It might have seemed like just another United Nations report among the hundreds cranked out every year, and just another UN resolution from the international resolution factory.
But to some leading Israelis, including some in the Israeli Government, it has awakened fears of a new encirclement, a new isolation, a new kind of warfare.
The report? After enduring some 800 rocket attacks from Hamas militants in the Palestinian territory of Gaza, Israel sent its armed forces into Gaza last December to stop the firings at source. It was named "Operation Cast Lead". The action left about 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.
The UN appointed a South African judge, Richard Goldstone, to lead an investigation into "all violations of international human rights law" in the clash. The 575-page Goldstone report finds that serious war crimes were committed by both sides, by Israel and by the Palestinians. It finds against Israel that "statements by political and military leaders prior to and during the military operations in Gaza leave little doubt that disproportionate destruction and violence against civilians were part of a deliberate policy". Israel was guilty of the "wilful killing" of civilians.
It cites Israel's Deputy Prime Minister, Eli Yishai, saying "It [should be] possible to destroy Gaza, so they will understand not to mess with us."
On the other hand, Goldstone found that "Palestinian armed groups were present in urban areas during the military operations and launched rockets from urban areas", and that"it may be that the Palestinian combatants did not at all times adequately distinguish themselves from the civilian population".
This was the whole point of the Hamas strategy. By deliberately positioning themselves in residential areas, the Hamas fighters were goading Israel to shoot back at civilians' homes. While Hamas is a political movement, it is also, after all, an Islamic terrorist group banned by the US, the EU and Australia, among others.
The UN resolution? The countries of the UN's General Assembly voted in overwhelming numbers two weeks ago to demand that Israel and Hamas conduct independent investigations into their own conduct.
The vote was 114 countries in favour. Only 18 stood against it, including Israel, the United States and Australia, while another 44, mostly Europeans, abstained.
If either side fails to carry out an independent inquiry, the UN Security Council can refer the matter to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
"The Goldstone report was a huge shock," says Gerald Steinberg, a professor of political science at Bar Ilan University and the head of a think tank called NGO Watch.
"It shouldn't have been, but it was, because of the huge amount of unreasonableness" in the report, he said. "The Government was shocked, the military was most shocked of all."
"This is another kind of warfare – if you can't beat us on the battlefield, then you attack us somewhere else, and when we fight back, you attack the legitimacy of our response." Steinberg calls it "lawfare".
"It's an attempt to turn Israel into a new apartheid state, it's a major threat."
Under the racist policy of apartheid, of course, South Africa became a pariah state. It was widely regarded as an illegitimate regime. Australia's Isi Liebler, the businessman and former chairman of the World Jewish Congress who has now retired to live in Jerusalem, agrees: "Goldstone was the last straw, the straw that broke the camel's back."
But if Goldstone finds war crimes were committed by both sides, how can this be so shocking?
The Israeli objection is to the emphasis in the report. Goldstone directs the great bulk of his scrutiny and criticism to the Israeli side. He does not give weight to the fact that Israel was responding to hundreds of rocket attacks from Hamas.
This was also Australia's problem with Goldstone. As the Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, says: "We strongly share concerns expressed by other nations, such as Canada, New Zealand, the US and Netherlands, including on the lack of balance, scope and recommendations in the report."
"For example, an unbalanced focus on Israel, insufficient attention to Hamas's actions prior to the conflict, especially rocket attacks" and other matters.
Steinberg argues that international human rights law is a "new religion" that is being used against Israel.
And this view has support in the upper reaches of the Israeli Government. Goldstone has helped persuade Israel's leadership that it faces a gathering international effort to undermine its legitimacy.
Israel seems most unlikely to be abandoned by Australia, however.
Although the Rudd Government shifted emphasis somewhat in favour of the Palestinian cause – it doubled aid for the Palestinians and voted against Israel's position in two UN resolutions last year – Israel's Government is reassured that Canberra sided with Israel on this key vote.
Isi Leibler put it this way: "John Howard was instinctively, as a conservative, a friend of Israel. Kevin Rudd is a remarkable personality but I didn't think he would maintain the course as he has. I regard him as a Christian Zionist – he understands and has some sympathy for us. Australia gives me enormous pride."
Curiously, the head of the Palestinian delegation to Australia, Izzat Abdulhadi, is also very pleased with Australia's overall stance: "I think it's good that Australia has good relations with Israel because it gives it a unique status where it can mediate in the conflict and be even handed."
Peter Hartcher is the Herald's international editor. He travelled to Israel as a guest of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.
The Sydney Morning Herald
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.