THE SPINE OCTOBER 2, 2009
I hope that I'm not being too haughty. But these articles are provocative, trenchant and convincing. They will give some of you heartburn.
1. The first, "Biting the Hand: The Goldstone Report," is from the Jesuit weekly America in response to an oh, so predictable editorial in the same journal. It is written by Michael Sean Winters, a Catholic intellectual who--if I may claim some institutional credit--did some of his growing up in and around TNR. He points out that Judge Goldstone boasts that nine Israeli human rights organization have called on the government to investigate the report's charges, of which I don't but Winters does. Still, he goes to the heart of the matter when discussing the relative plausibility of testimony about what went on between the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas during the Gaza fighting.
Perhaps the telling line in the editorial was this: 'Nine Israeli human rights organizations are calling for a thorough investigation of the Goldstone Report's charges.' Of course, you couldn't write a sentence that begins, 'Nine Palestinian human rights organizations ... or 'Nine Egyptian human rights organizations ...' could you? ... it tells you all you need to know about the frame of this story that in Israel human rights activists organize and in many of the surrounding countries human rights activists are imprisoned or murdered by their governments.
Including pre-eminently in Gaza.
2. Elihu Richter is not a person indifferent to genocide. In fact, much of his life have been devoted to understanding it and preventing it. Writing in the Jerusalem Post , his article, "Right of Reply: Goldstone's sorry search for symmetry" is actually a correction of Judge Goldstone's own op ed in the same paper.
Richter had made his points in a nine page annotated and referenced brief to the Commission itself early in the summer. They amount to the charge that in its own language Hamas (and also, for that matter, Iran) had incited to genocide. Before there is a genocide there must be incitement to genocide. I will tempt you again: see Daniel Goldhagen's desolating essay in this regard in the next issue of TNR. This is not academic palaver, either by Richter or by Goldhagen. It is the judgement of the International Criminal Tribunal-Rwanda, of which Goldstone himself was the chief prosecutor. But Richter argues--one doesn't have to argue too much--that Goldstone ignored the principles of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide and the Rome Statute of the international criminal court in his Gaza inquisition. It's a strange conscience that has someone build a principle defending human life in one instance and ignoring it in another.
Had Israel not won the battle of Gaza it is not difficult to imagine what would have occurred. The Palestinians would have swarmed over the frontier to kill, kill, kill.
Richter is head of the Genocide Prevention Program at the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health and head of the World Genocide Situation Room at Genocide Prevention Now, an NGO that actually does something good.
3. Max Boot is one of the country's deepest foreign policy columnists. Alas, mostly he writes for Contentions which is the web site of Commentary whose editor is now pissed off at me. But hey!
"Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Dead Americans" is his blog for October 1. Frankly the middle of the road had always made me uncomfortable. I don't like to be in the middle of the road, and I rarely think that the middle of the road is the correct path for anything. The Olympian historian of Communism and one of my mentors, Adam Ulam, once characterized me in his urbane Polish-inflected English, "Marty, you are neither left nor right. You are from the extreme right of the left and the extreme left of the right." I consoled myself that was not where the middle of the road was.
The middle of the road that Boot has in mind is the one on which all of the politicians and journalists who count themselves statesman are now converging. This, of course, is about what American policy will be in Afghanistan in a few weeks. The president is now contemplating his options in what seems to be the public sphere. But his mind is never public. So we'll have to wait. In the meantime, members of the administration are positioning themselves as close to the middle as possible so that they don't have to jump too far whatever Obama decides.
In any case, Boot makes a strategic argument that the middle is not the right place to be.