In my very early childhood I used to let out a whoop of joy whenever the radio reported yet another UN condemnation for another Israeli anti-terrorist retaliation. As it turned out, I had lots of opportunity for elation. When my bemused parents admonished me with increased exasperation, I explained that I was happy because the UN had again rewarded our battlefield triumph.
Plainly, I didn't understand what the word condemnation meant, nor had any notion about Orwellian doublespeak, international hypocrisy or diplomatic duplicity. I simply noticed that when things go well for Jews, they get condemned.
That made condemnation sound like a good thing. Each condemnation became akin to a trophy or a victory medal for letting our tormentors have it.
More years than I care to admit later - after I had learned the definition of long strange words and became aware of the real dangers inherent in a tarnished national image - I still can't entirely fault my juvenile interpretation of grown-up events.
EVEN THE Goldstone report fits so well into my kindergarten-age perceptions. When rockets were rained on Sderot and environs for nearly a decade, Israelis were obviously faring badly. Yet so long as Israelis were victimized by Arabs, the rest of the world said nothing. Our weakness and our pain seemed to excite no reaction, indeed draw no notice, as if they occurred in a sealed vacuum.
However, as soon as the victims defended themselves, albeit belatedly, a tempest was stirred. The entire world's attention was suddenly riveted on little old us and the condemnations - familiar, strident and ever-hectoring - came, fast and furious as they had during all the decades of Israel's existence and even prior to Jewish independence. Only a show of Israeli deterrence brought Goldstone here. His very interest in us must indicate that we had done something worthy in our self-interest.
No surprise here, only the expected turn of events, as if an unstoppable natural phenomenon. However, just as unsurprising and a whole lot sadder is the fact that so many among us - including in the ostensible political mainstream, like Kadima MK Nachman Shai - feel obliged to play along with Goldstone and the misnamed UN Human Rights Council which dispatched him at the behest of such intrinsically progressive states as Syria, Somalia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
They feel a need to explain ourselves to them and atone for our self-defense. If Goldstone demands a tribunal to try our soldiers for the offense of combating the deliberate targeting of our noncombatants, then they'll subscribe to his premise and agitate for an inquiry. This notion - the latest de rigueur rallying cry - is underwritten vigorously by former minister Amnon Rubinstein, minister-wannabe Prof. Uriel Reichman and a slew of trendsetters (including Ha'aretz).
Perhaps their intentions are laudable. They're out to prove, via an inquiry chaired by a "neutral" American jurist or such Israeli champions of every left-wing cause as former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, that we're a just society which earnestly probes itself and that at most our transgressions are minor and unpremeditated. Thereby we shall cleanse our hands before the entire accusing critical world.
The fundamental flaw in their reasoning is that the accusing critical world isn't fair and balanced in its accusations and criticism. It indulgently dismisses intentional Arab belligerence against Israeli civilians yet censures the counteraction, in which inadvertently civilians on the other side may get hurt. If anything, their injury is hardly avoidable because they function as human shields for some of the darkest forces operating in today's world.
WILL SUCH hostile hardly objective observers be wowed by our famed judicial liberality? They weren't in the past. In fact Goldstone patently wasn't. He accused Israel's postmodern ultra-morally relativist courts of discrimination against Arabs and their supporters.
This is a fight that make-nice maneuvers just can't win. But they can lose us an awful lot. Any inquiry commission, constituted under whatever official aegis, will hold lengthy daily sessions delving into the minutest minutiae of Israeli military campaigns in the best traditions of our foot-dragging, pedantic, compulsively hair-splitting judiciary. Its procedure-laden hearings will be plodding and interminable and the general public won't bother to decipher their intricate legalistic esotericisms.
What will, nevertheless, be imparted to news-consumers worldwide is that Israel is in the dock, that even it somehow admits wrongdoing, which it had been shamed and coerced into examining.
This won't be a whole lot different from the vague impressions implanted into inattentive news-consumers who may have caught the tail end of an item on attempts to have Israel's defense minister arrested for war crimes in Britain. Never mind that the charges were pressed by the lawyer who represented the terrorists who shot ambassador Shlomo Argov in 1982 and who now represents Sudan's genocidal regime. What will be dimly remembered is that Israel's higher-ups are tainted and were let off because of diplomatic immunity like South Africa's erstwhile apartheid leaders. That was the aim of the complaint in the first place. The defamers coveted commotion rather than concrete victory.
An Israeli inquiry into Cast Lead will serve identical purposes. The very likely leaks from the testimony and the sarcastic hard-hitting interrogation of the most altruistic soldiers will accentuate impressions of Israeli sinfulness. These will provide occasional damning headlines.
If, when this PR disaster eventually concludes, the commission will wag a finger at some negligible aspect of something, that will become the international bottom line. In the (unlikely) event that the commission would exonerate Israel unequivocally, its findings will be ignored by foreign news purveyors and pooh-poohed as a whitewash.
Meanwhile, IDF morale will be dealt another blow. Combat troops risk their lives only to be later summoned to what has become a routine ritual - quibbling questioning from judgmental second-guessers and dour Monday-morning quarterbacks. In time this, more than all else we do to unhinge the defense forces on which our continued existence depends, will emasculate our military.
We're already frighteningly close to the self-stymieing situation in which almost every officer needs a battery of lawyers. IDF upper echelons already expend too much energy on accounting for past actions rather than preparing for the confrontations-to-come. This isn't just an irritating inconvenience; it can lead to a distorted focus and exact dreadful cost in tomorrow's war.
This of course is precisely what our enemies and their emissaries (like Goldstone) crave. It's certainly not what Shai, Rubinstein and Reichman want. This, though, is what can come of the short-sighted desire to abide by rules our antagonists decree.
The above well-meaning gentlemen need to ask themselves whether we can really lift our collective face through self-mutilation. Should we at all hanker after any image-improvement predicated on weakening our standing and intimidating our security-providers? Wouldn't we do better to just earn more condemnations instead?
Perhaps my preschool logic did dictate the obvious: Condemnations are commendable because they invariably accompany our successes.