Unringing a Bell

Hamas Targets Civilians, and Israel Does Not

Richard Goldstone, the author of the U.N. report on Israel’s invasion of Gaza two years ago, recently repudiated the report’s central conclusion that Israel deliberately targeted civilians for attack in Operation Cast Lead. Goldstone’s statement, an op-ed in the Washington Post, also affirmed the report’s conclusion that Hamas has repeatedly and systemically targeted civilians.

Last week, a staggering 45 rockets were launched from Gaza, striking Israeli civilian targets including a school bus and a home in Ein Hashlosha, an Israeli village near the border. There were casualties, of course, including the driver and a critically injured 16-year-old passenger on the school bus. Hamas claimed responsibility for this attack, for which it employed a laser-guided anti-tank rocket. (Hamas subsequently reversed itself, denying that it deliberately targeted the school bus.)

Peter Melnick

The IDF immediately issued a statement that Israel would “not suffer the continued fire on communities around the Gaza Strip,” adding that the Israeli army would “continue to act forcefully against any attempt to hurt Israeli citizens.” Indeed, within hours of the rocket attacks, IDF aircraft bombed several tunnels connecting Gaza to Egypt and to Israel, including at least one aimed at terrorist infiltration and the kidnapping of Israelis.

Goldstone’s timely retraction requires more than a reappraisal of Israel’s conduct in Cast Lead. It also informs our reading of current events: Hamas deliberately targets civilians, and Israel does not. It is likely that there will be more rocket attacks from Hamas in the days to come, targeting Israel’s civilian population, and doubtless Israel will respond to defend its national security. It may even be, as suggested by an opinion piece in Ha’aretz, that the region is barreling toward Cast Lead II, a second Gaza war.

For two years the Goldstone Report stood, a harsh judgment against Israel, delegitimizing Israel’s right to defend its population against terrorist attacks. Goldstone’s public retraction cannot un-ring that bell. One hopes that those who are quick to criticize Israel, including our own Rep. Lois Capps, will want to review their own positions in light of Goldstone’s recent statement.

The real impact of last week’s events remains to be seen, but it would be tragic if these latest acts of terror created further impediments to dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. As an American Jew and someone who loves Israel, I strongly support Israel’s right to protect and defend itself against terror. Equally, I hope that Israel’s leaders react with a renewed sense of urgency about the need for peace-making. As the late Yitzhak Rabin famously stated, Israel must negotiate for peace “as if there were no terrorism, and fight the terrorists as if there were no negotiations.”

Peter Melnick is chair of the Israel Committee of Santa Barbara, president of the Community Shul of Montecito and Santa Barbara, and a composer of musical scores for film and theater.

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