The United Nations, as its general reaction whenever Israel is mentioned, went ballistic, eventually appointing Richard Goldstone, a retired South African judge, former International Criminal Tribunal prosecutor and a Jew himself, to investigate potential war crimes and crimes against humanity. While the mandate included actions by hamas, the de facto government of Gaza, everyone knew what its real goal was: to demonize Israel.
The Israelis, having already appointed their own investigation (with foreign investigators included) declined to take part in Goldstone's inquiry. And, rightfully so. Israel has nothing to gain from the United Nations and especially its so called Human Rights Council.
Goldstone, predictably, came back with a report slamming Israel, accusing it of deliberately targeting civilians and demanding investigations. It also demanded the same of Hamas, which is a little like demanding your cat not scratch the sofa - it might make you feel better but it has no validity as far as the cat is concerned.
In the fallout, Israel was again singled out as a world pariah. The anti-Zionist crowd out there milked the Goldstone Report right until this past weekend - when Goldstone recanted.
In a Washington Post essay, since carried elsewhere in North American (hopefully, in Europe, too, where its message is far more sorely needed), Goldstone now says he "knows a lot more today about what happened" and "if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document".
Without reprinting the entire thing, let's just say Israel followed through on its commitments to investigate individual actions, that Israel never, as a matter of policy, targeted civilians and that Hamas has done absolutely nothing to investigate the allegations against the Gazans, including those thousands of projectiles launched at nothing but civilian population centres.
None of this is at all surprising. Israel has been through this before; Jenin and the Free Gaza flotilla incident being two other recent examples. Throughout its 60 year history, arab leaders have repeatedly launched the most bizarre accusations against the "Zionist entity" and much of the rest of the world has gobbled it up like ice cream in August.
What is shameful, however, is Goldstone's condemnation of Israel knowing full well he didn't have all the facts and having even one iota of expectation that the palestinians would act to curb their deliberate targeting of civilians (and the myriad human right abuses against its own citizens, nevermind Israeli Jews). The man was a judge and a prosecutor for God's sake - does he not understand the need for evidence?
Against a backdrop of the largest number of attacks against Israel since Operation Cast Lead, including the gruesome slaying of a family of five by knife-wielding terrorist scum, a bus bombing and more missiles with greater range now landing on Israeli territory, Goldstone's change in tune does have meaning. It shows that, once again, the world's sole Jewish state is consistently at the mercy of the arab/muslim bloc and its allies at the UN. It shows that, once again, western nations have been played for fools by the palestinians. It serves as a reminder of just how treacherous dealing with that part of the world is - a lesson that a mere two years later we seem intent on having to re-learn, this time in Libya. (Not to mention Egypt where, lo and behold, the islamists are now demanding a greater role in government only weeks after claiming that was not their goal while working to unseat Hosni Mubarak.)
But, no number of apologies can undo the damage. There is no question in my mind - and has not been from the day the UN announced it intentions - that the result was predetermined. Israel was going to pay the price for protecting its citizens and will do so again just as soon as a few more Iranian-shipped missiles land on its territory from Gaza.
The next time the UN feels the need to launch an investigation into Israel measures, its members need to ask themselves a very simple question: "how would I expect my nation to react to a constant rain of deadly missiles on our civilian areas by an enemy whose only stated goal is to destroy us?"
Israel has long been held to a higher standard than other nations. It has shown remarkable restraint in dealing with an enemy that is intractable and serves as a proxy for Middle East heavyweight Iran. Richard Goldstone needs to do a lot more to make up for his mistake, maybe he can start by conveying that message where ever he goes. Call it restitution.