Sunday, April 03, 2011

"Rays of Light"

Arlene Kushner

Doesn't mean we're basking in full sunshine (yet), but those rays are not to be ignored.

Please see an article I wrote last week as a retort to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said we "must" divide Jerusalem:

I've yet to see the UN shine a light on Jerusalem -- in this case the light comes from the sure knowledge that Jerusalem is indeed ours.

~~~~~~~~~~ But speaking of the UN, we have this unexpected turn of events:

Richard Goldstone, the former South African justice who chaired the UN fact-finding mission on the war in Gaza, has had a change of heart. In an opinion piece in Friday's Washington Post, "Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes," he has written:

"If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.

"The final report by the UN committee of independent experts — chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis — that followed up on the recommendations of the Goldstone Report has found that 'Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza' while 'the de facto authorities (i.e., Hamas) have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.'

"Our report found evidence of potential war crimes and 'possibly crimes against humanity' by both Israel and Hamas. That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying — its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.

"The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion...the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the UN committee’s report...indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy." (emphasis added)


Well, mazel tov! We didn't intentionally target civilians as a matter of policy, never mind that this was the conclusion of the original Goldstone Report.

I consider it nothing more than unacceptable self-serving justification, that he says his fact-finding committee had "no evidence" to draw any conclusion other than that Israel had acted with intentionality in injuring and killing civilians. Nonsense. A careful examination of the Hamas propensity for using human shields, alone, would have put matters into perspective.

Israel had refused to cooperate with Goldstone's investigation because it was understood that a bias was built in and that the mission's mandate was not objective: The charge to the mission was made by the notoriously anti-Israel UN Human Rights Council and was understood to be politically motivated.


One of the recommendations of the Report was that both parties follow up with their own investigations. This, as Goldstone acknowledged, Israel has done scrupulously. But, of course, Hamas has not moved in that direction at all.


One has to ponder whether Goldstone is being disingenuous or extremely naive as he addresses this fact:

"Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case..."

Did he really think Hamas would care what the Human Rights Council said? I fear that we are witnessing an instance of that common malady, inability to confront the true nature of radical terrorist groups.

There is a false expectation (or deliberate self-delusion) that these groups can be motivated or coerced to operate within the norms of civilized society.


And so, we stand tall, proud of the moral foundations of the IDF, which are second to none in the world. We are glad for this belated backtracking by Goldstone. But the comment of opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima), who was foreign minister when Cast Lead took place, is relevant:

"Operation Cast Lead was an important and justified operation with or without Goldstone." In other words, we know who we are and don't need Goldstone in order to feel vindicated.

Several ministers in the government have called for further action on the part of Goldstone -- from writing a new report, as it should be written, to traveling from nation to nation explaining his new position. An opinion piece in a newspaper is simply not sufficient.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said the United Nations now has to disavow the Report. (Don't hold your breath.) Similar calls have come from members of Congress and American Jewish organizations.

President Shimon Peres says Goldstone owes Israel an apology.


I particularly want to call your attention to the commentary by JPost editor David Horovitz, "Goldstone, the belated penitent."

"By alleging, unfoundedly, that we were an immoral enemy, the sanctimonious judge put all of our lives at greater risk. From him, and everyone else who rushed to demonize Israel, an apology just isn't good enough." (Emphasis added)

"How tragic, that is, that Goldstone so misplaced his moral compass in the first place as to have produced a report that has caused such irreversible damage to Israel’s good name. Tragic...most of all for our unfairly besmirched armed forces and the country they were putting their lives on the line to honorably defend against a ruthless, murderous, terrorist government in Gaza.

"The 'if I had know then what I know now' defense Goldstone invokes to try to justify his perfidy is typically flimsy, of course.

"Sanctimonious even now, Goldstone complains about Israel’s 'lack of cooperation with our investigation.' But as he knows full well, Israel could not possibly have formally cooperated with his inquiry, which had been constructed by the obsessively anti-Israel UN Human Rights Council with the precise intention of blackening Israel’s name...

"...Notwithstanding that absent formal cooperation, however, the truth about what happened in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 – the truth that Goldstone now disingenuously claims to have discovered only after he filed his malicious indictment of the IDF and of Israel – was readily available to him at the time.

"Israel did informally make the necessary information available to his committee in the shape of detailed reports on what had unfolded..."


A survey of Israeli teenagers and young adults done by Dahaf Institute and included in a book, All of the Above - Israeli Youth: Identity Paradoxes, indicates that Jewish nationalism has emerged over democracy as the most important objective for them.

A significant signpost for where we are headed, and one that I celebrate. Without a sense of who we are as a Jewish nation, we are lost. Another bright spot.


Here's a new twist from the ever-inventive Mahmoud Abbas. He will be visiting Cairo this week for the first time since Mubarak stepped down, and will be meeting with Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, head of the Higher Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces.

This visit, Khaled Abu Toameh tells us in the JPost, "comes as PA officials announced they were considering seeking 'international trusteeship' over an independent Palestinian state that is declared on the pre-1967 lines."

International trusteeship?


Abbas -- whose upcoming visit was preceded by a Fatah delegation to Egypt -- will be discussing reconciliation with Hamas while in Cairo.

There is unease about an Egyptian tilt towards Hamas: there are reports that Egyptians are considering re-opening the Rafah crossing into Gaza without having consulted the PA, and that the Egyptians have agreed to Hamas's demand that the Egyptian embassy in Gaza City be re-opened. The PA is concerned about legitimization of Hamas control over Gaza.


Here's one more instance of ostensible "balance" that in fact represents a skewed stance. In this instance, outrageously skewed:

On Friday, Netanyahu spoke with Ban Ki-moon asking that he work to stop a Gaza flotilla planned for May. He informed Ban that the flotilla was being organized, at least in part, by radical Islamists seeking to promote violence. Gaza, he said is open to all types of goods via land crossings, but "because of the attempt to smuggle weapons into Gaza by sea, Israel must act with force against the flotilla."

So here is Ban's response, via a spokesman:

"The secretary-general reiterated that there are land routes available for those wishing to send humanitarian assistance to Gaza. He stressed as well that Israel should take meaningful steps to end the closure of Gaza."

Worse than useless. But then, it's the UN.


So what "closure" of Gaza did Ban have in mind?

So many goods are coming into Gaza from Israel by land these days that there has been a reverse process, with goods leaving Gaza via the tunnels under the Philadelphi Corridor, and going into the Sinai, where need is greater.

Surely, he cannot be thinking of this.

Then was he thinking about the blockade at sea, which is designed, as our prime minister just this very moment explained, to prevent weapons smuggling?

Surely, it cannot be that the head of the UN is oblivious to Israel's need for self-defense in this respect? Or can it?


The Free Gaza Movement, which was played a primary role in the last flotilla fiasco, is involved, with several other pro-Palestinian movements, in planning this new "venture."

On its website at the end of last month, the group declared:

"We sail not just for Gaza. We sail to confront an entire apartheid regime that must be dismantled through citizen action."

It is anticipated that the flotilla -- to be called Freedom Flotilla 2 -- will include 15 ships from several countries, with thousands participating. Oh joy.

Please G-d, this time we will be properly prepared.


From the IDF spokesperson:

"Over the weekend, in a joint IDF-ISA activity, an IAF aircraft targeted a Hamas terror squad in the southern Gaza Strip, following the squad’s intentions to execute kidnappings during the upcoming Passover holiday in the Sinai Peninsula and in Israel. A hit was confirmed.

"Hamas continues to operate in every way possible in order to harm Israeli


President Shimon Peres is on his way to the US, where he is scheduled to meet with President Obama.

Before he left today, he met briefly with Jonathan's Pollard's wife Esther, at her request. Her message was emotional but to the point: She asked that Peres seek Jonathan's immediate release when meeting with Obama. "By saving Jonathan's life and bringing him home now, you will actually be saving two lives -- Jonathan's and mine."

Peres's meeting with Obama makes me vastly uncomfortable, for he is supposed to be a figurehead, not speak for the government: His left-tilting positions hardly represent those of the governing coalition. But if he can pull this off (without promising Obama the store), it would be a real coup.


We started with talk of rays of light. And I'd like to end this posting the same way. At the Shabbat lunch where I was a guest yesterday, I was talking about what a great country Israel is. We are down on ourselves too much, I declared, and don't sufficiently speak about all that is special about Israel: our resilience, our enormous humanity, and much more.

Then I returned home and picked up the JPost I hadn't read on Friday, and there was an article by editor David Horovitz -- "They tried to kill us, we won, now we're changing the world" -- that reflects the same thinking.

Horovitz has provided an interview with Saul Singer, co-author with Dan Senor of Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle.

"[Senor and] Singer set out to answer the question of how our tiny country, all but bereft of natural resources and in the midst of a constant struggle for physical survival, has nonetheless managed to outstrip every other nation on Earth in terms of hi-tech innovation.

"...There are, we hardly need reminding, unique characteristics to this country. And aspects of its geo-strategic reality, of its ability to absorb immigrants, of its need to place immense responsibility on young shoulders in the army, are central to its capacity to thrive so strikingly in the field of innovation.

"That capacity for innovation, says Singer, has gradually transformed the Israeli economy over the past three decades, but it has the potential to achieve a great deal more. It is already enabling us to genuinely serve as a 'light unto the nations,' Singer argues – saving lives, bettering the world. Tikkun olam [repair of the world] in practice.

"Among the examples Singer cites here are...that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’s life was saved after she was shot in Arizona in January because the emergency medical team applied a revolutionary elasticized bandage, developed in Israel, that creates pressure to quickly staunch head wounds.

"We now need to more deeply internalize that potential ourselves, Singer says, maintain our cutting edge, and begin building deeper and wider relationships worldwide to further our positive impact.

"...Israel has the largest number of start-ups per year outside the US of any country. Not per capita. The largest number. Period. We have about 500 a year, and all of Europe has 600-700. Our 7.5 million people compared to that whole continent’s 700 million people.

"... Israel gets two-and-a-half times as much venture capital per capita as the United States and 30 times as much as Europe.

"The proportion of our GDP that goes on research and development is 4.8 percent. The OECD average is 2.5%, and the US is about the same. So Israel is far ahead in civilian R&D.

"...Israel is No.1 worldwide for patents for medical devices per capita...There are two other factors [besides number of ideas and number of smart people]: drive and the willingness to take risk. Israel has more of those qualities than other countries.

"...the main military influence is cultural. So many Israelis go through the IDF, they learn leadership skills, they learn about teamwork, improvisation, sacrifice for a larger goal – these are things you don’t learn in school or in business. It’s a kind of third stage in life.

"When people abroad characterize what’s unique about Israeli innovation, you hear the same two terms over and over: maturity and sense of purpose. And both of those come from the military experience. Sense of purpose comes, too, from the fact that Israel itself is a start-up. We all grew up on the story of the country – the determination and risk involved in building it. Every generation is maintaining that determination and readiness to take risk to further build the country in its own way.

"For this start-up generation here, it’s not just about making money and finding an exit. It’s motivated by a desire to contribute to the country – 21st-century Zionism – and to the world. This is the new form of pioneering. Our grandparents drained the swamps. This – innovation – is what we do.

"...Most everyone here is either an immigrant, the child of immigrants or the grandchild of immigrants. That, by its very nature, took determination; it reflects a willingness to take risk.

"...This is the most pro-immigrant country on Earth.


So Israel is unique. Our uniqueness has enabled us to develop at an astounding rate, even when surrounded by enemies and struggling in many respects. This is a blessing from Heaven -- we are thriving.

But we are also able to contribute to the world to a degree that is, if anything, even more astounding.

Hooray for us! And let's not forget it.



© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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