This time using the Goldstone Commission as the prompter, he again goes on the attack. What’s astonishing — at least to an informed liberal who appreciates self-criticism — is how utterly void of any ability to examine the conflict from any but the totalistic Palestinian victim narrative in which Israel is a) guilty, b) responsible, and c) should engage in soul-searching as a result of the report.
Will Israel’s decades-long impunity from international law finally come to an end? That is the question facing the international community in the aftermath of the just-released Goldstone report.
Richard Goldstone, formerly a supreme court justice in South Africa and chief prosecutor in the international tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia, headed a four-person United Nations mission investigating both Israel and Hamas for possible war crimes during Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip last winter. The mission conducted 188 interviews and reviewed more than 300 reports, 10,000 pages of documents, 30 videos and 1,200 photographs. The Israeli government barred the group from entering Israel or the Gaza Strip (it reached Gaza, ultimately, through Egypt). By contrast, Palestinian authorities, both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, cooperated with the mission. The 575-page report concluded that both sides committed war crimes before, during and after the intense fighting in December-January.
The mission was stacked against Israel both in mandate and in composition of the “judges”
the hundreds of reports were from ideologically committed NGOs
the videos somehow managed to exclude the extensive footage of Hamas using civilians as shields
the Israelis were inhospitable because of the corruption that hung like original sin around the commission
and the Palestinians, especially Hamas, were hospitable because the commission would relay every claim, no matter how ludicrous and self-contradictory, to the rest of the world.
In its findings on Israel’s conduct, the report noted that the ruinous siege on Gaza, imposed long before the invasion, collectively punished its residents in violation of international law. During the attack, Israeli troops killed civilians without justification, wantonly destroyed civilian infrastructure and private homes, and used weapons illegally. Israeli troops targeted and destroyed Gaza’s last functioning flour mill. Israeli armored bulldozers razed the chicken farm that provided 10% of Gaza’s eggs, burying 31,000 chickens in rubble. Israeli gunners bombed a raw sewage lagoon, releasing 200,000 cubic meters of filth into neighboring farmland. Repeated pinpoint strikes on a water well complex destroyed all of its essential machinery.
These are just some of the facts that led the mission to conclude that Israel’s objective in the attack was “to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”
I have repeatedly dealt with the extensive problems with the Commission’s report, not the least — replicated here — being the failure to hold Hamas accountable for firing at Israelis from civilian areas. In a vacuum, Israel’s actions seem reprehensible; understood in the context of thousands of rockets fired specifically at civilians in Israel — hence the limited blockade — and attacks at Israeli troops from within and nearby schools, UN buildings, private houses, etc. In the Middle Ages and anywhere in the Middle East other than Israel, these folks would have been starved to death or slaughtered, and outsiders would have said they deserved it.
Since a January cease-fire, Israel has maintained its illegal blockade, keeping relief supplies and construction materials from Gaza, and thus guaranteeing continued Palestinian civilian suffering.
Because Hamas rerouts all material to their insane addiction to attacking Israel, Israel cannot let these materials in.
The Goldstone mission found that Hamas, in its indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, also committed war crimes, calling the rockets “a deliberate attack against the civilian population.”
Just as with the Commission, Bisharat offers this late, mild account of Hamas’ behavior as his way of appearing “even-handed.”
The report recommends that all parties to the fighting conduct credible internal investigations of the abuses it documented. If they fail to do so within six months, the report recommends that the U.N. Security Council refer the matter to the International Criminal Court for investigation.
Israel clearly anticipated a critical report and has been planning for months to discredit it. Its spokespeople are making preposterous accusations, such as that Goldstone is “anti-Israel” (in fact, he is Jewish and has strong ties to Israel),…
So does Neve Gordon and David Landau, and hundreds of other useful infidels who think they’re helping by joining the chorus of demonization. That Bisharat can claim this either means he’s dishonest about or — more likely, at least in this case, ignorant of — the virulent meme of self-criticism that runs through Jewish culture.
…and its diplomats are working the phones in an attempt to sway Western governments and members of the Security Council. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised the report in discussions with U.S. special envoy George Mitchell, and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon is trying to orchestrate condemnation of the report by senior Obama administration officials and members of Congress.
This urging must be resisted, and Israel’s serial violations of international law — whether in pulverizing Lebanon in 2006; illegally detaining, torturing or assassinating Palestinians under its dominion in the occupied Palestinian territories; or building settlements on Palestinian lands for exclusive Jewish occupancy — must come to an end. Israel may not be the worst human rights violator in the world, but it is among those that most consistently evade accountability.
This is specially choice. The Arab regimes, including any Palestinian authority, whether in Lebanon (1970-82), the West Bank (1993-present) or Gaza (1993-present, under Hamas 2006-present), are some of the most vicious violators of human rights on the planet. And they constantly evade accountability. Israel not only holds itself accountable, but the world scrutunizes every move it makes.
Compare the attention to Israel’s action in December-January 2008/9 to Sri Lanka’s action in March 2009: Under 1000 civilians (perhaps as few as 300) killed by Israel, over 20,000 (!) civilians killed by Sri Lankan forces. How many HRW or AI reports have you read on the fate of the Tamils? How many UN Commissions of investigations?
Israeli abuses are deeply resented around the globe.
Just a bit of Muslimocentric fantasy here (along with a dash of radical “left” useful infidelity). In fact there are people the world over, victims of far more vicious regimes, who deeply resent the way Palestinians have hijacked human rights in the service of their obsessive effort to regain honor by destroying the Jews right to be anything but Dhimmis in the Middle East. Ask a Tamil, mourning the death of 20,000 civilians, whether he resents the UNHRC and Judge Goldstone lavishing all their “talents” investigating a situation where the civilian toll was in the hundreds.
For too long, we in the United States have abetted Israel, bestowing on it roughly $3 billion annually in aid since 1973 and vetoing scores of resolutions in the Security Council that attempted to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law.
Again we get a good view of how demopaths use UN madness to jump on their hobby horse. The hypocrisy of a Palestinian, whose leadership has systematically abused his own people, and tried to wipe out another, complaining about Israel not being held accountable is hypocritical gall that can only come from dealing with Western fools for a very long time.
To his credit, President Obama has called for a halt to new Israeli settlements, though he has failed to enunciate consequences for Israeli defiance. He should now embrace the Goldstone recommendations strongly, and must also demand an immediate end to Israel’s illegal siege of Gaza.
Israel’s friends, rather than reflexively dismissing Goldstone’s findings, should reflect instead: Are the interests of Israeli citizens genuinely served by continued indulgence of their military’s excesses? Impunity for one state undermines the very legitimacy of international law. Yet international law protects weak and strong alike, and we ignore its continuing abuse at our peril.
International law, as embodied in Goldstone’s travesty of justice does not protect weak and strong alike. On the contrary, it protects the weak whether they are right or wrong. And despite Bisharat’s touching concern for the interests of Israeli citizens, how much more moral stature might he accrue were he to turn the critical eye on the Palestinian political and religious leaders who victimize his own people with a cult of death.
Instead, alas, he joins them in their vicious war against the Jews, and the newspapers give this kind of moral travesty honorable and unopposed exposure. Only a well-informed public can survive this kind of cognitive warfare, waged with the complicity of a MSNM that does not even know how badly it’s moral values are being abused.
What this editorial so beautifully exemplifies is how a man without a shred of self-criticism about his side can attack the other side using their willingness to self-criticize against them. The complicity of the “my side right or wrong” meme with the “your side right or wrong” meme, or what I have elsewhere refered to as the marriage of pre-modern sadism with post-modern mascochism.
The proper response from Westerners and others to whom Bisharat appeals is: before you demand that Israel search its soul, how about you Palestinians show even the glimmerings of a soul to search?
George Bisharat is a professor at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco and writes frequently on law and politics in the Middle East.