Rattling the Cage: Goldstone was never the problem

Nothing that anybody says can change Operation Cast Lead from what it was – a horrific onslaught that never should have happened.

Goldstone 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Goldstone 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
For Israel and its blind supporters, Operation Cast Lead just got stamped glatt kosher. Richard Goldstone writes in The Washington Post that IDF investigations have changed his mind, that he now thinks Palestinian “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy,” so Israel is saying this proves the war in Gaza was a good war, a just war. The most moral war on Earth.
I think we may be taking Goldstone’s op-ed a little bit too far. I agree that it’s a big deal – it calls into question his hugely influential report published in September 2009, nine months after the war ended. It suggests that people who think Operation Cast Lead was the least moral war on Earth should think again.
But a “good” war, a just war? Goldstone never said that, but whatever he meant or didn’t mean to say in that op-ed, nothing that anybody says can change Operation Cast Lead from what it was – a horrific onslaught that never should have happened. I didn’t need the Goldstone Report to tell me that, and neither did anyone else – it was clear as soon as IAF jets began bombing Gaza that Saturday morning in late December 2008.
He now says Israel didn’t have a policy of targeting civilians? I wrote that in a column in mid-January 2009, just before the war ended: “I’m not saying the IDF is deliberately targeting ordinary Palestinians. I take the IDF’s word that it is being about as surgical as possible about hitting Hamas targets, and doing all it can not to hit homes, schools, shops and other sites that are not part of the Gazan regime.”
That was the good news for Palestinian civilians. Here was the bad news: “But there are two problems with this Israeli hasbara: 1) The IDF is engaging in such overkill, it’s laying down such an incredible amount of firepower on such a small, intensely crowded country, that the proportion of civilian casualties is bound to be high, and 2) Israel has adopted a pretty broad definition of the term ‘civilian.’”
How surgical can you be when you’re bombing Gaza back to the Stone Age? And although the IDF defended its deliberate attacks on Gaza’s parliament, government ministries, courthouses and even Islamic University, describing them as “symbols of Hamas power” and “parts of the terror infrastructure,” it won’t wash. These public buildings, and arguably others in the IDF’s “target bank,” were civilian facilities, and they were bombed on purpose. That’s not Goldstone talking, that’s straight from the IDF Spokesman’s Office while the war was going on.
A JUST war? Operation Cast Lead was about as just as a bullfight. We invaded a foreign land with our ridiculously superior armed forces and decimated it. We racked up a kill ratio of 100-to-one, and a destruction ratio that’s immeasurable.
But Hamas’s men hid behind “human shields,” we told the world. They had no right to fight like guerrillas against an invading army, navy and air force. They should have fought a conventional war. They should have come out of hiding among the population, on the turf they knew and Israeli soldiers didn’t and met the IDF in a big, open field, far away from civilians. It would have been their Kassam rockets, mortars and rifles against our F- 16s, Apache helicopters, tanks, gunboats and white phosphorous. Now that would have been a fair fight.
Operation Cast Lead was about the most one-sided war imaginable. Goldstone’s report nine months afterward did not spring this truth on an unsuspecting world, and his oped a week ago doesn’t change it, either.
But Israel was fighting in self-defense, wasn’t it? No, Gaza was fighting in self-defense. We invaded their country.
But they fired thousands of rockets at us, didn’t they? Yes, and we fired more rockets, bigger ones and much, much more accurate and deadly ones at them. Between Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in September 2005 and the start of Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, Gazan attacks killed 28 Israelis. In the same prewar period, Israeli attacks killed more than 1,250 Gazans.
But Hamas and the others deliberately aimed their rockets at civilians while Israel tried to hit only terrorists – even Goldstone said that in his op-ed. Yes, and if Hamas only would have used precision weaponry to take out the Knesset, government ministries and courthouses, IDF installations and soldiers at home, Israel Police stations, prisons and weapons labs at industrial parks and universities, we would have said these were all legitimate targets, wouldn’t we? As for the Israeli civilians who’d have gotten killed, we would have put that down to tragic but inevitable collateral damage, right?
STILL, WE got out of Gaza in 2005 and they kept firing rockets at us, so we had to stop them, didn’t we? Actually, we got our settlers and soldiers out of the interior of Gaza, but we kept up our blockade of its coast and airspace, allowing no ships or planes in or out, which we’ve been doing since we took over the Strip in the Six Day War. We let trucks cross our border into Gaza, but only to deliver enough food and medicine to prevent starvation and epidemic. (And we only took Gaza’s 1.5 million people off this “diet” under international pressure after our deadly naval raid on the Mavi Marmara last May.)
But we’re dealing with Hamas, and Hamas doesn’t want peace, it wants to destroy us, so what choice did we have but to fight? Yes, Hamas wants to destroy us, but it’s also afraid of us, and on the eve of the war it offered us a cease-fire if we would lift the siege. It was a fair demand and a fair deal, and we refused it.
But Hamas wouldn’t have kept its word, would it? I don’t know, but we had the obligation to find out. War, after all, is supposed the last option.
And that’s basically the story of Operation Cast Lead: We bashed the Gazans around beforehand, then we turned down a ceasefire, then we started the war and bashed them around worse than ever.
But none of that matters anymore – Judge Richard Goldstone, the Grand Inquisitor himself, says we didn’t intentionally target civilians as a matter of policy. All together now: Case closed!
Operation Cast Lead is over, but its spirit lives on.