Israel’s Record of Self-Investigation: Obvious to Anyone who Looked.

April 13, 2011 by Raffe Gold
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With the NSW Greens so busy demanding a boycott of Israel for various crimes against humanity it appears that they have failed to keep up to date with the news. Richard Goldstone, lead investigator of the UN inquiry into the 2008 Gaza conflict, recanted some of the reports most incendiary findings and praised Israel for her ability to investigate herself and ensure that those few Israeli soldiers who violated the laws of war are brought to justice.

Raffe Gold

The far-left is hoping that Goldstone’s OpEd article was simply an aberration of history brought on by social pressures. This mea culpa, however, is par for the course in Israel’s long war of fighting not just its Arab neighbors, but the persistent tide of Western left-wing opinion that erroneously believe that the Zionist nation is fundamentally racist, amoral and colonist.

Over the course of her sixty-year history Israel has been forced to fight a number of wars for her survival or to ensure that her citizens remain free from the threat of suicide bombers, sniper attacks or rockets on kindergartens. During this time she has constantly evaluated her actions and taken appropriate measures to ensure that mistakes are learnt from and civilian harm is minimised.

In the aftermath of every conflict with her neighbors there is a major government investigation free from interference. In the aftermath of the 1982 War in Lebanon the Kahan Commission was established in order to investigate the events surrounding the Sabra and Shatilla massacres and found both the military and political echelons guilty to a varying degree.

Israel has consistently been willing to assess and evaluate the conduct of both her military actions and her political imperatives, yet the IDF’s self-investigatory measures pales in comparison to the role that the Supreme Court plays in deciding security policy. Time and again Palestinians have brought cases before Israeli jurists and time and again they have had their petitions to alter certain policies granted. The Supreme Court outlawed physical interrogation despite its proven record, it outlawed the use of the ‘neighbor policy’ despite the fact that it saved lives, and it ordered the IDF to change significant sections of the West Bank security barrier to ensure that it does not unnecessarily impede Palestinian daily life.

In short, Israel has a well-deserved record of self-assessment and investigation, yet more often than not this record is dismissed or maligned in favor of a good media story or scoring political points. The initial accusations made against Israel are usually shouted, yet when the accusers should recant they often do so in a whisper.

Israel’s enemies regularly accuse her of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or massacres. The infamous Jenin Massacre in 2002 occurred when Israel, tired of multiple suicide bombers against her citizens, launched a military operation into the Jenin Refugee Camp which had been a primary base of terror groups. When the IDF finally withdrew there were claims of ‘thousands dead’ being propagated by the Palestinian Authority and greedily being published by a willing media hoping to spin a David vs Goliath story with the Jewish state as the Philistinian giant.

Throughout the few days of combat the rumors of the massacre reached a crescendo before multiple investigations agreed with the IDF assessments that only 52 Palestinians, mostly gunmen, and 23 Israeli soldiers were killed. To this day, the ‘Jenin Massacre’ is still quoted amongst Israel’s list of ‘war crimes’ by her enemies and despite independent verifications that no massacre had taken place the myth refuses to die.

During Operation Cast Lead, Israel was accused of shelling a UN run school in Gaza and causing more than 40 deaths. Eventually, when the smoke cleared, the truth emerged that the IDF had never fired directly on the school, the total number of dead lay at 12 and a number of eyewitnesses testified that Hamas terrorists had fired from the street outside the school. This led to the UN admitting, after a vicious media campaign slandering the Israeli army, that a ‘clerical error’ was to blame for falsely accusing Israel firing on them.

During the heat of Operation Cast Lead, Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan stated unequivocally “the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare”. His call for understanding of Israel’s positions fell on deaf ears with Goldstone failing to heed his testimony. However, even with Goldstone’s recantation, Kemp’s words will not change the course of the anti-Israel mantra of ‘denounce first and ask questions later’ that has become the norm for both the international community and the media.

Far too often Israel’s actions, whilst at times deserving of criticism, are condemned prior to any evidence being demanded. The inevitable television shot of a destroyed building is more than enough for people of the world to accuse Israel of crimes that it never committed. Boarding the Gaza Flotilla IDF soldiers were equipped with paint ball guns to defend themselves. With the world too quick to assign Israel blame it seems we must go one step further and arm our soldiers with pillows. Maybe then Israel will get a fair trial in the court of public opinion.

Raffe Gold is a political science graduate and Israeli immigrant. He can be reached at



3 Responses to “Israel’s Record of Self-Investigation: Obvious to Anyone who Looked.”
  1. Spoff says:

    “Israel has been forced to fight a number of wars”

    This widely held belief is the result of superior PR. No Historian of repute, Israeli or otherwise subscribes to it.

    The Israeli Defence Forces Intelligen­ce Service document “The Emigration of the Arabs of Palestine in the Period 1/12/1947/­- 1/6/1948” reveals that of 391,000, 73% Palestinians had been driven from their homes by direct action of the Hagannah, Stern and Irgun.
    This is before the Arab League intervened.
    Martin van Creveld reveals that Yishuv forces as at 15 May outnumbered and outgunned the Arab League contingent and several months later, enjoyed a superiority in numbers of 1.5 to 1.0. (The Sword And The Olive, p. 77-78)

    In 1956, Israel, in company with France and Britain attacked Egypt – unprovoked.

    1967. Begin, Dayan and Peled have all confirmed what any close observer knew. Nasser did not want War and did what he could to avoid it:

    It could be argued that Israel was subject to attack in 1973 but, given Israel’s obduracy in settling matters arising out of 1967, that resumption of the 1967 War was inevitable.

    Israel’s attacks on Lebanon are not in dispute.

  2. Raffe, there are many in the community jumping to the wrong conclusions about Goldstone’s Op-Ed. In no way was his piece a rejection or a recantation of the Report.

    Goldstone in his AP interview following his Op-Ed stated: “As appears from the Washington Post article, information subsequent to publication of the report did meet with the view that one correction should be made with regard to intentionality on the part of Israel,” the judge said. “Further information as a result of domestic investigations could lead to further reconsideration, but as presently advised I have no reason to believe any part of the report needs to be reconsidered at this time.”

    To appreciate the failure of the civil and military just system to hold personnel to account read B’Tselem’s : “Void of responsibility: Israeli Military Policy not to Investigate killings of Palestinians by Soldiers”. This report states since 29 September 2000 there have been more than 2,297 Palestinians who have been killed who had not taken part in hostilities against Israelis. Prior to the second intifada the Military Police Investigation Unit would have investigated the killing of all Palestinians who were killed despite not taking part in hostilities. Now this is not the case.

    B’Tselem in 2006-2009 demanded the MPIU investigate 148 matters. The Judge Advocate General’s Office only ordered the MPIU to investigate 22 of these matters. The killing of Bassem Abu Rahmah is one such case that only occurred due to intense pressure from Israeli human rights groups like B’Tselem. However, again no person was found to account. Again the killing was labeled as an accident. Once is an accident, twice sure…but 2,297 accidental killings?

    Not only are Palestinians being killed without a satisfactory explanation and appropriate persons being held to account, but internationals are also being killed. Rachel Corrie, Iain Hook, James Miller and UN personnel at UN Patrol base Khiam were all killed without anybody within the IDF being held to account. Tom Hurndall was a rare exception, in that someone was held to account. His killer served 6 years in prison, but this came after only extreme pressure of the family and British Government. Justice did not come as a matter of course but had to be demanded by the deceased’s families. Israelis too have been killed by Israeli security forces without someone being held to account. Asel Aslih (along with 12 other Palestinians Israelis) was killed in 2000 whilst taking part in demonstrations against Israeli actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Internationals too have been shot at and received serious injuries: Brian Avery (face disfigurement), Tristan Anderson (physical and mental disability) and Emily Henchowitz (loss of an eye). Again there has been no person held to account for these actions.

    Raffe you may think that Israel conducts investigations into these killings. However, B’Tselem, amongst others argues this is not the case, and that investigations only occur for exceptional cases which often means outside pressure. B’Tselem’s report clearly shows a substantial number of persons have been killed by IDF who have not taken part in hostilities and the IDF has failed to genuinely hold the perpetrators of the killing to account. The past decade has demonstrated a systematic failure in the Israeli civil and military justice system to account for the substantial amount of Palestinian fatalities occurring in the absence of hostilities to Israelis. Statements that suggest otherwise are not backed up by empirical evidence.

  3. Lynne Newington says:

    Crimes against humanity and UN inquiries; hmmmmmmmm.
    Geoffery Robertson QC knows all about that, someone should send them his most recent book.

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