Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Goldstone's 'retractions' - caving-in to Israel's menace

Judge Richard Goldstone's apparent 'retractions' over his landmark report into the bombing of Gaza shows very clearly the powerful and mendacious impact of Israel and its lobby in pursuing, intimidating and punishing its 'errant own'.  

Honourable figures like Norman Finkelstein have shown a remarkable ability to resist, suffering a lifetime of opprobrium for doing so, but others seem unable to hold the moral line.

Ilan Pappe has felt and withstood the same terrible pressures:
"Readers might ask "so what?" and "why could Goldstone not withstand the heat?" Good questions, but alas the Zionization of Jewish communities and the false identification of Jewishness with Zionism is still a powerful disincentive that prevents liberal Jews from boldly facing Israel and its crimes.
Every now and again many liberal Jews seem to liberate themselves and allow their conscience, rather than their fear, to lead them. However, many seem unable [to] stick to their more universalist inclinations for too long where Israel is concerned. The risk of being defined as a "self-hating Jew" with all the ramifications of such an accusation is a real and frightening prospect for them.
You have to be in this position to understand the power of this terror."
Pressure on Goldstone has been particularly intense in his homeland South Africa.  Following the report's publication, Avram Krengel, chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, led a relentless campaign to get Goldstone to recant.   It seems to have worked.  As noted by Israel's Ynet News:
"He [Krengel] said the Jewish lobby in South Africa had a part in Goldstone's surprising confession. "We met him about a year ago, and during the meeting he insisted on his stance. We, on the other hand, told him why we were angry with him.
"We asked where were the investigation committees against all those countries which are undoubtedly committing war crimes and where was the UN on their matter, and why did he only come out against Israel, which was defending itself. He said Israel was the first among many, but that didn't happen of course."
Krengel added that "Goldstone was very quiet months after that. Perhaps he self-examined himself and realized that what we said was true – that there was a bias against Israel and not a bias to probe the truth – and then he started talking and expressing reservations." 
Or perhaps he simply just gave in to the psychological pressure exerted by an openly hostile Jewish community: 
"It has been like watching an innocent man whipped at the stake,” said Goldstone’s friend Letty Cottin Pogrebin, founder of Ms. magazine. “His dedication to Israel is so strong and rooted. He suffered at the thought that his work was being used to delegitimize Israel. It truly wounded and pained him.”

“His family is taking terrible strain,” reported a close South African friend who would speak only on condition of anonymity. “He told us, ‘If I had known what it would do to my family, I wouldn’t have done it.’”
Fearing protests and abuse, Goldstone even, initially, felt unable to attend his grandson's bar mitzvah.   

However, despite his apparent 'regrets', Goldstone's 'atonement' remains incomplete:
"According to Krengel, as far as South Africa's Jews are concerned, there is a long way to forgiveness. "He has a long road to take. The damage he has caused Israel and the Jews is very heavy. He has a lot to say and do in order to atone what he did."
Looking back, Krengel give South Africa's Jews credit for the battle against Goldstone. "He suffered greatly, especially in the city he comes from. We took sides against him, and it encourages us to know that our way had an effect against the international pressure and made him admit and regret his remarks." 
The obvious pride Krengel takes in saying that Goldstone "suffered greatly" resonates darkly with Pappe's own warnings about Israel's ongoing purges: 
"Just weeks ago, Israeli military intelligence announced it had created a special unit to monitor, confront, and possibly hunt down, individuals and bodies suspected of "delegitimizing" Israel abroad. In light of this, perhaps quite a few of the faint-hearted felt standing up to Israel was not worth it."  
Despite Israeli proclamations of a victorious reversal, the specifics of the Goldstone report still hold, and will continue to shape international opinion - legal, political and civil - on Israel's occupation and siege of Gaza.  As Jonathan Cook notes:
"Israel would certainly like observers to interpret Goldstone's latest comments as an exoneration. In reality, however, he offered far less consolation to Israel than its supporters claim.

The report's original accusation that Israeli soldiers committed war crimes still stands, as does criticism of Israel's use of unconventional weapons such as white phosphorus, the destruction of property on a massive scale, and the taking of civilians as human shields.
The report's findings were, despite its denunciations of Israel, always a conservative indictment.    On-the-ground human rights groups had gone much further than Goldstone in cataloguing and denouncing Israel's war crimes.   None are likely to follow Goldstone in reversing their findings.  Nor are the UN or any of the senior investigators who sat on Goldstone's panel.

Goldstone might win some 'rehab' points from Israel in the short-term, but his 'reversals' are likely to be seen as cowardly or fearful capitulation in the longer run.  

Again, one can recognise the context of fear and menace in which those retractions were made.  Yet, it's still, as Ilan Pappe says, a shameful u-turn for a man initially hailed and respected for putting duties of juridical truth before personal and emotional attachment to Israel.


Additional: LA Times editorial casts doubt on Goldstone's retractions and asks him to provide real evidence for his 'new doubts' about Israeli criminality.

No comments: