Merav Michaeli
Haaretz (Opinion)
April 5, 2011 - 12:00am

In an op-ed piece published in The Washington Post, Richard Goldstone wrote that if he knew then what he knows today, the report would have looked different and that it would have been best had Israel cooperated with him.

In fact, it was immediately after Goldstone's report was publicized that many here concluded that it would have been best for Israel to lend its cooperation to the UN-appointed committee, according to a study conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute. Indeed, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel made a recommendation along these lines to the government before the Goldstone commission was even formed.

But this is not the conclusion that Israel's leadership has drawn. Both Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the decision not to cooperate with Goldstone "was the correct one."

While Israel had reasons to believe that an inquiry commissioned by the UN's Human Rights Council would be hostile, in this extraordinary case, it was possible to think otherwise. Goldstone is known to be a particularly serious individual, a Jew and a supporter of Israel. Indeed, he was opposed to the original mandate which required that he focus his probe solely on Israel. Goldstone agreed to lead the investigation after he was given clearance to examine Hamas' actions as well. Israel had nothing to lose by cooperating with Goldstone.

This lesson could have been learned from a previous episode - the 2004 hearings held in the International Criminal Court in The Hague involving the West Bank separation fence. The ICC is an important, independent legal authority. There was no reason to suspect that it would be one-sided. But then, too, Israel refused to recognize its authority. It did not take part in the discussion nor did it present its position, all so that it could later claim that the ruling handed down was one-sided and caused Israel serious international damage.

It is often said that a wise man learns from the mistakes of others, while a fool learns from the mistakes of his own. Those who do not learn from their own mistakes confirm that insanity is repeating the same act while expecting a different result. In our case, this insanity is an insanity of persecution.

Our belief that "the world is against us" has in recent years turned into a real obsession, a sense that we are constantly under attack, a fear of delegitimization, an insanity of persecution. It is unclear whether Israel is truly capable of differentiating between a real enemy and those who wish it well, or if it is simply complaining about being persecuted because it believes this serves its interests. Now the prime minister is demanding that the Goldstone report be nullified, while the defense minister is calling for "Goldstone to be compelled (! ) to speak before the UN." If this gambit doesn't succeed, it will serve as yet further proof that we are being persecuted.

As the years pass, Israel has grown stronger militarily, economically, and demographically. This has not prevented our leaders from intensifying their warnings about the campaign to get us. They are wont to complain about the one-sidedness and the bias in favor of our enemies. They are also quick to warn against attempts to delegitimize, even destroy, Israel.

There are great parallels between our leaders' statements decrying the persecution of the State of Israel and their statements decrying the persecution aimed at them personally. This holds true for Lieberman, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu. As our leaders feel increasingly persecuted on an individual basis, they respond by ratcheting up the rhetoric that all of us are the victims of persecution.

Aside from the instinctive reflex of all Israelis to assume the role of victims, there is also cynical exploitation here of real hostility that does exist. As such, there is no room for an honest analysis of these statements, and reality becomes distorted.

As he laments the "persecution" to which he and his wife are subjected, much the same way that he railed against the "persecution" of Israel, Netanyahu is so deeply immersed in his suffering that he doesn't even notice that in both cases, the whining simply does more damage - both to him personally and to the image of the State of Israel. Complaining about persecution is not a policy, nor is it a strategy. Rather, it is a tactic that just inflicts more damage on us.


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