WOODWARD: Israel: A fugitive state October 18, 2009


by Paul Woodward  -  War in Context -  16 October 2009

Do the innocent refuse to be questioned?

The Netanyahu government’s campaign to obstruct both the Goldstone inquiry and the report that it produced has been waged in the name of protecting Israel’s right of self-defense.

But Israel’s defenses are actually far weaker than the Goldstone critics care to admit: Israel is so vulnerable that it cannot withstand critical scrutiny or self-examination.

Gone are the days when an Israeli defense minister could be found by Israelis to “bear personal responsibility” for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians, as the Kahan Commission found Ariel Sharon after investigating his role in the Sabra and Shatila Massacre.

Now, Israel cannot even take the risk of conducting an independent investigation into alleged war crimes, let alone deal with the unpredictable outcome of such an investigation.

Instead, the defense of Israel now requires that all those who remain loyal to its interests and concerned about its preservation, maintain solidarity in a single mission: do everything possible to silence the Jewish state’s critics.

The underlying assumption seems to be that Israel will remain eternally an object of enmity; that the best it can hope for is that its enemies remain weak.

This is not merely the condition of a national identity; it percolates through to the outlook of individuals — an outlook that is inevitably misanthropic. It is to assume an existential orientation which regards the bulk of humanity as a harbor of ill-will.

For Israelis and many of their supporters, this situation ought to provoke a profound inquiry into the nature of antisemitism.

From where in the world does this ancient bigotry now draw most of its life?

In a pandemic of anti-Israel hostility?

Or might it find its most vital form of traction much closer to home, inside those very minds that perceive the rest of the world as other?

Are the Goldstone critics trying to defend Israel, or are they trying to sustain the image of an embattled state too fragile to survive the corrosive impact of investigation?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s thesis is that Israel, like the Soviet Union, is destined to self-destruction. Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, seems susceptible to a similar fear.

Earlier this year, Oren wrote:

The breakdown of public morality, in my view, poses the greatest single existential threat to Israel. It is this threat that undermines Israel’s ability to cope with other threats; that saps the willingness of Israelis to fight, to govern themselves, and even to continue living within a sovereign Jewish state. It emboldens Israel’s enemies and sullies Israel’s international reputation. The fact that Israel is a world leader in drug and human trafficking, in money laundering, and in illicit weapons sales is not only unconscionable for a Jewish state, it also substantively reduces that state’s ability to survive.

Oren’s view has apparently subsequently shifted and he now seems to regard the results of the UN investigation as posing a greater threat to Israel than any other: “The Goldstone Report goes further than Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust deniers by stripping the Jews not only of the ability and the need but of the right to defend themselves.”

The ambassador might pause to consider this: A breakdown in public morality and an unwillingness to investigate alleged war crimes may in fact be intimately connected.

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