We live in a cynical world. And for precisely this reason, it is all the more noteworthy and admirable when honorable people are willing to speak with integrity. Richard Goldstone's admission in an April 1 opinion article that, in good conscience, he can no longer endorse the conclusions of his 2009 fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict marks a watershed moment.
The public renunciation of the Goldstone Report by its primary author represents an important victory for intellectual honesty. Indeed, as John F. Kennedy observed in "Profiles in Courage," "A man does what he must - in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures - and that is the basis of all human morality." Having invested his personal credibility in a process that has since become synonymous with his name, Justice Goldstone now must be commended for his willingness to acknowledge the significant shortcomings of his United Nations assignment.
Yet Justice Goldstone's piecemeal admission that expecting Hamas' cooperation "may have been a mistaken enterprise" and that human error was the apparent cause of certain Palestinian casualties obscures the larger and more critical point. It is absolutely unconscionable that his report could have ascribed malice to an ethical and law-abiding state such as Israel. To wit, the Israel Defense Forces do not wantonly target unarmed noncombatants. Any allegations to the contrary are simply absurd. Israel's traditional Jewish values mandate that it always retains the moral high ground.
Nor can there be any doubt that Israel remains fully committed to and capable of conducting independent legal inquiries into its activities. The IDF has never hesitated to investigate suspected wrongdoing and, whenever applicable, to prosecute and punish offenders. At a time when some of its neighbors seem to have no apparent qualms about firing live ammunition at their own populations - without accountability for their actions - Israel's democracy proudly demonstrates the highest respect for human life. This truth is axiomatic among the international legal community and bears reminding.
Sadly, prolonged exposure to the deceptions of radical Islamists, Palestinian propagandists and their Western mouthpieces seem to have induced some form of retrograde amnesia. The misleading allegations of Israeli misconduct that appear in the original Goldstone Report are, as Justice Goldstone himself now concedes, completely inconsistent with Israel's actual standards. Nobody should be fooled by these dissonant versions. To set the record straight: Hate speech directed against Israel has supplied the trigger for sadistic terrorism. Witness last month's brutal knifing of a young couple and three of their little children - and for the never-ending barrage of rocket attacks on southern Israel. Even still, Israel was, is and always will be a liberal democracy seeking to live in peace with its neighbors. No amount of misinformation can change this reality.
In this spirit, Israel is an active partner in multilateral organizations and forums. But there must not be one set of rules for Israel and another for the rest of the world.
When the U.N. Human Rights Council appointed Justice Goldstone and his colleagues to investigate - exclusively - supposed Israeli violations of international law, without any parallel reference to the criminal behavior of Hamas in Gaza, it effectively rendered its prejudicial verdict from the outset. In fact, the judgmental language employed by resolution HRC S-9/1 actually presupposes Israeli guilt. An objective mandate would have secured Israeli cooperation.
Israel deserves to play on the same level playing field as everyone else but could never expect a fair shake from a body that counted, until just recently, Col. Moammar Gadhafi's Libya among its distinguished members. The rogues' gallery that features Hamas - whose charter still proclaims that there can be "no solution to the Palestinian problem except jihad" - Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood must not be allowed to gain the upper hand over those who seek a future of freedom and social progress.
The international system has been infected by a dangerous virus. Good is called evil and evil is repackaged as good. In this corrupt state of affairs, it is more vital than ever that the principled voice of the United States be heard. America must lead the charge to have the Goldstone Report withdrawn from the global stage. Its legacy - which handicaps all democratic nations in their struggle against non-state actors that scorn international law - must not stand.
By Moshe Ya'alon, Israel's vice premier and minister of strategic affairs.