Commentary Magazine


What Marya Could Teach Goldstone

Israel has spent the past year producing voluminous rebuttals of the Goldstone report, which accused it of deliberately targeting civilians during last year’s war in Gaza. But nothing better illustrates the inanity of this accusation than a single report in last week’s New York Times.

The report describes a friendship between two eight-year-olds who have spent long months together in Jerusalem’s Alyn Hospital for children with severe disabilities. Orel is an Israeli Jew severely wounded by a Hamas rocket. Marya is a Palestinian from Gaza severely wounded by an Israeli missile. Seemingly, complete symmetry — a point the report underscores with its concluding quote from Orel’s mother: “Do we need to suffer in order to learn that there is no difference between Jews and Arabs?”

But despite the Times’ efforts, the symmetry breaks down as Marya’s story proceeds. She was wounded three years ago, when a missile targeting a Hamas terrorist hit her family’s car instead. Her mother, grandmother, and older brother were killed; she was paralyzed from the neck down.

The Israeli government brought her to Israel for medical care that she couldn’t receive in Gaza. It also brought her father, Hamdi Aman, to be with her, and her younger brother, Momen, so he wouldn’t be separated from his surviving parent.

When Marya’s condition stabilized, the government proposed returning her to Gaza, or else the West Bank. Aman objected, fearing his daughter’s care would suffer. The Israeli media and “a bevy of volunteers” mobilized “to fight on his behalf,” and the government “backed off.”

But actually, the story reveals, it did a bit more than just “back off.” Not only is the Israeli government still funding Marya’s care at Alyn, but it’s also paying for her to attend a bilingual Arabic-Hebrew school nearby and paying her father a stipend equivalent to the minimum wage. In short, it’s doing what it can to make amends for Marya’s unintended injury.

That’s precisely the kind of behavior one wouldn’t expect from a country that deliberately targets civilians — because if civilians are intentional targets, why should Israel feel any need to make amends by bringing the Amans to Israel, financing Marya’s medical care, and schooling and supporting her family?

And it’s also where the symmetry breaks down. There’s no mention of any comparable Hamas gesture toward Orel, not even a pro forma verbal apology. That’s because Hamas does deliberately target civilians. So it feels no remorse and no need to make amends.

Marya was wounded before the Gaza war, but other Gazans injured in that conflict were similarly treated in Israeli hospitals. Israel also set up a field hospital on the Israel-Gaza border to treat additional Gazan war victims, though due to Hamas’s intimidation, few came. Thus Israel spent its own money and risked its own doctors’ lives, in an effort to heal the very civilians it allegedly deliberately targeted.

If you’re trying to kill enemy civilians, that’s a bizarre way of achieving your goal. Perhaps Goldstone could learn something about Israel by talking to Marya.