Counterpoint: 'Goldstone - Schmoldstone' is a bad approach

Counterpoint Goldstone

October 22, 2009 12:33

None of this would have happened had Israel done the right - and moral - thing at the outset. An independent national commission of inquiry into the conduct of the war in Gaza and the Negev should have been established. Because we did not initiate an impartial investigation of the IDF actions, we are partially responsible for inviting much of the international condemnation that has been directed against us. It does not help to point out the unbalanced and hypocritical aspects of the criticism. This was to be expected. But, it all could have been avoided if our leaders were not so hell-bent on applying obduracy as a political policy. We are responsible for this. The report is clearly flawed - from the makeup of the committee and prejudicial statements about Israel by some of its members before it began its research into the war to its conclusions. I have many reservations about the report and the manner in which its members investigated what happened during the war. First, the Goldstone report begins its investigation with the start of the Gaza campaign, although Hamas had been firing rockets on a daily basis at innocents in the Negev for years prior. Second, there was no consideration of the kidnapping of Gilad Schalit, held captive for more than three years without access to any international bodies, which is a violation of every convention that judges war crimes. Third, the report makes no mention of the wider regional dangers that Israel faces, that is, the ties between Hamas and Iran, which threatens the Jewish state with genocide - a prime violation of the United Nations Charter. Fourth, the report skips over the violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas, whose clear intention was to attack Israel. Fifth, the disengagement from Gaza with the removal of the army and settlements plays no role in the report's evaluation. Sixth, a country's right to self-defense held little concern for the Goldstone committee. Seventh, since much of the testimony of the Gazans was conducted in public, it is naïve to believe that Palestinians would admit to Hamas's endangering their safety for fear that they would be incarcerated, kidnapped or killed. Eighth, nowhere does the report acknowledge the fact that Hamas mercilessly killed more than 100 Fatah members during the war. ONE COULD go on and on pointing out the defects in the report's methods of research and its concomitant conclusions. And yet, the report cannot be ignored or dismissed. There were serious violations during the war on the part of Israel despite its claim that it did its utmost to protect innocents. In too many cases, there was a breakdown in army discipline - from the commanding officers to the foot soldiers. Admittedly, when waging war in such a crowded land mass as Gaza, civilians will be caught in the cross fire, but the question remains: Did we do enough to limit unnecessary casualties? We do not need the soldiers from Break the Silence to tell us that we did not. The footage that was shown on television supplied sufficient proof of the aberrations that took place during the war. But let's examine the public relations as well as the practical advantages the country would have garnered by conducting its own independent inquiry into the war. A national commission of inquiry, headed by former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, whose international reputation is impeccable, would have silenced many critics. By comparison, can anyone imagine Hamas examining its behavior? Despite our government leaders' harsh criticism of the Goldstone report and its justifiable energetic defense of the war, it has not denied the specific allegations recorded. It has only said that they do not warrant accusations of war crimes or crimes against humanity. On the other hand, Hamas rejects everything it has been accused of in the report. It also does not help to deflect criticism by boasting to other countries that we have the most moral army in the world. This week's Torah portion relates to the story of Noah. The portion begins with the words: "Noah was a righteous man in his generation" (Genesis 6:9). We have to stop constantly dealing in moral relativism to justify ethical lapses in our behavior. Yes, there are circumstances which confuse the moral standards of how one should react in a particular situation and that are not clear-cut, but we cannot always tell ourselves or the international community that, given the times we live in, we are the most righteous nation in the world. For sure, it irritated me no end when those in Great Britain called for the arrest of Defense Minister Ehud Barak on his recent visit to England for alleged war crimes during the Gaza operation. Why not charge former prime minister Tony Blair for crimes against humanity as a result of the thousands of innocents who were killed in Najaf and Fallujah during the incipient stages of the war in Iraq? Two weeks ago, in the southern Lebanese village of Tayr Filsay, an explosion of a Hizbullah munitions factory, along with a similar "work accident" last July, supplied credence to Israel's claim that Hamas, like its Hizbullah comrades-in-arms, fights under the cover of the civilian population, storing weapons in homes, schools, hospitals and mosques. And yet the Goldstone report underplays and undervalues the fact that Israel had to contend with such a detestable reality. HOWEVER, OUR incessant whining that the world applies a double standard to Israel serves no purpose. By now, we should be used to this discriminatory attitude. And so we must ask ourselves: Do we continue to exploit the overworked abuse of comparable standards of judgment to justify our actions, thus undermining the lofty standards we have set for ourselves, which are based on our rich value-oriented heritage; or do we aspire to be like Noah, whose generation was ultimately drowned in a sea of moral degradation, to be exposed "drunk from wine, uncovered in his tent, with his nakedness exposed" (Genesis 9:21-22)? We all know that tragic events result from war. But the actuality of war should not obviate or excuse excessive behavior. We must establish our own state commission of inquiry, less to avert the injurious findings of the Goldstone report and avoid being called before some bogus international court of duplicitous judgment than to examine our own actions for our own moral sake. Instead of crying "Goldstone-Schmoldstone" all the time, we might even consider including those cases in the Goldstone report - no matter how one-sided it may be - that objectively do merit serious consideration.

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