Thursday, September 17th, 2009
Some Jewish groups were quick to get out their press releases blasting the “Goldstone Report,” the result of a United Nations investigation into last winter’s Gaza war – so quick it seems unlikely many actually read the 575- page report.
A prominent Jewish congressman was almost as quick and a lot more colorful; Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) issued a statement calling the report a “pompous, tendentious, one-sided political diatribe.”
Much of the criticism focused on the source of the investigation – a UN Human Rights Council that even many Jewish left wingers say has been almost obsessively concerned with Israel’s actions over the years and unblushingly biased against the Jewish state.
“In April 2009, the UN Human Rights Council set up a Commission to condemn Israel,” Ackerman said. “To the surprise of no one, it has done exactly that. But for the grave subject matter, the Goldstone report would be laughable. In the self-righteous fantasyland inhabited by the authors, there’s no such thing as terrorism, there’s no such thing as Hamas, there’s no such thing as legitimate self-defense, and war is like a sporting event or a debate, rather than the most ghastly, destructive, chaotic phenomenon we human beings are capable of creating.”
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) called it a “despicable anti-Israel…report based on unsubstantiated testimony and perversion of legal norms.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the report a “prize for terror,” according to the Israeli press. In a breaking Jewish Week story, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz called Richard Goldstone, who headed the investigation, a “Jewish anti-Semite.” I’m wondering how long it will be before the phrase “blood libel” is applied. (Oh wait, a quick Google search indicates the Hudson Institute’s Eye on the UN project has already used the term).
But Goldstone himself, a respected South African jurist who is Jewish, wrote a strong defense of the report in today’s New York Times.
Absent so far from the flurry of reaction: Jewish pro-peace process groups such as Americans for Peace Now, J Street and the Israel Policy Forum.
Sources in these groups say there are intensive and nervous discussions going on about how exactly to respond.
Some of their leaders privately acknowledge that the UN process was flawed, and they understand that anything coming from the Human Rights Council will generate a gut reaction from a Jewish community familiar with its deep-seated bias.
At the same time, some say –privately, so far – that the report includes important findings about excesses by both sides during this year’s Gaza war that deserve discussion and further investigation.
“It was a flawed process, but people in our community are criticizing the author and the process rather than the very serious issues raised in the report,” said one prominent pro-peace process activist, who added that responding to the Goldstone report is “awkward and difficult because the substance is painful for those of us who love Israel, but have to acknowledge that bad things happen during wars.”