NEW YORK — The No. 1 priority of any government is to protect its citizens, whether it be from times of economic instability, crime or foreign threats.
Stimulus packages and rebates are given to constituents to spur the economy. Additional police forces are deployed to counter crime. But what is a country to do when being attacked by a foreign army?
The answer to this question seems simple: defend its citizens by all means possible. But for Israel, doing so means condemnation by the world in the form of the Goldstone report.
For eight years, since 2001 until Operation Cast Lead, 12,000 rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip. Israeli men, women and children were forced to sleep in bomb shelters. Children’s school days were disturbed by “red alert,” an alarm announcing that a rocket had been fired and that they had 15 seconds to find shelter.
The excuse for the rocket fire: occupation.
Taking the unilateral step to bring peace to its citizens, the Land of Israel, under the leadership of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, dismantled every settlement and every military base in Gaza and relocated 10,000 Jewish residents.
The result: 5,426 rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli citizens.
Israel was forced to react and finally curb these attacks. From March 2008 until the end of Operation Cast Lead, I worked in the Israeli city of Sderot, Israel’s hardest-hit community. Even today I can still see the tear-stained faces and hear the cries of fathers, mothers and children as the red alert sounded, and then the subsequent bang from a missile or rocket hitting a school, a home or a street.
Every day, for eight years, rockets and mortars hit Sderot. Not a day went by that the siren did not sound. Not a night went by that children could sleep in their beds. In the rare instances that residents were allowed to leave the shelters for fresh air, and to get food and clothes for their extended stay, fear was rampant in the air. No one knew when the next rocket would be fired.
Israel tried diplomatic ways, entering into a truce with Hamas to bring peace to the residents of southern Israel. But Hamas chose war as we had our arms outstretched for peace. On Dec. 13, 2008, Israel announced that it wished to extend a truce that was scheduled to end Dec. 19. On Dec. 20, Hamas chose not to extend the truce.
Choosing the path of war, on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, Hamas fired 87 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel in an operation entitled “Operation Oil Stain.”
The question of a government’s right to self-defense is not the only issue on trial in the Goldstone Report. Also on trial is the world’s right to fight terrorism, whether at home or abroad.
Israel, a nation with laws and code of ethics, was forced to defend itself from terrorists who intentionally fired at innocent civilians and decided to hide among their own civilian population in order to defend themselves from counter action.
Goldstone does not differentiate between a democracy using force to defend its civilians and a terror organization targeting innocent civilians on purpose. The report does not search for the truth but rather instills Goldstone’s own political beliefs on the situation.
Such reports not only harm nation states in the war against terror, but harm the prospects for peace in the Middle East. For peace to be given a chance, all citizens must know that their country will keep them safe — not only from economic crisis and crime, but also from foreign threats.
(Joel Lion is the consul for media affairs and spokesman of the Consulate General of Israel in New York.)