Shortly, Israel will be releasing their response -- rebuttal really -- to the so-called "Goldstone Report." Authored by Richard Goldstone -- former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda -- this 575-page United Nations-sponsored report, which was released last September, was supposed to be a thorough, unbiased investigation of Israel's three-week invasion of Gaza which lasted from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009. (Note: For those wishing to download a copy, go to Goldstone Report online) We write "supposed to be" unbiased, because in reality, the conclusions reached by Justice Goldstone -- who is himself Jewish -- and the members of the "United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict" were anything but.
In brief, Goldstone and his peers found Israel to be guilty of grave violations of both international and humanitarian law, and called on the Jewish State to launch its own independent investigation. In its conclusions, the Goldstone Report accused Israel of a host of lethal and destructive acts which it alleged were part of "an official plan to terrorize the Palestinian population." One of the most notorious of these alleged "crimes against humanity" was the destruction of Gaza's sole flour mill (el-Badr), which, Goldstone reported, was "hit by an air strike, possibly by an F-16," and meant to essentially starve the Palestinian populace. Also, Goldstone contended that Israel military forces "knowingly and purposefully" destroyed a wastewater plant, thereby "leading to an enormous outflow of raw sewage." Also included were charges that Israeli forces attacked and destroyed such non-military targets as "chicken coops, water wells, a cement plant and some 4,000 homes." These acts, Goldstone concluded, were "crucial building blocks" in Israel's ultimate purpose: "to eliminate infrastructure so as to cause intense civilian suffering." The report further characterized the Israeli invasion as "A disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its economic capacity both to work for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability."
For its part, Israel -- which all along had claimed that the only reason they launched the three-week assault was because they could "no longer tolerate indiscriminate rocket attacks being launched on Israel from Gaza" -- refused to cooperate with the investigation and dismissed its findings as "unworthy of attention." However, when the Jewish State found much of the international community taking the Goldstone Report's findings seriously and itself accused of war crimes, they began rethinking their response. As Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu would say at a recent press conference: "We face three strategic challenges. The Iranian nuclear program, rockets aimed at Israel and Goldstone."
This past weekend, Netanyanhu announced that the Israeli military is completing what he categorized as "a rebuttal" to the Goldstone Report findings. Although specifics of the Israeli investigation will continue to be under official wraps until such time as they are delivered to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, several key items are already known. Israel will argue that although mistakes were undoubtedly made, the rules of war needed to be adapted to the kind of "asymmetric warfare" they increasingly face: "fighting a popular military that intentionally mixes with the civilian population." The Israeli report will also offer evidence that many of the civilian "non-strategic" physical structures that were destroyed were actually weapons caches storing missiles, ammunition and flammable materiel. They will also hand over what one Israeli official termed "incontrovertible photographic proof" that the flour mill, far from being purposefully obliterated by an F-16, was in reality "accidentally hit by artillery in the course of a firefight with Hamas militiamen."
To be certain, there are some powerful voices being raised in Israel's defense -- people like Professor Alan Dershowitz, Boston College History Professor Richard Landes, and former Bush-era Middle Eastern policy analyst Elliott Abrams. The three, although recognizing that mistakes have been -- and no doubt will continue to be --made, nonetheless agree that Israel had both a legal and a strategic right to invade Gaza in December 2008.
Already, I can hear the catcalls: "Ah, but the three are Jewish; what do you expect them to do? Disagree with Israel?"
Why not? Anyone who thinks that all Jews are in lockstep when it comes to Israel -- or indeed or anything -- have never heard the old saw, "Three Jews, five opinions!"
Well, one of the most fascinating and air-tight defenses of Israel's actions during the Gaza invasion comes from anything but a pro-Israel source: the BBC. In a nearly 11-minute video produced and aired by the B.B.C, Iraq War veteran and author (The Rules of Engagement) Lt. Col. Tim Collins, traveled to Gaza, where he uncovered evidence of missiles being stored in mosques, and Hamas engaging in acts of sabotage in order to cast blame upon Israel. He concludes that Israel has been well within its rights to invade Gaza, and that her actions -- far from being out of control -- were in fact more measured that might be expected.
Hurray for our side!
But in the end, will any of it amount to a hill of beans? Even if every single United Nations ambassador gets a personal visit from an Israeli diplomat; and even if all of those diplomats were able to spends unlimited amounts of time making a case on Israel's behalf; and even if each diplomat were able to hand over a thousand photographs overwhelmingly proving that Israel neither knowingly nor purposefully committed war crimes; and even if they managed to get across the point that having 9,000 rockets fired across one's borders and in to their towns and villages in less than three years is the real crime; . . . Even if all these things could be done, said and proven, would it change anything? Would all these United Nations Diplomats -- and the countries they represent -- come to understand that the Goldstone Report is terribly biased and just plain wrong? That although all armies must engage in killing and regrettably -- most regrettably -- noncombatants must always die -- that Israel, far far more than most countries -- strives to be as moral, humane and respectful of human life as is possible?
Even if all these things could be done, said, shown and proven, would it create more friends for Israel?
I really, truly hate to say it, but most likely not. Much of the world is far more interested in what Israel supposedly did or did not do in Gaza than what she is undoubtedly doing in Haiti.
You see, I have long wondered which came first: Jews or anti-Semites?
©2010 Kurt F. Stone