by Hillel Schenker
The Goldstone Report has caused quite a government and media uproar here. Government spokespeople seem to believe that the best defense is an attack on the report. They, and many of the media commentators, think that the whole world was living in the self-imposed bubble that Israelis lived in during Dec/Jan. 08/09. The reason that 95% of the Jewish public supported Cast Lead was the minimal Israeli military and civilian casualties during the fighting, due to the use of disproportionate fire-power, and the fact that Israelis weren’t exposed to the pain and suffering on the other side, only to the Hamas rockets being fired at civilian centers in the Israeli south, disrupting civilian life, and particularly education for the kids.
So the harshness of the findings of the Goldstone Report came as a surprise.
It’s hard to discredit Judge Goldstone himself, since he is a declared Zionist, member of the Hebrew University's board of governors, has a daughter who lived here for years, etc. It's much easier to discredit the UN, the Human Rights Council, etc., which have frequently shown bias towards Israel.
Nine years ago he appeared at the Yakar Center for Social Concern, run by PIJ editorial board member Benjamin Pogrund. According to a report in Haaretz, Goldstone was introduced by Israeli Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, who described him as "a dear friend" with "very deep ties to Israel." Goldstone, in turn, said Barak was his hero and inspiration (see Goldstone: Holocaust shaped view on war crimes - Haaretz - Israel News
As Goldstone himself noted, both Israel and Hamas have a "dismal record" (his words) when it comes to investigating their own forces, and his report accuses both sides of possible war crimes (see Op-Ed Contributor - Justice in Gaza - NYTimes.com
Clearly, the Israeli government should have cooperated with Goldstone's commission, and it should have authorized an independent commission of inquiry, like it did after Sabra and Shatila, and after October 2000 when it established the Orr Commission. And it may yet do so. It was never enough to have the IDF investigate itself.
The official U.S. reaction to the report wasn’t a total rejection, “just” a criticism. That reaction was strongly attacked by Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as being too mild, and he clearly reflects Israeli government thinking on this. The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has said that the Human Rights Council, which the U.S. recently rejoined, and not the U.N. Security Council, is the appropriate venue for a serious discussion of the report and its implications.
My main concern is that the Israeli government will not use the Goldstone Report to avoid its responsibilities connected to the peace process. The key remains President Obama and his envoy Senator George Mitchell, and how they will deal with things.
The fact that Obama managed to convene a triangular summit meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas in New York is grounds for cautious hope.
For a good appraisal of the Goldstone Report and its implications, I strongly recommend reading the piece by Daniel Levy of the New America Foundation in the Guardian, which calls upon the Israeli government to mandate an independent commission of inquiry, and to end the use of disproportionate force and collective punishment - Israel must now heal itself | Daniel Levy | Comment is free ...
It is to be hoped that one of the lessons that the Israeli government will learn from the experience of the Goldstone Report is the old slogan used by the anti-war demonstrators in Chicago back in 1968 – "The whole world is watching" - and hopefully that realization will temper their actions in the future.