There is always something compelling about a “David and Goliath” confrontation. Most of us prefer winners to losers, and almost everyone feels a thrill when the underdog takes a stand and prevails.
This is the surprising situation now unfolding in the rising drama of the Goldstone Report on Gaza. Goliath — in this instance, Israel plus the US in its usual role of Bibi Netanyahu’s “Uncle Tom” — assumed that broad threats and a predictable US veto on the UN Security Council would kill that report. And last week, that seemed likely to happen.
But David — in the form of Turkey’s forthright Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan — isn’t buying that at all. His courageous stance has a good chance of not only bringing the Goldstone Report dramatically into view so publicly that even the Jewish-dominated US mainstream media cannot ignore it, but also opening the political sewer that is Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians for all the world — especially the American public — to see.
Genesis in Gaza
The genesis of this, of course, was Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza in the weeks before Obama assumed office, and its subsequent condemnation not by the UN Security Council (its American puppet-patron prevented that), but in a report prepared by a UN Human Rights Council commission headed by a respected Jewish jurist from South Africa, Richard Goldstone.
Yet even before that report appeared, Erdogan had already clashed with Israel over its assault on Gaza, walking out from a debate with Israeli President Shimon Peres in January 2009. He has continued his criticism of Israeli actions in Gaza and against Palestinians since that time, excluding Israel from participating in a recent NATO exercise, and this week continuing his condemnation of Israel for using incendiaries against civilians and harming children during the Gaza onslaught.
Turkey’s position is potentially critical here. As a long-standing member of NATO and a secular Moslem country having formal diplomatic relations with Israel, it cannot easily be dismissed by its critics as an anti-Semitic rogue. Erdogan’s position on this issue is popular at home, and evidently supported by the Turkish military. He also makes no bones about calling Israeli and US actions what they are, something so much of the world — and especially most Arab countries, whose leaders ought in their own self-interest to know better — take great pains to ignore, or even to facilitate.
On to the United Nations
It now appears that the Goldstone Report will be formally debated by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). This is certainly where the US prefers the matter to end, if it has to go anywhere within the UN, asserting that the report is “deeply flawed” because in practice it fails to totally exonerate Israel (it must be SO hard for US Ambassador Rice to look in the mirror without becoming ill after parroting such remarks, but perhaps she is used to it by now….). And that may happen.
But it need not do so. At this point, people in three critical UN positions all want the Gaza report (and implicitly, the Israeli-Palestinian Question) to be debated now. They are the Secretary-General of the UN, the President of the UN General Assembly, and the President of the UN Security Council. This is an unusual combination, and one not likely to reappear anytime soon, which makes the speedy execution of the report’s recommendations all the more important.
Moreover, the flip-flop of the Palestinian Authority on this issue, first asking for the report to be deferred and then reversing itself in the face of mounting criticism from Palestinians and others, may work for the better. The uproar created a degree of general public awareness of the whole controversy, and brought many Palestinians from both Hamas and Fatah together more than I have seen in years.
Looking Beyond the US Veto
Like most bullies who suddenly see justice approaching, Israel’s government alternates among bluster, truculence and threats, still expecting good old Uncle Sam — doting, very strong, and not very bright at all — to intercede at the first and last moments alike. And you can be sure that AIPAC and company will be doing their utmost to make that happen.
So the rest of the world should appreciate two facts. One is that the Israeli threat to forgo peace talks with the Palestinians is both irrelevant and worthless. It is irrelevant because the hapless Palestinian Authority with which Israel might be talking does not represent or speak for the large majority of the Palestinian people. It is worthless because peace to Israel means submission to its will: Israel will return no territories, evacuate no settlements, allow no Palestinian refugees to return, and negotiate nothing except the incidental details of its dominance.
The other is that there is no inherent reason for the Goldstone Report to die in the Human Rights Council, or even in the Security Council. Erdogan has indicated a willingness for Turkey, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month, to bring it before that body regardless of what transpires in the HRC. That would move it a step further, where after presumably acrimonious discussion, it would be vetoed by the US, perhaps with Britain and/or France joining it.
At that point, the President of the Security Council, in concert with the President of the General Assembly and the UN Secretary-General, should be encouraged to make every effort in their own spheres of responsibility to bring the debate before the General Assembly under the provisions of UNGA 377A (the “Uniting for Peace Resolution”).
An artifact of the Cold War designed to circumvent Soviet vetoes, it is little known now but absolutely applicable to the smoldering situation in the Middle East. Its great virtues are that it gives the General Assembly the enforcement powers normally within the purview of the Security Council, and vetoes do not apply.
This is a unique opportunity. Anticipate it. Prepare for it. Make the most of it. Win.