Normally New Republic content on Israel sticks to an eight or nine on the ten point insanometer unless it’s written by TNR Editor in Chief Martin Peretz itself. But Michael Oren, a frequent TNR contributor who was recently appointed as Israel’s ambassador to the United States, is really shattering through the Peretz Line here:
The Goldstone Report goes further than Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust deniers by stripping the Jews not only of the ability and the need but of the right to defend themselves. If a country can be pummeled by thousands of rockets and still not be justified in protecting its inhabitants, then at issue is not the methods by which that country survives but whether it can survive at all. But more insidiously, the report does not only hamstring Israel; it portrays the Jews as the deliberate murderers of innocents–as Nazis. And a Nazi state not only lacks the need and right to defend itself; it must rather be destroyed.
Needless to say, the Goldstone Report just doesn’t say anything remotely like this.
The specifics of the outrageous slander involved here aside, the doctrine Oren seems to be trying to put forward is the idea that if a state is attacked then anything the state does in the way of a defensive response is legitimate. This just isn’t what international humanitarian law says or ever has said. I think the post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan easily fit the bill as self-defense. But that fact itself doesn’t immunize the United States against the charge of war crimes. Indeed, it seems quite clear that the Bush administration’s detention and torture policies amounted to war crimes. War crimes that were undertaken in a spirit of self-defense, yes, but war crimes nonetheless. The nature of the war crimes Goldstone says Israel committed are different, but the logic of the argument is just the same. The existence of anti-Israel rocket attacks does not, as such, create a justification for anything Israel chooses to do in response. Even the fact that the rockets attacks are, themselves, war crimes (as Goldstone writes) doesn’t justify illegal or immoral responses, anymore than the fact that illegal and immoral aspects of past Israel conduct justify illegal and immoral rocket attacks. “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” as they say.