Sunday, February 14, 2010

Countering Burston's "Israel Needs Goldstone"

Out of all of the bloggers (on both sides of the divide) on the Huffington Post, one of my favorites has to be Bradley Burston. Not because he is particularly pro-Israel, in fact he is one of Israel's strongest critics. But because unlike practically everyone else, who has picked their side and sticks with it through hell or high water, Mr. Burston really says what he thinks. He is very critical of Israel when he thinks Israel deserves it, and he is very critical of Israel's enemies when he thinks they deserve it. The fact that he numerically publishes more columns attacking Israel than defending it is probably more of a reflection of his liberal point of view and the fact that he is Israeli.

It is his latest column on the HP that is the topic of my post today. In short, his point is that the attacks on the Goldstone Report (and Goldstone himself) are merely a reflection of denial in Israeli society: Israel doesn't want to know the truth, they would rather cloud themselves in fear and righteous indignation. And that is why they are not kowtowing to Goldstone and his report. Perhaps Mr. Burston's point can be best summed up with this paragraph:
"In our state of shock, we were unable to see that Richard Goldstone was trying to save us. And that the Goldstone Report is exactly what Israel needs. We fought him every step of the way, convincing ourselves -- just as in Gaza -- that the unfolding catastrophe was the best of the available scenarios."


I think Mr. Burston's point here is that a true and thorough look into Israel's actions during Cast Lead (and not a whitewash) is exactly what Israel needs. And I think that on this point he is probably right. Where we disagree is over Goldstone and his Report. Mr. Burston does acknowledge that the report is "deeply flawed," but that's okay because it's for a "deeply flawed country." I'm sorry, but that argument fails to convince me. Here is why.

As has been coming out over the past few weeks, with the exception of Goldstone himself, many of the people involved with collecting the report including Colonel Travers have noted anti-Israel biases. But I don't need to spend this post rehashing the Goldstone Report's flaws, Mr. Burston already acknowledges that they exist. He claims instead that Israel should just deal with the report as it stands.

Some Israeli liberals claim that the right is using the politics of fear to gain votes, basically by claiming that the world is always against them and will never give Israel a fair rap. The Goldstone Report is a very good example of this. It's more than just flawed: The whole mission was designed to entrap Israel into war crimes right from the very start. And it is something that has never occurred for any other conflict between nations. Talk about giving the right ammunition for a claim of persecution! Mr. Burston doesn't even seem to acknowledge this when he says that Israel should have "cooperated" so that they would have learned how to prevent another war like Cast Lead. This is absurd: The Goldstone Report was not about preventing wars, it never was. It was about finding war crimes and prosecuting Israel for theirs...while sweeping Hamas' under the rug.

I think what is happening here is that Mr. Burston is trying to take two major issues and bring them together: Israel is fighting Goldstone when they should be investigating themselves and finding the "truth" about Cast Lead. Mr. Burston thinks that both of these actions cannot be separated, and that the only way Israel will find the truth and gain credibility with the world is to embrace Goldstone with open arms. Israel is indeed investigating itself right now, and it turned in its findings to the UN last week. Was it a real investigation or a whitewash? I cannot say. But I don't think it would be too inaccurate to say that it would not have been done without Goldstone.

So maybe what Burston is saying is that it was the idea of Goldstone that was positive, but the implementation was where it failed. As long as Israel is willing to take a look at itself and investigate what happened in Cast Lead (and now), then who cares if they were scared into it or not? Mr. Burston seems to want the best of both worlds: It's not enough that Israel needs to investigate itself, it also needs to do so for the right reasons. Israel needs to embrace and legitimize a report designed only to destroy them and hinder their ability to defend itself, otherwise they are simply afraid of the truth and "will not heal itself" until they do.

I do think that some of the criticism of Goldstone is over the top. But I also don't think that Mr. Burston is seeing the other side of the story here. It is obvious to anyone with eyes that Goldstone's Mission came in looking for Israeli war crimes and were more than willing to distort the truth or cut corners to make that happen. Why in the name of whatever god you believe in should Israel go along with that? If the UN wanted Israel to investigate then fine. They should have strongly pressured Israel to do so. But they decided to take matters into their own hands and point the finger at Israel based on a faulty foundation. And given the UN's history toward Israel, can you blame Israel for it skepticism?

In conclusion, I think that Mr. Burston has a point, but he is being (a) dramatic and (b) unwilling to see the other side. He claims that Israel is fighting Goldstone because the truth hurts. Probably the anti-Zionist would agree. It doesn't seem to occur to him that Israel is fighting Goldstone because Goldstone was a trap set for them from the beginning. I think perhaps Mr. Burston is the one who should take another look at Goldstone, his Mission, and his Report.

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