Goofstone and Gallant


If you visited a doctor’s or dentist’s office anytime from the late 1940s on, chances are at one time or another you read the classic comic “Goofus and Gallant” in Highlights for Children magazine. The strip features two youngsters who wend their way through object lessons about good and evil. Goofus seems to always take the errant fork in the road, while Gallant is morally spot on.


Interestingly, G &G shares its 1948 birthyear with the State of Israel. And so what better way to bring the comic into focus by taking a closer look at two key figures who have paralleled their fictional brethren in their attitudes and conduct toward the Jewish State.

Let’s start with Gallant, in this case better known as Robert Bernstein, the former CEO of Random House. After visiting the former USSR in the early ’70s and helping suppressed authors find a public audience, Bernstein created the Fund for Free Expression, which later became Human Rights Watch. Today the group comprises a staff of 200 or so and purportedly promotes freedom, rights and democracy throughout the world.

But in its recent trashing of Israel, Human Rights Watch’s compass has completely lost its Due North, and Bernstein is utterly sick about it, as he wrote last week in the New York Times. “Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations,” writes Bernstein, “a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world.”

Courageously condemning the group of his own creation, Bernstein says: “Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields… And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism.”

So poignant and eloquent were his words that notables Elie Wiesel and Alan Dershowitz collaborated on a letter to the Times praising Bernstein for his words. In fact, to buttress Bernstein’s point, they indicated that “senior Human Rights Watch officials even recently went to Riyadh to raise funds from people associated with the Saudi regime, emphasizing the group’s work demonizing Israel while doing so.” (Shades of Jimmy Carter!)

Now let’s contrast Bernstein’s stellarly Gallant behavior with that of Goofus, aka Richard Goldstone.

A South African Jew, Goldstone (himself a Human Rights Watch member until resigning in 2009 over allegations that his involvement showed bias against Israel) has blatantly ignored and betrayed everything that is decent and moral about the Jewish State.

Accepting the mandate of the anti-Israel biased United Nations Human Rights Council earlier this year to scrutinize the Israel-Gaza conflict, Goldstone made a mockery of the process with poorly constructed evidence and conclusions that attempted to draw moral equivalency between Hamas’ tactics and those of the Israel Defense Forces.

The mandate of the investigation was so politicized and biased against Israel that even Mary Robinson — former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who presided over the 2001 Durban conference at which Israel-bashing became the sport of the day — turned down the assignment before Goldstone accepted it.

Putting Goldstone’s report in the context of his longtime political opportunism (indeed, there has been much speculation that he is angling for the UN Secretary-General gig), South African journalist R.W. Johnson provides detailed history of how Goldstone has had to publicly eat crow on several occasions.

“Throughout his career,” writes Johnson, “Goldstone has been criticized for cutting corners out of excessive ambition, but in the eyes of many Jews his Gaza Commission has set a new low. That a Jewish judge, barred from entering Israel for accepting a commission deliberately biased against the state, should write a report based largely on interviews with Hamas activists in order to pander to anti-Zionist opinion has meant, for many, that he has simply stepped outside the pale.”

Praising Gallant Bernstein and condemning Goofus Goldstone does not in our minds represent an apologia for any abuses that the Israeli military may have committed during the Gaza altercation. If those truly happened, they should be dealt with justly and firmly by Israeli officials.

But that misses the point. Goldstone continues to ignore the democratic underpinnings of Israel in favor of his own self-aggrandizement and to the utter abandonment of fair and sensible analysis. Bernstein, on the other hand, risks his own reputation by castigating the group that he founded.

That, in a nutshell, is the difference between shame and honor, and the difference between Goofus and Gallant.