By Bilal Al-Hasan
18 October 2009
The popular Palestinian and Arab campaign against the PA's decision to defer the Goldstone report and not refer it to the Security Council or The Hague International Court of Justice has led to conflicting results.
First Negative result: the campaign has weakened the PA's position, damaged its reputation and even shaken its internal status especially that it has been subject to tremendous internal criticism by its own forces and cadres.
Second Positive result: the PA had to reconsider its decision and demand a vote on the Goldstone report in order to assuage public anger that broke out in the aftermath of Abbas' decision to postpone the report. Out of this result emerged another positive one: demanding a UN vote has been extended to include the specific article related to Israel's settlement practices in Al-Quds (Jerusalem), on which Palestinians and Arabs have for so long kept largely silent so much so that the whole issue has become questionable.
There is also a third ambiguous result: the great stir caused by the PA's stance viz-a-viz the Goldstone issue has been associated with a similar row over the Egyptian reconciliation document and whether or not it should be signed. Reconciliation has therefore been profoundly shaken. Hamas sought to improve it by adding new paragraphs to the document such as the right to armed resistance, adhering to Palestinian national rights and invariables that no Palestinian party has the right to abandon. The Ramallah PA has tried to regain the initiative by waring they would call for the Legislative Council's elections to be held in January 2010 in the West Bank alone if Hamas delays signing the Palestinian reconciliation deal.
Perhaps this orientation by President Mahmud Abbas is the most dangerous given the strong suspicion of what started to be described as 'the West Bank apparatus' and the 'political solution in the West Bank', which makes Palestinian unity invalid and confined to a small geographic area.
It is in this entire context that people interacted with the Goldstone issue inside Israel. The following are extracts from the Israeli media on the course of this interaction and Israel's greatest fear of the report with an emphasis on some primary consequences of the crisis.
On 15 January and under the title of "The Goldas (plural of Goldstone) War', Israeli reporter Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz an article on critics of the Goldstone report saying that "Operation Cast Lead did not weaken Hamas, as Shavit states deceptively, it strengthened it. The temporary stability attained in its wake could have been achieved by a cease-fire agreement, without the terrible bloodshed."
"But the hearts of the Goldas are hard when it comes to agreements. They want blood, fire and billowing smoke, preferably from white phosphorus bombs."
"And who is it that is damaging the imaginary achievements of Cast Lead? The Goldas, of course. He is only an internationally esteemed judge, a courageous liberal and a fighter for human rights, a man of conscience who dared do here what he did in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia."
"There, they cheered him, while here; they accuse him of causing the next war. Slobodan Milosevic could not have said it better than Shavit. The president of Serbia also did not recognize the authority of the Hague tribunal. He also had security and patriotic justifications, and he also blamed the Goldstoners for everything. But the Goldas are the real patriots, and the Goldstone spirit reflects Jewish history better than the Golda spirit."
"The Goldas recognize the Jewish tragedy, and precisely because of it they believe Israel is committed to moral conduct. It is not Israel they want to isolate, denounce and undermine, but rather its path and its policy, which are leading it to the abyss."
"Cast Lead is what is bringing down Israel's standing, not the reports written in its wake. Those are intended to prevent another Cast Lead, of the kind that the Goldas monstrously characterize as creating "an infrastructure of stability."
"Nearly 1,400 were killed and tens of thousands were maimed and left homeless for an "infrastructure of stability," which is neither an infrastructure nor stable."
"To the Goldas we say: Every shell that lands on a house in Gaza causes more damage than any report. Those who have isolated Israel are the government, the Israel Defense Forces and their demagogic cheerleaders."
"Yes, we Goldas want a different Israel. One where war is its last option, one that puts an end to the occupation that wants to be a source of pride to its citizens and not of terrible shame. If only there were more Goldstoners here and less Goldas, it could be possible."
"Those who are to blame for everything have been found: the "Goldstoners." Not the occupation, the settlements, Israeli aggressiveness or brutality; just Goldstone". They say: "the spirit of Judge Richard Goldstone will bring the next war upon us, and it will be called the Goldstone War"
Levy responds: "Not since Golda Meir said she would never forgive the Arabs for making us kill their children have such self-righteous, infuriating and damaging statements been made".
The writer reiterates: "The Goldas are doing everything possible to avoid a peace agreement. They whine and self-victimize. Saying that "Israel is incessantly subjected to terror attacks,"
"They also ignore the siege on Gaza, the Goldas, as if that were not the main motive for the Qassams. According to Levy, the Goldas say: "To prevent the region's deterioration into complete chaos, Israel must exercise force once every few years," they are, willfully concealing the fact that these wars are no more than maintenance wars of the occupation, wars for real estate. Yes, to maintain it one must go to war every few years."
"Levy concludes by saying: Goldstone "is only an internationally esteemed judge, a courageous liberal and a fighter for human rights, a man of conscience who dared do here what he did in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. There, they cheered him, while here, they accuse him of causing the next war"
Another columnist, Sever Plocker, wrote in Yediot Ahrenot on 15 October 2009:
"In diplomatic terms, Operation Cast Lead's implications are destructive: Our diplomatic standing had not been so lowly for years, and at the end of the day we may very well end up at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
"We can continue raising a hue and cry about the "injustice! Hypocrisy! Anti-Semitism" for however long we wish, yet the screaming won't help us. The snowball is already rolling, and it is doubtful whether anyone can stop it. I hope I'm wrong, but an international arrest warrant for some of Israel's leaders during the Gaza operation is no longer a bad dream. This may happen, as Prime Minister Netanyahu made clear in his Knesset speech."
Plocker adds: "Even if no Israeli ends up facing justice at The Hague, the Goldstone Report will remain etched in the consciousness of the intellectual elites in the West and the incited masses in the Muslim world. This indictment against Israel – among the gravest ever drafted – will hurt us for years to come. There is no erasure that can erase the mark of Cain this report left on our forehead. It is an outrageous report that constitutes a crude blood libel – but it's a fact. "
Also on 15 October 2009 political columnist Ari Shavit in his article published in Haaretz under the title "The Iceberg" wrote:
"..The Goldstone report marked the iceberg's first appearance. Turkey turning its back on Israel was the second. Attempts by European courts to try Israel Defense Forces officers were the third; the boycott of Israeli products and companies in various places round the world was the fourth; and global indifference to the nuclearization of a regional power that threatens to wipe Israel off the map is the fifth. Every week, almost every day, the iceberg peeks above the surface. And when one takes a good look over the railing of this pleasure cruise, one can see exactly what it is: The iceberg is the loss of the State of Israel's legitimacy."
The report also included another subject related to Turkey. There was an enormous amount of anger throughout Israel following Turkey's cancellation of the joint military exercises. There was even greater anger over Turkey's decision to hold joint military exercises with the Turkish army (Yediot Ahrenot, 14.10.09)
The newspaper goes on: "security circles in Israel criticized what it seems like a honeymoon between Turkey and Syria" These circles hold that the Turkish decision to hold military exercise with Syria is a mistake to be added to the previous mistake of canceling joint military drill with Israel. This decision reflects recklessness and distress more than anything else from the part of the Turkish decision makers, which makes it essential for the Israelis , especially in the security institutions, to re-evaluate the situation with regard to Turkish Israeli relations" The newspaper adds: "different views have been expressed within the security institution on how to deal with the crisis. While Defense Minister Ehud Barack tried to cool tempers, other circles within his ministry say that bowing before the Turks will not be of any use for the government in Ankara is resolved to abandon its alliance with Israel and to warm relations with Syria and Iran".
The newspaper concludes: "It came to light yesterday that Turkey has recently stopped cooperation in many sensitive areas in relation with intelligence. It also cancelled many security transactions as the Satellite one. Israel, meanwhile, cooled its security relation with Turkey because of concerns of Israeli technology being leaked to the wrong hands".
A phosphorus bomb on Gaza has turned into an international dilemma and threatened the future of different parties in the political arena, changed the status of Israel from a state priding itself on being powerful to a state whose leaders fear international prosecution and has altered relationships among regional states. The big question remains whether Arab politicians would really grasp the importance of these changes.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.