The context of the war - the full context - was that we had blockaded Gaza by air, sea and to a great extent by land, we were racking up a kill ratio of nearly 50 to 1 - then we invaded the country, destroyed thousands upon thousands of homes and public buildings and bumped up the ratio to more than 100-to-1.
And we don't see that we did anything wrong. Somebody's got to tell us. Lots of people have tried, including Amnesty International, the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch and, last but definitely not least, dozens of our own soldiers.
We've tried to smear them all, to silence them, to drown out the message that keeps repeating itself from one source to another. Now we have the message, the same message again, from one of the world's most respected, accomplished men of justice. South Africa's Judge Richard Goldstone has a record that no one in this country would dare try to tarnish. What's more, he's not only a Jew (and a former president of World ORT), he's also a friend of Israel. He was on the board of directors at the Hebrew University, got an honorary doctorate there, he's visited this country any number of times, his daughter's lived here for awhile.
"Israel," he said Tuesday, "committed actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity." He said Hamas's rockets amounted to the same thing - but there's no comparison in magnitude, not in his report and not on the ground. Before, during and since the war with Gaza, Israel has been overwhelmingly the victimizer, not the victim.
WE MIGHT ask ourselves: What motive does Goldstone have to lie, to do a hatchet job on this nation and its army? (We might have asked ourselves the same question about the combat soldiers from the Rabin academy and Breaking the Silence.) The answer is that he has no such motive. He's telling the truth. More precisely, he's reinforcing the truth about the war that's been told by so many others.
Since we can't stain his record as a scourge of apartheid and of war crimes in Kosovo and Rwanda - and since we don't want to even mention his record - I'm sure we'll try to smear Goldstone as a dupe for Israel-bashers. There are one or two other names he'll no doubt be called - off the record, naturally. Israel is going to war, an information war this time, and the Goldstone report is the enemy.
But it's no use. We can't win the information war - and the reason is that we're blindfolded. We tied the blindfold on ourselves. We did it because we don't want to see what we're doing in Gaza and the West Bank.
But everyone else sees.
Our friend the Obama administration has been trying to tell us and we won't listen. Now our friend Judge Goldstone is telling us, only much less gently.
Will this do it? Will this scare us awake? Will this be the turning point?
I don't know. But I do know that this man has done a mitzva, a big, brave one. In the name of at least some Israelis, I want to say: Thank you, judge. Shana tova to you, too.
In a follow up column in the Jerusalem Post Derfner made the following critical comment on the reaction of the Israelis to the Goldstone Report. "This is the Israeli notion of a fair deal: We're entitled to do whatever the hell we want to the Palestinians because, by definition, whatever we do to them is self-defense. They, however, are not entitled to lift a finger against us because, by definition, whatever they do to us is terrorism."
Daniel Levy, formerly a senior Israeli peace negotiator, also commented on the Goldstone UN report on Israel's conduct of the Gaza War. He prescribes for Israel a probing self-examination and a repudiation of the policies that led to the conflict that has had such a disastrous impact, possibly leading to Israel being viewed as a pariah state.
Indeed there exist two extreme poles of response to a report such as this: one, of the reflexive Israel-haters for whom this is a gotcha moment extraordinaire, and they gleefully wave the latest proof that Israel is a world pariah without parallel. Their mirror image is the pavlovian and delusional Israel-can-do-no-wrong crowd, for whom behind any serious critique of Israel lays the nefarious machinations of age-old antisemitism, singling out the Jewish state and to hell with the facts.
But for the vast majority of non- or only mildly partisan individuals with a capacity for cognitive reflection, the Goldstone report should be treated seriously and even perhaps as a wake-up call.