The 500+ page Goldstone Report, produced for the UN Human Rights Council by Judge Richard Goldstone and a distinguished group of Human Rights advocates, came to some damning conclusions about Israel’s conduct of its assault on Hamas in the Gaza Strip between December 2008 and January 2009. The report also criticised Hamas.

The report found that Israel and Hamas were probably both guilt of war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. The report was endorsed by UNHRC and will be sent to the UN Security Council for recommendation to be considered by the International Criminal Court.

Israel refused to co-operate with the Report on the grounds that some of the fact-finding members who were to produce the report had already decided in advance that Israel had committed war crimes and were, therefore biased. Israel and its supporters also saw the move to condemn it as yet another attempt by the UNHRC to delegitmise the State of Israel and pillory it internationally. The UNHRC’s activities have been disproportionately focused on Israel in the past and Israel sees the UNHRC as an instrument of its enemies and detractors.

Indeed, supporters of Israel like myself, have focused on the injustices and bias of the reporting of Operation Cast Lead, the manipulation of the world media and world opinion by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and the virtual free pass that Hamas and its seven year rocket attack on Southern Israel have received. The Goldstone report was seen by me and those of like opinion as yet another tool with which to bash Israel and whitewash the murderous and genocidal Hamas terrorists. This was a new opportunity to further advance Israel’s pariah status in the world.

By focussing on the one-sided nature of the report and the extraordinary moral equivalence which persists in the corridors of the UN and elsewhere between Hamas’s attempts to destroy Israel and Israel’s attempts to defend itself, we have to be careful about dismissing the findings of the Report out of hand.

Although it may be unfair that Israel is once again singled out and it may be galling that most of the nations voting in the UNHRC to recommend the Report have themselves human rights records which are far worse than even the most partisan interpretation of the report, nevertheless, Israel must investigate every allegation and every criticism of its conduct because that is the only moral and, indeed, politically expedient route to take. Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dan Meridor has told Ha’aretz “[he] thinks Israel should establish its own independent committee to investigate Israel Defense Forces activity in the Gaza Strip during last winter’s Operation Cast Lead.”

If Israel can rebut the accusations then it should find the means to do so via a truly independent internal investigation. Just how it does that and what would be considered fair and independent by the outside world is hard to say, but, it is important for Israel itself to make the investigation and to act on any findings. Not because that’s what the UN requires but because Israel must preserve its own moral compass, it must prove primarily to itself that either it is guiltless or if it is not, then how to remedy and rectify its transgressions.

Of course, the Report calls on Hamas to do the same, to investigate its own conduct. This is ludicrous; terrorists do not have a conscience or moral scruples. For Hamas ALL is justified in their Jihad against Israel and, indeed, against the Jews. They have no regard or respect for International Law except to use it to beat Israel with. Their objection to the report was that it confused aggressor with victim – on that score they were dead right, except the aggressor was Hamas and the victim Israel.

The question Israel has to address now is whether there own aggressive act of self-defence, to destroy or disable Hamas before it could pose an existential threat to Israel, was conducted not just according to International Law but Israeli Law and customary law; was their strategy morally and ethically sound, could they have achieved the same goal with less destruction and fewer casualties.

For those whose default position is ‘Israel: evil, rabid, colonial, apartheid, illegitimate, expansionist, American proxy state. Palestine: freedom fighters, oppressed, impoverished victims of injustice and dispossession’, no accounting by Israel will ever be enough; they just want Israel destroyed and look no further than that goal, the consequences of which would be far worse than the status quo.

For those of us with a more temperate view and who have Israel’s and, indeed, the Palestinians’ long-term well-being at heart, Israel must bite the bitter bullet and formulate its own investigation into Operation Cast Lead which avoids accusations of whitewash from all but its bitterest enemies.