Institute for Contemporary Affairs
Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation
Accusations made against Israel over the last month that the Israeli army used “excessive force” against Palestinians along the fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel provided me with a strong sense of déjà vu. Back in 2009, Israel was bombarded with criticism that it had used disproportionate amounts of force as it tried to suppress Hamas rocket fire aimed at Israeli cities. The high point of that criticism back then was the release of the famous, or I should say infamous, Goldstone Report that was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council.
The Goldstone Report had the audacity to assert that Israel had used its military forces to deliberately kill Palestinian civilians. I’ll repeat that: “deliberately kill Palestinian civilians.” The report was adopted by a large number of countries. At the time, I actually was asked by Brandeis University to debate Goldstone, to bring the evidence I could obtain from the Israeli army to show the truth of what really happened.
Actually, in 2011, the truth finally came out about the Goldstone Report, just as Goldstone actually retracted his conclusions in an op-ed that he wrote for The Washington Post. Unfortunately, the damage had been done to Israel in those years. Charles Krauthammer in fact called the Goldstone Report a “blood libel against the Jewish state.”
Now in 2018, Israel was bombarded again with a whole series of false accusations about how it handled the situation along the Gaza-Israel fence. The facts that have come out since that time show a completely different reality from what Israel’s accusers have been saying.
First, we saw in an area called Kerem Shalom – that’s the international crossing from Israel into the Gaza Strip – that Hamas ordered an attack on this passageway that supplies food, pharmaceuticals, clothing, and everything that the people of Gaza need for a normal life. The Kerem Shalom passageway was set on fire by the Palestinians themselves.
Second: Mahmoud al-Zahar, one of the most prominent Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip, who used to be foreign minister of the Gaza statelet, Mahmoud al-Zahar reminded his Arabic-speaking audience that, as he said, “This is not peaceful resistance.” I’m talking about the demonstrations along the fence. “It is supported by our weapons.”
Third: a day afterwards, Hamas released a press release with an astounding claim. It said that the Great Return March, which was leading Palestinians to charge the border fence, was actually part of the heroic armed struggle.
Fourth: in another statement made by Hamas it was stated that the goal of the march was to breach the fence. “To breach the fence” means to break open the fence and allow thousands to pour into Israel. Now they weren’t going there to have a picnic. On that occasion, Hamas also provided the demonstrators with maps of how to get to Jewish towns and villages.
And fifth: it became clear when a senior Hamas member gave an interview on television and he admitted that of the 62 Palestinians who had been killed, 50 were Hamas operatives. Suddenly, the picture of what went on in this struggle over Israel’s fence with the Gaza Strip became clearer as this information came out and the situation became clear about what happened along Israel’s southern fence. I wondered whether the people who had attacked Israel, who had made comments and questioned the intentions of the Israeli army, I wondered whether they would come out and express some kind of remorse and perhaps a different view.
There were a number of people who did exactly that. There was a member of the British Parliament named Nick Boles, who actually released a statement that he had been critical of Israel’s handling of the protests and how it managed things along the fence, along the Gaza border. But then he added, “I should not have been so quick to judge,” and perhaps even stronger terms. There was a journalist for the Jewish Chronicle who made a statement: “I said Israel should be ashamed. Now I am the one ashamed.”
But there were others who stuck to their guns in their criticism of Israel. One prominent Jewish leader in Britain in fact said, “Diaspora Jews have abandoned their conscience over Gaza.” No change of judgment was made. Why do people express such harsh criticisms of Israel that are later proven to be baseless? Sometimes it becomes very clear what their motivation was. Not long after the Palestinians rushed the Gaza border fence, President Bashar Assad of Syria ordered an attack on the Yarmouk refugee camp where many Palestinians live. All the critics of Israel didn’t say a word about what the Syrian army was doing in Damascus against the Palestinians, which showed that the motivation for attacking Israel was that it was Israel. It was the Jewish state and not any concern for the Palestinian people. What is common among all the critics of Israel in these kinds of instances in the wars of the Gaza Strip is a kind of rush to judgment by which people automatically assume that Israel is to blame for whatever has occurred, whether you’re talking about Goldstone back in 2009, or you’re talking about Israel’s critics in 2018. Among all the critics of Israel, it’s this rush to judgment that shows a basic lack of faith in the Israeli legal system, in the morality of the Israeli army, and it’s this rush to judgment that encourages Hamas to keep its war against the State of Israel going.