Goldstone’s ‘apartheid’ denial sparks strife

After his famous article earlier this year on Gaza, Judge Richard Goldstone has written a new op-ed, this time seeking to defend Israel against charges of apartheid.

There are numerous problems with Goldstone’s piece, but I want to highlight two important errors. First, Goldstone – like others who attack the applicability of the term “apartheid” – wants to focus on differences between the old regime in South Africa and what is happening in Israel/Palestine. Note that he does this even while observing that apartheid “can have broader meaning”, and acknowledging its inclusion in the 1998 Rome Statute.

As South African legal scholar John Dugard wrote in his foreword to my book Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, no one is saying the two situations “are exactly the same”. Rather, there are “certain similarities” as well as “differences”: “It is Israel’s own version of a system that has been universally condemned”.

Goldstone would appear not to have read studies by the likes of South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council and others, who conclude that Israel is practicing a form of apartheid. The term has been used by the likes of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Jimmy Carter, and Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem.

Goldstone’s second major error is to omit core Israeli policies, particularly relating to the mass expulsions of 1948 and the subsequent land regime built on expropriation and ethno-religious discrimination. By law, Palestinian refugees are forbidden from returning, their property confiscated – the act of dispossession that enabled a Jewish majority to be created in the first place.

As an advisor on Arab affairs to PM Menachem Begin put it: “If we needed this land, we confiscated it from the Arabs. We had to create a Jewish state in this country, and we did”. Within the “Green Line”, the average Arab community had lost between 65 and 75 per cent of its land by the mid-1970s. Across Israel, hundreds of Jewish communities permit or deny entry according to “social suitability”. Goldstone’s claim that there is merely “de facto separation” rings hollow.

Facebooktwittermail

Goldstone’s latest act of atonement at the feet of the Zionists

“If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.” Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak, February, 2010.

In his latest act of atonement, Judge Richard Goldstone claims that those who assert Israel practices a form of apartheid, make this accusation in order to “retard rather than advance peace negotiations.” The discrimination that Palestinians face is neither intentional nor permanent, he says.

[In the West Bank] there is no intent to maintain “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.” This is a critical distinction, even if Israel acts oppressively toward Palestinians there. South Africa’s enforced racial separation was intended to permanently benefit the white minority, to the detriment of other races. By contrast, Israel has agreed in concept to the existence of a Palestinian state in Gaza and almost all of the West Bank, and is calling for the Palestinians to negotiate the parameters.

So, according to Goldstone’s way of thinking one could say that to the extent that Palestinians have to suffer living inside a system of Israeli oppression that looks like apartheid, it’s their own fault because they have so far failed to negotiate the terms for their own release. They’re like prisoners who keep on flunking in front of the parole board. (Let’s not raise the awkward question about what exactly they did in order to deserve being thrown in prison in the first place.)

Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, is quick to use Goldstone’s rejection of the Israel-apartheid equation in order to advance his own organization’s agenda.

Those who invoke this false analogy to advance BDS, lawfare, and other forms of political warfare against Israel, have been named and shamed by the former South African judge who helped end apartheid and who was also critical of Israeli policies. This is a fatal blow to the BDS movement and the apartheid analogy.

I wonder whether NGO Monitor advisory board member, Alan Dershowitz, now shares Steinberg’s enthusiasm about Goldstone? Only last year Dershowitz compared Goldstone with the Nazi war criminal, Joseph Mengele.

Facebooktwittermail

Goldstone has paved the path for a second Gaza war

Gideon Levy writes:

All at once the last doubts have disappeared and the question marks have become exclamation points. Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu Al-Aish wrote a short book in which he invented the killing of his three daughters. The 29 dead from the Al-Simoni family are now vacationing in the Caribbean. The white phosphorus was only the pyrotechnics of a war film. The white-flag wavers who were shot were a mirage in the desert, as were the reports about the killing of hundreds of civilians, including women and children. “Cast lead” has returned to being a phrase in a Hanukkah children’s song.

A surprising and unexplained article in The Washington Post by Richard Goldstone caused rejoicing here, a Goldstone party, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a long time. In fact, Israeli PR reaped a victory, and for that congratulations are in order. But the questions remain as oppressive as ever, and Goldstone’s article didn’t answer them – if only it had erased all the fears and suspicions.

Anyone who honored the first Goldstone has to honor him now as well, but still has to ask him: What happened? What exactly do you know today that you didn’t know then? Do you know today that criticizing Israel leads to a pressure-and-slander campaign that you can’t withstand, you “self-hating Jew”? This you could have known before.

Was it the two reports by Judge Mary McGowan Davis that led to your change of heart? If so, you should read them carefully. In her second report, which was published about a month ago and for some reason received no mention in Israel, the New York judge wrote that nothing indicates that Israel launched an investigation into the people who designed, planned, commanded and supervised Operation Cast Lead. So how do you know which policy lay behind the cases you investigated? And what’s this enthusiasm that seized you in light of the investigations by the Israel Defense Forces after your report?

You have to be a particularly sworn lover of Israel, as you say you are, to believe that the IDF, like any other organization, can investigate itself. You have to be a blind lover of Zion to be satisfied with investigations for the sake of investigations that produced no acceptance of responsibility and virtually no trials. Just one soldier is being tried for killing.

Electronic Intifada reports:

As Palestinians were preparing for their weekend this Thursday afternoon, all of a sudden barrages of Israeli artillery fire and air raids by warplanes struck several regions of the Gaza Strip. Five Palestinians were killed and about thirty more injured.

Israeli shells struck farm land, homes, a mosque and an ambulance, and the injured were evacuated to al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Kamal Adwan hospital in northern Gaza and the Abu Yousif al-Najjar hospital in southern Gaza.

At the admissions department at al-Shifa hospital, Muhammad al-Madhoun, a journalist, told The Electronic Intifada how he was injured by a huge explosion as he sat at a relative’s home in the al-Saftawi neighborhood in northern Gaza.

“All of a sudden, we heard an explosion and saw pillars of smoke. Then I felt I had a big strike on my head, then I saw nothing and put my hand on my back to find blood. I fell down on the floor and awoke to find myself at the hospital,” al-Madhoun said, surrounded by medical staff.

Sources at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City said that they received six injuries earlier this afternoon; among them were two women and several children.

Haaretz reports:

The Iron Dome missile defense system on Thursday successfully intercepted for the first time a Grad rocket that was fired at the Israeli city of Ashkelon from the Gaza Strip.

Iron Dome’s success Thursday marks the first time in history a short-range rocket was ever intercepted.

According to reports from the area, the interception could be seen in Israeli towns near northern Gaza. The second Iron Dome battery was positioned in the area of Ashkelon over the weekend, in addition to a battery already placed north of Be’er Sheva.

Following the attack on the bus, in which a 16-year-old boy was seriously wounded and the bus driver was hurt moderately, a barrage of 15 rockets and mortars were fired at southern Israel, most of them hitting open areas.

Ahram Online reports:

Palestinian crossings official Raed Fattouh, who coordinates entry of goods between Israel and Gaza, said that Israeli authorities are prohibiting the passage of at least 700 goods into Gaza.
In a press statement Wednesday morning, Fattouh made clear that the Israeli Occupation Forces are preventing 50 per cent of Gaza imports to pass due to excuses that are unsubstantiated and unconvincing.

Fattouh pointed out that most of the prohibited material belongs to the building and construction sector, which increased the housing problem in the strip that had been piling up for four years.

The Washington Post reports:

The democratic uprisings that have swept through the Middle East will make it harder for Israel to reach a peace deal with Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said this week.

That stance puts Netanyahu at odds with others here, including his defense minister, who say the changes in the region add urgency to Israel’s pursuit of a peace accord. It will also dampen expectations that Netanyahu will use a visit to Washington next month to outline any bold new ideas about breaking a negotiating impasse.

“Any potential deal with the Palestinians has to account for the tremendous instability in the region,” Netanyahu said in an interview at his Jerusalem office. “The majority of the Israeli public wants to be sure those concessions don’t endanger Israel’s security.”

Netanyahu has always struck a cautious line on relinquishing more of the West Bank to Palestinian control and has long insisted on the need for strong security guarantees, such as maintaining an Israeli military presence in the disputed territory of the Jordan Valley, part of territory that Palestinians want for a future state. But the tumult in Jordan and Egypt makes him even more cautious about making concessions, a senior Israeli official said.

Al Jazeera reports:

Israeli troops have stormed Awarta village in the northern West Bank, arresting more than 100 women as they hunted the killers of an Israeli family from the illegal settlement of Itamar, officials said.

The military also used bulldozers to destroy Palestinian houses in a northern farming village east of Tubas, in an area under Israeli control, according to Palestinian security officials.

In Awarta, hundreds of troops entered the village shortly after midnight on Thursday and imposed a curfew after which they began rounding up women, many of whom were elderly, local council head Tayis Awwad told the AFP news agency.

They continued to carry out house-to-house searches through the night, he said.

The women were taken to a military camp where troops took their fingerprints – and DNA samples – before most were released, said the Palestinian sources.

Facebooktwittermail

Where now for the Goldstone report?

John Dugard writes:

In an op-ed in the Washington Post Richard Goldstone, former South African Constitutional Court judge and Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, expresses misgivings about the central finding of the UN Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission Report on the Gaza Conflict of 2008-9 (named after its chairman, “the Goldstone report”) that Israel’s indiscriminate attacks on civilians were intentional.

The op-ed makes strange reading.

It states that the Goldstone report would have been a different document “had I known then what I know now” but fails to disclose any information that seriously challenges the findings of the Goldstone Report.

It claims that investigations published by the Israeli military and recognised by a follow-up UN Committee Report chaired by Judge Mary McGowan Davis, which appeared in March, “indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy”, but the McGowan Davis report contains absolutely no such “indication” and instead seriously questions Israel’s investigations, finding them to be lacking in impartiality, promptness and transparency.

Goldstone expresses “confidence” that the officer responsible for perhaps the most serious atrocity of Operation Cast Lead (Israel’s codename for its assault on Gaza) — the killing of 29 members of the al-Samouni family — will be properly punished by Israel despite the fact that the McGowan Davis report provides a critical assessment of Israel’s handling of the investigation into this killing.

Finally he claims that the McGowan Davis report finds that Israel has carried out investigations “to a significant degree”, but in fact this report paints a very different picture of Israel’s investigations of 400 incidents which have resulted in two convictions, one for theft of a credit card, resulting in a sentence of seven months imprisonment and another for using a Palestinian child as a human shield which resulted in a suspended sentence of three months!

In short, there are no new facts which exonerate Israel and which could possibly have led Goldstone to change his mind. What made him change his mind therefore remains a closely guarded secret.

The Associated Press reports:

South African jurist Richard Goldstone said Tuesday that he did not plan to seek nullification of his highly critical U.N. report on Israel’s 2008-2009 offensive in the Gaza Strip and asserted that claims to the contrary by Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai were false.

The 2009 Goldstone report initially concluded that both Israel and Hamas had committed potential war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during three weeks of fighting. The findings that Israeli forces had intentionally fired at Palestinian civilians triggered outrage in Israel and a personal campaign against Goldstone, who is Jewish.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Goldstone said that Yishai had called him on Monday to thank him for an op-ed piece published Friday in The Washington Post in which the judge wrote that new information had come to light that made him rethink his central conclusions.

Goldstone said, however, that he never discussed the report with Yishai in the telephone conversation. Israeli leaders have called for the report to be retracted since it was issued in 2009.

“There was absolutely no discussion about the Goldstone report on the call,” the jurist said in a telephone interview from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

Goldstone said he thanked Yishai for calling and “stated that my concern was to work for truth, justice and human rights.”

Goldstone did confirm that Yishai had invited him to visit Israel and that he had accepted but would be unable to travel to the Jewish state until July.

“I ended the conversation by expressing my love for Israel,” Goldstone said, adding that Yishai spoke in Hebrew which was translated for the judge.

Facebooktwittermail

Forget Goldstone — remember Gaza

Here’s a circle that should never have been closed.

The Goldstone Report, once credited with having provided a hefty shove as Israel veered towards pariah status, is now being held up by Israelis as having unintentionally demonstrated why, when the need arises, Israel will be able to launch Cast Lead Two and once again chant: “we have no choice” — no choice but to slaughter hundreds more Palestinians.

The New York Times reports:

Israel grappled on Sunday with whether a retraction by a United Nations investigator regarding its actions in the Gaza war two years ago could be used to rehabilitate its tarnished international image or as pre-emptive defense in future military actions against armed groups.

The disavowal, by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge who led a panel of experts for the United Nations, appeared in an opinion article in The Washington Post. He said that he no longer believed that Israel had intentionally killed Palestinian civilians during its invasion of Gaza.

Many here considered the article truly significant. Commentary came in a flood, ranging from gracious praise to vindictive indignation. Some cited the message of Proverbs 28:13 that whoever confesses and renounces his sins “finds mercy.”

Still, the question remained whether the harm the Goldstone report caused — the ammunition it gave to those who view Israel as a pariah state and question its right to exist; the campaigns that have stopped some Israeli officials from traveling abroad for fear of arrest for war crimes — could be undone.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that Israel would work “to formulate practical and public diplomacy measures in order to reverse and minimize the great damage that has been done by this campaign of denigration against the State of Israel.”

A number of officials said that while the blow to Israel’s name had been great, the renunciation of the harshest conclusion would help in the future.

“The one point of light regards future actions,” Gabriela Shalev, a law professor and most recently Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said on Israel Radio. “If we have to defend ourselves against terror organizations again, we will be able to say there is no way to deal with this terror other than the same way we did in Cast Lead.”

“If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document,” Judge Goldstone wrote in the Washington Post. But it matters little what kinds of revisions Goldstone would now make; the most significant thing is that he is perceived as having disavowed some of his own conclusions.

The political impact of the report always had more to do with the identity of its author than the report’s contents. Thus the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict quickly became known simply as the Goldstone Report. It’s supposed authority derived not from the fact that it had been produced by independent international fact-finding mission under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Council — what mattered more than anything else was that Goldstone was Jewish and a Zionist.

Israel — the theory went — would be forced to sit up and pay attention if a humanitarian rebuke came from such an impeccable source. But on the contrary, Goldstone ended up being elevated to the status of presenting an existential threat to the Jewish state, on a par with Iran.

He has now effectively disarmed himself.

Israel, long enamored with the notion that its soldiers have higher moral standards than any other military force, has been quick to declare that it has been vindicated. The Goldstone Report itself has ended up better serving those who want to sustain Israel’s sense of victimhood than in being the cause of any change in Israel’s behavior.

There’s a lesson here: don’t attach too much attention to a 500-page report that few people have read, or to the ethnicity or ideology of the messenger. The reason Gaza changed the world’s view of Israel was largely thanks to on-the-ground reporting — not a report — and it came from the voices and faces and presence of young journalists who were describing what they saw, as it happened.

Al Jazeera shone the brightest spotlight on Gaza — in his report, Goldstone did little more than reiterate what we already knew.

Facebooktwittermail

Interview with Judge Richard Goldstone

Facebooktwittermail

Palestine Papers: PA stonewalled the Goldstone vote

The Palestine Papers reveal:

On October 2, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council was widely expected to pass a resolution supporting the Goldstone Report, the UN’s probe of war crimes committed during Israel’s war in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.

The Council instead agreed to delay a vote on the report until March 2010, following major reservations expressed by the Palestinian Authority, the United States and Israel.

A UNHRC endorsement of the report would have brought Israeli officials one step closer to prosecution before a war crimes tribunal, an event many Palestinians were anxious to see.

But, as The Palestine Papers reveal, the Palestinian Authority apparently sacrificed a potential victory for Palestinian victims in exchange for favorable assurances on negotiations from the United States and, they hoped, from Israel.

Facebooktwittermail

Did the Palestinian Authority kill the Goldstone report?

Jared Malsin writes:

Israeli soldiers shot a mentally ill Palestinian man in the leg when he ventured near the Erez crossing, in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Last Wednesday, a 65-year-old man was shot in the neck in the same area. A week earlier the soldiers shot a 17-year-old, who entered the 300 to 500 meter “buffer zone” in northern Gaza to collect construction scrap which he hoped to sell for a few dollars. Human rights groups say there is a direct link between these daily shootings and the international community’s failure to hold Israel accountable for past violations, especially during its 2008-2009 offensive on Gaza, which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead, most of them noncombatants. 13 Israelis also died. “The attacks [are] still going on, and the Israelis are taking the same stance as during Cast Lead. They’re failing to distinguish between civilian and military targets,” said Mahmoud Abu Rahma, of the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza.

Last month, under US and Israeli pressure, the Palestinian Authority (PA), once again delayed the process of accountability. This came at a September 29 vote at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, in which the PA backed a resolution to give Israel and Hamas officials in Gaza six more months to investigate crimes documented in Richard Goldstone’s UN Fact Finding Mission report. According to Palestinian and international human rights groups, the Palestinian Authority has decided that the Goldstone report must remain in Geneva, away from the relatively more powerful UN bodies in New York. This is a position identical to that of the US State Department, which wants to keep pressure off Israel during the newly re-launched political negotiations.

By adopting this position, rights groups say, the PA is placing itself in open conflict with the interests of its own people. “What’s very clear now is that the PA wants the report to stay in Geneva,” said Fred Abahams of Human Rights Watch. “We thought there was a lot of progress made in New York and this was a step backwards…with peace talks going, they don’t want Goldstone anywhere near the agenda,” Abrahams said on the phone from New York.

Facebooktwittermail

The attacks on Goldstone

In Haaretz, Hagai El-Ad writes:

What will they come up with next? The campaign to discredit Judge Richard Goldstone, his fact-finding commission and the report that now bears his name seems to reach new heights every week. The latest installment in this high-drama farce has been the revelations about Goldstone’s record during apartheid-era South Africa, and the implication that his report can therefore be disregarded. The mind reels at the intensity of attempts by Israeli officials and others to do everything to dodge the real questions of accountability, policy and justice that have been lingering inconveniently since Operation Cast Lead. But inconvenient questions do tend to linger, and the attempts to deploy an ever-thicker smokescreen usually only draw more attention to what may be hidden behind it.

And yet, the recent attacks on Goldstone have been helpful in re-introducing into public discourse what is perhaps the most important question of all: moral responsibility. How must individuals behave when faced with injustice? What do we expect from our judges, public servants and elected officials? And what do we expect from ourselves? The focus on Goldstone’s past, far from enabling us to escape the lingering questions of Cast Lead – and other questions that must trouble anyone seeking justice – actually serves to throw them into sharp relief.

So here are some complementary questions about justice and those involved in its disservice. And mind you, these questions were not drawn from a far-away past, but from the here-and-now. It is the present that will determine our future – and to what extent justice will be a part of it.

Consider this: What is the reader’s moral judgment of a law that allows some people to reclaim past ownership rights but denies the same rights to others? This is the question today in Sheikh Jarrah.

How just do we deem the conduct of legal advisers who approve the evacuation of longtime indigenous residents from the center of a thriving city, enforcing almost complete separation between the hundreds who have moved in and the thousands who were displaced? This is the question today in Hebron.

What do we think of military commanders who collectively punish more than a million human beings, systematically answering their nutritional needs with provisions that keep them just above a state-secret “red line”? This is the question today in Gaza.

Facebooktwittermail

Israel’s dark past arming apartheid South Africa

A new attack on Judge Richard Goldstone is the latest effort in a campaign to direct attention away from his allegations that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza. In this instance though, questions about Goldstone’s record as a judge in apartheid South Africa are overshadowed by the Jewish state’s own role in helping support the racist policies of one of the cruelest regimes of the 20th century.

Israel’s dark past as a secret ally of the cruel apartheid regime in South Africa is revealed in an article by Sasha Polakow-Suransky (the author of a new book on the same subject).

The Israel-South Africa alliance began in earnest in April 1975 when then-Defense Minister Shimon Peres signed a secret security pact with his South African counterpart, P.W. Botha. Within months, the two countries were doing a brisk trade, closing arms deals totaling almost $200 million; Peres even offered to sell Pretoria nuclear-capable Jericho missiles. By 1979, South Africa had become the Israeli defense industry’s single largest customer, accounting for 35 percent of military exports and dwarfing other clients such as Argentina, Chile, Singapore, and Zaire.

High-level exchanges of military personnel soon followed. South Africans joined the Israeli chief of staff in March 1979 for the top-secret test of a new missile system. During Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the Israeli army took South African Defense Force chief Constand Viljoen and his colleagues to the front lines, and Viljoen routinely flew visiting Israeli military advisors and embassy attachés to the battlefield in Angola where his troops were battling Angolan and Cuban forces.

There was nuclear cooperation, too: South Africa provided Israel with yellowcake uranium while dozens of Israelis came to South Africa in 1984 with code names and cover stories to work on Pretoria’s nuclear missile program at South Africa’s secret Overberg testing range. By this time, South Africa’s alternative sources for arms had largely dried up because the United States and European countries had begun abiding by the U.N. arms embargo; Israel unapologetically continued to violate it.

As for Goldstone’s record as “a hanging judge”, this is what he told the Jewish Chronicle:

“During the nine years I was a trial judge from 1980 to 1989, I sentenced two people to death for murder without extenuating circumstances.

“They were murders committed gratuitously during armed robberies. In the absence of extenuating circumstances the imposition of the death sentence was mandatory. My two assessors and I could find no extenuating circumstances in those two cases.

“While I was a judge in the Supreme Court of Appeal from 1990 to 1994, all executions were put on hold. However, automatic appeals still continued to come before the Supreme Court of appeal. We sat in panels of three and again, in the absence of extenuating circumstances, some of those appeals failed.”

He added: “It was a difficult moral decision taking an appointment during the Apartheid era. With regard to my role in those years I would refer you to the joint public statement issues in January by former Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson, the first Chief Justice appointed by President Mandela, and George Bizos, Nelson Mandela’s lawyer and close friend for over 50 years.

In their statement, Chaskalson and Bizos wrote:

Not every judge appointed during the apartheid era was a supporter of apartheid. There were a number among them, including Goldstone, who accepted appointment to the Bench in the 1970s and 1980s in the belief that they could keep principles of the law alive. They included Michael Corbett, Simon Kuper, Gerald Friedman, HC Nicholas, George Colman, Solly Miller, John Milne, Andrew Wilson, John Didcott, Laurie Ackermann, Johann Kriegler and others.

There is a considerable body of evidence that they discharged their functions with courage and integrity. This is recognised in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which observed that “there were always a few lawyers (including judges, teachers and students) who were prepared to break with the norm”. Commenting on such judges, it says “they exercised their discretion in favour of justice and liberty wherever proper and possible . . . and [the judges, lawyers, teachers and students referred to] were influential enough to be part of the reason why the ideal of a constitutional democracy as the favoured form of government for a future South Africa continued to burn brightly throughout the darkness of the apartheid era”.

Goldstone was one of those judges. For instance, his decision in the case of S v Govender in 1986 that no ejectment order should be made against persons disqualified by the Group Areas Act from occupying premises reserved for the white group, without enquiring into whether alternative accommodation for such persons was available, was a blow to the apartheid regime and contributed substantially to that legislation becoming unenforceable in parts of the country.

As a judge of the Constitutional Court he concurred in the finding that the first draft of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa passed by the newly elected Constituent Assembly did not comply in certain respects with the 34 constitutional principles agreed to by the negotiating parties at Codesa.

He was the founding chairperson of the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro), which looks after prisoners who have been released; he exercised his power as a judge (not often used by other judges) to visit prisoners in jail; he insisted on seeing political prisoners indefinitely detained to hear their complaints; and he intervened so as to allow doctors to see them and where possible to make representations that their release be considered.

After the release of Nelson Mandela he played an important role in persuading his colleagues on the Bench to accept the inevitable changes that were likely to take place in the political and judicial structures.

Former president FW de Klerk, with the concurrence of the then-president of the African National Congress, Nelson Mandela, appointed Goldstone as the chairperson of the commission to investigate what became known as hit-squads or third-force organisations within the army and the police.

His reports exposed high-ranking officers, who were obliged by De Klerk to resign, and other ­members of the security forces, and he made findings that police had unlawfully shot at unarmed protesters and recommended that they be charged with murder.

Threats to his life were made, and his name was on the hit list produced in court as part of the state case against the killers of Chris Hani in 1993.

Meanwhile, yesterday was a good day for Israel as it was invited to join the mostly white, Eurocentric, rich nations’ club, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Nothing better expresses the apartheid mentality at the heart of Zionism than Israel’s preference to belong to international organizations that are defined by exclusion rather than inclusion.

As Aluf Benn writes today in Haaretz:

Israel has always sought to become a member of international organizations where the Western bloc of nations enjoys a clear advantage. In the vast majority of UN institutions, for example, Israel is isolated and does not belong to any geographic group. So it can’t elect or be elected. But there are no Arab countries in the OECD and the only Muslim member is Turkey, which yesterday voted in support of the unanimous acceptance of Israel into the group.

Joining the OECD bolsters the approach of Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who consider Israel “a villa in the jungle” – a small island of Western values and development in an Arab and Muslim sea. Now we’re in the club and the Palestinians, Egyptians and even the Saudis aren’t. They’re not even on the waiting list. In the OECD they can’t bother Israel with decisions condemning the occupation.

Facebooktwittermail

Israel still might not dodge a human rights threat from Britain

“Sighs of relief will have been heard in Israel’s London embassy on Friday morning as it emerged that Britain’s Liberal Democrat party had failed to capitalize on a surge in pre-election opinion polls,” Haaretz reported.

Cleggmania might have proven to be short-lived — or at least not translated well in a parliamentary system that disregards the size of the vote. Still, I’d says those breaths released in relief should probably have been held in. An Israeli nightmare might still come to pass: Foreign Secretary Nick Clegg in a coalition government. As of Friday afternoon, that outcome is still in the cards.

But why should Israel be so afraid of Britain’s newest political star?

Clegg is bad news for Israel,” one official here said. “His party is running on a human rights platform, and the atmosphere is hostile to Israel. We remind the Liberal Democrats of South Africa during apartheid. Even if Clegg decides not to take the foreign portfolio, the very fact that Liberal Democrats sit in the cabinet is likely to mean trouble for us.”

Israel’s Lieberman-run ministry of foreign affairs might make a mockery of diplomacy, but it should never be faulted for its bluntness: Good for human rights; bad for Israel. There’s a slogan to remember!

Facebooktwittermail

Jewish lobbying fails to stop EU support for Goldstone report

On Tuesday, a headline for Haaretz declared:

Jewish lobbying sways EU against support of Goldstone Gaza report

The article said:

Members of the European Parliament have backtracked from their plan to pass a resolution demanding implementation of the Goldstone report, in response to pressure from European Jewish leaders, Haaretz has learned.

After leaders of all the major EP parties had agreed on the wording of a draft demanding implementation of the controversial document – which accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza last year and proposed prosecuting Israeli officials in the International Criminal Court – the European Union’s legislative body was scheduled to vote on the measure Wednesday.

But Tuesday, leaders of the parties backed away from the draft, after the president of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, warned them that adopting it would seriously harm EU-Israel ties.

“It appears inconceivable that while the United Nations itself hasn’t yet officially adopted this report, the European Parliament, in this motion for a resolution, calls for and demands its implementation,” he wrote in a letter sent to the heads of major EP parties.

The joint motion for the resolution was removed from the plenary session’s agenda after the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) blocked it.

“The European Jewish Congress played an important role in blocking the legitimization of the Goldstone report,” an official from the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

That was Tuesday, but this is what actually happened on Wednesday:

Despite an intensive lobbying effort on the part of European Jewish groups, the European Parliament has endorsed the Goldstone report, the UN’s official investigation into the bombardment of the Gaza Strip in January 2009, a report that accuses Israel of war crimes and calls for the prosecution of Israeli officials in The Hague.

In a 335-to-287 vote splitting the house between left and right, MEPs backed a joint resolution from the centre left, far left, Greens and Liberals calling on the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and the bloc’s member states to “publicly demand the implementation of [the report’s] recommendations and accountability for all violations of international law, including alleged war crimes.”

The report also said:

On Tuesday afternoon, the level of lobbying had reached such an extent that Irish socialist MEP Proinsias de Rossa, the chair of the chamber’s Palestinian Legislative Council liaison delegation, sent around his own email encouraging deputies not to buckle under the pressure.

“You are being bombarded with mails at present seeking to undermine your support for the the Goldstone Report in the vote tomorrow,” he said.

“Tomorrow’s vote is a test of the credibility of this parliament’s commitment to human rights irrespective of political considerations,” he continued. “The joint resolution is a fair and balanced position negotiated by all the main political groups. I appeal to you to support it.”

Imagine a similar turn of events in the US Congress. Just imagine…

(I guess it’s about as easy as imagining Congress including any socialist representatives or a Palestinian liaison group.)

Facebooktwittermail