It has been one year since Israel’s Cast Lead operation into Gaza. During this time, what has been largely ignored is the cause of the war and that the operation was an exercise of Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself from terror. Instead, we have witnessed a barrage of slanderous charges of “war crimes” and outrageous comparisons of Israel to apartheid South Africa and even Nazi Germany. This has played out most directly in at least three ways: The Goldstone Report, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns, and most recently the “Gaza Freedom March.”
In September 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council received the Goldstone Report, a slanderous report on Israel’s conduct during Operation Cast Lead. The “investigation” was inherently-prejudiced from its inception, with a patently biased scope of work and a panel of individuals openly hostile toward Israel. The “report” neglected to report on Hamas’ culpability, it neglected to report on Israeli efforts to protect civilians, and it ignored the implications of an asymmetric war against an army in civilian garb that stores and launches arms and takes refuge among the civilian population.
The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is a tactic to isolate and demonize the State of Israel. BDS calls are based on distortions and outright fabrications, misrepresentations of international law, and a false assertion that this activity somehow will improve the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace. The call for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions imply that international pressure can replace negotiation in good faith The proposed actions themselves, and not peace, become the central issue, making real contributions to peace more difficult to achieve. Such activities, in fact, detract from the goal of a lasting and solid peace based on co-existence and productive economic relations. BDS support to programs that promote peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians is conspicuously absent.
The Dec. 27 “Gaza Freedom” event was an attempt to enter Gaza via the Egyptian-controlled border, and to join with Palestinians to march into Israel to demand an opening of Israel’s borders with Gaza. However, the Egyptian government announced just days before delegates began arriving in Cairo that the march would not be allowed. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, national and international media sources provided a platform for the fallacious and often vicious arguments used by the protestors to attack and delegitimize the State of Israel.
The Gaza marchers falsely described a Gaza totally cut off from international aid. Since the end of the Israeli Defense Forces operation in Gaza (Jan. 18, 2009), 668,393 tons of aid and 100,645,680 liters of fuel have been delivered to Gaza — with aid delivered on a weekly basis. Humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip has increased by close to 900 percent in 2009 compared to 2008. Over 4,000 Palestinians from Gaza, together with 3,600 escorts, entered Israel for medical treatment.
The organizers of the “Gaza Freedom March” in their manifesto call for the opening of the Israeli border with Gaza. There is no mention of the reason for the border restrictions — constant attacks on innocent Israeli civilians from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip — the launching of thousands of rockets from Gaza into Israel since 2000, every single rocket constituting a war crime under international law. Also ignored is that the Hamas founding charter commits the terrorist group to the destruction of Israel, and the replacement of the Palestinian Authority with an Islamist state.
Is this context not relevant?
When Hamas was raining missiles on Sderot in Israel, did the “Freedom Marchers,” self-proclaimed adherents of non-violence, protest against Hamas? When Hamas was blowing up Israelis in cinemas, restaurants and prayer halls, where were these protestors?
An instructive sidebar was the “Gaza Freedom” marchers’ vehement protest to Egyptian authorities denying them entry into Gaza. Again, where were these same “humanitarian” protestors when the Egyptian government was imprisoning its opposition, beating bloggers, and shooting refugees from Darfur who tried to escape Sudan by crossing through Egypt?
These examples are cited not to suggest that valid criticism of Israel is unacceptable. To appreciate healthy diversity of opinions one only need look at the free-flowing and vigorous debate, in Israel, of specific Israeli policies, actions and government officials. Criticism can be constructive, but it should be grounded on facts and not on misinformation. What is unacceptable and deplorable is a refusal to adhere to the facts and, intent to damage rather than to be constructive.
Those who misrepresent both history and the current situation, those who seek to delegitimize Israel through simplification and distortion must not go unanswered. It is up to each of us to bring facts and context to bear, and to create an understanding of the complexities of the situation in the Middle East.
Donn Rubin is Vice President of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).