As regular readers know, I'm not certain if a reasonable person shouldn't simply accept that the reigning narrative about international law and the waging of war is so hopelessly irrelevant to the real world as to be written off in its entirety, or if its fundaments are good enough that it needs to be salvaged from the pacifists who bear its name in vain. The official Israeli postion is that it needs - and can - be salvaged. Paul H. Robinson, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, apparently tends to the position that as it stands, the whole corpus needs to be rejected, or at least very seriously revamped, which is roughly the same.
There has been a lot of chatter about the significance - or lack thereof - of Richard Goldstone's Jewishness, his connections with Israel, the fact that his daughter once lived here (she seems not to anymore). I know very little about the man and have nothing informed to say about all that. I have, however, carefully re-read the letter signed by a groupf of folks back in January, among them Prof. Christine Chinkin of the London School of Economics, castigating Israel for its action in Gaza. The fact that Ms. Chinkin was chosen as one of four members of the Goldstone Commission has already been cited by many as an indication of the agenda of the commission before it even began working. Here, have a look yourself. The way I read it, the authors are refusing Israel the right to determine if and when it may defend itself:
ISRAEL has sought to justify its military attacks on Gaza by stating that it amounts to an act of “self-defence” as recognised by Article 51, United Nations Charter. We categorically reject this contention.
The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable as they are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to rely on self-defence. Under international law self-defence is an act of last resort and is subject to the customary rules of proportionality and necessity.
Moreover, the title (given perhaps by an editor at the Times, not by the authors of the letter) is even more crass: it informs us that it is not Israel's intention to defend itself at all, but rather... well, I'm not quite certain what they think Israel's intention is. Nor is there any indication whatsoever how all these people know what Israel thinks or intends, given that most of them don't know Hebrew, haven't particiapted in the national discussion prior to the operation, and none of them have access to the documents of the decision makers which will only hit the archives in 30 year or later.
Goldstone saw this, and made his decision to sit on the commission with Ms. Chinkin. What was going on in his mind, I cannot say. But I don't think it's all that important, either. This decision of his over-rides anything else one might have to say about him in this context.