Goldstone contra Goldstone

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From the New Left Project:

The degeneration of Judge Richard Goldstone continues. In April, you’ll recall, he penned an op-ed for the Washington Post that said essentially nothing, but gave the strong impression of retracting the central conclusions of the Goldstone Report on the 2008-9 Gaza massacre. The key point, documented in Norman Finkelstein‘s comprehensive dissection of the recantation, is that, whatever the reasons for Goldstone’s reversal, it wasn’t based on new evidence.

After months of silence, Goldstone has now resurfaced with more of the same. He has written an op-ed for the New York Times – the paper that turned down his April recantation, forcing him to offer a more sensationalised version to the Post – devoted to refuting those who analogise Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to South African apartheid. It has predictably induced much gloating among those who not long ago were smearing him as an antisemite and a traitor. The thrust of the op-ed argues against the use of the apartheid analogy to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, either within Israel itself or within the West Bank. Goldstone slams the analogy as a “malicious” “slander”. If this is what Goldstone truly believes – something about which there is much cause for doubt – one wonders why he has taken so long to raise his voice. After all, the apartheid analogy is hardly a recent one, nor is it especially controversial. A partial list of Goldstone’s malicious slanderers includes such authorities as the Association for Civil Rights Israel; South African Nobel Leaureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu; former US President Jimmy Carter; former Israeli government ministers Yossi Sarid and Shulamit Aloni; and the “father” of South African human rights law John Dugard [note: some of these references are via Finkelstein, forthcoming]. Here’s the editorial board of Ha’aretz, Israel’s most important newspaper:

“the apartheid regime in the territories remains intact; millions of Palestinians are living without rights, freedom of movement or a livelihood, under the yoke of ongoing Israeli occupation, and in the future they will turn the Jews into a minority between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.”

Here’s the verdict of B’Tselem, Israel’s premier human rights organisation:

“Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime is the only one of its kind in the world, and is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past, such as the Apartheid regime in South Africa.”

Goldstone devotes two paragraphs of the op-ed to attacking the argument that Israel is practicing apartheid within the Green Line, as distinct from its occupation of Palestinian territories. But this is a straw man. Proponents of the apartheid analogy typically either restrict its application to the occupied territories, or they apply it to the system of control encompassing the entire territory between the river and the sea, on the grounds that Israel possesses de facto control over both its own and occupied Palestinian territory (that is, they reject the distinction between Israeli rule within the Green Line and Israeli rule in the oPt that Goldstone proposes as his starting point).

Goldstone then attempts to prove Israel’s innocence of apartheid in the West Bank by – there is no other way to put it – systematically lying about its conduct there. It is child’s play to show that virtually every substantive statement he makes is not only false, but was pre-emptively refuted by the Goldstone Report (PDF) itself:

Goldstone op-ed: “Israel will see roadblocks and similar measures as necessary for its self-defense.”

Goldstone Report:

Israel’s restrictions on movement in the West Bank “are disproportionate to any military objective served”. They are intended to “consolidate its permanent hold on the West Bank” and amount to “a deliberate policy of closely controlling a population in order to make use of areas of its land”. [335] Despite “the claim by Israel that restrictions of movement within the West Bank are imposed on Palestinian residents for security purposes, most of these internal restrictions appear to have been designed to guarantee unobstructed travel to the Israeli inhabitants of the settlements.” [54] They therefore constitute “violations of fundamental rights”, including the Palestinians’ “right to self-determination”. [335]

The cumulative effect of the restrictions on movement has been to “effectively split” Palestinians in the West Bank from their families in Israel, from Gaza, and from East Jerusalem. [57]

Goldstone op-ed: “The security barrier was built to stop unrelenting terrorist attacks”.

Goldstone Report:

The route of the wall is “to a great degree determined by the objective of incorporating settlements into the Israeli side” and has “contributed to the fragmentation of the West Bank into a series of enclaves”. [54] Where located on Palestinian territory (as “some 85 per cent” of it is [329fn873]) it is contrary to international law; is part of a policy aimed at (quoting an EU report) “the illegal annexation” of East Jerusalem [53]; and amounts to “the de facto annexation” of 9.5% of the West Bank. It therefore constitutes “acquisition of territory by force”, a violation of the UN Charter. [335]

Goldstone op-ed: Israel has “no intent to maintain ‘an institutonalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group'”. In Israel, “equal rights are the law”.

Goldstone Report:

Israel’s “systematic discrimination, both in law and in practice, against Palestinians” violates international law, and possibly amounts to a crime against humanity [324]. In the West Bank, “a two-tiered road system has been established” with the main roads are reserved for Israelis. [55] Israel’s legal practice in the occupied territories has resulted in “institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians… to the benefit of Jewish settlers”. Domestically Israel’s legal regime is “two-tiered”, granting Jews “superior rights and privileges”; meanwhile Palestinian inhabitants of occupied territories are categorised as “alien persons”. [57] The Report notes the conclusions of a study by the respected Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) that Israel’s “discrimination in planning and building” and other policies in Jerusalem “are concrete expressions of an Israeli policy designed to secure a Jewish majority in Jerusalem and push Palestinian residents outside”. [332] 

Needless to say, where the Goldstone Report cites pages of evidence, from the most authoritative human rights organisations and international bodies, to support its conclusions, Goldstone’s op-ed cites nothing. If Goldstone could have cited authoritative sources to support the conclusions of his op-ed, he no doubt would have; he didn’t, because as exhaustively documented in the Goldstone Report, those sources comprehensively refute him.

Jamie Stern-Weiner studies politics at the University of Cambridge, and is particularly interested in the history of political thought, contemporary British foreign policy, and the Israel-Palestine conflict. His articles have been published on New Left Project, Le Monde Diplomatique and Znet. You can follow him on twitter at @jamiesw.

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