Friday, October 24, 2014

Finkelstein. “This time we went too far”. Truth and consequences of the Gaza invasion. OR Books. 2010.

  First published by OR Books, New York, 2010
Paperback published 2011

Copyright Norman G. Finkelstein

Paperback ISBN 978-1-935928-43-0
ebook ISBN 978-1-935928-44-7

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
A CIP Record is available for this book from the Library of Congress

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A CIP Record is available for this book from the British Library

Printed by Book Mobile in the United States of America

Printed in the United Kingdom by CPI Books Ltd

To Carl and Noam,
for being there

1/ Self-Defense
2/ Their Fear, and Ours
3/ Whitewash
4/ Of Human Shields and Hasbara
5/ Inside Gaza
6/ Ever Fewer Hosannas
7/ Goldstone
Epilogue: After the Mavi Marmara
Appendix 1
Appendix 2

Colin Robinson was instrumental in the book’s conception and Maren Hackmann in its execution. Cyrus Veeser lent his golden touch during the final stage of editing. I am grateful for the Biosocial Research Foundation’s support, and for the assistance of Rudolph Baldeo, Anna Baltzer, Regan Boychuk, Noam Chomsky, John Dugard, Mirene Ghossein, Asma Ishak, Mike Levy, Darryl Li, Sanjeev Mahajan, Frank Menetrez, Allan Nairn, Mouin Rabbani, Sara Roy, Feroze Sidhwa, Jamie Stern-Weiner, and Eugenia Tsao. I also greatly benefited from references forwarded to me by correspondents.

It’s not that you’re out to carry out a massacre, but ...
Israeli commander briefing soldiers on eve of Gaza invasion (1)

Alongside many others I have devoted much of my adult life to the achievement of a just peace between Israel and Palestine. It cannot be said that Palestinians living under occupation have derived much benefit from these efforts. The Israeli juggernaut proved unstoppable. The changes that have occurred have only been for the worse. Under the guise of what is called the “peace process” Israel has effectively annexed wide swaths of the West Bank and shredded the social fabric of Palestinian life there and in the Gaza Strip.
It would nonetheless be unduly pessimistic to say that no progress has been made. Israel can no longer count on reflexive support for its policies. Public opinion polls not only outside but also inside Jewish communities around the world over the past decade reveal a growing unease with Israeli conduct. This shift largely stems from the fact that the public is now much better informed. Historians have dispelled many of the myths Israel propagated to justify its dispossession and displacement of Palestine’s indigenous population; human rights organizations have exposed Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians living under occupation; and a consensus has crystallized in the legal-diplomatic arena around a settlement of the conflict that upholds the basic rights of Palestinians.
The simmering discontent with Israeli conduct reached boiling point in December 2008 when Israel invaded Gaza. The merciless Israeli assault on a defenseless civilian population evoked widespread shock and disgust. Deep fissures opened up in the Jewish communities, especially among the younger generations. Many of Israel’s erstwhile supporters who did not vocally dissent chose to remain silent rather than defend the indefensible.
The first part of this book analyzes the motives behind Israel’s assault on Gaza and chronicles what Amnesty International called “22 days of death and destruction.” The least that we owe the people of Gaza is an accurate record of the suffering they endured. No one can bring back the dead or restore the shattered lives of those who survived, but we can still respect the memory of their sacrifice by preserving it intact.
This book is not just a lament, however; it also sets forth grounds for hope. The bloodletting in Gaza has roused the world’s conscience. The prospects have never been more propitious for galvanizing the public not just to mourn but also to act. We have truth on our side, and we have justice on our side. These become mighty weapons once we have learned how to wield them effectively. The challenge now is twofold: to master, and inform the public of, the unvarnished record of what happened in Gaza; and then to mobilize the public around a settlement of the conflict that all of enlightened opinion has embraced—but that Israel and the United States, standing in virtual isolation, have rejected. It is my hope that this book will help meet this challenge and, ultimately, enable everyone, Palestinian and Israeli, to live a dignified life.


Question: What do you feel is the most acceptable solution to the Palestine problem?
Mahatma Gandhi: The abandonment wholly by the Jews of terrorism and other forms of violence. (1 June 1947) (1)

On 29 November 1947 the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution dividing British-mandated Palestine into a Jewish state incorporating 56 percent of Palestine and an Arab state incorporating 44 percent of it. (2) In the ensuing war the newly born State of Israel expanded its borders to incorporate nearly 80 percent of Palestine. The only areas of Palestine not conquered comprised the West Bank, which the Kingdom of Jordan subsequently annexed, and the Gaza Strip, which came under Egypt’s administrative control. Approximately 250,000 Palestinians driven out of their homes during the 1948 war and its aftermath fled to Gaza and overwhelmed the indigenous population of some 80,000.
Today 80 percent of Gaza’s inhabitants consist of refugees from the 1948 war and their descendants, and more than half of the population is under 18 years of age. Its current 1.5 million inhabitants are squeezed into a sliver of land 25 miles long and five miles wide, making Gaza one of the most densely populated places in the world. The panhandle of the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza is bordered by Israel on the north and east, Egypt on the south, and the Mediterranean Sea on the west. In the course of its four-decade-long occupation beginning in June 1967, and prior to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s redeployment of Israeli troops from inside Gaza to its perimeter in 2005, Israel had imposed on Gaza a uniquely exploitive regime of “de-development” that, in the words of Harvard political economist Sara Roy, deprived “the native population of its most important economic resources—land, water, and labor—as well as the internal capacity and potential for developing those resources.” (3)
The road to modern Gaza’s desperate plight is paved with many previous atrocities, most long forgotten or never known outside Palestine. After the cessation of battlefield hostilities in 1949, Egypt kept a tight rein on the activity of Fedayeen (Palestinian guerrillas) in Gaza until February 1955, when Israel launched a bloody cross-border raid into Gaza killing 40 Egyptians. Israeli leaders had plotted to lure Egypt into war in order to topple President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and the Gaza raid proved the perfect provocation as armed border clashes escalated. In October 1956 Israel (in collusion with Great Britain and France) invaded the Egyptian Sinai and occupied Gaza, which it had long coveted. The prominent Israeli historian Benny Morris described what happened next:

Many Fedayeen and an estimated 4,000 Egyptian and Palestinian regulars were trapped in the Strip, identified, and rounded up by the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], GSS [General Security Service], and police. Dozens of these Fedayeen appear to have been summarily executed, without trial. Some were probably killed during two massacres by the IDF troops soon after the occupation of the Strip. On 3 November, the day Khan Yunis was conquered, IDF troops shot dead hundreds of Palestinian refugees and local inhabitants in the town. One U.N. report speaks of “some 135 local residents” and “140 refugees” killed as IDF troops moved through the town and its refugee camp “searching for people in possession of arms.”
In Rafah, which fell to the IDF on 1–2 November, Israeli troops killed between forty-eight and one hundred refugees and several local residents, and wounded another sixty-one during a massive screening operation on 12 November, in which they sought to identify former Egyptian and Palestinian soldiers and Fedayeen hiding among the local population....
Another sixty-six Palestinians, probably Fedayeen, were executed in a number of other incidents during screening operations in the Gaza Strip between 2 and 20 November....
The United Nations estimated that, all told, Israeli troops killed between 447 and 550 Arab civilians in the first three weeks of the occupation of the Strip. (4)

In March 1957 Israel was forced to withdraw from Gaza after U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower applied heavy diplomatic pressure and threatened economic sanctions.
Current conditions in Gaza result directly from the events of 1967. In the course of the June 1967 war Israel reoccupied the Gaza Strip (along with the West Bank) and has remained the occupying power ever since. Morris reported that “the overwhelming majority of West Bank and Gaza Arabs from the first hated the occupation”; that “Israel intended to stay... and its rule would not be overthrown or ended through civil disobedience and civil resistance, which were easily crushed. The only real option was armed struggle”; that “like all occupations, Israel’s was founded on brute force, repression and fear, collaboration and treachery, beatings and torture chambers, and daily intimidation, humiliation, and manipulation”; and that the occupation “was always a brutal and mortifying experience for the occupied.” (5)

From the start, Palestinians have fought back against the Israeli occupation. Gazans have put up particularly stiff unarmed and armed resistance, while Israeli repression has proven equally unremitting. In 1969 Ariel Sharon became chief of the IDF southern command and not long after embarked on a campaign to crush the resistance in Gaza. A leading American academic specialist on Gaza recalled how Sharon

placed refugee camps under twenty-four-hour curfews, during which troops conducted house-to-house searches and mustered all the men in the central square for questioning. Many men were forced to stand waist-deep in the Mediterranean Sea for hours during the searches. In addition, some twelve thousand members of families of suspected guerrillas were deported to detention camps ... in Sinai. Within a few weeks, the Israeli press began to criticize the soldiers and border police for beating people, shooting into crowds, smashing belongings in houses, and imposing extreme restrictions during curfews.... In July 1971, Sharon added the tactic of “thinning out” the refugee camps. The military uprooted more than thirteen thousand residents by the end of August. The army bulldozed wide roads through the camps and through some citrus groves, thus making it easier for mechanized units to operate and for the infantry to control the camps.... The army crackdown broke the back of the resistance. (6)

In December 1987 a traffic accident on the Gaza-Israel border that left four Palestinians dead erupted into a mass rebellion or intifada against Israeli rule throughout the occupied territories. Morris recalled, “It was not an armed rebellion but a massive, persistent campaign of civil resistance, with strikes and commercial shutdowns, accompanied by violent (though unarmed) demonstrations against the occupying forces. The stone and, occasionally, the Molotov cocktail and knife were its symbols and weapons, not guns and bombs.” However it could not be said that Israel reacted in kind. Morris continued: “Almost everything was tried: shooting to kill, shooting to injure, beatings, mass arrests, torture, trials, administrative detention, and economic sanctions”; “A large proportion of the Palestinian dead were not shot in life-threatening situations, and a great many of these were children”; “Only a small minority of [the IDF] malefactors were brought to book by the army’s legal machinery—and were almost always let off with ludicrously light sentences.” (7)
By the early 1990s Israel had successfully repressed the intifada. It subsequently entered into an agreement secretly negotiated in Oslo, Norway, with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and ratified in September 1993 on the White House lawn. Through the Oslo Accord Israel hoped to streamline the occupation by removing its troops from direct contact with Palestinians and replacing them with Palestinian subcontractors. “One of the meanings of Oslo,” former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami wrote, “was that the PLO was ... Israel’s collaborator in the task of stifling the [first] intifada and cutting short what was clearly an authentically democratic struggle for Palestinian independence.” (8) In particular Israel endeavored to reassign Palestinians the sordid work of occupation. “The idea of Oslo,” former Israeli minister Natan Sharansky observed, “was to find a strong dictator to ... keep the Palestinians under control.” (9) “The Palestinians will be better at establishing internal security than we were,” Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin informed skeptics in his ranks, “because they will allow no appeals to the Supreme Court and will prevent [groups like] the Association for Civil Rights in Israel from criticizing the conditions there.... They will rule by their own methods, freeing, and this is most important, the Israeli soldiers from having to do what they will do.” (10)
In July 2000 PLO head Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak joined U.S. President Bill Clinton at Camp David to negotiate a settlement of the conflict. The summit collapsed amid acrimonious accusations and counteraccusations. “If I were a Palestinian,” Ben-Ami, one of Israel’s chief negotiators at Camp David, later commented, “I would have rejected Camp David as well,” while a former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies concluded that the “substantial concessions” Israel demanded of Palestinians at Camp David “were not acceptable and could not be acceptable.” (11) Subsequent negotiations also failed to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough. In December 2000 Clinton presented his “parameters” for resolving the conflict, which both sides accepted with reservations. (12) In January 2001 talks resumed in Taba, Egypt. Although both parties affirmed that “significant progress had been made” and they had “never been closer to agreement,” Prime Minister Barak unilaterally “called a halt” to these negotiations, and as a result “the Israeli-Palestinian peace process had ground to an indefinite halt.” (13)
In September 2000, amid these diplomatic parleys, Palestinians in the occupied territories once again launched an open rebellion. Like the 1987 rebellion this second intifada at its inception was overwhelmingly nonviolent. However, in Ben-Ami’s words, “Israel’s disproportionate response to what had started as a popular uprising with young, unarmed men confronting Israeli soldiers armed with lethal weapons fuelled the [second] intifada beyond control and turned it into an all-out war.” (14) It is now largely forgotten that the first Hamas suicide bombing of the second intifada did not occur until five months into Israel’s relentless bloodletting. (Israeli forces fired one million rounds of ammunition in just the first few days, while ratio of Palestinians to Israelis killed during the first weeks was 20:1.) In the course of the spiraling violence triggered by its “disproportionate response,” Israel struck Gaza with particular vengeance. In a cruel reworking of Ecclesiastes, each turn of season presaged yet another Israeli attack on Gaza that left scores dead and much destroyed: “Operation Rainbow” (2004), “Operation Days of Penitence” (2004), “Operation Summer Rains” (2006), “Operation Autumn Clouds” (2006), “Operation Hot Winter” (2008). (15) In the recollection of Israeli President Shimon Peres, however, this period was “another mistake—we restrained ourselves for eight years and allowed [Gazans] to shoot thousands of rockets at us ... restraint was a mistake.” (16)
Despite the Israeli assaults, Gaza continued to roil. Already at the time of the Oslo Accord this intractability caused Israel to sour on the Strip. “If only it would just sink into the sea,” Rabin despaired. (17) In April 2004 Prime Minister Sharon announced that Israel would “disengage” from Gaza, and by September 2005 both Israeli troops and Jewish settlers had been pulled out. In an interview Sharon advisor Dov Weisglass laid out the rationale behind the disengagement: it would relieve international, especially American, pressure on Israel, thereby “freezing ... the political process. And when you freeze that process you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.” Roy observed that “with the disengagement from Gaza, the Sharon government was clearly seeking to preclude any return to political negotiations ... while preserving and deepening its hold on Palestine.” (18) Israel subsequently declared that it was no longer the occupying power in Gaza. However, human rights organizations and international institutions rejected this contention because in myriad ways Israel still preserved near-total dominance of the Strip. “Whether the Israeli army is inside Gaza or redeployed around its periphery,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) concluded, “it remains in control.” (19) Indeed, Israel’s own leading authority on international law, Yoram Dinstein, aligned himself with the “prevalent opinion” that the Israeli occupation of Gaza was not over. (20)
The received wisdom is that the Oslo Accord was a failure because it did not result in a lasting peace. But such a verdict misconstrues the objective of the accord. If Israel’s goal was, as Ben-Ami pointed out, to groom a class of Palestinian collaborators, then Oslo was largely a success for Israelis. A look at the Oslo II Accord, signed in September 1995 and spelling out in detail the mutual rights and duties of the contracting parties to the 1993 agreement, suggests what loomed largest in the minds of the Palestinian negotiators: whereas four full pages are devoted to “Passage of [Palestinian] VIPs” (the section is subdivided into “Category 1 VIPs,” “Category 2 VIPs,” “Category 3 VIPs,” and “Secondary VIPs”), less than one page—the very last—is devoted to “Release of Palestinian Prisoners and Detainees,” who numbered in the many thousands. (21)
The Oslo Accord allotted a five-year interim period allegedly for “confidence building” between the former foes. This was curious, given that when and where Israel genuinely sought peace the process moved swiftly. Thus, for decades Egypt was Israel’s prime nemesis in the Arab world, and it was Egypt that launched a surprise attack in 1973, killing thousands of Israeli soldiers. Nevertheless, only a half year elapsed between the September 1978 Camp David summit convened by U.S. President Jimmy Carter that produced the Egyptian-Israeli “Framework for Peace” and the March 1979 “Treaty of Peace” formally ending hostilities. Only three more years passed before Israel’s final evacuation from the Egyptian Sinai in April 1982. (22) There was no need for a half decade of confidence building in Egypt’s case.
In reality the purpose of the protracted interim period built into Oslo was not confidence building to facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement but collaboration building to facilitate a burden-free Israeli occupation. It was rightly supposed that, after growing accustomed to the emoluments of power and privilege, the handful of Palestinian beneficiaries would be averse to parting with them; however reluctantly, they would do the bidding of the power that meted out the largesse and “afforded them significant perquisites.” (23) The interim period also enabled Israel to test the reliability of these Palestinian subcontractors as crises periodically erupted. In fact, by the end of the Oslo “peace process” Israel could count among its many blessings that the number of Israeli troops operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was at the lowest level since the start of the first intifada. (24) The one holdout in the senior ranks of the Palestinian leadership was Arafat who, for all his opportunism, seems to have carried in him a residue of his nationalist past and would not settle for presiding over a Bantustan. Once he passed from the scene in November 2004, however, all the pieces were in place for the “Palestinian Authority” to reach a modus vivendi with Israel. Except that it was too late.
In January 2006, sickened by years of official corruption and fruitless negotiations, the Palestinians elected the Islamic movement Hamas into office. Israel immediately tightened its blockade on Gaza and the U.S. joined in. It was demanded of the newly elected government that it renounce violence and recognize Israel together with prior Israeli-Palestinian agreements. These preconditions for international engagement were unilateral: Israel wasn’t also required to renounce violence; Israel wasn’t required to withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967 and to allow for Palestinians to exercise their right to self-determination; and whereas Hamas was required to recognize prior agreements such as the Oslo Accord, which perpetuated the occupation and enabled Israel to vastly increase its illegal settlements, (25) Israel was free to eviscerate prior agreements such as the 2003 “Road Map.” (26)
In June 2007 Hamas foiled a coup attempt orchestrated by the United States in league with Israel and elements of the prior Palestinian regime and consolidated its control of Gaza. (27) Israel and the United States reacted promptly to Hamas’s rejection of U.S. President George W. Bush’s “democracy promotion” initiative by further tightening the screws on Gaza. In June 2008 Hamas and Israel entered into a ceasefire brokered by Egypt, but in November of that year Israel violated the ceasefire by carrying out a bloody border raid on Gaza akin to its February 1955 border raid. The objective once again was to provoke retaliation and thereby provide the pretext for an attack.
That border raid was only the preamble to a more sustained assault. On 27 December 2008 Israel launched “Operation Cast Lead.” (28) The first week consisted of air attacks, which were followed on 3 January 2009 by an air and ground assault. Piloting the most advanced combat aircraft in the world, the Israeli air corps flew nearly 3,000 sorties over Gaza and dropped 1,000 tons of explosives, while the Israeli army deployment comprised several brigades equipped with sophisticated intelligence-gathering systems and weaponry such as robotic and TV-aided remote controlled guns. During the attack Palestinian armed groups fired some 570 mostly rudimentary rockets and 200 mortars into Israel. On 18 January a ceasefire went into effect, but the economic strangulation of Gaza continued. In the meantime international public opinion reacted with horror at Israel’s assault on a defenseless civilian population. In September 2009 a United Nations Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission chaired by the respected jurist Richard Goldstone released a voluminous report documenting Israel’s commission of massive war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. The report also accused Hamas of committing similar crimes, but on a scale that paled by comparison. It was clear that, in the words of Israeli columnist Gideon Levy, “this time we went too far.” (29)

Israel officially justified Operation Cast Lead on the grounds of self-defense against Hamas rocket attacks. (30) Such a rationale did not however withstand even superficial scrutiny. If Israel had wanted to avert the Hamas rocket attacks, it would not have triggered them by breaking the June 2008 ceasefire with Hamas. Israel also could have opted for renewing—and then honoring—the ceasefire. Indeed, as a former Israeli intelligence officer told the International Crisis Group, “The ceasefire options on the table after the war were in place there before it.” (31) More broadly, Israel could have reached a diplomatic settlement with the Palestinian leadership that resolved the conflict and terminated armed hostilities. Insofar as the declared objective of Operation Cast Lead was to destroy the “infrastructure of terrorism,” Israel’s alibi of self-defense appeared even less credible after the invasion: overwhelmingly it targeted not Hamas strongholds but “decidedly ‘non-terrorist,’ non-Hamas” sites. (32) I will return to many of these points presently. It is useful however to first put Israel’s claim of self-defense in the wider context of its human rights record in the Occupied Palestinian Territories just prior to the invasion.
The 2008 annual report of B’Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) (33) indicated that between 1 January and 26 December 2008 Israeli security forces killed 455 Palestinians, of whom at least 175 did not take part in hostilities, while Palestinians killed 31 Israelis of whom 21 were civilians. Thus, on the eve of Israel’s so-called war of self-defense, the ratio of total Palestinians to Israelis killed was almost 15:1 and the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli noncombatants killed was a minimum of 8:1. In Gaza alone Israel killed at least 158 noncombatants in 2008 until 26 December, while seven Israeli civilians were killed due to Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza, which means the ratio was more than 22:1. (Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza killed 21 Israelis between when they began in 2001 and January 2009. In the three-year period after its 2005 redeployment to Gaza’s perimeter, the Israeli army killed about 1,250 Gazans, including 222 children, while Palestinian rocket fire killed 11 Israelis.)
Israel loudly protested because Hamas held one Israeli soldier who had been captured in June 2006, yet Israel held more than 8,000 Palestinian “political prisoners,” including 60 women and 390 children, of whom 548 were held in administrative detention without charges or trial, 42 of them for more than two years. In addition, Israel exacerbated its “sweeping restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinian residents of the West Bank”; expanded illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which together now contain nearly a half million illegal Jewish settlers; confiscated more West Bank land causing “serious harm to Palestinians ... who are no longer able to work their land and gain a livelihood from it”; “prevent[ed] any possibility of development and construction” in Palestinian communities; distributed water in a discriminatory manner (although the Palestinian population in the West Bank is nine times the illegal Jewish settler population, its total water allocation is much smaller); and continued construction of a wall that will annex almost 12 percent of the West Bank despite the July 2004 International Court of Justice advisory opinion declaring the wall illegal. (34)
As already noted, in January 2006 Hamas won Palestinian elections that were widely recognized as “completely honest and fair” (Jimmy Carter). (35) Israel and the U.S. reacted by imposing an economic blockade on Gaza. In June 2007 Hamas foiled a putsch orchestrated by the U.S., Israel, and elements of the Palestinian Authority. (36) “When Hamas preempts it,” a senior Israeli intelligence figure later scoffed, “everyone cries foul, claiming it’s a military putsch by Hamas—but who did the putsch?” (37) Although he reviled Hamas as “cruel, disgusting and filled with hatred for Israel,” an editor at Israel’s largest circulation newspaper Yediot Ahronot nonetheless observed that it “did not ‘seize control’ of Gaza. It took the action needed to enforce its authority, disarming and destroying a militia that refused to bow to its authority.” (38) After the abortive putsch Israel intensified its blockade, which “amounts to collective punishment, a serious violation of international humanitarian law.” (39)
In mid-December 2008 the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published a study entitled “The Impact of the Blockade on the Gaza Strip: A human dignity crisis.” (40) It reported that Israel’s “18-monthlong blockade has created a profound human dignity crisis, leading to a widespread erosion of livelihoods and a significant deterioration in infrastructure and essential services.” As a direct consequence of the blockade, many Gaza residents were left without electricity for up to 16 hours each day and received water only once a week for a few hours (80 percent of the water did not meet the World Health Organization standards for drinking); nearly 50 percent of the population was left unemployed, and more than 50 percent of the population was “food insecure”; 20 percent of “essential drugs” were “at zero level” and more than 20 percent of patients suffering from cancer, heart disease, and other severe conditions were unable to get permits for medical care abroad. Many Palestinians, the study concluded, “reported a growing sense of being trapped, physically, intellectually and emotionally.” To judge by the human rights record, and leaving aside that it was Israel that broke the June 2008 ceasefire, it would appear that the Palestinians had a much stronger case than Israel for resorting to armed force in self-defense at the end of December 2008.

The December 2008 invasion of Gaza would prove to be another public-relations fiasco for Israel, on the order of its disastrous Lebanon invasions of 1982 and 2006. The civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure were so massive and evident that criticism of the assault crept even into the mainstream media. What explains Israel’s willingness to prosecute an attack against a civilian population that was bound to result in negative publicity abroad?
Early speculation on the real impetus behind Israel’s attack centered on the upcoming Israeli elections, scheduled to be held on 10 February 2009. Jockeying for votes was no doubt a factor in this Sparta-like society consumed by “revenge and the thirst for blood.” (1) Polls during the invasion showed that 80–90 percent of Israeli Jews supported it. (2) But as Israeli journalist Gideon Levy pointed out on Democracy Now!, “Israel went through a very similar war ... two-and-a-half years ago [in Lebanon], when there were no elections.” (3) In fact the attack on Gaza responded to crucial state interests that Israeli leaders would not jeopardize for narrowly electoral gains. Even in recent decades, when the Israeli political scene has become more squalid, one would still be hard-pressed to name a major military campaign launched for partisan political ends. It is arguable that Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s decision to bomb the Iraqi OSIRAK reactor in 1981 was merely an electoral ploy, but the strategic stakes in the strike on Iraq were puny; contrary to widespread belief Saddam Hussein had not embarked on a nuclear weapons program prior to the bombing. (4) The main motives for the Gaza invasion were to be found not in the election cycle but, first, in the need to restore Israel’s “deterrence capacity,” and, second, in the need to counter the threat posed by a new Palestinian “peace offensive.”

Israel’s “larger concern” in Operation Cast Lead, New York Times Middle East correspondent Ethan Bronner reported, quoting Israeli sources, was to “re-establish Israeli deterrence,” because “its enemies are less afraid of it than they once were, or should be.” (5) Preserving its deterrence capacity has always loomed large in Israeli strategic doctrine. In fact it was a primary impetus behind Israel’s first strike against Egypt in June 1967 that resulted in Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. To justify the December 2008 onslaught on Gaza, Israeli historian Benny Morris wrote that “many Israelis feel that the walls ... are closing in ... much as they felt in early June 1967.” (6) (Several months later Gideon Levy mocked Israel’s incessant fear mongering as “the devil’s refuge” that “explains and justifies everything.”) (7) Ordinary Israelis were no doubt filled with foreboding in June 1967, but Israel did not face an existential threat at the time—as Morris knows (8)—and Israeli leaders were not apprehensive about the war’s outcome.
After Israel threatened and laid plans to attack Syria in May 1967, (9) Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser moved Egyptian troops into the Sinai and announced that the Straits of Tiran would be closed to Israeli shipping. (Egypt had entered into a military pact with Syria a few months earlier.) Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban emotively declared that because of the blockade Israel could only “breathe with a single lung,” but Israel actually made almost no use of the Straits (except for the passage of oil, of which it then had ample stocks). Besides, Nasser did not even enforce the blockade: vessels were passing freely through the Straits within days of his announcement. What then of the military threat posed by Egypt? Multiple U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded that the Egyptians did not intend to attack Israel and that, in the improbable case that they did, alone or in concert with other Arab countries, Israel would—in President Lyndon Johnson’s words—“whip the hell out of them.” (10) The head of the Mossad told senior American officials on 1 June 1967 that “there were no differences between the U.S. and the Israelis on the military intelligence picture or its interpretation.” (11)
The predicament for Israel was rather the growing perception in the Arab world, spurred by Nasser’s radical nationalism and climaxing in his defiant gestures in May 1967, that it would not have to follow Israeli orders. Thus, Divisional Commander Ariel Sharon admonished those in the Israeli cabinet hesitant to launch a first strike that Israel was losing its “deterrence capability... our main weapon—the fear of us.” (12) In effect, “deterrence capacity” referred not to warding off an imminent lethal blow but to keeping Arabs so intimidated that they could not even conceive of challenging Israel’s freedom to carry on as it pleased, however ruthlessly and recklessly. Assessing the regional balance of forces, key U.S. presidential aide Walt W. Rostow concurred on the imperative of “ Nasser’s being cut down to size.” (13) Israel unleashed the war on 5 June 1967, according to Israeli strategic analyst Zeev Maoz, in order “to restore the credibility of Israeli deterrence.” (14)
Hezbollah’s ejection of the Israeli occupying army from Lebanon in May 2000 posed another challenge to Israel’s deterrence capacity. The fact that Israel suffered a humiliating defeat, one celebrated throughout the Arab world, made another war well-nigh inevitable. Israel almost immediately began planning for the next round, (15) and in summer 2006 found a pretext when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers (several others were killed during the operation) and demanded in exchange the release of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. Although Israel unleashed the fury of its air force and geared up for a ground invasion, it suffered yet another ignominious defeat. A respected American military analyst, despite being partial to Israel, nonetheless concluded, “the IAF, the arm of the Israeli military that had once destroyed whole air forces in a few days, not only proved unable to stop Hezbollah rocket strikes but even to do enough damage to prevent Hezbollah’s rapid recovery”; that “once ground forces did cross into Lebanon ... , they failed to overtake Hezbollah strongholds, even those close to the border”; that “in terms of Israel’s objectives, the kidnapped Israeli soldiers were neither rescued nor released; Hezbollah’s rocket fire was never suppressed, not even its long-range fire ... ; and Israeli ground forces were badly shaken and bogged down by a well-equipped and capable foe”; and that “more troops and a massive ground invasion would indeed have produced a different outcome, but the notion that somehow that effort would have resulted in a more decisive victory over Hezbollah ... has no basis in historical example or logic.” (16)
The juxtaposition of several figures highlights the magnitude of the setback: Israel deployed 30,000 troops against 2,000 regular Hezbollah fighters and 4,000 irregular Hezbollah and non-Hezbollah fighters; Israel delivered and fired 162,000 weapons whereas Hezbollah fired 5,000 weapons (4,000 rockets and projectiles at Israel and 1,000 antitank missiles inside Lebanon). (17) Moreover, “the vast majority of the fighters who defended villages such as Ayta ash Shab, Bint Jbeil, and Maroun al-Ras were not, in fact, regular Hezbollah fighters and in some cases were not even members of Hezbollah,” and “many of Hezbollah’s best and most skilled fighters never saw action, lying in wait along the Litani River with the expectation that the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] assault would be much deeper and arrive much faster than it did.” (18) Yet another indication of Israel’s reversal of fortune was that, unlike in any of its previous Their Fear, and Ours 33 armed conflicts, in the final stages of the 2006 war it fought not in defiance of a U.N. ceasefire resolution but in the hope that a U.N. resolution would rescue it from an unwinnable situation. “Frustration with the conduct and outcome of the Second Lebanon War,” an influential Israeli think-tank reported, led Israel to “initiate a thorough internal examination ... on the order of 63 different commissions of inquiry.” (19)
After the 2006 Lebanon War Israel was itching to take on Hezbollah again but was not yet confident it would emerge victorious on the battlefield. In mid-2008 Israel desperately sought to conscript the U.S. for an attack on Iran, which it believed would also decapitate Hezbollah (the junior partner of Iran), and thereby humble the main challengers to its regional hegemony. Israel and its quasi-official emissaries such as Benny Morris threatened that if the U.S. did not go along “then nonconventional weaponry will have to be used,” and “many innocent Iranians will die.” (20) To Israel’s chagrin and humiliation, the U.S. vetoed an attack and Iran went its merry way, while the credibility of Israel’s capacity to terrorize slipped another notch. It was time to find another target, and Gaza, poorly defended as ever, fit the bill. There, the feebly armed Islamic movement Hamas had defiantly resisted Israeli diktat, crowing that in 2005 it had forced Israel to “withdraw” from Gaza, and then, in June 2008, had compelled Israel to agree to a ceasefire. If Gaza was where Israel would restore its deterrence capacity, one theater of the 2006 Lebanon War had already hinted at how it might successfully be done.
During the Lebanon War Israel flattened the southern suburb of Beirut known as the Dahiya that was home to many poor Shiite supporters of Hezbollah. In the war’s aftermath Israeli military officers began referring to the “Dahiya strategy.” “We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction,” IDF Northern Command Chief Gadi Eisenkot explained. “This isn’t a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorized.” In the event of hostilities Israel needed “to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate,” reserve Colonel Gabriel Siboni of the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies declared. “Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes.” “The next war ... will lead to the elimination of the Lebanese military, the destruction of the national infrastructure, and intense suffering among the population,” former chief of the Israeli National Security Council Giora Eiland threatened. “Serious damage to the Republic of Lebanon, the destruction of homes and infrastructure, and the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people are consequences that can influence Hezbollah’s behavior more than anything else.” (21)
It merits noting that, under international law, use of disproportionate force and targeting of civilian infrastructure constitute war crimes. Although the new strategy was to be used against all of Israel’s regional adversaries that had waxed defiant, Gaza was frequently singled out as the prime target for this approach. “Too bad it did not take hold immediately after the [2005] ‘disengagement’ from Gaza and the first rocket barrages,” a respected Israeli pundit lamented. “Had we immediately adopted the Dahiya strategy, we would have likely spared ourselves much trouble.” If and when Palestinians launched another rocket attack, Israeli Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit urged in late September 2008, “the IDF should ... decide on a neighborhood in Gaza and level it.” (22)
The operative Israeli plan for the attack on Gaza could be gleaned from authoritative statements issued after it got underway: “What we have to do is act systematically with the aim of punishing all the organizations that are firing the rockets and mortars, as well as the civilians who are enabling them to fire and hide” (reserve Major-General Amiram Levin); “After this operation there will not be one Hamas building left standing in Gaza” (Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Dan Harel); “Anything affiliated with Hamas is a legitimate target” (IDF Spokesperson Major Avital Leibowitz); “It [should be] possible to destroy Gaza, so they will understand not to mess with us.... It is a great opportunity to demolish thousands of houses of all the terrorists, so they will think twice before they launch rockets.... I hope the operation will come to an end with great achievements and with the complete destruction of terrorism and Hamas. In my opinion, they should be razed to the ground, so thousands of houses, tunnels and industries will be demolished” (Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai). The military correspondent for Israel Channel 10 News commented, “Israel isn’t trying to hide the fact that it reacts disproportionately.” (23)
In Israel the media exulted at the “shock and awe” (Maariv) of its opening air campaign, which was designed to “engender a sense of dread.” (24) Whereas Israel killed a mere 55 Lebanese during the first two days of the 2006 war, it killed as many as 300 Gazans in four minutes on the first day of the invasion. Most of the targets were located in “densely populated residential areas” while the bombardments began “at around 11:30 a.m., a busy time, when the streets were full of civilians, including school children leaving classes at the end of the morning shift and those going to school for the second shift .” (25) Several days into the slaughter an informed Israeli strategic analyst observed, “The IDF, which planned to attack buildings and sites populated by hundreds of people, did not warn them in advance to leave, but intended to kill a great many of them, and succeeded.” (26) Benny Morris praised “Israel’s highly efficient air assault on Hamas,” and an American military analyst marveled at the “masterful precision” of the assault. (27) The Israeli columnist B. Michael was less impressed by the dispatch of helicopter gunships and jet planes “over a giant prison and firing at its people” (28) —for example, on that first day Israeli aerial strikes killed or fatally injured at least 16 children while an Israeli drone-launched precision missile killed nine college students (two of them young women) “who were waiting for a U.N. bus” to take them home. (29)
As Operation Cast Lead proceeded apace, prominent Israelis dropped all pretenses that its purpose was to stop Hamas rocket fire. “Remember, [Israeli Defense Minister Ehud] Barak’s real foe is not Hamas,” a former Israeli minister told the respected conflict-resolution organization International Crisis Group. “It is the memory of 2006.” (30) Israeli philosopher Asa Kasher, despite doing his utmost to defend the Gaza invasion, nonetheless opined that “a democratic state ... cannot use human beings as mere tools to create deterrence” because “human beings are not tools to be used,” and—again—that “killing for the sake of deterrence is something akin to terrorism.” (31) Other commentators positively gloated, however, that “Gaza is to Lebanon as the second sitting for an exam is to the first—a second chance to get it right,” and that this time around Israel had “hurled [Gaza] back,” not 20 years as it promised to do in Lebanon, but “into the 1940s. Electricity is available only for a few hours a day”; that “Israel regained its deterrence capabilities” because “the war in Gaza has compensated for the shortcomings of the [2006] Second Lebanon War”; and that “there is no doubt that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is upset these days.... There will no longer be anyone in the Arab world who can claim that Israel is weak.” (32)
New York Times foreign affairs expert Thomas Friedman joined in the chorus of hallelujahs. Israel actually won the 2006 Lebanon War, according to Friedman, because it had inflicted “substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon,” thereby administering an “education” to Hezbollah: fearing the Lebanese people’s wrath, Hezbollah would “think three times next time” before defying Israel. He expressed hope that Israel was likewise “trying to ‘educate’ Hamas by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population.” To justify the targeting of Lebanese civilians and civilian infrastructure during the 2006 war Friedman asserted that Israel had no other option because “Hezbollah created a very ‘flat’ military network ... deeply embedded in the local towns and villages,” and that because “Hezbollah nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians ... to restrain Hezbollah in the future.” (33)
Let’s leave aside Friedman’s hollow coinages—what does “flat” mean? Let’s also leave aside that Friedman not only alleges that the killing of civilians was unavoidable but at the same time advocates targeting civilians as a deterrence strategy. Let’s just consider whether it is even true that Hezbollah was “embedded in,” “nested among,” and “intertwined” with the Lebanese civilian population. Here’s what the respected human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) concluded after an exhaustive investigation: “We found strong evidence that Hezbollah stored most of its rockets in bunkers and weapon storage facilities located in uninhabited fields and valleys, that in the vast majority of cases Hezbollah fighters left populated civilian areas as soon as the fighting started, and that Hezbollah fired the vast majority of its rockets from preprepared positions outside villages.” And again, “in all but a few of the cases of civilian deaths we investigated, Hezbollah fighters had not mixed with the civilian population or taken other actions to contribute to the targeting of a particular home or vehicle by Israeli forces.” Indeed, “Israel’s own firing patterns in Lebanon support the conclusion that Hezbollah fired large numbers of its rockets from tobacco fields, banana, olive and citrus groves, and more remote, unpopulated valleys.” (34)
A U.S. Army War College study based largely on interviews with Israeli soldiers who participated in the Lebanon War similarly found that “the key battlefields in the land campaign south of the Litani River were mostly devoid of civilians, and IDF participants consistently report little or no meaningful intermingling of Hezbollah fighters and noncombatants. Nor is there any systematic reporting of Hezbollah using civilians in the combat zone as shields.” On a related note, the authors report that “the great majority of Hezbollah’s fighters wore uniforms. In fact, their equipment and clothing were remarkably similar to many state militaries’—desert or green fatigues, helmets, web vests, body armor, dog tags, and rank insignia.” (35)
Friedman further asserted that, “rather than confronting Israel’s Army head-on,” Hezbollah fired rockets at Israel’s civilian population to provoke Israeli retaliatory strikes, inevitably killing Lebanese civilians and “inflaming the Arab-Muslim street.” Yet numerous studies have shown, (36) and Israeli officials themselves conceded (37) that, during its guerrilla war against the Israeli occupying army, Hezbollah only targeted Israeli civilians after Israel targeted Lebanese civilians. In the 2006 war Hezbollah began firing rockets aimed at Israeli civilian concentrations only after Israel inflicted heavy casualties on Lebanese civilians, while Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah avowed that it would target Israeli civilians “as long as the enemy undertakes its aggression without limits or red lines.” (38)
If Israel targeted the Lebanese civilian population and infrastructure during the 2006 war, it was not because it had no choice, and not because Hezbollah had provoked it, but because terrorizing Lebanese civilians appeared to be a lowcost method of “education.” This was much preferred over tangling with a real foe and suffering heavy casualties, although Hezbollah’s unexpectedly fierce resistance prevented Israel from claiming a victory on the battlefield. Still, it must be said that Israel did successfully educate the civilian Lebanese population, which is why Hezbollah was careful not to antagonize Israel during the Gaza invasion two years later. (39) Israel’s pedagogy also proved a success among the Gaza population. “It was hard to convince Gazans whose homes were demolished and family and friends killed and injured,” the International Crisis Group reported, “that this amounted to ‘victory,’” as Hamas boasted in the wake of the invasion. (40) In the case of Gaza, Israel could also lay claim to a military victory, but only because— in the words of Gideon Levy—“a large, broad army is fighting against a helpless population and a weak, ragged organization that has fled the conflict zones and is barely putting up a fight.” (41)
The justification put forth by Friedman in the pages of the New York Times amounted to apologetics for state terrorism. (42) Indeed, Israel’s evolving modus operandi for restoring its deterrence capacity describes a curve steadily regressing into barbarism. Israel won its victory in June 1967 primarily on the battlefield—albeit in a “turkey shoot” (Rostow) (43)—while in subsequent hostilities, mostly in Lebanon, it sought both to achieve a battlefield victory and to bombard the civilian population into submission. But Israel targeted Gaza to restore its deterrence capacity because it eschewed any of the risks of a conventional war; it targeted Gaza because it was largely defenseless. Israel’s resort to unalloyed terror in turn revealed its relative decline as a military power while the celebration of its military prowess during and after the Gaza invasion by the likes of Benny Morris registered the growing detachment of mainstream Israeli intellectuals, and a good share of the public as well, from reality.
A supplementary benefit of this deterrence strategy was that it restored Israel’s domestic morale. A February 2009 internal U.N. document concluded that the invasion’s “one significant achievement” was that it dispelled doubts among Israelis about “their ability and the power of the IDF to issue a blow to its enemies.... The use of ‘excessive force’... proves Israel is the landlord.... The pictures of destruction were intended more for Israeli eyes than those of Israel’s enemies, eyes starved of revenge and national pride.” (44)

Beyond restoring its deterrence capacity, Israel’s main goal in the Gaza invasion was to fend off the latest threat posed by Palestinian pragmatism. The international community, apart from Israel and the United States, has consistently supported a settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict that calls for two states based on a full Israeli withdrawal to its June 1967 borders, and a “just resolution” of the refugee question based on the right of return and compensation. (45) The United Nations General Assembly annually votes on a resolution titled “Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Palestine.” This resolution repeatedly includes these tenets for achieving a “two-State solution of Israel and Palestine”: (1) “Affirming the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”; (2) “Reaffirming the illegality of the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem”; (3) “Stresses the need for: (a) The withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem; (b) The realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily the right to self-determination and the right to their independent State”; (4) “Also stresses the need for justly resolving the problem of Palestine refugees in conformity with its resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948.” (46) Here is the recorded vote on this resolution in recent years:

1.       | Year | Vote [Yes-No-Abstained] | Negative votes cast by |
2.       | 1997 | 155-2-3 | Israel, United States |
3.       | 1998 | 154-2-3 | Israel, United States |
4.       | 1999 | 149-3-2 | Israel, United States, Marshall Islands |
5.       | 2000 | 149-2-3 | Israel, United States |
6.       | 2001 | 131-6-20 | Israel, United States, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Tuvalu |
7.       | 2002 | 160-4-3| Israel, United States, Marshall Islands, Micronesia |
8.       | 2003 |160-6-5| Israel, United States, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Uganda |
9.       | 2004 |161-7-10| Israel, United States, Australia, Grenada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau |
10.   | 2005 |156-6-9| Israel, United States, Australia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau |
11.   | 2006 | 157-7-10| Israel, United States, Australia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau |
12.   | 2007 | 161-7-5| Israel, United States, Australia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau |
13.   | 2008 | 164-7-3| Israel, United States, Australia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau |
14.   | 2009 | 164-7-4| Israel, United States, Australia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau |
15.   | 2010 | 165-7-4 | Israel, United States, Australia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau |

At the regional level the March 2002 Arab League summit in Beirut unanimously put forth a peace initiative echoing the U.N. consensus, which it has subsequently reaffirmed (most recently at the March 2009 Arab League summit in Doha), while all 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), including Iran, “adopted the Arab peace initiative to resolve the issue of Palestine and the Middle East ... and decided to use all possible means in order to explain and clarify the full implications of this initiative and win international support for its implementation.” (47) In the hands of propagandists for Israel this fact gets transmuted into “all 57 members of the OIC are virulently hostile to Israel.” (48) The Arab League initiative commits it not just to recognize Israel but also to “establish normal relations” once Israel implements the consensus terms for a comprehensive peace.
In 2002 Israel started building a physical barrier that encroached deeply into the West Bank and took a sinuous path incorporating the large settlement blocks. The U.N. General Assembly requested that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) clarify the “legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall being built by Israel.” In 2004 the ICJ rendered its landmark advisory opinion, which, in the course of ruling the wall illegal, also reiterated the juridical framework for resolving the conflict. (49) It inventoried the “rules and principles of international law which are relevant in assessing the legality of the measures taken by Israel”: (1) “No territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal”; (2) “the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967” have “no legal validity.” In its subsequent deliberations on “whether the construction of the wall has violated those rules and principles,” the ICJ found that:

Both the General Assembly and the Security Council have referred, with regard to Palestine, to the customary rule of “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”.... It is on this same basis that the [Security] Council has several times condemned the measures taken by Israel to change the status of Jerusalem.
As regards the principle of the right of peoples to self-determination, ... the existence of a “Palestinian people” is no longer in issue.
[Its] rights include the right to self-determination.... The Court concludes that the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law.

Not one of the 15 judges sitting on the ICJ registered dissent from these basic principles and findings. It can scarcely be said however that they evinced prejudice against Israel, or that it was a “kangaroo court,” as Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz alleged. (50) Several of the judges, although voting with the majority, expressed profound sympathy for Israel in their respective separate opinions. If the judges were nearly of one mind in their final determination, this consensus sprang not from collective prejudice but from the factual situation: the uncontroversial nature of the legal principles at stake and Israel’s unambiguous breach of them. Even the judge who voted against the 14-person majority condemning Israel’s construction of the wall, Thomas Buergenthal from the U.S., was at pains to stress that there was “much” in the advisory opinion “with which I agree.” On the crucial question of Israeli settlements he stated: “Paragraph 6 of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention ... does not admit for exception on grounds of military or security exigencies. It provides that ‘the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population in the territory it occupies.’ I agree that this provision applies to the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and that their existence violates Article 49, paragraph 6.”
A broad international consensus also exists upholding the Palestinian “right of return.” It has already been shown that the annual United Nations resolution, supported overwhelmingly by member States, calls for a settlement of the refugee question on the basis of resolution 194, which “resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for property of those choosing not to return.” (51) In addition, respected human rights organizations “urge Israel to recognize the right to return for those Palestinians, and their descendants, who fled from territory that is now within the State of Israel, and who have maintained appropriate links with that territory” (Human Rights Watch), and “call for Palestinians who fled or were expelled from Israel, the West Bank or Gaza Strip, along with those of their descendants who have maintained genuine links with the area, to be able to exercise their right to return” (Amnesty International). (52) It will be noticed at this point that on all of the allegedly controversial final status issues of the “peace process”—borders, settlements, East Jerusalem, refugees— in actuality a broad consensus already exists and on each of these issues Israel’s position is overwhelmingly rejected by the most representative political body in the international community as well as the most authoritative judicial body and human rights organizations in the world.
It is acknowledged on all sides that the Palestinian Authority has not only accepted the terms of the global consensus but also expressed willingness to make significant concessions going beyond it. (53) But what about Hamas, which currently governs Gaza? A recent study by a U.S. government agency concluded that Hamas “has been carefully and consciously adjusting its political program for years and has sent repeated signals that it is ready to begin a process of coexisting with Israel.” (54) Khalid Mishal, the head of Hamas’s politburo, stated in a March 2008 interview, for example, that “most Palestinian forces, including Hamas, accept a state on the 1967 borders.” (55) Even right after the Gaza invasion Mishal reiterated that “the objective remains the constitution of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, the return of the Israelis to the pre-67 borders and the right of return of our refugees.” (56) In a complementary formulation Mishal told Jimmy Carter in 2006 (and later reaffirmed in a Damascus press conference) that “Hamas agreed to accept any peace agreement negotiated between the leaders of the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] and Israel provided it is subsequently approved by Palestinians in a referendum or by a democratically elected government.” (57)
From the mid-1990s onward Hamas “rarely, if at all” adverted to its notoriously anti-Semitic charter and now “no longer cites or refers” to it. (58) Israeli officials knew full well before they attacked Gaza that despite the charter a diplomatic settlement could have been reached with Hamas. “The Hamas leadership has recognized that its ideological goal is not attainable and will not be in the foreseeable future,” former Mossad head Ephraim Levy observed. “They are ready and willing to see the establishment of a Palestinian state in the temporary borders of 1967.... They know that the moment a Palestinian state is established with their cooperation, they will be obligated to change the rules of the game: They will have to adopt a path that could lead them far from their original ideological goals.” (59)
In recent times Israelis (and influential U.S. officials) have demanded that Palestinians acquiesce not only in a two-state settlement but also in the “legitimacy of Zionism and Israel,” “Israel’s Jewishness,” and Israel being a “Jewish state.” (60) In June 2009 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu beseeched Palestinians to “recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own in this land,” and in his September 2009 appearance at the United Nations, he implored Palestinians “to finally do what they have refused to do for 62 years: Say yes to a Jewish state.” (61)
Israel’s quarrel, however, appears to be not with Palestinians but international law. The terms of the international consensus for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict do not require Palestinians’ recognition of the legitimacy of Zionism and the state of Israel. Indeed, according to a prominent scholar of the question, even Israel’s admission to the United Nations did “not confer political legitimacy... or remove the defects in the original title of Israel. The meaning of the Balfour Declaration, the validity of the Partition Plan approved in resolution 181 (II), and the moral basis of the State of Israel are still a real cause for debate,” although—the caveat is critical—“this debate does not affect Israel’s position as a State in the international community, entitled to the benefits and subject to the burdens of international law.” (62) Nonetheless, according to Netanyahu, Palestinians must recognize “Israel as the national state of the Jewish People” because “in 1947 David Ben-Gurion wrote in his diary, and I quote, ‘the state to be established will be ... a state for the Jews, for the Jewish people.’” (63) To exercise their right of self-determination must Palestinians now affirm Ben-Gurion’s diary entries?
True, the 1947 U.N. Partition Resolution divided Palestine into what it designated “independent Arab and Jewish states.” (64) However, the resolution stipulated that the prospective states must guarantee “all persons equal and non-discriminatory rights in civil, political, economic and religious matters,” and prohibited “discrimination of any kind ... on the ground of race, religion, language or sex.” (65) If Israel wants to lean on this resolution to exact Palestinian recognition of it as a Jewish state, then it would perforce also have to repeal all discriminatory legislation, which—according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel—“has existed as long as the State itself” while “this past year [2009] has seen a wave of racist statements, bills and initiatives threatening the freedom of political activity of the Arab minority” and “some of the Arab minority’s most basic rights—to equality, education and employment—as well as their very citizenship.” (66) Although Netanyahu proclaims that non-Jewish Israelis enjoy “equal rights,” (67) polls show that fully half the Israeli public believes that Israeli Jews and Arabs are not treated equally and that Israeli Arabs suffer from discrimination. (68)
Dennis Ross, the Middle East point man in the Clinton and Obama administrations, grouses that even those moderate Arab states that are “prepared to accept Israel’s existence ... deny the Zionist enterprise any moral legitimacy. For them Israel exists as a fact, not a right.” (69) Yet, it might be recalled that although Mahatma Gandhi recognized the division of India as an “accomplished fact” that he was “forced to accept,” he adamantly refused to “believe in” a distinct Muslim nationalism and India’s “artificial partition”; in fact right up to his death he held the British partition of India to be “poison” and the notion of Pakistan to be a “sin.” (70) One is hard-pressed to make out a distinction on this point between Gandhi’s stance and that of moderate Arab states—or even of Hamas, which “draws a very clear distinction between Israel’s right to exist, which it consistently denies, and the fact of its existence, and it has stated explicitly that it accepts the existence of Israel as a fait accompli,” an “existing reality,” and an “established fact.” (71) It is also hard to fathom on what legal or moral principle Israel’s “Jewishness” must be recognized or why it must be recognized as a “Jewish state” when one in four Israeli citizens is not Jewish. It seems that in order to obtain their own rights Palestinians living outside Israel’s borders are obliged to forfeit the claims to Israeli citizenship and identity of their brethren living inside Israel. Furthermore, when Israel signed peace treaties with President Anwar Sadat of Egypt in 1979 and King Hussein of Jordan in 1994 neither instrument recognized Israel’s legitimacy or Jewishness. (72) Nonetheless Netanyahu recently hailed their “brave leadership” as auspicious precedents for the “peace process.” (73) So why does he insist that Palestinian leaders validate Israel as a “Jewish state”?
It is also passing strange that Palestinians are allegedly obliged to give Israel unqualified recognition as a “Jewish state” when even former Israeli Supreme Court president Aharon Barak acknowledges that its signification remains elusive: “We still have not worked out properly the interrelationship between the Jewishness of the state and the fact that it is a state of all its citizens.” (74) According to Netanyahu, a “Jewish state” signifies that whereas non-Jewish citizens of Israel are guaranteed “civil rights,” only Jews enjoy “national rights.” (75) But if Palestinians are denied such rights, then Israel is in breach not only of the Partition Resolution (76) but also of Ben-Gurion’s own avowals to the United Nations. In 1947 he was interrogated on the meaning of a “Jewish state” by the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), the majority of which subsequently recommended partitioning Palestine. It was “simply a State where the majority of the people are Jews,” Ben-Gurion replied, “not a State where a Jew has in any way, any privilege more than anyone else ... we will fight any privilege accorded to a Jew because he is a Jew.” And again: “We cannot conceive that in a State where we are ... the majority of the country, there should be the slightest discrimination between a Jew and a non-Jew.” (77)

Let’s return now to the events leading up to the December 2008 Gaza invasion. After having rejected Hamas’s ceasefire proposals for months, Israel finally agreed to them in June 2008. (78) Hamas was “careful to maintain the ceasefire,” a semiofficial Israeli publication reported, despite Israel’s reneging on the crucial quid pro quo that it substantially lift the economic blockade of Gaza. “The lull was sporadically violated by rocket and mortar shell fire, carried out by rogue terrorist organizations,” the Israeli source continued. “At the same time, the [Hamas] movement tried to enforce the terms of the arrangement on the other terrorist organizations and to prevent them from violating it.” (79) The Islamic movement had on this occasion stood by its word, making it a credible negotiating partner. And unlike the hapless Palestinian Authority, which was doing Israel’s bidding but getting no returns, Hamas appeared to extract concessions from Israel. As a result, Hamas’s stature among Palestinians was further enhanced.
Hamas’s acceptance of the two-state settlement and the ceasefire proved a daunting challenge for Israel. It could no longer justify shunning Hamas; it would be only a matter of time before the Europeans renewed dialogue and relations with the organization. The prospect of an incoming U.S. administration negotiating with Iran and Hamas, and moving closer to the international consensus for settling the Israel-Palestine conflict, which some U.S. policymakers now advocated, (80) would have further highlighted Israel’s intransigence. Thus, in its 2008 annual assessment, the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, headquartered in Jerusalem and chaired by Dennis Ross, cautioned: “The advent of the new administration in the U.S. could be accompanied by an overall political reassessment ... the Iran issue could come to be viewed as the key to the stabilization of the Middle East, and ... a strategy seeking a comprehensive ‘regional deal’ may be devised, which would include a relatively aggressive effort to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict.” (81) In an alternative scenario, speculated on by Hezbollah’s Nasrallah, the incoming American administration planned to convene an international peace conference of “Americans, Israelis, Europeans and so-called Arab moderates” to impose a settlement. The one obstacle was “Palestinian resistance and the Hamas government in Gaza,” and “getting rid of this stumbling block is ... the true goal of the war.” (82) In either case Israel needed to provoke Hamas into resuming its attacks, and then radicalize or destroy it, thereby eliminating it as a legitimate negotiating partner or as an obstacle to a settlement on Israel’s terms.
It was not the first time Israel had confronted such a threat—an Arab League peace initiative, tentative Palestinian support for a two-state settlement, and a Palestinian ceasefire— and not the first time it had embarked on provocation and war to overcome it. “By the late 1970s,” Israeli scholars Shaul Mishal and Avraham Sela recall, “the two-state solution had won the support of the Palestinian leadership in the occupied territories as well as that of most Arab states and other members of the international community.” (83) In addition PLO leaders headquartered in Lebanon strictly adhered to a ceasefire with Israel negotiated in July 1981. (84) In August 1981 Saudi Arabia unveiled, and the Arab League subsequently approved, a peace plan based on the two-state settlement. (85)
Reacting to these developments Israel stepped up preparations in September 1981 to destroy the PLO. (86) In his analysis Their Fear, and Ours 51 of the build-up to the 1982 Lebanon War, Israeli strategic analyst Avner Yaniv reported that PLO leader Yasser Arafat was contemplating a historic compromise with the “Zionist state,” whereas “all Israeli cabinets since 1967” as well as “leading mainstream doves” opposed a Palestinian state. Fearing diplomatic pressures Israel maneuvered to sabotage the two-state settlement by eliminating the PLO as a potential negotiating partner. It conducted punitive military raids “deliberately out of proportion” against “Palestinian and Lebanese civilians” in order to weaken “PLO moderates,” strengthen the hand of Arafat’s “radical rivals,” and guarantee the PLO’s “inflexibility.”
Israel eventually had to choose between a pair of stark options: “a political move leading to a historic compromise with the PLO, or preemptive military action against it.” To fend off Arafat’s “peace offensive”— Yaniv’s telling phrase—Israel embarked on military action in June 1982. The Israeli invasion “had been preceded by more than a year of effective ceasefire with the PLO,” but after murderous Israeli provocations, the last of which left as many as 200 civilians dead (including 60 occupants of a Palestinian children’s hospital), the PLO finally retaliated, causing a single Israeli casualty. Although Israel used the PLO’s resumption of attacks on northern Israel as the broad pretext for its invasion (“Operation Peace in the Galilee”), Yaniv concluded that the “raison d’être of the entire operation” was “destroying the PLO as a political force capable of claiming a Palestinian state on the West Bank.” (87)
Fast forward to the present. In early December 2008 Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni stated that although Israel wanted to create a temporary period of calm with Hamas, an extended truce “harms the Israeli strategic goal, empowers Hamas, and gives the impression that Israel recognizes the movement.” (88) Translation: a protracted ceasefire that spotlighted Hamas’s pragmatism in word and deed and that consequently brought to bear international pressure on Israel to negotiate a diplomatic settlement would undermine Israel’s strategic goal of retaining the valuable parts of the West Bank. Israel had resolved to attack Hamas as far back as March 2007 and only acquiesced in the June 2008 truce because “the Israeli army needed time to prepare.” (89)
Once all the pieces were in place Israel needed only a pretext to abort the ceasefire. A careful study covering the period 2000–2008 demonstrated that “overwhelmingly” it was “Israel that kills first after conflict pauses.” (90) After the Gaza redeployment in late 2005 it was Israel that broke the de facto truce with Hamas that began in April 2005, and after Hamas won the 2006 elections it was Israel that persisted in its illegal practice of “targeted assassinations” despite a Hamas ceasefire. (91) Again on 4 November 2008, while the American public and media were riveted to the election-day returns, Israel broke the ceasefire by killing Palestinian militants on the spurious pretext of preempting a Hamas raid, knowing full well that it would provoke Hamas into hitting back. (92) “A ceasefire agreed in June between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza held for four-and-a-half months,” Amnesty observed in its annual report, “but broke down after Israeli forces killed six Palestinian militants in air strikes and other attacks on 4 November.” (93)
The predictable sequel to Israel’s attack was that Hamas resumed its rocket attacks—“in retaliation,” as the Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center wrote. (94) Still, Hamas was “interested in renewing the relative calm with Israel,” according to Israeli internal security chief Yuval Diskin, and Hamas would have accepted a “bargain” in which it “would halt the fire in exchange for easing of ... Israeli policies [that] have kept a choke hold on the economy of the Strip,” according to former IDF commander in Gaza Shmuel Zakai. (95) But Israel tightened yet again the illegal economic blockade of Gaza while demanding a unilateral and unconditional ceasefire by Hamas. Even before Israel intensified the blockade former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson decried its effects: Gaza’s “whole civilization has been destroyed, I’m not exaggerating.” (96) By December 2008 Israel had brought Gaza’s infrastructure “to the brink of collapse,” according to an Israeli human rights organization. (97) “Food, medicine, fuel, parts for water and sanitation systems, fertilizer, plastic sheeting, phones, paper, glue, shoes and even teacups are no longer getting through in sufficient quantities or at all,” Harvard political economist Sara Roy reported. “The breakdown of an entire society is happening in front of us, but there is little international response beyond U.N. warnings which are ignored.” (98)
If Hamas had not reacted after the 4 November killings, Israel would almost certainly have ratcheted up its provocations, just as it did in the lead-up to the 1982 war, until restraint became politically untenable for Hamas. In any event, faced with the prospect of an asphyxiating Israeli blockade even if it ceased firing rockets, forced to choose between “starvation and fighting,” (99) Hamas opted for resistance, albeit largely symbolic. “You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they’re in, and expect that Hamas will just sit around and do nothing,” the former IDF commander in Gaza observed. (100) “Our modest, home-made rockets,” Hamas leader Khalid Mishal wrote in an open letter during the invasion, “are our cry of protest to the world.” (101) But Israel could now enter a plea of self-defense to its willfully gullible Western patrons as it embarked on yet another murderous invasion to foil yet another Palestinian peace offensive. Apart from minor adaptations in the script—the bogey was not “PLO terrorism” but “Hamas terrorism,” the pretext was not shelling in the north but rocket fire in the south—the 2008 reprise stayed remarkably faithful to the 1982 original, derailing a functioning ceasefire and preempting a diplomatic settlement of the conflict. (102)

Recognizing that images of dead civilians and massive destruction in Gaza had flooded the world media during the invasion, Israel and its defenders set out to win the spin wars. Shortly after a ceasefire went into effect on 18 January 2009, Anthony H. Cordesman published a report titled The “Gaza War”: A strategic analysis. (1) Because Cordesman is an influential military analyst in academia, the political establishment, and the media, (2) and his study in effect synthesizes Israel’s makeshift rebuttals to criticism of the invasion, it merits close scrutiny. Cordesman reached the remarkable conclusion that “Israel did not violate the laws of war.” (3) His analysis was based on “briefings in Israel during and immediately after the fighting made possible by a visit sponsored by Project Interchange, and using day-to-day reporting issued by the Israeli Defense Spokesman.” (4) Cordesman omitted mention that Project Interchange is an institute of the fanatically “pro”-Israel American Jewish Committee.
Meanwhile, apart from adverse media coverage Israel had to cope with a mountain of human rights reports condemning its crimes in Gaza that began to accumulate after the ceasefire. Because of the sheer number of them, the wide array of reputable organizations issuing them, and the uniformity of their major conclusions, these reports could not easily be dismissed. (5) Although the reports made significant use of Palestinian witnesses, these testimonies also could not easily be dismissed as Hamas-inspired propaganda or tainted by Hamas intimidation because “delegates who visited Gaza during and after Operation ‘Cast Lead,’ as on many other occasions in recent years, were able to carry out their investigations unhindered and people often voiced criticisms of Hamas’s conduct, including rocket attacks.” (6)
The proliferating denunciations eventually compelled the Israeli government itself to issue a “factual and legal” defense of “the operation in Gaza.” It alleged that these human rights reports “too often” amounted to a “rush to judgment” because they were published “within a matter of hours, days or weeks” after the invasion. (7) In fact most of the reports came out months later. To be sure, Israel was not wholly dismissive of human rights reports. It did cite one that condemned Hamas suicide bombings. (8)
Rejecting the main thrust of the reports, the Israeli brief claimed that “Israel took extensive measures to comply with its obligations under international law” and that the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF’s) “mode of operation reflected the extensive training of IDF soldiers to respect the obligations imposed under international law.” (9) The critical evidence adduced in the brief consisted largely of testimonies extracted from Palestinian detainees during “interrogation.” It would surely be querulous to cast doubt on such confessions just because, according to the Goldstone Report, Palestinian detainees rounded up during the Gaza invasion were “subjected ... to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment throughout their ordeal in order to terrorize, intimidate and humiliate them. The men were made to strip, sometimes naked, at different stages of their detention. All the men were handcuffed in a most painful manner and blindfolded, increasing their sense of fear and helplessness”; “Men, women and children were held close to artillery and tank positions, where constant shelling and firing was taking place, thus not only exposing them to danger, but increasing their fear and terror. This was deliberate.” Detainees were “subjected to beatings and other physical abuse that amounts to torture”; “used as human shields”; subjected to “methods of interrogation [that] amounted not only to torture ... but also to physical and moral coercion of civilians to obtain information”; and “subjected to torture, maltreatment and foul conditions in the prisons.” (10)
Another unimpeachable source for the Israeli brief was reportage from the Italian journalist Lorenzo Cremonesi. (11) The brief did not however cite his most spectacular scoop that a total of “not more than 500–600” Palestinians died in Gaza during the invasion—which meant that not only had human rights organizations grossly exaggerated the Palestinian death toll but Israel itself had as well. (12) Other authoritative sources cited by the Israeli brief included an “Internet user” and “a participant on a Fatah Internet forum.” (13)
In his defense of Israel, Cordesman put full faith in the pronouncements of Israeli officialdom. But in recent years respected Israeli analysts have invested less confidence in government sources. “The state authorities, including the defense establishment and its branches,” Uzi Benziman observed in Haaretz, “have acquired for themselves a shady reputation when it comes to their credibility.” The “official communiqués published by the IDF have progressively liberated themselves from the constraints of truth,” B. Michael wrote in Yediot Ahronot, and the “heart of the power structure”—police, army, intelligence—has been infected by a “culture of lying.” (14) During the Gaza invasion Israel was repeatedly caught lying about, among many other things, its use of white phosphorus. (15) On 7 January 2009 an IDF spokesman informed CNN, “I can tell you with certainty that white phosphorus is absolutely not being used,” and on 13 January 2009 IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, “The IDF acts only in accordance with what is permitted by international law and does not use white phosphorus.” (16) Even after numerous human rights organizations irrefutably documented Israel’s illegal use of white phosphorus, an Israeli “military inquiry” persisted in its prevarications. (17) Recalling Israel’s train of lies during both the 2006 Lebanon War and the Gaza invasion, a former senior Pentagon analyst and current senior military analyst with Human Rights Watch (HRW) rhetorically asked, “How can anyone trust the Israeli military?” (18)
A chunk of Cordesman’s “strategic analysis” consisted of reproducing verbatim the daily press releases of the Israeli air force and army spokespersons, which he then dubbed “chronologies” of the war. He alleged that these statements offer “considerable insight” into what happened. (19) Some of these statements provided so much insight that he reproduced them multiple times. For example he repeatedly recycled versions of each of these statements: “The IDF will continue operating against terror operatives and anyone involved, including those sponsoring and hosting terrorists, in addition to those that send innocent women and children to be used as human shields”; “The IDF will not hesitate to strike those involved both directly and indirectly in attacks against the citizens of the State of Israel”; “The IDF will continue to operate against Hamas terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip according to plans in order to reduce the rocket fire on the south of Israel”; “IDF Infantry Corps, Armored Corps, Engineering Corps, Artillery Corps and Intelligence Corps forces continued to operate during the night against Hamas terrorist infrastructure throughout the Gaza Strip.” (20) Much of Cordesman’s report was, in other words, simply a repackaging of the Israeli military’s PR materials.
Thus Cordesman reproduced, without comment, the 30 December 2008 Israeli press release claiming that Israel hit “a vehicle transporting a stockpile of Grad missiles,” (21) although a B’Tselem investigation at the time found that they were almost certainly oxygen canisters. (22) Subsequent investigations confirmed, and the IDF eventually conceded, B’Tselem’s finding. Eight civilians were killed in this precision drone-missile attack on the vehicle even though, according to HRW, “the drone’s advanced imaging equipment should have enabled the drone operator to determine the nature of the objects under surveillance. The video posted online by the IDF indicates that this was the case.” (23) Cordesman alleged that official Israeli data are “far more credible” than non-Israeli data, such as that from U.N. sources, one reason being that “many Israelis feel that such U.N. sources are strongly biased in favor of the Palestinians.” (24) Following this logic, Israel’s allegation that two-thirds of those killed in Gaza were Hamas fighters should be credited (25)—just as Israel’s claim that 60 percent of those killed in the 2006 Lebanon War were Hezbollah fighters should be credited, (26) even if all independent sources put the figure at closer to 20 percent. (27)

Although Cordesman’s report exculpated Israel of any wrongdoing, he entered the “key caveat” that he was not passing a “legal or moral” judgment on Israel’s conduct and that “analysts without training in the complex laws of war” should not render such judgments. (28) Cordesman’s exculpation and caveat did not sit well together. He averred that neither the “laws of war” nor “historical precedents” barred “Israel’s use of massive amounts of force,” while he cautioned that he would not pass legal or moral judgment on the “issue of proportionality.” (29) In essence, he denied absolving Israel even as he clearly did so. Cordesman also alleged that the laws of war were “often difficult or impossible to apply.” (30) If so, whence his certainty that “Israel did not violate the laws of war”? He further alleged that the laws of war were biased because they “do not bind or restrain non-state actors like Hamas.” (31) It is not immediately apparent, however, that the laws of war have bound or restrained Israel either. And in fact “the laws of war ... favor conventional over unconventional forces in asymmetric warfare,” according to Harvard law professor Duncan Kennedy. (32) For instance, state-of-the-art technology readily available only to conventional armies effectively sets the standard for whether or not a weapon is “discriminate” and its use therefore legal.
Cordesman trumpeted the exceptional care Israel took during the invasion to limit civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure. He alleged that “every aspect” of the Israeli air force’s targeting plan “was based on a detailed target analysis that explicitly evaluated the risk to civilians and the location of sensitive sites like schools, hospitals, mosques, churches, and other holy sites,” while the “smallest possible weapon” coupled with precision intelligence and guidance systems were used to “deconflict military targeting from damage to civilian facilities.” (33) And again: “Israel did plan its air and air-land campaigns in ways that clearly discriminated between military and civilian targets and that were intended to limit civilian casualties and collateral damage.” (34) He knew these things because that is what his Israeli hosts told him and that is what the Israeli press releases repeatedly stated.
In its own brief, The Operation in Gaza, the Israeli government alleged that Israeli forces directed their attacks “solely against military objectives” and endeavored to ensure that “civilians and civilian objects would not be harmed”; that “where incidental damage to civilians or civilian property could not be avoided, the IDF made extraordinary efforts to ensure that it would not be excessive”; that the IDF “used the least destructive munitions possible to achieve legitimate military objectives” as well as “sophisticated precision weapons to minimize the harm to civilians”; and that the IDF “carefully checked and cross-checked targets ... to make sure they were being used for combat or terrorist activities, and not instead solely for civilian use.” (35)
Based on what journalists and human rights organizations found, and what Israeli soldiers in the field testified, however, a radically different picture comes into relief. Because “Israelis would have trouble accepting heavy Israel Defense Forces losses,” Haaretz reported, the army resorted to “overwhelming firepower.... The lives of our soldiers take precedence, the commanders were told in briefings.” The General Staff anticipated before the onslaught that “600–800 Palestinian civilians” would be killed. (36) “We’re going to war,” a company commander told his soldiers before the attack. “I want aggressiveness— if there’s someone suspicious on the upper floor of a house, we’ll shell it. If we have suspicions about a house, we’ll take it down.... There will be no hesitation.” (37) “When we suspect that a Palestinian fighter is hiding in a house, we shoot it with a missile and then with two tank shells, and then a bulldozer hits the wall,” a senior IDF officer told Haaretz. “It causes damage but it prevents the loss of life among soldiers.” (38)
Whereas the official Israeli brief alleged that “the protection of IDF troops did not override all other factors,” (39) soldiers recalled after the invasion how the IDF “used a huge amount of firepower and killed a huge number of people along the way, so that we wouldn’t get hurt and they wouldn’t fire on us” (squad commander); “We were told: ‘any sign of danger, open up with massive fire’” (member of a reconnaissance company); “We shot at anything that moved” (Golani Brigade fighter); “Despite the fact that no one fired on us, the firing and demolitions continued incessantly” (gunner in a tank crew); “Not a hair will fall off a soldier of mine, and I am not willing to allow a soldier of mine to risk himself by hesitating. If you are not sure—shoot” (soldier recalling his battalion commander’s order); “If you face an area that is hidden by a building—you take down the building. Questions such as ‘who lives in that building[?]’ are not asked” (soldier recalling his brigade commander’s order); “If the deputy battalion commander thought a house looked suspect, we’d blow it away. If the infantrymen didn’t like the looks of that house—we’d shoot” (unidentified soldier); “As for rules of engagement, the army’s working assumption was that the whole area would be devoid of civilians.... Anyone there, as far as the army was concerned, was to be killed” (unidentified soldier). (40) “Essentially, a person only need[ed] to be in a ‘problematic’ location,” a Haaretz reporter found, “in circumstances that can broadly be seen as suspicious, for him to be ‘incriminated’ and in effect sentenced to death.” (41) A year after the invasion an officer who served at a brigade headquarters recalled that IDF policy amounted to ensuring “literally zero risk to the soldiers,” while a combatant remembered a meeting with his brigade commander and others where it was conveyed that “if you see any signs of movement at all you shoot. This is essentially the rules of engagement.” (42)
Beyond the civilian casualties, Israel destroyed or damaged 58,000 homes (6,300 were completely destroyed or sustained severe damage), 280 schools and kindergartens (18 schools were completely destroyed and six university buildings were razed to the ground), 1,500 factories and workshops (including 22 of Gaza’s 29 ready-mix concrete factories), several buildings housing Palestinian and foreign media (two journalists were killed while working, four others were also killed), electrical, water and sewage installations (more than one million Gazans were left without power during the invasion and a half million were cut off from running water), 190 greenhouse complexes, 80 percent of agricultural crops, and nearly one-fifth of cultivated land. (43) It is nonetheless alleged that Israel took every precaution not to damage civilian objects. Indeed, who can doubt that the IDF “carefully checked and cross-checked targets ... to make sure they were being used for combat or terrorist activities” (Israeli brief) when it launched an “intentional and precise” attack destroying the “only one of Gaza’s three flour mills still operating” which produced “the Whitewash 63 most basic staple ingredient of the local diet”?(44) Who can doubt that the IDF “clearly discriminated between military and civilian targets” (Cordesman) when it “systematically and deliberately” “flattened” a large chicken farm that supplied 10 percent of the Gaza egg market “and 65,000 chickens were crushed to death or buried alive”? (45) The United Nations Development Program reported that “over 4,000 cattle, sheep and goats and more than one million birds and chickens (broilers and egg layers) were killed during Operation Cast Lead, with evidence of livestock being the direct target of Israeli machine guns.” (46) After the invasion was over Israel alleged that the death and destruction appeared indefensible only because “there is a limit to the amount of intelligence it can share with commissions of inquiry without compromising operational capabilities and intelligence sources.” (47) If the world only knew what was in those chickens ... (48) The only reported penalty Israel imposed for unlawful property destruction during the invasion was an unknown disciplinary measure taken against one soldier. (49)
Some 600,000 tons of rubble were left after Israel’s “mega display of military might” (IDF General Staff officer). (50) The total direct cost of the damage to Gaza’s civilian infrastructure was estimated at $660–900 million, while total losses from the destruction and disruption of economic life during the invasion were put at $3–3.5 billion. (51) By comparison Hamas rocket attacks on Israel damaged “several civilian homes and other structures... , one was almost completely destroyed,” (52) while total damages came to $15 million. (53)
In postinvasion testimonies IDF soldiers recalled the macabre scenes of destruction in Gaza: “We didn’t see a single house that remained intact.... Nothing much was left in our designated area. It looked awful, like in those World War II films where nothing remained. A totally destroyed city”; “We demolished a lot. There were people who had been in Gaza for two days constantly demolishing one house after the other, and we’re talking about a whole battalion”; “One night they saw a terrorist and he disappeared so they decided he’d gone into a tunnel, so they brought a D-9 [bulldozer] and razed the whole orchard”; “There was a point where D-9s were razing areas. It was amazing. At first you go in and see lots of houses. A week later, after the razing, you see the horizon further away, almost to the sea”; “The amount of destruction there was incredible. You drive around those neighborhoods, and can’t identify a thing. Not one stone left standing over another. You see plenty of fields, hothouses, orchards, everything devastated. Totally ruined. It’s terrible. It’s surreal.” (54) One veteran of the invasion designed a T-shirt depicting a King Kong–like soldier clenching a mosque while glowering over a city under attack, and bearing the slogan “If you believe it can be fixed, then believe it can be destroyed!” “I was in Gaza,” he elaborated, “and they kept emphasizing that the object of the operation was to wreak destruction on the infrastructure.” (55)
The Israeli brief alleged that its “overall use of force against Hamas during the Gaza Operation was ... proportional to the threat posed by Hamas.” (56) The postinvasion testimonies of Israeli soldiers vividly depicted what such “proportional” use of force felt like: “This was firepower such as I had never known ... there were blasts all the time ... the earth was constantly shaking”; “On the ground you hear these thunderous blasts all day long. I mean, not just tank shelling, which was a tune we’d long gotten used to, but blasts that actually rock the outpost, to the extent that some of us were ordered out of the house we were quartered in for fear it would collapse.” (57)
“Much of the destruction” of civilian buildings and infrastructure, according to Amnesty, “was wanton and resulted from deliberate and unnecessary demolition of property, direct attacks on civilian objects and indiscriminate attacks Whitewash 65 that failed to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilian objects.” (58) The timing and pace of the devastation buttressed Amnesty’s finding and further undermined official Israeli explanations. Fully 90 percent of the destruction of civilian buildings and infrastructure—including the destruction of juice, ice cream, biscuit, and Pepsi-Cola factories—reportedly took place in the last days of the invasion in areas fully controlled by the IDF where it met limited resistance, and much of the destruction was wrought by Israeli troops as they withdrew. (59) Using satellite imagery “taken at intervals during the conflict,” Human Rights Watch documented numerous cases “in which Israeli forces caused extensive destruction of homes, factories, farms and greenhouses in areas under IDF control without any evident military purpose. These cases occurred when there was no fighting in these areas; in many cases, the destruction was carried out during the final days of the campaign when an Israeli withdrawal was imminent.” For instance, in the Izbt Abd Rabbo neighborhood the “vast majority” of the “wholesale destruction of entire blocks of buildings” took place “after the IDF exercised control.” (60)
The official Israeli brief alleged that “IDF orders and directions ... stressed that all demolition operations should be carried out in a manner that would minimize to the greatest extent possible the damage caused to any property not used by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the fighting.” (61) Yet, according to the International Crisis Group, an expanse in eastern Gaza including farms, factories, and homes was “virtually flattened,” and according to a military expert Israel’s “deliberate and systematic” destruction of that sector through a combination of bulldozers and antitank mines “took at least two days of hard labor.” (62) The HRW study found that “virtually every home, factory and orchard had been destroyed within certain areas, apparently indicating that a plan of systematic destruction was carried out in these locations.” (63) It might be contended that Israel targeted so many homes because— according to an IDF spokesman whom Cordesman uncritically quotes—“Hamas is booby-trapping every home that is abandoned by its residents.” (64) But after the invasion this already implausible argument was fatally undermined when the IDF itself conceded that the “scale of destruction” was legally indefensible. (65) Still, Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai declared, “Even if the [Hamas] rockets fall in an open air [sic] or to the sea, we should hit their infrastructure, and destroy 100 homes for every rocket fired,” and a security official beamed with pride that by “flattening buildings believed to be booby-trapped,” Israel had broken “the DNA of urban guerrilla fighting.” (66)
Israel targeted not only civilian buildings and infrastructure but also Gaza’s cultural inheritance. Fully 30 mosques were destroyed and 15 more damaged during the Israeli assault. Cordesman knew that “IDF forces almost certainly were correct in reporting that Hamas used mosques and other sensitive sites in combat” (67) because that is what his “chronologies” based on IDF press releases stated. It seems telling, however, that although Israel initially alleged secondary explosions after mosques were hit, it subsequently dropped this defense altogether while it continued to target mosques. (68) In the Goldstone Mission’s investigation of an “intentional” Israeli missile attack on a mosque that killed at least 15 people attending services, it found “no evidence that this mosque was used for the storage of weapons or any military activity by Palestinian armed groups.” (69) Israel did not even attempt to refute this particular finding of the Mission (70) until it came under withering criticism, when it belatedly discovered that—surprise, surprise—the missile was “directed at two terrorist operatives standing near the entrance to the mosque.” (71) In general the case Israel mounted to justify its targeting of mosques didn’t cohere. It alleged that Whitewash 67 Hamas used mosques to stash weapons, but—as the Goldstone Mission’s military expert observed—with “abundant hideaways in the labyrinthine alleyways of Gaza,” Hamas would have been foolhardy to “store anything in an open building like a mosque, which had been pre-targeted and pre-registered by Israeli intelligence.” (72) Israel also alleged that Hamas placed weapons in mosques because, on the basis of prior experience, it “assumed that the IDF would not attack them,” but in fact Israel had damaged or destroyed 55 mosques in Gaza between 2001 and 2008. (73) Going one step further, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz alleged—alas, without evidence—that “Hamas leaders boast of” having stored weapons in mosques. (74) Israel’s various alibis also could not account for its systematic targeting of minarets, which, being too narrow for snipers to ascend, had no military value. The final report of a fact-finding committee headed by South African jurist John Dugard concluded that “mosques, and more particularly the minarets, had been deliberately targeted on the grounds that they symbolized Islam.” (75) Postinvasion IDF testimony confirmed the indiscriminate targeting of mosques. (76)
Israel justified its targeting of educational institutions on the grounds that Hamas “did in fact make use” of them. (77) However, when challenged in a specific instance to provide proof for its allegations, Israel conceded that its photographic evidence was from 2007. (78) In extenuation of its attack on the Islamic University, Israel alleged that it was the nerve center of Hamas’s “weapons research and development” and “military terrorist activities.” One searched in vain however for evidence to substantiate this claim. (79) It might also be wondered why “virtually all universities sustained damages,” (80) not just the supposed terrorist hub at Islamic University. The Goldstone Report “did not find any information about [educational institutions’] use as a military facility or their contribution to a military effort that might have made them a legitimate target in the eyes of the Israeli armed forces.” (81) The official Israeli brief alleged that, after his arrest, a Palestinian detainee “admitted” under interrogation that “Hamas operatives frequently carried out rocket fire from schools ... precisely because they knew that Israeli jets would not fire on schools.” (82) Why would he make such a confession when, over and over again, Israeli weaponry did precisely that?
Although the devastation of Gaza was wanton, there was nonetheless a near-perfect synchronization of method to this madness. If, as Israel asserted and investigators found, it possessed fine “grid maps” of Gaza and an “intelligence gathering capacity” that “remained extremely effective”; and if it made extensive use of state-of-the-art precision weaponry; and if “99 percent of the firing that was carried out [by the Air Force] hit targets accurately”; and if it only once targeted a building erroneously: then, as the Goldstone Report logically concluded, the massive destruction Israel inflicted on Gaza’s civilian infrastructure must have “resulted from deliberate planning and policy decisions throughout the chain of command, down to the standard operating procedures and instructions given to the troops on the ground.” (83) In other words, Israel was able to pinpoint its targets on the ground and, by its own admission, could and did hit these designated targets with pinpoint accuracy. It thus cannot be said that the criminal wreckage resulted from mishap or from a break in the chain of command. What happened in Gaza was meant to happen—by everyone from the soldiers in the field who executed the orders to the officers who gave the orders to the politicians who approved the orders. “The wholesale destruction was to a large extent deliberate,” Amnesty similarly concluded, “and an integral part of a strategy at different levels of the command chain, from high-ranking officials to soldiers in the field.” (84)

In the face of this wholesale assault on Gazan society it was still alleged that Israel sought to limit civilian casualties. Cordesman highlighted, for example, that Israel “distributed hundreds of thousands of leaflets and used its intelligence on cell phone networks in Gaza to issue warnings to civilians.” (85) In its official brief the Israeli government pointed up its “extraordinary steps to avoid harming civilians in its Gaza Operation” and “significant efforts to minimize harm to civilians” such as dropping “leaflets warning occupants to stay away from Hamas strongholds and leave buildings that Hamas was using to launch attacks” and attempting “to contact occupants by telephone, to warn of impending attacks on particular buildings.” (86)
In reality the leaflets and phone calls “failed to give details of the areas to be targeted,” according to human rights reports, “and conversely which areas were safe.” Moreover, because of the extensive aerial bombardment across the whole of the Gaza Strip, and because the borders with Israel and Egypt were sealed, there was “nowhere for the civilian population to have gone.” The intended or foreseeable consequence of these socalled warnings amid the indiscriminate and sustained bombing and shelling of Gaza was to create “a state of terror, confusion, and panic among the local population.” (87) Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit alleged that “the army called [sic] 250,000 telephone calls to the people to leave their houses”—causing Amnesty International to observe, “There are barely 250,000 households in Gaza. If indeed the Israeli army called that many families to tell them to leave their homes, this would mean that virtually every family was told to do so.” (88) Still, deeply impressed by the quantity of Israeli warnings, an American law professor contended in a novel interpretative twist that these warnings should be credited even if Palestinians could not heed them: “the law contains no requirement that the civilian population be able to act on the warnings in order to find them effective.” (89) Is it “effective” to post signs warning “In case of fire, use emergency exit” if a building lacks an emergency exit?
In addition to emphasizing its prior warnings, Israel played up its relief efforts during the invasion. The official brief alleged that “during the Gaza Operation ... Israel ... sought to provide and facilitate humanitarian assistance” and implemented a “far-reaching effort to ensure that the humanitarian needs of the civilian population in Gaza were met.” (90) Lest Israeli solicitude be doubted, Cordesman repeatedly cited Israeli press statements as well as “Israeli Ministry of Defense claims” affirming it. (91) He also included an unimpeachable statement from none other than Defense Minister Ehud Barak that “we are well aware of the humanitarian concerns; we are doing and will continue to do everything possible to provide all humanitarian needs to the residents of Gaza.” (92)
The facts on the ground, however, looked rather different. “U.N. agencies and humanitarian NGOs continued to carry out operations despite extreme insecurity,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) observed. “In the course of the three weeks of hostilities, five UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency] staff and three of its contractors were killed while on duty, and another 11 staff and four contractors were injured; four incidents of aid convoys being shot at have been reported; at least 53 United Nations buildings sustained damage.” (93) Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s assertion in the midst of the attack that “no humanitarian crisis” existed in Gaza provoked a rebuke from UNRWA’s director of operations: “We have a catastrophe unfolding in Gaza for the civilian population.... They’re trapped, they’re traumatized, they’re terrorized.” (94) Although entering some generic caveats acknowledging Israel’s “delays and mistakes,” (95) Cordesman could not find the space amid the countless Israeli press releases he cited to quote this or countless other critical statements by relief organizations and U.N. officials. The Goldstone Report concluded that Israel “violated its obligation to allow free passage of all consignments of medical and hospital objects, food and clothing”; that “the amounts and types of food, medical and hospital items and clothing [allowed in] were wholly insufficient to meet the humanitarian needs of the population”; and that from its tightening of the blockade in June 2007 to the end of the invasion Israel prevented passage of sufficient goods “to meet the needs of the population.” (96)
Even after the mid-January 2009 ceasefire went into effect, Israel continued to block humanitarian assistance, including shipments of chickpeas, dates, tea, macaroni, sweets, jam, biscuits, tomato paste, children’s puzzles, and plastic bags to distribute food. (97) “Little of the extensive damage [Israel] caused to homes, civilian infrastructure, public services, farms and businesses has been repaired,” 16 respected humanitarian and human rights organizations reported in a comprehensive study released one year after the invasion. “This is not an accident; it is a matter of policy. The Israeli government’s blockade ... not only forbids most Gazans from leaving or exporting anything to the outside world, but also only permits the import of a narrowly-restricted number of basic humanitarian goods.” The study found that as a direct result of the continuing Israeli blockade “all kinds of construction materials—cement, gravel, wood, pipes, glass, steel bars, aluminum, tar—and spare parts are in desperately short supply or completely unavailable”; “90 percent of the people of Gaza continue to suffer power cuts of four to eight hours a day—while the rest still have no power at all”; thousands were left “to an existence without piped water”; and there were “long delays in or denial of entry of basic educational supplies such as textbooks and paper,” while “children, already traumatized by the military offensive, cannot learn and develop in these unsafe and unsanitary conditions.” (98)
Israel’s interference with humanitarian relief efforts during the Gaza invasion was part and parcel of its broader attack on U.N. agencies. After visiting an UNRWA building that had been set ablaze when Israel fired white phosphorus shells at it, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “I am just appalled ... it is an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack against the United Nations.” (99) A U.N.-commissioned Board of Inquiry that investigated assaults on multiple U.N. sites during the Gaza invasion found Israel culpable inter alia for a “direct and intentional strike” that killed three young men at an UNRWA school sheltering some 400 people; firing a “series of mortar shells” that struck the immediate vicinity of an UNRWA school, killing and injuring scores of people; a “grossly negligent” white phosphorus attack amounting to “recklessness” on the “hub and nerve center for all UNRWA operations in Gaza”; and a “highly negligent” white phosphorus attack amounting to “reckless disregard” on an UNRWA school sheltering some 2,000 people, killing two children and injuring 13. It also found that in one incident a U.N. warehouse was damaged by a Qassam-type rocket that “had most likely been fired from inside Gaza by Hamas or another Palestinian faction.” The Board of Inquiry concluded that “no military activity was carried out from within United Nations premises in any of the incidents”; that Israel “must have expected” that Palestinians would respond to the “ongoing attacks by seeking refuge within UNRWA premises, on the assumption that United Nations premises would be immune from attack”; and that Israel “continued” to make false allegations that Hamas militants had been firing from U.N. premises even “after it ought to have been known that they were untrue.” (100) Dismissing the U.N. report as “unfair and one-sided,” Israeli President Shimon Peres declared, “We will never accept it. It’s outrageous.” Defense Minister Barak alleged that an internal IDF investigation “irrefutably” belied the allegations, proving that “we have the most moral army in the world.” (101)
In addition to impeding humanitarian relief, Israel blocked medical assistance to Palestinians. Cordesman presented as fact the Israeli accusation that during the invasion Hamas “prevent[ed] medical evacuation of Palestinians to Israel,” (102) even though Hamas had no control over medical referrals to Israel. (103) Prior to the invasion Israel deprived ailing Gazans of access to medical care abroad and held them hostage to collaborating with Israeli intelligence in exchange for an exit permit. (104) While the official Israeli brief boasted that during the invasion many chronically ill patients left Gaza for treatment abroad, (105) human rights organizations reported that Israel created nearly insuperable obstacles to prevent these patients from accessing such treatment. (106) (Since the Israeli siege began in 2006 nearly 300 Gazans seeking health care have died because of the border closure.) (107) The normally discreet International Committee of the Red Cross issued a public reprimand to Israel after a “shocking incident” during the invasion in which Israeli soldiers turned back a Red Cross rescue team dispatched to aid injured Palestinians, leaving them to die. (108) Cordesman insisted that Israel “coordinated the movement” (109) of ambulances, and the official Israeli brief highlighted that “a special medical coordination center was set up ... which dealt with assistance to civilians in danger and with evacuation of the wounded and dead from areas of hostilities.” (110) Neither mentioned that “even where coordination was arranged, soldiers reportedly fired at ambulances.” (111) At least 258 Palestinians who died during the Gaza invasion did so after Israeli forces obstructed medical access to them. (112)
Cordesman alleged, without any evidence beyond that provided by Israeli press releases, that Hamas made “use of ambulances to mobilize terrorists.” (113) As it happens, “the argument that Palestinians abused ambulances has been raised numerous times by Israeli officials ... , although Israel has almost never presented evidence to prove it.” (114) During the 2006 Lebanon War Israel targeted clearly marked Lebanese ambulances with missile fire, even though, according to HRW, there was “no basis for concluding that Hezbollah was making use of the ambulances for a military purpose.” (115) In the course of Operation Cast Lead, direct or indirect Israeli attacks damaged or destroyed 29 ambulances and almost half of Gaza’s 122 health facilities, including 15 hospitals. A total of 16 medical personnel were killed and a further 25 injured while on duty. (116)
After the invasion Physicians for Human Rights-Israel documented Israeli attacks on medical crews, ambulances, and medical installations, as well as “countless obstacles” that Israel created “for the rescue teams in the field who attempted to evacuate trapped and injured persons.” It did not find “any evidence supporting Israel’s official claim that hospitals were used to conceal political or military personnel.” (117) An independent team of medical experts commissioned by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society produced a supplementary report containing copious evidence of Israel’s denial of evacuation (“a number of patients died as a result of the delay in transportation to a medical institution”), attacks on rescue crews (“a number of ambulance personnel told their stories of repeated attacks on their ambulances over the last year”), and attacks on medical facilities. The report also noted that “the patterns of injuries, many of which were apparently caused by antipersonnel weapons, are characterized by a high proportion of maiming and amputations, which will cause lifelong disabilities for many.” The “underlying meaning of the attack on the Gaza Strip,” the team of medical experts concluded, “appears to be one of creating terror without mercy to anyone.” (118)
Whereas Israel contended that “vast amounts of ... information, from both intelligence sources and reports from IDF forces on the ground, show that Hamas did in fact make extensive military use of hospitals and other medical facilities,” (119) Amnesty reported that Israeli officials did not provide “evidence for even one such case” and Amnesty itself “found no evidence during its on-the-ground investigation that such practices, if they did occur, were widespread.” The Goldstone Mission “did not find any evidence to support the allegations that hospital facilities were used by the Gaza authorities or by Palestinian armed groups to shield military activities or that ambulances were used to transport combatants or for other military purposes.” (120) In its official brief Israel gave much space to defending its lethal assaults on ambulances and medical facilities. It alleged that Hamas made “extensive use of ambulances bearing the protective emblems of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to transport operatives and weaponry” and “use of ambulances to ‘evacuate’ terrorists from the battlefield.” The only independent “proof” it could muster was the article by the Italian journalist who also reported that only several hundred Palestinians were killed during the assault on Gaza, and the testimony of one Palestinian ambulance driver who recounted that some Hamas militants attempted to commandeer his ambulance but did not succeed.
The Israeli brief goes so far as to allege that “the IDF refrained from attacking medical vehicles even in cases where Hamas and other terrorist organizations were using them for military purposes”—which causes one to wonder why the IDF repeatedly targeted ambulances not used for military purposes. Even Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance, and blood bank service, testified that “there was no use of PRCS [Palestinian Red Crescent Society] ambulances for the transport of weapons or ammunition.” The Israeli brief further alleged that the IDF “refrained from attacking Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, despite Hamas’s use of an entire ground floor wing as its headquarters during the Gaza Operation, out of concern for the inevitable harm to civilians also present in the hospital.” Toeing the party line Benny Morris likewise declared that “the Hamas leaders sat out the campaign in the basement of Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, gambling—correctly— that Israel would not bomb or storm a hospital.” The sole source in the Israeli brief for this allegation, apart from the ubiquitous Italian reporter, was the confession of a Palestinian detainee during “interrogation.” (121) It is again cause for wonder why Israel did not target this hospital, where Hamas’s senior leadership was allegedly ensconced, but did target many other Palestinian hospitals—for example, the two top floors of Al-Quds Hospital along with its adjacent administrative building and warehouse were completely destroyed; Al-Wafa Hospital sustained direct hits from eight tank shells, two missiles and thousands of bullets; the European Hospital of Khan Yunis sustained artillery damage to its walls, water mains and electricity; the emergency room of Al-Dorah Hospital was hit twice; and Al-Awda Hospital sustained damage from two artillery shells that landed near the emergency room. (122) Nor can it be argued that the IDF was returning enemy fire when these hospitals were hit because Israel maintains that it did not target “terrorists” who launched attacks “in the vicinity of a hospital.” (123)

To justify the magnitude of the devastation, Israel and its defenders endeavored to depict the Gaza invasion as a genuine military contest. Cordesman delineated in ominous detail enhanced by tables, graphs, and figures the vast arsenal of rockets, mortars, air defense missiles, and other weapons that Hamas allegedly manufactured and smuggled in through tunnels (including “Iranian-made rockets” that could “strike at much of Southern Israel” and “hit key infrastructure”), and the “spider web of prepared strong points, underground and hidden shelters, and ambush points” Hamas allegedly constructed. (124) He reported that according to “Israeli senior officials” Hamas had 6,000–10,000 “core fighters.” (125) He compared the “Gaza war” with the June 1967 war, the October 1973 war, and the summer 2006 war. (126) He expatiated on Israel’s complex war plans and preparations, and he purported that Israel’s victory was partly owing to its “high levels of secrecy”—as if the outcome would have been in doubt had Israel not benefited from the element of surprise. (127)
Similarly, in its brief the Israeli government asserted that Hamas had “amassed an extensive armed force of more than 20,000 armed operatives in Gaza,” “obtained military supplies through a vast network of tunnels and clandestine arms shipments from Iran and Syria,” and “acquired advanced weaponry, developed weapons of their own, and increased the range and lethality of their rockets.” It included evidence of the sophisticated weaponry alleged to be found in Hamas’s arsenal, such as the photograph of an ominous-looking “Hamas operative” in a ski mask firing a rudimentary machine gun—which is captioned as an “anti-aircraft machine gun.” (128)
Nonetheless, even Cordesman was forced to acknowledge, if only indirectly, that what Israel fought was scarcely a war. He conceded that Hamas was a “weak non-state actor” whereas Israel possessed a massive armory of state-of-the-art weaponry; that the Israeli air force “faced limited threats from Hamas’s primitive land-based air defense”; that “sustained ground fighting was limited”; that the Israeli army avoided engagements where it “would be likely to suffer” significant casualties; and that “the IDF used night warfare for most combat operations because Hamas did not have the technology or training to fight at night.” (129)
Israel had shown that it could fight “an air campaign successfully in crowded urban areas,” according to Cordesman, and “an extended land battle against a non-state actor.” (130) But its air campaign was not a “fight” anymore than shooting fish in a barrel is a fight. As if to bring home this analogy, he quoted a senior Israeli air force officer: “the IAF had flown some 3,000 successful sorties over a small dense area during three weeks of fighting without a single accident or loss”—unsurprisingly, insofar as “the planes operated in an environment free of air defenses, enjoying complete aerial superiority.” (131) Neither did Israel “fight” a land battle. The other side was poorly equipped, barely present in the conflict zones, and engaged by Israeli forces only when it could not fight back.
Not all Israelis celebrated their country’s overwhelming victory in this non-war. “It is very dangerous for the Israel Defense Forces to believe it won the war when there was no war,” a respected Israeli strategic analyst warned. “In reality, not a single battle was fought during the 22 days of fighting.” (132) The International Crisis Group reported that Hamas “for the most part avoided direct confrontations with Israeli troops,” and that “consequently, only a limited number of fighters were killed.” According to a former Israeli foreign ministry official quoted by the Crisis Group, “There was no war. Hamas sat in its bunkers and came out when it was all over,” while one Israeli officer noted, “Not even light firearms were directed at us. One doesn’t see [Hamas] that much, they mostly hide.” (133)
The postinvasion testimonies of IDF soldiers repeatedly confirmed the near absence of an enemy in the field: “There was nothing there. Ghost towns. Except for some livestock, nothing moved”; “Most of the time it was boring. There were not really too many events”; “Some explosives are found in a house, weapons, significant stuff like that, but no real resistance”; “I did not see one single Arab the whole time we were there, that whole week”; “Everyone was disappointed about not engaging anyone”; “Usually we did not see a living soul. Except for our soldiers of course. Not a soul”; “Go ahead and ask soldiers how often they encountered combatants in Gaza— nothing”; “There was supposed to be a tiny resistance force upon entry, but there just wasn’t”; “Nearly no one ran into the enemy. I know of two encounters during the whole operation. The soldiers, too, were disappointed for not having had any encounters with terrorists.” (134)
The Goldstone Mission noted that it “received relatively few reports of actual crossfire between the Israeli armed forces and Palestinian armed groups.” (135) The Palestinian resistance did not manage even to fully disable a single Israeli tank. (136) (In this light Israel’s allegation that Hamas had amassed “thousands” of “advanced ... anti-tank rockets” appears farfetched.) (137) In his defense of IDF conduct during the Gaza invasion, Hebrew University professor of philosophy and New York University professor of law Moshe Halbertal pointed up the challenge facing an Israeli soldier who had to “decide whether the individual standing before him in jeans and sneakers is a combatant or not,” and rationalized the number of Palestinian civilian deaths “under such conditions—Gaza is an extremely densely populated area.” (138) But judging by the soldiers’ testimonies the really daunting challenge in Gaza was not differentiating between friend and foe but encountering any foe: no battles occurred in densely populated or, for that matter, sparsely populated areas. In addition, most Palestinian victims “were not caught in the crossfire of battles between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces, nor were they shielding militants or other legitimate targets” (Amnesty). (139)
On the basis of extensive field research, nongovernmental organizations put the total number of Palestinians killed at nearly 1,400, of whom up to four-fifths were civilians and 350 children. (140) On the other side, total Israeli casualties amounted to ten combatants (four killed by friendly fire) and three civilians. (141) In its official brief Israel alleged that, were it not for its extensive warning and shelter system, “the human casualties from Hamas’s bombardment undoubtedly would have been substantially greater.” (142) It must be said that, were it not for the heroism of two UNRWA employees, Palestinian casualties would also have been much higher. Hundreds of Palestinians taking shelter in the UNRWA Headquarters Compound would have been killed if the employees had not prevented the white phosphorus that Israel dropped on it from reaching the fuel tanks. (143) It is also passing strange that the Hamas rocket attacks inflicted such negligible damage on Israeli civilian infrastructure if they were potentially so destructive. The ratio of total Palestinians to Israelis killed was more than 100:1, and of Palestinian to Israeli civilians killed as high as 400:1. Still, Israeli philosopher of professional ethics Asa Kasher declared, “I am deeply impressed with the courage displayed by each and every one of the soldiers who participated in Operation Cast Lead and their commanders.” (144) Eight Israeli soldiers were subsequently awarded medals for “heroism.” (145)
When confronted by a BBC reporter who observed that Israel “imposed 100 times more casualties on Gaza in three weeks than they did on you,” Interior Minister Sheetrit shot back: “That’s the idea of the operation, what do you think?” (146) A poll taken one month after the invasion ended found that two-thirds of Israeli Jews believed Operation Cast Lead should have continued until Hamas surrendered. (147) Israelis rued that the invasion’s goals had not been reached because—in Gideon Levy’s paraphrase—“we didn’t kill enough.” (148) Eager for “round two,” a member of Israel’s regional council adjoining Gaza exhorted the military that next time they should “flatten Gaza into a parking lot, destroy them.” (149)
The casualty figures attested not to a war but to a massacre— or, as Duncan Kennedy put it, they were “typical of a particular kind of ‘police action’ that Western colonial powers ... have historically undertaken to convince resisting native populations that unless they stop resisting they will suffer unbearable death and deprivation.” (150) Indeed, an Israeli soldier posted in the Gaza Strip later recollected how Operation Cast Lead was largely conducted by remote control. “It feels like hunting season has begun,” he mused. “Sometimes it reminds me of a Play-Station [computer] game.” “You feel like a child playing around with a magnifying glass,” another remembered, “burning up ants.” (151) New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier nonetheless opined that use of the phrase “pulverization of Gazans” to describe the Israeli assault was “calculatedly indifferent to the wrenching moral and strategic perplexities that are contained in the awful reality of asymmetrical war.” (152) A year after the invasion, two IDF combat soldiers recalled: “Most casualties were inflicted on Palestinians by air strikes, artillery fire, and snipers from afar. Combat victory? Shooting fish in a barrel is more like it.” (153) The modus operandi of Operation Cast Lead pointed up the aptness of the soldiers’ metaphors.
An HRW study homed in on Israel’s “unlawful” use of white phosphorus in Gaza. Although it is used primarily to obscure military operations on the ground—white phosphorus ignites and burns on contact with oxygen, generating a dense white smoke—it can also be used as an incendiary weapon. When making contact with skin white phosphorus causes “horrific burns,” sometimes to the bone, as it reaches temperatures of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit (816 degrees Celsius). HRW concluded that Israel “repeatedly exploded white phosphorus munitions in the air over populated areas, killing and injuring civilians, and damaging civilian structures, including a school, a market, a humanitarian aid warehouse and a hospital,” and that such use of white phosphorus “indicates the commission of war crimes.” It further found that, insofar as Israel wanted an obscurant for its forces, it could have used smoke shells (manufactured by an Israeli company); that Israel’s persistent use of white phosphorus where no Israeli forces were present on the ground indicated it was being used as an incendiary weapon; that in its targeting of the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City, which warehoused vast quantities of humanitarian food and medical supplies, the IDF “kept firing white phosphorus despite repeated warnings from U.N. personnel about the danger to civilians”; that Israel targeted the U.N.’s school in Beit Lahiya despite the fact that “the U.N. had provided the IDF with the GPS coordinates of the school prior to military operations”; and that Al-Quds Hospital, also a target, was “clearly marked and there does not appear to have been fighting in that immediate area.” It deserves special emphasis that the U.S. manufactured “all of the white phosphorus shells” recovered by HRW in Gaza. (154)
The PlayStation-like nature of the massacre was underscored in another HRW study documenting Israel’s high-tech assaults on Gaza’s population. “Israel’s drone-launched missiles,” it reported, “are incredibly precise. In addition to the high-resolution cameras and other sensors on the drones themselves, the missile fired from a drone has its own cameras that allow the operator to observe the target from the moment of firing.... If a last-second doubt arises about a target, the drone operator can use the missile’s remote guidance system to divert the fired missile, steering the missile away from the target with a joystick.” In the six attacks killing 29 civilians (eight of them children) that it investigated, HRW found that no Palestinian fighters were “present in the immediate area of the attack at the time,” and that five of the six attacks “took place during the day, when civilians were shopping, returning from school, or engaged in other ordinary activities, which they most likely would not have done had Palestinian fighters been in the area at the time.” (155)
The devastation wrought on Gaza clearly went beyond the declared mission of eliminating “terrorists” and “terrorist infrastructure” or even collective punishment of Palestinian civilians. The systematic destruction of houses, schools, colleges, farms, mosques, and so on, which seemed to be aimed at making Gaza literally unlivable, raises the question, What was Israel really trying to do? In fact the massive destruction was both critical and integral to the success of Operation Cast Lead. The goal, according to Cordesman—and here the evidence, for a change, supports him—was to “restore Israeli deterrence, and show the Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria that it was too dangerous to challenge Israel.” (156) But Israel could not restore its deterrence by inflicting a military defeat because Hamas was manifestly not a military power. To quote Cordesman, it “is not clear that any opponent of Israel felt Hamas was really strong enough to be a serious test of Israeli ground forces.” (157) Thus Israel could only reinstate the region’s fear of it by demonstrating the amount of sheer destruction it was prepared to inflict. It “had [to] make its enemies feel it was ‘crazy’” (Israeli official) and was ready to cause devastation on a “scale [that] is unpredictable” and heedless of “world opinion” (Cordesman). (158) In other words, and in direct contradiction of the official assertion that the use of force in Gaza was “proportional,” Israel intentionally raised the level of destruction to a degree that was unpredictable, even insane.
The description is not exaggerated. As the invasion wound down Foreign Minister Livni declared that it had “restored Israel’s deterrence ... Hamas now understands that when you fire on [Israel’s] citizens it responds by going wild—and this is a good thing.” The day after the ceasefire she bragged that “Israel demonstrated real hooliganism during the course of the recent operation, which I demanded.” (159) Later, Livni declared that she was “proud” of her decisions during the Gaza invasion and would “repeat” every one of them because they were “meant to restore Israel’s deterrence and did restore Israel’s deterrence.” (160) A former Israeli defense official told the International Crisis Group that “with an armada of fighter planes attacking Gaza, Israel decided to play the role of a mad dog for the sake of future deterrence,” while a former senior Israeli security official boasted to the Crisis Group that Israel had regained its deterrence because it “has shown Hamas, Iran and the region that it can be as lunatic as any of them.” (161) “The Goldstone Report, which claimed that Israel goes crazy when it is being attacked, caused us some damage,” a leading Israeli commentator on Arab affairs observed, “yet it was a blessing in our region. If Israel goes crazy and destroys everything in its way when it’s being attacked, one should be careful. No need to mess with crazy people.” (162) In postinvasion testimony an IDF soldier mused that “there was no need for such intense fire, no need to use mortars, phosphorus ammunition.... The army was looking for the opportunity to hold a spectacular maneuver in order to show its muscle.” (163)
After the invasion Israeli and American Jewish philosophers engaged the subtle moral quandaries supposedly prompted by Israel’s conduct. Hawkish Philosopher A posited that Israel “should favor the lives of its own soldiers over the lives of the neighbors of a terrorist,” (164) while dovish Philosophers B and C rejoined that in the war against “terrorism” it did not suffice that Israel was “not intending” to kill civilians, “its soldiers must ... intend not to kill civilians.” (165)
It appears that both sides in this learned disputation on the right balance between preserving the life of a soldier and the life of an enemy civilian somehow missed the crux of what happened: upon invading, the IDF intentionally and indiscriminately blasted and reduced to rubble everything in sight. Thus, the Goldstone Report makes clear that a fine assessment of whether or not Israel properly applied the international humanitarian law principle of “proportionality” was beside the point because “deeds by the Israeli armed forces and words of military and political leaders prior to and during the operations indicate that, as a whole, they were premised on a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed not at the enemy but at the ... civilian population.” The Report also makes clear that a fine assessment of whether or not Israel properly applied the international humanitarian law principle of “distinction” (between combatants and civilians) was beside the point because “the effective rules of engagement, standard operating procedures and instructions to the troops on the ground appear to have been framed in order to create an environment in which due regard for civilian lives and basic human dignity was replaced with disregard for basic international humanitarian law and human rights norms.” (166) While philosophers debated the correct interpretation of the laws of war and both sides tacitly imputed to Israel the honorable motive of wanting to obey them, in reality the premise of Israel’s assault on Gaza and the essential precondition for its success was the wholesale breach of these laws.
The cumulative evidence against the official and unofficial Israeli versions of Operation Cast Lead points to Israel’s criminal liability both in its decision to launch and its conduct during the Gaza invasion. Indeed, far from reckoning the death and destruction as “collateral damage,” the postinvasion reports of human rights organizations and the confessions of Israeli soldiers make clear that the goal of the Gaza invasion was precisely to demonstrate to Palestinians and neighboring states that Israel was ready, willing, and able to inflict disproportionate violence—what Israeli officials themselves called “mad” and “lunatic” levels of violence—on a civilian population.

A close look at Israeli actions during Operation Cast Lead sustains the conclusion that the massive death and destruction visited on Gaza were not an accidental byproduct of the invasion, but its barely concealed objective. To deflect culpability for this premeditated slaughter Israel persistently alleged that Palestinian casualties resulted from the use by Hamas of civilians as “human shields.” Indeed, throughout its attack Israel strove to manipulate perceptions by controlling press reports and otherwise tilting Western coverage in its favor. But the allegation that Hamas used civilians as human shields was not borne out by human rights investigations, while the gap between Israel’s claim that it did everything possible to avoid “collateral damage” and the hundreds of bodies of women and children dug out of the rubble is too vast to bridge.
To extenuate the horrors it inflicted on Gaza, Israel pointed to Hamas’s “massive use of civilians as human shields.” (1) Yet, in one of the most extensive postinvasion human rights reports Amnesty International found that the worst that could be said of Hamas was that it “launched rockets and located military equipment and positions near civilian homes, endangering the lives of the inhabitants by exposing them to the risk of Israeli attacks. They also used empty homes and properties as combat positions during armed confrontations with Israeli forces, exposing the inhabitants of nearby houses to the danger of attacks or of being caught in the crossfire.”
Whereas Israel alleged that Hamas “chose to base its operations in civilian areas not in spite of, but because of, the likelihood of substantial harm to civilians,” and that “Hamas operatives took pride in endangering the lives of civilians,” Amnesty contrarily concluded that there was “no evidence that [Hamas] rockets were launched from residential houses or buildings while civilians were in these buildings”; that “Palestinian militants often used empty houses but ... did not forcibly take over inhabited houses”; that Hamas “mixed with the civilian population, although this would be difficult to avoid in the small and overcrowded Gaza Strip”; and that “Palestinian fighters, like Israeli soldiers, engaged in armed confrontations around residential homes where civilians were present, endangering them. The locations of these confrontations were mostly determined by Israeli forces, who entered Gaza with tanks and armored personnel carriers and took positions deep inside residential neighborhoods.”
On the most explosive allegation, Amnesty categorically exonerated Hamas:

Contrary to repeated allegations by Israeli officials of the use of “human shields,” Amnesty International found no evidence that Hamas or other Palestinian fighters directed the movement of civilians to shield military objectives from attacks. It found no evidence that Hamas or other armed groups forced residents to stay in or around buildings used by fighters, nor that fighters prevented residents from leaving buildings or areas which had been commandeered by militants.
Amnesty International delegates interviewed many Palestinians who complained about Hamas’s conduct, and especially about Hamas’s repression and attacks against their opponents, including killings, torture and arbitrary detentions, but did not receive any accounts of Hamas fighters having used them as “human shields.” In the cases investigated by Amnesty International of civilians killed in Israeli attacks, the deaths could not be explained as resulting from the presence of fighters shielding among civilians, as the Israeli army generally contends. In all of the cases investigated by Amnesty International of families killed when their homes were bombed from the air by Israeli forces, for example, none of the houses struck was being used by armed groups for military activities. Similarly, in the cases of precision missiles or tank shells which killed civilians in their homes, no fighters were present in the houses that were struck and Amnesty International delegates found no indication that there had been any armed confrontations or other military activity in the immediate vicinity at the time of the attack.

According to Israel’s official brief the rules of engagement of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during the Gaza assault strictly prohibited the “use of civilians as human shields” and “the IDF took a variety of measures to teach and instill awareness of these rules of engagement in commanders and soldiers.” Nevertheless if Amnesty found no evidence that Hamas used human shields (and other postinvasion investigations echoed Amnesty’s conclusions), it did find that Israeli soldiers “used civilians, including children, as ‘human shields,’ endangering their lives by forcing them to remain in or near houses which they took over and used as military positions. Some were forced to carry out dangerous tasks such as inspecting properties or objects suspected of being booby-trapped. Soldiers also took position and launched attacks from and around inhabited houses, exposing local residents to the danger of attacks or of being caught in the crossfire.” Other human rights investigations—in particular the graphic accounts in the Goldstone Report—and testimony of soldiers corroborated the IDF’s use of human shields. (2)
Still, it was axiomatic for respected philosophers Avishai Margalit and Michael Walzer that although Israel’s enemies “intentionally put civilians at risk by using them as cover, Israel condemns those practices.” (3) In a book that “explores the myths and illusions” about the Middle East, Dennis Ross inveighed against Hamas because it used “the civilian population as human shields” and made “extensive use of human shields.” He also reported in his “reality-based assessment” that Hamas “rejects the very idea of a two-state solution”; that it was Hamas that “chose to end” the June 2008 ceasefire (Israel’s murderous 4 November border raid vanishes in his account); and that “an uneasy quiet was restored only after the IDF had destroyed nearly all Hamas military targets.” (4) British colonel Richard Kemp, who was commander of British forces in Afghanistan, variously alleged that Hamas “deliberately positioned behind the human shield of the civilian population”; “ordered, forced when necessary, men, women and children from their own population to stay put in places they knew were about to be attacked by the IDF”; “deliberately [tried] to lure [the Israelis] into killing their own innocent civilians”; and—in a yet more colorful accusation—“of course” deployed “women and children” suicide bombers. These allegations bore equal relationship to reality as his ubiquitously quoted proclamation that “during Operation Cast Lead the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other Army in the history of warfare.” (5) Pity the civilian population in his theater of operations.
As already indicated, the circumstances under which many Palestinians died underscored the untenability of Israel’s alibi that the high civilian death count resulted from human shielding by Hamas. “The attacks that caused the greatest number of fatalities and injuries,” Amnesty found in its postinvasion inquiry,

were carried out with long-range high-precision munitions fired from combat aircraft , helicopters and drones, or from tanks stationed up to several kilometers away—often against pre-selected targets, a process that would normally require approval from up the chain of command. The victims of these attacks were not caught in the crossfire of battles between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces, nor were they shielding militants or other legitimate targets. Many were killed when their homes were bombed while they slept. Others were going about their daily activities in their homes, sitting in their yard, hanging the laundry on the roof when they were targeted in air strikes or tank shelling. Children were studying or playing in their bedrooms or on the roof, or outside their homes, when they were struck by missiles or tank shells. (6)

It further found that Palestinian civilians, “including women and children, were shot at short range when posing no threat to the lives of the Israeli soldiers,” and that “there was no fighting going on in their vicinity when they were shot.” (7) A study by Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented Israel’s killing of Palestinian civilians who “were trying to convey their non-combatant status by waving a white flag,” and where “all available evidence indicates that Israeli forces had control of the areas in question, no fighting was taking place there at the time, and Palestinian fighters were not hiding among the civilians who were shot.” In a typical incident “two women and three children from the Abd Rabbo family were standing for a few minutes outside their home—at least three of them holding pieces of white cloth—when an Israeli soldier opened fire, killing two girls, aged two and seven, and wounding the grandmother and third girl.” (8) The official Israeli brief meanwhile proclaimed that because IDF soldiers adhere to “purity of arms” they do “not use their weapons and force to harm human beings who are not combatants or prisoners of war.” (9)
The Goldstone Report concluded that “the Israeli armed forces repeatedly opened fire on civilians who were not taking part in the hostilities and who posed no threat to them,” and that “Israeli armed forces had carried out direct intentional strikes against civilians” in the absence of “any grounds which could have reasonably induced the Israeli armed forces to assume that the civilians attacked were in fact taking a direct part in the hostilities.” (10) The postinvasion testimonies of IDF soldiers corroborated this wanton killing of Palestinian civilians in an “atmosphere” where “the lives of Palestinians, let’s say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers”: “You see people more or less running their life routine, taking a walk, stuff like that. Definitely not terrorists. I hear from other crews that they fired at people there. Tried to kill them”; “People didn’t seem to be too upset about taking human lives”; “Everyone there is considered a terrorist”; “We were allowed to do anything we wanted. Who’s to tell us not to?”; “I understood that conduct there had been somewhat savage. ‘If you sight it, shoot it’”; “You are allowed to do anything you want ... for no reason other than it’s cool”—even firing white phosphorus “because it’s fun. Cool.” (11)
Unabashed and undeterred, the official Israeli brief still sang paeans to the IDF’s unique respect for the “supreme value of human life,” and Israeli philosopher Asa Kasher lauded the “impeccable” values of the IDF such as “protecting the human dignity of every human being, even the most vile terrorist” and the “uniquely Israeli value ... of the sanctity of human life.” (12) Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz averred that “Israel went to great lengths to protect civilians” during the assault, and Human Rights Watch founder Robert Bernstein proposed that “the press might consider praising” Israel for its “successful attempts to minimize civilian casualties,” while in a New Yorker cover story on “what really happened” in Gaza, Lawrence Wright reported that “the Israeli military adopted painstaking efforts to spare civilian lives in Gaza.” Wright also discovered while in Gaza that Palestinians felt a special affinity with an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas: “[Gilad] Shalit’s pale features and meek expression haunt the imagination of Gazans. Though it may seem perverse, a powerful sense of identification has arisen between the shy soldier and the people whose government holds him hostage. Gazans see themselves as like Shalit: confined, mistreated, and despairing.” (13) This resolves the mystery as to why one Gazan family after another has christened their newborn Gilad ...

The charges and countercharges over the use of human shields were symptomatic of Israel’s attempt to obfuscate what actually happened on the ground. In fact Israel began its hasbara (propaganda) preparations six months before the invasion was launched in December 2008 and a centralized body in the prime minister’s office, the National Information Directorate, was specifically tasked with coordinating Israeli hasbara. (14) Nonetheless, Anthony H. Cordesman’s diagnosis after world opinion turned against Israel was that it had not sufficiently invested in the “war of perceptions”: Israel “did little to explain the steps it was taking to minimize civilian casualties and collateral damage on the world stage”; it “certainly could— and should—have done far more to show its level of military restraint and make it credible.” (15) In the opinion of Senior Editor Bradley Burston, the problem was that Israelis “are execrable at public relations,” while according to respected Israeli political scientist Shlomo Avineri the world took a dim view of the Gaza invasion because of “the name given to the operation, which greatly affects the way in which it will be perceived.” (16)
But if the micromanaged PR blitz ultimately did not convince, the problem was not that Israel failed to convey adequately its humanitarian mission or that the whole world misperceived what happened. Rather, it was that the scope of the massacre was so appalling that no amount of propaganda could disguise it. This was especially true after the invasion was over when foreign reporters could no longer be barred on the specious pretexts Israel had concocted to impose “the most draconian press controls in the history of modern warfare” (17)— controls that “put the state of Israel in the company of a handful of regimes around the world which regularly keep journalists from doing their jobs” (Foreign Press Association) and that were “outrageous and should be condemned by the international community” (Reporters Without Borders). (18) More than a half year after the invasion Israel continued to obstruct the passage of human rights organizations such as Amnesty, HRW, and B’Tselem into Gaza. “If Israel has nothing to hide,” HRW asked, “why is it refusing to allow us in?” (19)
Soon after the invasion ended, and to the chagrin of Cordesman and Israeli officialdom, several Israeli media outlets circulated the testimonies of combat pilots and infantry soldiers who either committed war crimes or witnessed them in Gaza. A few months later the Israeli organization Breaking the Silence published another compilation of damning IDF testimonies. In its official brief Israel reassuringly alleged that “Israel is an open and democratic society which fully respects the freedom of speech.... Information on possible misconduct of soldiers reaches the IDF authorities in various ways.” (20) But after publication of the critical IDF testimonies the Israeli foreign ministry called on European governments that funded Breaking the Silence to terminate their support. (21)
Apart from official denials that carried little credibility— what would induce the soldiers to lie? (22)—the reaction to these IDF testimonies oscillated between shock and minimization. (23) Like the film character Captain Louis Renault, who was “shocked, shocked!” to discover that people were gambling in Casablanca, officials expressed disbelief that Israeli soldiers could have engaged in criminal conduct. But such behavior was “the natural continuation of the last nine years, when soldiers killed nearly 5,000 Palestinians, at least half of them innocent civilians, nearly 1,000 of them children and teenagers,” Gideon Levy observed, mocking the feigned official consternation. “Everything the soldiers described from Gaza, everything, occurred during these blood-soaked years as if they were routine events.” (24)
Israeli officials sought to minimize the PR damage of these confessions by asserting it was much ado about a few rotten apples—or, as Dershowitz spun it, “rogue soldiers are a fact of war.” (25) But such a pretense also lacked credibility. The criminal behavior of individual soldiers was the inexorable consequence and part and parcel of the criminal nature of the enterprise itself: to restore Israel’s deterrence capacity by using massive lethal force against a defenseless society. “These are not instances of ‘errant fire,’” Levy continued, “but of deliberate fire resulting from an order.” (26) “The stories of this publication prove that we are not dealing with the failures of individual soldiers, and attest instead to failures in the application of values primarily on a systemic level,” the Israeli editors of the incriminating IDF testimonies observed. “The massive and unprecedented blow to the infrastructure and civilians of the Gaza Strip [was] a direct result of IDF policy.” (27) “Hundreds of civilians were not killed ‘by mistake’ or by a handful of ‘rotten apples,’” the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel concurred in its extensive study. (28) “Declarations made by officials together with accumulating data,” the Association for Civil Rights in Israel noted in its annual report, “reveal that the strikes on civilians and civilian structures were generally not the result of a spontaneous, low-level decision, but rather of decisions and directives made by senior echelons in the government and the IDF.” (29) Partly on the basis of Israeli soldiers’ testimonies, the Goldstone Report concluded that “the repeated failure to distinguish between combatants and civilians appears ... to have been the result of deliberate guidance issued to soldiers ... and not the result of occasional lapses,” and that “the outcome and the modalities of the operations indicate ... that they were ... to a large degree aimed at destroying or incapacitating civilian property and the means of subsistence of the civilian population.” (30)
No doubt some IDF soldiers exploited the occasion of the massacre to give free rein to their sadistic impulses while others were brutalized by the environment. Thus, IDF testimonies recalled “the hatred and the joy,” and “fun” and “delight” of killing Palestinians, the wreaking of destruction “for kicks” and to “make [oneself] happy.” And thus soldiers bantered, “I killed a terrorist, whoa.... We blew his head off ”; “Fortunately the hospitals are full to capacity already, so people are dying more quickly”; and “He just couldn’t finish this operation without killing someone.” (31) But it was the criminal nature of the enterprise that enabled and unleashed these “excesses.” It was furthermore absurd to focus on sadism or, for that matter, rowdy or uncouth behavior when the most egregious crimes were manifestly those executed in a disciplined, orderly fashion. One interlocutor of the confessing Israeli soldiers expressed disgust that they did not restore order and cleanliness in Palestinian homes they occupied: “That’s simply behaving like animals.... You are describing an army with very low value norms, that’s the truth.” (32) However he displayed much less unease over the fact that these pilots and infantrymen damaged and destroyed thousands of Palestinian homes and left 100,000 Palestinians homeless.
In a bid to pin culpability for the massacre on fundamentalist zealotry, other commentators latched onto soldier testimonies quoting the bigoted and incendiary statements of IDF rabbis and recruits from religious schools. The criminality was the work of “religious nationalists,” the New York Times’s Ethan Bronner suggested, who “have moved into more and more positions of military responsibility” and replaced the “secular, Western and educated” kibbutzniks who once dominated the army. (33) This explanation conveniently overlooked, however, that the criminal thrust of Operation Cast Lead—deploying, as one soldier after another after another testified, “insane” amounts of firepower (34)—was the brainchild of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his secular cohorts, and that Israel had committed many a massacre long before religious zealots entered its military ranks. (35)
The IDF promised an investigation after the first round of soldier testimonies but closed its probe some ten days later, having concluded that these accounts of widespread illegal killings and destruction were just “rumors.” (36) A subsequent IDF “internal investigation” found that “no civilians were purposefully harmed by IDF troops during Operation Cast Lead.” Barak lauded the probe because it “once again proves that the IDF is one of the most moral armies in the world.” The official Israeli brief alleged that “Israel’s legal and judicial apparatus is fully equipped and motivated to address alleged violations of national or international law by its commanders and soldiers.” According to HRW, however, “the investigative results make clear that the Israeli military will not objectively monitor itself,” while Amnesty noted that “the army’s claims appear to be more an attempt to shirk its responsibilities than a genuine process to establish the truth.” The Goldstone Report concluded that “there are serious doubts about the willingness of Israel to carry out genuine investigations in an impartial, independent, prompt and effective way.” (37) It is emphatically untrue, however, that no Israeli was punished for crimes committed during the Gaza invasion: one soldier was sentenced to prison time for stealing a Palestinian’s credit card. (38) Two years after the Gaza invasion a couple of Israeli soldiers were convicted of using a nine-year-old Palestinian as a human shield, but received only suspended three-month sentences. (39) In a touching gesture of atonement Israeli Information Minister Yuli Edelstein declared, “I am ashamed of the soldier who stole some credit cards.” (40)
As the human rights reports quoted here demonstrate, the brazenness of Israel’s attack on Gaza and the barefacedness of Israel’s attempt to spin public perceptions ultimately backfired. One important sign of the unintended consequences of Operation Cast Lead for Israel came in an unprecedented move by Amnesty International in the wake of the attack on Gaza. Among the human rights reports documenting the death and destruction, the Amnesty publication Fueling Conflict: Foreign arms supplies to Israel/Gaza merits special attention. (41) This landmark study called for a cessation of arms supplies to the parties to the conflict as well as the imposition by the United Nations of a comprehensive arms embargo: “Amnesty International is calling on the U.N., notably the Security Council, to impose an immediate, comprehensive arms embargo on all parties to the conflict, and on all states to take action individually to impose national embargoes on any arms or weapons transfers to the parties to the conflict until there is no longer a substantial risk that such arms or weapons could be used to commit serious violations of international law.” Amnesty proceeded to inventory the foreign-manufactured weapons used by Israel during the Gaza invasion, such as the U.S.-made white phosphorus shells, tank ammunition, and guided missiles, as well as the scheduled U.S. arms deliveries to Israel just before and during the invasion. It reported that “the USA has been by far the major supplier of conventional arms to Israel”; that “the USA has provided large funding each year for Israel to procure arms despite U.S. legislation that restricts such aid to consistently gross human rights violators”; and that “Israel’s military intervention in the Gaza Strip has been equipped to a large extent by U.S.-supplied weapons, munitions and military equipment paid for with U.S. taxpayers’ money.” The report also briefly inventoried the supply of foreign-made weapons to Palestinian armed groups (“on a very small scale compared to ... Israel”).
Amnesty’s call for a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel and Palestinian armed groups marked a milestone in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Taking note that Israel used U.S.-manufactured weapons when it committed violations of the laws of war, human rights organizations have in the past called on the U.S. to restrict both military assistance to Israel and Israel’s use of specific weapons so long as it systematically violated the law. (42) However, no human rights organization had ever produced such a detailed accounting of foreign weapons’ suppliers to Israel or called so aggressively for a comprehensive arms embargo by these suppliers. Predictably, the Obama administration rejected Amnesty’s call43 and Amnesty came under attack from Abraham H. Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League for its “pernicious and biased report” that “is doing nothing short of denying Israel the right to self-defense.” (44) It might be speculated that Amnesty’s unprecedented call for an embargo reflected a broader revulsion at the Gaza massacre among the international community, not least among liberal American Jews. I will return to this point presently, but first I want to briefly report on my own trip to Gaza after the invasion.

To preserve my sense of purpose, and keep the Palestine struggle from becoming a lifeless abstraction, I need periodically to recharge my moral batteries by reconnecting with the actual people living under occupation and by witnessing firsthand the unfolding tragedy. From each trip I invariably carry away a handful of stark images that I fix in my mind’s eye to dispel the occasional hesitations about staying the course. When the memories begin to fade I know it is time to return.
And so, in June 2009, six months after the invasion, I joined a delegation that journeyed to Gaza for a brief visit. Though I had been to Gaza before, most of my time during previous trips to the region was spent with friends in the West Bank. (1) Israel has prohibited me from entering the country for ten years, thereby making it impossible for me to visit the West Bank, allegedly because I am a “security” risk. An editorial in Haaretz titled “Who’s Afraid of Finkelstein?” cast doubt on the decision’s premise—“Considering his unusual and extremely critical views, one cannot avoid the suspicion that refusing to allow him to enter Israel was a punishment rather than a precaution”—and went on to argue against banning me. (2) Nonetheless it is unclear if or when I will be able to see my Palestinian friends again. In the meantime, going to Gaza via Egypt at least enabled me to get some feeling for developments on the ground.
Having just spent several months perusing Mahatma Gandhi’s collected works, and deeply inspired by his commitment to living the life of the impoverished masses, I had resolved to rough it in Gaza. But this was easier said than done. Along with several other delegates I volunteered to stay at a Palestinian family’s home rather than a hotel. Dressed to the nines, hair gelled, and reeking of cologne, several Palestinian youths met our group to select their home-stays. They departed with first one young female member of our delegation, then another, then another. The only candidates left hanging at the end of the evening were middle-aged men. We checked into the hotel.
It would be untrue to say that I was terribly jolted by the devastation that I encountered everywhere in Gaza. During the first intifada I had passed time with families in the West Bank living in tents beside the rubble of their former dwellings. Israel would routinely detonate the family residence of an alleged activist in the dead of night after giving the occupants just minutes to evacuate. Soon after the 2006 war I toured Lebanon. Many of the villages in the south had been flattened. The Dahiya district of Beirut resembled photographs from bombedout cities during World War II: large craters where apartment houses and offices once stood, the occasional shell of a building in the distance. So by now I have become somewhat inured to Israel’s calling card to its Arab neighbors.
Nonetheless a few memories from that trip to Gaza remain etched in my mind with particular sharpness. I remember an 11-year-old girl peering out of thick-lensed glasses while she lingered beside the American International School that had been demolished. Speaking in perfect English (her father was a physician and her friends ranked her the top student in the class) the girl wistfully remembered that it had been the best school in Gaza. I also recall the evening we met with government officials in a tent beside what had previously been the Palestinian parliamentary building and was now just a pile of smoldering rubble. Although the devastation was apparently designed not just to subdue Hamas but also to humiliate it, the representatives seemed oblivious to any slight to their dignity from having to convene in such reduced circumstances. And I can still see the huge rectangular depression in the heart of the Islamic University campus where the science and technology building once stood. An administrator recalled with pride tinged by melancholy that, just prior to the attack, the university had installed cutting-edge equipment for biological research in the building.
No Palestinian I met evinced anger or sorrow at what happened. People appeared calmly determined to resume life, such as it was, before the invasion, although the continuing blockade plainly weighed heavily on them. A young hijab-clad guide sitting next to me on a bus one night casually mentioned that her fiancé had been killed on the last day of the invasion, and then punctuated her statement by staring, dry-eyed, into my pupils. It was neither an accusation nor an appeal for pity. It was as if Israel’s periodic depredations were now experienced as a natural disaster to which people had grown accustomed; as if Gaza were situated in the path of tornadoes, except that in Gaza every season is tornado season. Some demented mind in an air-conditioned Tel Aviv office conjures up poetic names for its numberless “operations.” Why not a little truth in advertising just this once and call them “Operation Attila the Hun,” “Operation Genghis Khan,” or “Operation Army of Vandals”?
The female head administrator of a children’s library housed in a magnificent edifice that would be the envy of any major city in the United States offered some painful reflections. (Watching the children hard at work in the library, I secretly breathed a sigh of relief that whether wittingly or by miracle Israel had not inflicted on it the same fate as the American International School’s.) She was one of seven siblings all of whom had obtained advanced degrees, and, apart from her, had left for greener pastures abroad. She had studied in Great Britain but against her parents’ recommendation decided to return to her home. She recalled questioning her decision when, on her way to work one day, Israeli soldiers forced her to wade waist-deep in mud to get past a checkpoint.
Our delegation consisted mostly of Americans. Originally I assumed that I was the only Jew on the delegation, but after making several discreet inquiries I began to wonder whether anyone on the delegation was not Jewish. So far as I could tell Gazans did not care much about our pedigrees, although, to my mortification, the rector at the Islamic University introduced me as a “Holocaust survivor.” I politely corrected him: “tenurebattle survivor.” Did I really look 90 years old?!
Hamas has a fearsome reputation, but it met its match with the feisty feminists leading our delegation. Among their complaints, forthrightly expressed, was that Hamas did not allow the delegation sufficient freedom of movement at night. Although Hamas eventually gave ground my sympathies went out to them, and not just because in these verbal bouts they appeared the underdogs. It is not as if Gaza had a lively nightlife. Furthermore, Israeli ships still fired on Gaza every night, and Hamas feared that Israel (or its Palestinian underlings) might create an incident to discredit it. It is also not as if Hamas’s security concerns lacked plausibility: after all we were Americans, and U.S. intelligence agencies have been complicit in the repression of Hamas.
I had several meetings with Hamas officials and cadre. It was later conveyed to me that those I met were mostly from Hamas’s “moderate” wing, although I cannot say exactly what distinguished them from members of the “hard-line” wing, and a lot of the speculation on this matter appears poorly informed. In his dispatch from Gaza the New Yorker’s Lawrence Wright knowingly told readers that Gaza-based Hamas leader and Prime Minister Ismael Hanniya is a “moderate” who has “spoken of negotiating a long-term truce with Israel,” whereas Damascus-based head of the Hamas politburo Khalid Mishal is a “hard-liner” who is “more likely to initiate radical, destabilizing actions.” (3) But Mishal, the “hard-liner,” has repeatedly called for a diplomatic settlement with Israel. (4)
At each of the parleys with Hamas members I repeated the same message: the current diplomatic posture of Hamas seemed in alignment with representative political organizations, respected juridical institutions, and major human rights groups. Many Hamas members appeared genuinely surprised when I rattled off the “pro-Palestinian” positions espoused by these mainstream bodies. If I was correct, then Hamas should couch its political platform in their language because the chink in Israel’s armor is its diplomatic isolation. Hamas must hammer away the critical point that Israel is the real outlier in the international community and obstacle to peace: not “Hamas says,” but “the U.N. General Assembly resolution supported by 160 nations says”; not “Hamas says, but “the International Court of Justice says”; not “Hamas says” but “Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say.”
My interlocutors seemed earnest and willing to listen. (They even heard out in good humor the head of the delegation when she implored them to shave their “scary beards” to improve Hamas’s image in the West.) Although Hamas sought to emulate Hezbollah’s victory in 2006, after the massacre it perhaps sunk in that Israel cannot be defeated by shooting firecrackers and Roman candles at it. When I was leaving Gaza, U.S. President Barack Obama had just arrived in Cairo to deliver his landmark address. Hamas sent a letter to him partly informed by our conversations. (A copy of this letter can be found in an appendix to this book.)
For most of the time in Gaza, our delegation was guarded by young Hamas militants. As we parted ways at the end of the visit I felt moved and obliged to state publicly that in my opinion none of them was deserving of the death Israel has attempted to inflict on them. I am aware that according to the “laws of war” they are “legitimate” military targets. But in a rational world the locution “laws of war” would make as much sense as “etiquette of cannibals.” It is probably true that violent conflicts would be more lethal and destructive in the absence of these laws, but it is also true that, in their pretense of neutrality, they obscure fundamental truths. Whether from conviction, frustration, or torment, these young men have chosen to defend their homeland from foreign marauders with weapon in hand. Were I living in Gaza, still in my prime and able to muster the courage, I could easily be one of them.

Public outrage at the Gaza invasion did not come out of the blue but rather marked the nadir of a curve plotting a steady decline in support for Israel. As polling data of Americans and Europeans, both Gentiles and Jews, suggest, the public has become increasingly critical of Israeli policy over the past decade. The horrific images of death and destruction broadcast around the world during and after the invasion accelerated this development. “The increased and brutal frequency of war in this volatile region has shift ed international opinion,” the British Financial Times editorialized one year later, “reminding Israel it is not above the law. Israel can no longer dictate the terms of debate.” (1) One poll registering the fallout from the Gaza attack in the United States found that American voters calling themselves supporters of Israel plummeted from 69 percent before the attack to 49 percent in June 2009, while voters believing that the U.S. should support Israel dropped from 69 percent to 44 percent. (2)
Consumed by hate, emboldened by self-righteousness, and confident that it could control or intimidate public opinion, Israel carried on in Gaza as if it could get away with mass murder in broad daylight. But while official Western support for Israel held firm, the carnage set off an unprecedented wave of popular outrage throughout the world. (3) Whether it was because the assault came on the heels of the devastation Israel wrought in Lebanon, or because of Israel’s relentless persecution of the people of Gaza, or because of the sheer cowardice of the assault, the Gaza invasion appeared to mark a turning point in public opinion reminiscent of the international reaction to the 1960 Sharpeville massacre in apartheid South Africa.
In the Jewish diaspora official communal organizations with longstanding ties to Israel predictably lent blind support. But, at the same time, newly minted progressive Jewish organizations distanced themselves to a lesser or greater degree. Whereas in the past mainstream Jews actively supported Israeli wars, most registered ambivalence during the invasion, apart from a contracting older minority that came out swinging in Israel’s defense, and an expanding younger minority that scathingly denounced it. Between the increasing estrangement of younger Jews from Israeli bellicosity and the increasing qualms of Jews generally about supporting it, the Gaza massacre signaled the break-up of hitherto blanket Jewish support for Israeli wars.
In addition, whereas the antiwar demonstrations in most Western countries were ethnically heterogeneous (including significant numbers of Jews), the “pro”-Israeli demonstrations were composed almost exclusively of Jews. The fact that active opposition to Israeli policy, say, on college campuses, has spread beyond the Arab-Muslim core towards the mainstream, whereas active support for Israel has shrunk to a fraction of the ethnic Jewish core, is a telling indicator of where things are headed.
The era of the “beautiful” Israel has passed, it seems irrevocably, and the disfigured Israel that in recent years has replaced it in the public consciousness is a growing embarrassment. It is not so much that Israel’s behavior is worse than it was before, but rather that the record of that behavior has, finally, caught up with it. The truth can no longer be denied or dismissed. The documentation of the Arab-Israeli conflict set out by respected historians fundamentally conflicts with the version popularized in the likes of Leon Uris’s Exodus. The evidence of Israeli human rights violations compiled by respected mainstream organizations cannot be reconciled with its vaunted commitment to “purity of arms.” The deliberations of respected judicial and political bodies cast severe doubt on Israel’s avowed commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Fretting over Israel’s increasing international “delegitimization,” an influential Israeli think-tank speculated that “the Jewish world is growing more distant from Israel” because “a growing number of Jews do not have enough historical knowledge.” (4) The reverse would appear to be closer to the truth: Jews have become alienated from Israel precisely because they know too much.
For a long while Israel’s “supporters” deflected the impact of this accumulating documentary record by wielding the twin swords of The Holocaust (5) and the “new anti-Semitism.” (6) It was purported that Jews could not be held to conventional moral/legal standards after the unique suffering they endured during World War II, and that criticism of Israeli policy was motivated by an ever-resurgent hatred of Jews. However, apart from the inevitable dulling that comes of overuse, these weapons proved much less efficacious once criticism of Israel broke into the mainstream of public opinion.
Unable to deflect criticism of Israel, apologists now conjure bizarre theories to account for its ostracism. Reaganomics guru George Gilder posits that a free-market system singularly unleashes human potential, and that under such a system Jews are and must be “represented disproportionately in the highest ranks” because they are the most gift ed. Inversely, if Jews do not rule the roost, it must be because a less-than-ideal economic system holds sway. Anti-Semitism springs from resentment of “Jewish superiority and excellence” and “the manifest supremacy of Jews over all other ethnic groups,” while the hatred of Israel springs from the fact that it has evolved (under the inspired tutelage of Benjamin Netanyahu) into the perfect free-market system that “concentrates the genius of the Jews,” making it “one of the world’s leading capitalist powers” and the envy of the world: “Israel is hated above all for its virtues.” If Jews figure prominently among critics of Israel, it is because they “excel so readily in all intellectual fields that they outperform all rivals in the arena of anti-Semitism.” The West in turn must preserve and protect Israelis from the “world of zero-sum chimeras and fantasies of jihadist revenge and death” and the “barbarian masses” because Jewish endowments have enabled humanity to “thrive and prosper”: Jews are “crucial to the human race.” Indeed, “if Israel is destroyed, capitalist Europe will likely die as well, and America, as the epitome of productive and creative capitalism spurred by Jews, will be in jeopardy”; “Israel is at the forefront of the next generation of technology and on the front lines of a new racial war against capitalism and Jewish individuality and genius”; “Just as free economies are necessary for the survival of the human population of the planet, the survival of the Jews is vital to the triumph of free economies. If Israel is quelled or destroyed, we will be succumbing to forces targeting capitalism and freedom everywhere.” (7)
Across the Atlantic, Robin Shepherd, director of international affairs at the London-based Henry Jackson Society, asserts that Israel has come under strong criticism in the West not because of its human rights record but because it is a democratic, capitalist state fighting on the front lines alongside the U.S. against the “civilizational” threat posed by radical Islam: “Israel had become an enemy not because of anything it had done” but “because it was on the wrong side of the barricades.” The “primary energizing platform in the West” for this “tidal wave of hysteria, deception and distortion against the Jewish state” consists of totalitarian Marxists and left -liberal fellowtravelers who, disappointed by the Western proletariat and Third World liberation struggles, have made common cause with “militant Islam” to destroy the liberal-capitalist world order. Although these critics of Israel are not anti-Semitic in the traditional “subjective” sense of despising Jews per se, they are guilty of “objective” anti-Semitism because Israel is so central to Jewish identity in the contemporary world. But opposition to Israel also emanates from ancien régime bluebloods who want to restore the old-world hierarchies before arriviste Jews disrupted them. This far-flung “neo-anti-Semitic” conspiracy embraces “most” of those who accuse Israel of committing war crimes and otherwise violating international law. Thus, it is to be understood that behind the condemnation of Israel by Amnesty International and the International Court of Justice, Nobel peace laureates Jimmy Carter and Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the Financial Times and the BBC, lurks the evil hand of the radical left ist-fanatic Islamic-landed aristocratic nexus. For those who want to learn more, Shepherd “highly” recommends Alan M. Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel. (8)
Although such explanations for Israel’s isolation lack credibility, it cannot be doubted that Israel’s stock has fallen precipitously. Whereas Israel won many adherents in the West after its lightning victory in June 1967, (9) in recent years it has been reduced almost to the status of a pariah state, especially in Europe. A 2003 poll of the European Union named Israel the biggest threat to world peace. (10) A 2008 survey of global opinion named Israel the biggest obstacle to achieving peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict. (11) In a BBC World Service poll taken on the eve of the Gaza invasion, fully 19 of the 21 countries surveyed held a predominantly negative view of Israel. (12) Meanwhile, under the title “Second Thoughts about the Promised Land,” the Economist reported in 2007 that although “most diaspora Jews still support Israel strongly ... their ambivalence has grown.” (13) Dissenting Jewish voices have begun to coalesce in Great Britain, Germany, and elsewhere, challenging the hegemony of official Jewish organizations that parrot Israeli propaganda. (14)
In the United States the overall picture and trends are perhaps not as pronounced but are no less noteworthy. Judging by poll data it can broadly be said that Americans have consistently viewed Israel favorably (15) and have sympathized much more with Israel than with the Palestinians. (16) But Americans also overwhelmingly support an evenhanded U.S. approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and have sometimes expressed “equal levels of sympathy” for both sides, (17) while a substantial minority believe that U.S. policy tilts (or tilts too much) in favor of Israel (18); a robust majority of Americans “think Israel is not doing its part well in making efforts to resolve the conflict” (19); and Americans have occasionally supported the use of sanctions to rein in Israel. (20) Significantly, a majority of Americans have also supported a two-state settlement on the June 1967 borders, meaning full Israeli withdrawal from the territories it occupied in the June war. (21)
“Yes, the polls show strong support for Israel,” M. J. Rosenberg, director of policy analysis for the Israel Policy Forum observed in 2007 apropos of recent trends; however, “that support for Israel, such as there is, is broad but it is not very deep.”

This phenomenon can be seen almost every day in “Letters to the Editors” columns. Every time an op-ed about Israel appears, especially if it is critical, there are a slew of letters to the editor. Most support the Israeli position. And almost without exception, they are written by Jews. That vast majority [of non-Jewish Americans] out there which supposedly is so supportive of Israel virtually never chimes in. (22)

According to a 2007 poll by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) the favorable opinion of Americans towards Israel was markedly less than their favorable opinion toward Great Britain and Japan, while roughly equal to their favorable opinion of India and Mexico. Nearly half of the respondents believed that the U.S. should work with “moderate” Arab states “even at the expense of Israel.” (23) Polls during the summer 2006 Lebanon War showed that half or more of Americans held Israel and Hezbollah equally to blame and supported a (more) neutral U.S. stance. (24) A 2010 poll found that only one third of Americans felt that Israel was “very important” to the U.S., placing it just above Mexico and well below China, Great Britain, Canada and even Japan in importance. (25) In addition, in recent years, influential religious constituencies such as the Presbyterian Church USA, the World Council of Churches, the United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church have all supported initiatives, including corporate divestment, to force an end to Israel’s occupation. (26)
A 2005 survey by respected Jewish pollster Steven M. Cohen found that “the attachment of American Jews to Israel has weakened measurably in the last two years ... , continuing a long-term trend.”

Respondents were less likely than in comparable earlier surveys to say they care about Israel, talk about Israel with others or engage in a range of pro-Israel activities. Strikingly, there was no parallel decline in other measures of Jewish identification, including religious observance and communal affiliation. The survey found 26% who said they were “very” emotionally attached to Israel, compared with 31% who said so in a similar survey conducted in 2002. Some two-thirds, 65%, said they follow the news about Israel closely, down from 74% in 2002, while 39% said they talk about Israel frequently with Jewish friends, down from 53% in 2002
Israel also declined as a component in the respondents’ personal Jewish identity. When offered a selection of factors, including religion, community and social justice, as well as “caring about Israel,” and asked, “For you personally, how much does being Jewish involve each?,” 48% said Israel matters “a lot,” compared with 58% in 2002. Just 57% affirmed that “caring about Israel is a very important part of my being Jewish,” compared with 73% in a similar survey in 1989. (27)

A 2007 American Jewish Committee poll found that 30 percent of Jews felt “fairly distant” or “very distant” from Israel, and a 2010 Brandeis University poll found that only 33 percent of Jews felt “very much” connected to Israel while the other 67 percent felt “somewhat” (30 percent), “a little” (23 percent) or “not at all” (14 percent) connected to Israel. “In the long run,” Cohen predicts “a polarization in American Jewry: a small group growing more pious and attached to Israel, while a larger one drift s away.” (28)
A 2006 poll found that, among American Jews under 40, fully one-third felt “fairly distant” or “very distant” from Israel, while a 2007 poll found that among Jews under 35 fully 40 percent registered a “low attachment” to Israel (only 20 percent registered a “high attachment”). Astonishingly, less than half responded affirmatively that “Israel’s destruction would be a personal tragedy.” (29) The former chairman of the Jewish Agency recently sounded the alarm that “less than 24 percent of young Jews in North America belong to Jewish organizations. Less than 50 percent of North American Jews under the age of 35 feel a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people. Less than 25 percent of North American Jews under age 35 define themselves as Zionists.” (30) On the nation’s campuses support for Israel is confined not only to Jewish students but also mostly to the Zionist faithful gathered in the Hillels. “Jewish college students are clearly less attached to Israel than in previous generations,” a study commissioned by Jewish advocacy organizations reports. “Israel is losing the battle for the hearts and minds of this cohort.” (31) Indeed, of the nearly half million Jewish students attending institutions of higher education, “only about five percent have any connection to the Jewish community.” (32)
Ambivalence towards Israel verging on disaffection can also be discerned among influential sectors of American society, the bellwethers of U.S. intellectual life, and the reading public. A recent poll found that a majority of opinion leaders in the U.S. view support for Israel as a “major reason for discontent with the U.S.” around the world. (33) In a 2003 New York Review of Books essay, noted Jewish historian Tony Judt asserted that “Israel today is bad for the Jews” and he doubted both the viability and desirability of a Jewish state. (34) John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of the Harvard Kennedy School coauthored an influential paper in 2006 debunking the idealized image of Israel’s history and asserting that Israel has become a “strategic liability” for the United States. (35) A book by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, provocatively titled Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, deplored Israeli policy in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and put the blame for the impasse in the peace process squarely on Israel. (36)
Although the Israel lobby launched vitriolic counterattacks to these interventions, its usual smears alleging anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial did not adhere. When in 2006 the lobby’s pressures led to cancellation of one of Tony Judt’s speaking engagements, he became an instant cause célèbre in American intellectual circles. (37) His critics, such as Abraham H. Foxman of the ADL, were derided for “slinging the dread charge of anti-Semitism” and for being an “anachronism.” (38) Carter, meanwhile, was said to be a plagiarist, in the pay of Arab sheikhs, an anti-Semite, an apologist for terrorism, a Nazi sympathizer, (39) and a borderline Holocaust denier. (40) Yet his book landed on the New York Times bestseller list and remained there for months, selling an estimated 300,000 copies in hardback. Although snubbed by Brandeis University’s president, Carter still received standing ovations from the student body when he came to speak at the historically Jewish institution. (Half the audience walked out when Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz rose to answer Carter.) (41) Mearsheimer and Walt negotiated a book deal with the prestigious publishing house Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and their book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, also went on to become a Times bestseller. (42) It is further testament to Israel’s waning fortunes that, during Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s term of office, even Foxman and perennial Israel supporter Elie Wiesel took to publicly rebuking Israel for its failure to pursue peace. (43)
The simmering public discontent with Israeli policy in recent years reached a boiling point of indignation during the Gaza invasion. Despite Israel’s carefully orchestrated propaganda blitz; despite the overwhelmingly “pro”-Israel bias of mainstream media coverage, especially during the first few days of the attack (44); and despite official support in the West for the assault—despite all this, large popular protests throughout Western Europe (Spain, Italy, Germany, France, and Great Britain) dwarfed in size demonstrations supporting Israel. (45) A wave of student occupations swept across Great Britain including Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, Birmingham, London School of Economics, School of Oriental and African Studies, Warwick, King’s, Sussex, and Cardiff.
Even in traditional bastions of support for Israel such as Canada, where the “pro”-Israel bias of the extreme right-wing political establishment and media is unusually intense, (46) a plurality of public opinion disapproved of the assault and the Canadian Union of Public Employees passed a motion calling for an academic boycott of Israel. (47) Declaring after the ceasefire that “the events in Gaza have shocked us to the core,” a 16-strong group of the world’s most experienced investigators and judges—including Antonio Cassese (First President and Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Head of the U.N. Inquiry on Darfur) and Richard Goldstone (Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda and Chairman of the U.N. Inquiry on Kosovo)—called for an “international investigation of gross violations of the laws of war, committed by all parties to the Gaza conflict.” (48)
Unsurprisingly Israel’s apologists attributed the widespread outrage at the Gaza invasion to anti-Semitism. (49) It might be posited as a general rule that the lower the depths to which Israel’s criminal conduct sinks the higher the decibel level of the shrieks of anti-Semitism. Jews are confronting “an epidemic, a pandemic of anti-Semitism,” Abraham H. Foxman declared. “This is the worst, the most intense, the most global it’s been in most of our recent memories.” (50) Such fear mongering was nothing new from Foxman, who had portended back in 2003 that anti-Semitism was posing “as great a threat to the safety and security of the Jewish people as the one we faced in the 1930s.” (51)
Just as in the past, (52) poll data used to substantiate these exaggerations tallied “indicators” of “the most pernicious notions of anti-Semitism,” such as the finding that “large portions of the European public continue to believe that Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.” (53) According to Parisian media philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, anyone doubting that the Nazi holocaust was a “moral watershed in human history” should be reckoned an anti-Semite. (54) Few of the alleged anti-Semitic incidents in Europe went beyond merely unpleasant manifestations, such as emails and graffiti, (55) while European anti-Semitism, notwithstanding the hype, paled beside anti-Muslim bias. (A rise in animus towards Jews and Muslims—in recent years the two curves tend to correlate—appears partly due to a resurgence of ethnocentrism among older, less educated, and politically conservative Europeans.) (56)
Nonetheless it is most probably true that the execution by a self-proclaimed Jewish state of consecutive murderous rampages in Lebanon and Gaza, and the vocal support lent these rampages by official Jewish organizations around the world, caused a regrettable—if entirely predictable—“spillover” (57) whereby Jews generally were in some quarters held culpable. If, as the Israeli Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism asserted, there was “a sharp rise in the number and intensity of anti-Semitic incidents” during the Gaza massacre; and if “with the ceasefire there has ... been a marked decline in the number and intensity of anti-Semitic incidents”; and if “another flare-up in the region, similar to the Gaza operation, will probably lead to an even more severe outbreak of anti-Semitic activity against communities worldwide,” then an efficacious method to fight anti-Semitism would appear to be for Israel to stop committing massacres. (58)
It is also true that the growing rift between official support of Israeli war mongering and popular revulsion against it might feed anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. “A significant gap has been exposed between Israel’s status among the world’s political leaders, on the one hand, and within civil society, on the other,” an influential Israeli study observed. “Israel is under continuous attack within the same countries with which it maintains close relations.” (59) In Germany for example the political establishment and mainstream media do not brook any criticism of Israel (60) because of the “special relationship” growing out of Germany’s “historic responsibility,” and Chancellor Angela Merkel surpassed other European leaders in her embrace of Israel during the Gaza invasion. Yet recent polls have shown that 60 percent of Germans reject the notion of a special German obligation to Israel (70 percent of young people reject it), 50 percent believe that Israel is an aggressive country, 68 percent regard its influence in the world as mainly negative (only 13 percent regard it as mainly positive), and 60 percent believe that it pursues its interests ruthlessly. (61) More generally, Gideon Levy recalled “the surreal scene at the height of the brutal assault on Gaza when the heads of the European Union came to Israel and dined with the prime minister in a show of unilateral support for the side wreaking the killing and destruction.” (62) And although it was Israel that broke the ceasefire and launched the invasion, European leaders parleyed with the U.S. (and Canada) on how to thwart rearmament not of the perpetrators but of the victims. (63) It is only a matter of time before Europeans begin to wonder—if they haven’t already—at whose behest their foreign policy is being made.
The ascription of popular Gentile outrage over the Gaza massacre to anti-Semitism appeared all the more preposterous in the face of widespread and vocal Jewish dissent. Whereas established communal Jewish organizations issued statements supporting Israel, ad hoc Jewish organizations and petitions deploring the invasion proliferated. (64) Most significantly, Jews prominent in communal Jewish life criticized Israel, albeit mostly in muted language. (65) As Israel stood poised to launch the ground offensive after a week of aerial attacks, a group of Britain’s most distinguished Jews, describing themselves as “profound and passionate supporters” of Israel, expressed “horror” at the “increasing loss of life on both sides” and called on Israel to cease its military operations in Gaza immediately. (66)
On a more acerbic note, British MP and former shadow foreign minister Gerald Kaufman declared during a House of Commons debate on Gaza, “My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town of Staszow. A German soldier shot her dead in her bed. My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.” He went on to indict the Israeli government for having “ruthlessly and cynically exploit[ed] the continuing guilt among Gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians.” (67) Meanwhile in France the popular Jewish writer Jean-Moïse Braitberg called on the Israeli president to remove his grandfather’s name from the memorial at Yad Vashem dedicated to victims of the Nazi holocaust “so that it can no longer be used to justify the horror which is visited on the Palestinians.” (68) In Germany Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, daughter of a former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, wrote, “Not the elected Hamas government, but the brutal occupier ... belongs in the dock at the Hague,” while the German section of European Jews for a Just Peace issued a statement headlined “German Jews Say NO to Israeli Army Killings.” (69) In Canada eight Jewish women occupying the Israeli consulate called on “all Jews to speak out against this massacre,” and celebrated Canadian pianist Anton Kuerti declared, “The unbelievable war crimes that Israel is committing in Gaza ... make me ashamed to be a Jew.” (70) In Australia two award-winning novelists and a former federal cabinet minister signed a statement by Jews condemning Israel’s “grossly disproportionate assault.” (71)
The Bush administration and the U.S. Congress lent unqualified support to Israel during the invasion. A resolution laying full culpability on Hamas for the resulting death and destruction passed unanimously in the Senate and 390 to 5 in the House. (72) Much of the mainstream media in the U.S. likewise shamelessly toed the Israeli party line. “By New Year’s Day, Israel’s cheering squad had turned the opinion pages of major American newspapers into their own personal romper room,” blogger Max Blumenthal observed. “Of all the editorial contributions published by the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times since the Israeli war on Gaza began, ... only one offered a skeptical view of the assault.” (73) The New York Times’s conception of op-ed balance was achieved by juxtaposing Jeffrey Goldberg’s reverie on the unregenerate evil of Hamas (74) with Thomas Friedman’s counsel to Israel that it inflict “heavy pain on the Gaza population.” (75) Its hometown rival the New York Daily News ran an op-ed by Rabbi Marvin Hier that urged world leaders “not ... to rebuild Gaza again” even though “many civilians will suffer” because “terrorists and those who support them are not entitled to receive VIP booty for their inhumanity, misdeeds and silence.” (76) Hier is the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance. In the midst of this lynch-mob atmosphere even human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch reserved their strongest condemnations for Hamas. (77)
These venomous elite outpourings notwithstanding, public opinion polls showed that, although harshly critical of Hamas, only about 40 percent of Americans approved of the Israeli attack, while among those voting Democratic (the party affiliation of most Jews) approval dropped to 30 percent. (78) In a dramatic display of independence reminiscent of Jimmy Carter’s authorship of Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, liberal icon Bill Moyers rebuked Israel on his popular public affairs program Bill Moyers Journal, albeit in a context that also took Hamas to task: “By killing indiscriminately the elderly, kids, entire families, by destroying schools and hospitals, Israel did exactly what terrorists do.” Like Carter, Moyers immediately came under fire from Abraham H. Foxman, who accused him of “racism, historical revisionism and indifference to terrorism,” and Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz who decried Moyers’s “false moral equivalence” between Hamas terrorism and the Israeli army that “inadvertently kill[s] some Palestinian civilians who are used as human shields by Hamas.” But again like Carter, Moyers managed to stand his ground and, as fellow liberals rose to his defense, to emerge unscathed after the fusillade of slanders. (79)
As the Gaza invasion unfolded, and the shocking images of the carnage transmitted live by Al-Jazeera could no longer be ignored, cracks started appearing in the moderate mainstream. Under the ominous title “Time Running Out for a Two-State Solution?,” the most-watched U.S. news broadcast 60 Minutes aired a devastating segment on Jewish settlers in the West Bank, which included a harrowing scene of “Arabs [who] are occupied inside their own homes” by Israeli soldiers. (80) The right-wing editorial page of the Wall Street Journal ran a piece by law professor George E. Bisharat under the headline “Israel Is Committing War Crimes.” (81)
The normally staid New York Times columnist Roger Cohen confessed in a pair of columns to being “shamed by Israeli actions.” In the second piece Cohen speculated that “Israel’s continued expansion of settlements, Gaza blockade, West Bank walling-in and wanton recourse to high-tech force” was “designed precisely to bludgeon, undermine and humiliate the Palestinian people until their dreams of statehood and dignity evaporate.” (82) Former editor of the New Republic and influential conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan judged that the Israeli attack was “far from a close call morally.... This is an extremely one-sided war,” and he labeled “thugs” the rightwing Jewish apologists for “the terrible human carnage now being inflicted by Israel (and paid for in part by Americans).” (83)
Philip Slater, author of the classic sociological study The Pursuit of Loneliness, declared, “The Gaza Strip is little more than a large Israeli concentration camp, in which Palestinians are attacked at will, starved of food, fuel, energy—even deprived of hospital supplies.... It would be difficult to have any respect for them if they didn’t fire a few rockets back.” (84) Meanwhile the City Council of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a liberal enclave and home to Harvard University, adopted a resolution “condemning the attacks [on] and invasion of Gaza by the Israeli military and the rocket attacks upon the people of Israel,” (85) and a group of American university professors launched a national campaign calling for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. (86)
A poll of American Jews found that 47% strongly approved of the Israeli assault, but—in a sharp break with the usual wallto-wall solidarity—53% were either ambivalent (44% “somewhat” approved or “somewhat” disapproved) or strongly disapproved (9%). (87) Seasoned observers of the American Jewish community pointed to a “post-Gaza sea change.” Apart from “the more conservative segment of the pro-Israel community,” M. J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum noted, “there was little show of support for this war. In New York, a city where crowds of 250,000 have come out for ‘solidarity’ rallies in the past, only 8,000 came to Manhattan for a community demonstration on a sunny Sunday.” (88)
In a public clash with the traditional Jewish leadership, mainstream if less-established Jewish organizations such as J Street staked out a middle ground that “recognize[d] that neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a monopoly on right or wrong,” and called for “shedding a narrow us-versus-them approach to the Middle East.” (89) Founded in 2008, J Street projects itself as a liberal counterweight to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It is too soon to predict whether J Street—which currently hews to a vaguely progressive political agenda, although it also defines itself as “closest” to Kadima, the Israeli political party headed by Tzipi Livni— will calcify into a “loyal opposition” or escalate its criticism of Israeli policy as the gulf dividing American Jewry from Israel widens. (90) Meanwhile “American Jews for a Just Peace” circulated a petition calling on “Israeli Soldiers to Stop War Crimes,” “Jews Say No” demonstrated outside the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency offices, and “Jews against the Occupation” dropped a banner over New York City’s West Side Highway declaring “Jews Say: End Israel’s War on Gaza NOW!” (91)
In the liberal Jewish intellectual milieu only perennial apologists for Israel, most of whom came on board right after the June 1967 war and are now in their 70s, ventured a fullthroated defense of the invasion. It was obvious to moral philosopher Michael Walzer that Israel had exhausted nonviolent options before it attacked and that Hamas bore responsibility for the ensuing civilian deaths. To Walzer the only “hard question” was whether Israel did all it possibly could to reduce these casualties. (92) It was obvious to Alan M. Dershowitz that Israel made “its best efforts to avoid killing civilians” and that it failed because Hamas pursued a “dead baby” strategy of forcing Israel to kill Palestinian children in order to garner international sympathy. (93) It was obvious to New Republic editor Martin Peretz from his scrutiny of the Palestinians’ footwear that the Israeli blockade of Gaza was benign: “You have to look closely at the sneakers, seemingly new and, of course, costly.” (94) It was obvious to writer Paul Berman that if a “possibility” exists that Hamas might threaten Israel someday in the future with genocide “if Hamas were allowed to prosper unimpeded, and if its allies and fellow-thinkers in Hezbollah and the Iranian government and its nuclear program likewise prospered,” then Israel would have the right to launch an attack now. (95) On such an accumulation of hypotheticals stacked on conditionals, it is hard to conceive what country in the world would be safe from arbitrary attack, and what country would not be justified in arbitrarily launching an attack.
If, apart from this coterie of robust Israel defenders, Jewish liberals recognized that the Israeli onslaught was morally problematic, they could not yet abide their dirty laundry being aired in front of the goyim. Magazines and journals of opinion pitched to the upscale and urbane Jewish public such as the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books accordingly sat out the Gaza massacre. (96) However, one influential contingent of liberal Jewish public intellectuals did not stay silent: the new generation of liberal Jewish bloggers and regular contributors to liberal-Democratic web sites such as and the Huffington Post. Less in thrall to establishment Jewish editors, advertisers, funders, and social networks, speaking as and for a generation that came of age when to a large degree Zionist mythology had been dispelled and displaced by sober historical research, when the Israeli political establishment had grown squalid and reactionary, when Israel’s human rights record had been subjected to piercing scrutiny by the human rights community, and when Holocaust-induced paranoia and anti-Semitism-mongering palpably collided with the quotidian reality of triumphant Jewish assimilation everywhere from the Ivy League to Wall Street, from Hollywood to Washington, and from the country club to the marriage altar—professionally, mentally, and emotionally emancipated from the shackles of the past, these Jewish habitués of the blogosphere went on the offensive denouncing the Gaza invasion from its inception. The symbolism could scarcely be missed. Whereas diehard apologists for Israel such as Walzer, Dershowitz, and Peretz climbed aboard the Zionist ship while in their youths, the generation of youthful Jewish public intellectuals now making their names on the Internet has been jumping off it. (97) “I pity them their hatred of their inheritance,” Peretz hissed. “They are pip-squeaks.” (98)
Here are the pip-squeaks in their own words. Ezra Klein (age 25; blogger for American Prospect) posted on Day 2 of the invasion, “The rocket attacks were undoubtedly ‘deeply disturbing’ to Israelis. But so too are the checkpoints, the road closures, the restricted movement, the terrible joblessness, the unflinching oppression, the daily humiliations, the illegal settlement— I’m sorry, ‘outpost’—construction ‘deeply disturbing’ to the Palestinians, and far more injurious. And the 300 dead Palestinians should be disturbing to us all.” (99)
Adam Horowitz (age 35; blogger for Mondoweiss) posted on Day 4 in response to Benny Morris’s op-ed in the New York Times, “It is clear he can only see the reactions, but not the cause. He lists the responses to Israel and to Israel’s ongoing Jewish colonization of historic Palestine, without mentioning the elephant in the room, that the walls closing in on Israel are all self-made.” (100)
Matthew Yglesias (age 28; blogger for Think Progress) posted on Day 6, “While Israel has stated a desire to leave the Gaza Palestinians alone in their tiny, overcrowded, economically unviable enclave, the [2005] ‘disengagement’ from Gaza has never entailed letting Palestinians control their borders or exercise meaningful sovereignty over the area. The proposal has basically been that if Palestinians cease violence against Israel, then the Gaza Strip will be treated like an Indian reservation.” (101)
Dana Goldstein (age 24; blogger for American Prospect) posted on Day 12, “I want to believe that the collective, historical experience of Jewishness and Zionism leads to something better—something more humane—than what we’ve witnessed in the Middle East this past week.” (102)
Glenn Greenwald (age 42; blogger for posted on Day 13, “This is not so much of a war as it is a completely one-sided massacre,” and on 30 January 2009, “It’s just not possible to make real progress in the domestic aims of restoring the Constitution and reversing our military and intelligence expansions if we are simultaneously enabling and blindly supporting Israel’s various wars (and therefore dragging ourselves into those wars).”
On 20 February 2009 Greenwald responded to an insinuation by Jeffrey Goldberg that he was a Jew-hating Israelbasher, “People like Jeffrey Goldberg ... have so abused, overused, manipulated and exploited the ‘anti-Semitism’ and ‘anti-Israel’ accusations for improper and nakedly political ends that those terms have become drained of their meaning, have almost entirely lost their sting, and have become trivialized virtually to the point of caricature.... Indeed, people like Goldberg are becoming extra rancid and reckless in their rhetoric precisely because they know that these rhetorical devices have ceased working.” “There is a definite sea change when it comes to American policy debates toward Israel,” Greenwald concluded. “They no longer possess the ability to stifle dissent through thuggish intimidation tactics and they know that, which is why they can now do nothing but turn up the volume on their name-calling attacks. The Israeli devastation of Gaza and its trapped, defenseless civilian population—using American bombs, arms, money and diplomatic cover—was so brutal and horrific to watch that it inevitably changed the way people view that Middle East conflict.” (103) Soon after the Gaza invasion ended, the phalanx of liberal Jewish bloggers again went tit-for-tat with the Israel lobby when the lobby sought to block the Obama administration’s appointment of Chas Freeman, an official critical of Israeli policy. (104)
Another straw in the wind was a sketch titled “Strip Maul” that aired on Comedy Central’s Daily Show on 5 January 2009. The host of the program, comedian Jon Stewart, is Jewish and has a huge following among young people. To roars of approval from the studio audience, he ridiculed the numbingly unanimous and cliché-ridden support for Israel among politicians (“It’s the Möbius strip of issues—there’s only one side!”); adverted to “the soul-crushing segmentation and blockading of Gaza”; and likened a Palestinian’s plight to forcing someone “to live in my hallway and make him go through checkpoints every time he has to take a s**t.” (105)
The generational metamorphosis regarding Israel was most evident on college campuses. “A shift toward more visible pro-Palestinian or anti-Israel sentiment has been profound on some campuses,” Inside Higher Ed reported, “prompted, in part, by the winter war in Gaza.” (106) An Israel lobby publication lamented that student supporters have been reduced to arguing, “Israel doesn’t suck.” (107) Large halls filled to overflow for lectures deploring the Gaza massacre. Whereas “pro”-Israel groups used to protest inside or outside such lectures, they were now barely seen. Students at Cornell University lined pathways with 1,300 black flags commemorating the dead in Gaza. (The display was later vandalized.) Students at University of Rochester, University of Massachusetts, New York University, Columbia University, Haverford College, Bryn Mawr College, and Hampshire College held petition drives, protests, and sit-ins demanding financial support for Palestinian students and divestment from arms companies and companies doing business with the illegal Jewish settlements. Hampshire College students successfully pressured the college’s trustees to divest from American corporations that directly profit from the occupation.
Although “pro”-Israel organizations alleged that “college and university campuses ... have become hotbeds of a virulent new strain of anti-Semitism,” (108) at many campuses Jewish students have played a leading role on the local “Students for Justice in Palestine” committees, and creative and dedicated young Jewish activists in Birthright Unplugged and Anarchists Against the Wall, alongside individuals such as Anna Baltzer, author of the memoir Witness in Palestine, (109) have gone from school to school offering personal testimony on the daily horrors unfolding in Palestine. The bonds of solidarity being forged between young Jews and Muslims opposing the occupation—the core group on many campuses consists of secular Jewish radicals and observant Muslim women—give reason for hope that a just and lasting peace may yet be achieved.

After speaking on the Gaza massacre at a Canadian university, the sponsors presented me with a button reading I GAZA. I pinned the button to my backpack and headed for the airport. As I stood on the queue to board the plane, a passenger behind me whispered in my ear “I like your button.” Hmm, I thought, the times they are a-changing. A couple of hours later I asked the airline attendant for a cup of water. Handing me the cup he leaned over and whispered “I like your button.” Hmm, I thought, there’s something happening here.


People should know who has committed what crimes. This will show what is the truth and what is the untruth and the poison will come to the surface. Just now people only make guesses while the poison works within.
Mahatma Gandhi (14 April 1947) (1)

In April 2009 the president of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed a “Fact-Finding Mission” to “investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.” (2) Richard Goldstone, former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, was named head of the Mission. The Mission’s original mandate was to scrutinize only Israeli violations of human rights during the assault on Gaza, but Goldstone made his acceptance of the job conditional on broadening the mandate to include violations on all sides. The council president invited Goldstone to write the mandate himself, which Goldstone did and which the president then accepted. “It was very difficult to refuse ... a mandate that I’d written for myself,” Goldstone later observed. Nonetheless Israel did not cooperate with the Mission on the grounds of its alleged bias. (3) In September 2009 the longawaited report of the Goldstone Mission was released. (4) It was a searing indictment not just of the Gaza invasion but also of the ongoing Israeli occupation.
The Goldstone Report found that much of the death and destruction Israel inflicted on the civilian population and infrastructure of Gaza was premeditated. The assault was said to be anchored in a military doctrine that “views disproportionate destruction and creating maximum disruption in the lives of many people as a legitimate means to achieve military and political goals,” and was “designed to have inevitably dire consequences for the non-combatants in Gaza.” (5) The “disproportionate destruction and violence against civilians” were part of a “deliberate policy,” as were the “humiliation and dehumanization of the Palestinian population.” (6) Although Israel justified the attack on grounds of self-defense against Hamas rocket attacks, the Goldstone Report pointed to a different motive. The “primary purpose” of the economic blockade Israel imposed on Gaza was to “bring about a situation in which the civilian population would find life so intolerable that they would leave (if that were possible) or turn Hamas out of office, as well as to collectively punish the civilian population,” and concomitantly the invasion was “aimed at punishing the Gaza population for its resilience and for its apparent support for Hamas, and possibly with the intent of forcing a change in such support.” (7) The Report concluded that the Israeli assault on Gaza constituted “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.” (8) The Report also paid moving tribute to “the resilience and dignity” of the Gazan people “in the face of dire circumstances.” (9)
The Goldstone Report found that in seeking to “punish, humiliate and terrorize” the Gazan civilian population Israel committed numerous violations of customary and conventional international law. It also ticked off a lengthy list of war crimes that Israel committed such as “willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment,” “willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health,” “extensive destruction of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly,” and “use of human shields.” (10) It further found that Israeli actions that “deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of sustenance, employment, housing and water, that deny their freedom of movement and their right to leave and enter their own country, that limit their access to courts of law and effective remedies ... might justify a competent court finding that crimes against humanity have been committed.” (11)
The Goldstone Report pinned primary culpability for these criminal offenses on Israel’s political and military elites: “The systematic and deliberate nature of the activities ... leave the Mission in no doubt that responsibility lies in the first place with those who designed, planned, ordered and oversaw the operations.” (12) It also found that the fatalities, property damage, and “psychological trauma” resulting from Hamas’s “indiscriminate” and “deliberate” rocket attacks on Israel’s civilian population constituted “war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.” (13) Because the Goldstone Mission (like human rights organizations) devoted a much smaller fraction of its findings to Hamas rocket attacks, critics accused it of bias. The accusation was valid, but its weight ran in the opposite direction. If one considers that the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli deaths stood at more than 100:1 and of dwellings ravaged at more than 6000:1, then the proportion of the Goldstone Report given over to death and destruction caused by Hamas in Israel was much greater than the objective data would have warranted. (14)
When it was subsequently put to Goldstone that the Report disproportionately focused on Israeli violations of international law, he replied, “It’s difficult to deal equally with a state party, with a sophisticated army, with the sort of army Israel has, with an air force, and a navy, and the most sophisticated weapons that are not only in the arsenal of Israel, but manufactured and exported by Israel, on the one hand, with Hamas using really improvised, imprecise armaments.” (15) Despite their relative impotence, Palestinians are often taken to task in the West for not embracing a Gandhian strategy that repudiates violent resistance. In 2003 then-U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told a Georgetown University audience that “if the Palestinians would adopt the ways of Gandhi, I think they could in fact make enormous change very, very quickly.” (16) Whatever the merits of this contention it still should be recalled what Gandhi actually had to say on the subject of nonviolence. He categorized forceful resistance in the face of impossible odds—a woman fending off a rapist with slaps and scratches, an unarmed man resisting torture by a gang, or Polish armed self-defense to the Nazi aggression—as “almost nonviolence” because it was in essence symbolic and acted more as a fillip to the spirit to overcome fear and allow for a dignified death; it registered “a refusal to bend before overwhelming might in the full knowledge that it means certain death.” (17) In the face of Israel’s infernal, high-tech slaughter in Gaza it is hard not to see the desultory Hamas rocket attacks falling into the category of token violence that Gandhi was loath to condemn. Even granting that the rocket attacks did constitute fullfledged violence, it is still not certain that Gandhi would have disapproved. “Fight violence with nonviolence if you can,” he counseled, “and if you can’t do that, fight violence by any means, even if it means your utter extinction. But in no case should you leave your hearths and homes to be looted and burnt.” (18) Isn’t this what Hamas did when it decided to “fight violence by any means,” even if it meant “utter extinction,” after Israel broke the ceasefire and refused to relax the illegal blockade that was destroying Gaza’s “whole civilization” (Mary Robinson) and causing “the breakdown of an entire society” (Sara Roy)? (19)
The Goldstone Report did not limit itself narrowly to the Gaza invasion. It broadened out into a comprehensive, fullblown indictment of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians during the long years of occupation. The Report condemned Israel’s fragmentation of the Palestinian people, (20) and its restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement and access through the regime of closures, checkpoints, curfews, and “Israeli-only” roads (21); its “institutionalized discrimination” against Palestinians both in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel (22); its violent repression of Palestinian (as well as Israeli) demonstrators opposing the occupation, and the violent attacks on Palestinian civilians in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers enjoying legal impunity (23); its wholesale detention of Palestinians (including hundreds of children as well as Hamas parliamentary members) for political reasons, (24) the lack of due process, and the violence inflicted on Palestinian detainees (25); its “silent transfer” of Palestinians in East Jerusalem to ethnically cleanse it (26); its “de facto annexation” of ten percent of the West Bank on the “Israeli side” of the Wall that “amount[s] to the acquisition of territory by force, contrary to the Charter of the United Nations,” (27) and its settlement expansion, land expropriation, and demolition of Palestinian homes and villages. The Goldstone Report concluded that certain of these policies constituted war crimes, (28) and also violated the “jus cogens” right (i.e., peremptory norm under international law) to self-determination. (29)
Although it did not mark out a clear distinction between those perpetrating and those resisting a brutal occupation, the Goldstone Report nonetheless did not pretend to a false equivalence between Israel and the Palestinians. It eschewed “equating the position of Israel as the Occupying Power with that of the occupied Palestinian population or entities representing it. The differences with regard to the power and capacity to inflict harm or to protect, including by securing justice when violations occur, are obvious and a comparison is neither possible nor necessary.” (30)
The Goldstone Report proposed several options to hold Israel and Gaza authorities accountable for violations of international law during the Gaza invasion. Individual states in the international community should “start criminal investigations in national courts, using universal jurisdiction, where there is sufficient evidence of the commission of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Where so warranted following investigation, alleged perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted in accordance with internationally recognized standards of justice.” (31) It also called on the U.N. Security Council to monitor the readiness of Israel and Gaza authorities to “launch appropriate investigations that are independent and in conformity with international standards into the serious violations of international humanitarian and international human rights law.” If Israel and Gaza authorities failed to undertake “goodfaith investigations,” the Goldstone Report recommended that the Security Council should “refer the situation in Gaza to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.” (32) It further recommended that Israel pay compensation for damages through a U.N. General Assembly escrow fund. (33)
In regard to the Israeli occupation the Goldstone Report recommended that the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention should convene in order to “enforce the Convention” in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to “ensure its respect”; that Israel terminate its blockade of Gaza and strangulation of Gaza’s economy, its violence against Palestinian civilians, its “destruction and affronts on human dignity,” its interference in Palestinian political life and repression of political dissent, and its restrictions on freedom of movement; that Palestinian armed groups “renounc[e] attacks on Israeli civilians and civilian objects” and release the Israeli soldier held in captivity; and that Palestinian authorities release political detainees and respect human rights. (34)
The Israeli reaction to the Goldstone Report came fast and furious. Apart from a few honorable (if predictable) exceptions, (35) it was subjected for months to a torrent of relentless abuse across the Israeli political spectrum and at all levels of society. Indeed, it was nearly impossible to find the actual Report on the Web amid the avalanche of vicious postings. Ridiculing the Goldstone Report as a “mockery of history,” and Goldstone himself as a “small man, devoid of any sense of justice, a technocrat with no real understanding of jurisprudence,” Israeli President Shimon Peres proceeded to set the record straight: “IDF [Israel Defense Forces] operations enabled economic prosperity in the West Bank, relieved southern Lebanese citizens from the terror of Hezbollah, and have enabled Gazans to have normal lives again.” (36) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu purported that the Goldstone Report was “a kangaroo court against Israel,” (37) and Defense Minister Ehud Barak inveighed that it was “a lie, distorted, biased and supports terror.” (38) Netanyahu subsequently proposed launching an international campaign to “amend the rules of war” in order to facilitate the “battle against terrorists” in the future. (“What is it that Israel wants?,” Israeli historian Zeev Sternhell wondered aloud. “Permission to fearlessly attack defenseless population centers with planes, tanks and artillery?”) (39) Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin warned that the Goldstone Report’s “new and crooked morality will usher in a new era in Western civilization, similar to the one that we remember from the [1938] Munich agreement.” (40)
Former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni declared that the Goldstone Report was “born in sin,” (41) while current Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman declared that it had “no legal, factual or moral value,” and current Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon warned that it “provides legitimacy to terrorism” and risks “turning international law into a circus.” (42) Former Israeli ambassador to the U.N. Dan Gillerman ripped the Report for “blatant, one-sided, anti-Israel lies,” and former Israeli ambassador to the U.N. Dore Gold deemed it “one of the most potent weapons in the arsenal of international terrorist organizations,” while current Israeli ambassador to the U.N. Gabriela Shalev castigated it as “biased, one-sided and political.” (43) Israeli ambassador to the United States and ballyhooed historian Michael Oren intoned in the Boston Globe that the Goldstone Report “must be rebuffed by all those who care about peace”; alleged in an address to the American Jewish Committee that Hezbollah was one of the Report’s prime beneficiaries; and reckoned in the New Republic that the Report was even worse than “ Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust deniers.” (44) (Haaretz’s Gideon Levy dubbed Oren the “ambassador-propagandist.” (45)) IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi dismissed the Goldstone Report as “biased and unbalanced,” while IDF senior legal advisor Avichai Mendelblit derided it as “biased, astonishingly extreme, lack[ing] any basis in reality.” (46) The Jerusalem Post editorialized that the Goldstone Report was “a feat of cynical superficiality” and was “born in bias and matured into a full-fledged miscarriage of justice,” while former Haaretz editor-in-chief David Landau lamented that the Report’s “fundamental premise, that the Israelis went after civilians,” eliminated any possibility of “honest debate” (47)—although that was not the Goldstone Report’s premise but its conclusion reached after an honest search for truth. Settler movement leader Israel Harel deemed the Goldstone Report “destructive, toxic,” more wretched than the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and misdirected “against precisely that country which protects human and military ethics more than the world has ever seen,” while residents of Sderot picketed U.N. offices in Jerusalem holding signs saying “ Goldstone apologize” and “We’re sick of anti-Semites.” (48) A Tel Aviv University center for the study of “antisemitism and racism” alleged that the Goldstone Report was responsible for a global upsurge in “hate crimes against Jews” and “the equation of the war in Gaza with the Holocaust.” (49) Comparing Goldstone’s accusations against Israel to those leveled against Alfred Dreyfus, Professor Gerald Steinberg of Bar Ilan University declared that “Israel had the moral right to flatten all of Gaza.” (50) (Steinberg founded the university’s program on conflict resolution and management.)
Fully 94 percent of Israeli Jews who were familiar with the Goldstone Report’s content held it to be biased against Israel, and 79 percent rejected its accusation that the IDF committed war crimes. (51) Even after the Gaza massacre and the military’s subsequent lies and cover-ups, fully 81 percent of all Israelis and 90 percent of Israeli Jews ranked the IDF as the state institution they most trust, placing it first among trusted institutions by a wide margin. (52) Since the Report’s findings were beyond the pale, the only topic deemed worthy of deliberation in Israel was whether it had been prudent for Israel to boycott the Goldstone Mission. (53) But, as veteran peace activist Uri Avnery pointed out, the “real answer” as to why Israel chose not to cooperate “is quite simple: they knew full well that the mission, any mission, would have to reach the conclusions it did reach.” It is notable that, unlike in the past, after the Gaza invasion Israelis dispensed with the theatrical outpourings of angst—“shooting and crying”—that Jewish cheerleaders abroad regularly used to tout as proof of the uniquely sensitive Israeli soul. Brutalized and calloused, Israelis could apparently no longer even conceive of a feeling of remorse. Although calling for a ceasefire after the initial air assault, the icons of Israel’s “peace camp”— Amos Oz, A. B. Yehoshua, and David Grossman— still alleged that Hamas was “responsible” and the Israeli invasion “necessary” because Hamas leaders “refused every Israeli and Egyptian attempt to reach a compromise to prevent this latest flare-up.” (54)
Back in the U.S. the usual suspects rose (or sunk) to the occasion of smearing the message and the messenger. In a posting on Commentary’s web site Max Boot dismissed the Goldstone Report as a “risible series of findings,” and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton opined in the Wall Street Journal that “the logical response to this debacle is to withdraw from and defund” the Human Rights Council. (55) Elie Wiesel condemned the Goldstone Report as not only “a crime against the Jewish people” but also “unnecessary,” ostensibly because “I can’t believe that Israeli soldiers murdered people or shot children. It just can’t be.” (56) Harvard’s Alan M. Dershowitz alleged that the Goldstone Report “is so filled with lies, distortions and blood libels that it could have been draft ed by Hamas extremists”; that it recalled the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and was “biased and bigoted”; that “every serious student of human rights should be appalled at this anti-human rights and highly politicized report”; that it made “findings of fact (nearly all wrong),” stated “conclusions of law (nearly all questionable),” and made “specific recommendations (nearly all one-sided)”; and that Goldstone was “a traitor to the Jewish people,” an “evil, evil man” and—he said on Israeli television— on a par with Auschwitz “Angel of Death” Josef Mengele. (57) The “essence” and “central conclusion” of the Goldstone Report, according to Dershowitz, was that Israel had a “carefully planned and executed policy of deliberately targeting innocent civilians for mass murder”; that Israel’s “real purpose” was “to target innocent Palestinian civilians—children, women and the elderly—for death.” He repeated this characterization of the Goldstone Report on nearly every page—often multiple times on a single page—of his lengthy “study in evidentiary bias,” and then handily refuted the allegation. (58) The problem was that Dershowitz conjured a straw man: the Goldstone Report never said or implied that the principal objective of Israel’s attack was to murder Palestinians. If the Goldstone Report did allege this, it would have had to charge Israel with genocide—but it didn’t. It is a commonplace that the more frequently a lie is repeated the more credible it becomes. The novelty of Dershowitz’s “study” was that it kept repeating a lie the more easily to discredit its purveyor.
Dershowitz and other Goldstone-bashers alleged that the Palestinian witnesses were either coached and intimidated by Hamas or were actually Hamas militants in disguise, without a jot of evidence being adduced, (59) while Goldstone himself rejoined by offering “every assurance that it didn’t happen.” (60) The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) called the Goldstone Mission “rigged” and the Goldstone Report “deeply flawed,” (61) the American Jewish Committee deplored it as a “deeply distorted document,” (62) and Abraham H. Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League was “shocked and distressed that the United States would not unilaterally dismiss it.” (63)
The Obama administration quickly fell into line with the Israel lobby, but it probably did not need much prodding: one of Israel’s talking points in Washington was that the Goldstone Report’s recommendation to prosecute soldiers for war crimes “should worry every country fighting terror.” (64) State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly alleged that whereas the Report “makes overly sweeping conclusions of fact and law with respect to Israel, its conclusions regarding Hamas’s deplorable conduct ... are more general”; Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Democracy Michael Posner condemned it as “deeply flawed”; and Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Alejandro Wolff faulted its “unbalanced focus on Israel.” (65) In its 47-page entry for “Israel and the occupied territories,” the U.S. State Department’s 2009 Human Rights Report devoted all of three sentences to the Israeli attack on Gaza, then touched on the Goldstone Mission’s findings and disparagingly concluded: “The Goldstone report was widely criticized for methodological failings, legal and factual errors, falsehoods, and for devoting insufficient attention to the asymmetrical nature of the conflict and the fact that Hamas and other Palestinian militants were deliberately operating in heavily populated urban areas of Gaza.” (66) New York Democrat Gary Ackerman, chair of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, mocked Goldstone as inhabiting a “self-righteous fantasyland” and the Report as a “pompous, tendentious, one-sided political diatribe.” (67)
After suffering a relentless barrage of such attacks, Goldstone finally challenged the Obama administration to justify substantively its criticism of the Report, while Human Rights Watch (HRW) took to task the U.S. government for having “resorted to calling the report ‘unbalanced’ and ‘deeply flawed,’ but providing no real facts to support those assertions.” (68) The U.S. House of Representatives passed by a vote of 344 to 36 a non-binding resolution that condemned the Goldstone Report as “irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy.” (69) Before the vote was taken Goldstone provided a point-by-point demonstration that the House resolution was vitiated by “serious factual inaccuracies and instances where information and statements are taken grossly out of context.” (70) Meanwhile, the U.S. government reportedly planned to block or limit Security Council action on the Goldstone Report, while both the U.S. and Israel pressured the Palestinian Authority (PA) to drop its support of the Report’s recommendations. “The PA has reached the point where it has to decide,” a senior Israeli defense official pronounced, “whether it is working with us or against us.” (71)
The answer was not long in coming. Acting on direct instructions from President Mahmoud Abbas, the PA representative on the U.N. Human Rights Council effectively acquiesced in killing consideration of the Goldstone Report, but the decision evoked such outrage among Palestinians that the PA was forced to reverse itself and the council convened to consider the findings. (72) It approved a resolution “condemning all targeting of civilians and stressing the urgent need to ensure accountability for all violations” of international law, and it endorsed the Goldstone Report’s recommendations and urged the United Nations to act on them. (73) In November 2009 the U.N. General Assembly passed by a vote of 114 to 18 (44 countries abstained) a resolution also “condemning all targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure,” and it called on both Israel and the “Palestinian side” to “undertake investigations that are independent, credible and in conformity with international standards into the serious violations of international ... law reported by the Fact-Finding Mission.” (74) Israeli officials denounced the resolution as “completely detached from realities” and a “mockery of reality,” and alleged that the vote “proves that Israel is succeeding in getting across the message that the report is one-sided and not serious.” (75)
In February 2010, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reported back to the General Assembly that still “no determination can be made on the implementation” of its November 2009 resolution calling for credible investigations. (76) Later in the month the General Assembly passed another resolution by a vote of 98 to 7 (31 countries abstained) reiterating its call on Israel and Hamas to “conduct investigations that are independent, credible and in conformity with international standards,” and requesting that the Secretary-General report back within five months on the implementation of the resolution. (77) Despite intensive lobbying by European Jewish groups, the European Parliament passed in March 2010 by a vote of 335 to 287 a resolution “demanding” implementation of the Goldstone Report’s recommendations and “accountability for all violations of international law, including alleged war crimes.” The spokesman for the Israeli mission to the European Union deplored the resolution as “flawed and counterproductive.” (78)
In January and July 2010 respectively, Israel released “updates” on its own investigations. (79) Although scores of investigations had been conducted according to these documents, the results overwhelmingly exonerated Israelis of wrongdoing: a handful of soldiers suffered disciplinary sanctions such as an officer who was “severely reprimanded”; to date the one and only Israeli convicted on a criminal charge and sentenced to prison remained the soldier who stole a credit card. (80) Even these risibly token punishments evoked indignation in IDF ranks. (81) Still, the Israeli investigations could not be faulted for lack of creativity. One soldier who killed a woman carrying a white flag was exonerated on the grounds that the bullet was actually a “warning shot” that “ricocheted” (82)—off a cloud? Despite near-total vindication by these “investigations,” in a magnanimous gesture Israel “adopted important new written procedures and doctrine designed to enhance the protection of civilians ... and to limit unnecessary damage to civilian property and infrastructure” in future conflicts (83)—as if the death and destruction in Gaza had resulted from operational deficits and not from an assault “designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population.” (84)
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights announced in June 2010 the formation of an independent panel to “ensure accountability for all violations of international humanitarian and international human rights laws during the Gaza conflict.” (85) The committee was chaired by a former member of the International Law Commission and included a former Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. The committee’s report, issued in September 2010, (86) found that, although “certain positive steps ... have resulted from Israel’s investigations,” the bottom line was that “the military investigations thus far appear to have produced very little.” (87) Indeed, while “the Committee cannot conclude that credible and genuine investigations have been carried out by the de facto authorities in the Gaza Strip,” (88) Hamas apparently convicted and sentenced to prison time more people than Israel. (89) After release of this report Amnesty International urged the U.N. Human Rights Council to “recognize the failure of the investigations conducted by Israel and the Hamas de facto administration,” and to “call on the ICC [International Criminal Court] Prosecutor urgently to seek a determination ... whether the ICC has jurisdiction over the Gaza conflict.” (90)
In March 2010 the Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center released a voluminous response to the Goldstone Report. (91) It was based largely on “interrogations of terrorist operatives,” “reports from IDF forces,” “Israeli intelligence information,” and unverifiable and indecipherable photographic evidence. Ignoring copious evidence amassed by human rights organizations, the Center’s response denied that Gazans were suffering a humanitarian crisis before the Israeli attack (it blamed Hamas for the shortages that did arise); (92) denied that Israel’s 4 November 2008 raid on Gaza caused the breakdown of the ceasefire with Hamas; (93) and denied that Israel used Palestinians as human shields. (94) It also falsely alleged that the Goldstone Report made “almost no mention of the brutal means of repression used by Hamas against its opponents”; (95) falsely alleged that the Report devoted “just three paragraphs” to Hamas’s “rocket and mortar fire during Operation Cast Lead” and downplayed Israeli civilian deaths; (96) falsely alleged that the Report “absolved” Hamas “of all responsibility for war crimes”; (97) falsely alleged that the Report gave “superficial” treatment to “the terrorist organizations’ use of civilians as human shields”; (98) and falsely alleged that the Report depended on “the unreliable casualty statistics provided by Hamas.” (99) On more than one occasion the Israeli document tested the limits of chutzpah and credulity: it rebuked not Israel but Hamas for “unwillingness to cooperate with the [Goldstone] Mission,” (100) and purported that “Hamas operatives would position innocent civilians near IDF tanks to prevent IDF soldiers from shooting at them.” (101) So, Hamas dragged Palestinian civilians to Israeli tank positions, ordered them to stay put, and then beat a swift retreat. It is not revealed whether the civilians did stay put.

One might wonder why the Goldstone Report should have triggered so much vituperation in Israel and set off a global “diplomatic blitz” to contain the fallout from it. (102) After all the Goldstone Mission’s findings were merely the last in a long series of human rights reports condemning Israeli actions in Gaza, (103) and Israel has never been known for its deference to U.N. bodies. The answer however is not hard to find. Goldstone is not only Jewish but is also a self-declared “Zionist” who “worked for Israel all of my adult life,” “fully support[s] Israel’s right to exist” and is a “firm believer in the absolute right of the Jewish people to have their home there.” He headed up a Jewish organization that runs vocational schools in Israel and sits on the Board of Governors of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (from which he also received an honorary doctorate). Moreover, his mother was an activist in the women’s Zionist movement, and his daughter made aliyah (Zionist emigration to Israel) and is an ardent Zionist. (104) Goldstone has also claimed the Nazi holocaust as the seminal inspiration for the international law and human rights agenda of which he is a leading exponent. (105)
Because of Goldstone’s credentials, Israel could not credibly play its usual cards—“anti-Semite,” “self-hating Jew,” “Holocaust denier”—against him. In effect his persona neutralized the ideological weapons Israel had honed over many years to ward off criticism. “This time,” in Gideon Levy’s telling phrase, “the messenger is propaganda-proof.” (106) Dead-enders did try to discredit Goldstone as an “anti-Semite” (Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz) and the Report as “partially motivated by anti-Semitic views of Israel” (philosophy professor Asa Kasher) and the “type of anti-Semitism” that led to the Holocaust (Israeli Information Minister Yuli Edelstein). (107) A Google search for the words “ Goldstone anti-Semite Gaza” one week after the Goldstone Report’s publication brought up over 75,000 web sites. Still, the slanders collapsed under the weight of their own absurdity.
The detractors then speculated that the Goldstone Report was a product of the author’s overweening ambition— Goldstone was supposedly angling for a Nobel Peace Prize or to head the United Nations—but once more his impeccable reputation easily withstood the imputations. (108) It was then alleged that Goldstone had been “suckered into lending his good name to a half-baked report.” (109) But the chief prosecutor in multiple international war crimes tribunals was plainly no one’s dupe. If Goldstone was not an anti-Semite, a self-hating Jew, or a Holocaust denier; if he had never evinced animus towards Israel but in fact had demonstrated an abiding affection for it; if he was manifestly a man of integrity who put truth and justice above self-aggrandizement and partisanship; if he was neither an incompetent nor a fool; then the only plausible explanation for the devastating content of the document he authored was that it faithfully recorded the facts as they unfolded during the 22-day invasion. “The only thing they can be afraid of,” Goldstone later observed, “is the truth. And I think this is why they’re attacking the messenger and not the message.” (110) Compelled to face the facts and their consequences, disarmed and exposed, Israel went into panic mode. Influential Israeli columnists expressed alarm that the Goldstone Report might impede Israel’s ability to launch military attacks in the future, (111) and Prime Minister Netanyahu ranked “the Iranian [nuclear] threat, the missile threat and a threat I call the Goldstone threat” the major strategic challenges confronting Israel. (112) In the meantime Israeli officials fretted that prosecutors might hound Israelis traveling abroad. (113) And indeed, shortly after the Goldstone Report was published, the International Criminal Court announced it was contemplating an investigation of an Israeli officer implicated in the Gaza massacre. (114) Then, in December 2009 Tzipi Livni cancelled a trip to London after a British court issued an arrest warrant for her role in the commission of war crimes while serving as foreign minister and member of the war cabinet during the Gaza invasion, and in June 2010 two Belgian lawyers representing a group of Palestinians charged 14 Israeli politicians (including Livni and Barak) with committing crimes against humanity and war crimes during the invasion. (115)
“Months after it was published,” an Israeli columnist rued, “the Goldstone Report still holds the top spot in the bestseller list of Israel’s headaches.” (116) Unable to exorcise his ghost, Goldstone’s detractors escalated the viciousness of their ad hominem attacks. South African communal Jewish leaders exerted pressure to prevent Goldstone from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah, but after a wave of embarrassing publicity abroad they were forced to reverse themselves. (117) To justify this abortive attempt at ostracizing him, the chairman of the South African Zionist Federation chastised Goldstone for his failure “to demand of Hamas the unconditional release of Gilad Shalit or failing that to demand that they recognize his status as a prisoner of war.” (118) But the Goldstone Report did “recommend that Palestinian armed groups who hold Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in detention should release him on humanitarian grounds. Pending such release they should recognize his status as prisoner of war, treat him as such, and allow him ICRC visits.” (119)
Goldstone’s judicial tenure under apartheid rule in South Africa was then dredged up by Israeli journalists and dutifully disseminated by the usual suspects in the American media such as Jeffrey Goldberg (in Atlantic magazine) and Jonathan Chait (in The New Republic). (120) Goldstone was tagged a “hanging judge” for his blemished record of service with an “entirely illegitimate and barbaric regime.” (121) But as Sasha Polakow-Suransky, a senior editor at Foreign Affairs magazine and the author of The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s secret relationship with apartheid South Africa, pointed out, “By serving as South Africa’s primary and most reliable arms supplier during a period of violent internal repression and external aggression, Israel’s government did far more to aid the apartheid regime than Goldstone ever did.” (122) During the peak of South Africa’s repression Defense Minister Shimon Peres underscored that Israel’s cooperation with the apartheid regime was “based not only on common interests, but also on the unshakeable foundations of our common hatred of injustice,” while Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin toasted “the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence.” (123)
In last desperate bids to crucify him, Goldstone was ousted from the Hebrew University’s Board of Governors, (124) and one-time AIPAC executive director Neal Sher “urged American officials to bar former judge Richard Goldstone from entering the country over his rulings during South Africa’s apartheid regime.” The moral case Sher mounted was somewhat tainted however by the fact that he himself had been disbarred after squandering Holocaust compensation monies on his vacation sprees. (125)
The symbolism, indeed pathos, of Goldstone’s condemnation of Israel was hard to miss. A lover of Zion was now calling for Zion to be hauled before the International Criminal Court for an array of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. In effect Goldstone’s intervention signaled the implosion of that unstable alloy—some would say oxymoron—called liberal Zionism. Goldstone is the quintessence of the classical liberal Jew: a renowned defender of the rule of law and human rights. He has also evinced a deep affinity for Israel. But it has become progressively more difficult in recent years for those who call themselves “liberals” to defend Israeli conduct. The Gaza invasion marked the climax of Israel’s incremental descent into barbarism—or, as the Goldstone Report euphemistically put it, “a qualitative shift from relatively focused operations to massive and deliberate destruction.” (126) Even if inclined by family and faith to do so, Goldstone still could not defend what happened. He is a liberal by sensibility and public reputation. He is constrained by the parameters of the law, which for one acting in good conscience could not be stretched beyond certain limits. He functions within a human rights environment that had already rendered a devastating verdict on Israel’s actions and that he could not ignore and still maintain his credibility in that community.
In the wake of the Goldstone Report it will be difficult for other Jews broadly of his ilk—which means the overwhelming majority of American Jews, who “identify their long-term interests with liberal policies” (127)—to brush aside even the harshest criticism of Israel, just as Israel’s defenders will henceforth have a harder time shielding it from such criticism. “Those groups who unquestioningly attack the report’s veracity,” a British “friend and supporter of Israel” wrote in the British Guardian, “find themselves further alienated from significant swaths of Jewish opinion, especially among the younger generation.” (128)
The reaction in the bastions of American Jewish liberalism to the Goldstone Report was as notable for what was not said as for what was said: if newspaper editorials and liberal commentary did not come out in Goldstone’s defense, they also did not defend Israel against him. (129) It can fairly be said that the Goldstone Report marked the end of one era and the emergence of another: the end of an apologetic Jewish liberalism that denies or extenuates Israel’s crimes and the emergence of a Jewish liberalism that returns to its classical calling that, if only as an ideal imperfectly realized, nonetheless holds all malefactors, Jew or non-Jew, accountable when they have strayed from the path of justice. “The vicious personal attacks on Judge Goldstone ... are profoundly disturbing,” Rabbi Brant Rosen observed. “What is perhaps more interesting, however, is the fact that so many in the American Jewish community are refusing to join the chorus.... American Jews ... are working to hold Israel to a set of Jewish values that are more important than any political ideology.” (130)
Even if tempted, liberal Jews could not bury the Goldstone Report because it has resonated most in the milieus where they work and socialize. “Western governments may ignore this damning report,” an Israeli commentator portended, “but it will now serve as a basis of criticism against Israel in public opinion, the media, on campuses and in think tanks, places where U.N. documents are still taken seriously.” (131) An Israeli reserve officer who did double-duty as an emissary for Israel on U.S. college campuses lamented to Haaretz that protesting students “quote the Goldstone report.... It’s become their bible.” (132) Moreover, for those professing to be enlightened, it could not seriously be contended that choosing between the credibility of Israel’s cheerleaders and the likes of Goldstone was a close call. “Does it then come down to a matter of whose reputation you trust?,” Antony Lerman, former director of the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research, rhetorically asked. “If so, would it be critics of human rights agencies like Alan Dershowitz, the prominent American lawyer who thinks torture could be legalized, or Melanie Phillips, a columnist who calls Jewish critics of Israel ‘Jews for Genocide’... ? Or Richard Goldstone, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, who is putting his considerable reputation on the line in taking the UNHRC assignment? Frankly, I don’t think there is a contest.” (133)
The Goldstone Report also marked the emergence of a new era in which the human rights dimension of the Israel-Palestine conflict moved center-stage alongside—and even temporarily displacing—the fatuous “peace process.” During the first decades of Israel’s occupation advocates of Palestinian human rights perforce had to rely on the research and testimony of a handful of courageous but politically marginal Israelis, (134) and their Palestinian clients and colleagues. Consider torture. In recent times mainstream human rights organizations and Israeli historians have acknowledged that Israel routinely tortured Palestinian detainees from the start of the occupation. (135) However, until the 1990s, and despite a wealth of corroborative evidence, respectable opinion treated Israeli torture gingerly and when approaching the topic discreetly steered clear of using the locution torture. (136) A reversal occurred after the first Palestinian intifada in 1987. On the one hand, the torture of Palestinian detainees reached epidemic levels and, on the other, the newly founded Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) irrefutably documented Israel’s use of torture on Palestinian detainees. (137) No longer able to turn a blind eye, and having the moral and political cover of Israeli organizations, the human rights community in the West began systematically to document Israel’s egregious practice of torture and its many other human rights abuses. However, most of these publications just collected dust as the media scrupulously ignored them and instead pretended that, between Palestinian accusation and Israeli denial, ferreting out the truth was futile. The Goldstone Report catapulted Israel’s human rights record into the court of public opinion, and concomitantly the damning findings of human rights organizations have now become politically consequential.
The stakes having risen, hysteria over the Goldstone Report unsurprisingly coincided with a vicious campaign in Israel and the U.S. to discredit human rights organizations. “We are going to dedicate time and manpower to combating these groups,” the director of policy planning in the Israeli prime minister’s office declared. (138) “For the first time,” the director of HRW’s Middle East division rued, “the Israeli government is taking an active role in the smearing of human rights groups.” (139) These groups and one of their benefactors (New Israel Fund) came under virulent attack in Israel for allegedly providing the data used by the Goldstone Mission to blacken Israel’s name. A Knesset subcommittee was created to “examine the sources of funding” of Israeli-based human rights groups, and a succession of Knesset bills proposed, respectively, to outlaw NGOs that supplied information to foreign or international bodies leading to war crimes accusations against Israel, and to compel members of Israeli NGOs to declare at all public functions their foreign funders. (140) An Israel Democracy Institute poll found that “half the general public (50%) agree with the statement that ‘Human and civil rights organizations, like the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and B’Tselem, cause harm to the state,’” while a Tel Aviv University poll found that nearly six in ten respondents agreed that human rights organizations that expose immoral conduct by Israel should not be “allowed to operate freely.” (141) Apparently in reaction Israeli human rights activists trimmed their sails on the most politically volatile issues. Thus, B’Tselem devoted more lines in its annual report to Palestinian breaches of international law during the Gaza massacre than Israeli breaches; devoted twice as much space to Hamas’s “grave breach” (or “war crime”) of taking Shalit “hostage” as to all Israeli breaches (none of which it denoted as “grave” or a “war crime”) during the Gaza massacre; and criticized key findings of the Goldstone Report but provided no evidentiary basis for its criticisms. (142)
In the U.S. the Israel lobby mobilized against “lawfare” (143) —that is, attempts to “isolate Israel through the language of human rights.” (144) In non-ideological terms lawfare signified the novel idea that Israel should be held legally accountable for its crimes. Pseudo-academic conferences under the auspices of major law schools and professional organizations convened on topics such as “The Goldstone Report: Lawfare & the threat to Israeli and American national security in the age of terrorism” (Fordham University School of Law) (145) and “Lawfare: The use of the law as a weapon of war” (New York County Lawyers Association). (146) Outraged at the “scandal of the Goldstone report,” one learned opponent of “lawfare” thusly corrected for its bias: “No armies in the history of warfare have devoted greater attention or energy than those of Israel and the United States to distinguishing and protecting civilians in warfare and ensuring that the force they use in armed conflict is proportional to the threat faced.” (147)
Meanwhile, perennial apologists for the Holy State such as Alan M. Dershowitz and Elie Wiesel orchestrated a witch-hunt against HRW. (148) “I really hesitate to use words like conspiracy, but there is a feeling that there is an organized campaign,” HRW’s program director contended. “We have been under enormous pressure and tremendous attacks, some of them very personal.” (149) HRW founder Robert Bernstein, who had long been rumored to be muzzling HRW’s criticism of Israel from within the organization, soon jumped in. After publication of the Goldstone Report and in a highly public defection, Bernstein wrote an op-ed for the New York Times that denounced HRW’s allegedly biased reporting on Israel. The only testimony he could summon in Israel’s defense against reams of copiously documented human rights reports was the ubiquitous Colonel Richard Kemp serenading Israel for its historically unparalleled devotion to humanitarian law during the Gaza invasion. (150) Bernstein’s broadside was followed a half year later by a gossipy New Republic exposé of discontent within HRW over the organization’s supposedly anti-Israel tilt. (151) The article failed to explore the only substantive question prompted by its content: why did “pro”-Israel wealthy Jewish donors with no expertise in either human rights or the Middle East—a “legendary Hollywood mogul,” a “48-year-old who formerly worked on Wall Street,” a “former stockbroker”—exercise power and influence over HRW’s Middle East division?
It cannot be said, however, that HRW fully resisted the hostile pressures exerted on it. HRW’s World Report 2010 stated for instance that “reports by news media and a nongovernmental organization indicate that in some cases, Palestinian armed groups intentionally hid behind civilians to unlawfully use them as shields to deter Israeli counter-attacks.” (152) It omitted mention that none of the fact-finding missions or human rights organizations—including HRW itself—found evidence that Palestinian armed groups engaged in human shielding. Desperate to placate the Israel lobby, and while the merciless Israeli siege against the 1.5 million people of Gaza proceeded without let-up, HRW then reduced itself to publicly condemning a Jordanian restaurant owner who refused to serve two Israelis a meal. (153)
The Gaza invasion accelerated the dissolution of blanket Jewish support for Israel. Because this reflexive Jewish support has historically blocked the path to peace, the prospects for a just and lasting resolution of the conflict are better now than ever before. The foundations for such a settlement are the universal, consensual, legal principles ratified in annual U.N. General Assembly resolutions, the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, and the standards of respected human rights organizations. Were Israel to abide by these principles a resolution of the conflict would be immediately within reach.
But Israel must also be held accountable for its crimes in Gaza. For those in Gaza who lost loved ones, homes, and livelihoods, such a reckoning is elementary justice, which it would be immoral to deny them. A criminal proceeding would probably also put a brake on a military juggernaut manifestly out of control. However, insofar as it is humanly possible, the execution of justice should be free of rancor and vindictiveness, free of the Schadenfreude that instinctively attends the humbling of an arrogant and ruthless foe. It should not be lost from sight that the ultimate goal is—or ought to be—a settlement enabling both parties, everyone, to live proud, productive, and peaceful lives.
Gandhi called his doctrine of nonviolent resistance satyagraha, which he translated as “hold on to the truth.” Herewith is our challenge: to hold on to the truth that what Israel has done to the Palestinians is wrong and indefensible; to hold on to the truth that Israel’s refusal, backed by the U.S., to respect international law and the considered opinion of humankind is the sole obstacle to putting an end, finally, to their suffering. We can reach our goal if we hold on to the truth, and if, as the African-American spiritual put it with cognate wisdom, we keep our eyes on the prize, and hold on. That is, if we keep remembering what the struggle—the prize—is all about: not theoretical fad or intellectual provocation, not holier-thanthou radical posturing, but—however humdrum, however prosaic, by comparison—helping free the Palestinian people from their bondage. And then to hold on, to be ready for sacrifice and for the long haul but also, and especially, to be humble in the knowledge that for those of us living in North America and Europe, the burdens pale next to those borne daily by the people of Palestine.
The Caribbean poet Aimé Césaire once wrote, “There’s room for everyone at the rendezvous of victory.” Late in life, when his political horizons broadened, Edward Said often quoted this line. We should make it our credo as well. We want to nurture a movement, not hatch a cult. The victory to which we aspire is inclusive, not exclusive; it is not at anyone’s expense. It is to be victorious without vanquishing. No one is a loser, and we all are gainers if together we stand by truth and justice. “I am not anti-English; I am not anti-British; I am not anti-any government,” Gandhi insisted, “but I am antiuntruth— anti-humbug, and anti-injustice.” (154) Shouldn’t we also say that we are not anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, or, for that matter, anti-Zionist? The prize to which our eyes should be riveted is human rights, human dignity, and human equality. What, really, is the point of the ideological litmus test: Are you now or have you ever been a Zionist? A criterion of membership that would exclude a Richard Goldstone from our ranks is transparently counterproductive. Shouldn’t we use a vocabulary and points of reference that register and resonate with the public conscience and the Jewish conscience, winning over the decent many while isolating the diehard few? Shouldn’t we instead be asking: Are you for or against ethnic cleansing, for or against discriminatory laws, for or against house demolitions, for or against Jews-only roads and Jews-only settlements, for or against torture, for or against massacres? And if the answers come, against, against, and against, shouldn’t we then say: Keep your ideology, whatever it might be—there’s room for everyone at the rendezvous of victory?
The terrible death and destruction Israel visited on the people of Gaza cannot be undone. Their suffering can however be vindicated. Let us seize on the hope born of their martyrdom, redouble our commitment to a just peace, and then let us meet, all of us, sooner not later, at the rendezvous of victory.

Massacre of innocent people is a serious matter. It is not a thing to be easily forgotten. It is our duty to cherish their memory.
Mahatma Gandhi (2 July 1947) (155)

EPILOGUE: After the Mavi Marmara
The Israeli commando raid on the Mavi Marmara and its aftermath marked an accentuation of the trends traced in this book. The decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to launch a violent assault on the flagship of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, and the Israeli public’s overwhelming support of it, further confirmed that Israeli society and the state are rapidly losing grip on reality. A distinct danger now lurks that Israel will do something yet more unbalanced to compensate for the succession of bungled operations that climaxed in the Mavi Marmara assault.
The international outrage provoked by the killing of nine passengers aboard the ship further isolated Israel as yet more of its erstwhile non-Jewish and Jewish supporters defected from the ranks. In an unprecedented reversal, the international solidarity movement was for once setting the political agenda and governments felt compelled to react. If world leaders suddenly discovered on the morning after the flotilla bloodbath that Israel’s siege of Gaza was “unsustainable” and had to be lift ed, it was because the solidarity movement forced this revelation on them. The prospects of building a broad movement in support of Palestinian rights appear brighter than ever before although the potential of a devastating regional war must dim any such optimism.
We are now in a race against time, all of our futures possibly hanging in the balance.

The massive destruction Israel inflicted on Gaza during the 2008-9 invasion was designed in part to exacerbate the effects of an illegal blockade that had already wreaked havoc for some three years. “I fully expected to see serious damage, but I have to say I was really shocked when I saw the extent and precision of the destruction,” the World Food Program director for the Gaza Strip observed after the assault. (1) “It was precisely the strategic economic areas that Gaza depends on to relieve its dependency on aid that were wiped out.” The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) targeted critical civilian infrastructure such as the only operative flour mill and nearly all of the cement factories so that Gaza would be evermore dependent on Israeli whim for staples and would not be able to rebuild after a ceasefire went into effect. (2)
A year and a half after the Gaza invasion, major humanitarian and human rights organizations uniformly attested that the people of Gaza continued to suffer a humanitarian crisis on account of the Israeli blockade: “Contrary to what the Israeli government states, the humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza is only a fraction of what is needed to answer the enormous needs of an exhausted people” (Oxfam); “The blockade ... has severely damaged the economy, leaving 70 to 80 percent of Gazans in poverty” (Human Rights Watch); “Israel is blocking vital medical supplies from entering the Gaza Strip” (World Health Organization); “The closure is having a devastating impact on the 1.5 million people living in Gaza” (International Committee of the Red Cross). (3)
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was nonetheless emphatic that there was “no humanitarian crisis” and “no lack of medicines or other essential items” in Gaza. (4) “We mustn’t tire of reminding others,” Parisian media philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy chimed in, that “the blockade concerns only arms and the material needed to manufacture them.” (5) Mocking claims of a humanitarian crisis Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon gestured to Gaza’s “sparkling new shopping mall ... new Olympic-sized swimming pool ... five-star hotels and restaurants.” (6) Israel circulated photographs of these lavish scenes on the Internet. (7) It is true that tiny pockets of prosperity have flourished in the Strip. Harvard political economist Sara Roy noted the emergence of an economic stratum that had “grown extremely wealthy from the black-market economy,” and the “almost perverse consumerism in restaurants and shops that are the domain of the wealthy.” (8) But for students of the Nazi holocaust such a juxtaposition, however repellent, should hardly surprise. Thus, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto recalled:

The sword of the Nazi extermination policy hung over all Jews equally. But a social differentiation arose in the ghetto, setting apart substantial groups who had the means even under those infernal conditions to lead a comparatively full, well-fed life and enjoy some kinds of pleasures. On the same streets where daily you could see scenes of horrors, amid the swarms of tubercular children dying like flies ... , you would come upon stores full of fine foods, restaurants and cafés, which served the most expensive dishes and drinks.... The clientele of these places consisted principally of Jewish Gestapo agents, Jewish police officials, rich merchants who did business with the Germans, smugglers, dealers in foreign exchange and similar kinds of people.

He went on to note that “the Nazis made moving pictures of such festive orgies to show the ‘world’ how well the Jews lived in the ghetto.” (9)
Regrettably the ensuing debate on whether Israel had put Gazans on a “starvation” or “starvation plus” regimen shifted attention away from and obscured the more fundamental point: What right did Israel have to put the people of Gaza on any diet?
It was also lamentable how even the sternest critics of the blockade nevertheless seconded Israel’s right to prevent weapons from reaching Gaza. Even if one accepts the highly debatable contention that, after acquiescing in the international consensus for resolving the conflict, (10) Palestinians still do not have the right of armed resistance to end the occupation, the fact remains that, as Amnesty International has urged (if on different grounds), an arms embargo should be imposed on both Hamas and Israel. (11) It is a curious conception of justice that would deny the victims the means to resist even as they support the legally mandated norms for achieving peace, but allow the perpetrators to replenish their arsenal of repression even as they reject these norms and ride roughshod over them. (12)

On 31 May 2010 a humanitarian flotilla en route to Gaza carrying some 10,000 tons of supplies and 700 passengers came under attack in international waters by Israeli commandos. By the end of the dead-of-night Israeli assault nine passengers aboard the flagship Mavi Marmara had been shot to death. “If Cast Lead was a turning point in the attitude of the world toward us,” Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy rued, “this operation is the second horror film of the apparently ongoing series.” (13) Nonetheless, orchestrating a public relations marvel, Israel managed to spin the commandos as the victims of the attack. (14) In a solipsistic paroxysm, and with nary a peep of dissent, Israeli officials and pundits across the political spectrum proclaimed that the commandos had been “provoked,” “ambushed,” “duped,” “lynched,” and “lured” into a “trap” set by a phalanx of “radical anti-Western,” “machete-wielding,” “bloodthirsty” “jihadists” and “mercenaries” linked with “Al-Qaeda” and other terrorist organizations; (15) and that the Israeli commandos were initially armed only with “paintball rifles” and resorted to aggressive tactics “as a last resort” in “selfdefense.”
“You fought morally, and showed valor in your acts,” Nobel peace laureate and Israeli President Shimon Peres told the commandos afterwards. “I salute you and admire your courage and restraint even in the face of danger to your own lives.” “The soldiers were beaten,” he also solemnly proclaimed, “just because they did not want to kill anyone.” (16) Israel’s ambassador to Spain compared the Mavi Marmara passengers to Islamic terrorists who killed scores of people on Madrid commuter trains in 2004, and juxtaposed the nine deaths on the vessel with the “twenty-three Spaniards [who] died on the roads this weekend.” (17) Some 90 percent of Israeli Jews supported the decision to stop the flotilla, supported stopping future flotillas and believed that Israel used the right amount or not enough force, while only 16 percent supported lift ing the siege. (18) One of the commandos responsible for killing multiple passengers was reportedly in line for a medal of valor, while Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai called on Defense Minister Barak to award medals to all the commandos: “The warrior’s courage is exemplary, and they deserve a citation.” (19)
As the hasbara offensive began to unravel—mostly on account of intrepid bloggers (20)—Israelis contended that if some people saw things differently, it was because of the “eternal war against the Jewish people,” (21) and because Israeli officialdom had dropped the ball on the PR front. (22) Public opinion turned against Israel, according to the influential Reut Institute, because of “successful efforts to brand it as an occupying and aggressive entity that ignores and undermines human rights and international law,” whereas “the flotillas were branded in the context of resistance to ‘occupation’ and ‘oppression,’ the promotion of peace and human rights, a moral response to Gaza’s ‘humanitarian crisis,’ and in the spirit of international law.” In other words, the problem was not the objective reality but its “branding.” (23)
In fact, if so many Westerners swallowed the topsy-turvy Israeli narrative, it was because the hasbara campaign had been so minutely prepared and adeptly executed, (24) while the only witnesses able to contest the official Israeli account had been imprisoned and their photographic evidence confiscated, and a willfully gullible media uncritically recycled Israeli spin. “In an operation reminiscent of the first week or so of the Israeli offensive against Gaza in winter 2008-9,” Antony Lerman observed in the Guardian, “the Israeli PR machine succeeded in getting the major news outlets to focus on its version of events and to use the Israeli authorities’ discourse for a crucial 48 hours.” (25)
The consensus among human rights and humanitarian organizations was and remains that the Israeli blockade of Gaza constituted a form of collective punishment in flagrant violation of international law. Israel accordingly had no right to use force to enforce an illegal blockade. (26) To the extent that Israel claims its attack on the Mavi Marmara was an act of selfdefense, a tenet of law establishes that no legal benefit or right can be derived from an illegal act (ex injuria non oritur jus). Thus Israel cannot claim a right of self-defense that arises because of Israel’s illegal blockade. On the other hand, the passengers aboard a convoy in international waters carrying humanitarian relief to a beleaguered population had every right to use force in self-defense against a pirate-like raid. (27)
Although the exact sequence of events on that fateful night of the Israeli assault will probably never be known, (28) it scarcely makes a difference. The flotilla leadership offered to have the humanitarian nature of the cargo verified by a neutral body such as the Red Cross (the contents had already been rigorously inspected at departure), while Israeli officials neither expressed interest in searching the flotilla’s cargo nor even pretended that the boats were transporting weapons to Gaza. (29) “A provocation took place off the coast of Gaza, but the provocateurs were not the peace activists,” veteran Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery declared. “The provocation was carried out by navy ships and commandos ... blocking the way of the aid boats and using deadly force.” (30)
Still, it merits notice that the vast preponderance of offi-cial Israeli allegations were almost certainly false: far from initially using only paintball pistols, Israeli combatants in Zodiacs abutting the Mavi Marmara opened fire with tear gas, smoke and stun grenades and maybe plastic bullets, and helicopters hovering above then opened fire with live ammunition before any commando had rappelled on deck; (31) far from having set a lethal trap, the passengers—none of whom were linked with a terrorist organization at the time of the attack (32)—did not even prepare for injuries, (33) did not carry monies paid them to murder Israelis, (34) and did not possess firearms or discharge captured ones; (35) far from being lynched, the captured Israeli commandos were given medical care and then escorted for release; (36) far from firing with restraint and only in self-defense, the Israeli commandos killed the nine passengers by shooting all but one of them multiple times—five were shot in the head, and at least six of the nine were killed in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution. (37)
“The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion,” a U.N. Fact-Finding Mission of distinguished jurists concluded, “but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality.” (38) Shortly after release of the mission’s report Prime Minister Netanyahu “saluted” the Israeli commandos, deeming their assault “crucial, essential, important and legal,” and praising them for having acted “courageously, morally and with restraint” against “those who came to kill you, and tried to kill you”: “There is no one better than you.” (39) To be sure, Israeli officials did acknowledge room for operational improvement: “when the next flotilla ... is boarded by the navy... , attack dogs will be the first to board the decks, to prevent harm to soldiers ... they are strong and merciless.” (40) It is unclear whether contingency plans are in place should passengers “dupe” and “lynch” the canines.
Meanwhile, in mitigation of the killings, the semi-official Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center alleged that as many as seven of the nine dead passengers might have desired martyrdom; the last diary entry of one of them, for example, expressed a willingness to die “for a noble cause.” (41) Before being hung by the British in 1775, American revolutionary Nathan Hale famously regretted having “but one life to lose for my country.” The expectation of Mahatma Gandhi was that satyagrahis like himself would actively seek martyrdom: “It would exhilarate me to hear that a co-worker ... was shot dead or that another co-worker ... had had his skull broken.” (42) Did they also deserve to be killed?
In a sudden yet simultaneous volte-face on the morning after the flotilla bloodbath Western leaders such as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Secretary William Hague individually discovered, and the United Nations Security Council collectively discovered, that Israel’s siege of Gaza was “unsustainable” and had to be lifted. (43) “International condemnation and calls for an inquiry will come easily,” the International Crisis Group pointedly noted, “but many who will issue them must acknowledge their own role in the deplorable treatment of Gaza that formed the backdrop” to the Israeli assault. (44)
Three quarters of the damage and destruction Israel wrought during the Gaza invasion had not yet been repaired or rebuilt 18 months later. (45) Although Israel was forced to relax restrictions on some goods entering Gaza after the international outcry, it still banned items necessary for manufacturing and put onerous conditions on the entry of critical building materials. (46) The “burdens on the entrance of construction materials,” an Israeli human rights organization warned, could “turn the promise of allowing reconstruction into a dead letter.” (47) U.N. officials estimated that under current Israeli restrictions it would take “about 75 years” to bring in the needed materials to rebuild Gaza. (48)
In late November 2010, nearly a half year after Israel’s widely publicized promise to “ease” the siege, a consortium of more than twenty respected human rights and humanitarian organizations operating in Gaza reported that “there are few signs of real improvement on the ground as the ‘ease’ has left foundations of the illegal blockade policy intact”: “Gaza requires 670,000 truckloads of construction material, while only an average of 715 of these truckloads have been received per month,” “The private sector is excluded from the possibility to import construction materials including concrete, steel and gravel, hampering efforts of people in Gaza to rebuild their homes, businesses and other property,” “Exports remain banned and except for the humanitarian activity of exporting a small amount of strawberries, not a single truck has left Gaza since the easing,” “[M]any humanitarian items, including vital water equipment, that are not on the Israeli restricted list continue to receive no permits,” “[O]rdinary Gaza residents are still denied access to their friends and family, and to educational opportunities in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and abroad,” “[T]here has been a decrease in the rate of permit approvals for entry or exit of UN agencies’ national humanitarian Staff.” In addition, “access to around 35 percent of Gaza’s farmland and 85 percent of maritime areas for fishing remains restricted by the Israeli ‘buffer zone,’ with devastating impact on the economy and people’s rights and livelihoods.” As a “result” of the continuing Israeli siege, “39 percent of Gaza residents remain unemployed,” and “80 percent of the population [remain] dependent upon international aid.” “There cannot be a just and durable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the report concluded, “without an end to the isolation and punishment of people in Gaza.” (49)

The bloody Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara created new fissures in Israel’s relations with the non-Jewish and Jewish worlds. Hitherto friendly European governments came down hard on Israel while some of its most vocal Jewish backers publicly distanced themselves. Already a few weeks before the flotilla attack 3,000 European Jews including prominent media intellectuals had coalesced in a spin-off of J Street named J Call. Deploring the occupation and settlement expansion as “morally and politically wrong,” J Call asserted that “systematic support of Israeli government policy is dangerous and does not serve the true interests of the state of Israel.” (50)
If support for Israel did not go into free fall after the commando raid, the incremental downward curve has almost certainly become irreversible, and if Israel’s global image did not dramatically deteriorate, it was only because Israel suffered “an already very negative media image.” (51) A majority of respondents in a 2010 BBC global poll believed that, alongside Iran and Pakistan, Israel exerted a mainly negative influence on world affairs. (Even North Korea’s influence was viewed negatively by fewer respondents.) (52) One vivid illustration of Israel’s reversal of fortune was that—in Uri Avnery’s words—“the present generation of idealistic youngsters from all over the world ... who would once have volunteered for the kibbutzim can now be found on the decks of the ships sailing for downtrodden, choked and starved Gaza.” (53) The challenge now confronting Israel is not to recoup its losses in public regard but rather to stave off the “delegitimization” juggernaut pushing to isolate it as a pariah state akin to apartheid South Africa.
After the commando raid the floodgates holding back criticism of Israel flung wide open. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “shock” and called for a “full investigation,” while the coterie of past and present world leaders known as The Elders (including Nelson Mandela, KofiAnnan, Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu) condemned the Israeli attack as “completely inexcusable” and declared that “the treatment of the people of Gaza is one of the world’s greatest human rights violations.” (54) South Africa, Ecuador and Nicaragua recalled their ambassadors while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez denounced Israel as a “damned, terrorist and murderous country.” (55) South Korean protesters greeted a visit by President Peres with cries of “killer,” Vietnam cancelled Peres’s planned visit, and large protests erupted across Australia and New Zealand. (56) A Norwegian poll published two days after the commando raid found that 40 percent of respondents supported a boycott of Israeli products, while a government minister called on other governments to “follow the Norwegian position which excludes trading arms with Israel.” (57) Two of Italy’s largest supermarket chains stopped carrying Israeli products while Swedish dockworkers, denouncing the “unprecedented criminal attack on the peaceful ship convoy,” launched a weeklong blockade of Israeli ships and goods. (58)
The most fraught development for Israel was the stinging criticism that emanated from its erstwhile faithful Western allies. True, the 31 countries belonging to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) voted unanimously in May 2010 to admit Israel as a member. (Turkey had played an instrumental role in facilitating Israel’s admission.) (59) But already before the flotilla attack the Israeli Foreign Ministry was reporting that support for Israel was on the decrease even in countries such as the Netherlands that had a “special relationship” with Israel. (60) A July 2010 poll taken by the Israel Project found that only 24 percent of French respondents felt positively towards Israel versus 31 percent who felt negatively, and in Sweden the corresponding percentages were 20 percent versus 49 percent. (61)
In a blistering editorial the London Financial Times condemned Israel’s “brazen act of piracy” and the yet greater “outrage” of its “illegal blockade of Gaza.” (62) Both Britain’s largest trade union (UNITE) and its largest trade union for academics in higher education (UCU) called for a comprehensive boycott of Israeli products. (63) The Methodist Church of Britain called on its congregants to “support and engage with th[e] boycott of Israeli goods emanating from illegal settlements.” (64) Right before and after the flotilla massacre British performers such as Elvis Costello (along with American performers Gil Scott-Heron and the Pixies) cancelled shows in Israel. (65) In his July 2010 valedictory interview with the Jerusalem Post, the “well-liked” British ambassador to Israel warned of a popular “drift of opinion away from Israel” in Great Britain that better Israeli PR could not reverse: “You get a lot of people in Israel who say, ‘Let’s launch a new hasbara campaign, change our image in the West, hunky dory.’ No, it’s a problem of substance.” (66)
The most sobering news after the commando raid came however from Germany, whose “historic guilt” and “historic responsibility” have hitherto kept a tight lid on public criticism of Israel. But after the bloodbath much media coverage swung sharply against it. The July 2010 Israel Project poll found that only 19 percent of Germans felt positively toward Israel versus fully 50 percent who harbored negative feelings. Even Germany’s Holocaust-mongering Chancellor, Angela Merkel, was said to be “disconcerted” by the Israeli attack. In a “rare cross-party motion” the German parliament criticized Israel for “violating the principle of proportionality” in its raid and called on Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza. “This marks a profound shift in policy towards Israel in Germany,” the Left Party’s foreign policy spokesman noted. (67) Indeed, as Avnery shrewdly observed, the biggest setback for Israel was loss of the most potent weapon in its ideological arsenal: “In all the tumult this affair has caused throughout the world, the Holocaust has not even been mentioned.” For the new generation the Nazi holocaust has become “a thing of the remote past” that no longer induces a philo-Semitic politics born of guilt. “The Israeli public is shocked to see that the Holocaust has lost its power as a political instrument,” he concluded. “Our most valuable weapon has become blunt.” (68)
The Obama administration and Congress lent strong backing to Israel in its latest diplomatic crisis. But cracks did appear in the U.S. elite consensus of support for Israel, and popular enthusiasm for Israel reached a nadir as yet more prominent American Jews deserted the ranks of the Israel lobby. Still, a sober reckoning of the balance sheet would also note that the weight of elite opinion has not yet reached a tipping point against Israel, while increasing popular disaffection with Israeli policy has not yet been translated into an effective force capable of altering the political calculation of elected officials who tally potential votes and campaign contributions.
The Mavi Marmara crisis erupted just as U.S. President Barack Obama was affirming that “our bond with Israel is unbreakable” at a White House ceremony launching “Jewish Heritage Month”—which might as well have been christened “Jewish Money Month.” (69) Although it joined the chorus calling for Israel to lift the siege of Gaza, the U.S. blocked for Israel at international forums while Obama himself merely expressed “deep regret” at the loss of life and injuries. (70) Indeed, the American representative at the Emergency Session of the U.N. Security Council shamelessly denied that Israel had prevented vital supplies from reaching Gaza: “mechanisms exist for the transfer of humanitarian assistance to Gaza by member states and groups that want to do so.” (71)
Eighty-seven of one hundred U.S. senators signed a letter to Obama declaring that they “fully support Israel’s right of self-defense” after the Israeli commandos “arrived” on the Mavi Marmara and “were brutally attacked.” The House of Representatives followed suit as 338 of 435 members signed a letter expressing “strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself” after “passengers on the ship attacked Israeli soldiers with clubs, metal rods, and iron bars.” (72) Acting at the behest of “Jewish groups,” Congressional leaders moved to officially designate not the perpetrators of the attack but the victims as terrorists, and the sponsors of the humanitarian mission as a terrorist organization, and also to bar survivors of the bloodbath from entering the country on the grounds that they “should not be allowed to come to the United States and spill their propaganda and hatred and terrorist rhetoric.” (73)
“Since the Palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas,” New York Senator Chuck Schumer told a meeting of orthodox Jews after the attack, it made sense “to strangle them economically until they see that’s not the way to go.” (74) Although progressive bloggers deplored Schumer’s statement, it went largely unnoticed that this notorious panderer almost certainly uttered it because he knew his audience. Meanwhile, at the very moment Schumer proffered his advice, mainstream news outlets were crucifying near-nonagenarian journalist Helen Thomas for her off-the-cuff remark that Israeli Jews “should go back to Poland, Germany... and America and everywhere else.” (75) But the just-shy-of-genocidal incitement by among the most powerful members of the U.S. Senate was not reported, let alone rebuked, in the print and broadcast media.
Whereas public officials stood virtually united behind Israel, influential policy analysts and opinion-makers sharply divided. True, the majority still echoed the hackneyed phraseology of former New York Times columnist and president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations Leslie Gelb, who opined that “only knee-jerk left -wingers and the usual legion of poseurs around the world would dispute” Israel’s right to mount the raid. (76) Nonetheless, Israel came under scathing mainstream criticism, and an increasing, and increasingly vocal, minority began to register doubts whether Israel still constituted an American strategic asset. In a highly unusual departure, the normally stalwart editors of the New York Times declared that “there can be no excuse for the way that Israel completely mishandled the incident”; endorsed an “immediate and objective international investigation”; condemned the blockade which had to be “permanently lift ed”; and chastised Obama for his “tepid response” to the Israeli assault. (77) In the New York Times’s op-ed columns, Roger Cohen not only persisted in his withering commentaries (78) but was now joined by fellow columnist Nicholas Kristof, who denounced Israel’s “morally repugnant,” “oppressive and unjust” occupation. (79) In the meantime, over at Mondoweiss the popular blogger Philip Weiss noted the “staggering shift in liberal American discourse” evidenced by criticism of Israel on the Huffington Post. (80)
The stage was already set for American policy analysts to question Israel’s utility after General David H. Petraeus warned Congressional lawmakers in early 2010 that “perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel ... foments anti-American sentiment.” (81) Indeed, even Vice-President Joe Biden had reportedly scolded Netanyahu for pursuing policies that “undermine the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.” (82) Still, it would be hard to overestimate the significance of Anthony H. Cordesman’s abrupt turnaround. An influential military analyst, Cordesman was Israel’s chief apologist after the Gaza invasion. (83) But in a scorching commentary posted right after the commando assault, Cordesman pointed to actions by Israel that were making it a “strategic liability” for the U.S., and he put Israel on notice “that it has obligations to the United States” and must become “far more careful about the extent to which it test[s] the limits of U.S. patience and exploits the support of American Jews.” (84) Cordesman’s ruminations found unexpected support in Israel, where Mossad Chief Meir Dagan testified before members of the Knesset that Israel had become “less of an asset to the United States” than during the Cold War, and that on many crucial strategic questions, U.S. and Israeli interests now diverged. (85)
Nearly half of American respondents in a poll taken right after the flotilla bloodbath believed that the passengers were responsible for it while only 20 percent believed Israel was to blame. (86) However, once Israeli hasbara no longer monopolized the media and the testimonies of passengers garnered some attention—albeit still minimal and mostly on the Internet—the polls registered a shift in American public opinion: 56 percent agreed that there was a humanitarian crisis in Gaza (43 percent believed that Gazans were starving), while only 34 percent supported the Israeli attack and only 20 percent “felt support” for Israel after it announced that the blockade would be eased. (87) The July 2010 Israel Project poll found that “American support for Israel is waning.” Only 51 percent of respondents said that the U.S. needed to support Israel, down more than 10 percentage points from just a year ago. (88) In what might be an aberration or a harbinger of things to come, 79 percent of Evergreen State College students in a campus-wide referendum voted in June 2010 for the school’s divestment “from companies that profit from Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine,” and later that month dockworkers in Oakland, California, refused to unload an Israeli vessel for 24 hours. (89) In a vote with larger immediate implications the Presbyterian Church USA at its July 2010 convention called for “the withholding of U.S. government aid to the state of Israel as long as Israel persists in creating new West Bank settlements,” and for the U.S. to leverage its aid, making it “contingent upon Israel’s compliance with international law and peacemaking efforts.” (90)
Despite President Obama’s prickly relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and despite the growing disenchantment with Obama at home, an August 2010 Brandeis University poll still found that 61 percent of American Jews believed that the U.S. administration’s stance toward Israel was either “about right” (52 percent) or “too supportive” (9 percent). (91) “A new rift is beginning to develop between Israel and segments of Diaspora Jews,” respected Israeli political scientist Shlomo Avineri observed just before the commando raid. (92) In trendsetting Jewish circles the rift widened another notch or two after the attack. Even in the “immediate aftermath of the flotilla incident” when Israeli propaganda dominated news coverage, the Brandeis poll found that less than half of American Jews “strongly agreed” with the Israeli version of what happened (in the under-30 age cohort, the fraction fell to one third). (93) To be sure, establishment Jewish organizations predictably lined up behind Israel. The American Jewish Committee “condemned” the flotilla sponsors “for deliberately provoking a violent confrontation with the Israeli navy,” the World Jewish Congress (headquartered in New York) found it “deplorable ... that much of the international media continues to portray such violent activists as humanitarians,” while the Anti-Defamation League found it “deeply disturbing that the leaders of the flotilla and their sponsors were willing to engage in an elaborate sham as a pretext for ambushing and violently attacking Israeli military personnel.” (94) “If there was any criticism of Israel at all from the acknowledged leaders of the Jewish establishment,” the Forward reported, “it came in the form of questioning whether the operation had been well planned.” (95) On the other hand, the dovish organization Americans for Peace Now expressed “outrage at the way Israel’s government is dealing with people who challenge its policies,” and J Street opined that “the shocking outcome of an effort to bring humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza is in part a consequence of the ongoing, counterproductive Israeli blockade of Gaza.” (96)
The reactions of unaffiliated American Jews proved less predictable and more telling. True, the usual suspects took their cues from a time-worn script. “The deaths and injuries on board the Gaza flotilla,” according to Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, “once again demonstrate how easy it is for radical supporters of terrorism to provoke a democracy.” (97) After a week’s worth of intensive research Elie Wiesel weighed in that the flotilla was initiated by “the most militant wing of Hamas,” and that the passengers “acted as a well-organized lynch mob. It was a set-up, a trap ... they were mercenaries. We know that now.” (Was it a sign of the times that only a New York tabloid would print this Nobel laureate’s lucubrations?) (98) The gaggle of neoconservative pundits also offered no surprises: for John Podhoretz the Jewish state “may have done what it did poorly, but it did no wrong” because the “onus rests with the ... hateful terrorist sympathizer who has decided to put his or her life on the line to front for Hamas”; for Elliott Abrams the “moral equation is clear. This flotilla was an act of solidarity and support for terrorism”; for Charles Krauthammer the “whole point” of the “blockade-busting flotilla of useful idiots and terror sympathizers” was “to deprive Israel of any legitimate form of self-defense” and “openly prepare a more final solution.” (99) Former Israelfirster Andrew Sullivan chalked up the likes of Krauthammer as “victims of Israel Derangement Syndrome.” (100) Still, it must be said that they were the picture of subtlety next to Jewish Week associate editor Jonathan Mark who advised Israel: “Next flotilla that violently resists a search—just sink it. Torpedo it.” (101)
Even among the party faithful, however, an unease with Zion could be discerned. “The first and most obvious thing to say,” Dissent editor Michael Walzer declared, “is that Israel should have let the six ships through to Gaza,” (102) while New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier, dubbing the Israeli attack “Operation Make the World Hate Us,” declared that “the important point is that the killing of civilians on the Mavi Marmara ... cannot be extenuated by reference to ‘asymmetrical warfare’ and Israel’s right to defend itself.” (103) But the most spectacular defection came from another quarter just as the flotilla bloodbath was unfolding.
In a manifesto-cum-declaration of independence that reverberated throughout the American Jewish community, Peter Beinart portended in the pages of the New York Review of Books the coming demise of American Zionism and pinned culpability for its untimely death on the American Jewish establishment. The liberal ethos of American Jews could no longer be reconciled with Israeli policy, Beinart contended, and when forced by apologetic American Jewish leaders to choose between them, American Jews have opted to keep faith with their homegrown values: “For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.” (104)
What created such a stir was not so much the article’s thesis, which could hardly stake a claim to originality, (105) but who was proclaiming it and where it was being proclaimed. Beinart is a former senior editor at the staunchly “pro”-Israel New Republic and an orthodox Jew; the New York Review of Books is the bellwether of American intellectual—and American Jewish intellectual—opinion. The skeptic might suppose that this spectacle was less a case of “seeing the light” than of trimming the sails to take full advantage of new tailwinds, but either way Beinart’s high profile defection signaled the further decomposition of American Zionism, this time at its hard core. After the flotilla bloodbath Beinart assigned primary blame to “Israeli leaders who oversee the Gaza embargo” and “Israel’s American supporters, who have averted their eyes.” In a stinging reproach to American Jews, he concluded that “In the name of solidarity, we have practiced denial. In the name of anti-terrorism we have justified the brutalization of innocents” and “enabled Israel’s callous, reckless policy.” (106)
A slew of mea culpas by other erstwhile American Zionists followed on the heels of Beinart’s confession of a faith lost. “All the talk of the complicated and tragic nature of the situation,” one self-described member of the “younger generation” now came to realize, “was partially designed to obscure certain stark realities that were, perhaps, not terribly complicated at all: in particular, the fact that for decades the lion’s share of power has been in the possession of one side, and the lion’s share of suffering has been borne by the other.” (107) “Let’s separate truth from the bold-faced lies emanating from the Israeli government and the organized American Jewish community that repeats them,” a rabbi and veteran publisher of Jewish Journal began, and after methodically exposing numerous falsehoods, he lamented that “Israel is going down the path of no return to its own dismal future. As a lifelong Zionist, my heart is breaking.” (108)
Meanwhile, influential Jewish pundits on the blogosphere inveighed after the commando attack that in Gaza “the Epilogue 179 level of human suffering—we’re talking about a place where 1.5 million people live—being inflicted is just staggering” (Matthew Yglesias); that “this is an insane use of disproportionate force” (Joe Klein); that “it hardly seemed possible for Israel— after its brutal devastation of Gaza and its ongoing blockade— to engage in more heinous and repugnant crimes. But ... Israel has managed to do exactly that” (Glenn Greenwald). (109) Some of the most acid commentary on the web came from the heart of the American Jewish community. Vilifying the passengers because their prime objective was to break the blockade not deliver supplies, a former director of the Israel Policy Forum pointed out, was on a par with vilifying protesters sitting in at segregated lunch counters in the South because their prime objective “was not really to get breakfast. It was to end segregation”; and for commandos to board a civilian vessel in international waters and then claim that they were attacked “without provocation” was on a par with “a carjacker complaining to the police that the driver bashed him with a crowbar that was under the seat.” (110)
By year’s end, even the editor of the influential New Yorker magazine, the pages of which are periodically filled with puff pieces for Israel, jumped ship. In a spontaneous—or was it calculated?— outburst, David Remnick told a Hebrew daily that Israel’s “status of an occupier” had been “happening for so long” that “even people like me ... can’t take it anymore.” (111) One did not have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind was blowing.
A reservoir of support for Israel can still be found among American Jews, especially orthodox Jews and those who came of age during Israel’s seemingly heroic period that commenced with the June 1967 “Six-Day War” and climaxed with the October 1973 “Yom Kippur War.” But by now a lot of dirty water— Lebanon 1982, the first and second intifadas, Lebanon 2006, Gaza 2008-9, the Mavi Marmara—has flowed under the bridge. Like the waning of global support and American support generally for Israel, it is almost certain that support for Israel among American Jews has entered a period of ineluctable decline. Should it really surprise that American Jews weaned on liberal values would prefer not to defend the firing of white phosphorus at hospitals and the summary execution of passengers on a humanitarian flotilla?

Even if, for argument’s sake, one credits the right of Israel to block passage of a humanitarian flotilla, the question remains, “why, on a supposedly peaceful interception, its commandos chose to board the ship by rappelling from a military helicopter, in the dark, in international waters,” in a fashion practically designed to induce panic. (112) It could have chosen—as Israeli offi-cials readily acknowledged—from an array of relatively benign options such as disabling the propeller, rudder or engine of the vessel and towing it to the Israeli port at Ashdod, or physically blocking the vessel’s passage. (113) On Israel’s own terms, a commando raid was a bizarre choice. After the bloodletting, Israel alleged on its behalf that it didn’t anticipate violent resistance; that it was “expecting mild violence and mostly curses, shoves and spitting in the face,” “a sit-down, a linking of arms,” “passive resistance, perhaps verbal resistance,” or “to engage with the passengers in conversation.” (114) But if it didn’t expect force to be used against it, why didn’t it board the boat in broad daylight, indeed, with a full complement of journalists brought along to show the world its peaceful intentions; why did it disable the vessel’s communications beforehand, preventing transmissions to the outside world; and why did it initiate contact by using tear gas, smoke and stun grenades and possibly plastic bullets? And if it didn’t intend violence, why did it deploy a commando unit trained to kill and not a police unit accustomed to handling civil resisters?
Judging not by the ex post facto protestations of Israeli leaders but by the options they elected in preparation for the assault, the reasonable inference is that Israel wanted a bloody confrontation, although probably not on the scale that ensued after the commandos panicked at the passengers’ determined resistance and then exacted several more vengeful murders. “What did the commandos expect pro-Palestinian activists to do once they boarded the ships,” the British Guardian editorialized, “invite them aboard for a cup of tea with the captain on the bridge?” (115) But the question remains, Why? In fact, multiple factors converged to make a violent commando raid the optimal modus operandi.
In recent years Israel has conducted a succession of what it reckons to be bungled security operations. In 2006 it suffered a major military setback in Lebanon. It tried restoring its deterrence capacity—i.e., the Arab-Muslim world’s fear of it—when it invaded Gaza in 2008-9. However, the attack evoked not awe at Israel’s martial prowess but disgust at its lethal cowardice. Israel then dispatched in 2010 a commando team to assassinate a Hamas leader in Dubai but, although the mission was accomplished, the unit ended up seeding a diplomatic storm on account of its amateurish execution. Israel was now desperate to restore the IDF’s derring-do image of bygone years. What better way than an Entebbe-like commando raid? (116)
The decision to launch the assault on the Mavi Marmara was taken by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak. Both had belonged to a commando unit in their youth. In fact Barak was Netanyahu’s commander and mentor in the unit and they are still said to communicate with each other in the coded language of their commando stint. (117) Barak made his reputation on a commando raid in 1972 and Netanyahu basked in the reflected glory of his brother Jonathan, who was the only Israeli casualty on the Entebbe raid in 1976. It should come as little surprise that the duo would opt for a violent commando assault to burnish the IDF’s—and their own—reputation.
“Both the prime minister and the defense minister are dyed-in-the-wool creatures of military operations,” Haaretz columnist Doron Rosenblum observed after the flotilla raid. “Both were steeped in the instant-heroism mentality and the commando spirit: the ethos in which a military force shows up at the height of a crisis like a deus ex machina and in a single stroke slices through the Gordian knot.” “Although decades have passed since the moral high [of such operations] was injected into our veins,” Rosenblum continued, “our leaders have never stopped trying to reconstruct it to atone for their ineffectiveness as statesmen. And the greater the number of successive failed missions, the greater the longing for the next redemptive mission that would heal the trauma and the bad trip of its predecessor.... They are the responses of addicts who are repeatedly denied their fix: the perfect IDF operation, or the decisive war, which will stifle any question and complaints (and any need for statesmanship).” (118)
Predictably, the Israeli resort to violent force was most pronounced in the assault on the Mavi Marmara. Some twothirds of the 600 passengers on this vessel were Turkish citizens, while the core contingent was alleged to be “a front for a radical Islamist organization, probably with links to the ruling party in Turkey,” making the Mavi Marmara a yet more tempting target. (119) In recent times Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become increasingly outspoken in his criticism of Israel and in his determination to carve out an independent foreign policy. After the Gaza invasion Erdogan publicly dressed down Israeli President Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos: “When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.” In early 2010 Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon publicly humiliated the Turkish ambassador in front of Israeli television cameras by refusing to shake his hand and placing him in a low chair over which the Israeli deputy foreign minister towered. Erdogan then acted in concert with Brazil to resolve diplomatically the conflict with Iran over its nuclear program. Fixated as Israel has been on attacking Iran, the Turkish démarche was another unwelcome interference. “Turkey thereby strengthened its identification and cooperation with Iran,” Netanyahu later bemoaned, “just days before the flotilla.” Further, Israeli entreaties “to the most senior levels of the Turkish government” to preempt the Mavi Marmara’s launching went unheeded. (120)
It was long past time to cut the Turkish upstart down to size, and a sleek (if bloody) commando raid was just the reminder Ankara needed of who was in charge in that corner of the world. Israel eschewed less violent options to halt the flotilla, an Israeli strategic analyst breathlessly explained, because it wanted “to tell the Islamizing Turkey... —no more. The forces of the Ottoman Empire, who aspire to again rule the Middle East as they did almost 500 years ago, will be stopped at Gaza’s shores.” (121) The ensuing rift with its historic ally might appear to belie such speculation: why would Israel risk such a steep diplomatic price? But Israel has grown accustomed to Arab-Muslim leaders meekly absorbing its humiliating blows. If Israeli commandos had killed nine Egyptians on a humanitarian convoy, who can doubt that Hosni Mubarak would have pleaded for Israel’s forgiveness? Even Bashar al-Assad stayed mute after the Israeli air assault on an alleged Syrian nuclear reactor. “I am certain the Turkish reaction took the Zionist leaders by surprise,” Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah declared after the bloodbath. (122)
The recourse to violent force was also Israel’s reflexive response to stem the rising tide of vessels destined for Gaza. It initially allowed humanitarian supplies headed for Gaza by sea to pass through, no doubt hoping that the spirits of the organizers would peter out as public interest flagged. When this didn’t deter them the Israeli navy rammed and intercepted vessels en route to Gaza. (123) But more boats kept coming. Is it surprising that Israel would then resort to violent force? After Israel prevented a humanitarian ship from reaching Gaza in February 2009, a British-led delegation “worried” out loud to U.S. embassy officials in Beirut “that the Israeli government would not be as ‘lenient’ in the future should similar incidents occur.” (124) If the assault on the flotilla couldn’t have shocked those in the loop, it also didn’t shock seasoned observers of the Israeli scene. The “violent interception of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid,” Israeli novelist Amos Oz reflected, was the “rank product” of the Israeli “mantra that what can’t be done by force can be done with even greater force.” (125) Denying that the commandos’ violence was premeditated, Israel purported that it had merely expected “resistance like we encounter in Bil’in.” (126) But Israel has frequently resorted to lethal force to put a stop to such civil resistance. What happened on the Mavi Marmara, a Haaretz columnist observed, “is very similar to what Israel has been doing every week for the past four years in Bil’in—injuring and killing unarmed civilian protesters who are demanding their basic rights.” (127) Since 2002, fully 27 Palestinians have been killed in popular resistance activities. No member of the Israeli security forces has been killed at these demonstrations. (128)

The fact that Israel bungled yet another operation bodes ominously for the future. The once-vaunted IDF has become, as political scientist John J. Mearsheimer put it, “the gang that cannot shoot straight.” (129) It is hard to exaggerate the cost in Israeli eyes of this latest misadventure. Although Israeli hasbara desperately sought to spin the raid as an “operational success” (130) and the commandos as untarnished heroes, few were taken in. Israeli pundits deplored this “disgraceful fiasco” and “national humiliation” in which “deterrence took a bad blow.” (131) “The magic evaporated long ago, the most moral army in the world, that was once the best army in the world, failed again,” Gideon Levy half satirized. “More and more there is the impression that nearly everything it touches causes harm to Israel.” (132)
The Naval Commandos constitute Israel’s “best fighting unit”; (133) they had rehearsed the attack for weeks, even constructing a model of the Mavi Marmara. (134) Nonetheless, when 30 of these commandos faced off against an equal number of civilian passengers (135) possessing only makeshift weapons, three of them not only allowed themselves to be captured but photographs of them being nursed circulated throughout cyberspace. Israeli soldiers—and commandos above all—are not supposed to be taken alive, especially after Gilad Shalit’s capture turned into a national trauma. (136) One widely quoted Mavi Marmara passenger who disarmed the commandos recalled afterwards that “they looked like frightened children in the face of an abusive father.” (137)
A cohort of “frightened children” is not the image Israel wants to project to foe or friend of the IDF. “The claim made by the IDF spokesman that the soldiers’ lives were in danger and they feared a lynching,” a Haaretz military analyst understatedly opined, “is hardly complimentary to the men of the elite naval units.” (138) It was also not a comforting image for its own domestic population, which cannot but be jittery about the ability of the IDF after so many misadventures to fend off a seemingly endless list of evermore potent enemies. “It’s one thing for people to think you’re crazy,” an Israeli general rued, “but it’s bad when they think you’re incompetent and crazy, and that’s the way we look.” (139) The results of a 2010 poll in the Arab world showing that only 12 percent of the Arab public believed Israel was “very powerful” while fully 44 percent believed it was “weaker than it looks” validated, and probably exacerbated, the anxieties of Israeli leaders. (140)
Each disastrous mission ups the stakes of the next throw of the dice. Israel must launch a yet more spectacular mission to compensate for the long string of failures. It might target a Hezbollah leader for assassination. (Except in the event of war, it most likely will not target Nasrallah because assassinating him would provoke an incalculable craving for vengeance.) But after so many embarrassing mishaps, the likelihood is that Israel will set its sights on something more ambitious than a contained commando operation to restore its deterrence. If Israeli leaders typically hark back to the raid on Entebbe as the perfectly executed commando operation, they also typically hark back to the June 1967 war as the perfectly executed military operation. The temptation to launch another such blitzkrieg must run deep.
The aftermath of the flotilla bloodbath brought into sharp relief a new configuration of power in the Middle East. Turkey refused to buckle under Israeli (and American) pressure and had already sided with Iran on the sanctions vote in the U.N. Security Council. (141) Syria’s al-Assad almost immediately journeyed to Ankara in a show of support, and Hezbollah was reportedly being supplied with Syrian missiles. “The axis of Turkey-Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas is the rising power,” Avnery reckoned, “and the axis of Egypt-Saudi Arabia-Jordan-Fatah is in decline.” (142) Meanwhile, international pressures were building on Israel to negotiate with Hamas, (143) and global public opinion was turning against Israel.
These combined and consecutive developments could not but conjure memories in Israel of the eve of the June 1967 war when—as Netanyahu recalled in a recent speech—the Arabs had sought to “tighten a noose around the neck of the State of Israel.” (144) Yet again Israel was being “encircled” by a ring of enemies making haste to destroy it, while the world at large was “abandoning” it. Just as in 1967, for ordinary Israelis it is a frightening spectacle—“The noose is tightening around us,” an old Israeli friend recently wrote me, echoing Netanyahu’s emotive remembrance of 1967—while for Israeli leaders it is a fetching spectacle: it is, viscerally, the perfect moment to launch a first strike. Of course there are kernels of truth in the fears of ordinary Israelis but the overarching truth is that, if the noose is tightening around Israel, it is Israel that is tightening it; if Israel now evokes near-universal loathing, if, as a majority of Israeli Jews apparently believe, “the whole world is against us,” (145) it is because of Israel’s relentless bellicosity and brutality.
“Prejudice is not what motivates the vast majority of those mobilizing in solidarity with the Palestinians,” Israeli foreign policy specialist Daniel Levy observed. “The occupation is the oxygen of their campaign.... An Israel that fails to appreciate this and which sustains the occupation is the single most proximate cause of its own delegitimization.” (146) “Our opponents are not motivated by anti-Semitism, as our political hacks like to claim,” veteran Israeli columnist Yoel Marcus likewise commented. “If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, then anti-Semitism is the last refuge of the occupier.” (147) Even the conspiracy-minded Reut Institute, which has conjured up ramified global “networks” composed of “hubs” and “catalysts” singularly dedicated to Israel’s destruction, recognized that “in the struggle against delegitimization, it is essential that Israel adopts clear and consistent policies ... which effectively reflect a sincere commitment to ending Israel’s control over the Palestinian population and achieving peace.” (148)
It is a baseless conjecture that Israel’s neighbors, singly or en masse, intend to attack. But for Israel that’s not the point. It should be remembered that Israel did not face an existential threat in 1967 either. It decided to launch a first strike after Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser declared that he was closing the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. In fact Israel barely used the Straits, and anyhow Nasser quietly let vessels pass after a few days. (149) However, the verbal gesture in itself was for Israel a casus belli. “The importance of denying Nasser political and psychological victory,” Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban later observed, “had become no less important than the concrete interest involved in the issue of navigation.” (150) Then and now, Israel won’t abide having its freedom of maneuver hemmed in by a countervailing force, even a “political and psychological” one; it demands free rein to act as ruthlessly and recklessly as it pleases, no checks, no balances. A single shattering blow, Israeli leaders perhaps now fantasize, can retrieve the glory days after the June 1967 war when Israel sat pretty atop occupied Arab territories beyond all its borders while Moshe Dayan mocked, “We are awaiting the Arabs’ phone call.”
The probable initial target of an Israeli attack is Lebanon. Of late Israel has been busily preparing the ground for it. Even Israel’s vulgar apologists such as Daniel Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, concede that should hostilities break out, it is “more likely” that Israel will have initiated them. He reports speculation that a war will occur in the next 12 to 18 months, and predicts that the U.S. won’t be willing—or able— to avert it: “Israel would likely mobilize its supporters in the United States to push back against the administration, and the Obama administration would face a firestorm of pressure from Capitol Hill and the pro-Israel lobby organizations. It is not clear that the administration could muster strong arguments for a policy position calling for Israeli restraint or threatening diplomatic action against Israel in case of war.” (151) The Israel lobby has already signaled where it stands: “if war comes, Washington should not necessarily take immediate steps toward ending it quickly.” (152)
The pretext for an Israeli first strike could be that Hezbollah has amassed a huge arsenal of rockets and missiles targeting Israel. It is almost certain that an Israeli assault would replicate the Gaza invasion—which had “served to test the performance of units, doctrine, tactics, and equipment for a major war in the north” (153)—but on a much grander scale. An Israeli general proclaimed shortly after the Gaza invasion that the IDF will “continue to apply” the so-called Dahiya doctrine of directing massive force against civilian infrastructure “in the future.” (154) On the same day as the flotilla bloodbath, the authoritative DefenseNews was reporting that a prospective Israeli assault on Lebanon “would include attacks on national infrastructure; a total maritime blockade; and interdiction strikes on bridges, highways,” while “land forces would execute a ferocious land grab well beyond the Litani River.” The essence of Israeli strategic doctrine, the IDF deputy chief of staff elaborated, was that “each new round” of fighting “brings worse results than the last” to Israel’s enemies. On one point Israel and its nemesis concur: IDF officers predict that the next war will be “gamechanging”; Hezbollah’s Nasrallah forecasts that “it will change the face of this region.” (155) The Israel lobby’s think tank in Washington says it will be “transformational, even fateful.” (156)
Israeli intelligence is reporting that Hezbollah has now located weapons and its command centers in Lebanese villages. It might be cause for wonder why this should be deemed newsworthy inasmuch as Israel already alleged—falsely—that Hezbollah weapons and its command centers were located in Lebanese villages when Israel targeted these villages in 2006. Thus Haaretz’s senior military analysts, basing themselves on “valuable intelligence information,” report that “Hezbollah has moved most of its bunkers, command centers and rocket stores in southern Lebanon out of fields and into the 160 Shiite villages and towns in the area.” (157) But in their scholarly study of the 2006 Lebanon War, the very same writers reported that Hezbollah stored ammunition in civilian homes and turned them into “observation and command posts.” (158) The transparent purpose behind disseminating this latest Israeli “intelligence” is not, as they claim, to “warn Hezbollah,” but rather to justify in advance another massive assault on Lebanon’s civilian population and civilian infrastructure. In fact, the United Nations force stationed in south Lebanon (UNIFIL) “has not found any evidence of a new military infrastructure in its area of operations.” (159)
Many Lebanese find some solace in the knowledge that the next war cannot be worse than the last one. But despite inflicting massive destruction in 2006, Israel still “spared most non-Shiite residential neighborhoods and major infrastructure, such as telecommunications as well as energy and water-related infrastructure.” (160) An Israeli strategic analyst anticipated that “another violent Israel-Hezbollah confrontation would make the Second Lebanon War of 2006 look like child’s play in comparison.” (161) Defense Minister Barak told the Washington Post that should hostilities break out again, “we will see it as legitimate to hit any target that belongs to the Lebanese state, not just to the Hezbollah,” while former IDF general and national security advisor Giora Eiland predicted that “another war between us and Hezbollah will be a war between Israel and the State of Lebanon,” (162) one in which Israel “wreaks destruction on the State of Lebanon” of a magnitude that will have “the entire world crying for a ceasefire within two days.” (163)
It might be argued that after the defeat Israel suffered in 2006 it won’t pick another fight with Hezbollah, let alone risk a regional face-off. Israel has not however resigned itself to, or even entertained, the notion that it no longer has the capacity to deliver a mighty blow to its foes; that, as the commando fiasco yet again vividly illustrated, the Israeli fighting force of today is not the fighting force of yesteryear; that the powers arrayed against it are more formidable than the spent forces of radical Arab nationalism running on hot air that it defeated in 1967. Tellingly, after each successive bungled operation Israelis speak of “operational” errors, never conceptual ones, the tacit assumption being that if these errors are corrected, then next time around the goals still can and will be achieved.
It is an equally mistaken presumption that Israel would only attack on the assurance that it could militarily defeat Hezbollah. In a reversal of Clausewitz’s dictum, politics for Israel is war by other means. Because it is so deeply ingrained in the Israeli psyche that “Arabs only understand the language of force” and, concomitantly, because “Zionism” has “traditionally conceived” violence as a “pedagogical device to convince Arabs” of Israel’s “indestructibility,” (164) Israeli leaders repeatedly feel under compulsion to unleash devastating displays of firepower. War is not a means to an end, it is the end, whereas politics is merely the hiatus between wars. A cardinal error Israeli leaders are said to have committed in 2006 was announcing an overly ambitious goal: the incapacitation of Hezbollah. (165) (It deserves an aside that the IDF fared so miserably against Hezbollah partly because it had adopted a battle doctrine steeped in “postmodern French philosophy” that many officers couldn’t understand.) (166) If the declared objective of the 2006 war had been to deter Hezbollah from firing missiles at it, Israel could have convincingly proclaimed victory. As it stood, the Israel-Lebanon border was witness to unprecedented calm after the Israeli assault precisely because of the massive death and destruction Israel had inflicted on Lebanese society. (167)
At the outset of the Gaza invasion Israel carefully limited its announced goal to the cessation of Hamas rocket fire. It was then able to declare victory afterwards. Even then, the purported triumph was mostly a sham: the number of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza after the invasion was not lower than before Israel broke the ceasefire in November 2008. (168) Still, Hamas did carefully observe the postinvasion ceasefire— despite the fact that the illegal Israeli blockade wasn’t lift ed— partly because of the massive devastation Israel wrought. In a war with Hezbollah, Israel might proclaim as its goal degrading Hezbollah’s missile capabilities in the short term; then launch a “shock and awe” blitzkrieg to destroy several thousand Hezbollah missiles; and then declare victory. At the same time and just as it did in Gaza, Israel would devastate Lebanese civilian infrastructure both to put the Arab-Muslim world on notice should it contemplate constricting Israel’s room for maneuver, and to turn the Lebanese population against Hezbollah.
Nasrallah has repeatedly declared that in the event of another war, it will be tit-for-tat: “an airport for an airport, a port for a port, a city for a city, a building for a building, a power station for a power station, a factory for a factory,” and “if you besiege our shore and our ports, all military and commercial ships heading towards the ports of Palestine along the Mediterranean Sea will be under the fire of the Islamic resistance.” (169) His entire reputation—and he must know it—rests on the fact that, unlike Arab leaders from Nasser to Saddam Hussein, an exact correspondence exists between his words and deeds. (170) Put otherwise, there’s every reason to suppose that Nasrallah means what he says, and will—must—do what he promises.
It is frightening to conceive what Israel will do if Hezbollah missiles target Israel’s unofficial capital. The head of Military Intelligence warned the Israeli cabinet that the current “lull shouldn’t mislead anyone,” and that, should a new war break out, “Tel Aviv could also become a front.” (171) Asked if Israel would be deterred by international law, “a senior officer in the General Staff replied without hesitation: ‘When missiles fly at Tel Aviv in the next war, and we presume that they will, we will respond with all the necessary force. Don’t delude yourselves that anyone’s going to wait for the lawyers.’” (172) The prospect grows yet more terrifying when one considers that an Israeli assault on Lebanon will perhaps also draw in Iran and Syria, especially if Israel decides in a replay of June 1967 to knock out all its foes in one blow and thereby “fundamentally alter the military equation,” (173) or if Iran and Syria perceive, rightfully, an attack on Hezbollah and its defeat as the prelude to an attack on them. (174) The bottom line is that Israel will not abide another defeat by Hezbollah and the U.S. will almost certainly be pulled in if its defeat impends; and Hezbollah will not abide a defeat by Israel and Iran and Syria will almost certainly be pulled in if its defeat impends. (175) An Israeli attack on Hezbollah could trigger a chain reaction the outcome of which no sane person would want to contemplate.
Hezbollah’s calculation appears to be that a prior, publicly declared determination to retaliate against Israel’s own home front in the event of an attack will deter it. (176) But Israeli leaders might be willing to risk massive civilian deaths in order to deliver the knock-out punch—following the 2006 Lebanon War Israel has invested massively in civil defense infrastructure and annually conducted national civil defense drills as if bracing its home front for such retaliatory strikes (177)—and anyhow Israel is constitutionally incapable of relating to the Arab-Muslim world except as masters and via the language of force. Israeli leaders might even perceive an attack on the civilian population as an opportunity to whip up a domestic hysteria and garner international sympathy for a murderous denouement. Having alienated so much of international opinion after its consecutive ravagings of Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2008-9, and after the Mavi Marmara bloodbath, Israel in fact positively needs massive civilian casualties—which it would undoubtedly exploit to the hilt in the media—in order to justify yet another annihilative assault and, if the attack goes awry, to coax American intervention. (A 2010 poll found that a clear majority of Americans opposed deployment of American military force in support of Israel if it initiates and gets entangled in a war with Iran, and fewer than half of Americans supported use of American military force to defend Israel even against an unprovoked attack by a neighbor.) (178) If Hezbollah’s retaliatory strikes continued to inflict civilian casualties nonstop, however, Israel couldn’t declare a military victory after its blitzkrieg and the mutual destruction could easily spin out of control.
If the Obama administration won’t stop Israel, and if scenes of Israeli civilian deaths will neutralize hostile world public opinion, it is also improbable that Israeli anxiety over the political repercussions of an attack will deter it. After the Gaza invasion Israeli leaders did feel constrained by the potential of the Goldstone Report to cast them as war criminals. But the Palestinian Authority and members of the Arab League, preferring that the report die a quiet death, let it languish in the U.N. bureaucracy, and Israel eventually figured out how to neuter it. Denying any wrongdoing, Israel initially lashed out at the Goldstone Report. But when the pressures didn’t abate, it deft ly changed tack by administering a handful of token punishments and, promising to mend its ways, professed that in future wars it would heed the lessons of Goldstone. Anxious to rejoin the Israeli consensus, Goldstone’s original supporters then claimed vindication and praised Israel’s capacity (albeit belated) for self-criticism, (179) while the IDF wailed out loud at the shackles allegedly being placed on it. (180)
By Act IV of these wretched histrionics U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was praising Israel’s “significant progress investigating allegations of misconduct by the IDF,” (181) and the U.N. Human Rights Council was endlessly deferring action on Goldstone’s findings with the Palestinian Authority’s acquiescence, (182) while Defense Minister Barak could confidently predict that he was in the process of dispatching the “remnants of the Goldstone report.” (183) Israel’s “significant progress” and substantive reply to the Goldstone Report was showcased in September 2010 when the commander of the Gaza invasion was promoted to IDF chief of staff. (184) The nine passengers murdered aboard the Mavi Marmara were the first casualties of the Goldstone Report’s interment, and those who expedited the Report’s burial must bear a share of responsibility for these deaths. If it had not been effectively “vetoed,” human rights lawyer Raji Sourani observed, “if the international community had fulfilled its obligation to enforce international humanitarian law, and if the rule of law were respected, it is almost certain that the unjustifiable bloodshed in the Mediterranean could have been prevented.” (185)
In short order Israel also contained the rippling effects of the Mavi Marmara bloodbath. It initially opposed an international investigation but then reversed itself, proclaiming it had “nothing to hide,” (186) after Ban Ki-moon eviscerated the proposed panel’s mandate (187) and appointed singularly corrupt and criminal Colombian ex-president Alvaro Uribe, who is also an outspoken proponent of closer military ties between Colombia and Israel, as vice-chair of the panel. (188) (A former prime minister of New Zealand was designated the chair.) Besides an impartial investigation of the Mavi Marmara assault, Erdogan had demanded an apology from Israel. He will now be fortunate if, after its deliberations, the panel does not demand an apology from him. Still, Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni deplored the creation of a U.N. panel because “international intervention in military operations carried out by Israel is unacceptable.... Israel is investigating the events of the flotilla itself, and that is enough.” (189) Indeed, who can doubt that Israel’s killing of foreign nationals in international waters is an internal Israeli affair?
It is, finally, open to question whether, as they inch towards Armageddon, Israeli leaders can be counted on to act according to a rational calculus. After the Gaza invasion Israeli officials proclaimed that they “acted” lunatic to deter their enemies; after its bloody commando raid on a humanitarian convoy, one wonders whether they have become lunatic. “Only a crazy government that has lost all restraint and all connection to reality,” Avnery observed right after the flotilla attack, “could do something like that—consider ships carrying humanitarian aid and peace activists from around the world as an enemy and send massive military force to international waters to attack them, shoot and kill.” (190)
Feeling trapped and cornered, desperate to restore its deterrence but appearing yet more inept after each successive attempt, emancipated from the constraints of public opinion and legal repercussion, and after repeatedly threatening to attack Iran and Hezbollah, making it ever harder to back down and not lose credibility, an unhinged Israeli leadership just might go for broke. It is not being a Cassandra to prognosticate an impending doomsday, and it is far from premature to sound the alarm that at bare minimum Israel must be compelled to join the regional consensus supporting a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. (191) It deserves underscoring that Israel’s refusal to fully withdraw from the territories it conquered in 1967 has blocked a diplomatic settlement with the Palestinians and Syria that would drastically reduce the likelihood of regional war.

Despite the irretrievable loss of human life and the dire prospects of regional conflagration—indeed because of them—the historic achievement of the Freedom Flotilla should not be lost from sight. A nonviolent, international grassroots initiative proved able to force the hands of the world’s mightiest powers. Only on the day after the bloody Israeli assault did the powersthat-be suddenly awaken to the realization that the Israeli siege was “unsustainable”—as these complacent, hypocritical cowards uttered singly and in chorus—and had to be lift ed; in fact Netanyahu himself had to concede the existence of the Israeli siege and the necessity of terminating it. (192) The prison gates of Gaza have so far been pried open only a few inches at most, (193) but those inches manifest the latent power of a movement built on the simple truth that the occupation is inhuman and unjust.
True, the international community would probably not have pressured Israel were it not for the Turkish state’s high decibel intervention. The grassroots movement in and of itself, and however many its mortal sacrifices, is not yet able to inflect state policy. The murder of Rachel Corrie on its own did not rattle American complicity, or the murder of Tom Hurndall rattle British complicity, with the Israeli occupation, and the heroic resistance in West Bank villages like Bil’in has not yet stirred the world’s conscience. But the movement is still in a nascent stage and has yet to draw on its vast reserves. It can only be imagined the potential of a movement that taps the dormant talent and ingenuity of its ever-expanding ranks; of a committed leadership that harnesses this restless but diffuse energy and doesn’t let petty jealousies, turf wars and ego aggrandizement obscure the common objective; of one, two, three, many flotillas determined to break the cruel siege, once and for all. Energizing as these prospects might be, it must simultaneously be borne in mind the magnitude of the will that must be summoned, how concentrated, tenacious and sustained this collective will must be, to extract even the most meager concession from those ruthlessly wielding power. Despite the universal condemnation of Israel’s commando raid, and the concerted calls by world leaders for Israel to lift the siege of Gaza, a half year later there was still “no tangible change for the people on the ground” (194) while the humanitarian crisis again vanished from the headlines.
The fact that the murders of Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall still resonate and that the murder of nine foreigners aboard the Mavi Marmara evoked global condemnation should serve as a fillip to the solidarity movement. However unfair, it remains true that a higher value is attached to some lives— and deaths—than others; that Palestinian lives are expendable, while the lives of foreigners are not. The Civil Rights Movement immortalized the names Schwerner and Goodman, and who can deny the nobility of their sacrifice? Yet, a forgotten Black person was killed in Mississippi in each of the five months preceding the deaths of these two white (and Jewish) volunteers in Freedom Summer. (195) The inequality in valuating life should outrage, but it should also prod us to redouble our commitment because the presence of a “higher-graded” life can direct attention to an atrocity that would otherwise go unnoticed.
A skeptic might wonder whether the bloody spectacle aboard the Mavi Marmara proved the power of nonviolence or in fact of violence. Would the world have paid heed if the passengers had not forcefully resisted and the Israeli killings had not ensued? But such a reading of what happened doubly errs. At some point Israel’s resort to massive bloodshed was inevitable. The death toll on the Mavi Marmara was probably greater than Israel intended, but ultimately Israel has no recourse except to lethal force against determined nonviolent resistance. Moreover, nonviolent resistance does not preclude but in fact is predicated on the prospect of self-sacrifice. Gandhi demanded of satyagrahis that they seek out martyrdom at the hands of their oppressors: for, the whole point of nonviolent resistance was to prick the public conscience into action against injustice. (196) No sight was more likely to arouse respect than innocents willing to die for their basic rights, and no sight was more likely to arouse indignation than innocents being killed for such aspirations; indeed, the willingness to die nonviolently in pursuit of these rights affirmed the victims’ worthiness of them. Although it appalled grassroots activists, some leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were “elated” when Southern segregationists sicked dogs on nonviolent demonstrators. “They said over and over again,” James Foreman bitterly recounted, “‘We’ve got a movement. We’ve got a movement. They brought out the dogs. We’ve got a movement!’” (197) The promise of nonviolence is not that it won’t entail suffering and death but, as Gandhi never tired of repeating, it could achieve the same results as violence at a far lesser cost. Or, as a Hamas legislator put it, “The Gaza flotilla has done more for Gaza than 10,000 rockets.” (198)
The overarching lesson of the Mavi Marmara is to focus not on meaningless sideshows like the “peace process” but on summoning forth our own capacities. The process inaugurated at Oslo in September 1993 has not brought Palestinians one step closer to an independent state but has brought Israel many steps closer to annexing the West Bank. Between 1993 and 2010 the number of Jewish settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories doubled from 250,000 to 500,000, while Israel expropriated nearly half of West Bank land for the settlements, effectively evicted thousands of Palestinians from their homes and revoked the Jerusalem residency permits of thousands more Palestinians. Although the total Palestinian population in the West Bank has expanded by fully 50 percent since 1993, the total water allocation for Palestinians has contracted from the already exiguous level set in the Oslo Accord, while in the Jordan Valley an estimated 9,000 illegal Jewish settlers have used one-quarter the total amount of water consumed by all the 2.5 million Palestinian residents of the West Bank. (199) Judging not by words but—as a rational person does—by outcomes or results, what began at Oslo was not a peace process but an annexation process, while the “peace process” has been the complementary façade behind which the annexation process has proceeded. “Negotiations,” Middle East political analyst Mouin Rabbani concisely observed, “have become nothing but an alternative to accountability, the mechanism of choice to deflect and neutralize efforts to confront Israeli lawlessness.” (200)
If it is pointless to speculate on the prospects of the “peace process,” it is no less idle to speculate on “What does Obama want?” One would have to be blinder than King Lear to still invest hopes in his presidency. The highpoint of Obama’s tenure over the “peace process” was engineering a ten-month Israeli “settlement freeze” in November 2009 to coax the Palestinian Authority into resuming negotiations. But Prime Minister Netanyahu only promised to suspend new housing construction. Having received ample notice from the government, Jewish settlers worked “at full speed to lay as many foundations as possible” in advance of the freeze announcement, enabling construction of new homes to proceed virtually unimpeded during the next ten months. The freeze “was a fiction right from the outset,” according to Dror Etkes, an Israeli authority on the settlements. At the same time Israel ground into rubble at a faster pace “than ever before” Palestinian homes in the West Bank. (201) “ Netanyahu will probably not win the Nobel Peace Prize but he is certainly likely to win the Nobel Prize for Physics, or at least Chemistry,” Etkes observed in Haaretz, because he “discovered that—contrary to what scientists had thought until now—water is not the only substance that expands instead of contracting when it freezes.” (202)
The fact that Israel’s settlement expansion was still subject to negotiation attested to the bankruptcy of the “peace process.” The consensus of the most respected and representative international institutions is that the Israeli settlements are illegal. (203) Indeed, according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, these settlements constitute a “war crime.” (204) It is a curious peace process that would debate whether Israel should be allowed to continue committing war crimes pending the conflict’s resolution: does a convicted thief get to continue stealing until the judge hands down a sentence? Were it truly a peace process, the only question worthy of deliberation would be whether Israel must commit itself to dismantling its illegal settlements as a precondition for resuming peace talks.
When the ten-month “settlement freeze” terminated in late September 2010, the Netanyahu government in a repeat performance (205) offered to renew it only on condition that the Palestinian leadership “recognizes Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people” because “affirmation of Israel’s Jewishness ... is the very foundation of peace, its DNA.” (206) But whereas respected Israeli commentators ridiculed this “major diversionary ploy,” (207) the Obama administration fell into line, declaring, “It is a state for the Jewish people. It is a state for other citizens of other faiths as well.” (208) To be sure, it’s not exactly coherent to denote a state as simultaneously belonging exclusively to one religion and inclusively to all religions, but that is the occupational hazard of trying to square bigotry with democratic principles.
In exchange for a 90-day extension of the (nonexistent) settlement freeze, the Obama administration in late 2010 reportedly offered Israel an automatic veto at the U.N. of any resolutions hostile to Israel, a promise not to demand any future halt in Israeli settlement expansion, and billions of dollars in military assistance. (209) Israel however rejected these terms. With the “peace process” at an impasse, the Obama administration laid out in December 2010 its parameters for resolving the conflict. Rather than calling for Israel’s withdrawal to the internationally recognized June 1967 borders, it stated that the borders of a future Palestinian state must “protect Israel’s security” and “not leave Israel vulnerable”; rather than affirming the internationally recognized right of Palestinian refugees to return and compensation, it stated that a resolution of the refugee question must meet “the needs of both sides”; rather than affirming the internationally recognized principle that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal, it only called for a halt to “continued” settlement growth, thereby tacitly legitimating the illegal Jewish settlements already in place; and rather than affirming the internationally recognized principle that East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory, it called for a solution on East Jerusalem that “realizes the aspirations for both sides.” (210) In other words, the Obama administration conditioned the realization of indefeasible Palestinian rights on the approval and subject to the deductions of Israel.
Frustrated at Israeli recalcitrance, and American acquiescence in it, the international community proceeded to act on its own. In December 2010 a clutch of South American countries— Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Uruguay—recognized a Palestinian state on the June 1967 borders. The Council of the European Union formally stated that “settlements, including in East Jerusalem, ... are illegal under international law,” and that it “will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties.” (211) Going one step further, senior former European leaders—including seven former prime ministers, three ex-presidents and seven former foreign ministers—urged the Council to “identify concrete measures to operationalize its agreed policy” such as referring the matter to the “international community,” presumably meaning the Security Council, and making privileged Israeli trade relations with the E.U. contingent on a settlement freeze. (212) Even Ban Ki-moon was moved at a year’s end press conference to take Israel to task: “I repeat: Israel must meet its obligation to freeze all settlement activity, including in East Jerusalem.” (213) Meanwhile, The Elders called for a “rights-based approach” to the conflict entailing a “future Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, including its capital in East Jerusalem” (with a possible “one-to-one land swap to allow for minor adjustments”). Urging “citizens” to “step up pressure on their leaders,” The Elders also lent “support to nonviolent protest and creative civil action for peace.” (214)
Instead of hoping against hope that President Obama will yet redeem himself, our challenge is to muster sufficient political will so that he does the right thing—or at any rate doesn’t keep doing the wrong thing—regardless of what he wants. Focusing on the powers-on-high or waiting for a messiah is a confession of impotence. The simple but fundamental truth of politics, which even the most resolute of atheists would hasten to affirm, is that God helps those who help themselves.

Norman G. Finkelstein
31 December 2010
New York City

Letter from Hamas to
U.S. President Barack Obama

Palestinian National Authority
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Deputy Office
Fax: +972 8 2868971
Tel: +972 8 2822937
His Excellency President Barack Obama,
President of the United States of America.
June 3rd 2009

Dear Mr. President,
We welcome your visit to the Arab world and your administration’s initiative to bridge differences with the Arab-Muslim world.
One long-standing source of tension between the United States and this part of the world has been the failure to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.
It is therefore unfortunate that you will not visit Gaza during your trip to the Middle East and that neither your Secretary of State nor George Mitchell have come to hear our point of view.
We have received numerous visits recently from people of widely varied backgrounds: U.S. Congressional representatives, European parliamentarians, the U.N.-appointed Goldstone commission, and grassroots delegations such as those organized by the U.S. peace group CODEPINK.
It is essential for you to visit Gaza. We have recently passed through a brutal 22-day Israeli attack. Amnesty International observed that the death and destruction Gaza suffered during the invasion could not have happened without U.S.-supplied weapons and U.S. taxpayers’ money.
Human Rights Watch has documented that the white phosphorus Israel dropped on a school, hospital, United Nations warehouse and civilian neighborhoods in Gaza was manufactured in the United States. Human Rights Watch concluded that Israel’s use of this white phosphorus was a war crime.
Shouldn’t you see firsthand how Israel used your arms and spent your money?
Before becoming president you were a distinguished professor of law. The U.S. government has also said that it wants to foster the rule of law in the Arab-Muslim world.
The International Court of Justice stated in July 2004 that the whole of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem are occupied Palestinian territories designated for Palestinian selfdetermination, and that the Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal.
Not one of the 15 judges sitting on the highest judicial body in the world dissented from these principles.
The main human rights organizations in the world, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have issued position papers supporting the right of the Palestinian refugees to return and compensation.
Each year in the United Nations General Assembly nearly every country in the world has supported these principles for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. Every year the Arab League puts forth a peace proposal based on these principles for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Leading human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch have also stated that Israel’s siege of Gaza is a form of collective punishment and therefore illegal under international law.
We in the Hamas Government are committed to pursuing a just resolution to the conflict not in contradiction with the international community and enlightened opinion as expressed in the International Court of Justice, the United Nations General Assembly, and leading human rights organizations. We are prepared to engage all parties on the basis of mutual respect and without preconditions.
However, our constituency needs to see a comprehensive paradigm shift that not only commences with lift ing the siege on Gaza and halts all settlement building and expansion but develops into a policy of evenhandedness based on the very international law and norms we are prodded into adhering to.
Again, we welcome you to Gaza which would allow you to see firsthand our ground zero. Furthermore, it would enhance the U.S. position, enabling you to speak with new credibility and authority in dealing with all the parties.

Very Truly Yours,
Dr. Ahmed Yousef
Deputy of the Foreign Affairs Ministry
Former Senior Political Advisor
to Prime Minister Ismael Hanniya1

APPENDIX 2: What Happened on the Mavi Marmara? An analysis of the Turkel Commission Report
In January 2011 a commission appointed by the Israeli government and chaired by former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel released the first half of its report on the “maritime incident of 31 May 2010” when Israeli commandos assaulted the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and killed nine passengers aboard the flagship Mavi Marmara. (1) The Report, running to nearly 300 pages, exonerated Israel of culpability for the bloodbath and instead pinned it on a cadre of passengers who had purportedly plotted and armed themselves to kill the Israeli commandos. The Report divides into two principal sections: (1) a legal analysis of the Israeli blockade and (2) a factual reconstruction of the events that climaxed in the violence. It begins however by recounting the historical context of the Israeli blockade. These passages of the Report provide instructive insight into its objectivity.

The Report states that “in October 2000 violent incidents broke out in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which were given the name ‘the Second Intifada’ .... In these, suicide attacks were restarted in cities in Israeli territory.” (2) Its capsule description of the second intifada omits mention that Palestinians did not resort to suicide attacks until five months after Israel had started using massive, indiscriminate and lethal firepower to quell largely nonviolent demonstrations. (3) Similarly the Report begins by highlighting that “since the beginning of 2001, thousands of mortars and rockets of various kinds have been fired in ever growing numbers from the Gaza Strip” at Israel. (4) But this depiction ignores Israeli attacks on Gaza during the same period that killed many times more Palestinians than projectiles launched from Gaza killed Israelis. (5)
Although conceding that human rights and humanitarian organizations, as well as a leading Israeli jurist, have concluded that Israel’s 2005 redeployment in Gaza didn’t end its occupation, the Report nevertheless sustains the Israeli government contention that after 2005 Israel no longer occupied Gaza. (6) The Report asserts that the June 2008 ceasefire between Israel and Hamas “collapsed in December 2008, when the rocket and mortar attacks against Israel recommenced.” (7) In fact—as Amnesty International observed—the lull “broke down after Israeli forces killed six Palestinian militants in air strikes and other attacks on 4 November [2008].” (8)

The Report upholds the legality of the Israeli blockade of Gaza on dual grounds: (a) the people of Gaza didn’t experience starvation and their physical survival wasn’t at risk; (b) whatever hardships Gaza’s civilian population did endure were the “collateral” and “proportional” damage of a blockade directed at Hamas’s military capabilities.
The Report juxtaposes the consensus opinion of human rights and humanitarian organizations that Israel’s siege of Gaza had caused a humanitarian crisis (9) against Israel’s denial of such a crisis. (10) It resolves these “two very different perceptions of reality” (11) by concluding, for example, that although 60 percent of Gazans did experience “food insecurity”—i.e., “people lack sustainable physical or economic access to adequate[,] safe, nutritious and socially acceptable food to maintain a healthy and productive life” (12)—Israel had met its legal responsibi lities insofar as the people weren’t dying of starvation but were merely hungry. Thus, the Report approvingly quotes Israeli officials that “no one has ever stated ... that the population of the Gaza Strip is ‘starving.’” And again, in the Report’s own words defending the siege: “‘Food insecurity’ does not equate to ‘starvation.’” (13)
Prima facie, it would be strange if current international law, which accords so many safeguards to civilians in times of war and peace, sanctioned a just-shy-of-genocidal policy. Indeed, seemingly cognizant that such a legal standard was a tad too lax (14)—not to mention cruel, coming from an esteemed former Israeli Supreme Court justice—the Report simultaneously purports that even if the law kicks in not just for starvation but also for the less stringent condition of hunger, and even if the Israeli siege did induce hunger, it wasn’t a deliberate policy to induce hunger, which is what makes denial of food legally culpable: “The Commission found no evidence ... that Israel is trying to deprive the population of the Gaza Strip of food.” (15) Yet, if the foreseeable and inevitable consequence of the Israeli siege was to cause hunger, it is hard to make out how the punitive outcome was mere happenstance and not Israel’s intention. Or put otherwise, for want of trying to cause hunger Israel was awfully good at it.
Just as it exonerates Israel of denying Gazans food, so the Report exonerates Israel of denying Gazans other “objects essential for the survival of the civilian population.” It acknowledges that Israel blocks entry of construction materials but justifies this policy on the ground that—according to “intelligence information”—Hamas might use them for “military purposes.” The Report makes short shrift of the possibility that the motive behind this ban might be to punish the people of Gaza: “It is clear that the restrictions were not imposed in order to prevent the use of these materials by the civilian population.” (16) One searches in vain however for proof to support this confident assertion.
The Report paradoxically contends both that Israel denied entry of essential objects such as construction materials, if for alleged security reasons, and that there was “no evidence” Israel denied entry of such essential objects. (17) Again, the Report states that “no evidence was presented ... that Israel prevents the passage of medical supplies apart from those included in the list of materials whose entry into the Gaza Strip is prohibited for security reasons.” (18) But that Israeli list included, according to the World Health Organization, “vital medical supplies”—i.e., “X-ray machines, electronic imaging scanners, laboratory equipment and basic items, such as elevators for hospitals.” (19) If Israel was depriving Gazans of “vital medical supplies,” then it was denying them “objects essential” to their “survival.” The Report also paradoxically contends both that, for security reasons, Israel had denied entry of essential objects, and that, apparently without jeopardizing its security, Israel allowed entry of many of these same objects after the flotilla attack evoked international outrage. (20) It might finally be noticed that the Report never explains why respected human rights and humanitarian organizations—in what appears to be a vast conspiracy— signaled a humanitarian crisis in Gaza when none existed.

The Report also finds that whatever hardships Gazans did endure as a result of the Israeli siege constituted “collateral” damage that was “proportional” to the military objective of degrading Hamas’s military capabilities. (21) The Report occasionally hints that the purpose of the siege went beyond achieving a strictly or narrowly military objective, but it is emphatic that the blockade did not target the civilian population. (22) In one of its expansive formulations, the Report states that the Israeli siege had “two goals: a security goal of preventing the entry of weapons, ammunition and military supplies into the Gaza Strip ... , and a broader strategic goal of ‘indirect economic warfare,’ whose purpose is to restrict the Hamas’s economic ability as the body in control of the Gaza Strip to take military action against Israel.” (23) It further concludes that Israel was not guilty of inflicting “collective punishment” because “there is nothing in the evidence ... that suggest[s] that Israel is intentionally placing restrictions on goods for the sole or primary purpose of denying them to the population of Gaza.” (24)
Yet, if the intent of the Israeli siege was to target Hamas’s military capabilities, and not to harm Gaza’s civilian population, surely it is cause for wonder why Israel severely restricted entry of goods “not considered essential for the basic subsistence of the population,” and why it allowed passage of only a “humanitarian minimum”—a benchmark that was arbitrarily determined, not sanctioned by international law, and in fact fell below Gaza’s minimal humanitarian needs. (25) It is also cause for puzzlement why Israeli officials kept repeating privately that “they intended to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge.” (26)
Although replete with repetitions and minutiae on arcane points of law, the Report is notably silent on exactly what items Israel interdicted allegedly in order to thwart Hamas’s offensive capabilities. The seemingly endless list of verboten items included inter alia sage, coriander, ginger, jam, halva, vinegar, nutmeg, chocolate, fruit preserves, seeds and nuts, biscuits, potato chips, musical instruments, notebooks, writing implements, toys, chicks and goats. (27) “The purpose of the economic warfare in the Gaza Strip,” the Report avers, was “to undermine the Hamas’s ability to attack Israel and its citizens. The nonsecurity related restrictions on the passage of goods—such as the restrictions upon certain food products—are a part of this strategy.” (28) Who can doubt the offensive potential of chips and chicks? (29)
Neither the facts nor the legal reasoning presented in the Report refute the consensus opinion that Gaza was experiencing a humanitarian crisis; that the Israeli siege was causing the humanitarian crisis; that Israel was deliberately causing this humanitarian crisis; that the Israeli siege therefore constituted a form of collective punishment; and that therefore the siege and Israel’s resort to force against the flotilla to prolong the siege were illegal.

The second half of the Report presents a reconstruction of the events that climaxed in the killing of nine passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara by Israeli commandos. The Report clears Israel of legal culpability for the violence and deaths. Instead it pins responsibility on a cadre of passengers who allegedly plotted and armed themselves in advance to kill Israelis, while the lethal use of force by the Israeli commandos is said to have constituted justifiable self-defense.
On all fundamental points the Report reaches conclusions diametrically contrary to those of the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission led by eminent international jurists. (30) Without access to the evidence on which each side based its conclusions, a third party is hard-pressed to definitively decide between them. Nonetheless it is possible to render a reasonable opinion on whose findings are more plausible.
Before scrutinizing the principal points of contention, the sources on which the Report is based merit preliminary comment. The government resolution mandating the Turkel Commission excused “IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers” from testifying before it. (31) The Report accordingly had to rely on “soldiers’ statements [that] were only documented in writing and submitted to the Commission.” (32) The commando testimonies are deemed “credible and trustworthy” because the soldiers “gave detailed information, used natural language, and did not appear to have coordinated their versions.” (33) It puzzles what evidentiary value should be attached to the written submissions’ “natural language”—although it is true that the commandos did appear naturally to call everyone who crossed their paths on the Mavi Marmara a “terrorist” (34)—and how the Commission could determine whether or not the commandos coordinated beforehand their written submissions.
The Report states that “the soldiers’ accounts were examined meticulously, cross-referenced against each other.” (35) Is it so far-fetched that the soldiers amongst themselves also “examined meticulously, cross-referenced” their respective statements prior to submitting them? In fact it is not even clear that protocol proscribed such prior coordination. The Report does make clear however that the soldiers knew in advance that they would not suffer judicial penalties for perjured testimony, or even undergo rigorous interrogation: “The soldiers were not put on notice that their rights were implicated when giving their statements and they did not undergo cross-examination.” (36) In general the Commission invested great faith in the testimony of Israeli civilian and military officials, although respected Israeli commentators have ridiculed their record of truth-telling. (37)
Except for the oral testimony of two Israeli Palestinians, mostly sketchy and unsigned statements extracted by Israeli jailers and military intelligence from the flotilla detainees before their release, and a book publication by one of the Turks on board the Mavi Marmara, (38) the Report did not benefit from the input of the passengers and crew. After their release passengers and crew asserted that the statements and signatures were given under extreme physical and emotional duress, while the secretly filmed footage of interrogations had been distorted by editing. (39) The Report alleges that due to the non-cooperation of others it was “compelled to rely mainly on testimonies and reports of Israeli parties.” (40) It does not explain however why unsworn testimonies of Israeli commandos constituted credible evidence whereas comparable eyewitness testimonies of numerous passengers accessible in the public domain did not. (41) In addition Amnesty International observed that although “the Commission invited flotilla participants to testify, it appeared to make only half-hearted attempts to secure their testimony, and made no effort to utilize the extensive eyewitness testimony collected by the International Fact-Finding Mission.” (42)
Let us now examine the main areas of dispute.

Who initiated the violence?
The U.N. Fact-Finding Mission concluded that as Israeli speedboats “approached” the Mavi Marmara they were “firing ... non-lethal weaponry onto the ship, including smoke and stun grenades, tear gas and paintballs,” and possibly “plastic bullets,” and, “minutes after” this initial Israeli assault was repelled by passengers, Israeli helicopters moved in, opening fire with “live ammunition ... onto the top deck prior to the descent of the soldiers.” (43)
The Report presents an altogether different picture. It does acknowledge that the rules of engagement allowed for “use of force ... required to fulfill the mission, i.e., stopping the vessels,” albeit its use “must be minimal” and “as a last resort.” It also acknowledges that operational orders allowed that “before the stage of taking control of the vessels ... , the force commander was permitted to employ various measures to stop the vessels, including firing ‘skunk bombs’ ... forcing the vessels to change their course or stop by means of ... firing warning shots into the air and ‘white lighting’ (blinding using a large projector).” At the very least, then, Israeli operational planning did not outright prohibit initiating force. But on the basis of “closed door testimony of the Chief of Staff” the Report concludes that “in practice, no use was made of these measures.” (44)
The Report finds that Israeli speedboats approached the Mavi Marmara peacefully, and only after they “encountered resistance” did Israeli commanders allow the firing of paintball guns and use of stun grenades. (45) Besides Israeli testimonies the Report cites video recordings. It is impossible sight unseen to evaluate the video evidence, although one wonders why Israel didn’t make it available after release of the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission’s conclusions in order to discredit them. Also, although the Report records the precise times when passengers resorted to force against the speedboats, (46) it does not record the times when the speedboats resorted to supposedly “retaliatory” force. In a typical non-sequitur the Report, attempting to refute “suggestions that the IHH [Insani Yardim Vakfi] activists were acting in self-defense,” states: “In seeking to capture and board the ship, the Israeli forces had to respond to the violence offered first by the IHH. This is evident from the magnetic media that shows the extreme levels of violence used against the IDF’s soldiers.” (47) But footage of passengers resorting to “extreme levels of violence” does not corroborate that they initiated the violence.
The Report also concludes that live ammunition was not fired from Israeli helicopters that subsequently moved in. It does acknowledge however that stun grenades were thrown down from the helicopters before the commandos hit the deck. It states that the helicopters did not use live ammunition because “the accurate use of firearms from a helicopter requires both specific equipment and specially trained personnel, with which the helicopters were not equipped.” (48) But if the purpose of the firepower had been—like the stun grenades—to terrorize the passengers and clear the deck before the commandos rappelled on board, the necessity of it being precisely accurate is unclear, while it perplexes that no one among Israel’s elite fighting unit was a trained marksman.
The decision to intercept the flotilla in the dead of night appears to belie the Report’s version of what happened. The Report states that Israel launched its operation at 4:26 a.m. because—according to the Israeli Chief of Staff—“during such an operation, there is a great advantage to operating under the cover of darkness.” (49) But why? The Report repeatedly emphasizes that “throughout the planning process” Israeli authorities at all levels anticipated that “the participants in the flotilla were all peaceful civilians” and “seem not to have believed that the use of force would be necessary.” They “had expected” the commandos to meet “at most, verbal resistance, pushing or punching,” “relatively minor civil disobedience,” “some pushing and limited physical contact.” The Report quotes the commandos themselves testifying that “we were expected to encounter activists who would try to hurt us emotionally by creating provocations on the level of curses, spitting ... but we did not expect a difficult physical confrontation”; “we were expected to encounter peace activists and therefore the prospect that we would have to use weapons or other means was ... nearly zero probability.” (50)
But if it didn’t expect forceful resistance, why didn’t Israel launch the operation in broad daylight, indeed, bringing in tow a complement of journalists who could vouch for its nonviolent intentions? An operation launched in the blackness of night would appear to make sense only if Israel wanted to sow panic and confusion as a prelude to and retrospectively to justify a violent assault, and in order to obscure from potential witnesses its method of attack. In the planning of such an operation there clearly was “great advantage to operating under the cover of darkness.”
A premeditated decision to violently assault the Mavi Marmara would also explain the intricate and ramified preparations that engaged the gamut of Israel’s political, military and intelligence agencies, including the “Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense,” the “senior political-security echelon and persons with experience in these fields,” the “Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Justice, IDF officers and public relations personnel”; (51) why it “decided that the command level would be very senior, including the Commander of the Navy himself”; (52) why it imposed a “communications blackout” on the flotilla; (53) and why it deployed the elite Special Forces unit Shayetet 13 trained for lethal combat rather than a routine police unit trained to quell civil resistance. The Report states that “Special Forces trained teams are often used when a boarding is anticipated to be ‘opposed,’ or ‘non-compliant.’” (54) But surely anticipated “curses, spitting” of passengers didn’t require deployment of Israel’s elite fighting unit. It also states that Special Forces were used because of the “specialized training” needed “for fast-roping onto the deck of a ship at night,” (55) but that still leaves the question why the assault was launched at night.
It might be wondered why ex post facto Israel was so emphatic that it didn’t anticipate violent resistance. Couldn’t it just as easily have alleged that, although committed to a peaceful resolution of the crisis, it did expect violence, which was why the operation was launched before daybreak and so much planning was invested in it? The reason however is not hard to find. If the commandos had been primed for a violent confrontation, then what happened truly was, as Israeli commentators rued, a “disgraceful fiasco” and “national humiliation.” (56) The only alibi they could fabricate was that the violence took them off guard. Indeed, one of the more entertaining aspects of the Report is the commandos’ tales of derring-do plainly designed to restore the IDF’s heroic image and elevate national morale:

        Soldier no. 1 tells how “ten people jumped onto me and began brutally beating me from every direction, using clubs, metal rods and fists”; how “a number of attackers grabbed me by my legs and my torso and threw me over the side to the deck below”; how “I fractured my arm, and a mob of dozens of people attacked me and basically lynched me—including pulling off my helmet, strangling me, sticking fingers into my eyes to gouge them out of their sockets, pulling my limbs in every direction, striking me in an extremely harsh manner with clubs and metal rods, mostly on my head”; how “I took an extremely harsh blow directly to my head from a metal rod .... A lot of blood began streaming down my face from the wounds to my head”; how after his apprehension by passengers the “only thing” the ship’s medic did was to “wipe the blood from my forehead” although he had a “very deep scalp wound and a fractured skull” (that later required 14 stitches); and how—despite excruciating blows and gushing blood, fractured arm and fractured skull—he managed to break free of one of the guards, “I jabbed my elbow into his ribs and jumped into the water .... As soon as I reached the water, I dove underneath, so that they would not be able to hit me from the ship. I took off my shirt while diving and swimming, and I intended to swim and dive rapidly in a ‘zigzag’ to escape from the enemy on the ship. After my first dive, I rose to the water’s surface and I saw a ... speedboat” which rescued him after he swam “rapidly” towards it, and then “I picked up an M-16 rifle ... and I began shooting ... because I was concerned that the mob on the ship wanted to abduct soldier no. 4 back into the ship, and I wanted to deter them.”
        Soldier no. 3 tells how “I was struck with metal poles and rocks ... I fel[t] a very strong blow to the neck from behind”; how “people ... hit me with full force with poles and clubs”; how “a mob of people around me are hitting me with many blows, mainly towards my head”; how “I continue to take very strong blows to the abdomen”; how “I am fighting with all my strength until a certain stage when they manage to get me over the side of the boat. I am holding onto the side, with my hands, and hanging from the side .... [T]he people from above me are hitting my hands and a second group of people is pulling me from below by grabbing my legs”; how “I am lying on the deck, there are many people above me, one of the people jumps on me and I feel a sharp pain in the lower abdomen ... and I realize that I’ve been stabbed ... during this stage I’m taking many blows, including from clubs”; how after his apprehension by passengers the only assistance he receives from the ship’s medic is a “gauze pad,” although “I am bleeding massively, that is, I am losing a lot of blood, and I can tell that part of my intestines are protruding ... I also notice a deep cut in my left arm, from which I’m also losing a great quantity of blood. I also feel blood flowing from my nose into my mouth”; how “they tied my hands and feet with rope. They station a person above me who is holding a wooden pole .... He beats me with the wooden pole”; how “as a result of the loss of blood, I started to become groggy”; and how—despite excruciating blows (fracturing his nose and tearing a tendon in his finger) and gushing blood, stab wounds and protruding intestines—he manages to escape, “I run to the side of the ship, jump into the water from a height of 12 meters, and start swimming toward our boats.” (58)

It would appear that Israelis have watched a few too many Rambo flicks.

Did Islamic “activists” plot and arm themselves to murder Israelis?
The Report finds that passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara— the “hardcore group” of which consisted of about 40 “IHH activists” (59)—had plotted “to resist with force,” (60) even to commit murder, before embarkation and that they sought out martyrdom. “I have no doubt,” an Israeli commander of the operation quoted by the Report avers, “that the terrorists on the vessel planned, organized, foresaw the events, and planned to kill a soldier.” (61) “It is evident,” the Report concludes, “that the IHH organized and planned for a violent confrontation with the Israeli military forces,” “the IHH had a preexisting plan to violently oppose the Israeli boarding,” and that “a number of IHH activists took part in hostilities from a planning and logistical perspective well before the arrival of the Israeli armed forces.” (62)
The Report finds that, unlike the overwhelming majority of “relatively moderate” (63) passengers, IHH activists “boarded the Mavi Marmara separately and without any security checks,” and thus were able to smuggle on an arsenal of weapons to execute their murderous plot. (64) Before proceeding, it should be noted that the Turkish government emphatically insists that not once but twice “all crew members and passengers were subjected to ... stringent x-ray checks as well as customs and passport controls .... All personal belongings and cargo were also thoroughly inspected and cleared .... [T]he cargo contained no arms, munitions or other material that would constitute a threat.” (65)
The Report’s inventory of the “combat equipment apparently brought on board by the flotilla participants” included “150 protective ceramic vests ... , 300 gas masks ... , communication devices, optical devices (several night vision goggles and a few binoculars), 50 slingshots of various kinds, 200 knives, 20 axes, thousands of ball bearings and stones, disk saws, pepper sprays, and smoke flares.” (66) This cache of “combat equipment,” “concentration of weaponry” and “extensive equipment which was brought on board” to implement the plot (67) appears in a somewhat less sinister light when the Report notes elsewhere that the “kitchens and the cafeterias on the ship” contained “a total of about 200 knives,” and the ship’s “fire-extinguishing equipment” included “about 20 axes.” (68) It flabbergasts that the obvious correlations escaped—or did they?—the Commission’s notice.
The Report “did not find that the evidence point[s] conclusively to the fact” that the IHH activists brought firearms aboard the Mavi Marmara. (69) But, if they plotted a “violent confrontation” with one of the world’s most formidable military powers, and if they could freely carry on board the weapons of their choosing, it is cause for wonder why the most lethal implements they thought to bring along were slingshots and glass marbles. Truly, these shaheeds were meschugge. The Report notes that just before the Israeli operation began, the Islamic extremists “improvised” weapons such as iron rods and wooden clubs. (70) It apparently never occurred to the Commission to ask why the Islamists didn’t bring on board firearms and why they waited until the last minute before fabricating makeshift weapons if they were already hell-bent on committing bloody murder “well before the arrival of the Israeli armed forces.”
The U.N. Fact-Finding Mission “found no evidence that any of the passengers used firearms ... at any stage.” (71) But, whereas the Report finds no proof that the passengers brought firearms with them, it still concludes that “members of the IHH activists used firearms against Israeli forces” (72)—presumably seized from the commandos—wounding two of them. Although stating that it consulted “medical documents regarding the injuries to the soldiers,” (73) the Report does not cite hospital records documenting the commandos’ alleged bullet wounds but instead cites a statement submitted by the IDF and the oral testimony of the Chief of Staff. (74) In the case of non-bullet wounds incurred by the commandos, however, the Report does cite hospital records. (75) Be that as it may, the alleged bullet wounds could just as easily have been inflicted by other Israeli commandos. The Report itself acknowledges that “the melee on board the Mavi Marmara, especially during the initial stages on the roof, was a situation of considerable confusion.” (76) In fact, one of the commandos allegedly hit by a bullet initially thought his wound resulted “from the Israeli forces.” (77) It might be recalled that almost half the Israeli combat fatalities during the Gaza invasion were caused by “friendly fire.” (78) The Report enumerates three grounds for its conclusion that passengers used firearms: “physical evidence of gunshot wounds”—which doesn’t speak to the point of origin of the gunshots; “statements of numerous soldiers”—which are as credible as their Rambo fantasies; and “the fact that IHH activists had access to captured IDF” weapons—which proves nothing. (79)
It might be wondered why the Report finds on the basis of such flimsy evidence that the passengers used firearms against the commandos. The Report itself provides the answer. While it maintains that the commandos’ resort to lethal force would have been justified even if the passengers did not shoot at them, (80) the Report goes on to say that “the use of firearms by IHH activists is an important factor” because it “significantly heightened the risk posed to the soldiers and their perception of that risk,” and “establishing the level of threat that the Israeli soldiers believed they were facing is a factor in the assessment as to whether their response was proportionate.” (81) In other words, for the Report to definitively conclude that the commandos’ resort to lethal force was legally justifiable, it had to find evidence that the passengers used firearms against them: the evidentiary finding followed perforce from the predetermined conclusion.
The Report quotes the harrowing accounts by the captured commandos of the Islamists’ murderous ambitions. Soldier no. 1 testified that “the terrorist group wanted to attack me and kill me.” Soldier no. 3 testified that they were “crazed” and “very eager to kill us. They tried to strangle me and soldier no. 4. The hate in their eyes was just burning,” “This attempt to strangle me was made several times.” (82) The Report also highlights that the cadre of Islamic killers were “very large and strong men, approximately ages 20-40,” “very big and heavy,” (83) and that “some of those activists also expressed their wish to be ‘shaheeds.’” (84)
The obvious question is why didn’t this mob of burly homicidal shaheeds manage to kill any of the captured commandos? Quoting the commandos, the Report’s unfazed response is that the peaceniks on board—“older men and women who showed restraint,” “non-violent peace activists”— came to the commandos’ rescue: “The terrorist group wanted to attack me and kill me, while the moderate group tried to protect me”; “There were two groups there, the one which tried to kill us and ... the ones who prevented the extreme group from killing us.” (85) In other words, the crazed jihadists were stopped dead in their tracks by Grannies for Peace and the Birkenstock Brigade.

Did the Israeli commandos use lethal force only as a last resort?
“The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion,” the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission concluded, “but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality.” (86) Contrariwise, the Report concludes that the commandos exercised maximum restraint and used lethal force only as a last resort.
The Report states that during Israeli preparations for the interception “special attention” was paid “to the value of human life,” and that “all of the persons involved” evinced a “high level of awareness ... of the need to carry out the operation without any injuries to the participants of the flotilla”; that either the rules of engagement or operational orders, or both of them, stipulated that “if force had to be used, it had to be exercised gradually and in proportion to the resistance met, and only after examining alternatives to prevent deterioration of the situation,” that “the only case in which [use of] lethal weapons was permitted was in self-defense—to remove a real and imminent danger to life, when the danger cannot be removed by less harmful means,” and that “there should be no use of force at a person who has surrendered or has ceased to constitute a threat”; that “the training and preparation of the soldiers leading up to the operation was very thorough, with a particular emphasis on the use of less-lethal weapons,” and that “the default position was to use less-lethal weapons until an opposing threat forced the use of the lethal options”; that at an operational briefing it was stated that “‘opening fire should only take place in a life threatening situation, to neutralize the person presenting the danger,[’] but nonetheless, ‘where possible, the benefit of doubt should be given’”; that even after “shooting” could be heard on the Mavi Marmara, “the Shayetet 13 commander refused to give approval for shooting ‘in order to prevent deaths among the participants of the flotilla’”; and that “the IDF soldiers made considerable use of graduated force”— i.e., “firing at the legs and feet of a person”—“during the operation, with soldiers switching repeatedly between less-lethal and lethal weapons” even after passengers allegedly used firearms against them. (87)
The Israeli commandos were so solicitous of the passengers’ well-being, according to the Report, that following the bloody confrontation, “some IDF wounded only received treatment after the treatment of wounded flotilla participants,” while the Commander of the Takeover Force testified that he risked “danger to my people aboard the vessel” in order to “evacuate the wounded [passengers] from the vessel, despite their lack of desire to be evacuated, in order to save their lives.” (88) The Report concludes that “the IDF personnel acted professionally in the face of extensive and unanticipated violence” and did not “overreact.” (89)
The manner of death of the nine passengers (90) aboard the Mavi Marmara appears to belie the Report’s version of what happened. The U.N. Fact-Finding Mission concluded that “the circumstances of the killing of at least six of the passengers were in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution.” (91) The Report recounts the findings of an “external examination” by Israeli doctors according to which all of the passengers suffered multiple bullet wounds and five were shot in the neck or head; for example—quoting the Israeli examination—“Body no. 2” contained “bullet wounds on the right side of the head, on the right side of the back of the neck, on the right cheek, underneath the chin, on the right side of the back, on the thigh. A bullet was palpated on the left side of the chest,” while “Body no. 9” contained “bullet wounds in the area of the right temple/back of the neck, bullet wound in the left nipple, bullet wound in the area of the scalp-forehead on the left side, bullet wound on the face (nose), bullet wound on the left torso, bullet wound on the right side of the back, two bullet wounds in the left thigh, two bullet wounds as a result of the bullet passing through toes four and five on the left foot.” (92)
The Report does not attempt to square the gruesome facts of these passengers’ deaths with its conclusion that the commandos exercised maximum restraint. The closest it comes is passing mention in another context, and not referring specifically to the dead passengers, that “in some instances, numerous rounds were fired either by one soldier or by more than one soldier to stop an IHH activist who was a threat to the lives of themselves or other soldiers.” (93) In fact the Report is curiously uncurious about the passengers’ deaths, which are blandly dispatched in just two of the Report’s nearly 300 pages. (94) The Report cites the chilling testimony of Israeli commandos on every scratch they incurred, yet it includes not a single word on how, despite allegedly taking every possible precaution and exercising every conceivable restraint, the commandos came to kill nine passengers, shooting nearly all of them multiple times. (95) Perhaps the Commission forgot—“forgot”?—to request information on their deaths (96) or the commandos forgot— “forgot”?—to mention them in their statements. Neither possibility speaks very highly to the Report’s credibility.
The Report states that “the Commission has examined each instance of the use of force reported by the IDF soldiers in their testimonies,” but it doesn’t bother to mention whether these testimonies included the killings of any of the nine passengers. (97) It also states that “the Commission examined 133 incidents in which force was used ... which were described by over 40 soldiers ... [and] also includes a few incidents that were depicted on the available relevant magnetic media and that did not correspond to the soldiers’ testimonies,” (98) but it doesn’t bother to mention whether the magnetic media captured the killings of any of the passengers. In addition, whereas the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission requested the Turkish autopsy reports, the Turkel Commission apparently did not. (99) The bottom-line is that, although it was the killings of the nine passengers on the Mavi Marmara that sparked the international outcry, the Report contains not a single syllable on how any of them died. The nearest it comes is a vague allusion buried in a footnote quoting a commando that he “fired 2-3 rounds to the center of mass and below and one round to the head (the soldier testified that after firing the last round the IHH personal [sic] fell and he ceased fire).” (100)
It might finally be worth noting an odd paradox in the Report’s central conclusions: the shaheeds plotted and armed themselves to kill Israelis but didn’t even manage to kill those in their custody, whereas the Israelis took every precaution and exercised every restraint not to kill anyone but ended up killing nine persons.
Lest it be thought that Israel was unmoved by the passengers’ ordeal, the Report duly records that a military court sentenced a corporal to five months in prison for stealing a laptop computer, two camera lenses and a compass. (101)

In the preface to the Report, the members of the Turkel Commission— including a former Supreme Court justice, a former director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a former president of a distinguished scientific institute, a respected professor of law, and a foreign observer who won the Nobel peace prize—state that “we took upon ourselves jointly and as individuals the difficult and agonizing task of ascertaining the truth.” The U.S. Department of State praised the investigation that culminated in the Report as “credible and impartial and transparent,” and the document itself as “independent.” (102) Regrettably, neither the factual information nor the legal analysis in the Report casts illumination on what happened on the fateful morning of 31 May 2010 when Israel launched an assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. But the Report does cause one to wonder how any self-respecting individual could have signed off on such rubbish.

What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.
Sir Walter Scott

1. Breaking the Silence, Soldiers’ Testimonies from Operation Cast Lead, Gaza 2009 (Jerusalem: June 2009), p. 46 (ellipsis in original).

Chapter one
1. “Answers to Questions” (1 June 1947), in The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Ahmedabad), v. 88, p. 48.
2. Less than one percent of Palestine was set aside for an international zone (Corpus separatum) incorporating Jerusalem.
3. Sara Roy, The Gaza Strip: The political economy of de-development (Washington, D.C.: 1995), pp. 3–5; for the distinctiveness of Israel’s economic policy in Gaza, see ibid., chapter 5.
4. Benny Morris, Israel’s Border Wars, 1949–1956 (Oxford: 1993), pp. 407– 9. Morris documents that until the Israeli raid on Gaza the “overriding concern” of Egypt “in its relations with Israel was to avoid sparking IDF attacks”: “Egypt generally sought tranquility along its border with Israel.” However, “from some point in 1954” IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan “wanted war, and periodically, he hoped that a given retaliatory strike would embarrass or provoke the Arab state attacked into itself retaliating, giving Israel cause to escalate the shooting until war resulted.” The “policy of trapping Nasser into war was hammered out between [David] Ben-Gurion and Dayan,” its rationale being that “because Israel could not afford to be branded an aggressor, war would have to be reached by a process of gradual escalation, to be achieved through periodic, large-scale Israeli retaliatory attacks in response to Egyptian infractions of the armistice.” When “Egypt refused to fall into the successive traps set by Dayan,” Israel colluded with Great Britain and France to attack Egypt outright. (ibid., pp. 85, 178–79, 229– 30, 271–72, 279–80, 427, 428)
5. Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A history of the Zionist-Arab conflict, 1881–2001 (New York: 2001), pp. 340–43, 568.
6. Ann Mosely Lesch, “Gaza: History and Politics,” in Ann Mosely Lesch and Mark Tessler, Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinians: From Camp David to intifada (Bloomington: 1989), pp. 230–32.
7. Morris, Righteous Victims, pp. 561, 580, 587, 591, 599.
8. Shlomo Ben-Ami, Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab tragedy (New York: 2006), pp. 191, 211.
9. Andy Levy-Ajzenkopf, “Sharansky on Tour Promoting Identity, Freedom,” Canadian Jewish News (1 July 2008).
10. Graham Usher, “The Politics of Internal Security: The PA’s new intelligence services,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Winter 1996), p. 28; The B’Tselem Human Rights Report (Spring 1994).
11. Shlomo Ben-Ami, interview on Democracy Now!, Transcript (14 February 2006); Zeev Maoz, Defending the Holy Land: A critical analysis of Israel’s security and foreign policy (Ann Arbor: 2006), p. 476; cf. ibid., p. 493.
12. Yossi Beilin, The Path to Geneva: The quest for a permanent agreement, 1996–2004 (New York: 2004), pp. 52–53, 219–26; Clayton E. Swisher, The Truth About Camp David (New York: 2004), p. 402.
13. Morris, Righteous Victims, p. 671.
14. Ben-Ami, Scars of War, p. 267; cf. Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar, Lords of the Land: The war over Israel’s settlements in the occupied territories, 1967-2007 (New York: 2007), pp. 412-15.
15. More than 400 Palestinians including 85 children were killed while five Israeli soldiers were killed (one because of friendly fire) during “Summer Rains” and “Autumn Clouds.” A total of 33 Palestinian children were killed while one Israeli civilian was killed in just five days during “Hot Winter.” Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Bearing the Brunt Again: Child rights violations during Operation Cast Lead (September 2009), pp. 8, 18–19.
16. Benny Morris, “Israeli President Shimon Peres Reflects on His Mentor, His Peace Partner, and Whether the State of Israel Will Survive,” Tablet (26 July 2010).
17. Amira Hass, Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and nights in a land under siege (New York: 1996), p. 9.
18. Sara Roy, Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (London: 2007), pp. 327–28. See also Galia Golan, Israel and Palestine: Peace plans from Oslo to disengagement (Princeton: 2007), p. 119 (“strategically the idea [of the disengagement plan] may have been to jettison the Gaza Strip, with all its human as well as security problems, while solidifying Israel’s hold over the majority of the West Bank”).
19. Human Rights Watch, “‘Disengagement’ Will Not End Gaza Occupation” (29 October 2004). HRW’s World Report 2006 reiterated this position:
In August and September 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew approximately eight thousand settlers, along with military personnel and installations, from the Gaza Strip and four small settlements in the northern West Bank near Jenin. While Israel has since declared the Gaza Strip a “foreign territory” and the crossings between Gaza and Israel “international borders,” under international humanitarian law (IHL), Gaza remains occupied, and Israel retains its responsibilities for the welfare of Gaza residents. Israel maintains effective control over Gaza by regulating movement in and out of the Strip as well as the airspace, sea space, public utilities and population registry. In addition, Israel declared the right to re-enter Gaza militarily at any time in its “Disengagement Plan.” Since the withdrawal, Israel has carried out aerial bombardments, including targeted killings, and has fired artillery into the northeastern corner of Gaza.
For a detailed legal analysis, see Gisha (Legal Center for Freedom of Movement), Disengaged Occupiers: The legal status of Gaza (Tel Aviv: January 2007). The U.N. Human Rights Council Mission chaired by Richard Goldstone affirmed that Israel “exercised effective control over the Gaza Strip” and that “the circumstances of this control establish that the Gaza Strip remains occupied by Israel” (Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (25 September 2009), paras. 187, 276–79).
20. Yoram Dinstein, The International Law of Belligerent Occupation (Cambridge: 2009), p. 277.
21. Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Washington, D.C.: 1995), pp. 92–96, 314. For analysis of Oslo II, see Norman G. Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (New York: 1995; expanded second paperback edition, 2003), chapter 7.
22. A border dispute over a tiny triangle of land was resolved later in Egypt’s favor by international arbitration.
23. International Crisis Group, Tipping Point? Palestinians and the search for a new strategy (April 2010), p. 2.
24. “Israel Army’s West Bank Presence ‘Lowest in 20 Years,’” AFP (28 November 2010).
25. B’Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), Land Grab: Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank (Jerusalem: May 2002). “One of the most important ‘achievements,’” of the Oslo Accord for Israel, and “of which Rabin was proud,” was “the exclusion of specific language freezing settlement construction in the period of the interim arrangement” (Beilin, Path to Geneva, p. 278).
26. Jimmy Carter, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid (New York: 2006), pp. 159–60 (“The Palestinians accepted the Road Map in its entirety, but the Israeli government announced fourteen caveats and prerequisites, some of which would preclude any final peace talks”); Golan, Israel and Palestine, p. 90 (“Although officially accepting the Road Map, Israel submitted to the Americans a list of fourteen reservations, some of them of a nature that could significantly cripple implementation of the plan”). See also Henry Siegman, “Hamas: The last chance for peace,” New York Review of Books (27 April 2006).
27. I will return to this point below.
28. “Cast Lead” refers to a line in a Hanukkah song.
29. Gideon Levy, “ Goldstone’s Gaza Probe Did Israel a Favor,” Haaretz (2 October 2009).
30. For background and analysis, see Mouin Rabbani, “Birth Pangs of a New Palestine,” Middle East Report Online (7 January 2009;
31. International Crisis Group, Gaza’s Unfinished Business (April 2009), p. 21; see ibid., pp. 27–28, for the postinvasion ceasefire terms.
32. Report of the Independent Fact-Finding Committee on Gaza: No safe place. Presented to the League of Arab States (30 April 2009), para. 411(3). The Committee was chaired by eminent South African legal scholar John Dugard. On a related note, the Committee observed:
Had the IDF wanted to completely destroy the tunnels [under the southern border of Gaza] this would have been relatively easy to achieve. They are easily discernible and given the IDF’s aerial surveillance capability, they must have been aware of the exact location of the tunnels. However, it was clear to the Committee they had not all been destroyed during the conflict. In the Committee’s view this raises questions about the Israeli claim that it acted in self-defense against the smuggling of weapons through the tunnels. (ibid., para. 394)
33. B’Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), Human Rights in the Occupied Territories: 2008 annual report (Jerusalem: 2009).
34. For Israeli settlement expansion, see esp. B’Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), By Hook and by Crook: Israeli settlement policy in the West Bank (Jerusalem: July 2010). It reported that since 1993 the number of illegal Jewish settlers in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) had doubled to one half million and that Israel had expropriated nearly half of West Bank land for the settlements. For Israel’s gross misallocation and wanton destruction of Palestinian water resources, see esp. Amnesty International, Troubled Waters: Palestinians denied fair access to water (London: October 2009). For violations of Palestinian human rights resulting from Israel’s discriminatory settlement and water policies in the West Bank, see Human Rights Watch, Separate and Unequal: Israel’s discriminatory treatment of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories (New York: 2010).
35. “Opening Remarks by Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to the 2006 Human Rights Defenders Policy Forum” (23 May 2006;
36. David Rose, “The Gaza Bombshell,” Vanity Fair (April 2008); Paul McGeough, Kill Khalid: The failed Mossad assassination of Khalid Mishal and the rise of Hamas (New York: 2009), pp. 349–82. See also International Institute for Strategic Studies, “Hamas Coup in Gaza” (June 2007).
37. McGeough, Kill Khalid, p. 377.
38. Ed O’Loughlin, “Hopeless in Gaza,” Sydney Morning Herald (23 June 2007).
39. Human Rights Watch, “Donors Should Press Israel to End Blockade” (1 March 2009).
40. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report—The Impact of the Blockade on the Gaza Strip: A human dignity crisis (15 December 2008).

Chapter two
1. Gideon Levy, “The Time of the Righteous,” Haaretz (9 January 2009).
2. Ethan Bronner, “In Israel, A Consensus That Gaza War Is a Just One,” New York Times (13 January 2009). “In the context of almost unanimous support of the operation by the Israeli public,” the Association for Civil Rights in Israel noted, “tolerance of any dissent was minimal” (The State of Human Rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories: 2009 report (Jerusalem: December 2009), p. 6).
3. Gideon Levy, on Democracy Now! (29 December 2008; kill_over_310_in).
4. Richard Wilson, “Incomplete or Inaccurate Information Can Lead to Tragically Incorrect Decisions to Preempt: The example of OSIRAK,” paper presented at Erice, Sicily (18 May 2007, updated 9 February 2008; See also Richard Wilson, “A Visit to the Bombed Nuclear Reactor at Tuwaitha, Iraq,” Nature (31 March 1983), and comments of Wayne White, Former Deputy Director, Near East and South Asia Office, State Department, in “Fift y-third in the Capitol Hill Conference Series on U.S. Middle East Policy” (20 June 2008; For a typically ill-informed recent commentary, see Norman Podhoretz, Why Are Jews Liberals? (New York: 2009), p. 194 (“if not for this spectacular military operation, Saddam Hussein would shortly thereafter have developed a nuclear arsenal”).
5. Ethan Bronner, “Israel Reminds Foes That It Has Teeth,” New York Times (29 December 2008).
6. Benny Morris, “Why Israel Feels Threatened,” New York Times (30 December 2008).
7. Gideon Levy, “Twilight Zone: Waiting for the all clear,” Haaretz (30 April 2009).
8. Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A history of the Zionist-Arab conflict, 1881–2001 (New York: 2001), p. 686.
9. Ami Gluska, The Israeli Military and the Origins of the 1967 War: Government, armed forces and defence policy 1963–1967 (New York: 2007), pp. 74–76, 80, 94–100, 103–6, 114–18.
10. Norman G. Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (New York: 1995; expanded second paperback edition, 2003), pp. 134–37, for the alleged threat posed by Egypt (Johnson at p. 135); for the blockade of the Straits of Tiran, see ibid., pp. 137–40 (Eban at p. 139).
11. “Memorandum for the Record” (1 June 1967), Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968, vol. 19, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1967 (Washington, D.C.: 2004).
12. Tom Segev, 1967: Israel, the war, and the year that transformed the Middle East (New York: 2007), p. 293, my emphasis.
13. “Memorandum from the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson” (4 June 1967), Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968.
14. Zeev Maoz, Defending the Holy Land: A critical analysis of Israel’s security and foreign policy (Ann Arbor: 2006), p. 89.
15. Matthew Kalman, “Israel Set War Plan More Than a Year Ago,” San Francisco Chronicle (21 July 2006).
16. William Arkin, Divining Victory: Airpower in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: 2007), pp. xxv–xxvi, 54, 135, 147–48.
17. Ibid., pp. xxi, 25, 64.
18. Andrew Exum, Hizballah at War: A military assessment (Washington Institute for Near East Policy: December 2006), pp. 9, 11–12.
19. The Reut Institute, Building a Political Firewall against Israel’s Delegitimization (Tel Aviv: March 2010), para. 35.
20. Benny Morris, “A Second Holocaust? The Threat to Israel” (2 May 2008; As the Israeli government in late 2009 and early 2010 again threatened to attack Iran, Morris did reprises of his 2008 performance and again conjured apocalyptic scenarios if the U.S. did not back an Israeli attack. Benny Morris, “ Obama’s Nuclear Spring,” Guardian (24 November 2009); Benny Morris, “When Armageddon Lives Next Door,” Los Angeles Times (16 April 2010).
21. Yaron London, “The Dahiya Strategy” (6 October 2008; www.ynet,7340,L-3605863,00.html). Gabriel Siboni, “Disproportionate Force: Israel’s concept of response in light of the Second Lebanon War,” Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) (2 October 2008). Giora Eiland, “The Third Lebanon War: Target Lebanon,” Strategic Assessment (November 2008). Amos Harel, “Analysis: IDF plans to use disproportionate force in next war,” Haaretz (5 October 2007). Joseph Nasr, “Israel Warns Hezbollah War Would Invite Destruction,” Reuters (2 October 2008).
22. London, “Dahiya Strategy.” Attila Somfalvi, “ Sheetrit: We should level Gaza neighborhoods” (2 October 2008;,7340,L-3504922,00.html).
23. “Israeli General Says Hamas Must Not Be the Only Target in Gaza,” IDF Radio, Tel Aviv, in Hebrew 0600 gmt (26 December 2008), BBC Monitoring Middle East; Tova Dadon, “Deputy Chief of Staff: Worst still ahead,” (29 December 2008;; “B’Tselem to Attorney General Mazuz: Concern over Israel targeting civilian objects in the Gaza Strip” (31 December 2008; http://; Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (25 September 2009), para. 1204. Hereafter: Goldstone Mission Report. I passed on an earlier version of my book manuscript to members of the Goldstone Mission during its investigative phase. The final Report of the Mission also made extensive reference to the Dahiya strategy. For more on the Dahiya strategy and the quote from Channel 10 News, see Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), No Second Thoughts: The changes in the Israeli Defense Forces’ combat doctrine in light of “Operation Cast Lead” (Jerusalem: November 2009), pp. 20–28.
24. Seumas Milne, “Israel’s Onslaught on Gaza is a Crime That Cannot Succeed,” Guardian (30 December 2008); Shay Fogelman, “Shock and Awe,” Haaretz (31 December 2010).
25. Amnesty International, Operation “Cast Lead”: 22 Days of death and destruction (London: July 2009), p. 47.
26. Reuven Pedatzur, “The Mistakes of Cast Lead,” Haaretz (8 January 2009).
27. Morris, “Why Israel Feels Threatened”; Matt M. Matthews, “The Israeli Defense Forces Response to the 2006 War with Hezbollah,” Military Review (July-August 2009), p. 45.
28. B. Michael, “Déjà Vu in Gaza,” (29 December 2008;
29. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Bearing the Brunt Again: Child rights violations during Operation Cast Lead (September 2009), p. 28; Human Rights Watch, Precisely Wrong: Gaza civilians killed by Israeli drone-launched missiles (30 June 2009), pp. 14–17. HRW found that “no Palestinian fighters were active on the street or in the immediate area just prior to or at the time of the attack” on the college students.
30. International Crisis Group, Ending the War in Gaza (5 January 2009), p. 18.
31. Asa Kasher, “Operation Cast Lead and Just War Theory,” Azure (Summer 2009), p. 51; Asa Kasher, “A Moral Evaluation of the Gaza War,” Jerusalem Post (7 February 2010).
32. Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, “Israel and Hamas Are Both Paying a Steep Price in Gaza,” Haaretz (10 January 2009); Ari Shavit, “Analysis: Israel’s victories in Gaza make up for its failures in Lebanon,” Haaretz (12 January 2009); Guy Bechor, “A Dangerous Victory,” (12 January 2009; Looking back a year later, Harel recalled that the Gaza invasion “was considered to be an effective remedy to the failures of the 2006 Second Lebanon War” (Amos Harel, “Israel Stuck in the Mud on Internal Gaza Probe,” Haaretz (30 January 2010)).
33. Thomas L. Friedman, “Israel’s Goals in Gaza?,” New York Times (14 January 2009). See also Thomas L. Friedman, “War, Timeout, War, Time ... ,” New York Times (25 June 2010).
34. Human Rights Watch, Why They Died: Civilian casualties in Lebanon during the 2006 war (New York: 2007), pp. 5, 14, 40–41, 45–46, 48, 51, 53.
35. Stephen Biddle and Jeffrey A. Friedman, The 2006 Lebanon Campaign and the Future of Warfare: Implications for army and defense policy (Carlisle, PA: 2008), pp. 43–45.
36. Human Rights Watch, Civilian Pawns: Laws of war violations and the use of weapons on the Israel-Lebanon border (New York: 1996); Maoz, Defending the Holy Land, pp. 213–14, 224–25, 252; Augustus Richard Norton, Hezbollah: A short history (Princeton: 2007), pp. 77, 86.
37. Judith Palmer Harik, Hezbollah: The changing face of terrorism (London: 2004), pp. 167–68.
38. Human Rights Watch, Civilians Under Assault: Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Israel in the 2006 war (New York: 2007), p. 100. HRW asserts that Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israeli civilians were not retaliatory but provides no supporting evidence.
39. Yair Evron, “Deterrence: The campaign against Hamas,” Strategic Assessment (February 2009), p. 81; International Crisis Group, Gaza’s Unfinished Business (April 2009), p. 19n198.
40. International Crisis Group, Gaza’s Unfinished Business, pp. 7–8.
41. Gideon Levy, “The IDF Has No Mercy for the Children in Gaza Nursery Schools,” Haaretz (15 January 2009).
42. Glenn Greenwald, “Tom Friedman Offers a Perfect Definition of ‘Terrorism,’” (14 January 2009;
43. “Memorandum for the Record” (17 November 1968), n. 13, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968.
44. International Crisis Group, Gaza’s Unfinished Business, p. 19.
45. Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel and the Palestinians (Boston: 1983), chapter 3; Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history (Berkeley: 2005; expanded paperback edition, 2008), pp. 337–41.
46. The relevant portion of the resolution varies slightly from year to year. I am quoting from the 2009 text (A/64/L.23).
47. Final Communiqué of the Twenty-Ninth Session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (Session of Solidarity and Dialogue), Khartoum— Republic of the Sudan (25–27 June 2002). It should also be noted that Iran has consistently voted with the majority in the annual U.N. General Assembly resolution.
48. Robin Shepherd, A State Beyond the Pale: Europe’s problem with Israel (London: 2009), p. 205.
49. For details and analysis, see Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, pp. xxi–xxii, 227–70.
50. Ibid., p. 200.
51. See also ibid., pp. xxii–xxiii, 349–51.
52. “Human Rights Watch Urges Attention to Future of Palestinian Refugees” (21 December 2000;; “Israel, Pales tinian Leaders Should Guarantee Right of Return as Part of Comprehensive Refugee Solution” (21 December 2000; Amnesty International, The Right to Return: The Case of the Palestinians. Policy Statement (London: 29 March 2001).
53. Norman G. Finkelstein, Dennis Ross and the Peace Process: Subordinating Palestinian rights to Israeli “needs” (Washington, D.C.: 2007).
54. Paul Scham and Osama Abu-Irshaid, Hamas: Ideological rigidity and political flexibility, United States Institute of Peace Special Report (Washington, D.C.: June 2009), pp. 2–4. See also Khaled Hroub, “A ‘New Hamas’ through Its New Documents,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Summer 2006), Jeroen Gunning, Hamas in Politics: Democracy, religion, violence (New York: 2008), pp. 205–6, 236–37, Jerome Slater, “A Perfect Moral Catastrophe: Just War philosophy and the Israeli attack on Gaza,” Tikkun, March–April 2009 (a longer and fully footnoted version of this article is posted on, subsection headed “A political settlement with Hamas?,” and Henry Siegman, “US Hamas Policy Blocks Middle East Peace,” Noref Report (September 2010). Hamas’s political evolution retraced the PLO’s, in which the call for a state in the whole of Palestine was superseded by a “phased” liberation of Palestine starting with a state in the West Bank and Gaza, and finally acquiescence in a two-state settlement (Shaul Mishal and Avraham Sela, The Palestinian Hamas: Vision, violence, and coexistence (New York: 2006), pp. 108–10). Any Palestinian movement seriously vying for political influence cannot but eventually come to terms with the exigency of a strong international consensus favoring a two-state settlement.
55. Mouin Rabbani, “A Hamas Perspective on the Movement’s Evolving Role: An interview with Khalid Mishal, Part II,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Summer 2008).
56. Gianni Perrelli, “Con Israele non sarà mai pace” (Interview with Khalid Mishal), L’espresso (26 February 2009;
57. Jimmy Carter, We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land: A plan that will work (New York: 2009), pp. 137, 177. See also Nidal al-Mughrabi, “Hamas Would Honor Referendum on Peace with Israel,” Reuters (1 December 2010).
58. Khaled Hroub, Hamas: Political thought and practice (Washington, D.C.: 2000), p. 44 (see also ibid., p. 254); Sherifa Zuhur, Hamas and Israel: Conflicting strategies of group-based politics (Carlisle, PA: 2008), pp. 29–31 (this study was published by the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College). See also Gunning, Hamas in Politics, pp. 19–20.
59. “What Hamas Wants,” Mideast Mirror (22 December 2008).
60. Benny Morris, One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine conflict (New Haven: 2009), pp. 166, 174–75, 204n5.
61. “Transcript: Netanyahu Speech on Israel-Palestine,” (14 June 2009;; “Address by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the United Nations General Assembly General Debate—64th Session,” (24 September 2009;
62. John Dugard, Recognition and the United Nations (Cambridge: 1987), p. 62.
63. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Cabinet Communiqué” (12 September 2010;
64. United Nations General Assembly, Resolution 181 (II), Future Government of Palestine (29 November 1947), Part I, A/3.
65. Ibid., Part I, B/10(d), C/Chapter 2.2. See also A. Rigo Sureda, The Evolution of the Right to Self-Determination: A study of United Nations practice (Leiden: 1973), p. 219.
66. Association for Civil Rights in Israel, State of Human Rights 2009, pp. 2, 15-23. See also Asher Arian et al., Auditing Israeli Democracy: Democratic values in practice (Jerusalem: 2010), pp. 138-39, and David Kretzmer, The Legal Status of the Arabs in Israel (Boulder, CO: 1990). For inequality between Israeli Jews and Arabs in the socioeconomic sphere (education, social welfare, health, employment and housing), see Ali Haider, ed., The Equality Index of Jewish and Arab Citizens in Israel: The Sikkuy report 2007 (Jerusalem-Haifa: 2008).
67. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Remarks by PM Netanyahu to the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations” (20 September 2010;
68. Asher Arian et al., Auditing Israeli Democracy: Between the state and civil society (Jerusalem: 2008), pp. 40, 43-44.
69. Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, Myths, Illusions and Peace: Finding a new direction for America in the Middle East (New York: 2009), p. 16.
70. “Talk with Norman Cliff” (29 June 1946), in The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Ahmedabad), v. 84, p. 385, “Speech at Prayer Meeting” (10 June 1947), in ibid., v. 88, pp. 123–26, “Speech at Prayer Meeting” (5 July 1947), in ibid., v. 88, p. 281; see also “Answers to Questions” (23 September 1946), in ibid., v. 85, p. 367, “A Talk” (7 May 1947), in ibid., v. 87, p. 426, “Speech at Prayer Meeting” (7 May 1947), in ibid., v. 87, pp. 432–33, “A Letter” (2 June 1947), in ibid., v. 88, p. 63, “Speech at Prayer Meeting” (11 June 1947), in ibid., v. 88, p. 134, “Speech at Prayer Meeting” (24 June 1947), in ibid., v. 88, p. 204, “Speech at Prayer Meeting” (28 July 1947), in ibid., v. 88, p. 452, “Speech at Prayer Meeting” (30 July 1947), in ibid., v. 88, p. 466, “Interview with Randolph Churchill” (30 August 1947), in ibid., v. 89, p. 118.
71. Scham and Abu-Irshaid, Hamas, p. 7 (emphasis in original); Mishal and Sela, Palestinian Hamas, p. xxiii.
72. Article 3 of the Egyptian-Israeli treaty delineates “the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law” binding on both parties; in particular, “They recognize and will respect each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence”; “They recognize and will respect each other’s right to live in peace within their secure and recognized boundaries”; “They will refrain from the threat or use of force, directly or indirectly, against each other and will settle all disputes between them by peaceful means.” Article 2 of the Jordanian-Israeli treaty essentially repeats the “provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law” delineated in the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. See M. Cherif Bassiouni, ed., Documents on the Arab-Israeli Conflict, v. 1: Emergence of conflict in Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Wars and Peace Process (Ardsley, NY: 2005), pp. 873-87, 892-912.
73. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Behind the Headlines: The resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians” (1 September 2010;
74. Dan Izenberg, “Aharon Barak: W. Bank is occupied territory,” Jerusalem Post (25 June 2009). See also Shlomo Avineri, “It’s Enough to Recognize Israel’s Legitimacy,” Haaretz (8 October 2010).
75. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Remarks by Prime Minister Netanyahu at the State Department” (2 September 2010;; Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Remarks by PM Netanyahu to the Conference of Presidents.”
76. Chapter 4.1 of the Partition Resolution barred modification of the non-discriminatory clauses “without the assent of the General Assembly of the United Nations.”
77. Official Records of the Second Session of the General Assembly, Supplement No. 11, United Nations Special Committee on Palestine: Report to the General Assembly, Vol. III, Annex A—Oral Evidence Presented at Public Meetings, pp. 50, 54; but cf. pp. 21, 22.
78. Zuhur, Hamas and Israel, pp. ix, 14.
79. Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center, The Six Months of the Lull Arrangement (December 2008), pp. 2, 6, 7. See also point (3) of “Defense Minister Barak’s Discussions ...” (29 August 2008), WikiLeaks. According to Egyptians who brokered the ceasefire, it provided for an immediate cessation of armed hostilities; a gradual lifting of the economic blockade that, after ten days, would allow for the passage of all products, except materials used in the manufacture of projectiles and explosives; and negotiations after three weeks for a prisoner exchange and the opening of Rafah crossing (see International Crisis Group, Ending the War in Gaza, p. 3; Carter, We Can Have Peace, pp. 137– 38). After the abortive coup against Hamas in June 2007, Israel severely restricted entry of goods “not considered essential for the basic subsistence of the population.” It allowed passage of only a “humanitarian minimum”—a benchmark that was arbitrarily determined, not sanctioned by international law, and in fact fell below Gaza’s minimal humanitarian needs. When the June 2008 ceasefire went into effect, Israel permitted only a “slightly increased” movement of supplies into Gaza. Gisha (Legal Center for Freedom of Movement), Red Lines Crossed: Destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure (August 2009), pp. 11, 13, 41-42, 45-46, 50; see also Gisha, “Israel Reveals Documents Related to the Gaza Closure Policy” (21 October 2010).
80. Richard N. Haass and Martin Indyk, “Beyond Iraq: A new U.S. strategy for the Middle East,” and Walter Russell Mead, “Change They Can Believe In: To make Israel safe, give Palestinians their due,” in Foreign Affairs (January–February 2009).
81. The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, Annual Assessment 2008 (Jerusalem: 2008), p. 27.
82. Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s Speech Delivered at the Central Ashura Council, 31 December 2008.
83. Mishal and Sela, Palestinian Hamas, p. 14.
84. Chomsky, Fateful Triangle, chapters 3, 5.
85. Yehuda Lukacs, ed., The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A documentary record, 1967–1990 (Cambridge: 1992), pp. 477–79.
86. Yehoshaphat Harkabi, Israel’s Fateful Hour (New York: 1988), p. 101.
87. Avner Yaniv, Dilemmas of Security: Politics, strategy and the Israeli experience in Lebanon (Oxford: 1987), pp. 20–23, 50–54, 67–70, 87–89, 100–1, 105–6, 113, 143, 294n46. Robert Fisk, Pity the Nation: The abduction of Lebanon (New York: 1990), pp. 197, 232. In his recent history of the “peace process,” Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, provides this capsule summary of the sequence of events just narrated: “In 1982, Arafat’s terrorist activities eventually provoked the Israeli government of Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon into a fullscale invasion of Lebanon” (Martin Indyk, Innocent Abroad: An intimate account of American peace diplomacy in the Middle East (New York: 2009), p. 75).
88. Saed Bannoura, “ Livni Calls for a Large Scale Military Offensive in Gaza,” IMEMC & Agencies (10 December 2008;
89. Uri Blau, “IDF Sources: Conditions not yet optimal for Gaza exit,” Haaretz (8 January 2009); Barak Ravid, “Disinformation, Secrecy, and Lies: How the Gaza offensive came about,” Haaretz (28 December 2008).
90. Nancy Kanwisher, Johannes Haushofer, and Anat Biletzki, “Reigniting Violence: How do ceasefires end?,” Huffington Post (6 January 2009; See also Johannes Haushofer, Anat Biletzki, and Nancy Kanwisher, “Both Sides Retaliate in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (4 October 2010), which found that Palestinian violence—far from being random and senseless—“reveals a pattern of retaliation: (i) the firing of Palestinian rockets increases sharply after Israelis kill Palestinians, and (ii) the probability (although not the number) of killings of Israelis by Palestinians increases after killings of Palestinians by Israel.”
91. Slater, “A Perfect Moral Catastrophe” (subsection headed “A ceasefire”). To prove that Hamas is driven by murderous ideology rather than pragmatism and “legitimate grievance,” Ross and Makovsky point to its rocket attacks after Israel’s 2005 Gaza redeployment:
During Hamas’s rise to power (January 2006 to April 2008), more than 2,500 rockets were launched from Gaza, landing in Israeli cities and villages. Israel no longer occupies Gaza, but the 245 rockets have largely continued—under Hamas’s control. Some say that the rockets are a response to Israeli retaliation. But it is easy to disprove this. If there were no rockets, the odds are very high that Israel would have no reason to retaliate. Even during periods without retaliation, the rocket fire has continued. (Myths, Illusions and Peace, p. 255; cf. ibid., pp. 138–39, 243, 252)
Having restored the factual record, their proof is easy to disprove: leaving aside that Israel continued to occupy and then imposed an illegal blockade on Gaza, it was Israel, not Hamas, that “overwhelmingly” broke the ceasefires.
92. Zvi Bar’el, “Crushing the Tahadiyeh,” Haaretz (16 November 2008); Uri Avnery, “The Calculations behind Israel’s Slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza,” (2 January 2009;
93. Amnesty International annual report 2009 entry for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories; see also Human Rights Watch, Rockets from Gaza: Harm to civilians from Palestinian armed groups’ rocket attacks (New York: August 2009), p. 2.
94. Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Six Months, p. 3.
95. “Hamas Wants Better Terms for Truce,” Jerusalem Post (21 December 2008); Bradley Burston, “Can the First Gaza War Be Stopped before It Starts?,” Haaretz (22 December 2008). Diskin told the Israeli cabinet that Hamas would renew the truce if Israel lift ed the siege of Gaza, stopped military attacks, and extended the truce to the West Bank.
96. “Gaza Residents ‘Terribly Trapped,’” BBC News (4 November 2008;
97. Gisha, Red Lines, pp. 5, 26, 33.
98. Sara Roy, “If Gaza Falls... ,” London Review of Books (1 January 2009).
99. International Crisis Group, Ending the War in Gaza, pp. 3, 10–11.
100. Burston, “Can the First Gaza War.”
101. Khalid Mishal, “This Brutality Will Never Break Our Will to Be Free,” Guardian (6 January 2009).
102. It was not the first time Israel sought to provoke Hamas after it mooted a modus vivendi. Two Israeli academic authorities on Hamas recalled that in September 1997, just days before an abortive Israeli assassination attempt on Khalid Mishal, “Jordan’s King Hussein delivered a message from the Hamas leadership to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In it Hamas suggested opening an indirect dialogue with the Israeli government, to be mediated by the king, toward achieving a cessation of violence, as well as a ‘discussion of all matters.’ But the message was ignored or missed and, in any case, became irrelevant following the attempt” on the Hamas leader’s life (Mishal and Sela, Palestinian Hamas, p. 72; see also Paul McGeough, Kill Khalid: The failed Mossad assassination of Khalid Mishal and the rise of Hamas (New York: 2009), esp. pp. 141, 146, 226).

Chapter three
1. Anthony H. Cordesman, The “Gaza War”: A strategic analysis (Washington, D.C.: 2 February 2009; “Final Review Draft ”).
2. Cordesman currently holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and is a national security analyst for ABC News.
3. Cordesman, “Gaza War,” p. ii. He allowed only that Israel might have unjustifiably hit “some” civilian targets “like an UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency] school where 42 Palestinians died.” These civilian targetings rated a two-sentence mention in his 92-page report. “There is no evidence that any abuses of the other narrow limits imposed by [the] laws of war occurred,” he continued, “aside from a few limited cases,” and the “only significant incident that had as yet emerged was the possible misuse of 20 phosphorus shells in built up areas in Beit Lahiya.” (ibid., pp. 63–64)
4. Ibid., p. ii.
5. The ensuing exposition is limited narrowly to violations of international humanitarian and human rights law resulting directly from Operation Cast Lead. Some human rights reports also documented indirect violations, such as Hamas repression of Fatah members in Gaza and Palestinian Authority repression of Hamas members in the West Bank, as well as Israel’s repression of dissent in Israel and the West Bank and its failure to provide air-raid shelters for Bedouins in southern Israel.
6. Amnesty International, Operation “Cast Lead”: 22 Days of death and destruction (London: July 2009), p. 4. Although the Goldstone Mission reported that it was “faced with a certain reluctance by the persons it interviewed in Gaza to discuss the activities of the armed groups,” it concluded that Palestinian testimonies could be vetted for accuracy:
Taking into account the demeanor of witnesses, the plausibility of their accounts and the consistency of these accounts with the circumstances observed by it and with other testimonies, the Mission was able to determine the credibility and reliability of those people it heard.... The final conclusions on the reliability of the information received were made taking all of these matters into consideration, cross-referencing the relevant material and information, and assessing whether, in all the circumstances, there was sufficient information of a credible and reliable nature for the Mission to make a finding in fact.” (Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (25 September 2009), paras. 35, 170–71, 440, hereafter: Goldstone Mission Report)
The somewhat discrepant experiences of Amnesty and the Goldstone Mission might be accounted for by the higher profile of the Mission, which prompted greater intrusion by Hamas and greater circumspection by the population.
7. The State of Israel, The Operation in Gaza, 27 December 2008–18 January 2009: Factual and legal aspects (July 2009), para. 34.
8. Ibid., p. 52n139.
9. Ibid., paras. 22, 25.
10. Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 1107–64 passim.
11. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, paras. 161, 174–75, 192.
12. Lorenzo Cremonesi, “Così i ragazzini di Hamas ci hanno utilizzato come bersagli,” Corriere della Sera (21 January 2009); “Palestinians Confirm Hamas War Crimes, Refute Gaza Death Toll,” Israel Today (22 January 2009). See below for death toll figures of human rights organizations and Israel.
13. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, paras. 200–2.
14. Uzi Benziman, “Until Proved Otherwise,” Haaretz (18 June 2006). B. Michael, “Of Liars and Hunters,” Yediot Ahronot (3 September 2005); B. Michael, “Stop the Lying!,” Yediot Ahronot (5 September 2008).
15. Kenneth Roth, “The Incendiary IDF,” Human Rights Watch (22 January 2009;
16. Ben Wedeman, “Group Accuses Israel of Firing White Phosphorus into Gaza,” CNN (12 January 2009;; Robert Marquand and Nicholas Blanford, “Gaza: Israel under fire for alleged white phosphorus use,” Christian Science Monitor (14 January 2009).
17. B’Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), “Military Rejects Horrific Results of Use of White Phosphorus in Operation Cast Lead” (21 May 2009). See also Dinah PoKempner, “Valuing the Goldstone Report,” Global Governance 16 (2010), p. 149.
18. Amira Hass, “In the Rockets’ Red Glare,” Haaretz (15 January 2009).
19. Cordesman, “Gaza War,” pp. 20, 27.
20. Ibid., pp. 20–27 passim, 42–57 passim.
21. Ibid., p. 22.
22. B’Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), “Suspicion: Bombed truck carried oxygen tanks and not grad rockets” (31 December 2008;
23. Human Rights Watch, Precisely Wrong: Gaza civilians killed by Israeli drone-launched missiles (30 June 2009), pp. 17–21.
24. Cordesman, “Gaza War,” pp. 58, 62.
25. Ibid., p. 58; Amos Harel, “Israel: Two-thirds of Palestinians killed in Gaza fighting were terrorists,” Haaretz (13 February 2009); Yaakov Katz, “IDF: World duped by Hamas’s false civilian death toll figures,” Jerusalem Post (15 February 2009).
26. William Arkin, Divining Victory: Airpower in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: 2007), p. 74.
27. Human Rights Watch, Why They Died: Civilian casualties in Lebanon during the 2006 war (New York: 2007), pp. 76, 79; Mitchell Prothero, “Hizbollah Builds Up Covert Army for a New Assault against Israel,” Observer (27 April 2008); Alastair Crooke and Mark Perry, “How Hezbollah Defeated Israel; Part 2, Winning the Ground War,” Asia Times (13 October 2006).
28. Cordesman, “Gaza War,” pp. 1–3.
29. Ibid., pp. 1, 10.
30. Ibid., p. 2.
31. Ibid.
32. Duncan Kennedy, “A Context for Gaza,” Harvard Crimson (2 February 2009).
33. Cordesman, “Gaza War,” pp. 16–17.
34. Ibid., p. 63.
35. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, paras. 6, 8, 84, 115, 222–23.
36. Amos Harel, “What Did the IDF Think Would Happen in Gaza?,” Haaretz (27 March 2009).
37. Amos Harel, “Testimonies on IDF Misconduct in Gaza Keep Rolling In,” Haaretz (22 March 2009).
38. Amos Harel, “IDF Officer: ‘It will take many years to restore’ bombwracked Gaza,” Haaretz (7 January 2009).
39. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, para. 232.
40. Amos Harel, “Shooting and Crying,” Haaretz (19 March 2009); Anshel Pfeffer, “Gaza Soldiers Speak Out,” Jewish Chronicle (5 March 2009); Breaking the Silence, Soldiers’ Testimonies from Operation Cast Lead, Gaza 2009 (Jerusalem: June 2009), pp. 20, 22, 24, 27, 29, 30, 50, 51, 56, 62, 72. The Goldstone Mission Report denied the army premise that Palestinian civilians would have already fled areas under Israeli assault (para. 522); on this point, see also Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), No Second Thoughts: The changes in the Israeli Defense Forces’ combat doctrine in light of “Operation Cast Lead” (Jerusalem: November 2009), pp. 18–19.
41. Harel, “What Did the IDF Think.”
42. Donald Macintyre, “Israeli Commander: ‘We rewrote the rules of war for Gaza,’” Independent (3 February 2010); Anshel Pfeffer, “IDF Officer: Gaza civilians risked to protect Israel troops during war,” Haaretz (3 February 2010).
43. Margaret Coker, “Gaza’s Isolation Slows Rebuilding Efforts,” Wall Street Journal (5 February 2009); United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), The Humanitarian Monitor (January 2009); Ethan Bronner, “Amid the Destruction, a Return to Life in Gaza,” New York Times (25 January 2009); United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “Tough Times For University Students in Gaza” (26 March 2009;; Reporters Without Borders, Operation “Cast Lead”: News control as military objective (February 2009); Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Bearing the Brunt Again: Child rights violations during Operation Cast Lead (September 2009), pp. 10, 62, 81; Amnesty International et al., Failing Gaza: No rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses (December 2009), p. 9; United Nations Institute for Training and Research, Satellite Image Analysis in Support to the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (31 July 2009), p. ii; Gisha (Legal Center for Freedom of Movement), Red Lines Crossed: Destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure (August 2009), pp. 5-6, 19, 27. Between the destruction inflicted during the invasion and Israel’s expansion of its “buffer zone” in Gaza after the invasion, nearly half of Gaza’s agricultural land had been put out of production a year later. For the most comprehensive analysis of the destruction wrought by the Israeli attack and its enduring consequences, see United Nations Development Program, Gaza, Early Recovery and Reconstruction Needs Assessment—One Year After (2010).
44. Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 50, 913–941. The Mission concluded that the “only purpose” of the attack “was to put an end to the production of flour in the Gaza Strip,” and “destroy the local capacity to produce flour.” Israel subsequently sought to defend its attack on the flour mill (State of Israel, Gaza Operation and Investigations: An update (January 2010), pp. 41-44), but critical evidence belied the Israeli version of what happened (Anshel Pfeffer, “U.N. Insists Israel Bombed Flour Mill during Cast Lead,” Haaretz (4 February 2010); Human Rights Watch, “I Lost Everything”: Israel’s unlawful destruction of property during Operation Cast Lead (New York: January 2010), pp. 5, 83-86). Still, Israel stuck to its original story (Gaza Operation Investigations: Second update (July 2010), paras. 141-45). One year after the invasion Israel continued to block cement deliveries to rebuild the flour mill (Amnesty International et al., Failing Gaza, p. 6).
45. Amnesty International, Operation “Cast Lead,” p. 62; Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 51, 942–61 (the Mission concluded that “this constituted a deliberate act of wanton destruction not justified by any military necessity”).
46. United Nations Development Program, Gaza, Early Recovery, p. 67.
47. Amir Mizroch, “Analysis: Grappling with Goldstone,” Jerusalem Post (18 September 2009); see also Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Israel Gaza FAQ: Goldstone Mission” (
48. In a report issued a year and a half after the invasion Israel alleged, predictably, that the chicken coops were destroyed “for reasons of military necessity” (Gaza Operation Investigations: Second update, paras. 122-29).
49. Human Rights Watch, “I Lost Everything,” p. 7.
50. Amnesty International et al., Failing Gaza, p. 7; Barbara Opall-Rome, “Israel’s New Hard Line on Hizbollah,” DefenseNews (31 May 2010).
51. Amnesty International et al., Failing Gaza, p. 7; Report on UNCTAD Assistance to the Palestinian People: Developments in the economy of the occupied Palestinian territory (7 August 2009), para. 20.
52. Amnesty International, Operation “Cast Lead,” p. 66; see also Human Rights Watch, Rockets from Gaza: Harm to civilians from Palestinian armed groups’ rocket attacks (New York: August 2009), pp. 2, 20, reporting that a synagogue, school, and kindergarten were damaged; see also Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 1659–61.
53. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, p. 17n27.
54. Breaking the Silence, Soldiers’ Testimonies, pp. 26, 59, 60, 85, 101.
55. Uri Blau, “Dead Palestinian Babies and Bombed Mosques—IDF Fashion 2009,” Haaretz (20 March 2009).
56. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, para. 71.
57. Breaking the Silence, Soldiers’ Testimonies, pp. 69, 83.
58. Amnesty International, Operation “Cast Lead,” p. 55.
59. Report of the Independent Fact-Finding Committee on Gaza: No safe place. Presented to the League of Arab States (30 April 2009), paras. 300, 372–87. (Hereafter: Dugard Committee Report.) See also Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 53, 351, 1004, 1207, 1319.
60. Human Rights Watch, “I Lost Everything,” pp. 1, 41, 44.
61. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, para. 445.
62. International Crisis Group, Gaza’s Unfinished Business (April 2009), p. 2. Apparently referring to this same zone, Amnesty reported that it “looked as if it had been wrecked by an earthquake” (Operation “Cast Lead,” p. 61).
63. Human Rights Watch, “I Lost Everything,” p. 4.
64. Cordesman, “Gaza War,” p. 49.
65. Amos Harel, “IDF Probe: Cannot defend destruction of Gaza homes,” Haaretz (15 February 2009). On the massive destruction of Palestinian dwellings Amnesty reported:
Many of the houses destroyed during Operation “Cast Lead” had been raided or temporarily taken over by Israeli soldiers during incursions in recent years. It is unlikely that Hamas or other Palestinian groups would have located their command centers, rocket manufacturing workshops or weapons stores in the areas most accessible [to] and most easily overrun by Israeli troops....
The fact that the soldiers used [antitank mines]—which required them to leave their tanks, walk between buildings and enter houses in order to place the explosive charges inside the houses along the supporting walls—indicates that they felt extremely confident that there were no Palestinian gunmen inside or around the houses. It also indicates their confidence that there were no tunnels under the houses which gunmen could use to capture them, and that the houses were not booby-trapped. (Operation “Cast Lead,” p. 56)
The Goldstone Mission Report divided the house destruction chronologically: “a first phase of extensive destruction of housing for the ‘operational necessity’ of the advancing Israeli forces in these areas was followed by a period of relative idleness on the part of the Israeli bulldozers and explosives engineers. But during the last three days, aware of their imminent withdrawal, the Israeli armed forces engaged in another wave of systematic destruction of civilian buildings” (paras. 990–1004, 1323). The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights reported that “at least 1,732 shelters” were destroyed “after the end of hostilities when they had come under Israel’s effective control, [which] indicates that they could no longer be military objectives or near any other legitimate military targets, and should therefore have been respected as civilian objects” (Al Mezan, Bearing the Brunt, pp. 80–94). On a related point, HRW noted the absence of any evidence that “explosive booby-traps planted by Palestinian armed groups or secondary explosions caused by weapons stored by these armed groups were responsible for any significant amount of the damage seen in Gaza” (Human Rights Watch, “I Lost Everything,” p. 18).
66. Goldstone Mission Report, para. 1205; International Crisis Group, Gaza’s Unfinished Business, p. 19.
67. Cordesman, “Gaza War,” p. 18.
68. Both the Israeli press releases cited by Cordesman, “Gaza War,” pp. 24, 26, and State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, p. 61n161, para. 234, alleged secondary explosions only in the cases of two mosques targeted respectively on 31 December 2008 and 1 January 2009. In a document issued long after the Gaza assault, Israel conjured a secondary explosion in a mosque attacked on 13 January 2009 (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat from the Gaza Strip: The main findings of the Goldstone Report versus the factual findings (March 2010), p. 157).
69. The Goldstone Mission Report cautiously concluded, “Although the situations investigated by the Mission did not establish the use of mosques for military purposes or to shield military activities, the Mission cannot exclude that this might have occurred in other cases” (paras. 36, 464–65, 486, 497, 822–43, 1953). In a pair of articles, B’Tselem executive director Jessica Montell alleged that the Goldstone Report was insufficiently critical of Hamas because it “ignored” evidence contradicting its tentative conclusion on Hamas’s use of mosques for military purposes. Despite repeated requests and a protracted correspondence, however, Montell was unable to substantiate her allegation. Jessica Montell, “A Time for Soul-Searching,” Jerusalem Post (30 September 2009); Jessica Montell, “The Goldstone Report on Gaza,” Huffington Post (1 October 2009;
70. Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat, pp. 143-44.
71. Gaza Operation Investigations: Second update, para. 69.
72. Hanan Chehata, “Exclusive MEMO Interview with Colonel Desmond Travers,” Middle East Monitor (23 January 2010). The targeted mosques were also allegedly “frequented” by senior Hamas officials (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat, pp. 147-48)—which almost certainly meant that Israel surveilled them.
73. Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat, p. 146; Al Mezan Center for Human Rights database. It might also be supposed that Hamas placed weapons in mosques because Hamas wanted to demonize Israel by luring it to target them, but such speculation would be hard to square with the fact that Hamas was also said to have hidden the weapons in mosques (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat, pp. 147, 152, 158).
74. Alan Dershowitz, The Case against the Goldstone Report: A study in evidentiary bias (, pp. 4, 39-41.
75. Dugard Committee Report, paras. 349–53, 498, 502; see also Amnesty International, Operation “Cast Lead,” p. 15.
76. Breaking the Silence, Soldiers’ Testimonies, p. 70.
77. Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat, p. 179.
78. Dugard Committee Report, para. 347.
79. Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat, pp. V, 193-94.
80. United Nations Development Program, Gaza, Early Recovery, p. 26.
81. Goldstone Mission Report, para. 1273.
82. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, para. 158; see also Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat, p. 185.
83. Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 54, 61, 1180, 1182, 1185–91, 1891; Cordesman, “Gaza War,” p. 18.
84. Amnesty International, Operation “Cast Lead,” p. 55.
85. Cordesman, “Gaza War,” p. 17.
86. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, paras. 8, 17, 24, 138, 141, 154, 262–65.
87. Dugard Committee Report, para. 13 of Executive Summary; paras. 283– 299, 467–68, 483, 490. On a related note the Committee observed:
In order to provide a meaningful warning by telephone, the IDF would have to be aware not only of the telephone numbers of the residents of Gaza, but more importantly of the numbers of the residents in a particular building or area. The Committee is not aware of how the IDF managed to obtain and confirm this information when the majority of telephones in Gaza are mobile or cell phones and are not associated with a particular address or location, and when the utility of advising someone to vacate on their mobile phone requires knowledge of their actual location. (ibid., para. 293; see also ibid., para. 467)
For a “clearly documented and large-scale case, reported in real time, that the IDF only paid lip service regarding the warnings to civilians to minimize damage,” see PCATI, No Second Thoughts, pp. 17–18. See also Human Rights Watch, White Flag Deaths: Killings of Palestinian Civilians during Operation Cast Lead (New York: August 2009), p. 5, Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 37, 501–2, 511, 515, 531–42 (the Mission allowed that the warnings might have been effective in “some” instances), and PoKempner, “Valuing the Goldstone Report,” p. 152.
88. Jeremy Bowen, “Gaza Stories: Israeli minister,” interview with Meir Sheetrit, BBC News,; Amnesty International, Operation “Cast Lead,” pp. 3, 50–51. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, reported “more than 165,000 phone calls warning civilians to distance themselves from military targets” (paras. 8, 264), while the IDF’s most senior legal advisor alleged that “more than 250,000” calls were made. Yaakov Katz, “Security and Defense: Waging war on the legal front,” Jerusalem Post (18 September 2009).
89. Laurie R. Blank, “The Application of IHL in the Goldstone Report: A critical commentary,” Yearbook of International Law 12 (2009), pp. 47-48.
90. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, paras. 86, 266.
91. Cordesman, “Gaza War,” p. 64. 92. Ibid., p. 37.
93. OCHA, Humanitarian Monitor. See also Amnesty International, Operation “Cast Lead,” pp. 51–53.
94. Hazem Balousha and Chris McGreal, “Tanks, Rockets, Death and Terror: A civilian catastrophe unfolding,” Guardian (5 January 2009).
95. Cordesman, “Gaza War,” p. 64.
96. Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 72, 317, 1297, 1315; see also para. 1299 for Israeli misrepresentation of the amounts and types of humanitarian provisions it allowed into Gaza.
97. Human Rights Watch, “Choking Gaza Harms Civilians” (18 February 2009); United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator” (10–16 March 2009). See also Amira Hass, “Israel Bans Books, Music, and Clothes from Entering Gaza,” Haaretz (17 May 2009).
98. Amnesty International et al., Failing Gaza, pp. 3, 6, 10, 12.
99. U.N. News Center, “Opening Remarks at Press Conference” (20 January 2009).
100. U.N. General Assembly, Letter dated 4 May 2009 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council: Summary by the Secretary-General of the report of the United Nations Headquarters Board of Inquiry into certain incidents in the Gaza Strip between 27 December 2008 and 19 January 2009 (15 May 2009), A/63/855-S/2009/250, paras. 10–28, 46–67, 77–84, 97, 100, 107. Opting to bar public scrutiny of the actual report, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released only a summary of the board’s findings.
101. Barak Ravid, “ Peres Tells Ban: Israel will never accept UN Gaza probe,” Haaretz (7 May 2009); Barak Ravid, “ Barak: IDF did not mean to shoot at UN facilities in Gaza,” Haaretz (5 May 2009).
102. Cordesman, “Gaza War,” p. 66.
103. After the invasion ended on 18 January, Israel opened a “humanitarian clinic” at the Erez crossing, but by this time the medical emergency had passed and Palestinian officials ignored the clinic, believing—as did many others, including Physicians for Human Rights-Israel—that it was an Israeli publicity stunt. On 28 January Israel announced the closure of the clinic due to the absence of patients. See Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, “Ill Morals”: Grave violations of the right to health during the Israeli assault on Gaza (March 2009), pp. 23, 51. I am grateful to Mahmoud AbuRahma of the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights-Gaza for clarifying these details.
104. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Holding Health to Ransom: GSS interrogation and extortion of Palestinian patients at Erez crossing (August 2008).
105. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, para. 274.
106. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, “Ill Morals.”
107. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, “Yet Another Child Casualty Due to Israel’s Closure Policies” (Gaza: 18 March 2009).
108. “Gaza: ICRC demands urgent access to wounded as Israeli army fails to assist wounded Palestinians” (8 January 2009;
109. Cordesman, “Gaza War,” p. 64.
110. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, para. 274.
111. B’Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), Guidelines for Israel’s Investigation into Operation Cast Lead, 27 December 2008–18 January 2009 (Jerusalem: 8 February 2009), p. 14.
112. Al Mezan, Bearing the Brunt, p. 32.
113. Cordesman, “Gaza War,” p. 65.
114. B’Tselem, Guidelines, p. 16. See also Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history (Berkeley: 2005; expanded paperback edition, 2008), pp. 128–30.
115. Human Rights Watch, Why They Died, p. 160.
116. Jan McGirk, “Gaza’s Health and Humanitarian Situation Remains Fragile,” Lancet (4 February 2009); Amnesty International et al., Failing Gaza, p. 11.
117. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, “Ill Morals.”
118. Sebastian Van As et al., Final Report: Independent fact-finding mission into violations of human rights in the Gaza Strip during the period 27.12.2008—18.01.2009 (Brussels: April 2009).
119. Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat, p. 164.
120. Amnesty International, Operation “Cast Lead,” p. 43 (see also Amnesty International annual report 2010 entry for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (London), p. 183); Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 36, 466–74, 487.
121. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, paras. 7, 23, 131, 141, 154–55, 163, 171– 80, 260–61, 370–80 (emphasis in original); see also Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat, pp. V, 163-77 (this document also cited a “Fatah-affiliated website”). Benny Morris, “Derisionist History,” New Republic (28 November 2009). The Magen David Adom testimony is cited in Goldstone Mission Report, para. 473.
122. United Nations Development Program, Gaza, Early Recovery, p. 20.
123. Gaza Operation Investigations: Second update, para. 69.
124. Cordesman, “Gaza War,” pp. 8–9. 125. Ibid., p. 27.
126. Ibid., pp. ii, 1, 15–16, 18, 19, 28, 38, 40, 57.
127. Ibid., pp. 15ff.
128. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, paras. 4, 59, 73–82 (photograph at para. 81; my emphasis); see also Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat, pp. 6-7, 45-55, 76-78.
129. Cordesman, “Gaza War,” pp. 10, 16, 28, 39, 42.
130. Ibid., pp. 27, 57.
131. Ibid., p. 41; Reuven Pedatzur, “The War That Wasn’t,” Haaretz (25 January 2009).
132. Pedatzur, “War That Wasn’t.”
133. International Crisis Group, Gaza’s Unfinished Business, pp. 2, 21 (see also ibid., pp. 8n82, 19); Amnesty International, Operation “Cast Lead,” p. 56.
134. Breaking the Silence, Soldiers’ Testimonies, pp. 25, 36, 47, 54, 60, 68, 71, 77, 80, 90.
135. Goldstone Mission Report, para. 459.
136. Dugard Committee Report, para. 214.
137. Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat, pp. 7, 52, 104.
138. Moshe Halbertal, “The Goldstone Illusion: What the U.N. report gets wrong about Gaza—and war,” New Republic (6 November 2009). In a notorious 2002 political assassination of a Hamas leader, Israel killed 14 Palestinian civilians, nine of them children, after dropping a oneton bomb in the middle of a densely populated Gazan neighborhood (see Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, pp. 105–6). Yet in Halbertal’s cynical rendering, echoing the Israeli chief of staff, “the collateral deaths were not only unintentional, they were not even foreseeable” because “the innocent people who were killed lived in shacks in the backyard of the building, which, in aerial photographs, looked like storage units.”
139. I return to this point in the next chapter.
140. Palestinian Center for Human Rights, “Confirmed Figures Reveal the True Extent of the Destruction Inflicted upon the Gaza Strip” (12 March 2009); Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, “Cast Lead Offensive in Numbers” (2 August 2009); “B’Tselem’s Investigation of Fatalities in Operation Cast Lead” (9 September 2009); B’Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), Human Rights Review, 1 January 2009-30 April 2010 (Jerusalem: June 2010), p. 5; Al Mezan, Bearing the Brunt, p. 16; Amnesty International et al., Failing Gaza, p. 7. In February 2009 the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported, on the basis of data from the Palestinian Ministry of Health, “1,440 Palestinians dead, of whom 431 are children and 114 are women,” noting that “the rise in the number of casualties is due to the delay in people officially registering the deaths of family members from the conflict” (“Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator, 3-5 February 2009”). Israeli officials alleged that total Palestinian deaths came to 1,166 of whom at least 60 percent were “terrorists.” The discrepancy in the ratio of Palestinian combatant to civilian deaths partly results from disagreement on the proper classification of Gazan police. See Shay Fogelman, “Shock and Awe,” Haaretz (31 December 2010). The broad consensus of human rights organizations was that these police should overwhelmingly be classified as civilians because they did not take a direct part in hostilities and were not members of Palestinian armed groups. The overall veracity of Israeli figures could be tested on the basis of the “under 16” sub-classification. Whereas Israel alleged that 89 Palestinians under age 16 were killed, B’Tselem reported that 252 Palestinians under 16 were killed and that it “has copies of birth certificates and death certificates along with other documents regarding the vast majority of the minors who were killed.” For a critical analysis of Israeli casualty figures, see PCATI, No Second Thoughts, pp. 9–11. The study showed that Israel abruptly altered the figures it tabulated for Palestinian deaths, and it concluded that “the casualty estimates provided by other sources (around 1,400 killed) are more credible than those provided by the IDF Spokesperson.” Even the largely apologetic U.S. Department of State 2009 Human Rights Report put the number of dead “at close to 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 1,000 civilians” ( Hamas originally alleged that only 48 of its fighters had been killed during the Israeli invasion, but abruptly upped the figure to several hundred in the face of accusations that the people of Gaza “had paid the price” of its reckless decisions. Netanyahu seized on Hamas’s politically inflated death toll as vindication of the Israeli allegation that a high percentage of Gazan casualties were “Hamas terrorists.” “Hamas Confirms Losses in Cast Lead for First Time,” Jerusalem Post (1 November 2010); Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “PM Netanyahu Addresses the General Assembly of the Jewish Federation of North America” (8 November 2010;
141. Human Rights Watch, Rockets from Gaza.
142. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, paras. 42–46; see also Asa Kasher, “Operation Cast Lead and Just War Theory,” Azure (Summer 2009), pp. 52–53. The Goldstone Mission Report regrettably adopted this line of argument (paras. 110, 1598, 1901).
143. Goldstone Mission Report, para. 545.
144. Kasher, “Operation Cast Lead,” p. 70.
145. “8 Cast Lead IDF Heroes Get Decorated,” Jerusalem Post (16 December 2009).
146. Bowen, “Gaza Stories.”
147. Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research, “War and Peace Index— February 2009.” For the calculation behind the Israeli leadership’s decision not to topple Hamas, see International Crisis Group, Gaza’s Unfinished Business, pp. 25–26n252.
148. Gideon Levy, “Everyone Agrees: War in Gaza was a failure,” Haaretz (12 March 2009).
149. International Crisis Group, Gaza’s Unfinished Business, p. 21.
150. Kennedy, “Context for Gaza.”
151. Harel, “What Did the IDF Think”; Breaking the Silence, Soldiers’ Testimonies, p. 88.
152. Leon Wieseltier, “Something Much Darker,” New Republic (8 February 2010). See also Petra Marquardt-Bigman, “The Warped Mirror: Andrew Sullivan’s ‘pulverization of Gazans,’” (14 February 2010; The offending phrase was used by former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan, who denounced the Israeli attack.
153. Arik Diamant and David Zonsheine, “Talk to Hamas,” Guardian (15 February 2010).
154. Human Rights Watch, Rain of Fire: Israel’s unlawful use of white phosphorus in Gaza (New York: March 2009), pp. 1–6, 39, 60. See also Al Mezan, Bearing the Brunt, pp. 42–45.
155. Human Rights Watch, Precisely Wrong, pp. 4, 6, 12. The Israeli dronelaunched missiles killed at least 513 persons, including 116 children (Al Mezan, Bearing the Brunt, pp. 37–42).
156. Cordesman, “Gaza War,” p. 11.
157. Ibid., p. 68.
158. Ibid., pp. 11, 32.
159. Kim Sengupta and Donald Macintyre, “Israeli Cabinet Divided over Fresh Gaza Surge,” Independent (13 January 2009); PCATI, No Second Thoughts, p. 28.
160. Adrian Blomfield, “Israeli Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni ‘Cancels London Visit over Prosecution Fears,’” Daily Telegraph (14 December 2009); Herb Keinon, “Miliband ‘Shocked’ at Livni’s Warrant,” Jerusalem Post (15 December 2009); Daniel Edelson, “Livni: We must do what’s right for us,” (15 December 2009;
161. International Crisis Group, Ending the War in Gaza (5 January 2009), p. 19; International Crisis Group, Gaza’s Unfinished Business, p. 19.
162. Guy Bechor, “Israel Is Back,” (19 February 2010;
163. Breaking the Silence, Soldiers’ Testimonies, pp. 68–69.
164. Kasher, “Operation Cast Lead,” pp. 64–67.
165. Avishai Margalit and Michael Walzer, “Israel: Civilians & combatants,” New York Review of Books (14 May 2009; emphasis in original).
166. Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 1886–87.

Chapter four
1. Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat from the Gaza Strip: The main findings of the Goldstone Report versus the factual findings (March 2010), p. IV.
2. Anthony H. Cordesman, The “Gaza War”: A strategic analysis (Washington, D.C.: 2 February 2009; “Final Review Draft ”), pp. 10, 19–23 passim, 36, 42, 44, 63–66 passim; The State of Israel, The Operation in Gaza, 27 December 2008–18 January 2009: Factual and legal aspects (July 2009), paras. 23, 119, 154 (emphasis in original), 170, 186–89, 223–28 (see also Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat, pp. 110-42, 195-261); Amnesty International, Operation “Cast Lead”: 22 Days of death and destruction (London: July 2009), pp. 3–4, 47–50, 64, 74–77. For human rights investigations echoing Amnesty’s finding that some Hamas militants fought in built-up areas but did not use Palestinian civilians as human shields, see Human Rights Watch, “Letter to EU Foreign Ministers to Address Violations between Israel and Hamas” (16 March 2009), Human Rights Watch, Rockets from Gaza: Harm to civilians from Palestinian armed groups’ rocket attacks (New York: August 2009), pp. 22, 24, Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (25 September 2009), paras. 35, 452, 475, 482–88, 494, 1953 (hereafter: Goldstone Mission Report); for human rights organizations and IDF testimony corroborating Israel’s use of human shields, see National Lawyers Guild, Onslaught: Israel’s attack on Gaza & the rule of law (New York: February 2009), pp. 14–15, Human Rights Watch, White Flag Deaths: Killings of Palestinian Civilians during Operation Cast Lead (New York: August 2009), pp. 11–12, Breaking the Silence, Soldiers’ Testimonies from Operation Cast Lead, Gaza 2009 (Jerusalem: June 2009), pp. 7–8, 107, Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 55, 1032–1106, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Bearing the Brunt Again: Child rights violations during Operation Cast Lead (September 2009), pp. 52–59. In a pair of articles B’Tselem executive director Jessica Montell contrarily alleged that Hamas did engage in human shielding, but she was unable to provide any supporting evidence despite repeated requests and a protracted correspondence. Jessica Montell, “A Time for Soul-Searching,” Jerusalem Post (30 September 2009); Jessica Montell, “The Goldstone Report on Gaza,” Huffington Post (1 October 2009;
3. Avishai Margalit and Michael Walzer, “Israel: Civilians & combatants,” New York Review of Books (14 May 2009).
4. Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, Myths, Illusions and Peace: Finding a new direction for America in the Middle East (New York: 2009), pp. 7, 128, 137, 153–54, 244, 247, 252. In a comparable distortion Beverley Milton-Edwards and Stephen Farrell, Hamas: The Islamic resistance movement (Malden, MA: 2010), reported that “on 19 December 2008, six months to the day after it began its ceasefire, Hamas ended it” (p. 298).
5. Colonel Richard Kemp CBE, “International Law and Military Operations in Practice,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (18 June 2009).
6. Amnesty International, Operation “Cast Lead,” p. 7; for details, see ibid., pp. 11ff. See also Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 459, 653–703.
7. Amnesty International, Operation “Cast Lead,” pp. 1, 24; for details, see ibid., esp. pp. 24–27. See also Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 704–885.
8. Human Rights Watch, White Flag Deaths, pp. 2, 4, 10–15.
9. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, para. 213.
10. Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 802, 810–11.
11. Amos Harel, “IDF in Gaza: Killing civilians, vandalism, and lax rules of engagement,” Haaretz (19 March 2009); Amos Harel, “Shooting and Crying,” Haaretz (19 March 2009); Amos Harel, “Testimonies on IDF Misconduct in Gaza Keep Rolling In,” Haaretz (22 March 2009); Breaking the Silence, Soldiers’ Testimonies, pp. 21–23, 75, 88, 89.
12. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, para. 213; Asa Kasher, “A Moral Evaluation of the Gaza War,” Jerusalem Post (7 February 2010).
13. Alan Dershowitz, The Case against the Goldstone Report: A study in evidentiary bias (, pp. 7, 11, 21, 22; Robert L. Bernstein, “Human Rights in the Middle East,” UN Watch (10 November 2010;; Lawrence Wright, “Captives: A report on the Israeli attacks,” New Yorker (9 November 2009), pp. 55, 59.
14. Anshel Pfeffer, “Israel Claims Success in the PR War,” Jewish Chronicle (31 December 2008); Hirsh Goodman, “Analysis: The effective public diplomacy ended with Operation Cast Lead,” Jerusalem Post (5 February 2009).
15. Cordesman, “Gaza War,” pp. 31–32, 68.
16. Bradley Burston, “Why Does the World Media Love to Hate Israel?,” Haaretz (23 March 2009); Shlomo Avineri, “What Was the Computer Thinking?,” Haaretz (18 March 2009). Heeding such counsel, Israel in its official brief avoided mentioning Operation Cast Lead apart from a parenthetical reference to “the ‘Gaza Operation,’ also known as ‘Operation Cast Lead’” (Operation in Gaza, para. 16).
17. Dominic Waghorn, “They Kept Us Out and Israeli Officials Spun the War,” Independent (25 January 2009); Lisa Goldman, “Eyeless in Gaza,” Forward (16 January 2009).
18. Ethan Bronner, “Israel Puts Media Clamp on Gaza,” New York Times (6 January 2009); Reporters Without Borders, Operation “Cast Lead”: News control as military objective (February 2009).
19. Human Rights Watch, “Israel: End Ban on Human Rights Monitors” (Jerusalem: 22 February 2009); Human Rights Watch, White Flag Deaths, p. 7.
20. State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, para. 288.
21. Barak Ravid, “Group that Exposed ‘IDF Crimes’ in Gaza Slams Israel Bid to Choke OffIts Funds,” Haaretz (26 July 2009); Barak Ravid, “Israel Targets U.K. Funding of Group that Exposed ‘IDF Crimes’ in Gaza,” Haaretz (29 July 2009); Barak Ravid, “Israel Asks Spain to Stop Funding Group that Reported ‘IDF Crimes’ in Gaza,” Haaretz (2 August 2009).
22. Amos Harel, “Analysis: Can Israel Dismiss Its Own Troops’ Stories from Gaza?,” Haaretz (19 March 2009).
23. Amira Hass, “Time to Believe Gaza War Crimes Allegations,” Haaretz (24 March 2009).
24. Gideon Levy, “IDF Ceased Long Ago Being ‘Most Moral Army in the World,’” Haaretz (22 March 2009).
25. Dershowitz, The Case, p. 27.
26. Levy, “IDF Ceased.”
27. Breaking the Silence, Soldiers’ Testimonies, p. 5.
28. Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), No Second Thoughts: The changes in the Israeli Defense Forces’ combat doctrine in light of “Operation Cast Lead” (Jerusalem: November 2009), p. 29.
29. Association for Civil Rights in Israel, The State of Human Rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories: 2009 report (Jerusalem: December 2009), p. 52; see also ibid., p. 50, “Israel intentionally and deliberately bombed government buildings and civilian institutions in Gaza.”
30. Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 1889–90.
31. Breaking the Silence, Soldiers’ Testimonies, pp. 16, 55, 56–57, 73, 86, 92, 93.
32. Harel, “Shooting and Crying.”
33. Ethan Bronner, “A Religious War in Israel’s Army,” New York Times (22 March 2009).
34. Breaking the Silence, Soldiers’ Testimonies, pp. 18, 20, 46, 60, 85; cf. ibid., pp. 47 (“massive fire”), 48 (“fired like crazy”), 67 (“I never knew such firepower. They were using every weapon I know”), 76 (“In general, everything that could fire, did”).
35. See Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history (Berkeley: 2005; expanded paperback edition, 2008), pp. 316–19.
36. Anshel Pfeffer and Amos Harel, “IDF Ends Gaza Probe, Says Misconduct Claims Are ‘Rumors,’” Haaretz (30 March 2009).
37. Anshel Pfeffer, “ Barak: Gaza probe shows IDF among world’s most moral armies,” Haaretz (23 April 2009); State of Israel, Operation in Gaza, para. 284; Human Rights Watch, “Israeli Military Investigation Not Credible” (23 April 2009); Amnesty International, “Israeli Army Probe Lacks Credibility and Is No Substitute for Independent Investigation” (23 April 2009); Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 1832, 1961.
38. Yaakov Katz, “Security and Defense: Waging war on the legal front,” Jerusalem Post (18 September 2009). A “common Israeli solution” when accused of massive crimes, Amira Hass observes, is to focus on and then trivialize a lesser crime in order that “everything else can be denied.” Amira Hass, “The One Thing Worse Than Denying the Gaza Report,” Haaretz (17 September 2009).
39. Human Rights Watch, “Israel: Soldiers’ Punishment for Using Boy as ‘Human Shield’ Inadequate” (26 November 2010).
40. “U.K. Officer Slams ‘Pavlovian’ Criticism of IDF after Gaza War,” Haaretz (22 February 2010).
41. Amnesty International, Fueling Conflict: Foreign arms supplies to Israel/Gaza (London: 23 February 2009).
42. Amnesty International, Broken Lives: A year of intifada (London: 2001); Human Rights Watch, Razing Rafah: Mass home demolitions in the Gaza Strip (New York: 2004).
43. Stephen Zunes, “ Obama and Israel’s Military: Still arm-in-arm,” Foreign Policy in Focus (4 March 2009).
44. Anti-Defamation League, “Amnesty International Report on Gaza Conflict ‘Pernicious and Biased’” (23 February 2009).

Chapter five
1. Norman G. Finkelstein, The Rise and Fall of Palestine: A personal account of the intifada years (Minneapolis, MN: 1996).
2. “Who’s Afraid of Finkelstein?,” Haaretz (27 May 2008).
3. Lawrence Wright, “Captives: A report on the Israeli attacks,” New Yorker (9 November 2009), p. 52.
4. See Chapter 2.

Chapter six
1. “Israel’s Revealing Fury towards EU,” Financial Times (13 December 2009).
2. “Poll Shows Dip in American Voters’ Supporting Israel,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency (16 June 2009).
3. Andrew England and Vita Bekker, “Criticism of Israel’s Conduct Mounts,” Financial Times (10 January 2009;
4. The Reut Institute, Building a Political Firewall against Israel’s Delegitimization (Tel Aviv: March 2010), para. 120 (pp. 62, 65).
5. I use the term Nazi holocaust to denote the actual historical event, and The Holocaust to denote the ideological instrumentalization of that event. See Norman G. Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the exploitation of Jewish suffering (New York: 2000; second expanded paperback edition, 2003), p. 3 and chapter 2.
6. See Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history (Berkeley: 2005; expanded paperback edition, 2008), chapters 1–3.
7. George Gilder, The Israel Test (Minneapolis, MN: 2009), pp. 4, 13, 15, 22, 32, 36, 41, 42, 92, 109, 136, 168–73, 239, 240. According to Gilder, the real tragedy of the Nazi holocaust was that it deprived humanity of the “unique virtues and genius of its victims ... , depleting the entire species of intellectual resources that will be critical to survival on an ever-threatened planet. Ironically, the rest of the world suffers far more than Jews from this loss of wealth-creating entrepreneurs and inventors” (ibid., pp. 41, 234).
8. Robin Shepherd, A State Beyond the Pale: Europe’s problem with Israel (London: 2009), pp. 37, 47, 55–56, 68, 69, 70, 76, 80, 101, 104, 105, 116, 131–38, 156, 166, 212–14, 218–19, 222–25, 228–33, 237–38, 252. For a detailed critique of Dershowitz’s book, see Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, part two.
9. The handful of dissenting voices emanated from the marginal Left. See Isaac Deutscher, The Non-Jewish Jew and Other Essays (New York: 1968), pp. 126–52; Maxime Rodinson, Israel: A settler-colonial state? (New York: 1973; originally published in Les Temps Modernes in 1967); Noam Chomsky, Peace in the Middle East?: Reflections on justice and nationhood (New York: 1974).
10. Peter Beaumont, “Israel Outraged as EU Poll Names It a Threat to Peace,” Guardian (2 November 2003).
11. WorldPublicOpinion.Org Staff, World Public Opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (1 July 2008).
12. BBC World Service Poll (6 February 2009). It notes that “most polling occurred before Israel undertook its military operation in Gaza.”
13. “Second Thoughts about the Promised Land,” Economist (11 January 2007).
14. Martin Hodgson, “British Jews Break Away from ‘Pro-Israeli’ Board of Deputies,” Independent (5 February 2007); Ben Weinthal, “German Jews Feud over Criticizing Israel,” Forward (9 March 2007); Ben Cubby, “Jewish Coalition Calls for Open Debate on Palestine,” Sydney Morning Herald (6 March 2007).
15. Gallup polls covering the period 1996–2005 (; Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Constrained Internationalism: Adapting to new realities (2010), pp. 60, 71.
16. “America’s Place in the World 2005: Opinion leaders turn cautious, public looks homeward,” Pew Research Center for the People and the Press (17 November 2005), p. 97 (polls covering the period 1978–2005); Robert Ruby, “A Six-Day War: Its aftermath in American public opinion” (30 May 2007;; Jodie T. Allen and Alec Tyson, “The U.S. Public’s Pro-Israel History,” Pew Research Center Publications (19 July 2006); Gallup polls covering the period 1997– 2007 (
17. Gallup polls covering the period 1998–2003 (; “Opportunities for Bipartisan Consensus: What both Republicans and Democrats want in U.S. foreign policy,” PIPA/Knowledge Networks Poll (18 January 2005); Andrew Kohut, “American Views of the Mideast Conflict,” New York Times (14 May 2002); “Growing Majority of Americans Oppose Israel Building Settlements” (29 April 2009;; Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Constrained Internationalism, pp. 56, 72.
18. USA Today/Gallup polls covering the period 2001–2006 (; The Harris Poll, May–August 2002, The Harris Poll, April–July 2002; Newsweek Poll, 25–26 April 2002 ( In fact nearly half of Israelis believe that U.S. policy favors Israel too much (Allen and Tyson, “The U.S. Public’s Pro-Israel History”).
19. WorldPublicOpinion.Org Staff, World Public Opinion.
20. “Poll: Americans support cutting aid to Israel,” Reuters (12 April 2002).
21. The Harris Poll, April–July 2002; ABC Poll, 3–7 April 2002 (
22. “Israel’s Increased Isolation,” Issue #308 (Washington, D.C.: 19 January 2007; See also Amiram Barkat, “Jewish Leaders Concerned by Trend to Delegitimize Israel,” Haaretz (10 July 2007).
23. Anti-Defamation League, “American Attitudes towards Israel, the Palestinians and Prospects for Peace in the Middle East: An Anti-Defamation League survey” (19 October 2007).
24. ABC/Washington Post Poll (3–6 August 2006); Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll (28 July–1 August 2006); USA Today/Gallup Poll (21–23 July 2006;; “Zogby Poll: U.S. should be neutral in Lebanon war” (17 August 2006;
25. Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Constrained Internationalism, pp. 18, 59, 71.
26. The Amman Call: Issued at WCC International Peace Conference, “Churches Together for Peace and Justice in the Middle East” (18–20 June 2007;; Toya Richards Hill, “GA Overwhelmingly Approves Israel/Palestine Resolution” (21 June 2006;; “United Methodists Urged to Divest from 20 Companies Supporting in a Significant Way Israel’s Occupation of Palestinian Land” (21 June 2007;; “Seeking a Just Peace in the Middle East, Synod Adopts Economic Leverage Resolution” (5 July 2005;
27. Steven M. Cohen, “Poll: Attachment of U.S. Jews to Israel falls in past 2 years,” Forward (4 March 2005).
28. American Jewish Committee, 2007 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion (6 November–25 November 2007); Theodore Sasson et al., Still Connected: American Jewish attitudes about Israel (August 2010), p. 9; “Second Thoughts,” Economist (“long run”). See also M. J. Rosenberg, “Another Kiss of Death,” Haaretz (25 April 2008). For criticism of the Sasson study’s optimistic spin on the poll data, see Steven Cohen’s comments in Gal Beckerman, “Survey Says Young Jews Do Care about Israel,” Forward (10 September 2010).
29. 2006 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion, conducted for the American Jewish Committee by Synovate (25 September–16 October 2006); Anthony Weiss, “Attachment to Israel Declining among Young American Jews,” Forward (5 September 2007); “Study: US Jews distance themselves from Israel,” Reuters (6 September 2007; For the actual 2007 study, see Steven M. Cohen and Ari Y. Kelman, Beyond Distancing: Young adult American Jews and their alienation from Israel (Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies: 2007). See also Michael Paulson, “Push on to Bolster Israel’s Image: Calls for reaching out in new ways to young Jews,” Boston Globe (26 September 2008). The 2010 Brandeis University poll found that about one quarter of Jews under 44 felt “very much” connected to Israel (Sasson et al., Still Connected, p. 11).
30. Zeev Bielski, “Guaranteeing Our Future,” (3 September 2009;
31. CJP-Jewish Boston Connected, Israel Advocacy Strategic Planning Subcommittee Final Report (February 2008), pp. 15–16; see also Abe Selig, “U.S. Professors: Support for Israel eroded,” Jerusalem Post (29 June 2009).
32. Lily Galili, “Tiffs at the Family Table,” Haaretz (5 January 2002); see also The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, Annual Assessment 2008 (Jerusalem: 2008), p. 35.
33. “America’s Place,” pp. 6, 11, 74.
34. Tony Judt, “Israel: The alternative,” New York Review of Books (23 October 2003).
35. John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, “The Israel Lobby,” London Review of Books (23 March 2006).
36. Jimmy Carter, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid (New York: 2006).
37. Mark Lilla and Richard Sennett, “The Case of Tony Judt: An open letter to the ADL,” New York Review of Books (16 November 2006), and “A Statement in Support of Open and Free Discussion about U.S. and Israeli Foreign Policy and Against Suppression of Speech,” Archipelago (n.d.;
38. James Traub, “Does Abe Foxman Have an Anti-Anti-Semite Problem?,” New York Times (14 January 2007).
39. Ezra HaLevi, “Exclusive: Jimmy Carter interceded on behalf of Nazi SS guard,” (18 January 2007).
40. Deborah Lipstadt, “ Jimmy Carter’s Jewish Problem,” Washington Post (20 January 2007).
41. Philip Weiss, “ Jimmy Carter’s Book Stirs a Critical Debate,” American Conservative (26 February 2007); David Abel and James Vaznis, “ Carter Wins Applause at Brandeis,” Boston Globe (24 January 2007). See also Hinda Mandell, “Brandeis Students at Odds over Israel,” Boston Globe (8 May 2008), reporting the student senate’s vote to not congratulate Israel on its sixtieth anniversary.
42. John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (New York: 2007).
43. Orly Halpern, “ Foxman, Wiesel Upbraid Israel for Pace of Peace Effort,” Forward (18 May 2007).
44. An Israeli foreign ministry assessment of eight hours of coverage across international broadcast media reported that Israeli representatives got 58 minutes of airtime while the Palestinians got only 19 minutes. Rachel Shabi, “Special Spin Body Gets Media on Message, Says Israel,” Guardian (2 January 2009).
45. Ben Quinn and Matthew Weaver, “Tens of Thousands in London Protest Gaza Offensive,” Guardian (3 January 2009); “Cities across the World Become Platform for Hundreds of Thousands of Protesters against Gaza Fighting,” Daily Mail (11 January 2009;; “Tens of Thousands Demonstrate for and against Israel,” Spiegel Online International (12 January 2009;
46. “Jewish Canadians Concerned about Suppression of Criticism of Israel,” (16 March 2009;; Deborah Summers, “George Galloway Banned from Canada,” Guardian (20 March 2009); Alexander Panetta, “Jewish Group Proud of Role in Barring ‘Hater’ Galloway,” Canadian Press (25 March 2009); Robert Fisk, “Galloway a Victim of Canada’s Baffling Approach to Fighting Terror,” Independent (1 April 2009); Rosie DiManno, “Canada’s Leaders Swoon over Israel,” Toronto Star (1 June 2009); David Moltz, “Second Guessing a Conference,” Inside Higher Ed (11 June 2009); Linda McQuaig, “Harper’s Extremism is Showing,” Toronto Star (3 November 2009); Gerald Kaplan, “Stephen Harper and the Jewish Question,” Globe and Mail (11 December 2009); Les Whittington, “Furor Grows over Anti-Semitism Charge,” Toronto Star (19 December 2009). Canada’s largest media empire, CanWest Global Communications, is controlled by members of the Asper family, who have historically been prominent “supporters” of Israel and mobilized their empire on Israel’s behalf (see Peter C. Newman, Izzy: The passionate life and turbulent times of Izzy Asper, Canada’s media mogul (Toronto: 2008), pp. 248–54; Marc Edge, Asper Nation: Canada’s most dangerous media company (Vancouver: 2007), pp. 131–51, 173–76, 188– 89, 199–204).
47. “Two-In-Five Canadians Criticize Israel’s Military Actions in Gaza,” AngusReid Strategies (22 January 2009;; Adrian Morrow, “CUPE Union Votes for Academic Boycott of Israel,” Toronto Star (22 February 2009;
48. Amnesty International, “Gaza: World’s Leading Investigators Call for War Crimes Inquiry” (16 March 2009).
49. Yael Branovsky, “Report: Gaza war reverses drop in anti-Semitism,” Haaretz (15 January 2009); “Europe Fears Spike in Anti-Semitism over Gaza,” (7 January 2009;
50. Anti-Defamation League, “ADL Leader: Gaza war unleashed ‘pandemic of anti-Semitism’” (12 February 2009;
51. Abraham H. Foxman, Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism (San Francisco: 2003), p. 4.
52. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, chapters 2–3.
53. Anti-Defamation League, “ADL Survey in Seven European Countries Finds Anti-Semitic Attitudes Steady” (10 February 2009;
54. Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, Annual Assessment 2008, p. 40.
55. European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Anti-Semitism: Summary overview of the situation in the European Union 2001–2008 (February 2009). The quality of this publication can be gleaned from the fact that the only authority it cites on anti-Semitism is the German professional anti-anti-Semite Henryk Broder (p. 24), who wrote an unctuous preface for the German edition of Alan Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel.
56. Pew Global Attitudes Project, Unfavorable Views of Jews and Muslims on the Increase in Europe (September 2008).
57. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, pp. 81–85.
58. The Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism, Anti-Semitism in the Wake of Operation Cast Lead (January 2009).
59. Reut Institute, Building a Political Firewall, para. 39.
60. Ali Fathollah-Nejad, “German Media Censorship on Gaza?,” Global Research (22 January 2009).
61. Assaf Uni, “Poll: Most Germans say country has no special ties with Israel,” Haaretz (5 May 2008); “Most Germans Feel No Responsibility for Israel,” Spiegel Online International (5 May 2008;; “Germans Divided on Feelings towards Israel, Poll Shows,” Deutsche Welle (14 January 2009;; Benjamin Weinthal, “Poll: Israel is ‘aggressive,’ Germany has no obligation toward it,” Jerusalem Post (15 January 2009); “Global Views of United States Improve While Other Countries Decline,” BBC World Service Poll (18 April 2010).
62. Gideon Levy, “Has Anyone in Israel Asked Why the Swedes Hate Us?,” Haaretz (14 March 2009).
63. International Crisis Group, Gaza’s Unfinished Business (April 2009), p. 20; “Nine Nations Agree on Plan to Stem Arms Flow to Gaza,” Reuters (14 March 2009).
64. “Letter by Prominent British Jews on Israel’s War on Gaza,” Guardian (10 January 2009); “South African Jews Condemn the Israeli Attack on Gaza,” (11 January 2009;
65. Antony Lerman, “Rise of the Moderates,” Guardian (6 February 2009).
66. Peter Beaumont, David Smith and Ben Quinn, “Leading British Jews Call on Israel to Halt ‘Horror’ of Gaza,” Observer (11 January 2009).
67. For full text and video, see
68. Jean-Moïse Braitberg, “Effacez le nom de mon grand-père à Yad Vashem” (Open letter to the president of Israel), Le Monde (29 January 2009).
69. Fathollah-Nejad, “German Media Censorship.”
70. Emily Mathieu, “Jewish Women Arrested in Toronto Consulate Protest,” Toronto Star (8 January 2009; 7); Tom Godfrey, “Security Alert for Jewish Community,” Toronto Sun (8 January 2009;
71. Andrew West and Jonathan Pearlman, “Australian Jews Protest against Israel’s Action,” Sydney Morning Herald (6 January 2009).
72. Stephen Zunes, “Virtually the Entire Dem-Controlled Congress Supports Israel’s War Crimes in Gaza,” Alternet (13 January 2009;
73. Max Blumenthal, “Why Aren’t More Americans Dancing to Israel’s Tune?,” (5 January 2009;
74. Jeffrey Goldberg, “Why Israel Can’t Make Peace with Hamas,” New York Times (14 January 2009).
75. See Chapter 2.
76. Rabbi Marvin Hier, “Gaza Residents Must Learn That Charity Begins at Home,” New York Daily News (1 February 2009).
77. Mouin Rabbani, “Human Rights Watch Goes to War,” (1 February 2009;
78. “Americans Closely Divided over Israel’s Gaza Attacks,” Rasmussen Reports (31 December 2008); “Modest Backing for Israel in Gaza Crisis,” Pew Research Center (13 January 2009).
79. “Exchange between Bill Moyers and Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League,” (16 January 2009;; Alan Dershowitz, “The Moral Blindness of Some ‘Religious Leaders,’” Jerusalem Post blog (“Double Standard Watch”) (4 February 2009); Eric Alterman, “The Defamation League,” The Nation (28 January 2009).
80. “Time Running Out for a Two-State Solution?,” 60 Minutes (25 January 2009;
81. George E. Bisharat, “Israel is Committing War Crimes,” Wall Street Journal (10 January 2009).
82. Roger Cohen, “The Dominion of the Dead,” New York Times (8 January 2009); Roger Cohen, “Middle East Reality Check,” New York Times (9 March 2009). Cohen subsequently penned another series of equally iconoclastic columns, “From Tehran to Tel Aviv,” “The Fierce Urgency of Peace,” and “Israel Cries Wolf” (23 March 2009, 26 March 2009, 9 April 2009). For the furious reaction to one of Cohen’s columns, see Paul Harris, “Jewish Writer Raises a Storm in America with His Report from a ‘Tolerant’ Iran,” Guardian (29 March 2009).
83. Andrew Sullivan, “Aliens,” Atlantic blog (“The Daily Dish”) (4 January 2009); Andrew Sullivan, “Proportionality and Terror,” Atlantic blog (“The Daily Dish”) (5 January 2009).
84. Philip Slater, “A Message to Israel: Time to stop playing the victim role,” Huffington Post (7 January 2009;
85. City Council, Policy Order Resolution (12 January 2009;
86. Raphael Ahren, “For First Time, U.S. Professors Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel,” Haaretz (29 January 2009).
87. J Street National Survey of American Jews (28 February–8 March 2009;
88. M. J. Rosenberg, “Post-Gaza Sea Change,” Israel Policy Forum (30 January 2009;; “D.C. Rally for Israel Attracts 1,000,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency (7 January 2009).
89. Eric Fingerhut, “Liberals Push Criticism of Israel’s Gaza Strikes,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency (30 December 2008); James D. Besser, “Fresh Rift Emerges over War Response,” Jewish Week (7 January 2009); J Street, “Gaza: Ceasefire now!” (n.d.;
90. Gil Hoffman, “J Street Not Promoting Goldstone Tour,” Jerusalem Post (19 November 2009). J Street’s “statement of principles” calls for “creation of a viable Palestinian state as part of a negotiated twostate solution, based on the 1967 borders with agreed reciprocal land swaps”—a formula that, depending on the details, could point to a just settlement based on the international consensus or to a Palestinian Bantustan dominated by Israel. On the genesis of J Street, see Gershom Gorenberg, “A Liberal Israel Lobby,” American Prospect (April 2008), “New ‘Pro Israel, Pro Peace’ Political Group Launches: J Street hopes to prod Washington MidEast policy towards center,” (15 April 2008;, Shmuel Rosner, “New Jewish-American Lobby Wants to Provide an Alternative to AIPAC,” Haaretz (16 April 2008), Gary Kamiya, “Taking Back the Debate Over Israel,” (29 April 2008), James Traub, “The New Israel Lobby,” New York Times Magazine (9 September 2009).
91. American Jews for a Just Peace, “Open Letter to Israeli Soldiers from Jews around the World” (4 January 2009;;;
92. Michael Walzer, “On Proportionality,” New Republic (8 January 2009;
93. Alan M. Dershowitz, “Hamas’ Dead Baby Strategy,” Washington Times (16 January 2009); Alan M. Dershowitz, “Israel’s Policy Is Perfectly ‘Proportionate,’” Wall Street Journal (2 January 2009).
94. Martin Peretz, “The Truth about Gaza,” New Republic blog (“The Spine”) (1 January 2009).
95. Michelle Sieff, “Gaza and After: An interview with Paul Berman,” Z Word (March 2009;; Philip Weiss, “ Paul Berman Says Gaza Assault May Have Been Necessary to Avert ‘Genocide,’” Mondoweiss (26 February 2009;
96. Philip Weiss, “New Yorker’s Silence Is Further Evidence That Establishment Opinion Is Paralyzed by Gaza,” Mondoweiss (6 January 2009). Shortly after the invasion ended, the New York Review ran a short piece by Roger Cohen, “Eyeless in Gaza,” and then a letters exchange between Cohen and David A. Harris of the American Jewish Committee (12 February 2009, 26 March 2009).
97. Jeet Heer, “Israel Struggles with Youth Wing of the Diaspora,” National Post (9 January 2009).
98. Martin Peretz, “The ‘Juicebox Mafia’ on Gaza,” New Republic blog (“The Spine”) (29 December 2008).
99. Ezra Klein, “Israel, Wrong” (28 December 2008;
100. Adam Horowitz, “Benny Morris Leaves Out the Hallmarks of Zionism: Expansionism and militarism” (30 December 2008;; see also his “Jews are Soul-Searching About Madoff— What About Gaza?,” Huffington Post (31 December 2008;
101. Matthew Yglesias, “Why They Fight” (1 January 2009;
102. Dana Goldstein, “The Idea of Israel,” (7 January 2009;
103. Glenn Greenwald, “Both Parties Cheerlead Still More Loudly for Israel’s War” (8 January 2009;; Glenn Greenwald, “Increasing Evenhandedness in the Middle East” (30 January 2009;; Glenn Greenwald, “ Jeffrey Goldberg’s Gasping, Dying Smear Tactics” (20 February 2009;
104. The lobby prevailed, but, having exposed its crude and defamatory tactics, the victory might have been Pyrrhic. See Robert Dreyfuss, “Is the Israel Lobby Running Scared?,” Huffington Post (16 March 2009;; Philip Weiss, “The Israel Lobby Gets Its Man—And Tips Its Hand,” American Conservative (23 March 2009); John Mearsheimer, “The Lobby Falters,” London Review of Books (26 March 2009); Nathan Guttman, “The Pro-Israel Lobby—‘Alive, Well, and Bipartisan?,’” Haaretz (25 March 2009).
105. Jon Stewart, “Strip Maul,” Daily Show (5 January 2009; transcript at
106. Elizabeth Redden, “On Israel, Shifted Ground,” Inside Higher Ed (6 March 2009; Samuel Freedman, “In the Diaspora: Suspended agitation,” Jerusalem Post (19 March 2009).
107. Mitchell Bard and Gil Troy, “Delegitimization of Israel: ‘Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions’” (December 2009;
108. Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, Annual Assessment 2008, p. 13.
109. Anna Baltzer, Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American woman in the Occupied Territories (Boulder, CO: 2007). Her web site is

Chapter seven
1. “Speech at Prayer Meeting” (14 April 1947), in The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Ahmedabad), v. 87, p. 281.
2. Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (25 September 2009), paras. 1, 151. Hereafter: Goldstone Mission Report.
3. Ibid., paras. 144, 162; Bill Moyers, Journal (23 October 2009; For the extended correspondence between Goldstone and the Government of Israel, see Goldstone Mission Report, Annex II, pp. 434–50; see also Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs web site, “The Goldstone Mission—FAQ” (
4. For a critical but ultimately positive assessment of the Report by “recognized experts” in the relevant bodies of international law, see Report of an Expert Meeting which Assessed Procedural Criticisms Made of the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (The Goldstone Report) (London: 27 November 2009). The experts concluded that the Goldstone Report “was very far from being invalidated by the criticisms [directed at it]. The Report raised extremely serious issues which had to be addressed. It contained compelling evidence on some incidents.”
5. Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 63, 1213–14.
6. Ibid., paras. 1215, 1892.
7. Ibid., paras. 1208, 1884.
8. Ibid., para. 1893.
9. Ibid., para. 1898. Goldstone afterwards recalled that although initially fearful of traveling to Gaza—“I had nightmares about being kidnapped. You know, it was very difficult, especially for a Jew, to go into an area controlled by Hamas”—he was “struck by the warmth of the people that we met and who we dealt with in Gaza” (Moyers, Journal).
10. Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 46, 50, 60, 937, 961, 987, 1006, 1171– 75, 1935.
11. Ibid., paras. 75, 1334–35, 1936. The fact finding committee chaired by Goldstone’s distinguished South African colleague John Dugard went somewhat further. It concluded that during Israel’s “heinous and inhuman” attack it was culpable for war crimes such as “indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilians,” “killing, wounding and terrorizing civilians,” “wanton destruction of property,” and the bombing and shelling of hospitals and ambulances and obstructing the evacuation of the wounded. It further found that Israel was guilty of crimes against humanity including the intentional and “reckless” killing of civilians, “mass killings—‘extermination’—in certain cases,” and “persecution.” It did not however hold Israel culpable for the crime of genocide: “the main reason for the operation was not to destroy a group, as required for the crime of genocide, but to engage in a vicious exercise of collective punishment designed either to compel the population to reject Hamas as the governing authority of Gaza or to subdue the population into a state of submission.” Still, it found that “individual soldiers may well have had such an intent and might therefore be prosecuted for this crime.” Report of the Independent Fact-Finding Committee on Gaza: No safe place. Presented to the League of Arab States (30 April 2009), paras. 20, 22–23, 25–30 of Executive Summary; paras. 405, 485–91, 496–98, 500–4, 506–10, 519–20, 526–29, 540–47, 554–58, 572–73. Hereafter: Dugard Committee Report.
12. Goldstone Mission Report, para. 1895.
13. Ibid., paras. 108, 1691, 1953. The Dugard Committee held Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups culpable for war crimes such as “indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilians” and “killing, wounding and terrorizing civilians,” although it entered the caveat that “there are a number of factors that reduce their moral blameworthiness but not their criminal responsibility,” among them, “Palestinians have been denied their right to self-determination by Israel and have long been subjected to a cruel siege by Israel,” “the scale of Israel’s action,” and “the great difference in both the weapons capability of the opposing sides and the use of their respective weaponry” (Dugard Committee Report, paras. 21, 24, 35 of Executive Summary; paras. 457, 484, 495, 499, 575–77).
14. Dinah PoKempner, general counsel of Human Rights Watch, noted that it was “hardly surprising” that the space devoted to Hamas was “fairly brief because there is little factual dispute about whether the Gaza authorities tolerated firing of rockets onto Israel’s civilian areas, and no legal ambiguity to discuss” (“Valuing the Goldstone Report,” Global Governance 16 (2010), p. 153).
15. Moyers, Journal.
16. “Hungry Like the Wolfowitz,” Georgetown Voice (6 November 2003).
17. “What Women Should Do in a Difficult Situation” (4 September 1932), in Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, v. 51, pp. 18–19, “Discussion with Mahadev Desai” (4 September 1932), in ibid., v. 51, pp. 24–25, “Discussion with B. G. Kher and Others” (15 August 1940), in ibid., v. 72, p. 388, “Discussion with Bharatanand” (2 September 1940), in ibid., v. 72, p. 434, “Message to States’ People” (1 October 1941), in ibid., v. 74, p. 368, “Speech at Prayer Meeting” (5 November 1947), in ibid., v. 89, p. 481.
18. “Speech at Goalundo” (6 November 1946), in ibid., v. 86, p. 86.
19. See Chapter 2.
20. “Israel has bureaucratically and logistically effectively split and separated not only Palestinians in the occupied territories and their families in Israel, but also Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and those in the rest of the territory and between Gazans and West Bankers/Jerusalemites” (Goldstone Mission Report, para. 205).
21. The Report makes passing mention in this context of “the right of return for refugees” (ibid., paras. 92, 1509).
22. Ibid., paras. 206–7.
23. “In the opinion of the Mission, a line has been crossed, what is fallaciously considered acceptable ‘wartime behavior’ has become the norm. Public support for a more hard-line attitude towards Palestinians generally, lack of public censure and lack of accountability all combine to increase the already critical level of violence against the protected population” (ibid., para. 1440).
24. “The Mission notes the very high number of Palestinians who have been detained since the beginning of the occupation (amounting to 40 percent of the adult male population ...) according to a practice that appears to aim at exercising control, humiliating, instilling fear, deterring political activity and serving political interests” (ibid., para. 1503).
25. “The Mission is ... concerned by the reports of coercion and torture during interrogations, trials based on coerced confessions or secret evidence, and the reportedly systematic and institutionalized illtreatment in prisons. The Mission is particularly alarmed at the arrest and detention of hundreds of young children, and the rise in child detention during and following the Israeli military operations in Gaza. The ill-treatment of children and adults described to the Mission is disturbing in its seemingly deliberate cruelty” (ibid., paras. 1504–5).
26. Ibid., paras. 1535–37. The Mission explicitly stated that it “considers East Jerusalem part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories” (ibid., p. 369n1062).
27. Ibid., para. 1546.
28. “The extensive destruction and appropriation of property, including land confiscation and house demolitions in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly, amounts to a grave breach ... of the Fourth Geneva Convention” (ibid., para. 1946).
29. “Insofar as movement and access restrictions, the settlements and their infrastructure, demographic policies vis-à-vis Jerusalem and ‘Area C’ of the West Bank, as well as the separation of Gaza from the West Bank, prevent a viable, contiguous and sovereign Palestinian State from arising, they are in violation of the jus cogens right to selfdetermination” (ibid., para. 1947).
30. Ibid., para. 1876.
31. Ibid., paras. 127, 1857, 1975.
32. Ibid., para. 1969.
33. Ibid., paras. 128, 1873, 1971(b).
34. Ibid., paras. 1971–74. The Report explicitly called on Israel to “release Palestinians who are detained in Israeli prisons in connection with the occupation.”
35. Amira Hass, “The One Thing Worse Than Denying the Gaza Report,” Haaretz (17 September 2009), Gideon Levy, “Disgrace in the Hague,” Haaretz (17 September 2009), Gideon Levy, “ Goldstone’s Gaza Probe Did Israel a Favor,” Haaretz (1 October 2009), Yitzhak Laor, “The National Choir,” Haaretz (22 September 2009), Yitzhak Laor, “Turning Off the Lights,” Haaretz (7 October 2009), Zeev Sternhell, “A Permanent Moral Stain,” Haaretz (25 September 2009), Larry Derfner, “A Wake-up Call from Judge Goldstone,” Jerusalem Post (16 September 2009), Larry Derfner, “Our Exclusive Right to Self-Defense,” Jerusalem Post (7 October 2009), Larry Derfner, “Some Victims We Are,” Jerusalem Post (28 October 2009). Both the head of the dovish Meretz party and Haaretz editorials called on the Israeli government to set up a commission of inquiry. Gil Hoffman and Haviv Rettig Gur, “Oron Calls for Israeli Cast Lead Probe,” Jerusalem Post (18 September 2009), “A Committee of Inquiry is Needed,” Haaretz (18 September 2009), “Only an External Probe Will Do,” Haaretz (3 October 2009), “Israel’s Whitewash,” Haaretz (28 January 2010).
36. “Statement by President Shimon Peres: ‘ Goldstone Mission Report is a mockery of history,’” (16 September 2009;; Shuki Sadeh, “ Peres: Goldstone is a small man out to hurt Israel,” Haaretz (12 November 2009).
37. Barak Ravid and Natasha Mozgovaya, “Netanyahu Calls U.N. Gaza Probe a ‘Kangaroo Court’ Against Israel,” Haaretz (16 September 2009).
38. “Rights Council to Debate Gaza War,” (15 October 2009;; Barak Ravid, “Israel Slams Goldstone ‘Misrepresentations’ of Internal Probes into Gaza War,” Haaretz (7 February 2010).
39. Barak Ravid, “Israel Prepares to Fight War Crimes Trials after Goldstone Gaza Report,” Haaretz (20 October 2009); Barak Ravid, “Israel to Set Up Team to Review Gaza War Probe,” Haaretz (26 October 2009). Zeev Sternhell, “With a Conscience That Is Always Clear,” Haaretz (30 October 2009). Reacting to Netanyahu’s proposal Goldstone observed that “It seems to me to contain an implicit acceptance that they broke the law that now is, and that’s why it needs to be changed” (Moyers, Journal).
40. Rebecca Anna Stoil and Tovah Lazaroff, “EU to Debate Goldstone Report,” Jerusalem Post (24 February 2010).
41. “ Dershowitz: Goldstone is a traitor,” Jerusalem Post (31 January 2010).
42. Hoffman and Gur, “Oron Calls”; Donald Macintyre, “Israelis Hit Back at U.N. Report Alleging War Crimes in Gaza,” Independent (17 September 2009); Ravid and Mozgovaya, “Netanyahu Calls.”
43. Shalhevet Zohar, “ Peres: Goldstone report mocks history,” Jerusalem Post (16 September 2009); Dore Gold, “The Dangerous Bias of the United Nations Goldstone Report,” U.S. News & World Report (24 March 2010).
44. Michael Oren, “U.N. Report a Victory for Terror,” Boston Globe (24 September 2009); Michael Oren, “Address to AJC” (28 April 2010;; Michael B. Oren, “Deep Denial: Why the Holocaust still matters,” New Republic (6 October 2009). For critical analysis of Oren’s scholarship, see Norman G. Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (New York: 1995; expanded second paperback edition, 2003), pp. 184-98.
45. Gideon Levy, “Israel’s Attacks Will Lead to Its Isolation,” Haaretz (22 October 2009).
46. “We’ll Defend Ourselves by Any Means,” Jerusalem Post (21 September 2009); Yaakov Katz, “Security and Defense: Waging war on the legal front,” Jerusalem Post (18 September 2009); Amos Harel, “IDF: UN Gaza report biased, radical and groundless,” Haaretz (20 September 2009).
47. “Goldstoned,” Jerusalem Post (16 September 2009); “The ‘Goldstoning’ of Israel,” Jerusalem Post (2 February 2010); David Landau, “The Gaza Report’s Wasted Opportunity,” New York Times (20 September 2009).
48. Israel Harel, “Venom and Destruction,” Haaretz (18 September 2009); Israel Harel, “Don’t Establish an Investigative Panel,” Haaretz (1 October 2009); Jack Khoury, “ Goldstone Tells Obama: Show me flaws in Gaza report,” Haaretz (22 October 2009).
49. Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, Antisemitism Worldwide 2009 (2010;, pp. 29, 37, 39.
50. Gerald Steinberg, “From Dreyfus to Goldstone,” Canadian Jewish News (19 November 2009).
51. “Israel’s Jewish Public: Goldstone report biased against IDF,” (18 October 2009;
52. Asher Arian et al., Auditing Israeli Democracy: Democratic values in practice (Jerusalem: 2010), pp. 88, 133, 173.
53. Yehezkel Dror, “Why Israel Should Have Cooperated with Goldstone on Gaza,” Haaretz (21 September 2009).
54. Uri Avnery, “UM-Shmum, UM-Boom,” Gush Shalom (19 September 2009; Maya Sela, “Amos Oz: Hamas responsible for outbreak of Gaza violence,” Haaretz (30 December 2008); David Grossman, “Is Israel Too Imprisoned in the Familiar Ceremony of War?,” Haaretz (30 December 2008).
55. Max Boot, “The Goldstone Report,” Commentary blog (“Contentions”) (16 September 2009;; John Bolton, “Israel, the U.S. and the Goldstone Report,” Wall Street Journal (20 October 2009).
56. “ Wiesel: If Ahmadinejad were assassinated, I wouldn’t shed a tear,” Haaretz (9 February 2010), “I Wouldn’t Cry If He Was Killed,” Jerusalem Post (9 February 2010).
57. Alan M. Dershowitz, “ Goldstone Investigation Undercuts Human Rights,” Jerusalem Post blog (“Double Standard Watch”) (17 September 2009;; Alan Dershowitz, “Goldstone Criticizes UN Council on Human Rights,” Huffington Post (22 October 2009;; Alan M. Dershowitz, “ Goldstone Backs Away from Report: The two faces of an international poseur,” Jerusalem Post blog (“Double Standard Watch”) (15 October 2009;; “ Dershowitz: Goldstone is a traitor,” Jerusalem Post; Josh Nathan-Kazis, “Dershowitz Explains Critical Goldstone Remark,” Forward (3 February 2010); Tehiya Barak, “Judge Goldstone’s Dark Past,” (6 May 2010;
58. Alan Dershowitz, The Case against the Goldstone Report: A study in evidentiary bias (
59. Bernard-Henri Lévy, “It’s Time to Stop Demonizing Israel,” Haaretz (8 June 2010); Joshua Muravchik, “ Goldstone: An exegesis,” World Affairs (May/June 2010). Muravchik also made the astonishing claim that Goldstone never asked witnesses to Israeli attacks “whether a Palestinian gunman was nearby.” In fact every account of an Israeli attack in the Goldstone Report includes testimony bearing on the presence of Palestinian fighters in the vicinity. See also Jeffrey Goldberg, “J Street, Down the Rabbit Hole,” Atlantic blog (30 September 2010), falsely alleging that “ Goldstone’s work [was] heavily reliant on Hamas for uncorroborated information.”
60. Moyers, Journal.
61. Eric Fingerhut, “AIPAC Condemns Goldstone Report,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency (17 September 2009;
62. American Jewish Committee, “Letter to Secretary Clinton Urges Condemnation of Goldstone Report” (23 September 2009; http://tinyurl .com/ya4bqqz).
63. “Rice: ‘Serious concerns’ about the Goldstone Report,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency (17 September 2009;
64. Nathan Guttman, “Israel, U.S. Working to Limit Damage of Goldstone Report,” Haaretz (27 September 2009).
65. Laura Rozen, “State on Goldstone Report: ‘Deeply concerned,’” Politico (18 September 2009;; Barak Ravid and Shlomo Shamir, “PA Pushing for UN to Act on Goldstone ‘War Crime’ Findings,” Haaretz (1 October 2009); Shlomo Shamir, “U.N. Human Rights Chief Endorses Goldstone Gaza Report,” Haaretz (23 October 2009).
66. U.S. Department of State, 2009 Human Rights Report (http://tinyurl. com/yhddnjt).
67. House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, “Ackerman Blasts Goldstone Report as ‘Pompous, Tendentious, One-sided Political Diatribe’” (16 September 2009;
68. Khoury, “ Goldstone Tells Obama”; “Goldstone Dares US on Gaza Report,” (22 October 2009;; Human Rights Watch, “U.N.: U.S., E.U. Undermine Justice for Gaza Conflict” (1 October 2009).
69. “H. RES. 867, 111th Congress” (23 October 2009;; Natasha Mozgovaya and Barak Ravid, “U.S. House Backs resolution to Condemn Goldstone Gaza Report,” Haaretz (5 November 2009); Nima Shirazi, “ Goldstonewalled! U.S. Congress endorses Israeli war crimes,” MRzine (12 November 2009;
70. “ Goldstone Sends Letter to Berman, Ros-Lehtinen Correcting Factual Errors in HR 867, Which Opposes UN Fact Finding Report on Gaza,” (29 October 2009; After Goldstone submitted his rebuttal, one of the resolution’s sponsors entered some cosmetic revisions in it. Spencer Ackerman, “Berman Puts New Language into Anti-Goldstone Resolution,” (3 November 2009; J Street called for a “better, balanced resolution” than the House draft , but one that still would “urge the United States to make clear that it will use its veto to prevent any referral of this matter to the International Criminal Court.” “J Street Position on H.Res. 867” (30 October 2009;
71. An administration official initially stated in private that the U.S. would block U.N. action on the report, but the White House subsequently repudiated the statement. “U.S. Pledges to Quash Goldstone Recommendations,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency (22 September 2009); “White House: Official ‘misspoke’ on Goldstone report,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency (23 September 2009); Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, “Israel Demands PA Drop War Crimes Suit at The Hague,” Haaretz (27 September 2009).
72. Howard Schneider and Colum Mynch, “U.N. Panel Defers Vote on Gaza Report,” Washington Post (3 October 2009), Amira Hass, “PA Move to Thwart Goldstone Gaza Report Shocks Palestinian Public,” Haaretz (4 October 2009).
73. “The Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Including East Jerusalem” (A/HRC/RES/S-12/1) (16 October 2009). It was gleefully reported by many of Goldstone’s critics that he disapproved of the resolution. The allegation was a half truth and a whole lie: Goldstone disapproved of the first draft version but it was modified after he expressed reservations and he approved of the final version that was voted on (Moyers, Journal).
74. United Nations General Assembly, “Follow-up to the Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict” (A/64/L. 11) (2 November 2009). Shlomo Shamir, “U.N. General Assembly Adopts Goldstone Report,” Haaretz (6 November 2009).
75. Shlomo Shamir, “Israel: U.N. ‘detached from reality’ for adopting Goldstone report,” Haaretz (6 November 2009); “FM: UNGA vote shows Israel has moral majority,” Jerusalem Post (6 November 2009).
76. United Nations General Assembly, Follow-up to the Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict: Report of the Secretary-General (A/64/651; 4 February 2010).
77. United Nations General Assembly, “Follow-up to the Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (II)” (A/64/L.48; 23 February 2010). The low vote count was probably due to a snowstorm that day.
78. “European Parliament Resolution of 10 March 2010 on Implementation of the Goldstone Recommendations on Israel/Palestine” (P7_TAPROV(2010)0054); Leigh Phillips, “Despite Heavy Lobbying, EU Parliament Endorses Goldstone Report,” (10 March 2010;; “EU Parliament Backs Goldstone Report,” Jerusalem Post (10 March 2010).
79. State of Israel, Gaza Operation Investigations: An update (January 2010); State of Israel, Gaza Operation Investigations: Second update (July 2010). To boost the credibility of Israeli investigations, the January 2010 “update” noted that during the second intifada “there were 1,467 criminal investigations into alleged misconduct by IDF soldiers, leading to 140 indictments against soldiers for alleged crimes committed against the Palestinian population. Of these indictments, as of December 2008, 103 defendants were convicted and ten cases are still pending” (para. 68). It omitted mention, however, that although thousands of Palestinian civilians not involved in combat were killed during the second intifada, only five Israeli soldiers were held criminally liable for only four of these civilian deaths and not a single Israeli soldier was convicted on a murder or manslaughter charge for the death of a Palestinian civilian; they were all convicted for “offenses of negligence.” Yesh Din, Exceptions: Prosecution of IDF soldiers during and after the second intifada (Tel Aviv: September 2008), pp. 19-20. A complementary study looked at the prosecution of Israeli settlers for criminal activity against Palestinians. It found that “at least 522 separate incidents of violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians were reported in 2005.” In two of these incidents, five Palestinians were killed, and in 89 of them one or more Palestinians were injured. Nonetheless, more than 90 percent of all the files, and 79 percent of the assault files, in which the investigation was completed were “closed without indictments being submitted.” Yesh Din, A Semblance of Law: Law enforcement upon Israeli civilians in the West Bank (Tel Aviv: June 2006), pp. 6, 26, 91-93. Another study found that in the decade following the outbreak of the first intifada (1987-1997) 1,318 Palestinians were killed, yet only 19 Israeli soldiers were convicted of homicide, and that for the period 2006-9 “a soldier who kills a Palestinian not taking part in hostilities is almost never brought to justice for his act.” B’Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), Void of Responsibility: Israel military policy not to investigate killings of Palestinians by soldiers (Jerusalem: September 2010), pp. 7-8, 53.
80. Gaza Operation Investigations: An update, paras. 100, 108, 137; Gaza Operation Investigations: Second update, paras. 10, 11, 37, 46, 60, 73, 74, 94, 102.
81. Amos Harel, “MESS Report: Gaza war probes are changing Israel’s defiant ways,” Haaretz (22 July 2010).
82. Gaza Operation Investigations: Second update, para. 105.
83. Ibid., paras. 150-56.
84. After the initial update Haaretz editorialized that the Israeli investigations were “not persuasive that enough has been done to reach the truth,” but in a subsequent editorial Haaretz validated the second round of investigations and implied that it was time to close the book on the Goldstone Report. “Israel Is Being Evasive Again,” Haaretz (1 February 2010); “Thanks to the Critics,” Haaretz (27 July 2010). Both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch wholly dismissed the first round of investigations, while HRW stated after the second update that although “some results” had been achieved the Israeli investigations still “fall far short of addressing the widespread and serious allegations of unlawful conduct during the fighting.” Amnesty International, “Latest Israeli Response to Gaza Investigations Totally Inadequate” (2 February 2010); Human Rights Watch, “Military Investigations Fail Gaza War Victims” (7 February 2010); Human Rights Watch, “Wartime Inquiries Fall Short” (10 August 2010).
85. UN News Service, “UN Rights Chief Unveils Members of Independent Probe into Gaza Conflict” (14 June 2010).
86. Report of the Committee of Independent Experts in International Humanitarian and Human Rights Laws to Monitor and Assess Any Domestic, Legal or Other Proceedings Undertaken by Both the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Side, in the Light of General Assembly Resolution 64/254, Including the Independence, Effectiveness, Genuineness of These Investigations and Their Conformity with International Standards (21 September 2010). The Israel lobby defamed the eminent German jurist who chaired the committee, eventually forcing his resignation. Benjamin Weinthal and Jonny Paul, “ Dershowitz: Goldstone followup commission head a ‘bigot,’” Jerusalem Post (2 November 2010); Benjamin Weinthal, “Tomuschat, Head of Goldstone Follow-up Committee, Resigns,” Jerusalem Post (3 December 2010).
87. Report of the Committee, paras. 42, 55.
88. Ibid., para. 101.
89. Ibid., paras. 40, 83. The committee reported that Israel convicted one soldier for the crime of looting, while a Hamas submission gave “examples of criminal proceedings ... , including a case where a number of defendants were convicted and imprisoned.”
90. Amnesty International, “Time for International Justice Solution for Gaza Conflict Victims” (23 September 2010).
91. Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat from the Gaza Strip: The main findings of the Goldstone Report versus the factual findings (March 2010).
92. Ibid., p. 69.
93. Ibid., pp. IV, 8, 73, 80. Whereas a prior publication of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center had reported that Hamas was “careful to maintain the ceasefire,” and sought to “enforce the terms of the arrangement on the other terrorist organizations” (see Chapter 2), in this document it is alleged that the ceasefire was “systematically and repeatedly violated by Hamas,” and Hamas “made no effective effort to impose the lull” on the other “terrorist organizations.” Still, its own graphs showed that just one rocket and one mortar were fired at Israel in October 2008 and it did concede that “the first five months of the lull were relatively quiet” (ibid., pp. 74, 79).
94. Ibid., p. IV.
95. Ibid., pp. 3, 35 (cf. Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 1345-72).
96. Ibid., pp. 95, 97 (cf. Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 1604-6, 1610-36, 1647-74, 1682-91; the Report stated that “the impact on [Israeli] communities is greater than the numbers of fatalities and injuries actually sustained” (para. 1647)).
97. Ibid., pp. VIII, 57 (cf. Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 1687-91). The document faulted the Goldstone Report for referring to “Palestinian armed groups” instead of explicitly implicating Hamas, but the Report reciprocally referred to “Israeli armed forces.”
98. Ibid., p. 120 (cf. Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 475-98).
99. Ibid., pp. 315, 321-22 (cf. Goldstone Mission Report, paras. 352-63). The document also indulged the baseless speculation that Palestinian families seeking “financial compensation” might have reported deaths from “natural causes” as invasion-related (ibid., p. 322).
100. Ibid., p. 318 (cf. Goldstone Mission Report, para. 144: whereas Israel refused to cooperate with the Goldstone Mission, “senior members of the Gaza authorities ... extended their full cooperation and support to the Mission”).
101. Ibid., p. 196.
102. Hoffman and Gur, “Oron Calls”; Eitan Haber, “In Wake of Goldstone Report, Israel Must Launch Battle for Its Image,” (17 September 2009;
103. Richard Falk, “The Goldstone Report: Ordinary text, extraordinary event,” Global Governance 16 (2010), p. 173. A member of the Goldstone Mission noted “some 300” human rights investigations on the Gaza attack, which were “remarkable in the unanimity of their findings against the IDF actions” (Desmond Travers, “Operation Cast Lead: Legal and doctrinal asymmetries in a military operation,” Irish Defense Forces, Cosantoir Review (2010), p. 10). Some critics alleged that the Goldstone Report was more “vicious” than the human rights reports that preceded it (see Ethan Bronner, “Israel Poised to Challenge a U.N. Report on Gaza,” New York Times (23 January 2010)), but the contention lacked credibility. In fact the Goldstone Report was in crucial respects the most cautious and conservative of the human rights reports on Gaza: whereas HRW explicitly denoted Israel’s use of white phosphorus in civilian areas a “war crime,” the Goldstone Report did not; whereas the Dugard Committee Report concluded that “individual soldiers” might have been guilty of genocide, the Goldstone Report did not; and whereas Amnesty recommended a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel (and Hamas), the Goldstone Report did not.
104. Moyers, Journal; “Will Goldstone’s Gaza Report Prove Him Just a Naive Idealist?,” Haaretz (23 September 2009); “‘My Father is a Zionist, Loves Israel,’” Jerusalem Post (16 September 2009); “Goldstone’s Daughter: My father’s participation softened U.N. Gaza report,” Haaretz (16 September 2009); “Tikkun Interview with Judge Richard Goldstone” (1 October 2009;
105. Anshel Pfeffer, “ Goldstone: Holocaust shaped view on war crimes,” Haaretz (18 September 2009).
106. Levy, “Disgrace.”
107. Guttman, “Israel, U.S. Working”; Yaakov Katz, “Mandelblit: Israel Right Not to Cooperate with Goldstone,” Jerusalem Post (16 September 2009); Herb Keinon and Tovah Lazaroff, “‘UNHRC Vote May Affect Moscow Parley,’” Jerusalem Post (19 October 2009); Roni Sofer, “Minister Edelstein: Goldstone report anti-Semitic,” (25 January 2010;; “U.K. Officer Slams ‘Pavlovian’ Criticism of IDF after Gaza War,” Haaretz (22 February 2010).
108. Amir Mizroch, “Analysis: Grappling with Goldstone,” Jerusalem Post (18 September 2009); Amir Mizroch, “What South African Jews Think of Richard Goldstone,” Jerusalem Post (1 October 2009); R. W. Johnson, “Who is Richard Goldstone?,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (20 October 2009;; Ashley Rindsberg, “U.N.’s Goldstone Sent 13-Year-Old Boy to Prison for Protesting Apartheid,” Huffington Post (19 November 2009;; Dershowitz, “ Goldstone Investigation.” It must nonetheless be said that in interviews and statements after the report was published Goldstone seemingly backpedaled from its more damning conclusions and downplayed the extent of Israeli crimes; see, e.g., Richard Goldstone, “Justice in Gaza,” New York Times (17 September 2009), Richard Goldstone, “Who’s Being Unfair?,” Jerusalem Post (21 September 2009), Gal Beckerman, “ Goldstone: ‘If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven,’” Forward (16 October 2009), “Tikkun Interview with Judge Richard Goldstone.”
109. Harold Evans, “A Moral Atrocity,” Guardian (20 October 2009).
110. Moyers, Journal.
111. Aluf Benn, “In Wake of U.N. Gaza Probe, How Can Israel Go to War Again?,” Haaretz (16 September 2009); Ari Shavit, “Watch Out for the Goldstoners,” Haaretz (8 October 2009). See also Gideon Levy, “ Peres, Not Goldstone, Is the Small Man,” Haaretz (15 November 2009), and The Reut Institute, Building a Political Firewall against Israel’s Delegitimization (Tel Aviv: March 2010), paras. 40, 106.
112. “PM: Israel faces the ‘Goldstone threat,’” Jerusalem Post (23 December 2009).
113. Barak Ravid and Anshel Pfeffer, “Israel Seeks Obama Backing on Gaza Probe,” Haaretz (26 September 2009).
114. Yotam Feldman, “ICC May Try IDF Officer in Wake of Goldstone Gaza Report,” Haaretz (24 September 2009); Raphael Ahren, “Israeli Soldiers from South Africa Feel Heat of Prosecution Drive in Old Country,” Haaretz (22 November 2009).
115. “Livni reportedly cancels U.K. visit, fearing arrest,” Haaretz (16 December 2009); Danna Harman, “Belgian Lawyers to Charge Barak and Livni for War Crimes,” Haaretz (23 June 2010).
116. Assaf Gefen, “Are We Hiding Something?,” (8 February 2010;
117. Larry Derfner, “Yasher Koah, Judge Goldstone,” Jerusalem Post (22 April 2010).
118. “Opening Statement by Avrom Krengel, Chairman of the SAfr Zionist Fed, delivered at meeting with Judge Richard Goldstone” (4 May 2010;
119. Goldstone Mission Report, para. 1973(b). Ironically, Israel itself criticized the Goldstone Report for asserting that Shalit should be classified a POW (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat, p. 66n49).
120. Tom Gross, “ Goldstone’s Death Sentences for Blacks: Just following orders,” Mideast Dispatch Archive (10 May 2010). M. J. Rosenberg, “The ‘Get Goldstone’ Campaign,” MEDIAMATTERS Action Network (10 May 2010).
121. Alan Dershowitz, “Legitimating Bigotry: The legacy of Richard Goldstone,” Hudson New York (7 May 2010;; see also Ilan Evyatar and David Horowitz, “‘We Are Not Done With Goldstone,’” Jerusalem Post (21 May 2010), where Dershowitz labels him an “opportunist” reminiscent of “Nazi war criminals.... Many of them served as judges.”
122. Sasha Polakow-Suransky, “Gold Stones, Glass Houses,” Foreign Policy (10 May 2010).
123. Sasha Polakow-Suransky, The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s secret relationship with apartheid South Africa (New York: 2010), pp. 80, 92. While sanctimoniously denouncing apartheid in public, Peres forged and then nurtured at critical junctures the Israeli alliance with South Africa, and both he and Rabin supported this collaboration right through the last years of the apartheid regime.
124. Abe Selig, “ Goldstone Stripped of Honorary Hebrew U Governorship,” Jerusalem Post (5 June 2010).
125. E. B. Solomont, “Attorney Seeks to Bar Goldstone from U.S.,” Jerusalem Post (14 May 2010).
126. Goldstone Mission Report, para. 1193. The caveat in the accompanying footnote also merits quotation: “The reference to relatively focused operations here should not be misunderstood as an indication that all such actions were acceptable in terms of distinction and proportionality. It is merely a comparative reference.”
127. The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, Annual Assessment 2008 (Jerusalem: 2008), p. 33. For recent data testifying to the liberalism of American Jews assembled by a hostile critic, see Norman Podhoretz, Why Are Jews Liberals? (New York: 2009), pp. 252–68. Fully 78 percent of the Jewish vote went for Barack Obama, 25 points higher than what he scored among the electorate as a whole (53 percent), 35 points higher than what he scored among white voters (43 percent), 33 points higher than what he scored among Protestant voters (45 percent), 24 points higher than what he scored among Catholic voters (54 percent), and even 11 points higher than what he scored among Hispanic voters (67 percent); only African-Americans voted for Obama as a group in larger numbers than Jews (95 percent).
128. Daniel Levy, “Israel Must Now Heal Itself,” Guardian (18 September 2009).
129. Roane Carey, “The Goldstone Report on Gaza,” Nation blog (“The Notion”) (25 September 2009; An occasional word critical of Israel and supportive of Goldstone could however be found; see, e.g., James Carroll, “A Time of Reckoning,” Boston Globe (21 September 2009). (Although not Jewish himself Carroll often writes on Jewish themes from a philo-Semitic perspective.)
130. Rabbi Brant Rosen, “ Alan Dershowitz and the Politics of Desperation,” Huffington Post (28 May 2010;
131. Benn, “In Wake of U.N. Gaza Probe.”
132. Amos Harel, “IDF vs. Goldstone: PR ‘commando’ explains war against Hamas to Americans,” Haaretz (13 November 2009).
133. Antony Lerman, “Judge Goldstone and the Pollution of Argument,” Guardian (15 September 2009).
134. Among others, left-wing Israeli lawyers Felicia Langer and Lea Tsemel and Hebrew University chemistry professor Israel Shahak.
135. Amnesty International, Combating Torture (London: 2003), section 2.2. Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A history of the Zionist-Arab conflict, 1881–2001 (New York: 2001), pp. 341–43, 568, 587, 600–1; Tom Segev, 1967: Israel, the war, and the year that transformed the Middle East (New York: 2007), pp. 475, 517.
136. In its 1979 “Report and Recommendations ... to the Government of the State of Israel” (London: September 1980) Amnesty merely stated that “there is sufficient prima facie evidence of ill-treatment of security suspects in the Occupied Territories ... to warrant the establishment of a public inquiry,” while in its influential study Torture in the Eighties (London: 1984), Amnesty cautiously signaled having “continued to receive reports of ill-treatment” in Israeli prisons of “some Palestinians from the Occupied Territories arrested for security reasons” (pp. 233–34).
137. Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history (Berkeley: 2005; expanded paperback edition, 2008), pp. 144ff.
138. Chris McGreal, “Israel ‘Personally Attacking Human Rights Group’ after Gaza War Criticism,” Guardian (13 November 2009).
139. Adam Horowitz and Philip Weiss, “Israel vs. Human Rights,” Nation (30 September 2009).
140. Joshua Mitnick, “Rights Groups under Fire for Scrutiny of Israel’s Conduct of Gaza War,” Christian Science Monitor (3 February 2010). Dan Izenberg, “Cabinet Backs Bill to Register NGOs Funded by Foreign States,” Jerusalem Post (15 February 2010); Donald Macintyre, “The New McCarthyism Sweeping Israel,” Independent (13 February 2010); Abe Selig, “‘Goldstone Report Was Our Smoking Gun,’” Jerusalem Post (18 February 2010).
141. Asher Arian et al., Auditing Israeli Democracy: Democratic values in practice (Jerusalem: 2010), p. 128; Nathan Jeffrey, “Kadima Bill: NGOs that assist in war crime accusations should be illegal,” Forward (12 May 2010). But compare the Israel Democracy Institute survey finding that “a solid majority (66%) of the general public in Israel oppose the statement that there should be a law to shut down media that criticize government policy too harshly” (p. 151).
142. B’Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), Human Rights Review, 1 January 2009-30 April 2010 (June 2010), pp. 5-7, 11-12. See also the disingenuous statements by B’Tselem executive director Jessica Montell quoted in the endnotes to Chapters 3 and 4.
143. Barbara Plett, “Legal Row over Gaza Report Intensifies,” BBC News (6 November 2009).
144. Gerald Steinberg, “Isolating Israel through Language of Human Rights,” Jerusalem Post (30 August 2009); Shavit, “Watch Out for the Goldstoners.”
145. 27 April 2010 (
146. 11 March 2010 (
147. Peter Berkowitz, “The Goldstone Report and International Law,” Policy Review (August/September 2010).
148. “NGO Monitor’s International Advisory Board Call for Review of HRW,” (14 October 2009;; “ Wiesel, Dershowitz: Human Rights Watch Reform Needed,” (29 September 2009;; NGO Monitor, Experts or Ideologues? A systematic analysis of Human Rights Watch’s focus on Israel (Jerusalem: September 2009).
149. McGreal, “Israel ‘Personally Attacking.’” For the targeting of Israelibased human rights organizations, see NGO Monitor/Institute for Zionist Strategies, Trojan Horse: The impact of European government funding for Israeli NGOs (Jerusalem: November 2009).
150. Robert L. Bernstein, “Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast,” New York Times (20 October 2009). For Human Rights Watch’s reply, see Kenneth Roth, “Human Rights Watch Applies Same Standards to Israel, Hamas,” Haaretz (27 October 2009); see also Scott MacLeod, “Bashing Human Rights Watch,” Los Angeles Times (30 October 2009). For Kemp, see Chapter 4.
151. Benjamin Birnbaum, “Human Rights Watch Fights A Civil War over Israel,” New Republic (27 April 2010).
152. Human Rights Watch, World Report 2010 (New York: 2010), p. 511.
153. Human Rights Watch, “Jordan: Restaurant owner ousts Israelis” (7 December 2010).
154. Mahatma Gandhi, The Essential Writings, edited and with an introduction and notes by Judith M. Brown (Oxford: 2008), p. 349.
155. “Speech at Delhi Provincial Political Conference” (2 July 1947), Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, v. 88, p. 263.

1. “The Rubble That Was Gaza,” World Food Program News (25 January 2009; See also European Commission, Damage Assessment and Needs Identification in the Gaza Strip, Final Report (March 2009), pp. xv, 93.
2. Desmond Travers, “Operation Cast Lead: Legal and doctrinal asymmetries in a military operation,” Irish Defense Forces, Cosantoir Review (2010), pp. 10-12.
3. Oxfam, “Gaza Weekly Update” (30 May-5 June 2010); Human Rights Watch, “Israel: Full, impartial investigation of flotilla killings essential” (31 May 2010); World Health Organization, “Medical Supplies Blocked from Entering Gaza” (1 June 2010); International Committee of the Red Cross, “Gaza Closure: Not another year!” (14 June 2010).
4. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Statement by Prime Minister Netanyahu: ‘No love boat’” (2 June 2010); Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “PM Netanyahu’s Statement before the Turkel Commission” (9 August 2010).
5. Bernard-Henri Lévy, “It’s Time to Stop Demonizing Israel,” Haaretz (8 June 2010). See also Gideon Levy, “In Response to Bernard-Henri Lévy,” Haaretz (10 June 2010).
6. Danny Ayalon, “The Flotilla Farce,” Wall Street Journal (29 July 2010).
7. Tom Gross, “A Nice New Shopping Mall Opened Today in Gaza: Will the media report on it?,” Mideast Dispatch Archive (17 July 2010;
8. Sara Roy, “Gaza: Treading on shards,” Nation (1 March 2010).
9. Bernard Goldstein, Five Years in the Warsaw Ghetto (Edinburgh: 2005), pp. 77-78.
10. See Chapter 2.
11. See Chapter 4. Notes for page 162 291
12. The salient legal points are these: (1) In its July 2004 advisory opinion, the International Court of Justice stated that, “as regards the principle of the right of peoples to self-determination, the Court observes that the existence of a ‘Palestinian people’ is no longer in issue”; that the Palestinian people’s “rights include the right to self-determination”; and that “Israel is bound to comply with its obligation to respect the right of the Palestinian people to selfdetermination” (Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, paras. 118, 149); (2) The territory of the self-determination unit within which this right of the Palestinian people is to be exercised “clearly includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza” (John Dugard, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967 (21 January 2008; A/HRC/7/17), para. 49); (3) International law prohibits use of military force “by an administering power to suppress widespread popular insurrection in a self-determination unit,” while “the use of force by a non-State entity in exercise of a right of self-determination is legally neutral, that is, not regulated by international law at all,” and “assistance by States to local insurgents in a self-determination unit may be permissible” (James Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law, second edition (Oxford: 2006), pp. 135-37, 147). See also Heather A. Wilson, International Law and the Use of Force by National Liberation Movements (Oxford: 1988), pp. 135-36, concluding that the law “is still not agreed upon” as regards the right of national liberation movements to use force, although “the trend ... since 1960 ... has been toward the extension of the authority to use force to national liberation movements,” while “the use of force to deny the free exercise of a people’s right to selfdetermination is contrary to the principles of international law,” and A. Rigo Sureda, The Evolution of the Right to Self-Determination: A study of United Nations practice (Leiden: 1973), pp. 331, 343-44, 354, concluding that “since 1965, the General Assembly has ... started to call upon states to help dependent peoples to achieve self-determination with moral and material assistance,” and “The fact that the Security Council has never expressly condemned the guerrilla activities of the Palestinians can be interpreted as an implied recognition of their right to recover at least the territories from which they were displaced in the June 1967 hostilities, and to do so by the use of force if necessary”; (4) It might be argued that the applicable norms of belligerent occupation significantly differ in that “belligerent occupation is not designed to win the hearts and minds of the local inhabitants: it has military—or security—objectives and its foundation is the ‘power of the bayonet,’” and concomitantly that the civilian population in an occupied territory does not have the right to forcibly resist an occupying power (Yoram Dinstein, The International Law of Belligerent Occupation (Cambridge: 2009), paras. 80, 218). The Israel-Palestine conflict would appear however to be one of those “situations in which belligerent occupation and wars of national liberation overlap” (Wilson, International Law, p. 20), while the right of self-determination is a peremptory norm of international law from which no derogation is permissible (Crawford, Creation, pp. 99-102, Sureda, Evolution, p. 353; see also International Court of Justice, Legal Consequences, paras. 88, 156)—thereby limiting the ambit of the law of belligerent occupation, in particular its strictures on use of force, in hybrid situations.
13. Gideon Levy, “Operation Mini Cast Lead,” Haaretz (1 June 2010).
14. Arun Gupta, “How the U.S. Corporate Media Got the Israel Flotilla Catastrophe So Wrong,” AlterNet (16 June 2010).
15. Israeli vilification focused on Mavi Marmara passengers belonging to the sponsoring Turkish group Insani Yardim Vakfi(IHH), which was alleged to be a terrorist organization or accused of having close links with terrorist organizations. See Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Conspicuous among the Passengers and Organizations Aboard the Mavi Marmara Were Turkish and Arab Islamic Extremists Led by IHH (26 September 2010), paras. 2, 9, 11. But in the Israeli information packet distributed just before the commando assault, IHH was benignly described as “a Turkish pro-Palestinian human rights organization with a strong Muslim orientation ... which provides humanitarian relief into areas of war and conflict.” Military Strategic Information Section, International Military Cooperation Department, Strategic Division, Israel Defense Forces, “Free Gaza Flotilla” (27 May 2010).
16. Ronen Medzini, “ Peres: World always against us,” (3 June 2010;; Ahiya Raved, “ Peres: Soldiers were beaten for being humane,” (1 June 2010;
17. Giles Tremlett, “Gaza Flotilla Attack: Israeli ambassador to Madrid tries to play down deaths,” Guardian (4 June 2010).
18. Maayana Miskin, “Poll: Israelis support flotilla raid, Gaza blockade, PM and IDF,” Arutz Sheva (11 June 2010). See also the articles by Amira Hass, Neve Gordon and Ilan Pappé, in Moustafa Bayoumi, ed., Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: The attack on the Gaza freedom flotilla and how it changed the course of the Israel/Palestine conflict (New York: 2010).
19. Hana Levi Julian, “Medal for Israeli Commando for Valor on Mavi Marmara?,” Arutz Sheva (6 June 2010).
20. Adam Horowitz, “Internet Killed the Hasbara Star,” Mondoweiss (8 June 2010); Max Blumenthal, “The Israeli Media’s Flotilla Fail,” in Bayoumi, ed., Midnight, pp. 186-90.
21. Caroline Glick, “Ending Israel’s Losing Streak,” Jerusalem Post (1 June 2010).
22. Zvi Mazel, “Peace Activists? More Like ‘Peace’ Militants,” Jerusalem Post (1 June 2010); Hirsh Goodman, “The Source of Failure: Israel’s public diplomacy and the intelligence community,” Institute for National Security Studies (9 June 2010); Alex Fishman, “Israel Losing the War,” (20 June 2010;
23. The Reut Institute, The Gaza Flotilla: A collapse of Israel’s political firewall (August 2010), para. 27.
24. Danny Ayalon, “Public Relations Battle Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint,” Jerusalem Post (8 June 2010).
25. Antony Lerman, “Israeli PR Machine Won Gaza Flotilla Media Battle,” Guardian (4 June 2010).
26. The most authoritative legal analysis is a document prepared by an investigative mission mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council, Report of the International Fact-Finding Mission to Investigate Violations of International Law, Including International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law, Resulting from the Israeli Attacks on the Flotilla of Ships Carrying Humanitarian Assistance (27 September 2010). (Hereafter: Report of the Fact-Finding Mission) The mission was headed up by a retired Judge of the International Criminal Court and included the former Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone. It concluded that “the blockade was inflicting disproportionate damage upon the civilian population in the Gaza Strip and as such the interception could not be justified and therefore has to be considered illegal” (para. 53); “one of the principal motives behind the imposition of the blockade was a desire to punish the people of the Gaza Strip for having elected Hamas. The combination of this motive and the effect of the restrictions on the Gaza Strip leave no doubt that Israel’s actions and policies amount to collective punishment as defined by international law” (para. 54).
27. The passengers initially used water hoses to repel the assault, which the International Maritime Organization has “recommended as a means to prevent an attempted boarding by pirates and armed robbers” (Report of the Fact-Finding Mission, p. 25n68).
28. The most comprehensive collection and analysis of media accounts is Richard Lightbown’s unpublished manuscript, The Israeli Raid of the Freedom Flotilla 31 May 2010: A review of media sources (31 August 294 Notes for page 165 2010). For a Turkish reconstruction of what happened, see Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), Palestine Our Route, Humanitarian Aid Our Load: Flotilla campaign summary report (n.d.). See also Friends of Charities Association, Timeline & Inconsistencies Report Relating to the Gaza-Bound Freedom Flotilla Attack May 31, 2010 (Washington, D.C.: October 2010).
29. International Crisis Group, Turkey’s Crises over Israel and Iran (8 September 2010), p. 6; Ron Friedman, “IDF: Flotilla supplies unnecessary,” Jerusalem Post (2 June 2010); Report of the Fact-Finding Mission, paras. 55-58, 88-89, 109.
30. Uri Avnery, “A Crime Perpetrated by Order of the Government of Israel and the IDF Command,” Gush Shalom (31 May 2010).
31. Report of the Fact-Finding Mission, paras. 112-14. A semi-official Israeli publication did not dispute that “gas, stun, and smoke grenades were fired from the [Israeli] boats” immediately as they approached the Mavi Marmara, while a largely apologetic New York Times reconstruction conceded that “the crack of an Israeli sound grenade and a hail of rubber bullets from above were supposed to disperse activists” before the commandos hit the deck of the Mavi Marmara. Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Preparations Made by IHH for Confrontation with the IDF and the Violence Exercised by That Organization’s Operatives (15 September 2010), para. 11; Sabrina Tavernise and Ethan Bronner, “Days of Planning Led to Flotilla’s Hour of Chaos,” New York Times (4 June 2010).
32. One passenger on the Mavi Marmara had apparently been convicted and served prison time for his involvement in the 1996 hijacking of a Russian ferry boat. (The hijackers were demanding the release of Chechen prisoners.)
33. Hugh Pope, “Erdogan is Not the Bogeyman,” Haaretz (18 June 2010); International Crisis Group, Turkey’s Crises, p. 7; Report of the Fact-Finding Mission, para. 129. The passengers had to break into medical supplies earmarked for Gaza in order to treat the wounded.
34. “Is it really conceivable,” Henry Siegman rhetorically asked in Haaretz, “that Turkish activists who were supposedly paid ten thousand dollars each would bring that money with them on board the ship knowing they would be taken into custody by Israeli authorities?” (“Israel’s Greatest Loss: Its moral imagination,” Haaretz (11 June 2010)).
35. Report of the Fact-Finding Mission, paras. 101, 116, 165. Israel has not produced any evidence substantiating its claim that passengers fired live ammunition at the commandos, while its public statements on this point have been riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions (ibid., p. 26n70).
36. Ibid., paras. 125-26.
37. Robert Booth, “Gaza Flotilla Activists Were Shot in Head at Close Range,” Guardian (4 June 2010); Report of the Fact-Finding Mission, paras. 118, 120, 170. About 50 passengers suffered injuries. Israel reported nine commandos injured, three seriously.
38. Report of the Fact-Finding Mission, paras. 264-65 (cf. paras. 167-72). Another of its conclusions merits full quotation:
The Mission is not alone in finding that a deplorable situation exists in Gaza. It has been characterized as “unsustainable.” This is totally intolerable and unacceptable in the 21st century. It is amazing that anyone could characterize the condition of the people there as satisfying the most basic of acceptable standards. The parties and the international community are urged to find the solution that will address all legitimate security concern[s] of both Israel and the people of Palestine both of whom are equally entitled to “their place under the heavens.” The apparent dichotomy in this case between the competing right of security and the right to a decent living can only be resolved if old antagonisms are subordinated to a sense of justice and fair play. One has to find the strength to pluck from the memory rooted sorrows and to move on. (para. 275)
In a 29 September 2010 resolution (A/HRC/15/L.33) the U.N. Human Rights Council voted to “endorse the conclusions” contained in this report by a vote of 30 in favor, 1 against and 15 abstentions. Although the U.S. cast the sole negative vote, in its verbal explanation the American representative did not dispute the report’s findings (http:// I examine the official Israeli report on the Mavi Marmara in an appendix to this book.
39. “Netanyahu ‘Salutes’ Commandos Who Raided Gaza Flotilla,” Haaretz (26 October 2010).
40. Hanan Greenberg, “Dogs to Be Used in Next Flotilla Raid,” ynetnews com (7 October 2010;
41. Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, According to Well-Documented Information, Seven of the Nine Turks Killed in the Violent Confrontation Aboard the Mavi Marmara Had Previously Declared Their Desire to Become Martyr[s] (Shaheeds) (13 July 2010).
42. “Speech at Bulsar” (29 April 1930), in The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Ahmedabad), v. 43, pp. 327-28.
43. Jonathan Ferziger and Calev Ben-David, “Gaza Situation ‘Unsustainable,’ Clinton Says as Ship Approaches,” Bloomberg Businessweek (1 June 2010); United Nations Department of Public Information, “Security Council Condemns Acts Resulting in Civilian Deaths during Israeli Operation against Gaza-Bound Aid Convoy, Calls for Investigation, in Presidential Statement” (31 May 2010). See also Bernard Kouchner, Franco Frattini and Miguel Angel Moratinos, “Averting Another Gaza,” New York Times (10 June 2010), “EU Strongly Condemns Gaza Flotilla Attack,” (2 June 2010), and Yossi Lempkowicz, “Gaza Flotilla: EU Parliament calls for international inquiry and end to blockade,” European Jewish Press (17 June 2010).
44. International Crisis Group, “Flotilla Attack the Deadly Symptom of a Failed Policy” (31 May 2010).
45. Robert H. Serry (U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process), “Briefing to the Security Council on the Situation in the Middle East” (15 June 2010), citing a United Nations Development Program survey.
46. State of Israel, The Civilian Policy towards the Gaza Strip (June 2010), Appendix B; State of Israel, “Briefing: Israel’s new policy towards Gaza” (5 July 2010).
47. Gisha (Legal Center for Freedom of Movement), “Unraveling the Closure of Gaza” (7 July 2010).
48. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), The Humanitarian Monitor (July 2010), p. 8. For a comprehensive report on the history, current impact and legal ramifications of Israel’s closure policy in Gaza, see Palestinian Center for Human Rights, The Illegal Closure of the Gaza Strip: Collective punishment of the civilian population (December 2010).
49. Amnesty International et al., Dashed Hopes: Continuation of the Gaza blockade (30 November 2010). Israel dismissed the report as “biased and distorted” (Dan Izenberg, “Int’l Groups Say Israel Not Living Up to Gaza Promises,” Jerusalem Post (30 November 2010). See also Gisha (Legal Center for Freedom of Movement), “Facts behind MFA Report on ‘Easing’ of Gaza Closure” (20 September 2010). In late December 2010 Gisha reported that apart from “narrow exceptions” Israel “continued to ban the entrance of steel, gravel and cement to Gaza,” while “small limited export has begun in the past weeks” (“Reconstructing the Closure,” December 2010).
50. J CALL (European Jewish Call for Reason), “Call for Reason” (2 May 2010); “Unconditional Support for Israel ‘Is Dangerous,’ Say Leading European Jews,” Guardian (2 May 2010); Haviv Rettig Gur, “J Call Founder Denies Placing Onus on Israel Alone,” Jerusalem Post (4 May 2010).
51. Roland Schatz, “Israel Suffering from Poor Media Image: Image of Israel in international tv news,” Media Tenor International (9 July 2010).
52. BBC World Service, “Global Views of United States Improve While Other Countries Decline” (18 April 2010).
53. Uri Avnery, “A Flash of Lightning,” Gush Shalom (19 June 2010; http://
54. Secretary-General, Office of the Spokesperson, “Secretary-General’s Press Conference” (31 May 2010); “The Elders Condemn Israeli Attack on Gaza Relief Ships” (31 May 2010;
55. Hlengiwe Nhlabathi, “SA Recalls Ambassador to Israel,” Mail and Guardian (3 June 2010); “Ecuador Recalls Envoy; Chavez: Israel a Murderer,” (3 June 2010;
56. “South Korea Protesters Greet Peres with Cries of ‘Killer,’” Haaretz (10 June 2010); “Thousands Demonstrate across the World against Israel’s Gaza Flotilla Raid,” Haaretz (5 June 2010).
57. “40% of Norwegians: Ban Israeli products,” (2 June 2010;; “Norway Calls for Boycott on Arms to Israel,” Swedish Wire (1 June 2010).
58. “Thousands Demonstrate,” Haaretz; Danna Harman, “Thousands of Anti-Israel Protesters Take to Streets across Europe,” Haaretz (6 June 2010); Daniel Levy, “A Glimpse of the Future,” Haaretz (11 June 2010); Danna Harman, “Belgian Lawyers to Charge Barak and Livni for War Crimes,” Haaretz (23 June 2010).
59. Barak Ravid, “OECD Entrance Is ‘Seal of Approval,’ Netanyahu Says,” Haaretz (10 May 2010); Lamis Andoni, “The Myth of Israeli Morality,” (5 June 2010).
60. Attila Somfalvi, “Report: Holland’s sympathy for Israel in decline,” (18 May 2010;
61. Barak Ravid, “U.S. Support for Israel is Decreasing, New Poll Shows,” Haaretz (18 August 2010).
62. “Israel Is Lost at Sea,” Financial Times (31 May 2010). It also pertinently observed:
Hamas engages in terrorism and fires occasional rockets into Israel but it is an example of that rarest of Middle Eastern species: a popularly elected government. It has also signed up to the 2002 comprehensive peace offer by the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. If it is a bluff, it is one Israel has yet to call. That is what this is ultimately about. Israel’s government has been pretending it is ready to negotiate for peace, but that there is no one to negotiate with on the other side. The attack on the blockade-busters lays bare the country’s slide into contempt for international law, intolerance of dissent and willful sabotage of viable representation for Palestinians.
63. Jonny Paul, “UK’s Largest Union Calls for Israel Boycott,” Jerusalem Post (8 June 2010); Jonny Paul, “Britain’s Largest Academic Union Cuts Ties with Histadrut,” Jerusalem Post (2 June 2010).
64. Methodist Conference Agenda 2010, Justice for Palestine and Israel, Final Report (July 2010), p. 222, section 7.4.1. A parenthetical statement noted that “some Methodists would advocate a total boycott of Israeli goods until the Occupation ends.”
65. “‘Pixies’ Cancel Tel Aviv Show,” Jerusalem Post (6 June 2010); “Musicians Welcome Here,” Jerusalem Post (7 June 2010).
66. David Horowitz, “Editor’s Notes: Drift ing away from Israel,” Jerusalem Post (29 July 2010).
67. “‘Israel Feels More and More Isolated,’” Spiegel Online International (4 June 2010); Patrick Donovan, “ Merkel ‘Disconcerted’ over Deaths Aboard Aid Ship Off Gaza,” Bloomberg Businessweek (31 May 2010); “German Parliament Expected to Pass Motion Urging Israel to End Gaza Blockade,” Haaretz (1 July 2010); Benjamin Weinthal, “Germany Smacks Israel with Critical Resolution on Flotilla Raid,” Weekly Standard (6 July 2010).
68. Avnery, “Flash of Lightning.” Avnery excluded Germany from his generalization that “the sense of guilt has disappeared in all countries.” In fact, as the July 2010 Israel Project poll and others before it have shown, Germany is at most a partial exception to the rule (see Chapter 6).
69. Natasha Mozgovaya, “Obama: Jews’ outlook on the future should be a lesson to all Americans,” Haaretz (28 May 2010).
70. “ Obama Supports U.N. Call for Investigation of Flotilla Incident,” (1 June 2010).
71. United States Mission to the United Nations, “Remarks by Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, Deputy Permanent U.S. Representative to the United Nations, at an Emergency Session of the Security Council” (31 May 2010). Vice-President Joseph Biden defended the legitimacy of the commando raid on the grounds that Israel was ready to transfer the supplies to Gaza if the flotilla had unloaded them at an Israeli port. In a bizarre sequence of non-sequiturs Biden alternately asserted that Israel was blocking passage of supplies such as building materials and that the flotilla could have “easily brought” them in. Natasha Mozgovaya, “Biden: Israel right to stop Gaza flotilla from breaking blockade,” Haaretz (2 June 2010); Richard Adams, “Gaza Flotilla Raid: Joe Biden asks ‘So what’s the big deal here?,’” Guardian blog (2 June 2010).
72. “Bipartisan Group of 87 Senators, Led by Reid and McConnell, Send Letter to President Obama in Support of Israel’s Right to Self-Defense,” (23 June 2010; http://; Congress of the United States, House of Representatives, “Dear Mr. President” (29 June 2010; http://tinyurl .com/2b2td5e). See also “Congress Shows Israel Support,” Jerusalem Post (9 June 2010).
73. Nathan Guttman, “Push to Sanction Backers of Gaza Flotilla Gains Steam in U.S.,” Forward (16 June 2010).
74. “Chuck Schumer: ‘Strangle’ them economically,” Huffington Post (11 June 2010). See also Juan Cole, “Schumer’s Sippenhaftung,” Informed Comment blog (12 June 2010).
75. Jeremy W. Peters, “Reporter Retires after Words about Israel,” New York Times (7 June 2010).
76. Leslie H. Gelb, “Israel Was Right,” Daily Beast (31 May 2010).
77. “Israel and the Blockade,” New York Times (1 June 2010).
78. Roger Cohen, “The Forgotten American,” New York Times (26 July 2010). For earlier critical commentary of his, see Chapter 6.
79. Nicholas Kristof, “The Two Sides of a Barbed-Wire Fence,” New York Times (1 July 2010); Nicholas Kristof, “Burrowing through a Blockade,” New York Times (4 July 2010); Nicholas Kristof, “In Israel: The noble vs. the ugly,” New York Times (8 July 2010).
80. Philip Weiss, “‘Huff po’ Reflects Staggering Shift in Liberal American Discourse,” Mondoweiss (3 June 2010).
81. “U.S. General: Israeli-Palestinian conflict foments anti-U.S. sentiment,” Haaretz (17 March 2010).
82. Shimon Shiffer, “Biden: You’re jeopardizing regional peace,” Yediot Ahronot (11 March 2010).
83. See Chapter 3.
84. Anthony H. Cordesman, “Israel As a Strategic Liability?,” Center for Strategic and International Studies (2 June 2010).
85. Rebecca Anna Stoil, “Dagan: Israel less of a strategic asset for U.S.,” Jerusalem Post (1 June 2010).
86. “Poll: 49% of Americans blame pro-Palestinian activists for flotilla deaths,” Haaretz (8 June 2010).
87. “Hasbarapocalypse—Leaked Frank Luntz Memo: Israeli public diplomacy in US on Flotilla failed dismally,” Coteret (5 July 2010;
88. Ravid, “U.S. Support.”
89. “Evergreen State College Students Vote to Divest from Illegal Occupation of Palestine” (n.d.) (; Mike Elk, “Around the World, Dockworkers Blockade Israeli Ships,” In These Times (4 August 2010).
90. Presbyterian Church (USA), “Breaking Down the Walls—From the Middle East Study Committee” (n.d.; See N. H. Gordon, “The Missing ‘Plea for Justice,’” Counterpunch (16 July 2010) for criticism of the document’s limitations.
91. Theodore Sasson et al., Still Connected: American Jewish attitudes about Israel (August 2010), p. 20. See also Rebecca Anna Stoil, “US Jews Pro Obama, Oppose Concessions,” Jerusalem Post (18 April 2010).
92. Shlomo Avineri, “What’s Happening to Diaspora Jews?,” Haaretz (10 May 2010).
93. Sasson et al., Still Connected, pp. 6, 14. Forty-six percent “strongly agreed” with the Israeli version while 45 percent only “somewhat” or “halfway” agreed with the Israeli version (9 percent “somewhat” or “strongly” agreed with the Turkish version). Confirming the theses argued in this book, the poll also found that “political ideology... was a major factor, with conservative respondents much more likely to blame the activists,” and “blaming Israel ... increases with secular educational attainment” (ibid., p. 16).
94. American Jewish Committee, “AJC Condemns ‘Free Gaza’ Flotilla for Provoking Tragic Violence” (31 May 2010); World Jewish Congress, “World Jewish Congress Statement Regarding Israeli Operation Aboard the ‘Gaza Freedom Flotilla’” (1 June 2010); Anti-Defamation League, “ADL Calls Flotilla to Gaza a Deliberate Provocation against Israel” (31 May 2010).
95. Gal Beckerman, “Reactions to Raid on Flotilla a Rorschach Test for American Jews,” Forward (2 June 2010).
96. Americans for Peace Now, “APN Deeply Dismayed by Israeli Raid on Gaza Flotilla” (31 May 2010); Jeremy Ben-Ami, “In Wake of Flotilla Tragedy, J Street Urges Strong US Leadership to End Conflict Now” (31 May 2010) (but compare J Street’s more cautious subsequent statement “J Street on the Gaza Flotilla and Its Aftermath,” n.d.).
97. Alan Dershowitz, “Another Rush to Judgment,” Jerusalem Post (1 June 2010); Alan M. Dershowitz, “Israel’s Actions Were Entirely Lawful Though Probably Unwise,” Hudson New York (1 June 2010); Alan M. Dershowitz, “Singling Out Israel for ‘International Investigation,’” Hudson New York (3 June 2010).
98. Elie Wiesel, “The ‘Activists’ Wanted Violence,” Daily News (7 June 2010).
99. John Podhoretz, “Look What Israel Didn’t Do Wrong,” New York Post (3 June 2010; emphasis in original); Elliott Abrams, “Joining the Jackals,” Weekly Standard (2 June 2010); Charles Krauthammer, “Those Troublesome Jews,” Washington Post (4 June 2010; emphasis in original).
100. Andrew Sullivan, “Israel Derangement Syndrome,” Atlantic blog (“The Daily Dish”) (4 June 2010). See Chapter 6 for Sullivan’s conversion.
101. Jonathan Mark, “Just Torpedo the Next Flotilla,” Jewish Week (4 June 2010).
102. Michael Walzer, “The Need for Something Better,” Dissent (3 June 2010); Asaf Shtull-Trauring, “It Might Have Been Wise to Look the Other Way,” Haaretz (13 June 2010). See Chapters 3, 4, 6, for Walzer’s apologetics on the Gaza invasion. After the commando raid Walzer advised that Israel imitate Colin Powell’s “smart sanctions” which the U.S. imposed on Iraq after the initial “blockade did affect the living standard of ordinary Iraqis.” The latter phrase of Walzer is a wondrous euphemism for the U.S.-British sanctions regime that killed between a half million and a million Iraqi children. See Joy Gordon, Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq sanctions (Cambridge: 2010).
103. Leon Wieseltier, “Operation Make the World Hate Us,” New Republic (3 June 2010).
104. Peter Beinart, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” New York Review of Books (10 June 2010).
105. See Chapter 6.
106. Peter Beinart, “Israel’s Indefensible Behavior,” Daily Beast (1 June 2010).
107. Daniel Luban, “No Direction Home,” Tablet (3 June 2010).
108. Rabbi Bruce Warshal, “As Israel Isolates Itself from the World,” South Florida Sun-Sentinel (8 June 2010).
109. Matthew Yglesias, “Gaza,” Yglesias blog (31 May 2010); Joe Klein, “The Israeli Attack,” Swampland blog (31 May 2010); Glenn Greenwald, “Israel Attacks Aid Ship, Kills At Least 10 Civilians,” (31 May 2010).
110. M. J. Rosenberg, “Lying about the Gaza Flotilla Disaster,” Huffington Post (2 June 2010).
111. Adi Gold interview with David Remnick, Yediot Ahronot Friday Political Supplement (24 December 2010;
112. Ben Knight, “Claim and Counterclaim after Deadly Flotilla Raid,” ABC News (1 June 2010).
113. Nahum Barnea, “The Test of the Result,” Yediot Ahronot (1 June 2010); Ben Kaspit, “It’s Not Enough to Be Right,” Maariv (1 June 2010); Amos Harel, “Straight into the Trap,” Haaretz (1 June 2010); Mordechai Kedar, “A War for World’s Future,” (31 May 2010;; Mickey Bergman, “The IDF Soldiers Were Sent on a Mission That Defies Logic,” Huffington Post (1 June 2010); Yaakov Katz, “Duped,” Jerusalem Post (4 June 2010). Flotilla passengers anticipated that “if we fail to stop, they will probably knock out our propellers or rudders, then tow us somewhere for repair” (Henning Mankell, “Flotilla Raid Diary,” in Bayoumi, ed., Midnight, p. 22).
114. Katz, “Duped”; Ahiya Raved, “20 People Threw Me from Deck,” (1 June 2010;; “Israel Navy’s Gaza Flotilla Probe ‘Finds Planning, Intel Flaws,’” Haaretz (20 June 2010); “Army Inquiry Slams Flotilla Raid’s Planning,” (8 July 2010;; Tavernise and Bronner, “Days of Planning.”
115. “Gaza: From blockade to bloodshed,” Guardian (1 June 2010).
116. The Entebbe raid was a hostage-rescue operation carried out by elite Israeli commandos at Entebbe airport in Uganda on 4 July 1976.
117. Uzi Mahnaimi and Gareth Jenkins, “Operation Calamity,” Sunday Times (6 June 2010).
118. Doron Rosenblum, “Israel’s Commando Complex,” Haaretz (4 June 2010).
119. Scott Wilson, “Israel Says Free Gaza Movement Poses Threat to Jewish State,” Washington Post (1 June 2010), quoting Itamar Rabinovich, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S.; “ Eiland: Flotilla was preventable,” Jerusalem Post (23 July 2010).
120. “PM Netanyahu’s Statement.” The Turkish government did however actively discourage IHH from undertaking the voyage (International Crisis Group, Turkey’s Crises, p. 6).
121. Kedar, “A War.”
122. “Speech of Secretary-General Nasrallah on Freedom Flotilla Attack” (4 June 2010).
123. Report of the Fact-Finding Mission, paras. 76-77.
124. O9Beirut177 Date13/02/2009 05:56 Origin Embassy Beirut Classification SECRET//NOFORM (WikiLeaks).
125. Amos Oz, “Israeli Force, Adrift on the Sea,” New York Times (1 June 2010).
126. “Israel Navy’s Gaza Flotilla Probe”; Ron Ben-Yishai, “A Brutal Ambush at Sea,” (31 May 2010;
127. Merav Michaeli, “Nothing to Investigate: Everyone knows what was wrong about the flotilla attack,” Haaretz (3 June 2010). For Israeli violence in places like Bil’in “even when no violence on the part of the demonstrators preceded the IDF actions,” see also Association for Civil Rights in Israel, The State of Human Rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories: 2009 report (Jerusalem: 2009), p. 13.
128. International Crisis Group, Tipping Point? Palestinians and the search for a new strategy (26 April 2010), p. 28n226.
129. John J. Mearsheimer, “Sinking Ship,” American Conservative (1 August 2010).
130. Katz, “Duped.”
131. Kaspit, “It’s Not Enough”; David Horowitz, “Analysis: The flotilla fiasco,” Jerusalem Post (1 June 2010); Harel, “Straight into the Trap”; Charles Levinson and Jay Solomon, “Israel’s Isolation Deepens,” Wall Street Journal (3 June 2010).
132. Levy, “Operation Mini.”
133. Kaspit, “It’s Not Enough.”
134. Mahnaimi and Jenkins, “Operation Calamity.”
135. Barnea, “The Test of the Result.”
136. Noam Sheizaf, “Flotilla: New Mavi Marmara pictures raise more questions regarding IDF attack,” Promised Land (6 June 2010;
137. Ken O’Keefe, “‘Soldiers Thought We Would Kill Them,’” (7 June 2010;
138. Reuven Pedatzur, “A Failure Any Way You Slice It,” Haaretz (1 June 2010).
139. Jeffrey Goldberg, “Says One Israeli General: ‘Everybody thinks we’re bananas,’” (1 June 2010).
140. University of Maryland, in conjunction with Zogby International, 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll. Forty-one percent responded that Israel’s power “has its strengths and weaknesses.”
141. The breadth of Turkey’s rift with Israel should not be exaggerated. The extensive commercial ties between the two countries have to date not been touched. (Turkey is Israel’s biggest commercial partner nation in the region.) In fact Israeli trade with Turkey rose by almost one third during the first seven months of 2010, and the political crisis did not affect Turkey’s purchase from Israel of unmanned surveillance planes. By August 2010 senior Turkish officials were expressing a “commitment to preserving warm relations with Israel.” James Melik, “Gaza Flotilla: Israeli-Turkish trade ‘unaffected,’” BBC News (2 June 2010); David Wainer and Ben Holland, “Turks in Tel Aviv Show Business Binds Israel to Muslim Ally in Gaza Crisis,” Bloomberg News (14 July 2010); Dan Bilefsky, “Turkey and Israel Do a Brisk Business,” New York Times (4 August 2010); “Israel Exports to Turkey Up 32 Pct Despite Tensions,” AFP (19 August 2010); “Turkish Officials: We’re committed to preserving friendly Israel ties,” Haaretz (26 August 2010); International Crisis Group, Turkey’s Crises, p. 16. See also Murat Dagli, “Turkey after the Flotilla,” in Bayoumi, ed., Midnight, pp. 197-204.
142. Avnery, “Flash of Lightning.” The prospects of a Turkish-Iranian alliance and concomitant Turkish rift with its erstwhile Western allies might be overblown. See International Crisis Group, Turkey’s Crises, pp. 10-11, 15.
143. Chris Patten, “To Avert Disaster, Stop Isolating Hamas,” (28 July 2010).
144. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Address by PM Netanyahu at Bar-Ilan University” (14 June 2009).
145. Yoni Cohen, “‘The Whole World Is against Us,’” Jerusalem Post (19 August 2010).
146. Levy, “Glimpse.”
147. Yoel Marcus, “How We Became a Night Unto the Nations,” Haaretz (24 November 2009).
148. The Reut Institute, The Gaza Flotilla, para. 131.
149. See Chapter 2.
150. Abba Eban, An Autobiography (New York: 1977), p. 383.
151. Daniel C. Kurtzer, “A Third Lebanon War,” Council on Foreign Relations (July 2010), pp. 2, 4.
152. Jeffrey White, If War Comes: Israel vs. Hizballah and its allies (September 2010), p. 41. The study was published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Israel lobby’s think tank.
153. Ibid., p. 11; for Israel’s war preparations, see ibid., pp. 6-18.
154. Yaakov Katz, “The Dahiya Doctrine: Fighting dirty or a knock-out punch?,” Jerusalem Post (28 January 2010); White, If War Comes, pp. 10, 12, 35, 40. See Chapter 2 for the Dahiya doctrine.
155. Barbara Opall-Rome, “Israel’s New Hard Line on Hizbollah,” DefenseNews (31 May 2010); “Speech Delivered by Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah Marking the Tenth Anniversary of the Resistance and Liberation Day” (25 May 2010).
156. White, If War Comes, p. ix.
157. Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, “MESS Report: Israel exposes valuable intelligence to warn Hezbollah,” Haaretz (8 July 2010); Amos Harel, “Israel Stuck in the Mud on Internal Gaza Probe,” Haaretz (30 January 2010). See also International Crisis Group, Drums of War: Israel and the “Axis of Resistance” (2 August 2010), pp. 2n7, 19n128, 21n142.
158. Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, 34 Days: Israel, Hezbollah, and the war in Lebanon (New York: 2008), p. 130. See Chapter 2 for this questionable allegation.
159. Matti Friedman, “Underneath Lebanon, Israel Sees Hidden Battlefield,” Associated Press (14 August 2010).
160. International Crisis Group, Drums, p. 2n5.
161. Avi Issacharoff, “Will Hezbollah Go to War against Israel to Avoid Civil Strife in Lebanon?,” Haaretz (2 December 2010).
162. “Q&A with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak,” Washington Post (26 July 2010). See also International Crisis Group, Drums, pp. 4-5.
163. “Retired IDF General: Deterrence is our best option against Hezbollah,” Haaretz (16 December 2010); see also Giora Eiland, “Who’s the Real Enemy?,” (24 July 2008;
164. Ian S. Lustick, “Abandoning the Iron Wall: Israel and ‘the Middle Eastern muck,’” Middle East Policy (Fall 2008), p. 47.
165. Winograd Commission Final Report (30 January 2008), paras. 13-15.
166. Matt M. Matthews, We Were Caught Unprepared: The 2006 Hezbollah-Israeli war (Fort Leavenworth, KS: 2008), pp. 25-26.
167. See Chapter 2.
168. Compare the graphs on pp. 74 and 100 of Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat from the Gaza Strip: The main findings of the Goldstone report versus the factual findings (March 2010).
169. “Resistance and Liberation Day” speech.
170. International Crisis Group, Trial by Fire: The politics of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (December 2010), p. 27.
171. Barak Ravid, “MI Chief: Tel Aviv may be target in next war against Israel,” Haaretz (21 November 2010).
172. Harel, “Israel Stuck”; White, If War Comes, p. 18n13.
173. White, If War Comes, pp. 10, 18n11.
174. For the prospect of an Israeli strike on Lebanon targeting or drawing in Syria and Iran, see International Crisis Group, Drums, pp. 5-11, and White, If War Comes, pp. 28-33.
175. White, If War Comes, pp. 32, 35.
176. See Nasrallah’s “Resistance and Liberation Day” speech.
177. David Horowitz, “Editor’s Notes: When the next war comes,” Jerusalem Post (8 August 2010); White, If War Comes, pp. 9-10, 17.
178. Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Constrained Internationalism: Adapting to new realities (2010), pp. 7, 20-21, 55-56, 72.
179. “Thanks to the Critics,” Haaretz (27 July 2010).
180. Amos Harel, “MESS Report: Gaza war probes are changing Israel’s defiant ways,” Haaretz (22 July 2010).
181. United Nations General Assembly, Second Follow-Up to the Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, Report of the Secretary-General (11 August 2010; A/64/890).
182. A 27 September 2010 Human Rights Council resolution (A/HRC/15/l.34), which passed by a vote of 27 in favor, 1 against (United States), and 19 abstentions, called on its Committee of Independent Experts to submit yet another report for the Council’s sixteenth session (in March 2011) assessing Israeli and Palestinian investigations of violations of international law during the Gaza invasion. (See Chapter 7 for the earlier findings of this committee.) The Palestinian delegate and Arab states joined in sponsoring this resolution while the U.S. voted against it “because Israel had the ability to conduct credible investigations and serious self-scrutiny,” making “further follow-up of the Goldstone report by United Nations bodies ... unnecessary and unwarranted” (“Human Rights Council Takes Up Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories,” 27 September 2010). An Amnesty International statement criticized the Council’s “seriously flawed resolution” that “fails to establish a clear process for justice” and “amounts to a betrayal of the victims,” and called on the Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court for consideration (“Human Rights Council Fails Victims of Gaza Conflict,” 30 September 2010). For Human Rights Watch’s comparable criticism of the Goldstone report’s “slow death” and the Palestinian Authority’s complicity, see Jared Malsin, “Whither Goldstone? Did the PA kill the UN’s Goldstone report?,” Foreign Policy (27 October 2010).
183. “Q&A with Israeli Defense Minister.”
184. Charly Wegman, “Israel Picks Gaza War Commander as New Military Chief,” AFP (5 September 2010).
185. Raji Sourani, “1,000 Days,” in Bayoumi, ed., Midnight, p. 147.
186. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Israel to Participate in UN Panel on Flotilla Events” (2 August 2010).
187. It was merely “tasked with reviewing the reports of national investigations” into the assault. U.N. News Centre, “UN Chief Announces Panel of Inquiry on Gaza Flotilla Incident” (2 August 2010). This panel was separate and distinct from the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission appointed by the Human Rights Council that was quoted earlier.
188. International Federation for Human Rights, “FIDH Deeply Concerned by the Composition of UN Panel of Inquiry into the Flotilla Events” (6 August 2010); Colombia Support Network, “A Failed Presidency? A New Beginning?” (4 August 2010;
189. Shlomo Shamir, “ Livni Tells UN to Mind Its Own Business over Flotilla Probe,” Haaretz (6 October 2010).
190. Avnery, “Crime Perpetrated.” See also David Grossman, “The Gaza Flotilla Attack Shows How Far Israel Has Declined,” Guardian (1 June 2010).
191. E. B. Solomont, “IAEA Presses for Nuke-Free Mideast,” Jerusalem Post (12 May 2010).
192. Haneen Zoabi, “Freeing Gaza; Liberating Ourselves,” in Bayoumi, ed., Midnight, p. 71.
193. Nicolas Pelham, “Hamas Back Out of Its Box,” Middle East Report Online (2 September 2010).
194. “John Ging: Conditions in Gaza have not changed since Israel declared it would ease the blockade,” Middle East Monitor (11 November 2010). Ging is the Gaza-based director of operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
195. Sally Belfrage, Freedom Summer (New York: 1965), p. 130.
196. Norman G. Finkelstein, Resolving the Israel-Palestine Conflict: What we can learn from Gandhi, forthcoming.
197. James Foreman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries (New York: 1972), pp. 311-12.
198. Charles Levinson, “Israel’s Foes Embrace New Resistance Tactics,” Wall Street Journal (2 July 2010).
199. B’Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), By Hook and by Crook: Israeli settlement policy in the West Bank (Jerusalem: July 2010); Human Rights Watch, Separate and Unequal: Israel’s discriminatory treatment of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories (New York: 2010).
200. Mouin Rabbani, “Israel and the World: A turning point?,” Middle East International (11 June 2010).
201. Juliane von Mittelstaedt, “Israeli Settlement Construction Booms Despite Ban,” Spiegel Online International (3 September 2010). See also Hagit Ofran, “Eight Months into the Settlement Freeze,” Peace Now website (August 2010), Matti Friedman, “Israeli FM Pushes for New Settlement Construction,” Associated Press (6 September 2010).
202. Dror Etkes, “Settlement Freeze? It Was Barely a Slowdown,” Haaretz (28 September 2010).
203. See Chapter 2.
204. Dinstein, International Law, p. 238, para. 570.
205. See Chapter 2.
206. “ Netanyahu Offers Settlement Freeze in Return for Recognition as Jewish State, Palestinians Say No,” Haaretz (11 October 2010); Michael B. Oren, “An End to Israel’s Invisibility,” New York Times (13 October 2010).
207. Akiva Eldar, “ Netanyahu Asking Palestinians to Cede Right of Return,” Haaretz (12 October 2010). See also Shimon Shiffer, “The Derailer,” Yediot Ahronot (12 October 2010).
208. Yitzhak Benhorin, “US Backs PM: Israel is Jewish State,” (10 October 2010;
209. Ethan Bronner and Mark Landler, “A 90-day Bet on Mideast Talks,” New York Times (14 November 2010).
210. “Remarks of Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy Seventh Annual Forum” (10 December 2010). For a full Israeli withdrawal not jeopardizing Israel’s security, see Martin van Creveld, “Israel Doesn’t Need the West Bank to Be Secure,” Forward (24 December 2010).
211. “Council Conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process,” Council of the European Union (13 December 2010).
212. European Former Leaders Group (EFLG), “Letter to the President of the European Council” (2 December 2010).
213. United Nations, “The Secretary-General—Press Conference” (17 December 2010).
214. “The Elders: We need peace in the Middle East, not just process” (13 December 2010).

Appendix 1
1. “Hamas Letter to Obama,” Institute for Public Accuracy (8 June 2009;

Appendix 2
1. Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of 31 May 2010, The Turkel Commission Report, Part One (January 2011). Hereafter: Turkel Report. Shortly after publication of the Turkel Report, the Turkish government released the findings of its own investigation, Turkish National Commission of Inquiry, Report on the Israeli Attack on the Humanitarian Aid Convoy to Gaza on 31 May 2010 (February 2011). Hereafter: Turkish Report.
2. Turkel Report, para. 16.
3. Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history (Berkeley: 2005; expanded paperback edition, 2008), chapter 4. The first suicide attack during the second intifada occurred in March 2001.
4. Turkel Report, para. 1.
5. See Chapter 1. The Turkel Report does mention Israeli strikes against Gaza further on (paras. 16, 18), but deems them retaliatory (Israel “responded”), whereas in actuality conflict pauses between Israel and the Palestinians were “overwhelmingly” broken by Israel (see Chapter 2).
6. Turkel Report, p. 48n143, paras. 45-47.
7. Ibid., para. 19.
8. See Chapter 2.
9. Turkel Report, para. 72.
10. Ibid., para. 73.
11. Ibid., para. 71.
12. Ibid., para. 72, citing definition of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (see also ibid., para. 76).
13. Ibid., paras. 76, 77.
14. See ibid., para. 90, for murky acknowledgment that international law prohibits sieges causing not only starvation (“hunger blockade”) but also “less extreme instances” of “suffering” (cf. ibid., p. 102n363).
15. Ibid., para. 76 (my emphasis).
16. Ibid., para. 79.
17. Ibid., paras. 80, 90.
18. Ibid., para. 82.
19. See Epilogue.
20. Turkel Report, paras. 19, 68, 97. The Report also repeatedly states that breaching the blockade was unnecessary because Israel conveyed beforehand to the flotilla its willingness to deliver “humanitarian” supplies on board the vessels to Gaza. But the Report also makes clear that “humanitarian” supplies did not include prohibited items on board such as cement and other construction materials. See ibid., paras. 3, 27, 110, 113, 149, 198.
21. The international humanitarian law principle of proportionality states that even a clear military object cannot be targeted if the risk of harm to civilians or civilian infrastructure is larger than the anticipated military advantage. See Yoram Dinstein, The Conduct of Hostilities under the Law of International Armed Conflict (Cambridge: 2004), pp. 119ff.
22. Turkel Report, paras. 50, 63.
23. Ibid., para. 67.
24. Ibid., para. 106 (emphasis in original).
25. See Chapters 1, 2 and Epilogue.
26. “Cashless in Gaza?,” WikiLeaks (3 November 2008;
27. Gisha (Legal Center for Freedom of Movement), Partial List of Items Prohibited/Permitted in the Gaza Strip (May 2010).
28. Turkel Report, para. 91.
29. At one point the Turkel Report seems to concede that Israel restricted passage of foodstuffs “used solely for civilian needs” (para. 91), but then justifies this policy (albeit with caveats) by invoking the U.S.-U.K. genocidal sanctions on Iraq (ibid., paras. 92-93). For the Iraqi sanctions, see esp. Joy Gordon, Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq sanctions (Cambridge: 2010).
30. U.N. Human Rights Council, Report of the International Fact-Finding Mission to Investigate Violations of International Law, Including International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law, Resulting from the Israeli Attacks on the Flotilla of Ships Carrying Humanitarian Assistance (27 September 2010). Hereafter: Report of the Fact-Finding Mission.
31. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Government Establishes Inde pendent Public Commission” (14 June 2010).
32. Turkel Report, para. 237.
33. Ibid., para. 236.
34. The Turkel Report notes (p. 157n533) the exception of one commando who called his assailants “activists.”
35. Ibid., para. 236.
36. Ibid., para. 237.
37. See Chapter 3.
38. Turkel Report, paras. 9, 237, pp. 211n736, 212n737. It cites the testimony of one Israeli Palestinian but only to discredit it by citing the testimony of another Israeli Palestinian (ibid., para. 144). It also cites critical testimony of the Mavi Marmara’s captain during interrogation but only to peremptorily dismiss it on the basis of contrary testimony by an Israeli aerial lookout (ibid., paras. 125, 203).
39. Turkish Report, pp. 40-42, 44, 47, 108.
40. Turkel Report, paras. 9, 237.
41. For a sampling of these testimonies, see Moustafa Bayoumi, ed., Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: The attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and how it changed the course of the Israel/Palestine conflict (New York: 2010), part 1. Exceptionally, the Turkel Report makes passing reference at the end of a long footnote to a Haaretz interview with one of the passengers (pp. 202-3n703).
42. Amnesty International, “Israeli Inquiry into Gaza Flotilla Deaths No More Than a ‘Whitewash’” (28 January 2011). Although the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission failed to secure the cooperation of the Israeli government, it did make extensive use of the available public testimony before the Turkel Commission, whereas the Turkel Report makes no mention let alone use of the Fact-Finding Mission’s investigation.
43. Report of the Fact-Finding Mission, paras. 112-14. The Mission referred to the Israeli speedboats as zodiacs whereas the Turkel Report calls them Morenas.
44. Turkel Report, para. 121.
45. Ibid., para. 128.
46. Ibid., para. 130.
47. Ibid., para. 200.
48. Ibid., para. 230.
49. Ibid., para. 174.
50. Ibid., paras. 132, 180, 213, 243, 244, p. 149n518. The Turkel Report states that “in the strategic discussions prior to the operation, the possibility that firearms might be present was mentioned,” but it had no practical consequences (ibid., p. 247n863, para. 243).
51. Ibid., paras. 115-22.
52. Ibid., para. 121.
53. Ibid.
54. Ibid., para. 182.
55. Ibid., para. 242.
56. See Epilogue.
57. Turkel Report, paras. 133, 135, 140.
58. Ibid., paras. 133, 135, 140, p. 250n871.
59. Ibid., paras. 165, 192.
60. Ibid., para. 169.
61. Ibid., para. 167.
62. Ibid., paras. 196, 199, 201, 220.
63. Ibid., para. 136.
64. Ibid., paras. 165, 196.
65. Turkish Report, pp. 15-16, 56, 113.
66. Turkel Report, para. 165. The Turkel Report states that “four bullet casings not used by the IDF were found on board” but “it cannot be said with complete certainty that these were bullets fired from a non-IDF weapon since it cannot be ruled out that these bullets somehow made their way into the IDF ammunition” (ibid., p. 207n718). The Report also cites but appears not to credit the testimony of one IDF officer that “he saw Molotov cocktails which had been placed in orderly stacks” (ibid., para. 145).
67. Ibid., p. 211nn735, 736, para. 169.
68. Ibid., para. 167.
69. Ibid., para. 221.
70. Ibid., para. 167.
71. Report of the Fact-Finding Mission, paras. 116, 165.
72. Turkel Report, para. 222.
73. Ibid., para. 236.
74. Ibid., pp. 155n529, 157n531, para. 221.
75. Ibid., p. 250nn871, 873.
76. Ibid., para. 222.
77. Ibid., para. 221.
78. See Chapter 3.
79. Turkel Report, para. 222.
80. Ibid., paras. 217-19.
81. Ibid., paras. 220, 223.
82. Ibid., paras. 135, 136, 140.
83. Ibid., paras. 136, 167.
84. Ibid., paras. 166, 168, 197.
85. Ibid., paras. 135, 136, 167, 190.
86. Report of the Fact-Finding Mission, para. 264 (see also ibid., paras. 167, 169, 172).
87. Turkel Report, paras. 119, 121, 140, 206, 223, 228, 229, 245.
88. Ibid., paras. 141, 142.
89. Ibid., paras. 239, 246.
90. One passenger has been in a coma since the attack as a result of the wounds he sustained.
91. Report of the Fact-Finding Mission, para. 170.
92. Turkel Report, para. 155.
93. Ibid., para. 230.
94. Ibid., para. 155. The Turkel Report contains a couple of other references to the nine deaths (ibid., paras. 143, 168).
95. The Turkish Report states (pp. 27-28) that two passengers were “killed by a single gunshot wound.” It perhaps omitted mention of their nonlethal bullet wounds. The Fact-Finding Mission stated that all but one of the nine deceased suffered multiple bullet wounds (see Epilogue).
96. In the section devoted to analyzing “the use of force by IDF soldiers during the takeover operations,” the Turkel Report states (para. 236) that “the Commission furnished written requests to IDF authorities seven times in order to deepen and expand the inquiries that were conducted.”
97. Ibid., para. 233. It notes that the “detailed testimonies of the soldiers as well as their analysis can be found in an annex to the report” that to date has not been released (ibid., para. 235).
98. Ibid., para. 239.
99. The Turkel Report states only that the Commission “did not have access to autopsy reports ... because [of] the Turkish government’s request, immediately after the event, that the Israeli government would not perform autopsies on the bodies of the deceased” (para. 237). The Turkish autopsy reports concluded that “five of the deceased were shot in the head at close range” (Turkish Report, pp. 26, 85, 114).
100. Turkel Report, p. 261n929.
101. Ibid., para. 160.
102. U.S. Department of State, “Daily Press Briefing” (24 January 2011;

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