Sunday, January 31, 2010

Legal lightweight

Soccer Dad
29 January '10

Judge Richard Goldstone was greeted at Yale University with an article in the Yale Daily News written by Noah Pollak and Adam Yoffie that made short work of his commission's report:
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.

However the Pollak/Yoffie op-ed was rather mild in comparison with the treatment Goldstone would receive from Richard Landes in recounting Goldstone's talk later.
Perhaps the single most striking feature of the talk was its staggering superficiality. Goldstone might have a reputation (at least among those familiar with his report) for being biased, but not for being a lightweight. And yet in the less than forty minutes of his formal lecture, at no point did one get the impression that one was listening to a trained legal mind, much less a brilliant one. Most of the lecture could have been written by an undergraduate who combined entries at Wikipedia on International Law, Nuremberg Trials, Geneva Convention, and Rome Treaty, with a warmed over version of "war is not the answer," and "why can't we all just get along and follow the law?"

Landes's account is, at once, entertaining and disturbing. Entertaining because Goldstone's superficiality and acute sensitivity come accross in Landes's telling. Disturbing because of the authority international organizations have invested in this man.

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