JONATHAN CHAIT MAY 7, 2010
Yedioth Ahronoth digs into Richard Goldstone's judicial history in South Africa. (Goldstone is the author of a controversial U.N. report on Israel's incursion into Gaza. Moshe Habertal wrote a nuanced, fair-minded and ultimately very tough critique of the Goldstone Report last November.) Yedioth Ahronoth's headline is that he sentenced 28 black defendants to death, which seems not all that shocking, especially since there's no evidence the defendants weren't guilty. This, on the other hand, seems more problematic:
Even when it came to far less serious offenses, Goldstone sided through and through with the racist policies of the Apartheid regime. Among other things, he approved the whipping of four blacks found guilty of violence, while he acquitted four police officers who had broken into a white woman's house on suspicions that she was conducting sexual relations with a black man – something considered then in South Africa as a serious crime.
In another incident, Goldstone sentenced two young black men merely for being in possession of a video tape showing a speech given by one of the senior officials in Nelson Mandela's party.
This doesn't prove or even suggest that Goldstone is, or was, a racist or an Apartheid supporter. It's morally murky territory -- the ultimate question is whether and to what degree a white South African could take a position such as a judge for a regime that had such despicable laws. I don't think the answer is clear. But it certainly adds some texture to the portrait of Goldstone as a man. (He privately called the UN Human Rights Council "hopeless," then wrote a report vindicating its geopolitical prejudices.) Goldstone seems to be disinclined to make a brave, lonely stand against the prevailing currents.