September 18, 2009
In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict
News-consumers tuned to foreign channels these past two days are being treated afresh to horrific footage of bombed-out Gazan buildings, accompanied by damning quotes from the Goldstone Commission Report.Israel is accused of having committed war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity, during Operation Cast Lead last December and January. The rocket barrages against southern Israel that prompted the IDF assault on Hamas are mostly relegated to the margins of the new-old TV coverage – just as in the Goldstone report itself. The learned judge’s concoction, based heavily on unverifiable claims from avowedly non-objective sources, some of them long-since discredited, is a feat of cynical superficiality, without appropriate distinction between terror and defense. The distorted picture justifies the Foreign Ministry’s reaction of “nausea and fury.” Yet nobody here is surprised. The verdict was sealed before the probe had begun. NOTHING WAS impartial about the Goldstone panel. It was dispatched by the UN Human Rights Council to compile a case against Israel for “violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law…” Because the panel’s conclusions were pre-scripted, its mission was opposed by Canada, Japan, Switzerland and the EU (America wasn’t a member), and Israel refused to cooperate with it. The council itself – the UN’s most anti-Israel subsidiary even vis-a-vis other ultra-antagonistic UN forums – was established in March 2006 to replace the much-discredited UN Human Rights Commission, which spent its energies in obsessive demonization of Israel. But the new body was so akin to its predecessor that, in November 2006, then-UN secretary-general Kofi Annan was moved to deplore its “disproportionate focus on violations by Israel” whereas “graver crises,” like Darfur, were overlooked. Annan’s successor Ban Ki-moon echoed the sentiment in June 2007: “The Secretary-General is disappointed at the Council’s decision to single out only one specific regional item, given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world.” Among these are atrocities committed in intra-Palestinian violence, to say nothing of a decade’s indiscriminate rocketing of Israeli towns. The UN’s own indifference toward the latter, it must sadly be noted, helped render Israeli counterstrikes unavoidable. Considering the UNHRC’s inglorious record – not to mention the fact that the Goldstone panel was set up at the instigation of Syria, Somalia, Pakistan, Malaysia and Bangladesh – there was plainly no point in Israel abetting its own vilification. BESIDES OBVIOUSLY rewarding terror, demonizing Israel and seeking to constrain Israel’s capacity to protect itself, the Goldstone Commission displays contempt for Israel’s judiciary. UN human rights frameworks were founded to combat abuses by rogue states and dictatorships, where autonomous legal systems are nonexistent. Israel’s courts are renowned for their activism and independence, often provoking government displeasure. Yet the Goldstone report, while effectively giving Hamas a free pass, demands “an independent inquiry to assess whether the treatment by Israeli judicial authorities of Palestinian and Jewish Israelis expressing dissent in connection with the offensive was discriminatory.” Such wholesale bias leaves no room for fair evaluation of the IDF’s own probes. The IDF judge-advocate general has initiated 24 (ongoing) investigations into some 100 allegations by assorted NGOs against soldiers who may have deviated from stringent IDF codes. Respect for enemy lives, indeed, often culminates in the endangerment, even sacrifice, of Israeli troops. Goldstone also faults Israeli investigators for not collecting evidence in Gaza as per “domestic police investigation of a murder in Manhattan.” This analogy is absurdly misguided. In warfare, different rules apply from those governing civilian law enforcement. Goldstone can hardly expect Israelis to collect evidence in hostile Gaza. The fate of kidnapped Gilad Schalit (an outrageous human rights violation, on which the Goldstone report also falls short) should elucidate why. Israel knows that its survival depends on it continuing to act in the best interests of its own self-preservation, consistent with its own profound moral obligations. But the Goldstone phenomenon is not only a challenge to Israel. It underlines that any democracy, and most pertinently the US, can find itself prosecuted and judged by the cynical scales of the worst tyrannies. In their ongoing handling of the Goldstone recommendations, the world’s democracies must demonstrate their refusal to be cynically manipulated by the rogue states that empowered this panel. They must refused to be Goldstoned. Today, Israel has been maneuvered toward the dock. Who will it be tomorrow?