Israel's detailed response to the Goldstone report shows that the country can, in fact, respond to accusations with more than complaints of anti-Semitism and endless repetitions of the mantra that "the Israel Defense Forces is the most moral army in the world." Drawn up by the Foreign Ministry, the Justice Ministry and the IDF prosecutor's office, the document gives a wide-ranging and well-argued reply to many of the claims raised by Goldstone.Not surprising, nice to hear, and I look forward to reading the document itself, not Harel's reading of it.
The new report apparently also tells of a brigadier and a colonel who were reprimanded last year over the way they authorized the use of white phosphorous shells two days before the end of the operation. The Israelis say this proves their investigations are serious; Israel's enemies will say it's merely the tip of the iceberg. I continue to say that Israel should have a standing procedure in which wars are automatically followed by independent investigations headed by a retired Supreme Court justice, since such investigations always find something of interest. True, no other country in the world does this, but Israel can afford to be unusual. If it were automatic it wouldn't seem like caving in to external pressure. As it is, we've had such an investigation after every large military operation since 1982 and a few smaller ones, and are only stronger for it. Wiser, too.
Meanwhile, this week a small NGO called Im Tirtzu has published a 112-page report on the sources of the Goldstone Report. (Their main website is in Hebrew, here; the executive summary of their report is here, and at it you can download the entire document). Maariv had a big write up about them over the weekend, here. The thesis: a small number of Israeli NGOs contributed significantly to Goldstone's ability to castigate Israel. Most of them are funded by one foundation, the New Israel Foundation (NIF).
The investigators not only carefully read the Goldstone Report, they also followed all its footnotes. There are 1,208 of them, containing 1,377 sources. 450 of the citations are to Israeli sources. 247 of them came from various Israeli NGOs (the others were citations of the Ministry of Foreign Affair's report and so on). Of those 247, 40 were either supportive of Israel or neutral. 207 were critical of Israel, which means that close to 20% of Goldstone's case against Israel came directly from Israeli sources (and some additional ones came indirectly, when international media or NGOs quoted critical Israelis). 92%, that's 191 of the sources against Israel, came from the 16 NIF-funded NGOs.
So far, so problematic. I've been writing about some of these NGOs for quite a while; now someone has done the research and demonstrated how significant their contribution is to a stridently dishonest document which attacks Israel.
Im Tirtzu has now launched a public campaign against the NIF, which funded these particular 16 organizations to the tune of $7,805,226 between 2006-2008 (The sums for 2009 are not yet public). You can see some of the campaign here. It's based on the fact that the Hebrew word Keren serves both for horn and foundation, and shows Naomi Hazan, former Meretz MK and now president of the NIF, wearing a horn. The prestigious Knesset Committee of Foreign and Security Affairs is to discuss the issue soon.
All of this has me uncomfortable. On the one hand, supporting enemy propaganda at time of war is serious. On the other hand, no-one seems to be saying the NIF or any of these organizations has done anything illegal, and indeed everyone seems to be saying the most that can be achieved is to heap opprobrium upon them - opprobrium they've earned with the sweat of their brows or probably the wearing out of their keyboards. Then again, no amount of such opprobrium will convince them to desist - on the contrary. They will now feel doubly righteous and also persecuted, and will soon be telling the world how undemocratic a society Israel is becoming. As with most of their allegations, this is fundamentally dishonest - but like much of it, there's just enough substance there to make the allegations stick. Such a public outing, justified as it may be, is vaguely unpleasant. We're a democracy, and they're allowed to lie; we're a strong nation, and should be able to tolerate a clutch of kooks. Then again, we're at war, and they're offering succor to the enemy.
Had they only done their watchdog task in Hebrew, I'd be applauding them. But, as I've often noted, much of their activity isn't aimed at their own society, it's aimed outwards.