For four short and inspiring months, I am an Israeli away from home as an Oak Fellow for human rights at Colby College in Waterville Maine. Having some (healthy) distance from the daily struggle, I watch with disappointment the reactions to the Goldstone report. I believed it to be a watershed that could have — and should have — changed the discourse on the conflict that torments us all. That my prime minister prefers to resort to demagogic arguments that Israel cannot expect justice from international institutions surprises me little, that the international community bends to such rhetoric is — after some thought — not surprising either. But that we Israelis do not comprehend the missed opportunity is both a surprise and a disappointment.
When my government refused to cooperate with the inquiry commission headed by Judge Goldstone, an esteemed and impartial professional, they put me and my fellow Israelis back into the place of perpetual victim. As if we can never expect nor demand justice from the UN. When it denounces the report as an obstacle to peace and an encouragement to terror, it opts to paint us all as fools. To make us believe that in order to effectively fight terror we must resort to war crimes, is like expecting Americans believe that Guantanamo and torture are necessary means in their struggle for security. Should it not have been a matter of pride and moral integrity that even when terror groups target our civilians we would always differentiate between civilians and combatants, that we would always do all within our power to evacuate and treat the sick and the wounded? And can my prime minister stop a moment to explain why are truth and the acknowledgment of one’s wrong doings an obstacle to peace? Isn’t it rather that truth and accountability are the first steps to reconciliation?
It is unfortunate that the international community too tries to block the discussion. It delineates Israel as a country deserving of special treatment and thus negates our place as equal members of the international community. I know that there are countries and people that will always deem Israel guilty and who do not believe in our right to exist, but I think that utilizing this argument to block an honest discussion is to play into their hands, leaving Israel always a “special case”.
Jean Améry, a Holocaust survivor, wrote in “On the Necessity and Impossibility of Being a Jew”:
Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Question, as historical, socially determined conceptual phenomena, were not and are not any concern of mine. They are entirely a matter for the anti-Semites, their disgrace or their sickness. The anti-Semites have something to overcome, not I.
For years Israel has acted as if anti-Semitism is its problem, raising-generations of Israelis whom although they have the military might, and a homeland, have remained suspicious of the world. We are so intoxicated with victimhood, manipulated by our leaders, that we let it ruin our lives, blind our eyes to the evils that we commit, to the possibilities for peace that we miss.
The Goldstone report offered us a wakeup call by showing how far we have gone, how violent we allowed ourselves to become. The report demanded an honest internal investigation from both Hamas — for its violent targeting of Israeli civilians — and Israel, for its indiscriminate and disproportionate attack. It recommended that if we cannot do it, the international community should. But it seems that the three are not apt to this honest task. How these positions be an encouragement to the peace process (which in truth is not happening at all) is beyond my comprehension. Realizing that the Goldstone report is a unique opportunity to go back on the track of truth as a basis for future peace, Physicians for Human Rights Israel called for all parties to endorse its recommendations.
As an Israeli I will continue to call on my country to come back to its senses and investigate with full transparency, not only our conducts during the attack but our regime of occupation. I expect nothing less from my colleagues in Palestine with whom I share the task of building a safer and peaceful future for our children.
As an equal citizen of the world I will continue to demand true equality from my fellow citizens: true and unwavering acknowledgment of Israel’s right to exist, and an equally clear unwavering demand to end the occupation and oppression of the Palestinians. While anti-Semitism is a disgrace anti-Semites should deal with, occupation is my disgrace, my guilt. Only by asserting myself as equal and demand from myself what I wish others would have demanded of themselves can I assert my true freedom, my equality.