I clicked over from Jen’s link to Matthew Yglesias’s exoneration of Richard Goldstone from his apartheid past and I found, as expected, the confused thinking that is so typical of a leader of the Juicebox Mafia. People hate the Goldstone Report, he says, because it’s an evenhanded application of “international humanitarian law,” and the critics of Goldstone want nothing to do with evenhandedness:
Their point of view is that, in essence, you ought to look at a conflict, identify who the bad guys is (the Taliban rather than the U.S., Hamas rather than Israel), and focus your ire on the bad guy instead of nitpicking at the good guy’s conduct.
But then there are the pro-Israel liberals. They’re in a bind because they want to defend Israel, but Israel has become a serial human-rights offender. So they’ve created a conspiracy theory:
… a lot of these people have tried to work out a not-so-plausible alternative view in which international humanitarian law is a good thing, but Israel just so happens to continually be victimized by sundry biased and/or unsavory figures. The simple fact of the matter is that adhering to international humanitarian law makes it very difficult to wage war, which I think is a good thing but many people disagree with that.
It’s hard to overstate the grotesque distortion of the other side’s arguments here.
The problem with “international humanitarian law,” according to Goldstone critics, is not that Western armies are held accountable for their moral performance. It is that the Goldstones and Human Rights Watches of this world have built an industry dedicated to advancing the tendentious and implausible case that such armies are in constant violation of these standards, when a great deal of evidence suggests otherwise. This faction refuses to acknowledge the central problem in asymmetric conflicts: groups like Hamas have designed a military strategy that exploits the commitment of the other side to humanitarian principles. This is why Hamas embeds its military infrastructure in civilian areas and fights from civilian populations and why its combatants do not wear uniforms. The whole point is to place the Western military in a dilemma: fight and be forced to kill civilians (and reap the condemnations of the “human-rights” community), or don’t fight and lose. As Yglesias admits, he would rather that wars simply weren’t fought. This is a nice sentiment coming from someone whose major daily physical danger is crossing the street to go to a coffee shop.
And the “not so plausible” view that Israel is victimized by “biased and unsavory” activists is in fact highly plausible and thoroughly documented. Yglesias has been an aggressive defender of Human Rights Watch, but has said nothing about the blockbuster New Republic piece that came out a couple of weeks ago, documenting the prominence in the organization of anti-Israel radicals who wage a PR war on Israel under the guise of human-rights activism. And as far as the report itself is concerned, dozens of critiques of its legal reasoning and evidentiary bias have been produced, of which Yglesias is clearly ignorant. A list of them is here.
One thing that unites Goldstone’s defenders is their refusal to deal honestly with any of the careful and thorough critiques of the report. It’s easier to speak about conspiracy theories and indulge in self-delusion.