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Editorial Article

Tel Aviv University – Aeyal Gross’ (Dept of Law) biased praise of the Goldstone Report

Not to put too fine a point on it, Prof. Gross has it in for Israel. It can do no right: faced with thousands of rockets falling on a whole region of the country, or with hundreds of suicide bombings in the heart of its cities, it can neither defend itself with “violent acts” nor even build a fence to keep out the attackers. If Israel engages in such self-defense, whether active or passive, proper international reactions include boycotting it or invading it militarily. … Gross pulled out all the stops, though, in an op-ed a few weeks later praising the Goldstone Report, which has been condemned across Israel’s political spectrum. The report, he declared, “is not one-sided, it is not biased against Israel, and it does not ignore Hamas’s crimes”—breathtaking assertions to anyone who has been following the unfolding of this travesty.

 

 

Grossly Biased: Prof. Gross vs. the State of Israel

by Joel Amitai
19/10/2009

Last January 5, in the midst of Operation Cast Lead, Prof. Aeyal Gross wrote on his blog that his opposition to the war “comes, among other things, from a terrible fear that the war will only increase the Qassam fire and the casualties among Israeli civilians.” Gross, associate professor of law at Tel Aviv University, got that wrong. Although Operation Cast Lead can be legitimately criticized on various grounds, since its conclusion the Qassam fire—while not ending—has decreased markedly and residents of southwestern Israel have been able, at least for a while, to live a much more normal life.

At the time, though, Gross ruled out that possibility on the basis of a primitive pacifism, approvingly quoting a passage by a commentator on another blog who wrote, “There has never yet been a violent act that solved a violent problem that preceded it….” Sounds like he learned that from a preschooler's attendant supervising children. It is little less than shocking that a professor in Israel in 2009 would cite that as a piece of wisdom, considering that the Jewish (or Israeli Jewish) people alone have been rescued from annihilation by “violent acts” of armies several times—the most clear-cut cases being the Holocaust, the Israeli War of Independence, and the Six Day War—over the past seventy years. That is not to mention the Al-Aqsa or Second Intifada, which strewed blood and body parts in the streets of Israel during this decade until “violent acts” by the Israeli army put a stop to it in Operation Defensive Shield.

Gross is also a self-styled “human rights activist” who has been a member of the Board of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), which is known to charge Israel with “apartheid,” is funded by the European Union, and partners with other NGOs like New Israel Fund, Physicians for Human Right, and Yesh Din that seek to force a radical-Left agenda on Israel. Gross’s pacifism seemed less pure when in 2001 he was among the signers of a petition to bring an armed force to the disputed territories and “protect the Palestinian people in its struggle for the exercise of its right to self-determination and freedom”—that is, when the “intifada” had already started, Israelis were being slaughtered in buses and cafes, and the Israeli army was still being allowed to make only minor, tentative moves against the onslaught. For Gross, both pacifism and human rights get suspended when it’s Israelis who are under attack.

Gross, who sometimes publishes op-eds in Israel’s largest newspaper Yediot Aharonot, showed a similar lack of logical rigor in an op-ed (published originally in Hebrew last August 2) about the murder of two young Israelis at a Tel Aviv gay center for teens. “If the murder…was indeed motivated by [the victims’] sexual orientation,” Gross wrote, who is active in gay political groups, “this is the gravest hate crime ever carried out in Israel based on this motive.” But it was, and still is, a big “if.” And even if it turns out to be a crime motivated by hostility against homosexuals, it would hardly rank among the greater hate crimes in the Middle East's history. The perpetrator has not yet been caught, and police thought there could just as well have been a jilted-lover or some other motive. Based, though, on his hypothetical, unproved “if,” Gross goes on to lambaste Israeli leaders for allegedly failing to speak out against anti-gay statements by ultra-religious cabinet ministers, and he concludes by making an apology to the victims that seems to implicate the whole society when—to repeat—it is not yet known who murdered them or why.

Considering, then, that Gross views Israel as a society that should not defend itself against aggression, should be invaded by an international force if it does defend itself, and can be collectively blamed for a crime by an unknown individual, it comes as no surprise that the following month, on September 4, he came out in favor of boycotting Israel in a Yediot opus called “The Norwegians Have Exposed Israel’s Blindness.” That makes him a sort of law school non-heterosexual Neve Gordon.

The Norwegian government had just announced that it was withdrawing investments from Israel’s Elbit Company because Elbit provides technology for the separation fence. Israel’s official protest of this move, wrote Gross, was a form of “blindness” in the face of the International Court of Justice’s 2004 ruling against the fence. Noting darkly that parts of the fence deviate from the Green Line and encompass Israeli communities in the West Bank, Gross claimed this showed the real purpose of the fence was the “emerging de facto annexation” of the territories while leaving “hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the area between the fence and the Green Line” and “imprisoning hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians in enclaves.”

Gross concluded with a stern rebuke: “We have to remember that we live in a global era, in which our deeds prompt international reactions, and that ongoing neglect of Israel’s international legal obligations is likely to lead to further reactions of this kind.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, Prof. Gross has it in for Israel. It can do no right: faced with thousands of rockets falling on a whole region of the country, or with hundreds of suicide bombings in the heart of its cities, it can neither defend itself with “violent acts” nor even build a fence to keep out the attackers. If Israel engages in such self-defense, whether active or passive, proper international reactions include boycotting it or invading it militarily.

More specifically, Gross’s op-ed doesn’t get around to mentioning that: rulings by the International Court of Justice are not legally binding and have the status of recommendations only; at the time of the ruling, many of the countries represented on the court were severe human rights abusers; if the separation fence had not encompassed some of the tens of thousands of Israelis living just outside the Green Line, it would have been leaving them open to attack; the fence is built of nonpermanent materials and could be easily removed in a situation of peace and political changes; or that Palestinians and others have made numerous appeals to Israel’s Supreme Court to alter the fence’s route and have often won their cases. But maybe a law professor, when writing op-eds, can take a vacation from such standards.

Gross pulled out all the stops, though, in an op-ed a few weeks later praising the Goldstone Report, which has been condemned across Israel’s political spectrum. The report, he declared, “is not one-sided, it is not biased against Israel, and it does not ignore Hamas’s crimes”—breathtaking assertions to anyone who has been following the unfolding of this travesty.

The only grain of truth to Gross’s statement is that the report indeed does not totally ignore Hamas’s crimes. The report’s summary, however, as Alan Dershowitz notes, “never criticizes Hamas…downplays the rockets deliberately fired by Hamas at Israeli civilian targets…, blaming them on generic ‘Palestinian armed groups’…faults Israel more than Hamas for using human shields,” and cites an admission of murderous intent by a Hamas leader only to conclude that “it does not consider [this admission] to constitute evidence….” One also wonders if Gross has noticed by now whom the report has already placed in the dock at the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council: Hamas or Israel?

As for his claims that the report is “not one-sided” and “not biased against Israel,” the objections are of course legion and include the facts that: all four members of the commission had previously made or signed public statements condemning Israel’s military operation in Gaza; many prominent human rights experts refused to participate in the commission, with Mary Robinson—no friend of Israel—saying it was “guided not by human rights, but by politics”; the UN Human Rights Council, sponsor of the commission, had already adopted more resolutions condemning Israel than all 191 UN member states combined; the “witnesses” against Israel included Hamas members and civilians handpicked by Hamas; Goldstone “refused to watch videotapes, easily accessible on the internet, that show conclusively that Hamas terrorists routinely fired rockets from behind human shields”; he also refused to allow testimony by Richard Kemp, the British colonel who has stated that Israel took historically unprecedented steps to avoid harming civilians in Gaza including hundreds of thousands of leaflets and telephone calls—or, as Warren Goldstein, legal scholar and chief rabbi of South Africa, described it: “The Goldstone Mission is a disgrace to the most basic notions of justice, equality and the rule of law.”

None of that deterred Prof. Gross, who, accepting each and every accusation of beastly Israeli behavior in his op-ed, asked whether, “during these days of self-reflection” (the op-ed having been written during the High Holidays), “we can recognize that we collectively deny the fact that we have shown great wickedness towards civilians?”

But what wickedness would Aeyal Gross not lay at Israel’s door? All this while enjoying all the perks of being a law prof at Tel Aviv University, whose salary is paid for by the Israeli taxpayer. .

Joel Amitai is an independent researcher and filmmaker. Reach him at jamitai40@gmail.com.

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Op-Ed articles appearing on IsraCampus.Org.il are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinion of IsraCampus.Org.il