The Goldstone Commission’s accusation that Israel intentionally targeted civilians, a charge now recanted by Judge Goldstone himself, was an absurd and anti-Jewish, much less anti-Israel, argument from the start. Those who opposed this charge rightly feel vindicated. We are in fact vindicated. The accuser has recanted. Those who supported the accuser are less than happy. They are in fact culpable for libel. Some of them are trying to nullify Goldstone’s retraction, such as MJ Rosenberg of Media Matters, whose name always seems to appear on the accusing side whenever Israel is being accused of something. Rosenberg’s recent article entitled, “Goldstone’s Edit Changes Nothing,” is precisely such an attempt.
Let’s look at some basic facts.
War is hell. People who should not die or be harmed in any way are often killed. Civilians, including children, are often in the wrong place at the wrong time or perhaps in the right place when a stray bomb strikes the wrong one.
There is no doubt that many civilians died in Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s response to the thousands of rockets that Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations launched at Israeli civilian areas. In some instances, Israeli soldiers made mistakes leading to the death of innocents. In other instances, ones that have been under investigation by Israel, soldiers may have individually acted illegally. Indictments have been filed in some cases against individual soldiers. See here and here for examples of cases in which charges have been filed recently. Those few responsible for crimes are being brought to justice because those who lead the Israeli military, those who lead the Israeli government, and those in the Israeli judiciary will not tolerate attacks on civilians or even actions that endanger them unless absolutely necessary. Such actions violate Israeli law.
There is certainly debate as to the speed of the process of justice, but considering the fact that the United States just this week decided to relocate the trial of those who are accused of playing a role in the attacks that took place on September 11, 2001, for Israel to have not settled cases from as recently as December of 2009 is hardly evidence of foot dragging.
The more fundamental problem with MJ Rosenberg’s and with Richard Goldstone’s positions is that they both initially accepted the accusation that Israel intentionally targeted civilians. Not only was and is this accusation unfounded, but it is and was based in age old Jew hatred espoused by Israel’s enemies, and not based in reality.
This accusation crossed a line from valid criticism of Israeli actions to flat out anti-Judaism. That it came to be expressed by Jews and expressed through Jews by others is symptomatic of a progressive Jewish world that no longer understands Jew hatred, being largely sheltered from it in the west, except when done in terms of “Israel” and “Israelis” in which case it somehow goes unidentified as Jew hatred even though it is done using the same language and in similar ways:
- Jews (Israelis) are warmongers,
- Jews (Israelis) do not value the lives of non-Jews,
- Jews (Israelis) do not want peace,
- Jews (Israelis) are a criminal people,
- Jews (Israelis) seek to oppress and rule,
- There is a Jewish conspiracy (Israel Lobby) preventing peace…
Those who once absurdly accused Jews of killing Christian children at this time of year in order to use their blood to make Matzah and who depicted Jews as bloodthirsty warmongers plotting harm against innocents–accusations that led to pogroms against Jewish communities and the slaughter of innocent Jews throughout history–since 1948, and even more so since 1967, seem to have substituted “Israelis” for “Jews”. That Goldstone lent his name and even leadership to this endeavor is despicable. That he has since, based upon the evidence, altered his view is frankly not redeeming.
But look for a moment at MJ Rosenberg’s comments:
Elections were coming and the Israeli government felt that their public would not tolerate a war that took more than a few soldiers’ lives. So the army would bombard targets from afar; if civilians were killed, so what?
The strategy worked. 1,400 Palestinians were killed, compared to about a dozen Israelis. That was a ratio — almost unprecedented in the history of warfare — that would not hurt any politican’s political standing. (Actually, it suggests that Gaza was not a war at all, but rather an attack by a powerful army against powerless militants and unarmed civilians.)
MJ Rosenberg’s response amounts to “Maybe they didn’t try to kill civilians intentionally, but they didn’t care if they did! They’re still bloodthirsty murderers!” This should have Rosenberg’s name blotted out from Israel, not circulated widely among its leaders. That it does not is an indication of a sickness, a self-hating, even a self-loathing. We have no excuse for our behavior. We should be dying and suffering! Sickness. Twisted thought.
I do not pull out the “self-hating” card easily. Here it is apt, not as an ad hominem attack. I am not going to bother arguing whether or not MJ Rosenberg should be considered a “Self-Hating Jew.” I’m arguing that his argument is rooted in self-hatred, or rather based in hatred of the other (Israel) from whom he has distanced himself.
To argue that Israel did not care whether or not civilians were killed is both unfounded and an example of demonization such as the worst haters of Israel or the worst enemies of the Jews of old could have put forth and have put forth. Here it comes from a Jew. What kind of Jew would say such a thing? One who believes that the Jews in the Jewish state specifically are unlike him, evil.
Does Rosenberg separate himself from the Jewish people when he makes this accusation? I think he does. I think he sees the Jews in Israel as “the other.” He hates them, thinks they are evil, and since they are Jews like him… Well, you can fill in the blank. Too many other Jews do the same.
Why not feel pride that Israel was able to defend its population against attacks by those trying to kill as many civilians as possible? Why not feel pride that the Jewish state does more, and did more during Operation Cast Lead, than any other state in the history of warfare to avoid civilian casualties? Rosenberg certainly does not. In fact, he writes as if Israel has no right to defend its citizenry against attacks:
The bottom line is that Goldstone’s edit doesn’t matter except to those who defended and still defend this indefensible war. The damage done to Israel’s reputation cannot be eradicated. But that is insignificant compared to the pain felt by all those still mourning loved ones killed in the monstrous and illegal Gaza war. So long as the concept of war crime exists, it will apply to the Gaza war of 2008-9, and nothing can change that.
MJ Rosenberg seems to believe that Hamas has a right to succeed in its attacks against Israeli civilians and that Israel has no right to defend itself against them.
One might question whether or not he may then be seen as an advocate for Israel. Just a thought.
Addendum On the “self-hating Jew” issue.
I am not saying that MJ Rosenberg is a self-hating Jew. I don’t think he hates himself. I do not think that he hates all Jews. I would not for a moment say that.
What I am saying is that separating oneself so far from other Jews that one can then employ traditional anti-Jewish canards against those Jews from whom one has separated without even realizing that they are traditional anti-Jewish canards is rooted in self-hatred or at least in hatred of one’s own people. The hatred is obvious and cannot be denied. To employ age old stereotypical anti-Jewish thoughts one must hate.
The real problem is that this kind of hatred of Jews under the name “Israelis” has become so normative and even institutionalized to the point that many Jews accept it, utilize it in political commentary, and do not even realize just how problematic their behavior is.
Criticism of Israel’s actions is one thing, demonizing Israelis (Jews) is another. One could make a legitimate pacifist argument, “All war is bad.” That is fine. One could argue that Israel should be willing to accept injuries and even deaths on its side of the border without retaliating in such a way that it kills civilians on the other side because all life is sacred and none more important than another. I think these arguments are wrong and would result in the eventual genocide of the Jewish people in Israel, but they are not rooted in self hatred or rather hatred of one’s people from whom one has distanced oneself out of hatred.
To say that Israel does not care about the deaths of innocent non-Jews is anti-Jewish, period end of statement.
Throughout the ages, groups of Jews have decided to agree with the hateful and often completely fabricated charges against their own people because they were embarrassed to be associated with the Jewish people. When charged with deicide, at this very time of year, many converted away and became among the worst haters of the Jewish people in order to prove their dissociation with them. Those were self hating Jews. The process to get that far, however, is not one step but many. It begins with separation and the thought that though they are of the same faith at origin, people with ancestry similar to theirs, that the Jews with whom they disagree are unlike them, other. Then charges that would be readily rejected may possibly be accepted.
MJ Rosenberg would immediately reject charges that he would have no problem killing innocents. I would imagine that he would immediately reject charges that anyone like him would have no problem killing innocents. Thus, in order to accept such charges of Israel, Rosenberg must distance himself from it to the point that he no longer considers them like him. That is the basis of the argument.
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