by Marcus Sheff, Executive Director, The Israel Project – Israel Office
It was of course utterly predictable. Last Friday, Judge Richard Goldstone, reacting to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s inevitable decision to endorse his made-for Al Jazeera report about last winter’s Gaza war, criticized the UNHRC because it included only censure of Israel, without any mention of Hamas.
Richard, we are simply staggered that they would do that to you.
Among the countries that singled out Israel among all other nations for their opprobrium were routine human rights abusers China, Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
In late December 2008, Israel finally embarked on a defensive military operation in Gaza to stop eight years of terror attacks on innocent Israeli civilians. Between 2001 and 2008, over 10,000 rockets and mortars were fired at Israelis in and around Sderot by Iran-backed Hamas. Many Israeli civilians were killed. Hundreds were maimed. Thousands of children still suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
At our office in Sderot during this period, the one thing that the traumatized people of the town would say to us was, “Israel is out of Gaza. What do they want from us?” They truly believed that when Israel withdrew from Gaza in August 2005, they would get the peace they yearned for. They were disappointed.
So the Israeli government, obligated by the supreme responsibility of all governments – the duty to protect its citizens – instructed the military to defend its people. And Hamas, true to its cynical disregard for the sanctity of life, used its own people to defend the lives of its members.
Hamas terrorists operated within and behind the civilian population in Gaza, purposefully turning towns and villages, schools and mosques into battlefields. The Israel Defense Force has been credited by leading military experts for doing everything in their power to stop the terror while safeguarding civilians.
Mistakes were made by the IDF in Gaza and the loss of innocent life is heartbreaking. Mistakes on a far greater level have been made by western forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and other areas theatres of urban warfare where terrorists hide behind civilians.
Is Richard Goldstone the only sentient being on the planet who is surprised by last Friday’s vote? Could he really be that breathtakingly naive?
He could be. After all, he succeeded in ignoring the fact that the authoritarian states on the UNHRC have consistently persecuted democratic Israel, condemning it more often than all the other nations of the world combined.
In fact, since its inception in 2006, the UNHRC has adopted more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than the other 191 UN member states combined. This should have been a fairly strong hint to Goldstone that the game was fixed from the outset.
Then there are the methodological flaws of the investigation, factual inaccuracies and plain contradictions.
Reports in the Palestinian media showed that the Goldstone investigators were continuously accompanied by Hamas goons in Gaza. Unsurprisingly, and as the report itself admits, witnesses were unwilling to discuss the presence or conduct of hostilities by the Palestinian armed groups.
Pathetically, the investigators did not even bother to ask Palestinian witnesses questions relating to Hamas terror activity and storage of weapons in homes, schools and mosques.
A systematic problem is the report’s extensive use of testimony from unreliable Palestinian “human rights” organizations. For example, the report cites casualty figures from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR). Among PCHR’s civilian casualties are two leading Hamas military figures, Nizar Rayan and Siad Siam. Numerous other Palestinian fatalities listed by PCHR as civilians were also listed on Hamas websites as martyrs and members of its militias.
I could go on.
So why should we care less about the Goldstone report? It is a shoddy piece of legal work, sponsored by an Israel-persecuting talking shop in Geneva that operates with a degree of diplomatic hypocrisy that would have made Machiavelli’s eyes water, and supported by some of the world’s most enthusiastic proponents of torture.
We should care because the enemies of Israel are using global media outlets to paint Israel as the world’s pariah state, uniquely evil, irredeemably malevolent and unworthy of joining the community of nations. Its movies are illegitimate, its products are tainted and its professors are unfit to teach. And if we are not vigilant, smart and focused, the world’s news consumers will buy into this pitch.
If you hate hypocrisy, prejudice, anti-Jewish racism and double-standards – if you believe that imperfect, open and democratic Israel has an enviable judicial system that takes more seriously than any other country its responsibility to bring its military into compliance with international law – do not allow Israel to fall victim to this latest assault by lawfare.
Marcus Sheff is the Executive Director of The Israel Project’s Israel office. He is on the front lines of the media war for Israel – getting hundreds of reporters facts, sources and information so they can get the story right.