Tag Archives: Nobel Peace Prize

An Open Letter on my 82nd Birthday

13 Nov

 

            Exactly two years ago I wrote my first blog. Throughout this period it has been a bittersweet experience consisting of work, play, challenge, and occasional consternation. Many warm and generous responses have given me an appreciation of the distinctive satisfactions of cyber connectivity. Such pleasures have been somewhat offset by hostile commentary and related monitoring, not mainly for disagreements as to substance, but to find discrediting material, usually torn from context, that might induce me to resign or be dismissed from my unpaid UN position as Special Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine on behalf of the Human Rights Council. What is most distressing is not the attacks that are well known to come with this territory, but the degree to which important government officials in the United States and at the UN so easily become willing accomplices in such malicious campaigns of defamation, and do so without ‘due diligence.’

 

            Of course, someone more prudent than I, would have long ago abandoned the blogosphere, and more fully enjoyed the many serene satisfactions of southern California and the stimulating challenges of summers in Turkey. The magnetic appeal of this risky, still uncertain, medium of communication that was born in this century is both to reach others everywhere on the planet and to engage in a form of self-exploration and self-discovery that demonstrates almost daily that one is never too old to learn anew. These posts of mine have been mostly reflections of my experience around the world, interpretations of current global issues, and suggestions for a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.

 

            I have deeply appreciated the support and most of the reactions I have received from known and unknown persons throughout the planet. At the deepest level, it makes me realize that there exists a large invisible and informal community of shared faith in the healing power of love, and less grandly, of the gratifications of dialogue. It is as a charter member of this community that makes me feel that it is valuable to remain an active participant so long as my muse permits, perhaps at a reduced rate.

 

            At the start of this experience I felt that it was best to allow all comments to appear, including the most unsavory. Yet as the months went by I realized that there is a cyber analogue to Gresham’s Law: ‘bad comments drive out good!’ I received many personal messages outside the blogosphere decrying the toxic atmosphere. This prompted me to try my best to monitor comments, excluding those that were uncivil in tone, as well as those that consisted of personal. It was not easy. It is a fine line. I was criticized for straying across it, or using my discretion in a biased manner. I listened, and have tried to be sensitive to diverse viewpoints without denying my own passions.

 

            I realize that many online media outlets allow comments to appear with only minimal filtering, but I have come to feel that this diminishes the quality and benefits of the dialogic potential of a blog, especially one devoted often to issues being debated in public space. It has taught me that while freedom of expression is a vital human right, and integral to democracy, it must be limited by context. The world is now a crowded theater. Koran burning and bible burning are the 21st century equivalent of shouting ‘fire!’ and inducing panic and causing mayhem in distant places. The problem of a blog is, of course, different. The justification for limiting expression to establish the kind of decorum that facilitates dialogue and conversation.

 

            Among the side effects of my blog has been an opportunity to publish more widely. It was encouraging to be invited to become a regular contributor to Al Jazeera’s English online opinion section. I find this brilliantly edited source of news and commentary to be far more cosmopolitan in its orientation toward events of the day than the most authoritative mainstream Western media outlets. This post-colonial de-Westernization of information and interpretative assessment is integral to building a multi-civilizational world community dedicated to the principles of humane and sustainable governance at all levels of social interaction.

 

            As time passes, the political circumstances of the peoples of the world are undergoing a variety of severe stresses, some local, others global, some presently experienced, others threatened in the near and medium future. There are extremely dangerous underlying patterns of behavior emerging: Among the most disturbing is the deterritorialization of conflict epitomized by kill lists and drone technology that ignores the sovereignty of others and defies the moral and legal limits embodied in international humanitarian law.

 

            There are also some latent opportunities that will come as surprises if acted upon. Perhaps, the reelected Barack Obama might surprise us by being willing to take steps to convince the world that he deserved the Nobel Peace Price that had been prematurely, and somewhat perversely, awarded to him in 2009. One sure way to do this would be to revive his Prague vision of a world without nuclear weapons. There will never be a better time in world politics to convene the nine governments whose states possess nuclear weapons. There is no raging geopolitical conflict, a mounting risk of a dangerous surge in the proliferation, and the many countries beset by financial crisis would welcome uplifting moves toward denuclearization. Nothing would more quickly restore America’s tarnished reputation as a benevolent force in the world than tabling a detailed proposal for phased and verified nuclear disarmament to be implemented within a decade. It is commonplace to applaud the vision but then immediately defer its realization to the distant future, which is to take back with one hand what was given with the other, raising expectations of those who are dedicated to abolishing the weaponry, and then reassuring nuclearists that they have nothing to worry about as nothing will actually happen. Now is the time for a genuine presidential initiative that is launched in Washington but negotiated under UN auspices to rid the world of the menace of nuclear weaponry, and to belatedly clear the conscience of humanity for its reliance on ‘security’ ever since1945 that rests on a genocidal doctrine of deterrence. Of course, the main responsibility for this reliance is not that of humanity, but of the governments that possess the weaponry and their supportive bureaucratic and economicmilitarized infrastructures. Even if the initiative should not succeed in achieving agreement, the effort would assure the Obama presidency of a memorable legacy.

 

            The other global challenge that presents the White House with an extraordinary opportunity for action is climate change. The world, including the United States, has ignored a multitude of wakeup calls, most recently super storm Sandy. It has also refused to take seriously the scientific consensus warning the world of the dire consequences of failing to curtail carbon emissions. Further delay is not neutral, causing a variety of effects that cumulatively disrupt the ecological balances that moderate weather, rainfall, and ocean levels to accommodate humans, plants, and animals. Inaction and denial is lavishly funded by the fossil fuel industries that have made climate skepticism so influential in the United States, and elsewhere. Nothing could do more to build the legacy of Obama’s second term than to tear down the high wall of silence that has been built to keep the dangers of global warming out of sight.

 

            It is in this spirit of concern, struggle, hope, and love that I commit myself to carry on with this journey of a still aspiring citizen pilgrim journeying ever so slowly toward that unseen yet real promised land.        

Obama’s Victory, Romney’s Defeat

8 Nov

 

            Around the world even more than in the United States there is an audible sigh of relief the day after Obama won a clear mandate for a second term as president. Deconstructed it mainly meant that many more were relieved that Romney lost, rather than excited that Obama won. Yet there were some, with whom I partly agree, whose gaze carries beyond the narrow victory in popular vote (as distinct from the decisive victory in the electoral college vote), to appreciate a positive fundamental change in American demographics. The white majority coalition that Reagan fashioned so skillfully in the 1980s, achieving incredibly regressive societal results, seems to be losing out to the rising proportion of the electorate that is African-American and Latino, reinforced by the political outlook of youth and the liberal outlook of many women when it comes to reproductive rights. Perhaps, as indicative of a changing social climate were the successful referenda on state ballots in Maine, Maryland, and Washington to legalize same sex marriage and separate initiatives calling for legalizing the medical use of marijuana. Only a decade ago putting such measures on the ballot in several battleground states was understood as a brilliant tactical move by Karl Rove to mobilize the Republican base that was passionately dedicated to defeating such liberalizing initiatives, widely regarded by conservatives as signs of societal degeneracy.

 

            What makes the Obama victory surprising is that his four years in the White House had definitely demobilized his base that had been so ardent in 2008, and seemed only lukewarm in 2012. Toward the end of the recent campaign, antagonism to Romney and fears about a Republican victory, partially remobilized this base, which the Obama people effectively used to carry on their so-called ‘ground game’ that brought out the minority vote in the key states that were expected to decide the election.

 

            In this sense, the 2012 electoral result is bound to provoke some long looks in the mirror by the Republican faithful. Unless some kind of economic collapse occurs in the years ahead, it is hard to imagine that a similar kind of campaign and candidate that was offered to the American people will be any more successful in 2016, and is quite likely to be less so. After all, Romney turned out to be a great fundraiser, especially after he chose arch-conservative Paul Ryan to stand by his side, and an energetic performer on the campaign trail and a surprisingly good debater. Of course, Romney was unexpectedly assisted by a shift of momentum in his favor after the first presidential debate, a result greatly facilitated by the uncharacteristic gross under-performance by Barack Obama.

 

            What makes the Obama victory more impressive is the degree to which his first term was so disappointing to many of us who had hoped for something more. The escalation in Afghanistan was a costly failure, and the refusal to acknowledge this outcome means that the policy community will remain unencumbered by its past experience of counter-insurgency defeat. The Pentagon will be ready to go forward with yet another military intervention in a non-Western country when so instructed by civilian enthusiasts for hard power diplomacy. Worse than this persisting disposition toward military solutions for international conflicts is the expansion of drone warfare under Obama’s watch. Drone attacks are a chilling reminder that state terrorism remains an officially endorsed feature of American foreign policy, including the claim to kill American citizens wherever they may be on the planet without even the pretense of an indictment and due process. Drones let loose a new menacing technology that kills without accountability, and has been the ability to disregard the territorial sovereignty of states as well as to ignore the innocence of those who are made to live under the threat of such weaponry.

 

            On the home front, there is little to applaud in the Obama presidency to day, and quite a bit to lament. There was no attempt to explore whether crimes had been committed during the Bush presidency despite the promise to govern with a scrupulous respect for the rule of law. The treatment of the Wikileaks disclosures, and especially the abuse of the young soldier, Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking the documents, sends a chilling signal in relation to conscience and criminality. The U.S. Government crimes disclosed in the documents, pertaining to actions during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were totally overlooked while the entire focus of governmental concern was placed on the breach of secrecy. When state secrets are guarded so zealously and crimes against humanity are granted impunity, it is a sure sign that the republic is not morally flourishing. It reinforces the impression that America is still reeling from the combination of trauma and belligerency brought about by the 9/11 attacks. There is no reason to suppose that Obama will take steps to vindicate retroactively in his second term the premature award in 2009 of a Nobel Peace Prize. In fact, among the more disturbing sentiments expressed in his victory speech was to twice boast about the United States having the most dominant military force ever possessed throughout the whole of human history. In Obama’s extravagant words, “We want to pass on a country that’s safe and respected and admired around the world, a nation defended by the strongest military on earth and the best troops this world has ever known.” It is seems almost unnecessary to point out that the wishes expressed in the first part of the sentence are perceived to be directly contradicted by the militarist claim in the second part.

 

 

            Perhaps, we can hope for something slightly better when it comes to the economy. Obama could have been far worse, and he not only inherited a mess from the Bush era, but was faced with a Republican controlled House of Representatives that was consistently obstructionist, and did little to conceal its priority of making the Obama leadership fail. His programs of stimulus and bailouts did probably prevent a slide into a deep national depression. It remains disturbing, however, that he relied exclusively on economists friendly to Wall Street throughout the process, avoiding any reliance even on such moderate critics as Robert Reich, Paul Krugman, and Joseph Stiglitz. Nevertheless, there were some moves by the Obama administration to put a lid on the most irresponsible practices of the financial world that had generated the mortgage/foreclosure fiasco in the real estate market and its related crises affecting the leading brokerage and banking outfits.

 

            Romney was reported to have told a private fundraising gathering that the Israel/Palestine problem was not going to be resolved in the near future, and that this was okay. Obama seems to have avoided any commentary, although it became well known that Israel was the only country in the world, including it turned out, the United States, in which Romney would have been the electoral choice of the citizenry. In the United States, Jewish support for Obama declined somewhat, but was still maintained a robust 70% level.  We can expect two kinds of tests in the months ahead as to whether Obama’s approach to the conflict will change:

            –diplomacy toward Iran’s nuclear program, especially with respect to the threat of an attack launched by Israel;

            –degree of Washington’s opposition to the effort by the Palestinian Authority to obtain an upgraded non-member observer status at the United Nations.

 

            Another inexcusable failure of the Obama presidency and the presidential campaign was the widely noticed silence on the challenge of climate change. It might as time passes be noted as the clearest signal that democratic politics, deformed by special interests dispersing bundles of cash, could succeed in keeping issues vital to the wellbeing of the citizenry completely off the agenda. Such a result was aided and abetted by the media that never called attention to the concern despite record-setting heat in the summer of 2012. Fortunately, for Obama, Hurricane Sandy managed what none of the media pundits dared, forcing the recognition that extreme

events could no longer be explained away by reference to natural weather cycles. And it was notable that finally in his victory speech Obama made a fleeting reference to doing something about halting the warming trends that so dangerously imperils human health, food security, and overall wellbeing. [“We want our children to live in an America..that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”] We must watch carefully to see whether this revived concern about climate change translates into high profile national policy, including global leadership, which has been entirely absent during Obama’s time as president, despite his original recognition as a candidate in 2008 of what an important challenge climate change posed for the future welfare of the country.

 

            There are two basic interpretations of the Obama victory among those who were hostile to Romney’s candidacy:

            –the dominant view is that Obama offers the American people and the world a set of expectations that were decidedly preferable to what Romney and the Republicans were offering: more people-oriented; fairer taxation, government regulation of business, and stronger commitments to a government safety net for health, housing, poverty, and education; better appointments to the courts and to government, with greater representation for women and minorities; a more positive approach to the United Nations and foreign policy; and somewhat more forthcoming on environmental issues, including climate change.

            –the minority view that when it comes to plutocracy, militarism, and the general structures of global capitalism there is no significant difference between the two parties, and that the election is in this deeper sense, irrelevant. Those adhering to such an outlook were inclined to support the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, who articulated a genuinely progressive agenda that refused to be swayed by liberal appeals to the differences between Republicans and Democrats. The mainstream media completely ignored the existence of the Green Party perspective, which revealingly contrasted with the great attention accorded the Tea Party from its first irreverent stirrings.

 

            I felt drawn to both of these somewhat inconsistent interpretations, and because I was living in California, which was deemed super-safe for Obama, I felt that I could vote structurally, that is, for the Green Party, rather than tactically, that is, for Obama. When it came to secondary candidates and state and local issues, I cast my votes in a pattern that was the same as that of my liberal democratic friends. Of course, the question that I find more difficult to answer is whether if I had lived in Florida or Ohio, I would have risked the structural choice. There is the memory that George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in the 2000 election because 90,000 votes were cast on behalf of a Third Party candidate, Ralph Nader. The question comes down to this: is it more important to show symbolic support for a party and candidate that diagnoses the issues in a sufficiently radical manner to offer some promise of a transformative agenda, or is it better to go with the lesser of evils?

 

             I admit that in the excitement occasioned by the Obama victory last night I was prepared to admit to myself that somehow Obama and the constituencies that supported him could be harbingers of a better future for the country. This sentiment was shared, in reverse, by the pro-business community, which registered their displeasure with the electoral outcome by a major stock market selloff that drove the Dow Jones index down by more than 312 points.

 

            There was something I found inspiring and hopeful about the ethnic and racial diversity of the Obama inner core waiting in Chicago for his victory speech as compared to the stiff and formal whiteness of the Romney crowd despondently gathered in Boston for their leader’s concession speech.  At this point, my hopeful side is ready for Obama’s new mandate to outdo my modest expectations, just as in 2008 he disappointed me beyond my apprehensions. Among Obama supporters there is the belief that in this second term he will take risks in an effort to elevate his presidency to the ranks of greatness.

 

            Regardless of whether Obama pleases more than he disappoints, sending the Republicans to the sidelines is something to cheer about! And beyond this, the Green Party effort did remind me and a few others that a progressive alternative to predatory capitalism can be put forward in a coherent and compelling manner by a candidate with talent and impeccable credentials. Perhaps, we can look forward to a period when Jill Stein does for the Obama presidency what Norman Thomas, and the Socialist Party, did for the New Deal presidency of FDR, that is, be both a thorn in the side, and an inducement to stop the bleeding of disaffected party members by adopting important parts of the Socialist agenda.

   

Goldstone’s Folly: Disappointing and Perverse

4 Nov

This post is a slightly revised version of an online article published yesterday by Al jazeera English.

*************************************************************************************************************************************

            Surely, the New York Times would not dare turn down a piece from the new Richard Goldstone who had already recast himself as the self-appointed guardian of Israel’s world reputation even as he had earlier been anointed as the distinguished jurist who admirably put aside his ethnic identity and personal affiliations when it came to carrying out his professional work as a specialist in international criminal law or in carrying out high profile investigative and factfinding missions in the international arena. Goldstone was even seemingly willing to confront the Zionist furies of Israel when criticized by one of their own adherents in chairing the UN panel appointed to consider allegations of Israeli war crimes during the Gaza War of 2008-09 .

 

A few months ago Goldstone took the unseemly step of unilaterally retracting a central conclusion of the ‘Goldstone Report’ during those attacks on Gaza. The former judge wrote, then in a column in the Washington Post, that the Goldstone Report would have been different if he had known then what he came to know now, an arrogant assertion considering that he was but one of four panel members designated by the UN Human Rights Council, and considering that the other three publicly reaffirmed their confidence in the original conclusion as presented in the report written and released months earlier. What should have been discrediting of this earlier Goldstone effort to restore his tarnished Zionist credentials was this failure to consult with other members of the team before rushing into print with his seemingly opportunistic change of heart. It is also of interest that he chooses to exhibit this new role on the pages of the newspapers of record in the United States, and reportedly escalated the tone and substance of his retraction after the Times rejected the original version of the piece supposedly because it was too bland. To get into print with this wobbly change of position, Goldstone went to these extraordinary lengths.

 

            Now on the eve of the third session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine scheduled to be held in Cape Town between November 5-7 Goldstone has again come to the defense of Israel in a highly partisan manner that abandons any pretense of judicious respect for either the legal duties of those with power or the legal rights of those in vulnerable circumstances. Recourse to a quality tribunal of the people, in this instance constituted by and participated in by those with the highest moral authority and specialized knowledge, is a constructive and serious response to the failure of governments and international institutions to declare and implement international criminal law over the course of many years, and the unavailability of either the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court. Persons of good will should welcome these laudable efforts by the Russell NGO as overdue rather angrily dismiss them as Goldstone does because of their supposed interference with non-existent and long futile negotiations between the parties. Those who will sit as jurors to assess these charges of apartheid against Israel are world class moral authority figures whose response to the apartheid charge will be assisted by the testimony of experts on the conflict and by jurists of global stature. It should embarrass Goldstone to write derisively of such iconic South African personalities as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Ronnie Kasrils or internationally renowned figures such as the morally driven novelist Alice Walker, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire, former member of the U.S. Congress Cynthia McKinney, the 93 year old Holocaust survivor and French ambassador, Stephane Hessel, as well as several other person of high repute.

 

A further imprimatur of respectability is given to the Russell Tribunal by the participation in the event of Goldstone’s once close colleague, John Dugard, who is internationally regarded as South Africa’s most trusted voice whenever legal comparisons are made between apartheid as practiced in South Africa and alleged in Palestine. Professor Dugard will play a leading role in the Russell proceedings by offering expert testimony in support of the legal argument for charging Israel with the crime of apartheid. Professor Dugard, a widely esteemed international lawyer and global public figure, who was scrupulous in his efforts to report truthfully on the situation of occupied Palestine while acting for seven years as Special Rapporteur for the UN Human Rights Council, which led him already in that role, despite his cautious legal temperament, to allege the apartheid character of the occupation in his formal reports submitted to the United Nations several years ago.

 

Goldstone condemns the venture before it begins without acknowledging the participation of these distinguished participants, scorning this inquiry into the injustice and criminality of Israeli discriminatory practices associated with its prolonged occupation of Palestine by contending that it is intended as an “assault” on Israel with the “aim to isolate, demonize and delegitimize” the country.  In the most aggressive prosecutorial style, Goldstone demonizes these unnamed Russell jurors as biased individuals who hold “harsh views of Israel.” The new Goldstone adopts the standard Israel practice of denigrating the auspices and by condemning any critical voices, however qualified and honest they may be, without bothering to take a serious look at the plausibility of the apartheid allegations. The fact that those familiar with the Israeli policies are sharp critics does not invalidate their observations but raises substantive challenges that can only be met by producing convincing countervailing evidence. Unbalanced realities can only be accurately portrayed by a one-sided assessment if truthfulness is to be the guide to decide whether bias is present or not. If the message contains unpleasant news then it deserves respect precisely because delivered by a trustworthy messenger. It should be reflected upon with respect rather than summarily dismissed because this particular messenger has the credibility associated with an impeccable professional reputation, and strengthened in the context of the Russell Tribunal by a wealth of prior experience that predisposed and prepared her or him to compose a message with a particular slant.

 

The central Goldstone contention is that to charge Israel with the crime of apartheid is a form of “slander” that in his words is not only “false and malicious” but also “precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony.”

Of course, it is necessary to await the deliberations of the Russell Tribunal to determine whether allegations of apartheid are irresponsible accusations by hostile critics or are grounded, as I believe, in the reality of a systematic legal regime of discriminatory separation of privileged Israelis, especially several hundred thousand unlawful settlers, from rightless and often dispossessed Palestinians, who are indigenous to the land so long occupied by Israel. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court treats apartheid as one among several types of crime against humanity, and associates its commission with systematic and severe discrimination.

 

Although the crime derives its name from the South African experience that ended in 1994 it has now been generalized to refer to any condition that imposes an oppressive regime based on group identity and designed to benefit a dominating collectivity that coercively through its control of the legal system abuses a subjugated collectivity. It is true that ‘race’ is the basis for drawing the dividing line between the two collectivities, but the legal definition of race has been expanded to make it clear beyond reasonable doubt that the practice of apartheid can be properly associated with any form of group antagonism that is translated into a legal regime incorporating inequality as its core feature. This includes regimes that base their human classification of belonging to a group by reference to national and ethnic identity as is the case with regard to Israelis and Palestinians. The government of Israel has itself drawn attention to this ethno/religious divide by demanding that its Palestinian minority and the Palestinian Authority formally accept its character as ‘a Jewish state.’

 

The overwhelming evidence of systematic discrimination is impossible to overlook in any objective description of the Israel’s current occupation of the West Bank, and to a lesser degree, East Jerusalem. The pattern of establishing settlements for Israelis throughout the West Bank not only violates the prohibition in international humanitarian law against transferring members of the occupying population to an occupied territory. It also creates the operational rationalization by Israel for the establishment of a legal regime of separation and subjugation. From this settlement phenomenon follows an Israeli community protected by Israeli security forces, provided at great expense with a network of settler only roads, enjoying Israeli constitutional protection, and given direct unregulated access to Israel. What also follows is a Palestinian community subject to often abusive military administration without the protection of effective rights, living with great daily difficulty due to many burdensome restrictions on mobility, and subject to an array of humiliating and dangerous conditions that include frequent Israeli use of arbitrary and excessive force, house demolitions, nighttime arrests and detentions that subjects Palestinians as a whole to a lifetime ordeal of acute human insecurity. The contrast of these two sets of conditions, translated into operative legal regimes, for two peoples living side by side makes the allegations of apartheid seem persuasive, and if a slander is present then it attributed to those who like Goldstone seek to defame and discredit the Russell Tribunal’s heroic attempt to challenge the scandal of silence that has allowed Israel to perpetrate injustice without accountability.

 

Goldstone’s preemptive strike against the Russell Tribunal is hard to take seriously. It is formulated in such a way as to mislead and confuse a generally uninformed public. For instance, he devotes much space in the column to paint a generally rosy (and false) picture of recent conditions of life experienced by the Palestinian minority in Israel without even taking note of their historic experience of expulsion, the nakba. He dramatically understates the deplorable status of Palestinian Israelis who live as a discriminated minority despite enjoying some of the prerogatives of Israeli citizenship.  Goldstone’s main diversionary contention is that apartheid cannot be credibly alleged in such a constitutional setting where Palestinian are currently accorded citizenship rights, and he never dares to raise the question of what it means to ask Palestinian Muslims and Christians to pledge allegiance to ‘a Jewish state,’ by its nature as a fracturing of community based on racially based inequality. Few would argue that this pattern of unacceptable inequality adds up to an apartheid structure within Israel, and the Russell allegation does not so argue, and is likely to forego making the apartheid charge associated with the events surrounding the founding of Israel in the late 1940s because from an international law perspective they took place before apartheid was criminalized in the mid-1970s.

 

The Tribunal is focusing its attention on the situation existing in the West Bank that has been occupied since 1967. John Dugard has issued a statement to clear the air, indicating that his testimony will be devoted exclusively to the existence of conditions of apartheid obtaining in the occupied territories, which reflects his special competence. [See Statement of John Dugard, "Apartheid and the Occupation of Palestine,” Aljazeera, 4 Nov. 2011; ] That Dugard had to issue such a statement is a kind of backhanded tribute to the success of the Goldstone hasbara effort to divert and distort. For Goldstone to refute the apartheid contention by turning to the present situation within Israel itself, while at the same time virtually ignoring the allegation principally concerned with the occupation is a stunning display of bad faith. He knows better. Goldstone avoids any reference to the Israeli mass expulsion of Palestinians from their land in 1948 and the subsequent destruction of hundreds of Palestinian villages when he attempts to refute the apartheid allegation, which would likely be viewed as legally dubious because of its retroactivity.

 

With shameless abandon Goldstone relies in his diatribe on another debater’s trick by insisting that apartheid is a narrowly circumscribed racial crime of the exact sort that existed in South Africa is certainly disingenuous. Goldstone takes scant account of the explicit legal intent, as embodied in the authoritative Rome Statute and in the International Convention on the Crime of Apartheid, to understand race in a much broader sense that applies to the Israeli/Palestine interaction if its systematic and legally encoded discriminatory character can be convincingly established as I believe is the case.

 

The sad saga of Richard Goldstone’s descent from pinnacles of respect and trust to this shabby role as legal gladiator recklessly jousting on behalf of Israel is as unbecoming as it is unpersuasive. It is undoubtedly a process more personal and complex than caving in to Zionist pressures, which were even nastier and more overt than usual, as well as being clearly defamatory, but what exactly has led to his radical shift in position remains a mystery. As yet there is neither an autobiographical account nor a convincing third party interpretation. Goldstone himself has been silent on this score, seeming to want us to believe that he is now as much a man of the law as ever, but only persisting in his impartial and lifelong attempt to allow the chips to fall where they may.  Given his polemical manipulation of the facts and arguments makes us doubt any such self-serving explanation based on the alleged continuities of professionalism. It is my judgment that enough is now known to acknowledge Goldstone’s justifiable fall from grace, and for his own sake it is unfortunate that Goldstone did not choose a silent retreat from the fray rather than to reinvent himself as a prominent Israeli apologist.

 

Palestinian suffering and denial of legal rights is sufficiently grounded in reality that the defection of such an influential witness amounts to a further assault not only on Palestinian wellbeing but also on the wider struggle to achieve justice, peace, and security for both peoples. Contrary to Goldstone protestations about the Russell Tribunal striking a blow against hopes for resolving the conflict, it is the Goldstones of this world that are producing the smokescreens behind which the very possibility of a two-state solution has been deliberately destroyed by Israel’s tactics of delay while accelerating its policies of expansion and encroachment.

 

In the end if there is ever to emerge a just and sustainable peace it will be thanks to many forms of Palestinian resistance and a related campaign of global solidarity of which the Russell Tribunal promises to make a notable contribution. We should all remember that it is hard to render the truth until we render the truth however ugly it may turn out to be!   

A Modest Proposal: Is It Time for the Community of Non-Nuclear States to Revolt?

7 Oct


             There are 189 countries that are parties to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that entered into force in 1970. Only India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea have remained outside the treaty regime so as to be free to acquire the weapons. The nuclear weapons states have done an incredibly successful job, especially the United States, in getting a free ride, continuously modernizing their arsenals while keeping the weapons out of most unwanted hands.

 

            But the NPT was negotiated as a world order bargain. The non-nuclear countries would forego their weapons option in exchange for receiving the full benefits of nuclear energy and a pledge by the nuclear weapons states to seek nuclear disarmament in good faith. After 40 years it seems time to question both the benefits of nuclear energy (especially so after Fukushima) and even more the good faith of the members of the nuclear weapons club. Back in 1996 the World Court unanimously concluded that the nuclear weapons states needed to fulfill their treaty obligation to seek nuclear disarmament as a matter of urgency, and yet nothing resembling disarmament negotiations has taken place. It seems time to declare that the good faith obligation of Article VI of the treaty has been violated, and that this is a material breach that allows all states to disavow any obligation.

 

            Two mind games have kept the non-nuclear majority of states in line so far: first, convincing the public that the greatest danger to the world comes from the countries that do not have the weapons rather than from those that do; secondly, confusing the public into believing that arms control measures are steps toward nuclear disarmament rather than being managerial steps periodically taken by the nuclear weapons states to cut the costs and risks associated with their weapons arsenals and programs and to fool the world into thinking they are living up to their obligation to phase out these infernal weapons of mass destruction.

 

            There are other problems too. Israel has been allowed to acquire nuclear weapons by stealth without suffering any adverse consequences, while Iraq was invaded and occupied supposedly to dismantle their nuclear weapons program that turned out to be non-existent and Iran is under threat of military attack because its nuclear energy program has a built in weapons potential. Such double standards and geopolitical discrimination severely erode the legitimacy of the NPT approach.

 

            Barack Obama earned much favorable publicity, and probably was given the Nobel Peace Prize, because in 2009 he made an inspirational speech in Prague announcing his commitment to a world without nuclear weapons. Although the speech was hedged with qualifications, including the mind-numbing reassurance to nuclearists not to worry, nothing would happen in Obama’s lifetime, it still gave rise to hopes that finally there would be a genuine attempt to rid the world of this nuclear curse. But it was not to be.

As with so many issues during the Obama presidency, the early gestures of promise were quietly abandoned in arenas of performance.

 

            Has not the time come for the too patient 184+ non-nuclear weapons states to stand together with the peoples of the world to challenge the world nuclear weapons oligopoly? One way would be to declare the treaty null and void due to non-compliance by the nuclear weapons states. Such a move would be fully in accord with international treaty law.

 

            Another way, perhaps more brash, but also maybe more likely to have a political impact, would be for as many non-nuclear states as possible to take a collective stand by way of an ultamatum: if the nuclear weapons states do not engage in credible nuclear disarmament negotiations designed to eliminate the weapons within two years, the treaty will be denounced.  

 

            

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,548 other followers