May 24, 2010

Look who's talking about who did what in the apartheid era

Here's a very perceptive article by Gary Younge in today's Guardian, print edition and on-line. The article arises out of the news of the full extent of Israel's dodgy dealings with the apartheid regime in South Africa but it goes on to lambast the sheer hypocrisy of the Israeli government and various zios around the world in trying to undermine the Goldstone report by drawing attention to Judge Goldstone's role as a senior judge under the apartheid regime:

On 5 January 2009 the Israeli army rounded up around 65 Palestinians (including 11 women and 11 children under the age of 14) in Gaza, several of whom were waving white flags. After handcuffing the men and stripping them to their underwear, the soldiers marched their captives 2km north to al-Atatra and ordered them to climb into three pits, each three metres high and surrounded by barbed wire. The prisoners were forced to sit in stress positions, leaning forward with their heads down, and prohibited from talking to one another. On their first day they were denied food and water. On the second and third, each was given a sip of water and a single olive. On the fourth day the women and children were released and the men were transferred to military barracks.

It was just one of the stories to emerge from the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict conducted by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone.

I never ceases to surprise the way Israel finds ever more cruel ways to keep the Palestinians on their "diet". I wonder if some zio bureaucrat counted the calories in each olive.

Anyway, Israel's isn't happy with the report:
The Israeli government and the pro-Israel lobbies concentrated their displeasure not on the substance of Goldstone's report but the essence of his identity. Branded a "self-hating Jew", he was effectively barred from his grandson's bar mitzvah after the South African Zionist Federation threatened to picket it. The prominent US constitutional lawyer Alan Dershowitz has described Goldstone as a "despicable human being", "an evil, evil man", "a traitor to the Jewish people" and the UN's "token court Jew".
Well we expect that sort of thing from the lobby, especially Dershowitz but here's where the article gets interesting.
Then this month came "revelations" from an Israeli newspaper that, as a judge under the apartheid regime, Goldstone sentenced black people to death. This, according to Israel's government, discredits not only Goldstone but everything he discovered about Gaza and, by association, international criticism of the occupation. "Such a person should not be allowed to lecture a democratic state defending itself against terrorists, who are not subject to the criteria of international moral norms," argued the Knesset Speaker, Reuven Rivlin.

"Although he was involved in clear racist activity, he had no problem writing such a report," said the chairman of the Knesset's state control committee, Yoel Hasson, who called Goldstone a hypocrite. Not to be outdone, Dershowitz (a strident advocate of torture) has now likened Goldstone to the Nazi geneticist Josef Mengele.

This crude one-downmanship in identity politics has no winners and many losers....

Let's start with the most obvious. This is a cynical ploy by the Israeli government to divert attention from the findings of the UN report. Government officials have almost said as much. A foreign ministry official described the investigation by the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth as "explosive PR material". Hasson claims: "Had [the Israeli foreign ministry discovered this earlier], it would have greatly helped us in our activity against the report." But the report is about Gaza, not Goldstone. Having lost control of the message, Israel is now trying to shoot the messenger.

That Israel would try to do so on the backs of black South Africans is a laughable indication of its desperation. For if Goldstone was complicit in apartheid's crimes, then Israel was far more so. Israel was South Africa's principal and most dependable arms dealer. As we learn elsewhere in the Guardian today, it even offered to sell the South African regime nuclear weapons.
Ok, we're not quite at the most interesting bit yet:
But just because the Israeli government wants to change the subject doesn't mean that we have to. Goldstone's apartheid record matters. For the left to claim it doesn't, simply because he came up with a conclusion about Gaza that they agree with, would also be cynical. Appointed senior counsel in 1976, the year of the Soweto uprising, Goldstone rose through the South African judiciary during one of apartheid's most vicious periods. While in power he ordered the execution of two black South Africans and turned down the appeals of many others.
The zios have done well here. Goldstone's past is an issue. That's the interesting bit. But just because it is an issue, doesn't suddenly make it the issue.

And not only that there is yet another issue here:
Finally, there is the insidious role that Israel has attempted to play as ideological gatekeeper for acceptable political behaviour among Jews. The attempt to tarnish any criticism of Israel, regardless of its merits, as unjust is untenable; to castigate them as un-Jewish is deplorable. "What saddens me today is that any Jew who speaks out with an independent voice, especially with the conduct of the state of Israel, is regarded as a self-hating Jew," says retired South African constitutional court justice Albie Sachs, who is also Jewish. "Why should someone be made to choose between being a Jew and having a conscience?"
Israel has shot itself in the foot badly here. It was not just another trader with the apartheid regime, it was a strategic and ideological ally. Goldstone's role in the apartheid era was reprehensible but that doesn't mean that he can't write accurate and damning reports of far more reprehensible conduct. And Israel is not the ideological gatekeeper of the Jews.

Well done, Gary Younge!

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