The speculation about Richard Goldstone’s repudiation of his libelous report on Israel continues, but the more important story is that the events of 2008 are being tragically repeated this week. The exchange of fire over the border in the last few days illustrates that the Jewish state’s dilemma is no different today than it was then.
Earlier this week the Palestinians decided to initiate a new wave of terror attacks, launching more than 100 missiles from Gaza into southern Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was faced with a painful dilemma. If he failed to respond decisively, especially after the deliberate targeting of a school bus with a guided anti-tank missile, then he would be rightly accused of repeating his predecessor’s worst mistakes. Ehud Olmert spent 2008 pleading with the Palestinians to accept statehood and peace while southern Israel was blasted daily with increasingly deadly rocket attacks. His “restraint” convinced Hamas that he—and his country—were weak. But by the end of 2008, after the Palestinian Authority again rejected his offer of peace, he finally launched a full scale counter-attack to silence the rockets.
We can expect the same reaction as last time to Israel’s efforts to defend itself.
Rather than understanding the Jewish state’s need to protect its citizens, the international community reinterpreted Israel’s campaign to stifle terror attacks as aggression. Hamas used civilians as human shields for both the rocket attacks and their defensive positions inside Gaza, and as a consequence, civilian casualties were inevitable. Yet Israel’s attempt to suppress the fire and root out the terrorists was labeled a war crime by Goldstone’s report to the the United Nations Human Rights Council. Indeed, even now that Goldstone has admitted the accusations against Israel were false, writers like the New York Times’s Roger Cohen still insist that attacks on Hamas were “illegal.”
Predictably, the New York Times greeted Israel’s artillery and air strikes on terrorist targets yesterday by trumpeting “Five More Palestinians Killed.” The article says that a Palestinian spokesman claimed that two of those killed were “militants” and three “civilians.” Yet we already know that such Palestinian reports are entirely unreliable. Goldstone’s compendium of falsehoods ought to have established as much by now.
But no matter how many died, there is no question that Hamas is responsible for the renewed fighting nor that Israel has the right to suppress its latest terror offensive. The biggest problem with the Goldstone report and its stubborn defenders who deceptively style themselves “human rights” advocates is that they consider any Israeli response to the attacks—any response at all—a priori illegal. For them, Hamas should be free to launch rockets and other terror attacks on Israel without fear of being held responsible for its conduct.
Once again, Israel must choose between allowing its citizens to suffer bombardment without response or to act and be falsely accused of committing war crimes. While Netanyahu is probably hoping that he can avoid a major escalation or all-out war with Hamas, he cannot permit the rulers of Gaza to get away with attacks on Israeli school buses—even if another round of unjust condemnations is the predestined sequel.
Despite the obsessive speculation about Goldstone, the most important issue isn’t what led him to recant but the circumstances that set the UN Israel-bashing machine into motion in the first place. The image that should be stick in the mind is not that of the beleaguered South African but the burning wreck of a school bus that had been hit by a Palestinian missile. As in 2008, the real question is whether terrorists should be allowed to get away with the attempted murder of Jews. So long as Israel’s answer is No! we should expect that there will be more libelous attacks on Israel—and, inevitably, more Goldstones.