Commenters have pointed out that the best defense of the Goldstone Report has been published by a friend of this site, Jerome Slater, at his new blog (Jerome Slater: On the U.S. and Israel): Part I, and Part II. In which Slater goes after Moshe Halbertal’s attack on Goldstone in the New Republic and fully supports Goldstone’s conclusion that the three weeks of intensive Israeli attacks that began in December 2008 were “designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its economic capacity to work and to provide for itself, and force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”
Slater distinguished himself as an academic by helping to bring the Israeli New Historians to the U.S., and in the following incisive excerpts he expands Goldstone’s analysis by linking recent Israeli policy to historical policies of the Jewish settlement vis-a-vis the Palestinians and so reveals a pattern of "deliberate attacks on civilians." This is very helpful indeed, and the last paragraph is deadly:
That the Israeli military attacks on Gaza have massively violated the just war principles of proportionality and discrimination is beyond serious dispute. Moreover, it could well be argued that the Israeli attacks were so indiscriminate as to erase any meaningful distinction between indiscriminate and deliberate attacks on civilians.
Still, let us for the moment maintain the distinction: so far as I am aware there is no current proof that intentionally killing civilians as a matter of state policy was part of Israel’s strategy in its attack in 2008-09.
That said, the previous history of Israel’s attacks not only on crucial civilian infrastructures but on civilians directly at least justifies the suspicion that it did the same in Gaza. While space considerations preclude such an in-depth review, here is a brief summary of the most important events:
*During the 1930s, in their struggle for independence, Zionist organizations like the Irgun and the Stern Gang, led by future Israeli premiers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, sought to terrorize the Palestinians by planting bombs in buses, market places, movie theaters, and other public places as well as by several wholesale massacres in Palestinian villages. As several Israeli “new historians” have observed, such Zionist terrorism preceded and may have provided the model for the subsequent Palestinian terrorism.
*As the work of Israeli, Palestinian, and other historians has conclusively proven, during the 1947-48 period Israeli forces often deliberately attacked civilians in order to drive many if not most Arabs out of the areas claimed by Israel. That is what created the refugee issue that still plagues the conflict: most of the estimated 700,000 Palestinians who fled into neighboring Arab countries did not do so “voluntarily,” (as the Israeli mythology has it), but either because they were driven out or fled in understandable fear that they would be killed if they didn’t.
*The expulsion of the Palestinians in 1947-48 led to the creation of the Palestinian guerrilla movement, which for a number of years operated out of bases in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. Guerrilla attacks inside Israel were met with an Israeli policy of massive retaliation—not merely an eye for an eye, but ten eyes for an eye. In the early 1950s, Moshe Dayan created a special secret unit of the Israeli army, headed by the young Ariel Sharon, in order to carry out retaliation raids. As an Israeli centrist historian wrote, Sharon was directed to carry out raids “against Jordan Legion soldiers and Palestinian civilians in the Jordanian-held West Bank. The purpose of these raids was to create the greatest confusion and terror in the area in order to persuade the Jordanian authorities and the Palestinian population that it was not in their interest to participate in, or offer support for, raids on the Israeli communities across the border.”
*In 1953 Dayan ordered Sharon’s unit to attack the Jordanian village of Qibyeh, in “reprisal” for the failure of ordinary villagers to prevent Palestinian raids from being launched against Israel. After three Israelis were killed in one such raid, Sharon’s forces attacked civilian homes, killing sixty-nine Palestinian villagers, at least half of them women and children. These and other actions horrified Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett, who charged in a cabinet meeting that Israel had been “exposed…in front of the whole world as a gang of blood-suckers, capable of mass (sic) massacres.”
*During the 1956 Israeli-Egyptian war, it has recently been revealed, on at least two occasions Israeli forces systematically massacred hundreds of Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip.
*In 1968 Moshe Dayan warned that Israel might attack Egyptian cities in order to “strike terror into the hearts of the Arabs of the cities….[and] break the Arab will to fight.” And it did so during the 1970-73 Suez Canal War of Attrition between Egypt and Israel, when Israel responded to Egyptian attacks against its armed forces along the Canal with massive artillery shelling and bombing of Egyptian towns and cities along the western banks of the Canal, deliberately intended to make life unlivable for the Egyptian population and so increase pressure against Nasser and later Sadat. David Shipler, at the time the New York Times correspondent in Israel, later wrote that that Israeli bombardments of Egyptian villages “forced the evacuation of 750,000 civilians, destroyed 55,000 homes, and killed and wounded an untold number….It was a pressure tactic on the Egyptian authorities.”
*Leading Israeli officials have sometimes acknowledged that Israel has used such “pressure tactics”—otherwise known as “terrorism”–as an instrument of policy. In 1978, for example, following the first of major Israeli attacks on Lebanese population centers, General Mordechai Gur, then Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces and later a leading Labor Party politician, responded to criticism of Israeli tactics in Lebanon in this way: “I’ve been in the army thirty years. Do you think I don’t know what we’ve been doing all those years? What did we do the entire length of the Suez Canal? A million and a half refugees!…..Since when has the population of South Lebanon been so sacred? They know very well what the terrorists were doing…..I had four villages in South Lebanon bombarded…[as, he says, was done in Jordan]….the whole Jordan Valley was evacuated during the War of Attrition.”
The Israeli interviewer then comments: “You maintain that the civilian population should be punished?” Gur responds: “And how….I have never doubted it, not for one moment….For thirty years from the War of Independence to this day we have been fighting against a population that lives in villages and towns…” As Ze’ev Schiff, a leading Israeli military journalist commented at the time: “In South Lebanon we struck the civilian population consciously, because they deserved it….The importance of Gur’s remarks is the admission that the Israeli Army has always struck civilian populations, purposely and consciously…even when Israeli settlements had not been struck.”
*Since 1978 there have been four major (and many more smaller) Israeli air and ground force attacks against Lebanon in 1978, 1982, 1996, and 2006. While PLO or Hezbollah forces based in Lebanon were the main target of the Israeli attack, there is no serious doubt that Israel deliberately visited widespread destruction on ordinary Lebanese civilians. In the course of the 1982 attack, at least 10,000 civilians were killed, not even counting the approximately 1000 Palestinian refugees murdered by Israel’s Lebanese allies at Sabra and Shatilla, a massacre in which the Israeli forces, led by Sharon, were clearly complicit. In one case, as reported by Thomas Friedman (!), then the New York Times correspondent in Lebanon, Israeli planes “blew apart a single six-story apartment bloc in the heart of the city…[killing] scores of civilians.” It was “strongly rumored,” Friedman observed, “that some P.L.O. officials might have been using the apartment bloc as a type of auxiliary office. It was…nowhere near the front.”
*In July 2006, after Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers, there were several open threats by Israeli generals of what would be done to Lebanese civilians; for example, “Senior officers in the IDF say that…if the kidnapped soldiers are not returned alive and well, the Lebanese civilian infrastructures will regress 20, or even 50 years.” During the ensuing Israeli attack, an estimated 1200 Lebanese civilians were killed, almost a third of them children, 4000 were wounded, one million displaced, 130,000 houses were destroyed, and the country’s electricity network, thousands of small businesses, hundreds of roads, 300 factories, 80 bridges, and dozens of schools and hospitals were destroyed or damaged.
In sum, throughout its history—even before its attacks on Gaza–Israel has repeatedly and deliberately attacked Palestinian and, indeed, other Arab civilians, either directly or by destroying their homes, businesses, fields and orchards, electric systems, and transportation systems. The purpose of these attacks has been to intimidate the civilian population, or to punish them for their supposed or actual support of Israel’s enemies, and especially to induce them to turn against their own governments or internal militant organizations