitnesses, which have received little scrutiny of verification.” Indeed, Beckerman revealed that Goldstone not only acknowledged the tentative nature of his findings, he admitted that the evidence he weighed would not have met the burden of proof in a courtroom – the article’s headline is a direct quote from Goldstone.

Critics have raised similar concerns about the report’s evidence and methodology. For instance, in “Deep Denial” (National Post, Oct. 14), Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren wrote: “The [Goldstone] judges interviewed hand-picked Hamas witnesses, several of them senior commanders disguised as civilians, and uncritically accepted their testimony.”

More recently, Goldstone expressed another reservation. As reported by the National Post‘s Steve Edwards (“UN Report accuses Israel of war crimes,” Oct. 17), Goldstone criticized the UNHRC’s Oct. 16 decision endorsing his report and referring it to the UN headquarters in New York for singling out Israel without mentioning any wrongdoing by Hamas. “‘This draft resolution saddens me as it includes only allegations against Israel,’ he was quoted as saying in Swiss newspaper Le Temps…’There is not a single phrase condemning Hamas as we have done in the report. I hope that the Council can modify the text.’

“Such statements prompted critics to charge that Goldstone was hopelessly naïve to believe that the UNHRC – a body that has singled out Israel for more condemnatory resolutions than all other countries in the world combined – would respect his own concern for a semblance of “balance” in a report that was nevertheless deeply flawed to begin with. (After all, the initial mandate from the UNHRC was to investigate only Israeli “violations…against the Palestinian people.”)

While Goldstone is having second thoughts about important aspects of his report and his involvement with the UNHRC, others are apparently only too pleased to have another stick with which to beat Israel.

Toronto Star columnist Haroon Siddiqui can claim credit for standing foremost in this crowd. In a series of columns beginning in September, Siddiqui took the allegations in the Goldstone report at face value – and he went even further.

In “Shining a Light on Israeli Aggression in Gaza” (Toronto Star, Sept. 21), Siddiqui wrote that the report “is a condemnation not only of Israel but also of its apologists in Canada, including the media” who have buried it “under an orchestrated avalanche of negative reaction.”

Siddiqui claimed that “Israel and its defenders” have mounted a “smear campaign” against Goldstone and the UNHRC. He thus, determinedly ignored the glaring fact that the UNHRC, led by some of the world’s most anti-democratic, human rights-abusing countries whose primary mission is to isolate and delegitimize Israel, is a farce. And into this farce stepped a respected judge.

This column previously critiqued a Siddiqui piece (“Israel keeps shooting the messenger,” Toronto Star, Sept. 27), in which he described Richard Falk as “another high-profile Jewish public intellectual.” By portraying Falk as a fair-minded critic of Israeli policies, Siddiqui ignored the fact that Falk is actually an anti-Israel fanatic who has compared Israelis to Nazis.

In “Nobel Prize puts pressure on Obama and Israel” (Toronto Star, Oct. 11) Siddiqui – without presenting any evidence – claimed that Goldstone report “has divided the Jewish community, with many moving away from ethnic/religious/national solidarity toward fidelity with human rights, international law, truth and justice.” Siddiqui’s cartoonish dichotomy is absurd. If it wasn’t such a profound insult to the Jewish community, it would be laughable.

Given Siddiqui’s penchant for following the UNHRC’s obsessive Israel-bashing, his talk of “truth and justice” is nothing less than perverse.