israel, the UN, and the gaza war
Richard Goldstone, the chief UN investigator, has predictably found that Israel (as well as Hamas) was guilty of significant atrocities in the last Gaza War. Predictably, not because Goldstone is biased or incompetent, as some have claimed, but rather because of institutional realities. Special prosecutors (investigators) nearly always find wrongdoing, if only to justify their existence: that Goldstone was working for the UN, and spoke primarily to Palestinian sources, pretty much guaranteed the rest. Israel is equally predictably attacking the report, with some Israelis and American supporters making the dubious claim that Goldstone is anti-Israel or a "self-hating Jew," whatever that might mean.
Having watched Israeli news coverage of the war, I have long believed that there was a disproportionate use of force by at least some Israeli commanders, and said so at the time. Still, it is hard to avoid a certain sympathy for the Israeli forces. Hamas having placed its launchers almost uniformly in populated areas--and having repeatedly attempted to lure the Israelis into booby-trapped civilian buildings--it would have taken a superhuman discipline for the Israelis not to have leveled the relevant targets, with whatever resulting casualties, instead. The report, which is written with the wisdom of hindsight, suggests that the commanders should have made a different tradeoff, presumably accepting (say) 10 of their own dead and wounded in order to avoid 50 or 100 dead Palestinians, depending on how the term "proportionate" is interpreted in this context. But any commander who did this would have been quickly relieved; American and British commanders in Iraq or Afghanistan have been considerably more trigger happy.
Still, these are factual points, which the Israelis would be able and willing to make if they conduct their own investigation, or (failing that) if they prepare a serious, point-by-point refutation of the Goldstone report. Instead, having failed to conduct a full-blown investigation, they are now compounding the propaganda defeat by making rather silly claims that Goldstone, who appears to be a Zionist and whose daughter speaks Hebrew, is somehow out to get them. A better strategy would be to present the situation that the Israeli commanders were up against and ask: would any other country, given the available options, have done differently?
Addendum: Israeli responses to the Goldstone report have been posted at the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs www.mfa.gov.il