Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Goldstone critics forget that they live in a glass house

Menachem Begin, Moshe Dayan and YItzhak Rabin with in their midst the South African apartheid-prime-minister John Vorster. (Picture Sa'ar Yaacov, 1976).

Sasha Polakow-Suransky, author of the book 'The Unpspoken Alliance, Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa', reacted in Foreign Policy to what is apparently a new smear campaign against judge Goldstone, orchestrated by the Israeli Foreign Ministery, with the help of some hired guns (or rather hired pens) among the Israeli press mosquitos and some hasbara friends of the present government. Below I already mentioned our old friend Alan 'The Case for Israel' Dershowitz who likened Goldstone to Josef Mengele, no less.The whole story is about th fact that apparently some people dove into Goldstone's past as a South African judge, during which period he -as a member of a court of appeal - confirmed a number of  death sentences.
Here goes Polakow-Suransky

 The Israeli government has it in for Richard Goldstone. Ever since Goldstone, a Jewish South African judge, issued a report in September charging Israel (and Hamas) with war crimes during the January 2009 invasion of Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has attacked him -- and his report -- as a grave threat to Israel's legitimacy.
On Thursday, leading Israeli government officials escalated their campaign against Goldstone, accusing him of sending 28 black South Africans to their deaths while serving as a judge during the apartheid years.
"The judge who sentenced black people to death … is a man of double standards," Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin proclaimed. "Such a person should not be allowed to lecture a democratic state defending itself against terrorists." Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon insisted, "This so-called respected judge is using this report in order to atone for his sins," likening Goldstone's statement that he was forced to uphold the laws of an unjust regime to "explanations we heard in Nazi Germany after World War II."
And the newspaper Yediot Ahronoth declared breathlessly -- with nods of approval from Jeffrey Goldberg and Jonathan Chait -- that "the man who authored the Goldstone report criticizing the IDF's actions during Operation Cast Lead took an active part in the racist policies of one of the cruelest regimes of the 20th century."
So did Israel's government.
Goldstone's apartheid-era judicial rulings are undoubtedly a blot on his record, but his critics never mention the crucial part he played in shepherding South Africa through its democratic transition and warding off violent threats to a peaceful transfer of power -- a role that led Nelson Mandela to embrace him and appoint him to the country's highest court.
More importantly, Ayalon's and Rivlin's moralism conveniently ignores Israel's history of arming the apartheid regime from the mid-1970s until the early 1990s. By serving as South Africa's primary and most reliable arms supplier during a period of violent internal repression and external aggression, Israel's government did far more to aid the apartheid regime than Goldstone ever did.
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.(....)
 Writing in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman estimated that the two countries did $400 mllion to $800 million of business in the arms sector in 1986. According to declassified South African documents, the figure was likely even greater: A single contract for modernization of South African fighter jets in the mid-1980s amounted to "approximately $2 billion," and  arms sales in 1988 -- one year after Israel imposed sanctions against the apartheid regime -- exceeded $1.5 billion. As the former head of the South African Air Force Jan van Loggerenberg told me bluntly: "Israel was probably our only avenue in the 1980s."
Polakow-Suransky's main point is that Israel and its apologetics are hyprocritical to say the least when they reproach judge Goldstone that he once functioned under Soutnh Africa's Apartheid's laws. His article 'Gold stones Glass Houses' can be found here.

It's rather sickening these smear campaigns, full of distortions, which so easily forget that Israel itself, sent - in the course of its policy of 'targeted killings'  - hundreds to their death without even a process, many among them innocent bystanders, not to mention the 1200 and 1400 people that were killed in recent nnecesaary wars in Lebanon and Gaza.
But as far as the record of judge Goldstone is concerned, it is worth reading what Richard Silverstein writes to his defense. Silverstein puts him in the context of the South African juridical system at the time. He may not deserve a medal for the fact that he once operated within this system and - together  with others confirmed death sentences. But, and here Silverstein is right, so do American judges, and likening Goldstone's role to those of nazi judges (or Josef Dershowitz does) is simply ludicrous and therefor scandalous. The more so because Goldstone's  critics, as Silverstein quotes from another article by Polakow-Surasky in the Huffington Post,
…Fail to acknowledge Goldstone’s crucial role in facilitating South Africa’s transition to democracy by chairing the investigative Commission on Public Violence and Intimidation from 1991-1994. Among other things, this commission exposed the apartheid government’s links to a so-called Third Force–made up of government security and ex-security operatives seeking to derail peaceful democratic elections.
The Goldstone Commission’s revelations outraged Nelson Mandela, leading him to conclude that F.W. de Klerk’s government had organized covert death squads…Goldstone’s work earned him Mandela’s respect and, in 1994, South Africa’s first black president appointed Goldstone to the Constitutional Court…
Silvestein also points to the fact that it was Goldstone's ruling which overturned the so called Homeland  (Thuisland) policy, which effectively ended the Apartheid. And from somewhere he digs up an opinion of the (black) American federal judge Thelton Henderson who visited South Africa in the eighties, came in trouble over there, and met Goldstone, an opinion which is remarkably favourable for Goldstone. (See Silverstein's blog for all this)
In the meantime the question is: does it matter? And the answer is: Yes it does. All these attempts - concerted attempts  - by functionairies of Israeli ministries and journalists and hasbarists, reveal to which low the Israeli society and estabsihsment have sunk. A level at which critiicism in whatever shape or form has become so threatening that it can only be answered by smearing the crictics, prosecute them, expellt hem from the country, or refuse them to enter it  While looking into the cases in question obviously is no longer a viable option at all. The only democracy in the Middle East is no longer capable of a critical look in the mirror and to invstigate its own flaws and faults. Which is a pity and of course 'a schand'...

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