Despite the worldwide condemnation of the devastation of Gaza, Israel remains unrepentant. Next to the Gazan population, the biggest loser of the war was the international human rights community.
By Jerry Haber
Three years ago, the Israel Defense Forces launched a massive attack on the Gaza Strip that reportedly left over 1400 hundred dead, thousands more wounded, and devastation of an unprecedented scale – with very little damage to the attacking army, and a handful of deaths on the Israeli side.
One cannot say that the world was silent. But one can say that the large noise effected virtually nothing.
All major human rights organizations, and the United Nations Human Rights Council, condemned both sides, but singled out the Israeli side because it had committed the greater war crimes. Israel’s response was to control the damage by attempting to control the narrative. The IDF presented itself as the most moral army in the world, admitted mistakes after it was forced to by incontrovertible evidence that it could not spin – but was largely unrepentant. After all, it had provoked the war in order to deplete Hamas’ֿ military build-up and to punish the Gazan population for allowing Hamas to rule the Gaza Strip.
At the time, Israelis said, “Baal-habayit hishtage’a” – “The Boss Went Mad.” Or, to put it in terms more friendly to Israel, “Deterrence was reestablished.”
After the Gazans, the biggest losers of Operation Cast Lead were members of the human rights community world-wide. They tried hard to defend the Gazans, or at least seek redress for the injustices committed against them. And they failed, big time.
One by one they came out with their damning reports. And one by one they were ignored. Even the famous Goldstone Report, which was considered by Prime Minister Netanyahu at the time an “existential threat” to the State of Israel, fizzled when the Palestinian Authority, in collusion with the US and Israel, buried it in Geneva.
Did the Goldstone Report accomplish anything at all? Some will argue that Israel will think twice before it attempts the next Gaza Operation, that its conduct will change. We don’t know that now, but we may have the opportunity to learn about it soon:
In Haaretz last week, the IDF Chief Lt. Gen Benny Gantz is quoted as saying that Operation Cast Lead was “an excellent” operation, and that they next round of fighting must be “swift and painful.” Of course, that may be military bluster and certainly part of the ongoing psychological warfare. But I sincerely doubt that the IDF, and certainly the current Israeli government, learned anything from the Gaza Operation except in the realm of hasbarah and post facto legal justification. And why should it? After all, it managed to conduct the massacre with virtual impunity. The dogs barked, no doubt, but the caravan proceeded as before.
I am proud to have been one of the barking dogs. Most Israelis of the liberal Zionist variety were silent, or whimpered a bit. Among the whimperers were those who criticized roundly the Goldstone report, yet in order to protect their liberal credentials, called for an independent investigation. Did they mean what they said then, or was it just lip-service? It is now three years since the Gaza Operation and there was no independent investigation, nor will there be. Will those liberal Zionists who call themselves “leftwing” join together and publish a public criticism of the government for not allowing such an investigation? Or have they moved on to other things?
The blood of the innocent victims of the madness cries out to them – but I doubt the public intellectuals will wish to revisit Operation Cast Lead.
Jeremiah (Jerry) Haber is the nom de plume of an orthodox Jewish studies and philosophy professor, who divides his time between Israel and the US. This article was published on Jerry’s blog, The Magnes Zionist. It is reposted here with the author’s permission.