Pollak and Yoffie: A different forum needed for Goldstone

Tomorrow, Justice Richard Goldstone will give the George Herbert Walker, Jr. Lecture in International Studies. In the name of free speech, we welcome Justice Goldstone to campus, but we do not think this lecture provides an appropriate forum for his visit.

Justice Goldstone is a distinguished jurist who admirably served on South Africa’s Constitutional Court and as the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. But the Justice is now most closely identified with his infamous investigation into the war Israel fought against Hamas last year, published as the Goldstone Report.

The report is a product of the United Nations Human Rights Council, a body that is used by some of the world’s worst human rights abusers to deflect attention from their own authoritarianism and brutality. The Council’s membership includes Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia, and Saudi Arabia and is obsessively anti-Israel: In its short existence, it has issued more condemnations of Israel than of the 192 United Nations member states combined.

Goldstone accepted a mandate from this council to investigate Israel, and only Israel, over its attack last year on the internationally-recognized terrorist group Hamas. The report he produced is a perversion of human rights and international law. It treats Hamas’ allegations with meticulous credulity, but Israeli claims with flippant skepticism. It is riddled with factual errors and twisted accounts of the war. The members of Goldstone’s staff have long histories of anti-Israel political activism. The report makes frequent and unsupported editorial declarations against Israel and included testimony from residents of Gaza who feared retaliation from Hamas. Justice Goldstone himself has admitted that nothing in the report would be admissible as credible evidence in a court of law.

When it was released four months ago, the report was vigorously condemned across the political spectrum. The Obama administration’s Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, George Mitchell, called it “one-sided and deeply flawed.” United Nations ambassador Susan Rice called it “unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable.” The State Department expressed “very serious concerns” with the way the investigation was conducted and the conclusions it reached. The ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee declared: “In addition to its endemic anti-Israel bias, the Goldstone Report contains ominous implications for the future right of the U.S., Israel and other sovereign democracies to defend themselves.”

The Wall Street Journal condemned the Goldstone Report as “a new low” for the United Nations while the Economist called it “deeply flawed” and “a thimbleful of poison.” The Washington Post editorialized that the Goldstone Report made a “mockery of impartiality” (“War Unchecked,” Nov. 15). The Post also noted that the Report concluded, “on scant evidence, that ‘disproportionate destruction and violence against civilians were part of a deliberate policy’ by Israel [while] at the same time, it pronounced itself unable to confirm that Hamas hid its fighters among civilians, used human shields, fired mortars and rockets from outside schools, stored weapons in mosques, and used a hospital for its headquarters, despite abundant available evidence.” Even B’Tselem, the left-wing Israeli human rights organization, denounced Goldstone’s claims of Israeli targeting of civilians.

We could go on, but it is unnecessary: The Goldstone Report is viewed as neither legitimate nor scrupulous by serious scholars, lawyers, politicians or activists.

It is thus astonishing that Yale would attempt to legitimize Goldstone by awarding him the Walker Lecture — an honor that has been bestowed on George Mitchell, Madeleine Albright and David Lange — and thereby take sides in a bitter controversy. The Goldstone Report is held in such poor esteem that not even the good name of Yale University can rescue it. Instead, Yale’s reputation will be tarnished in its attempt to laud and legitimize such a discredited figure.

We believe that Justice Goldstone should come to Yale. But if he is to make an officially sanctioned appearance on campus, it should be in a forum befitting the man and his work: a debate in which his alleged judicial impartiality can be challenged — not a coronation that seeks to sanitize his work and shield him from much-deserved criticism.

Noah Pollak and Adam Yoffie are, respectively, second-year students in the Graduate Program in International Relations and the Law School.

Comments