As the UN discusses the Goldstone Report, Defense Minister Ehud Barak took the bold step to set the record straight and speak directly to the people in a published op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, declaring, “It was my duty as defense minister to stop Hamas rockets.”
At the U.N., Terrorism Pays
This week the United Nation’s Human Rights Council produced a 600-page report alleging that Israel carried out war crimes in Gaza. The Goldstone Report—named for its chief investigator Richard Goldstone—also asserts that Israel’s motives for its operation against Hamas nine months ago were purely political. I am outraged by these accusations. Let me explain why.
It is the duty of every nation to defend itself. This is a basic obligation that all responsible governments owe their citizens. Israel is no different.
After enduring eight years of ongoing rocket fire—in which 12,000 missiles were launched against our cities, and after all diplomatic efforts to stop this barrage failed—it was my duty as defense minister to do something about it. It’s as simple and self-evident as the right to self-defense.
While such logic eluded Mr. Goldstone and his team, it was crystal clear to the thousands of Israeli children living in southern Israel who had to study, play, eat and sleep while being preoccupied about the distance to the nearest bomb shelter. When I accompanied then-presidential candidate Barack Obama on his visit to the shelled city of Sderot, he said “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.” Too bad the Human Rights Council wasn’t listening.
Whenever we are forced to defend our own lives, it is our obligation to do so in a way that ensures that the lives of innocent civilians on the other side are protected. This duty becomes extremely difficult when we have to face an enemy that intentionally deploys its forces in densely populated areas, stores its explosives in private homes, and launches rockets from crowded school yards and mosques. In Gaza, we reached out to the civilians via millions of leaflets, telephone calls and text messages urging them to leave areas before we acted.
So when the Goldstone mission gathers testimony from local residents in Hamas-ruled Gaza, but forgets to ask them whether they happened to notice any armed Palestinians during the Israeli operation, or didn’t realize that its impartially chosen witnesses happened to be known Hamas operatives according to Israeli intelligence, I begin to question the methodology of such a “fact-finding” effort.
Although I am incensed by the Goldstone Report, I must admit that I was not surprised. It is, more than anything else, a political statement—not a legal analysis.
This shameful document was produced by the Human Rights Council, a body whose obsession with Israel has led it to produce more resolutions condemning Israel than all other countries combined. By its lights, the evils of Israel far outweigh those of countries like Burma, Sudan and North Korea.
In its blind zeal to demonize Israel, the council has produced a document that undermines every other democracy struggling to defend itself against terrorism. The message broadcast by this report to the new world order? Terrorism pays.
Yet, an accusation, however ludicrous, is still an accusation, and it mustn’t remain unanswered.
If the U.N. or anyone else has complaints, they should direct them towards the Israeli government. I have in-depth knowledge about the extent of the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) efforts to reduce civilian casualties, and I am convinced that the actions our government took are equal to or exceed actions taken by the armed forces of any other democratic nation. Strikes against extremely valuable Hamas targets were aborted in mid-operation due to the unexpected presence of civilians.
Hundreds of thousands of warnings of impending IDF activity were provided to the population by leaflet, radio, telephone and text messages. Humanitarian supplies were allowed to flow into Gaza despite the fact that Hamas shelled the convoys and confiscated the aid they carried.
Israel is not perfect. As much as we as a society try to uphold the IDF’s ethical code, mistakes sometimes happen and deviations from procedure occur. Whether we like it or not, Israel is one of the most scrutinized countries in the world. And when we are told that things may not be right, we check it out and, when necessary, prosecute those involved. We are now pursuing two dozen criminal investigations regarding events that occurred in Gaza. We don’t need the Human Rights Council, Richard Goldstone, or anyone else to teach us how to maintain the democratic principles which are our lifeblood.
As sobering as the thought may be, terrorists will welcome this report. It has made their work much easier, and the work of their potential victims more difficult.
I believe that the time has come for us to put an end to this calculated erosion of common sense. The nations that share democratic values must not allow themselves to be handcuffed by the abusive application of lofty ideals. Democracies should be concentrating on defending themselves from extremism—not from accusations by kangaroo courts.