September 17, 2009
In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict
Larry DerfnerMaybe this will do it. Maybe the Goldstone report on Operation Cast Lead will be the thing that finally puts the fear of God into Israeli society, that shocks this country into deciding once and for all that the occupation must come to an end – for our sake if no one else’s. I don’t want to see Israeli political and military leaders brought to The Hague; I don’t want them to be unable to get off a plane in a foreign capital. It wouldn’t be fair, not if fairness entails equity: There are countless foreign politicians and military men who’ve done much, much worse things than we did in Gaza who roam the world freely. But if Israelis have a sense of foreboding since Tuesday’s release of the Goldstone report, a fear that the world may really be fed up with our treatment of the Palestinians, then I’m glad. Then I’m hopeful. Because fear is the only thing that might get us to finally set free the 4 million people of Gaza and the West Bank. Of our own accord, of our own moral reckoning, we won’t do it. Four years of intifada bus bombings hardened us for a generation, maybe longer. When it comes to Arabs, we’ve been morally numb for too long to change on our own. WE JUST don’t get it about Gaza. Why, we wonder, doesn’t the world understand that we fought a just war, that we were defending ourselves? We’re unable to see that if anybody did to Israel what we did to Gaza in Operation Cast Lead, we wouldn’t be talking about war crimes. We wouldn’t be talking about crimes against humanity. We would be saying, in one voice, that the end of Israel was upon us, and we would be out to obliterate whoever did that to us. But, we exclaim, what about the context? What about those thousands and thousands of rockets they fired at Sderot? No country would stand for that. We had to go to war. We’ve become so numb, so brainwashed, that we really believe that that’s all that happened before we started the war, that that’s the entire context. We don’t see what the rest of the world saw – that those thousands and thousands of rockets on Sderot caused a tiny fraction of the death and destruction we caused in Gaza at the same time. In the three years and three months between our disengagement from Gaza and the start of Operation Cast Lead, 28 Israelis were killed by rockets, bombs and bullets from Gaza. In that same period, more than 1,250 Gazans were killed by missiles, tank shells and all sorts of other ammunition fired by the IDF. The context of the war – the full context – was that we had blockaded Gaza by air, sea and to a great extent by land, we were racking up a kill ratio of nearly 50 to 1 – then we invaded the country, destroyed thousands upon thousands of homes and public buildings and bumped up the ratio to more than 100-to-1. And we don’t see that we did anything wrong. Somebody’s got to tell us. Lots of people have tried, including Amnesty International, the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch and, last but definitely not least, dozens of our own soldiers. We’ve tried to smear them all, to silence them, to drown out the message that keeps repeating itself from one source to another. Now we have the message, the same message again, from one of the world’s most respected, accomplished men of justice. South Africa’s Judge Richard Goldstone has a record that no one in this country would dare try to tarnish. What’s more, he’s not only a Jew (and a former president of World ORT), he’s also a friend of Israel. He was on the board of directors at the Hebrew University, got an honorary doctorate there, he’s visited this country any number of times, his daughter’s lived here for awhile. “Israel,” he said Tuesday, “committed actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity.” He said Hamas’s rockets amounted to the same thing – but there’s no comparison in magnitude, not in his report and not on the ground. Before, during and since the war with Gaza, Israel has been overwhelmingly the victimizer, not the victim. WE MIGHT ask ourselves: What motive does Goldstone have to lie, to do a hatchet job on this nation and its army? (We might have asked ourselves the same question about the combat soldiers from the Rabin academy and Breaking the Silence.) The answer is that he has no such motive. He’s telling the truth. More precisely, he’s reinforcing the truth about the war that’s been told by so many others. Since we can’t stain his record as a scourge of apartheid and of war crimes in Kosovo and Rwanda – and since we don’t want to even mention his record – I’m sure we’ll try to smear Goldstone as a dupe for Israel-bashers. There are one or two other names he’ll no doubt be called – off the record, naturally. Israel is going to war, an information war this time, and the Goldstone report is the enemy. But it’s no use. We can’t win the information war – and the reason is that we’re blindfolded. We tied the blindfold on ourselves. We did it because we don’t want to see what we’re doing in Gaza and the West Bank. But everyone else sees. Our friend the Obama administration has been trying to tell us and we won’t listen. Now our friend Judge Goldstone is telling us, only much less gently. Will this do it? Will this scare us awake? Will this be the turning point? I don’t know. But I do know that this man has done a mitzva, a big, brave one. In the name of at least some Israelis, I want to say: Thank you, judge. Shana tova to you, too.