There will be a vast number of detailed critiques regarding the UN’s Goldstone report, created for the purpose of bashing Israel over the Gaza war with phony claims of “war crimes.” Some brief overview, however, is required.
Imagine that there is a war going on in which one side has openly declare that it will commit genocide on the other, wiping if off the face of the earth. Imagine that the regime ruling this place has openly, daily, and officially referred to its enemies as sub-humans who conspire to rule the world and are responsible for everything evil in history. Imagine that this regime is a dictatorship that wins over some as passionate adherents and intimidates others in a society where conformity already reigns.
Now imagine that an outside group composed of some who are naïve and some who are dedicated collaborators with that regime’s cause come into that place and ask: Tell us how evil and terrible your enemy (i.e., would-be victim) is and we will write it all down and use it to isolate, demonize, and put on sanctions against that enemy.
What do you expect the result will be?
This is precisely what happened in the Gaza Strip. The witnesses made propaganda against Israel; the UN magnified it. Yet amazingly little hard evidence was presented. And generally the more the specific the allegations, the easier it is to refute.
I have deliberately chosen here the man who was almost certainly the most moderate, rational and even liberal Palestinian witness who appeared before the commission. I do not say this lightly. Dr. Iyyad El-Sarraji [I use the reports transliteration, which is terrible] has been celebrated in the New York Times, he was critical of Yasir Arafat, and he is from the left, not an Islamist.
But what is not reported in the Western media about Sarraji is that he has publicly spoken out against the 1993 Oslo Accords and argued that the Palestinians should never have abandoned armed struggle which, to put it most charitably, has always included—and Sarraji knows this—a huge component of anti-civilian terrorism.
[I will bet that virtually not a single Palestinian interviewed in the investigation supports a two-state solution. Virtually every single one of them wants Israel destroyed and saw this commission as a wonderful opportunity to further that goal.]
Here’s a sample of Sarraji’s testimony and to give you the flavor I must quote at some length:
“The Palestinian in the eyes of the Israeli soldier is not an equal human being. Sometimes this Palestinian even becomes a demon in their eyes. Therefore it is a state of demonization. This is unfortunately, uh, what can be seen in the behavior of the Israeli soldier not only killing children or fathers before the eyes of children….This is the base of everything and then there is the fact that there is no restraint, no discipline within the army and, uh, uh, even there’s an encouragement. This is part of the Israeli military institution and previously we have seen many stories of how the Palestinians are being killed either at the hand of soldiers or settlers and then the accused or the, uh, responsible is, uh, found innocent, sometimes even a statute is put up for him as a hero.”
Each point of this testimony is demonstrably a lie. The reference to a statue has a grain of truth that demonstrated my point. Some settlers put up a statue of the Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein. It was torn down by the Israeli army within 24 hours.
Goldstone asked Sarraji don’t the Palestinians demonize Israelis?
After two sentences of agreement that the Palestinians also demonize Israelis, Sarraji continues:
“But we, the Palestinians have a greater capacity, in my view, to deal with the Israelis as equal human beings, as a whole human being…. Inside Israel there is an identification with the aggressor, the Nazi. Once a mayor of one of the settlements, he said, `I do not want the Palestinians in my farm and if they come we must put signs on their shoulders.’ This is what was done by the Nazis to the Jews. Chief of Staff Eitan in Israel, he also once said, `The Palestinians are cockroaches, grasshoppers. We must put them in a bottle close the bottle and throw them away.’ This was his view of the Palestinians. These were some Nazi expressions used against the Jews. Some of the Israeli generals had the same uniforms as the Nazis.”
So this is the statement of the most moderate person who testified on the Palestinian side. Any honest person who heard this would conclude:
Such individuals as this are incapable of representing the situation fairly. They make up things and are unreliable witnesses intent only on further their side’s interests without any limit. The quote from Eitan and the remarks on the statue, lack of punishment for Israeli soldiers who act wrongly, the claim Israeli soldiers are encouraged to murder Palestinians, and the uniforms is false, t the alleged statement of the mayor is undocumented (indeed, on many settlements Palestinians have been employed to do much of the construction and agricultural work).
Instead, the commission concluded that everything the witnesses said was true, and on that basis they have condemned an entire nation.
Aside from a campaign to put sanctions on Israel, what will be the effect of this report?
First, damage to the cause of peace.
- If Israelis are such monsters why should the Arabs or Palestinians make peace with them?
- If Israel is being portrayed as such monsters why shouldn’t the Arab and Palestinian side deliberately avoid peace since the tide is on their side? Just do nothing and wait for the world to force Israel to give up everything, even to assist in the destruction of the state of Israel?
- If attacks from Hamas, no matter how much material damage it inflicts on Palestinians, bring material advantages to it, isn’t this the strategy to follow?
Second, it encourages of repression, aggression, and real war crimes.
- If the Hamas strategy of attacking Israel with rockets, mortars, and cross-border raids along with tearing up a ceasefire and then make gains by portraying itself as a victim works, why not attack Israel and others in similar conflicts?
- If antisemitic propaganda and genocidal goals bring no negative reaction from the world, why should one not use these themes and seek this outcome?
- If Hamas can use civilians as human shields, intimidate people into supporting its line, use hospitals or mosques or schools as military positions and then turn this into a political victory by having their enemy branded as a war criminal for attacking these places even a few times, this is a splendid strategy that others should use. We will be seeing more of it in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and many other places in the world.
Completely aside from the individual lies and nonsense—for example, counting Hamas police and hundreds of men whose obituaries praised them for being brave militia fighters as civilians—this report is a disaster for human rights and peace.
It will legitimate one of the world’s most war-provoking, repressive regimes and validate a strategy that uses civilian suffering and war crimes as central features.
Cross Posted From Rubin Reports
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books; To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports