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Beyond Chutzpah – Jewish Responses to the Goldstone Report

Jeremiah Hamagneszionistber, 9 October 2009

Jews worldwide are on the eve of the holiday celebrating the completion of the public reading of the Torah in synagogue. It is a lovely holiday, the Rejoicing of the Torah, and Jews are to supposed to be happy (whether they actually are happy while waiting for all the dancing to stop is something else.)

But I am writing these words on Hoshana Rabbah, the last day of the festival of Sukkot, which, according to tradition, is the last opportunity for Jews to repent their sins of the past year and make amends for it.

When it comes to Israel and its Jewish supporters, we are not in a repentance mode. On the contrary, self-righteousness , moral superiority, smugness, and condescension are the order of the days.

It used to be that the classic example of chutzpah was the man who murders his parents and then pleads for clemency on the grounds that he is an orphan.

Now the example of chutzpah should be the state that refuses to cooperate with the human rights committee and then criticizes its report as “one-sided” and “biased”.

Is the Goldstone Report one-sided? Not as much as one would expect, given that Judge Goldstone was barred from entering Israel, not allowed to interview Israelis in Sderot, not allowed to speak with the Israel Defense Forces. That the investigating panel paid for Israelis to fly to Geneva to give testimony to his committee has not been mentioned in the hysterical Jewish reaction to the report. Or that the report was based also on the Israeli human rights organizations, and even on the testimony of Israeli soldiers who supported the operation. We hear a lot about the bias of the report of its original mandate, or that it took testimony from (gasp) Palestinians (and we all know how much Arabs exaggerate, right?)

I have not, I confess, read through all of the report. As I wrote before, what I read of it did not strike me as new; the incidents described were already described in real time, and we have had further confirmation of incidents from Palestinians and Israelis and foreign aid workers. I assume that there are errors, only because testimonies contain errors. The report called for both sides to do a serious investigation (and no military investigation can be a serious one), and that call has been echoed by voices of civil society. No doubt a sober examination of some parts of the report – as any report – would raise further questions. Nobody is perfect. But there is condemnation of Hamas rocket fire, and there is considerable examination of the destruction in Southern Israel (including the psychological trauma) that followed in its wake. And, of course, the report condemns Hamas and finds no justification for its actions.

So I am at a loss to explain the hysterical reaction of Israelis and American Jews who – I thought – were a tad more intelligent than ZOA and the Standwithus crowd.

Let’s begin with Ambassador Michael Oren’s hatchet job in the New Republic, “Deep Denial: Why the Holocaust Still Matters“. After explaining the relevance of the references to the Holocaust by the Israeli Prime Minister (when will the Holocaust never be relevant to an Israeli prime minister?) he writes that the Goldstone Report portrays Israel as a Nazi state, and that it “takes up where Ahmadinejad leaves off”!

The Goldstone Report goes further than Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust deniers by stripping the Jews not only of the ability and the need but of the right to defend themselves. If a country can be pummeled by thousands of rockets and still not be justified in protecting its inhabitants, then at issue is not the methods by which that country survives but whether it can survive at all. But more insidiously, the report does not only hamstring Israel; it portrays the Jews as the deliberate murderers of innocents–as Nazis. And a Nazi state not only lacks the need and right to defend itself; it must rather be destroyed

Ribono shel olam! Oy to the ears that hear such shtuyot (imbecilities)! This man is supposed to be representing the Jewish State in America? My God, I don’t hear such narrishkeit in my shul; no, wait, that is unfair to my shul, I don’t even hear it among the Hebron settlers!

I see nothing in the Goldstone Report that criticizes Israel for its decision to go to war, or that even hints that the military option was not justifiable. Everything that the report discusses with respect to Israel has to do with the IDF’s conduct of the operation. So Oren is dead wrong on that point.

As for the report portraying “Jews as the deliberate murder of innocents,” that is also a libel. The report claims that there is considerable evidence that Israel – not “Jews” – deliberately bombed civilian facilities. And Israel admits to this; it only claims that the civilian facilities were, in some cases, harboring terrorists or weapons, and thus proper targets. So the question is, did the IDF deliberately bomb such facilities, and if so, what was their justification for doing so? I would like to remind my dear readers that the IDF routinely impresses upon Palestinians its power. It is called “le-hafgin nokhekhut“, to demonstrate the army’s presence. In the Gaza Op we had the phrase, “baal-habayit hishtagea‘”, “the boss has gone berserk.” There are times when the military can’t pull its punches. It is called harta’a ‘deterrence’.

Now it is perfectly legitimate for the IDF to dispute this or that incident; it has the obligation to do so. But who says that Israel or the IDF are immune from such criticism?

And as for the Nazi comparison… Puhleese. I guess Oren thinks that the Allies were Nazis when they carpet bombed Dresden.

So you think it is only Oren? Let’s go to his neocon Israeli buddy, Haaretz’s Ari Shavit. In this op-ed Goldstone isn’t just accusing the Israelis of being Nazis, he is bringing about their destruction through the next war, the “Goldstone War”

Nobody knows yet when the next war will break out. Maybe in a decade, maybe in a year, or maybe even next month. It is also not clear where the next war will erupt – perhaps on the Gaza border, perhaps the West Bank, or maybe in Jerusalem.

But it is already clear what the next war’s name will be – the Goldstone War. It will be the war brought upon us by the Goldstone report, Judge Goldstone and his Goldstoner followers

Now, let’s follow Shavit’s line of thought, which Is truly “Orenian.” It goes like this: Israel, in the absence of peace, has to beat up the Palestinians every once in a while. The moral cost is “intolerable” but what to do, somebody has to teach those guys a lesson in deterrence (the magic word) and hope that the moderates will emerge.

But then comes along Goldstone and the human-righters and out goes the deterrence. Because – and here’s the kicker – the Gazans know that after they are bombed to smithereens, they will be defended by the UN! And while this may be cold comfort to rational people, those terrorists might actually think that future Goldstoners will protect them. So they will terrorize Israel knowing that – even though they are condemned by the human rights people, at least the adversary Israel will also be condemned!

One wonders whether mainland China’s newspapers has a spot reserved for Shavit?

And finally, let’s not forget the liberal-minded American Jewish newspaper the Forward. Here, at least, you would expect less hysteria, maybe, even fair-mindedness?

Think again. Although it is the first in-depth Jewish journalistic account to actually look at the report, it is more one-sided than the report itself. At least Goldstone’s committee took testimony from Israelis, and not just “Goldstoners” like the human rights organizations. And the committee was boycotted by Israel, as I mentioned above.

But, aside from getting reactions from Goldstone, the Forward‘s article bases itself entirely on Israeli sources, some of which are associated with the ultra rightwing think-tank, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, none of which are on the left of the spectrum. Not a single Palestinian is interviewed, nor are reactions to specific claims solicited from Israeli human rights groups.

But worse, the Forward (and most Israelis) seems to assume that it is permitted to kill summarily members of the Hamas organization because it is considered to be a terrorist organization. But in a war, there is immunity for fighters who are not actively contributing to the war effort, much less simply members of a militant organization. The fact that Hamas websites, for its own propaganda purposes, claims certain people to proud fighters in their organization (remember the competition between Hamas and Fatah over the suicide bombers?) does not mean that they can be killed with impunity.

For if you think it does, then you are justifying the murder of the Israeli soldiers at the Beit Lid intersection, when they were waiting for a bus.

From a moral point of view, merely putting on a uniform doesn’t mean that you are a legitimate target. And if you don’t put on a uniform, and simply join an organization, even a military one, then you are certainly not a legitimate target.

And of course, there is no mention in the Forward of the white phosphorus use, the killing of civilians reported by Israeli soldiers in the Breaking the Silence testimonies.

From Gal Beckerman’s article, it seems that the real problem of the Goldstone panel was that that it did not listen to all the evidence from Israel but rushed to judgment.

And that, considering Israel’s boycott of the committee, is beyond chutzpah.

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