September 21, 2009
Gaza: Goldstone’s report
Uri Avnery | firstname.lastname@example.org
Is there no limit to the wiles of those dastardly anti-Semites?
Now they have decided to slander the Jews with another blood libel. Not the old accusation of slaughtering Christian children to use their blood for baking Passover matzoth, as in the past, but of the mass slaughter of women and children in Gaza.
And who did they put at the head of the commission which was charged with this task? Neither a British Holocaust-denier nor a German neo-Nazi, nor even an Iranian fanatic, but of all people a Jewish judge who bears the very Jewish name of Goldstone (originally Goldstein, of course). And not just a Jew with a Jewish name, but a Zionist, whose daughter, Nicole, is an enthusiastic Zionist who once “made Aliyah” and speaks fluent Hebrew. All this in order to defame the most moral army in the world, fresh from waging the most just war in history!
The official Israeli reaction to the Goldstone report would have been amusing, if the matter had not been so grave.
Except for the “usual suspects” (Gideon Levy, Amira Hass and their ilk), the condemnation of the report was unanimous, total and extreme, from Shimon Peres, that advocate of every abomination, down to the last scribbler in the newspapers. Nobody, but nobody, dealt with the subject itself. Nobody examined the detailed conclusions.
The instinctive reaction in such a situation is denial. When a human being is faced with a situation which he cannot handle, denial is the first refuge. But with us it has been developed into an art form.
But a profound debate on the Goldstone report is going on. Not about its content, But about the one point that is really important: Was our government right in deciding to boycott the commission?
Why did the Israeli government boycott the commission? The real answer is quite simple: They knew full well that the commission, any commission, would have to reach the conclusions it did reach.
In fact, the commission did not say anything new. Almost all the facts were already known: The bombing of civilian neighborhoods, the use of flechette rounds and white phosphorus against civilian targets, the bombing of mosques and schools, the blocking of rescue parties from reaching the wounded, the killing of fleeing civilians carrying white flags, the use of human shields, and more. The Israeli Army did not allow journalists near the action, but the war was amply documented by the international media in all its details, the entire world saw it in real time on the TV screens. The testimonies are so many and so consistent, that any reasonable person can draw their own conclusions.
If the officers and soldiers of the Israeli Army had given testimony before the commission, it would perhaps have been impressed by their angle too, and the conclusions could have been somewhat less severe. But the main thrust would not have changed. After all, the whole operation was based on the assumption that it was possible to overthrow the Hamas government in Gaza by causing intolerable suffering to the civilian population. The damage to civilians was not “collateral”, whether avoidable or unavoidable, but a central feature of the operation itself.
Moreover, the rules of engagement were designed to achieve “zero losses” to our forces — avoiding losses at any price. That was the conclusion our army — led by Gabi Ashkenazi — drew from the Second Lebanon War. The results speak for themselves: 200 dead Palestinians for every Israeli soldier killed by the other side — 1400:6. Every real investigation must inevitably lead to the same conclusions as those of the Goldstone commission. Therefore, there was no Israeli wish for a real inquiry. The “investigations” that did take place in Israel were a farce.
So the worldwide Israeli propaganda machine will continue to defame the Jewish judge and the people who appointed him.
Not all the Israeli accusations against the UN are groundless. For example: why does the organization investigate the war crimes in Gaza (and in former Yugoslavia and Darfur, investigations in which Goldstone took part as chief prosecutor) and not the actions of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Russians in Chechnya?
Israel’s relations with the UN are very complex. The state was founded on the basis of a UN resolution. A year later, Israel was accepted as a UN member in spite of the fact that it had not allowed the (then) 750 thousand Palestinian refugees to return.
But this honeymoon soured quickly. David Ben-Gurion spoke with contempt about UM-Shmum (“Um” is the Hebrew for “UN”, the prefix “shm” signifies contempt). From then on to this very day, Israel has systematically violated almost every single UN resolution that concerned it, complaining that there was an “automatic majority” of Arab and communist countries stacked against it. This attitude was reinforced when, on the eve of the 1967 war, the UN troops in Sinai where precipitously withdrawn on the demand of Gamal Abdel Nasser. And, of course, by the UN resolution (later annulled) equating Zionism with racism.
Now this argument is raising its head again. The UN, it is being said, is anti-Israeli, which means (of course) anti-Semitic. Everyone who acts in the name of the UN is an Israel-hater. To hell with the UN. To hell with the Goldstone report.
That is, however, a woefully short-sighted policy. The general public throughout the world is hearing about the report and remembering the pictures they saw on their TV screens during the Gaza war. The UN enjoys much respect. In the wake of the “Molten Lead” operation, Israel’s standing in the world has been steadily going down, and this report will send it down even further.
This will have practical consequences — political, military, economic and cultural. Only a fool — or an Avigdor Lieberman — can ignore that. If there is no credible Israeli investigation, there will be demands for the UN Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Barack Obama would have to decide whether to veto such a resolution — a move that would cause grave harm to the US, and for which he would demand a high price from Israel.