What does it mean that Judge Richard Goldstone – he of the Goldstone report – has penned a desperate and propagandistic defense of Israel against what he calls the “apartheid slander” in The New York Times?
It’s a classic case of the judge doth protest too much:
One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues “apartheid” policies. In Cape Town starting on Saturday, a London-based nongovernmental organization called the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will hold a “hearing” on whether Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid. It is not a “tribunal.” The “evidence” is going to be one-sided and the members of the “jury” are critics whose harsh views of Israel are well known.
It is remarkable that Goldstone felt a need to launch a frontal attack on the Russell Tribunal in The New York Times. A more confident Israel (and its ardent supporters) would simply ignore it. It is a sign of weakness and panic – and therefore a good sign – that Israel is becoming hypersensitive to any and all criticism, just like apartheid South Africa in the decade before it was replaced by a democracy of all its citizens (Read Frank Barat’s op-ed on The Russell Tribunal here on The Electronic Intifada).
Goldstone attempts to argue – disingenuously – that there is no comparison to be made between Israel and apartheid South Africa:
In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute: “Inhumane acts … committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”
That is precisely what exists. Israel itself declares that it is a “Jewish state” and demands that Palestinians and the world recognize it as such. Stemming from this self-definition, which is based on a genetic, not voluntary, definition of who is a Jew, Israel claims the right to carry out all sorts of inhumane acts especially excluding indigenous Palestinians exiled from their land from returning solely because they are not Jews. Israel explicitly wants to maintain a Jewish majority in order to dominate and exclude Palestinians from having any effective political voice.
The monstrosity of Israel’s siege and war on Gaza exists precisely and only for this purpose. Did Goldstone ask himself how things would be different if the 1.6 million people – 80 percent of them refugees – corralled into Gaza were Jews? Of course Israel would welcome them back to their lands and villages with open arms, restore their property, give them full political rights and a whole range of financial incentives.
Instead, just because they are not Jews, Israel has deprived them of their land, property, political rights, the right to travel and subjects them to a siege in which the amount of calories they are allowed is governed by “mathematical formulas.” And of course Israel bombs them if they resist in any manner.
If Palestinians in Gaza were excluded and besieged just for being black instead of just for being Palestinian (and not Jewish) would Goldstone dare to pretend that this was not the most pernicious form of ethno-racial discrimination and inhumane action? What’s even worse is that Goldstone blames the victims:
To be sure, there is more de facto separation between Jewish and Arab populations than Israelis should accept. Much of it is chosen by the communities themselves.
Is he unaware that Palestinians did not choose to be forced from their land during the Nakba and since any more than blacks chose to be forcibly displaced into apartheid South Africa’s bantustans? Is he aware that when Israel has refused to build a single new town for Palestinian citizens of Israel while building a thousand new towns for Jews since 1948, it is solely the Israeli apartheid state that has made that choice?
What about Israel’s current plans to expel another 60,000 Palestinian bedouins from their land. Whose “choice” is that?
When Israel forces its curriculum on Palestinian schoolchildren in eastern occupied Jerusalem, does he see no parallel with the South African apartheid regime’s effort – which led to the Soweto uprising of 1976 – to force black schoolchildren to learn Afrikaans?
It almost seems like Goldstone is mocking Palestinians when he writes the following:
I know all too well the cruelty of South Africa’s abhorrent apartheid system, under which human beings characterized as black had no rights to vote, hold political office, use “white” toilets or beaches, marry whites, live in whites-only areas or even be there without a “pass.” Blacks critically injured in car accidents were left to bleed to death if there was no “black” ambulance to rush them to a “black” hospital. “White” hospitals were prohibited from saving their lives.
Has Goldstone not noticed that for most of Israel’s existence it has ruled through force and tyranny over millions of Palestinians who’ve had no right to vote? Formal apartheid lasted 46 years in South Africa, from 1948 to 1994. Israel’s “temporary” occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has now lasted 44 years (and its occupation of the rest of Palestine 63 years).
Is he unaware that Israeli Jewish women and Palestinian women risk jail just for going to the beach together or for how many years Gazans could not use their own beaches because they were reserved for settlers? Does he truly have no idea how many Palestinian women have died in childbirth because Palestinian ambulances and never Jewish ambulances are held up at checkpoints?
If Goldstone wants to learn more about Israel’s apartheid he can read the detailed study by South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council published in 2009, which found that Israel indeed practices apartheid and colonialism.
When Goldstone was under constant assault by Israel and its attack dogs for his role in writing the UN report documenting Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza, those close to him always publicly insisted that the judge was an ardent Zionist. Goldstone has proven that beyond any doubt with his earlier attempt to back away from his report, and now this sad piece in The New York Times.
But if anything, Goldstone’s shameless pandering to Israel only adds credibility to his earlier work: if someone so anxious to defend Israel in spite of the facts could not even cover up its atrocious crimes in Gaza, then indeed there is a case for Israel’s war criminal leaders to answer and pursuing them must not stop until they are brought to justice.