For eight years, while Hamas indiscriminately shelled Israeli civilians with rockets provided by its patrons in Iran, the UN stood silent. Only when Israel, after years of restraint, moved to put an end to the terror, did the Human Rights Council act - by condemning Israel. This one-sided body passed a one-sided resolution calling for a one-sided investigation. Last month, the results of this "investigation" were presented by Justice Richard Goldstone to the HRC. Yet instead of dealing responsibly with the report, HRC members engaged in yet another anti-Israel travesty, which even Goldstone acknowledged as one-sided.
There have been dozens of international inquiries into events in the Gaza operation, and Israel has cooperated fully with almost all of them, including one undertaken by the UN Secretary General. Only in those instances where it was clear beyond any doubt that an inquiry was motivated by a political agenda - and not concern for human rights - did Israel decide not to cooperate. Unfortunately the HRC's Fact-Finding Mission was one of these.
Sadly, what was clear to Israel from the outset, has only now become clear to Goldstone. He is now trying to distance himself from the results of his own handiwork.
Last Friday he discussed his disappointment with the action taken by the HRC, telling the Swiss daily Le Temps: "This draft resolution saddens me as it includes only allegations against Israel, there is not a single phrase condemning Hamas."
WE MUST now deal with the consequences. The council's adoption of the Goldstone report constitutes nothing less than a prize for terrorism in more ways than one.
First, the resolution adopted Friday perverts the reality of Hamas criminality, blaming the victim, rather than the true perpetrator of war crimes in Gaza. For the HRC, it was totally irrelevant that Hamas committed grave war crimes by openly calling for Israel's destruction, purposely firing thousands of missiles at Israeli civilians, endangering Gaza civilians by firing from populated areas and abducting Gilad Schalit.
It was likewise irrelevant to the HRC that Israel had a responsibility to protect its citizens, made every effort to avoid confrontation and did all that it could to minimize civilian casualties. The only relevant consideration for the HRC was the fact that an opportunity had presented itself to demonize Israel in the international arena.
Second, the resolution undermines moderate Palestinians who are interested in peace with Israel. There is a power struggle going on within Palestinian society. It is a zero-sum game, in which any gain for extremism comes at the expense of support for moderation. When the Hamas "tail" is allowed to wag the Middle East "dog," the Palestinian street takes heart and the entire region takes heed. In our neighborhood, everybody loves a winner. So when an international body upholds Hamas's atrocious behavior and exploits it once more to bash Israel, Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority loses face, moderate Arab states lose ground and the Hizbullah-Syria-Iran axis gains strength.
Thirdly, the resolution creates a new obstacle in the global battle against terrorism. A new form of warfare has emerged, in which terror groups launch attacks against "enemy" civilians from behind a shield of "friendly" civilians. This resolution grants immunity to the terrorists and prevents law-abiding states from defending their citizens. With the blessing of the HRC, this tactic will be repeated by terrorists throughout the world, to the detriment of all other democracies struggling against terrorism, putting millions of innocent civilians in danger.
FINALLY, AND most tragic, this whole episode has led Israelis to doubt the underlying assumptions that have guided them until now in their internal debate on how best to achieve peace. Most Israelis supported the willingness of their leadership to take calculated risks to advance the peace process, with the understanding that the "world" would support such efforts and "hedge their bets." Israelis assumed that if, after making compromises, things didn't work out, they would at least retain the right to defend themselves and the world would support them in their struggle.
Yet now, a nightmare has come true. After taking the tangible risk of leaving contested territory for the sake of advancing peace, Gaza was turned into a lawless enclave of Hamas-led, Iranian-backed terrorism. Yet, when Israel was forced to defend itself, the world reacted not with support and understanding, but with accusations of "crimes against humanity." Damned when they do and damned when they don't, Israelis are now asking themselves "Was the sacrifice worth it?"
While Israelis consider their options, the Goldstone snowball is threatening to gain momentum. From Geneva, the issue has now been passed to the UN General Assembly in New York for further action. But, it is still not too late. An international rejection of the HRC's treatment of the Goldstone report would signal to the Israeli public that the world indeed supports its compromises toward peace.
The writer is deputy foreign minister.