After the judge’s surprise mea culpa, Israel advocates hurry to undo the damage.
In the Book of Esther read on Purim, King Ahasuerus tells Queen Esther that he cannot revoke his edict calling for the destruction of the Jews but that he would issue a new decree allowing the Jews to defend themselves.
Israel’s consul for media affairs in New York, Joel Lion, offered similar advice this week to the American Jewish community following the surprise mea culpa by Richard Goldstone.
“The damage has already been done,” he said of Goldstone’s United Nations report that found Israel had intentionally targeted civilians “as a matter of policy” during its month-long Gaza war against Hamas in the winter of 2008-09.
But after Goldstone’s op-ed in last Saturday’s Washington Post in which he admitted he was wrong in that assessment and said his report would have been different “if I had known then what I know now,” Lion told The Jewish Week “the best thing is to try to spread the word [of Goldstone’s apology] in the blogosphere. … The main problem is the blogs. Some of them have picked up on Goldstone’s op-ed but are saying he wrote it because of Israeli pressure. They are saying he retracted only one part of his report and that he is not withdrawing it [in the United Nations].”
“We don’t have people on a lot of computers to answer those who are writing blogs,” Lion added. “For two years we let this lie in the blogs, but now it’s time to answer and it cannot be done by a government. And a government cannot tell people what to do; it has to come from people who understand the outreach of these blogs. …
“The damage is there and the only thing to do now is to speak and show that Israel made inquiries [into the allegations of wrongdoing] and proved we were right. … This is all part of the delegitimization of Israel. This is a war that is not being fought in mainstream newspapers but rather in the blogs.”
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, agreed that although the “damage done by the report can’t be undone, it can be diminished.” He called it a “teachable moment” that should be used to “emphasize the high moral standards of the Israel Defense Forces and the lengths to which they go to avoid civilian casualties.”
“The high moral standards that were put into question by the report should be highlighted,” he said. “The blogs and the IDF and others should be getting the message out, but it’s not about Goldstone. The substance we ought to be focusing on and underscoring is what we know to be true about the conduct of the IDF. Compared to any other army in the world, none come close to the IDF. I know Israeli soldiers who put their own lives at risk because they did not shoot if civilians could have been hit — and we know the enemy uses civilians as cover.”
Hoenlein said he hoped Goldstone’s retraction would help to shore up support for Israel among American Jews who “fall victim to attacks that seek to delegitimize and demonize Israel.”
“Even if they don’t believe some of the charges, they are at the very least embarrassed and unwilling to stand up and defend Israel,” he observed. “I hope they will learn the lesson that Judge Goldstone appears to have learned.”
Martin Raffel, who is overseeing a multimillion-dollar Jewish communal effort (dubbed the Israel Action Network) to counter Israel delegitimization efforts, said there are plans to widely circulate Goldstone’s op-ed article.
“We will call on member agencies to give it the widest circulation — sending it to decision makers and opinion molders and encouraging them to stimulate editorial comment,” he said. “We think this was an important statement from the chairman of the [UN] commission that investigated the war and leveled such serious accusations against Israel. It is critical that this [op-ed] be brought to the attention of influential people in as wide a way as possible.”
The Zionist Organization of America called on the Obama administration to lead efforts to get the UN to “disavow the despicable Goldstone Report” and withdraw it from further consideration to derail plans to ask the International Criminal Court in the Hague to consider war crimes charges against Israel.
In addition, it is asking that groups worldwide that have filed lawsuits and sought indictments against Israelis based on the Goldstone Report drop them immediately. And it asked that groups “like J Street that actively supported and defended” the report to publicly apologize.
J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement that his group never took a position on the Goldstone Report but rather called for Israel to launch its own independent probe. Instead, the IDF did an investigation of its own men and women, which Ben-Ami said is something for which “Israel deserves credit from the international community.”
He added that Goldstone’s report “would have been far better and more balanced had the government of Israel chosen to cooperate.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center pointed out that the Goldstone Report “generated a tidal wave of anti-Israel sentiment and fueled anti-Israel campaigns from the European Union to church groups to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) efforts on campuses worldwide.
“The big lie that the Israeli military acted like Nazis has now been retracted. The UN spread that libel, and only the UN can retract it.”
It called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to publicly endorse Goldstone’s retraction of the report, call on the UN Human Rights Council for which Goldstone worked, to block any further action based on the erroneous charges in the report, and inform the UN General Assembly of Goldstone’s op-ed.
The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs issued a statement saying Goldstone’s apology for claiming not to have known what really took place in Gaza should serve as a wake-up call to the UN forces in southern Lebanon who are supposed to maintain the cease-fire that ended Israeli-Hezbollah fighting in 2006.
It said a new IDF report documents the fact that Hezbollah “has been digging under hundreds of villages in southern Lebanon, hiding weapons and preparing to attack Israel in direct violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.”
But Hoenlein said he is convinced that no matter what is done, “the global campaign against Israel will go on. ... This is the defining battle of our time.”
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