Justice Goldstone and the Jews
TONY JUDT, October 30, 2009
We Jews should be very proud of Richard Goldstone. In an ancient tradition of Jewish self-questioning and uncomfortable truth-telling, the author of the recent report from the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict has braved personal vilification and institutional mendacity to describe the crimes committed by Israeli forces in the course of their invasion of Gaza in December 2008.
To be sure, the Goldstone Report also itemizes the crimes of Hamas, notably in its campaign of rocket-firing into Israel. But the scale of human rights abuses by Israel vastly outdoes anything Hamas could hope to have achieved: Israeli civilian victims of Hamas rocket attacks numbered less than ten. The attack on Gaza by the IDF resulted in at least 1,100 Palestinian civilian deaths. The major perpetrator of human rights abuses in this conflict is without question the State of Israel, and Justice Goldstone records as much.
That the Israel of Benjamin Netanyahu has chosen to conduct an international campaign against Justice Goldstone and his report need not surprise us. Israel refused to cooperate with the UN investigation; long before its conclusions were published, Netanyahu had set in motion a campaign to deny and denigrate them. More dispiriting, and of greater political consequence, is the pitiful and humiliating response of the Obama Administration. The "fierce urgency of now" apparently required that Washington join Tel Aviv in discrediting the Goldstone Report, and with it the UN inquiry.
This response is of course in keeping with America's long-standing determination to protect Israel against the consequences of its actions at home and abroad; but the universal international condemnation of the destruction of Gaza renders the Obama Administration's response peculiarly self-defeating -- everyone knows what happened in Gaza, so Washington's collusion in covering it up merely draws further attention to the discrediting of U.S. foreign policy and moral standing brought about by our unhealthy relationship with Israel.
There is a special irony to the public slandering of Justice Goldstone now under way. In the first place he is not only Jewish but has close family links to Israel and the Zionist ideal. Secondly, Richard Goldstone has an impeccable resumé as a critic of racism, prejudice and repression -- most notably as an active opponent for many years of the apartheid regime in his native South Africa. During the '90s he served as Chief Prosecutor at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals dealing with human rights abuses, crimes and genocide in the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. It would be hard to fictionalize a more convincing biography for an engaged and ethically uncompromising jurist in the great tradition of Jewish political activism. Goldstone's standing in the world will only rise as a consequence of Israel's short-sighted attempts to discredit the man, the report and the facts. That our own government has chosen to join in this unworthy exercise should be a source of deep embarrassment and shame.
Please join me and Jews from all over the world in signing the Jewish Appeal Letter in Support of the Goldstone Report written by Jews Say No an organization in NY. Go to: http://www.petitiononline.com/UNreport/petition.html
Tony Judt is the author or editor of thirteen books, most recently Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century. His book Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 has been translated into nineteen languages and was awarded the European Book Prize. Professor Judt is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, The New York Times and many other journals in Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East. In 2009 he was awarded The Orwell Prize for Lifetime Achievement.
Born in London in 1948, Tony Judt was educated at Cambridge University and the École Normale Supérieure, Paris. After teaching in Cambridge, Oxford, and UC Berkley he moved to New York Univeristy where he has served as Chair of the History Department, Dean for Humanities, University Professor and Director of the Remarque Institute which he founded in 1995.