THE SPINE MAY 24, 2010
The most damning analysis of Richard Goldstone’s report was written for The New Republic by Moshe Halbertal, a moral and legal philosopher at Hebrew University and NYU Law School. On December 28 in The New York Times, columnist David Brooks saluted Halbertal’s essay as one of the best “long form articles that have narrative drive and social impact.” It certainly did have social impact, and, for weeks and weeks, the discussion of Goldstone revolved around Halbertal’s critique of him, of Goldstone’s tainted jury of judges, and of their enmeshment with the United Nations. One basic theme of his study revolved around the question of how disciplined armies can fight guerilla (and, indeed, terrorist) military cohorts, large and small.
The closest student of Richard Goldstone’s ongoing perambulations and the ditches into which he has slipped is Alan Dershowitz. After publishing his own scholarly document, Dershowitz has riveted on Goldstone’s movements, which are not the movements of any impartial judge. Instead, the former South African apartheid jurist has put himself on platform after platform actually defending the ideologically committed, corrupt, and racist justice of the U.N. system.
In a long and brilliantly discursive conversation with Ilan Evyatar and David Horovitz published in The Jerusalem Post, Dershowitz talks about the philosophical gnarls that are submerged in the findings which are hidden behind Goldstone’s name.
“… The essence of Goldstone is that at the highest levels of Israeli government and the Israeli military the real purpose of Operation Cast Lead was not to protect the citizens of Sderot. That [according to Goldstone] was a cover. The ‘real purpose’ was to kill Palestinian civilians. That’s just false. B’Tselem says that’s false, various other Israeli human rights organizations that are extremely critical of Israel and of Operation Cast Lead say that’s false.
“Richard Goldstone wasn’t even aware that it was in the report. I’m not even confident that he read the whole report before it was issued. He was there to put that stamp – I’m a Jew. I’m Goldstone, I’m going to put the stamp on the report, maybe if I have time later I’ll read it. I’ll put the stamp on the report, then you can circulate it to the world saying that ‘Goldstone said it was okay’…”
There is much more here. And Dershowitz also enters the controversy about Judge Goldstone’s career as a jurist under the apartheid regime.
As for Goldstone's work as a judge under apartheid, Dershowitz says: “His defense of ‘I was just following orders’ is much like the defense used by German judges, and Goldstone authorized the torture of blacks in what’s euphemistically called flogging but is torture under international law.... If the statute of limitations were still viable, he could be prosecuted as a criminal for authorizing the torture of blacks in South Africa. He couldn’t defend himself by saying ‘I was just following a law.’ You cannot follow a law that authorized torture. Particularly torture that had nothing to do with national security. It was punitive.”
Judge Goldstone’s record is not a pretty one. It is a surprise that no one raised the issue until Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister under Avigdor Lieberman, did. But it was he who did it, as reported also in The Jerusalem Post. But Ayalon is himself a neo-fascist in Israeli politics, a thuggish thinker and a degenerate diplomat. It is a shame that it was he who brought up the charges about Goldstone’s career in the apartheid judiciary. If there is anyone in the political arena who would like to turn Israel into an apartheid state, it would be him.
But the accusations he levied against Goldstone are true. The former judge sent (at least 28) black people to the gallows and black people to the whipping posts and black people to other indescribable humiliations. He was an agent of apartheid, someone who supinely enforced its cruel laws. There is a full treatment of this aspect of Goldstone’s career in Yedioth Ahronoth, abridged as “Judge Goldstone’s dark past” on the Ynet website of May 6. The anti-Israel left is a little blindsided by these revelations. So they minimize while they admit. Sasha Polakow-Suransky, a journalist who has written on Israel’s relationship with the apartheid government, yields timidly that “Goldstone’s apartheid era judicial rulings are undoubtedly a blot on his record.” But, if one is sufficiently hostile to Israel, one is forgiven everything, Polakow-Suransky forgives everything—yes, everything. Even the taking of lives of victims of apartheid rule. After all, legal justice must be done.
I met Richard Goldstone on my first visit to South Africa in March or April of 1984. We were a group of perhaps ten, including the distinguished essayist Milton Himmelfarb, Gertrude’s brother (now dead, alas). Another visitor, whose name I can’t recall, is also deceased. I’ve spoken with two other people who made the trip, Nathan Glazer and Adam Meyerson. And they don’t remember Judge Goldstone, but one vaguely recalls a Jewish judge.
Well, I know that the Jewish judge was Richard Goldstone. I’ve spent half the weekend searching for the notebook which I filled diligently. It is someplace in the house ... but nowhere to be found. So I have no quotes. But I do recall the man’s gestalt and his hauteur. He carried himself as a significant personage. He spoke as though he were not only the disposition of the law but the law itself.
Someone in our group, a rather younger man studying at (I think) Wittswatersand—or maybe it was Stellenbosch—knew something about Goldstone’s judicial record and the extent to which he had been a willing satrap of authority. Frankly, I couldn’t imagine (but I now know better) that a Jewish judge would fit so comfortably on what was truly a lower rung on a totalitarian ladder. But the truth is that he sometimes reflected publicly (and perhaps painfully) on the moral compromises he had to endure on the apartheid judiciary. The question is why he had to endure it.