Monday, April 4, 2011

The Goldstone Straw-Man

The pro-Israel community spent much of this weekend drinking in the sweet wine of vindication over an editorial published by Richard Goldstone in which the South African Judge retracts many of the fallacious and misleading claims made by the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead. The shortcomings of the report were not trivial, and merit the kind of clarification Goldstone is now giving to the context in which the report was prepared.

But the pro-Israel community should remember that the tragedy of the Goldstone Report was the recklessness with which the international community formed claims, many evidently unfounded, against Israel. In other words, the tragedy is not Goldstone himself. Judge Goldstone is perhaps naive, and the frustration and criticism of the pro-Israel community are warranted. But which the wine of vindication may be sweet, there are some who would get downright drunk off it.

To focus the attention of Israel and the international community on one person ignores the larger and long-term problem of delegitimization which Israel faces. And while Goldstone may have changed his mind, many in the international community have not. They will make up their minds not by what a UN-appointed judge writes in a WaPo editorial, but by the actions Israel takes to remedy some of the very real issues raised in the report. Already, Israel has begun to take these steps. But continued consideration of the contemporary media space will be critical to generating the kind of political leverage Israel will need for its next engagement in Gaza. This task will not be easy. It demands far greater attention than the hedonistic delights of told-you-so columns and self-congratulatory op-eds.

Israel's media strategy should begin with publicizing the Goldstone editorial. It should then thank him for his clarifications and respect that at a time where the media is quick to jump to conclusions about this often-misunderstood country, one judge is willing to prioritize integrity over valor. Israel should also study the Goldstone Report as a case of how misperceptions about Israeli military doctrine are formed, and its lessons should continue to be internalized into IDF policy.

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