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SA Jewish Board of Deputies must condemn Israel’s actions

Often anti-Zionist and Israeli apologists when arguing about the Israel/Palestine conflict, behave like toddlers on a playground needing parental supervision. There are those who vehemently defend the actions of Israel regardless of the atrocities it commits. According to their logic Israel is protecting its “right to exist” (**rolls eyes**). This is while anti-Zionists also condone criminal actions of Hamas and see nothing wrong with it violating international law. Regardless of what the prevailing opinion is among Israeli apologists, it is the main aggressor in the Gaza conflict. The Goldstone Report in terms of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict confirms this truth.

The respected Justice Richard Goldstone in 2009 lead this UN mission on the Gaza conflict with a clear mandate “to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after”.

The belligerent Israel ordinarily refused to cooperate with the UN and shunned Justice Goldstone. Predictably, after the release of the Goldstone Report, Israel and its band of sympathisers claimed the report was biased, manipulative and unfair.

Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, then released a statement saying the Goldstone report is “a mockery on history”, that it had failed to “distinguish between the aggressor and a state exercising its right for self-defence”. We have heard this tired line many times before.

Peres accused Hamas of having fired more than 12 000 rockets and mortar shells at towns and villages “with one clear aim — to kill innocent civilians”. He, however, conveniently omits to mention the number of deaths actually caused.

Peres went on to accuse the report of “legitimising terrorist activity”. This is despite the fact that the report found both Israel and Hamas guilty of war crimes. It appears that Israel believes itself to be above international law.

Israel in this instance, as in all others, had the unconditional backing of the US. Thirty-two US senators signed a letter to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging that the US block “any punitive measures against Israel at the UN”.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, said: “The mandate was unbalanced, one-sided and unacceptable. Goldstone did seek to expand his purview to look at Hamas and others and while we note that, the weight of the report is something like 85% oriented towards very specific and harsh condemnation and conclusions related to Israel and very sort of lightly treats without great specificity Hamas terrorism and its own atrocities.”

It is unclear which mandate Rice was referring to, as the UN mandate to the Goldstone mission was not targeted at Israel, but at investigating acts committed by both sides of the conflict.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay correctly defended the report by saying: “These vehement arguments tried to shift the focus away from the soundness of the methodology and findings of the mission to plunge the debate into the quick sands of the highly partisan politics of the Middle East conflict.”

In SA, there is the disturbing tendency by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, largely represented by David Saks in public discourse, to want to defend Israel’s excesses despite overwhelming evidence supporting all allegations levelled against it. Anyone who appears to be critical of Israel’s actions is attacked, vilified and called all sorts of ridiculous names. It got even more ridiculous when it was reported that Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein had banned Justice Goldstone from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah in response to the findings of the Goldstone Report. Goldstein even refused to have an audience with Justice Goldstone and representatives of the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF).

Allister Sparks, a respected veteran journalist, had recently called on the Chief Rabbi to apologise to Justice Goldstone after an investigation by the Israeli Defence Force confirmed the veracity of “three of the most serious findings of the Goldstone Report”. Goldstein at the time of the release of the report had lambasted the respected judge and accused him of “doing great damage to the state of Israel”.

As expected David Saks, led the onslaught against Sparks with the usual nauseating denialism of Israel’s criminality in the Gaza conflict and defended its war crimes. He accused Sparks of wanting to depict Justice Goldstone “as a courageous and decent man, who braved the wrath of his community to do what was right”. Indeed, Goldstone rose above petty theatricals of organisations such as the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and SAZF as well as above their blind solidarity with the state of Israel, to discharge his UN duties with commendable impartiality.

Saks, despite available evidence, denies that Israel committed war crimes. This is like Iran’s Ahmadinejad denying the Holocaust despite available evidence. He says: “Their eventual findings went way beyond identifying a few egregious cases in which Israel’s actions violated the laws of war, instead concocting a lurid picture of a brutal rampage by an all-powerful military juggernaut against helpless and innocent civilians.”

Human Rights Watch released a report that documented Israel’s “extensive use of white phosphorus munitions” during their three week murderous campaign in Gaza. Populated areas were targeted and civilian structures, including schools and hospitals were damaged during such indiscriminate attacks.

Mikhael Mankin from Breaking the Silence also said: “The testimonies (of 30 Israeli soldiers) prove that the immoral way the war was carried out was due to the systems in place and not the individual soldier.” It is uncertain how Saks arrived at the conclusion that Israel “strived to minimise civilian casualties”, when it is abundantly clear that civilians were targets.

Amnesty International was one of the many credible organisations that endorsed the Goldstone report. “The UN Human Rights Council should endorse the report and its recommendations and request the UN Secretary-General to refer it to the UN Security Council … The UNSC and other UN bodies must now take the steps necessary to ensure that the victims receive the justice and reparation that is their due and that perpetrators don’t get away with murder,” said Donatella Rovera, who headed Amnesty International’s investigation into the conflict.

It appears that only blind Israel apologists and sympathisers choose to rather perpetuate their denialism of the reality of war crimes that the state of Israel is guilty of. These are the same people who attempt to justify the blockade of Gaza, which has resulted in a humanitarian crisis. Only heartless individuals would support such “collective punishment” on the people of Gaza, only because Hamas has an axe to grind with Israel.

It was pleasing to hear UK Prime Minister David Cameron condemn and accused Israel of turning Gaza into a “prison camp”. If Saks and the SAJBD are also concerned with the preservation of human lives, regardless of whether they are Jews or Arabs, they must join the chorus of voices against crimes committed by the state of Israel. By condemning Israel, it is by no means a tacit condonation of criminal acts perpetrated by Hamas.

It is uncertain whether Saks also infers to represent the views of the local Jewish community. I would like to believe that these views only represent the SAJBD and not the entire Jewish community. Members of the Jewish community need to distance themselves from utterances that seek to condone criminal excesses regardless of who the perpetrator is.

Response:

  • Irrational venom trumps logical argument in Middle East debate by David Saks
  • Author

    • Sentletse Diakanyo

      Sentletse Diakanyo's blogs may contain views on any subject which may upset sensitive readers. Parental guidance is strongly advised.