The subject of Judge Richard Goldstone came up quite frequently during my recent lecture tour in South Africa – at a dinner in Johannesburg at the home of Chabad head Rabbi David Masinter, where acquaintances of the judge were in attendance; at Sea Point Synagogue, South Africa’s largest, where I lectured and whose rabbi, Dovid Weinberg, had officiated at Goldstone’s grandson’s bar mitzvah; at my speech for Chabad of Cape Town and later in Pretoria.
The man the media describe as a “respected international jurist” and who had falsely accused Israel of war crimes was never far from anyone’s lips.
South Africans are among the world’s proudest Jews and most ardent Zionists. So it was understandable that they would detest Goldstone, viewing him a traitor to his people, a man who engaged in a blood libel against the Jewish state in order to enhance his standing at the United Nations.
I have never agreed with this assessment of Goldstone, seeing him instead as yet another useful idiot – a man so full of his own pomposity and self-righteousness as to be utterly blind to simple notions of right and wrong. Like Jimmy Carter, Goldstone is one of those well-meaning ignoramuses and nobly-motivated buffoons whose view of morality is that the party without tanks and an air force must of necessity be the party of justice.
This knee-jerk urge to champion the underdog, notwithstanding how evil the underdog may be, explains the shockingly obvious statement in Goldstone’s Washington Post op-ed mea culpa last week, in which he wrote, “In the end, asking Hamas to investigate [its own crimes] may have been a mistaken enterprise.”
It took a famous judge three years to come to the conclusion that asking a terrorist organization hell-bent on exterminating Israel to impartially report its own atrocities was, with hindsight, not the brightest idea.
In repudiating his earlier contention that Israel had intentionally targeted civilians in Gaza, Goldstone offers a classic lesson in how not to apologize. It turns out that however grave the damage inflicted on Israel’s global reputation by his false report, the slander was Israel’s fault:
“Israel’s lack of cooperation with our investigation meant that we were not able to corroborate how many Gazans killed were civilians and how many were combatants our recommendations did not include any evidence provided by the Israeli government.”
So Goldstone condemned Israel as a nation that directs its missiles intentionally at children because he did not have enough information from Israel to establish otherwise. And yet, just a few lines later in his op-ed, Goldstone writes that the UN Human Rights Council, which commissioned his report, has a “history of bias against Israel [that] cannot be doubted.”
So even Goldstone admits that Israel was being asked to cooperate with an investigation commissioned by an authority inherently prejudiced against it, which explains why Israel rightly refused to participate.
It’s clear that with his most recent ramblings the description “respected international jurist” will never again be appended to Goldstone.
Even more troubling are the comments attributed to Samantha Power, the rising star of the Obama administration who is being openly discussed as a replacement for Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.
I am a huge fan of Power’s 2002 book A Problem from Hell, whichdetails how America refused to intervene to stop various genocides in the 20th century. I have repeatedly extolled the Pulitzer-prize winning book in lectures and columns and believe it should be required reading for every American high school student. I was also not surprised to read that it was Power who was instrumental in persuading an always reluctant President Obama to intervene in Libya before Khaddafi slaughtered all his people.
It was therefore with considerable sadness that I learned of Power’s troubling statements on Israel, comments that require clarification lest she compromise her own moral credibility. Is Powers accurately quoted as having said the United States should use military force to protect the Palestinians from Israel? Is Power really an advocate of greatly reducing or eliminating American military aid to Israel, channeling it instead to the Palestinians – who have repeatedly used foreign aid to foster hatred of Israel in schools, line the pockets of corrupt officials, and promote terrorism?
There is more, with Power having seemingly criticized The New York Times for being insufficiently critical of Israel after it attacked terrorist-saturated Jenin in 2002. And Power wrote in her book Chasing the Flame that what sparked Israel’s invasion of Lebanon was “dispossessed Palestinians and Israeli insecurity,” when in truth Israel invaded Lebanon to stop the incessant stream of rocket attacks that terrorized its northern cities. The phrase “Israeli insecurity” implies Israel is paranoid rather than reflecting the reality of a Lebanon dominated by Hizbullah, whose genocidal aim is the destruction of Israel.
I spent the last day of my African trip in Dakar, Senegal, where I visited Goree Island, the point of no return from which 14 million African slaves were sent to a life of hell in servitude. Both Presidents Clinton and Bush visited the island to acknowledge the American sin of slavery. Unsurprisingly, President Obama, with his strange reluctance to denounce great evils, has not.
Samantha Power is one of the few people with the president’s ear who can be relied on to influence him to overcome his inexplicable recalcitrance to broadcast American resolve abroad to stop the slaughter of innocents. It behooves her to immediately explain her issues with Israel, a nation whose principal purpose in having an army is to prevent yet another genocide of a people who suffered through an unparalleled one just a few decades ago.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the bestselling author of 25 books, most recently “Honoring the Child Spirit” and “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.