Most of us have heard the Chasidic parable about lashon ha-ra (disparaging speech). A man spread malicious lies about the rabbi all over the community. When he acknowledged his wrongdoing and began to feel remorse, he begged the rabbi for forgiveness, saying he would do anything to make amends. The rabbi said, “Take a feather pillow, cut it open and scatter the feathers to the winds.” When the told the rabbi that he had done it, the rabbi said, “Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can recollect the feathers.”
Undoing the damage done by the Goldstone Report is even more preposterous. At the beginning of April, retired South African judge Richard Goldstone admitted that his report on the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli military incursion into Gaza had wrongly accused the Jewish state of war crimes. While he acknowledged that the evidence provided in subsequent Israeli investigations had debunked the information he and his team was fed by the Palestinians during their UN-commissioned inquiry, Israel has been tried in the court of world public opinion as the international media have printed the untruths, and the UN adopted the claims.
The Goldstone Commission accused Israel of purposely targeting Palestinian civilians during Operation Cast Lead, causing the deaths of more than 1,000 people in Gaza. The commission called Israel’s actions illegal in spite of the enormous Palestinian missile barrage on southern Israel that had come before them. There were discrepancies between so-called Palestinian casualty figures and patients in local hospitals. Hamas leaders admitted that 700 of the people killed during the war were Hamas fighters, not civilians. Two years later, Goldstone is acknowledging that he made mistakes in his report, but he is not ready to disavow it.
Both Israel and the U.S. have asked Goldstone to retract his statements in light of what he knows now. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution that called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to rescind the Goldstone Commission’s report on the Gaza war. Resolution 138 urges council members “to reflect the author’s repudiation of the Goldstone report’s central findings, rescind the report and reconsider further Council actions with respect to the report’s findings.” The resolution also asks UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to “do all in his power to redress the damage to Israel’s reputation” in the wake of the report, and to bring forth reforms within the council so that it “no longer unfairly, disproportionately and falsely criticizes Israel on a regular basis.” Both the UN Human Rights Council and UN chief Ban have said that the report would not be rescinded.
“Today’s blood libels against Israel mirror the historical blood libels against the Jews in their viciousness, their absurdity and in the fact that even after being debunked and dismissed, they continue to haunt the Jewish people and act as a platform for hatred,” wrote Ryan Jones in Israel Today Magazine (April 3, 2011). Scanning articles about Goldstone’s change of heart proved the point; members of the media in other countries are content to leave the matter alone and let Israel take the blame for committing alleged war crimes. Delegitimization of Israel is rampant, and the truth is inconvenient for those who want to perpetuate it.
Goldstone can’t put the feathers back in his pillow. A sizeable chunk of the world’s population is either happy about that or can’t be bothered to refute it. What can we do about it?
We can jump on every opportunity to connect with Israel and tell the real story of Eretz Yisrael to the rest of the world. Whether we visit Israel, buy Israeli goods, donate to Israeli causes or join organizations that promote Israel, we can make a difference. The court of world opinion won’t change overnight, but eventually the truth will come out.