I was troubled by Michael W's comment in my earlier post, The Goldstone Wedgie Campaign, so I just did a quick tour of all the pro-Israel blogs I value, and some that I don't. I'm astonished to say that not a single blogger, many of whom I deeply respect, has understood the full significance of Goldstone's retraction of portions of the report which bears his name; in the final analysis, exonerating Israel of "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity" in its conduct of Operation Cast Lead, even as he reaffirmed Hamas' continuing culpability for these crimes under international law.
If I may speak to the pro-Israel blogosphere directly for a moment, and paraphrasing comments I made on many of your blogs - guys and gals, you're caught up in the minutia of parsing Goldstone's words, trying to redress this or that minor point or fact. This is all worthwhile but irrelevant; Forget history - it's for historians! Goldstone's retraction is not a gift in the legal sense - because the legal case he's now adopted was made long ago, and was ignored - but a political one. The Washington Post editorial is no less than a tremendous and unexpected development, an earthquake with considerable ramifications, but only if we - yes, we - dare to make a difference.
We need to stop playing defense all the time, crying about our sad lot and all the anti-semites who are out to get us - and they are, but so what! - hoping that the few intellectually honest souls out there in the continents we long ago lost to Arab propaganda will echo back. How is it that really quite vile and hateful anti-Israel blogs, like Richard Silverstein, Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss, are able to set and advance the anti-Israel agenda with each post, to put forward a consistent vision that ties into a "big-tent" political platform? Meanwhile, for all our best intentions, most pro-Israel blogs function as news aggregators for Jewish and Israel happenings, doing nothing but informing an audience which already largely agrees with our message? Why is it that we cannot break out into the field of policy and generate grassroots enthusiasm for a particular "big tent" pro-Israel political platform which has a real impact in the real world? Is there nothing that enough of us can all agree on?
You all follow the news and know the situation no less than I. David Horovitz made the PA's near term agenda crystal clear in his recent JPost editorial, whose essential points were carbon copied by Ethan Bronner into the recent NY Times piece. The Palestinians are aiming to force the internationalization of the conflict, to embarrass and neutralize the United States by compelling it into using its veto in the Security Council, and then leveraging that veto into a General Assembly resolution authorizing the establishment of a Palestinian state on maximalist Palestinian territorial and political demands, skirting the need for negotiating any core issues with Israel. Once Israel is found in violation of occupying the territory of a UN member state, it will be exposed to a dual campaign of international pressure and sanctions (to force it out of Palestinian territory), and Palestinian incitement, provocations and violence (to force it back in), closing the Gordian knot, and pitting the Jewish state against the international community.
Don't underestimate the force of momentum in driving events. Over the past several months, the PA has been quietly and methodically pushing through a referral of Israel to the International Criminal Court, based on the UN's adoption of the Goldstone Commission's findings. Literally days after this story with Goldstone broke, there was to be a renewed diplomatic and media push by pro-Palestinian supporters to get the subject of Israeli war crimes, and the need to punish those crimes, back in the news and on the international agenda (Mondoweiss even wrote a book in a timely support of the cause).
Referring Israel to the ICC over the Goldstone Report has been a main plank in the delegitimization and isolation campaign that the Palestinians were counting on for buttressing their General Assembly statehood resolution in September. Goldstone's retraction knocks that lever out of their hands - not entirely, but sufficiently so - which is why they're scrambling to make known, all of a sudden, that Goldstone's "personal opinions" no longer matter. Whether we concede that point to them on a silver platter by moaning that "the damage is done" is our choice. The Goldstone Commission's conclusions were never strictly legal or judicial, they were political, and Goldstone's personal withdrawal of support for those conclusions ends their political life.
If in the past, we could count on Arab incompetence to foil their best laid plans for Israel's demise, today this is no longer the case. I, for one, am trusting the Palestinians at their word, and at their remarkable success at quietly generating diplomatic breakthroughs in the recent past, under Israel's nose. Their diplomats and strategists are competent, they have political direction from European elitists and Washington insiders, and a clear platform for moving forward. In addition, we also have to consider unanticipated forced and unforced Israeli errors between now and September, like that 20 ship flotilla coming in late May.
Planning for the worst is not a terrible habit to get into. If the Palestinian strategy can be broken in September, that will pull us through the 2012 presidential elections in the US, after which the Palestinians may be facing a very different occupant in the White House, or an American President disenchanted with Palestinian unilateralism, and will be forced to either moderate their positions and begin to negotiate in good faith, or stall with ever decreasing international political support. In short, the last six months in Israel advocacy were a vacation. The next six are going to be some of the most crucial in years.
With all this dire business in mind, I propose we not discard Goldstone's unintended gift, but treat it for what it is - an opportunity to regain diplomatic momentum at a crucial time for Israel and her supporters. We don't need to leverage Goldstone's retraction to redress the past - that's for historians - we need it to make an impact in the present and future. Rolling back the EU's year old (?) adoption of the Goldstone Report, which the European Jewish Congress is now attempting, is a great effort which deserves praise and encouragement, not only because it was a historic injustice for the EU to adopt the document, but for the inertia it can build to immunize EU states to Palestinian hyperbolics and increase diplomatic cooperation with an Israel which all now know never lost its moral compass, even if its European partners did.
It's time for the pro-Israel blogging community to do more than inform; to collaborate as never before, to create a "big tent" platform, where our individual interests and concerns overlap, and which we can advance together. To this end, I have a proposal. Is it not a consensus position that Hamas is a terrorist organization which nearly daily commits "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity" against a UN member state and its civilian population? Would it not serve the cause of justice, then, that the one aspect of Goldstone's report which he did not condemn, an aspect of the report also accepted by the international community, the indictment of Hamas for obvious violations of war crimes and crimes against humanity SHOULD go forward at the UN, and be passed on to the ICC for criminal prosecution of the entire Hamas military and political leadership and bureaucracy? What is the EU or UN going to do, discredit itself by rejecting a portion of the Goldstone Report dealing with Hamas which it already accepted and adopted?
And if you say that the Arabs will ignore and oppose this, all the better. Let THEM play defense and design stalling tactics to avoid the long arm of international law. Let THEM denounce and disown the very international institutions which they now manipulate at will. Let THEM deal with the consequences of isolation and delegitimization. Let's focus on an issue and take it forward on a political level with practical consequences. Let's think strategically.
What would it do to Hamas to face international legal opprobrium, charges of war crimes, international warrants? The organization will do what the Palestinian Authority is hoping to force Israel to do - shut itself off from the outside world. How can the PA push through a resolution which establishes a Palestinian state when half the country it wishes to rule is under the control of a government indicted for war crimes? Are you starting to get the picture?
Can one blogger do it? No. What would it hurt for all of us to band together for a week and try, and push, and coral our readership, and get the attention of respectable media and friendly NGOs to take our policy platform to another level? Fine, you're all a bunch of ninny pessimists. But what would it hurt? Goldstone has given us an opening; it is our choice to use it or lose it. I welcome your comments.