UK's slippery Goldstone game

The government has binned all principles over the UN report


If there is even the merest grain of comfort to be extracted from the resounding endorsement of the Goldstone report by the UN’s General Assembly last week, it is that the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council appear to have galvanised themselves into positive action on something worth being positive about.

I refer to the joint statement these two bodies issued immediately after the General Assembly’s vote, condemning (though perhaps not in phrases as stark or as explicit as they might have been) the failure of the British government to side with the 18 countries that found the courage to vote against Goldstone at the UN on November 5.

Indeed we should note that this joint statement was in fact the second to have been issued within a matter of days on this subject — the first having been published following a clipped exchange of views with the Foreign Office that had culminated in a letter to Foreign Secretary David Miliband urging a “principled vote” against the Goldstone findings. Two statements — published only days apart — critical of the British government constitute something of an Anglo-Jewish precedent. Something is clearly afoot.

The Board and the JLC are quite right to highlight the inane behaviour of the British government vis-à-vis Goldstone. When the Goldstone report was before the UN Human Rights Council, the British government neither rejected nor supported the proposition that this miserable document be referred to the General Assembly. This motion was bound to be carried by the predestined votes of an overwhelming majority of states on the HRC whose leaders have not the faintest notion of what a human right might look like — assuming, that is, that they actually understand the term (which I genuinely doubt).

Following its failure to record any vote (not even a formal abstention), the British government offered a variety of incredible excuses. To be frank, I never for one moment believed that the failure of the British delegate on the HRC to vote at all was an accident, or was brought about by circumstances that were beyond Downing Street’s control. That delegate should have already received an instruction from Downing Street, via Mr Miliband, to vote against Goldstone. Clearly, no such instruction was ever received. The reason it was never received was that it was never sent. The reason it was never sent was because Her Majesty’s government believes that Mr Goldstone’s face should be saved, whereas I believe that Mr Goldstone’s report is so thoroughly compromised and flawed that its author’s face has not the slightest right or claim to be saved. As I pointed out in my September 25 column, the inclusion of Professor Christine Chinkin on Mr Goldstone’s panel of so-called experts meant that his inquiry was irredeemably biased, since she had already made very public her view of Israel’s culpability. Beyond that, all I want to say in respect of the detail of the Goldstone report is that its recommendations amount — and were probably designed to amount — to a terrorists’ charter.

The Goldstone report deserves to be consigned to oblivion. The government, which failed to vote at the HRC and which could bring itself only to abstain at the General Assembly, is palpably not of this view. Foreign secretary Miliband is reported to have told the JLC and the Board of Deputies that the government believes the Goldstone report should not be endorsed.

I do not believe Mr Miliband. I believe that Mr Miliband — presumably with the support of his masters Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson — believes that Goldstone should be endorsed. Or rather that it should be seen to be endorsed by the British government, in some way and to some extent, safe in the knowledge that the USA can be relied upon to reject its implementation if and when it comes before the Security Council.

With this outcome in mind, the British government believes that it can curry favour in the Arab and Muslim worlds by saving Mr Goldstone’s face, salvaging his perverse findings from the destruction that the USA alone will visit upon them through its veto power.

This is of course a deliberately craven and perfidious strategy. It now behoves the Deputies and the JLC to remind Mr Miliband that the UK, too, has a power of veto, and that British Jews (who are also British voters) can be expected to ask searching questions if that power is not deployed to consign the Goldstone report to the rubbish bin of UN history.

    Last updated: 4:49pm, December 10 2009

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