Even for a body with a steady and dependable record of demonizing Israel, the UN has truly outdone itself this time. Mustering all the righteous indignation at its disposal, the world organization has deemed itself morally fit to accuse the Jewish state of "actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity" during last winter's conflict in Gaza.
These were among the unsavory findings of the 575-page report released on Tuesday by the Goldstone Commission, under the authority of the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the fighting between Israel and Hamas.
The harshness of the report is simply breathtaking. It lambastes Israel for using "collective punishment" and asserts that the IDF's military operations "were carefully planned in all their phases as a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population."
Israel's assault, the report concludes, "was directed at the people of Gaza as a whole," which is about as close as you can come to depicting a country's actions as Nazi-like without actually using the "N" word.
THE PANEL, headed by South African Jewish jurist Richard Goldstone, also recommended that Israel be given three months to launch its own investigations "in conformity with international standards" or face possible referral by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Yes, you read that correctly. The Jewish state and its wartime leaders now face the prospect of being hauled before the very same tribunal that is pursuing the perpetrators of genocide in Darfur and the murder and conscription of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Sure, the report also accused the Palestinians of similar violations of international law, but we all know perfectly well just how this is going to play around the world.
In short, the Goldstone report is nothing less than a political pogrom, one which reeks of anti-Semitism, moral relativism and bias. It has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with a political agenda which seeks to isolate the Jewish state, besmirch its good name and pressure it into making concessions to its enemies.
More than 60 years may have passed since the State of Israel was founded, but clearly much of the world still seems incapable of forgiving us for having the gall to defend ourselves.
Various legal experts have already weighed in, asserting that Israel has little to fear from the report in the form of practical consequences because of jurisdictional and other issues. They point to the fact that its recommendations are not binding, and that in any event Israel is not a party to the treaty which established the court at The Hague.
All that may be true, but regardless of the legal ramifications, this is a body-blow in political and diplomatic terms. It reinforces all the hostile propaganda that has been hurled in Israel's direction over the years by the Palestinians and their supporters, and enshrines Israel alongside thugs such as Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic and Liberia's Charles Taylor as modern-day war criminals.
WORSE YET, the fact that the report bears the imprimatur of a panel headed by a prominent international Jewish jurist will make it that much more difficult to counter the slanders it contains, as people will naturally assume that the ethnic identity of its author shields against any possible underlying anti-Israel partiality.
Whether Goldstone consciously sought to lay this outrageous document at Israel's doorstep just days before Rosh Hashana is debatable, and we may never truly know. But in a sense that he surely never intended, its timing could not possibly have been more fortuitous.
Starting with Rosh Hashana, Israel is entering a period of judgment, an annual rite of passage when the creator of the world assesses us both individually and collectively and determines our fates for the coming year.
In contrast to Goldstone and his ilk, this is one tribunal where we can and will get a fair hearing, from a judge who truly has our best interests at heart and wishes to dispense justice tempered with mercy.
The slap in the face that the UN has given Israel is a timely reminder that we cannot place our trust in man, or rely on him to adjudicate on our behalf. It is a sharp and unpleasant signal that Israel remains very much alone among the nations, maligned and misunderstood.
Surely, we must criticize and condemn the Goldstone report with every ounce of our being, and redouble our efforts to explain Israel and its cause. But the onset of the High Holy Days presents us with a unique and far more powerful opportunity.
"Everything that happens on a day-to-day basis has already been decreed on the previous Rosh Hashana and will be reevaluated and judged on the upcoming Rosh Hashana," writes Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, chief rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem, in his brilliant work Thoughts for the Month of Elul. "All the headlines of the upcoming year, may they be for the good, will be written in Heaven on Rosh Hashana and will only be published later, when the events themselves transpire."
Each of us, then, now has an opportunity in the coming days to literally write the future. Through our prayers and our actions, we can influence events and sway the heavenly verdict in Israel's favor. We can write the coming year's headlines through the power of our pleas and the resonance of our repentance.
If you believe, as I do, that there is a God who actively intervenes and guides the course of history while granting us free will, then by necessity the course of the future has yet to be finalized.
So this Rosh Hashana, let's strike a blow at all the Goldstones and Israel-bashers out there, and channel our passions in the direction of prayer. Let's show the UN what we think of its courts and their rulings, by going over their heads and appealing to a much higher authority. For in doing so we can be assured that justice will, for once, finally be served.