Volume 3, Number 184
'There's a Jewish story everywhere'

Thursday-Monday, September 17-21, 2009


Goldstone report lived down to Israel's expectations

By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM—The Israeli government boycotted the Goldstone Mission, established by the United Nations Human Rights Council to report on the operation in Gaza. Israel's reasons were the source of the Mission, its official mandate, and the prior statements of at least one of the members. Nothing good would come of it, and the government saw no benefit in participating.

Now the Report has been issued. It meets expectations by damning Israel's intentions and activities.

On the day after the Report was made public, Ha'aretz devoted almost one-half of its pages to details and commentary. Radio and television have also given it a great deal of attention with prominent contributors.

Part of the Israeli coverage is a loud Oy gevalt. The report is so bad that it will cause significant damage. Another response is, We told you so. The report is so biased that no right thinking person can accept it at face value.

Sections of the mandate establishing the Mission make it clear which was the guilty party before the investigation began:

"Expressing serious concern at the lack of implementation by the occupying Power, Israel, of previously adopted resolutions and recommendations of the Council relating to the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem . . .

"Recognizing that the Israeli siege imposed on the occupied Gaza Strip, including the closure of border crossings and the cutting of the supply of fuel, food and medicine, constitutes collective punishment of Palestinian civilians and leads to disastrous humanitarian and environmental consequences.."

While claiming to be an inquiry, much of the 575 page Report is in the form of "It is reported that . . ." One critic justly claims that it is a compilation of material cut and pasted from existing reports by organizations with records of criticizing Israel but not Palestinians, and unverified statements of individuals interviewed in Gaza.

Supporters of the Report claim balance on account of its criticism of Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli citizens. Yet

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the thrust is overwhelmingly against Israel. One of its conclusions goes beyond a description of what happened, and claims to have identified Israeli motives of the ugliest kind.

"It is clear from evidence gathered by the Mission that the destruction of food supply installations, water sanitation systems, concrete factories and residential houses was the result of a deliberate and systematic policy by the Israeli armed forces. It was not carried out because those objects presented a military threat or opportunity but to make the daily process of living, and dignified living, more difficult for the civilian population."

Shimon Peres condemned the Report as a mockery of history. A senior Foreign Ministry official compared it to the 1975 United Nations resolution that Zionism is racism.

The Report is so bad that it is good. It is easier to defend oneself against a caricature of condemnation than a serious inquiry and balanced criticism.

Palestinians, other Arabs and Muslims, as well as the international left are applauding the Report. The daughter of Richard Goldstone, the Jewish South African jurist who chaired the Mission, asserts that the report is balanced, and that her father is a Zionist who loves Israel. Speaking from her home in Toronto, she said that Israel ""is the most important thing in my life, my heart is there.... I love Israel more than my family and friends and anything else."

The history of the Goldstone Mission does not portend wide acceptance among important governments. The resolution that established it was presented by such "paragons of international humanitarianism as Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia."

Canada's representative on the Council opposed the resolution, and 13 European countries abstained. At the time of the resolution, the United States was still following the policy of the Bush administration to boycott the UN Human Rights Council on account of its control by repressive states.

The Obama administration has joined the Human Rights Council, intending to work for greater balance in its activities. Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton, has not been kind. "This is like getting on board the Titanic after it's hit the iceberg. . . This is the theology of engagement at work. There is no concrete American interest served by this, and it legitimizes something that doesn't deserve legitimacy."

As yet, there is no official American comment on the Goldstone Report.

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University. Email: msira@mscc.huji.ac.il

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