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Hebrew University
[Hebrew U, Law] Daphna Golan: For more than 42 years...soldiers have obeyed orders and made another people wretched, in "Israel opposition to Goldstone report reflects layers of denial"
[Hebrew University, Law] Daphna Golan webpage http://law.huji.ac.il/eng/merkazim.asp?cat=1022&in=625
HAARETZ
Last update - 08:17 25/11/2009    
 
 
Israel opposition to Goldstone report reflects layers of denial 
 
By Daphna Golan  
 
 
 
Many wise men, including even our president, have mobilized to explain to us why the fact-finder is warped, or small-minded, or anti-Israel, or mistaken, or just doesn't understand. But perhaps Richard Goldstone will nevertheless succeed in making a small crack in our wall of denial and thus create an opening for the establishment of commissions similar to the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions that were established in the wake of his reports on violence in South Africa.
Israeli opposition to the Goldstone report reflects multiple layers of denial, ranging from literal denial (it never happened) through denial of its significance (these weren't really war crimes) to justification (we had no alternative; what can we do when they shell Sderot nonstop?).
There is also denial of the possibility that an international commission might be able to investigate better than the Israel Defense Forces (they're anti-Semites), denial of the existence of any international law that would also be valid in Gaza (awful things always happen in wars, and our situation is unique), denial of the pictures that were seen worldwide, but not in Israel (Al Jazeera is spreading propaganda), and denial of the possibility that there is another way besides the way of war.
 
 
We are not alone. The Americans are also uninterested in the judges and human rights organizations examining what their army is doing in far-off lands. And, just as in Israel, the combination of democracy and freedom of expression, on one hand, and military control over occupied territory, on the other, strengthens the walls of denial.
Robert Bernstein, in an op-ed criticizing Human Rights Watch, complained that it is spotlighting Israel, an open, democratic state, instead of investigating what goes on in closed states.
Bernstein, who served as chairman of Human Rights Watch for many years and is also a noted publisher, is well-acquainted with the openness and liberalism of Israeli intellectuals - the peaceniks who are proud of their soldier sons even as they sign petitions against the occupation. Israel is indeed a very open society when it comes to Jews. But it also operates in besieged Gaza, which is closed off and closed in.
For more than 42 years, mothers have fled bad news and soldiers have obeyed orders and made another people wretched. This isn't happening because there is no other way, but because in the view of the generals who lead the army into unnecessary wars, there is no one to talk to, no other way, and it's better not to know.
Some 22,000 people testified before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. They painfully told their stories, asked pardon (which was granted to only a few of them) and described the terrible deeds they did - those same deeds that they had denied for years, or else insisted that those who perpetrated them were exceptions, or explained that some things are done in secret because they are necessary, but one doesn't talk about them.
The Goldstone report is not sufficient, but perhaps it will pave the way to a discussion of the present and the past, en route to a better future. If Hamas has already expressed willingness to discuss the Goldstone report, perhaps it is possible to use it as a first step on the road to truth, justice and reconciliation commissions. 


 
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