Analysis: Stay calm, and argue

By Uri Dromi, October 22, 2009

Now that the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva has endorsed the Goldstone Report by a 25-6 majority, with five countries opposing and 11 abstaining (the UK, France and three other members of the 47-nation body declined to vote), the question is what we do next.

Criticising and undermining the report is natural. That Judge Goldstone put the terrorist who had fired Kassams on innocent civilians — while himself hiding among civilians — on the same footing with the Israeli soldier who was sent to make him stop, is outrageous. This approach, if accepted, will have dangerous repercussions for the ability of nations to fight terror effectively.

As Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz rightly stated: “The report gives de facto legitimacy to terrorist initiatives and ignores the obligation and right of every country to defend itself, as the UN itself had clearly stated.”

It is good to feel deeply in your heart that you are right. Alas, it is not enough. Once upon a time, the story goes, the two leaders of the Mapam leftist movement, Meir Ya’ari and Yaacov Hazan, had a long debate. The following morning, Mr Ya’ari called Mr Hazan (or vice versa) and told him: “I thought about it all night, and I came to the conclusion that I was right.”

Yes, we have reasons to feel we are right, but we also have to convince others that we are right, and that is easier said than done. The first step is to candidly ask ourselves whether, apart from the obvious flaws in the report, it doesn’t raise some points worth noticing.

My friend David Landau, the former editor-in-chief of Ha’aretz, wrote in the New York Times in September that the report did not start a healthy debate in Israel over whether or not there had been an excessive use of force in Gaza, as it had intended. “By accusing Israel — its government, its army, its ethos — of deliberately seeking out civilians, [Goldstone] has achieved the opposite effect.”

Mr Landau is right. Israelis and Israel’s friends now stand together in fury, vowing to tear this report to pieces. Anger, however, is not a good counsellor, and a country like Israel, which faces new challenges every day, must not blind itself to reality. We should dare ask ourselves whether or not we could have achieved the goals in Gaza in a shorter campaign (I think we could), and as much as I hate to see Israeli soldiers risking their lives in Gaza or southern Lebanon, substituting them with firepower doesn’t always work, and sometimes it backfires on us.

The second thing to consider is whether the policy of not co-operating with outside investigation is wise. Alternately, a vigorous independent Israeli investigation could have made Judge Goldstone redundant, or at least marginal. With a mix of soul-searching and, for want of a better word, hasbara, we can roll back the Goldstone Report and brace ourselves for the next round.

Last updated: 2:26pm, November 8 2010