We live in a world in which the contagion of anti-Semitism is spreading once again. Indeed, the profusion of hostility to Israel is the proof that hatred of Jews is now quite alright, thank you. But, whatever individual and isolated wrongs Israel commits, there are comparisons to be drawn. And the comparisons are to the Arab states and to Palestinian Arab society, in which oppression has flourished since the early years of the last century.
The ancient rabbis declared that, “even though a Jew has sinned”—which in this context means sinned against his own—“he remains Israel.” We can leave it for the Lord Almighty to decide whether Richard Goldstone remains among His chosen. But, whether the judge can worship with members of the congregation, as he was finally permitted to do at his grandson’s bar mitzvah last spring, remains in the hands of those who’d have to pray with him; and, if I were them, I would not allow him. Not for one moment.
Two years ago, South African Jewish jurist Richard Goldstone authored an explosive report on behalf of the United Nations accusing Israel of committing war crimes in its counterattack against Hamas in the Gaza strip. Now Goldstone is renouncing his own report: The leader of a United Nations panel that investigated Israel’s invasion of Gaza two years ago has retracted the central and most explosive assertion of its report — that Israel intentionally killed Palestinian civilians there.
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 of the frustrating things about debating the Middle East is that most of the people to my left find it difficult to fathom, or sometimes inconvenient to acknowledge, the existence of actual liberals who have somewhat hawkish views on Israel. So anybody whose view on the Middle East is to the right of Naomi Klein must be a reflexive supporter of Israel and probably a "Likudnik," and could not possibly have any other foreign policy principles that dovetail with their views on Israel. Last week I wrote about a report bringing to light Richard Goldstone's Apartheid-era history.
The other day I wrote about a news report revealing that Richard Goldstone, as an Apartheid-era South African judge, had issued such rulings as acquitting police officers who broke into a white woman's home on suspicion that she was having sex with a black man. Goldstone directed a controversial U.N. Human Rights Council report on Israel's Gaza war. I concluded, "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.
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.
On October 19 of last year, the op-ed page of The New York Times contained a bombshell: a piece by Robert Bernstein, the founder and former chairman of Human Rights Watch (HRW), attacking his own organization. HRW, Bernstein wrote, was “helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.” The allegation was certainly not new: HRW had been under assault for years by American Jews and other supporters of Israel, who argued that it was biased against the Jewish state. And these attacks had intensified in recent months, with a number of unflattering revelations about the organization.
This week I've been attending the first national conference of J Street, the "pro-Israel, pro-Peace" group which I first wrote about last year. I'm working on a longer piece about the organization's identity crisis that should appear sometime soon, but there have been two events thus far worthy of special note. First was the speech delivered by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism and one of the most prominent liberal Jews in the country.
The Israeli reactions to the Goldstone report on the Gaza war of January 2009 have focused, understandably, on its outrageous omissions and distortions and one-sided judgments, as well as on the moral corruption of the report's sponsor, the UN's Human Rights Commission.