Like Hezbollah, Hamas knows that’s because the human-shields strategy works so well. Setting Israel up to inflict civilian casualties, then flashing these across the TV screens of the world, is a more effective weapon even than rockets and missiles because it can subject Israel to such fierce worldwide pressure as to stop its military efforts altogether.
Goldstone’s Washington Post retraction has stirred much excitement in Israel, despite awareness that it’s gotten little play elsewhere. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has asked the foreign, defense, and justice ministries to formulate plans to, as he put it, “reverse and minimize the great damage” the report has caused.
That damage is thought to include a heavy blow to Israel’s already-battered image, furthering the worldwide delegitimization campaign against it, and a boost to anti-Israeli “lawfare,” or attempts by Palestinian groups and others to get Israeli officials tried for “war crimes” abroad. There is indeed some optimism that Goldstone’s retraction significantly takes the wind out of those lawfare attempts.
The real test, though, is whether it will do anything to reverse a situation where Israel’s ability to defend itself against aggression is increasingly in doubt. The extent and nature of Hezbollah’s buildup, and Hamas’s recent heating up of its border with Israel, suggest confidence that despite Israel’s military campaigns against both organizations in recent years, they (with their Iranian and Syrian backers) ultimately have the upper hand.
Essential to restoring that upper hand to Israel is the recognition — which is exactly what the Goldstone Report denied — of the difference between a democratic country defending itself and terrorist organizations using the most cynical means imaginable in fighting it. Whether Israel can now expect more sympathy is something that, according to one veteran Israeli analyst, we may soon find out. Count me pessimistic.