Hadas Ziv is the Director of Physicians for Human Rights Israel.
Farther right than the government
In the course of Operation Cast Lead there was a sense — in Israel as well — that irregular acts that were immoral had been committed. Upon the conclusion of the operation, demands were made in Israel and around the world to conduct an independent investigation of the events in Gaza that would investigate both Hamas’s actions and Israel’s conduct. A committee headed by Judge Goldstone was formed, which made a public request for testimony in tandem with its request to the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government in Gaza to allow it to arrive in the region.
Any reasonable person who is summoned to appear before a judge should testify to what he saw and experienced. That is the essence of giving testimony before a judge, and he is the one who is supposed to paint for himself a picture that stems from the aggregate of witnesses and testimony. The implication of the arguments presented by the Im Tirtzu non-profit organization, with the support of Ben Caspit, is that it would be better to dodge, lie and cheat only in order to defend the actions of the army, even if they were immoral.
The Israeli government would have done well had it gathered soldiers, officers and statesmen to present the Gaza Goldstone committee with the aggregate of evidence. It is reasonable to assume that the army’s testimony would have enhanced Goldstone’s ability to reach the truth. Had they bothered to testify, the weight of the testimony that we introduced would have diminished from 42% to a marginal amount. But perhaps that is precisely what troubles Ben Caspit and Im Tirtzu: the possibility that the truth about the turn of events in Gaza would have become clearer not only to Judge Goldstone but also and mainly to us.
Judge Goldstone — the man whom Caspit beholds as a “despicable liar” — not only asked but actually begged Israel to allow him to hear its testimony, opinion and interpretation of the turn of events in the course of Operation Cast Lead. Goldstone said explicitly that his report was incomplete precisely because he was not allowed to visit Israel and to hear the testimony of its statesmen and soldiers. He also says very clearly that the report gives rise to suspected war crimes but, since it is restricted in its ability to investigate, a local, independent and worthy investigation was necessary both in Gaza and in Israel.
That integrity — which Judge Goldstone paid for by becoming a persona non grata in our country—was nowhere to be found in Ben Caspit’s article. If Ben Caspit truly wanted to give “side two,” as he referred to the New Israel Fund in his report, a real opportunity to respond — why did he only provide it with a select number of pages instead of the full version of the Im Tirtzu report for it to read? If the report cites a large number of organizations and individuals, why did he not bother to ask them for their response? But far more significant is the discernment that Caspit wrote an article that was relevant three months ago. Today Israeli society, officials in the Justice Ministry and the Foreign Ministry, MKs and cabinet ministers all understand that the refusal to testify before Goldstone was a mistake. Many of them believe that had Israel provided all of the information it had and created an atmosphere of cooperation, the committee would have been more capable of investigating the truth.
The norm is to say that the media is biased in favor of the left wing. Many studies have demonstrated that not only is that not the case, but that in times of conflict or a fight with external forces, the media tends to toe the government line. Caspit’s article shows that sometimes the media even goes further to the right than the government.