Last night, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold debated Judge Richard Goldstone on the subject of Goldstone’s UNHRC report.
Gold declared at the outset: “Let me begin by being very direct. The UN Gaza report is the most serious and vicious indictment of the State of Israel bearing the seal of the United Nations since the General Assembly adopted the ‘Zionism is racism’ resolution.”
I have been saying this daily.
Yesterday, on Twitter, in response to my denunciation of the Goldstone report, someone called me a “worm,” a creepy insult that failed to make me squirm, but which did call my attention to why I was so called: I did not “give a war crimes and human rights report a chance.”
Of course, it was clear from this response that the biologist with whom I was in contact had not read my post – given it, as he or she might say “a chance.”
The reality that proponents of the report will not acknowledge is that many people have now read it – have given it its chance – and are knowledgeable of not only the bias and prejudgment of its mandate and reporting members, but of the animus of the driving force behind the Goldstone Mission – the Organization of the Islamic Conference – and of the prejudice toward Israel of the UNHRC, which mandated the mission, and the historic prejudice (and poor human rights records, overall) of the UNHRC members voting to accept the report.
Give it a chance, to the opponents of Israel means accept it, whatever its multitude of illegitimacies and its incompetence because this is the judgment we already make against Israel and this is the report we wish to see issued and legitimized.
These supporters of the report have no arguments to make in defense of its specifics, against the many precise criticisms of its failures. They simply reaffirm. Goldstone himself, for instance, repeatedly asserts that he objected to the bias of the original mandate and requested it be changed, without once, so far, acknowledging that nonetheless, the UNHRC did not, in fact, in response to his request, change the mandate. The disingenuous scrambling to rationalize a foul and flawed process that slanders a nation is disgraceful, but it goes on.
As just one of the ongoing efforts to document the character of the Goldstone Report, The Augean Stables is now daily fisking Goldstone’s response to the original version of H. Res. 867 passed by the House this week.
The War They Want
All of this transpires against a battle of competing narratives. From Understanding the Goldstone Report
One of the frameworks in which to understand the Goldstone report and the delivery of information about the Arab-Israeli conflict is in the context of cognitive warfare and its central importance to the strategy of the “weak side” in asymmetric warfare. In asymmetrical warfare, the weak side cannot win by military means, but must turn any military activity into a cognitive victory that saps the will of the enemy to resist. The exceptional power of images combined with the profound revulsion for war and its ravages among Western nations has made us exceptionally vulnerable to the manipulations of cognitive warfare. Part of the process of responding not “in kind,” but in ways that defend and sustain our values, involves recognizing the dynamics at work and refusing to fall victim to obviously dishonest ploys.
Cognitive warfare confronts us with an epistemological dilemma. We, children of self-critical, democratic cultures, try to base our interactions with the “other” on (positive-sum) principles of generosity: “if we are nice to them, maybe they’ll be nice to us.” Cognitive warfare, on the other hand, operates from an radically different set of (zero-sum) principles: “rule or be ruled.” If one refuses to even consider the possibility that the “other” (in Goldstone’s case the Palestinians), are capable of operating from this latter world of cognitive warfare, one ends up (like Goldstone) becoming radically divorced from the actual situation, whether it be one’s view of the “facts,” or of the motives that moved the players.
This cognitive warfare has been central to Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades now and is a fundamental operation by which the conflict has been adopted into the far left, postcolonial narrative of geopolitical power relationships: varied kinds of undemocratic cultures, if they can be construed as powerless, marginalized, and oppressed are thereby, inversely, morally elevated. The process is described by Richard Landes in his analysis of Demopaths and Dupes:
Demopaths are people who use democratic language and invoke human rights only when it serves their interests, and not when it calls for self-criticism or self-restraint. Demopaths demand stringent levels of human “rights” but do not apply these basic standards for the “other” to their own behavior. The most lethal demopaths use democratic rights to destroy democracy….
Demopathic discourse mirrors that of human rights. Thus, it is often difficult to detect the difference. Because discerning demopaths means assessing motive, it requires personal judgment….
There are several attitudes that predispose individuals to becoming dupes of demopathic discourse.
1. Liberal cognitive egocentrism – most everyone wants positive-sum solutions – prohibits people from imagining such malevolence.
2. Masochistic omnipotence syndrome – it’s our fault and if we can change, things will work out – makes people particularly susceptible to the wide-ranging accusations that demopaths level at western society.
3. Human Rights Complex– human rights violations are particularly reprehensible when they come from Western cultures – opens access to demopaths to participate in public moral discussion.
4. Fear of Ridicule: When “human rights” discourse trumps all other values, demopaths can establish their positions so powerfully, that people who begin to suspect foul play are afraid to discuss the issue for fear of being ostracized as a racist….
The more radical some people get, the more they enter the boundary between dupe and demopath. For a westerner born and bred in a civil society formally committed to human rights, the border seems to lie around the issue of how revolutionary their ideology. Some dupes truly believe they are working to help the cause of human rights and civil society Other Westerners, remorselessly hostile to their own culture, welcome the violence of its enemies and hope to foster a revolutionary upheaval that will rid the world of evil Western culture These destructive revolutionaries – poisonous, “hot-house” flowers – could only grow in the protected atmosphere created by civil society. The irony is that they militate to destroy the very conditions that allow them to flourish.
Out of this narrative today comes renascent anti-Zionism. It pretends to identify the problem, to locate the source of the problem. No Zionism, no conflict. (Sound familiar?) But anti-Zionism is not – as it proponents, who shed tears, often, for the genuine suffering of Palestinians pretend – a philosophy aimed at peace. Israel will not simply go away. Anti-Zionism promotes continued conflict. After six decades of a long Arab war against Israel, anti-Zionists are not conciliators, not mediators, not humanists; they are advocates, in effect, only, of more war.
Similarly, proponents of a one-state solution, as Hussein Ibish, of the American Task Force on Palestine, says are fantasists. But of what do they fantasize? Some noble dream of the end of nations, because there will be only one, world government? Why start, of all places, in the midst of this conflict? Why not – they are further along – with Europe? Israelis do not want a one-state solution. What kind of solution is it in which one of the parties has no interest, that, in fact, strikes at the very foundation of that party’s interests? It is a denial of Israel to begin, of its originating impulse and perpetuating identity – of Zionism. The one-state solution is no “solution”; it is a mask for victory – the end of Israel. It is only anti-Zionism under palliative cover, and its promotion is a promotion, in effect, only, of more war.
Positions and Arguments Obscured
Contemporary Anti-Zionism and its dressed up sister, the one-state solution, offered as responses to the conflict, are in reality ideas that promote the continuation of the conflict. They are offered in a contemporary context among the historically ignorant and forgetful as if they are culminating notional developments from years of war. They ignore the past six decades and do no more than advance the very ideas that began the conflict with the Arab rejection of the 1948 Partition.
Much anti-Israel positioning, such as uncritical advocacy of the Goldstone Report, obscures its nature and the true beliefs behind it. Arguments will be made about the settlements. They will be made about the conditions of “occupation” or about life under either Israeli administration or military control. Religious arguments will be made. Humanitarian arguments will be made. Each of these, in a context, may be legitimate. Life for a people under any circumstances other than self-rule and self-determination is to be rejected. This is the Israeli position for Israel. But what is the context?
One context is that many parties criticizing Israel on the grounds above are actually opponents of its very existence. Any attempt to argue through the determinants of the conditions for Palestinians that provoke protest will inevitably lead to the irresolvable objection to Israel itself. Here, at the extremes, one will hear rejections of Jewish claims to historical origins on the land or to the particular nature of Jewish identity. Argument with these parties over the particulars of current conditions is a pretense at conversation.
Another context is what so many forget, overlook, ignore for a myriad of reasons. While the overall settlement policy of Israel of over thirty years now has been an error from the start, while forty plus years of varying degrees of military and civil control over another people does nothing to enhance individual humanity or a national culture, neither of these is the reason for the conflict. It was not the reason in 1948. It was not the reason in 1967, or 1973, or in Lebanon or Gaza, or Lebanon or Gaza again, after the withdrawal and dismantlng of the settlements there, or during the Intifadas or the decades-long waves of terroristic murders of Israelis or, wherever they might be found – in Buenos Aires or on a cruise ship – simply, Jews.
The reason for the conflict is the refusal.
Israel agreed to the 1948 Partition, accepting far lesser borders than it won in the War of Independence. It made peace with Egypt when Egypt was willing, and returned the captured territory. It made peace with Jordan when Jordan was ready. Ultimately, despite the years of enmity, attack, and murder, it accepted the idea of a Palestinian state. It accepted peace plans negotiated at the end of the Clinton administration. One can argue the intricacies of all of these events however one wishes; the historical record remains, whatever the difficulties and resistance, of Israeli acceptance.
The Arab nations and Palestinians rejected the Partition. The Palestinians have rejected the return of land captured in the ’67 war, in exchange for peace, for over forty years. The PLO refused to amend its anti-Israel charter, and even when it said it did, it did not. Now Hamas refuses to recognize the right of Israel to exist or do other than call for the destruction of Israel. Hamas and Hezbollah refuse to stop firing missiles into Israel unless combated in war. Iran’s president refuses to acknowledge the Holocaust.
Whatever the intricacies of negotiation, almost all experts know that what may one day be a settlement has already been very closely approached before – many, many deaths ago. I have written before that war ends when the leaderships directing it cease to see in it an opportunity for national gain and when the populations become fatigued beyond their animus toward the enemy: when the acceptance of something supersedes in importance the rejection of anything. U.N. Resolution 3379 and the Goldstone Report were both demopathic attempts at the duping of the historical record. One is in the dustbin, so too will be the other.
When it stops, the conflict will stop.