Tag Archives: Russell Tribunal

Did Israel Commit Genocide in Gaza?

9 Oct

[Prefatory Note: the post below is a somewhat revised version of a text published by The Nation, and to be found at the following link. I should also point out that in these proceedings in Brussels under the auspices of the Russell Tribunal I served as a member of the jury]

 

 

In a special session of the Russell Tribunal held in Brussels on September 24th, Israel’s military operation Protective Edge was critically scrutinized from the perspective of international law, including the core allegation of genocide. The process featured a series of testimonies by legal and weapons experts, health workers, journalists and others most of whom had experienced the 50 days of military assault.

 

A jury composed of prominent individuals from around the world, known for their moral engagement with issues of the day that concerned their societies, and also the wellbeing of humanity, assessed the evidence with the help of an expert legal team of volunteers that helped with the preparation of the findings and analysis for consideration by the jury, which deliberated and debated all relevant issues of fact and law, above all the question of how to respond to the charge of genocide.

 

 

It should be acknowledged that this undertaking was never intended to be a neutral inquiry without any predispositions. It was brought into being because of the enormity of the devastation caused by Protective Edge and the spectacle of horror associated with deploying a high technology weaponry to attack a vulnerable civilian population of Gaza locked into the combat zone that left no place to hide. It also responded to the failures of the international community to do more to stop the carnage, and condemn Israel’s disproportionate uses of force against this essentially helpless and beleaguered civilian population. Israel’s contested military operations targeted many legally forbidden targets, including UN buildings used as shelters, residential neighborhoods, hospitals and clinics, and mosques. In defense of these tactics, Israel claimed that rockets and ammunition were stored in these buildings and that Hamas rocket launchers were deliberately placed in the structures that had been singled out for attack. The evidence presented did not confirm these Israeli claims.

 

Although the Russell Tribunal proceeded from the presumed sense that Israel was responsible for severe wrongdoing, it made every effort to be scrupulous in the presentation of evidence and the interpretation of applicable international law, and relied on testimony from individuals with established reputations as persons of integrity and conscience. Among the highlights of the testimony were a report on damage to hospitals and clinics given by Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor serving in a Gaza hospital during the attacks, Mohammed Omer, a widely respected  journalist who daily reported from the combat zone, Max Blumenthal, the prize winning journalist who was in Gaza throughout Protective Edge and analyzed for the jury the overall political design that appeared to explain the civilian targeting patterns, and David Sheen, who reported in agonizing detail on the racist hatred exhibited by prominent Israelis during the period of combat, widely echoed by Israelis in the social media, and never repudiated by the leadership or public in Tel Aviv.

 

The jury had little difficulty concluding that the pattern of attack, as well as the targeting, amounted to a series of war crimes that were aggravated by the commission of crimes against humanity, most centrally the imposition of a multi-faceted regime of collective punishment upon the entire civilian population of Gaza in flagrant and sustained violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. A further notable legal finding was the rejection of the central Israel claim of acting in self-defense against rocket attacks directed at Israel.

 

There were several reasons given for reaching this conclusion: the claim of self-defense does not exist in relation to resistance mounted by an occupied people, and Gaza from the perspective of international law remains occupied due to Israeli persisting effective control despite Israel’s purported disengagement in 2005 (more properly characterized as a military redployment); the rockets fired from Gaza were partly at least in response to prior Israeli unlawful provocations, including the mass detention of several hundred persons loosely associated with Hamas in the West Bank and incitement to violence against Palestinians as revenge for the murder of the three kidnapped Israeli settler children; and finally, the minimal damage done by the rockets, seven civilian deaths over the entire period, is too small a security threat to qualify as “an armed attack” as is required by the UN Charter to uphold a claim of self-defense. At the same time, despite these mitigating factors, the jury did not doubt the unlawfulness of firing of numerous rockets into Israel that were incapable of distinguishing between military and civilian targets. This form of unlawful resistance was attributed to both Hamas and independent Palestinian militias operating within the Gaza Strip.

 

A focus of concern in the jury deliberations before and after the proceedings themselves was how to address the allegation of ‘genocide,’ which has been described as ‘the crimes of crimes.’ The jury was sensitive to the differences between the journalistic and political uses of the word ‘genocide’ to describe various forms of collective violence directed at ethnic and religious minorities, and the more demanding legal definition of genocide that requires compelling and unambiguous evidence of a specific ‘intent to destroy’.

 

The testimony made this issue complex and sensitive. It produced a consensus on the jury that the evidence of genocide was sufficient to make it appropriate and responsible to give careful consideration as to whether the crime of genocide had actually been committed by Israel in the course of carrying out Protective Edge. This was itself an acknowledgement that there was a genocidal atmosphere in Israel in which high officials made statements supporting the destruction, elimination, and subjugation of Gazans as a people, and such inflammatory assertions were at no time repudiated by the Netanyahu leadership or subject to criminal investigation, let alone any legal proceedings. Furthermore, the sustained bombardment of Gaza under circumstances where the population had no opportunity to leave or to seek sanctuary within the Gaza Strip lent further credibility to the charge of genocide. The fact that Protective Edge was the third large-scale, sustained military assault on this unlawfully blockaded, impoverished, and endangered population, also formed part of the larger genocidal context.

 

Further in the background, yet perhaps most relevant consideration of all, Israel failed to exhaust diplomatic remedies before its recourse to force, as required by international law and the UN Charter. Israel had the option of lifting the blockade and exploring the prospects for long-term arrangements for peaceful co-existence that Hamas had proposed numerous times in recent years. Such initiatives were spurned by Israel on the ground that it would not

deal with a terrorist organization.

 

Despite the incriminating weight of these factors, there were legal doubts as to the crime of genocide. The political and military leaders of Israel never explicitly endorsed the pursuit of genocidal goals, and purported to seek a ceasefire during the military campaign. There was absent a clear official expression of intent to commit genocide as distinct from the intensification of the regime of collective punishment that was convincingly documented. The presence of genocidal behavior and language even if used in government circles is not by itself sufficient to conclude that Protective Edge, despite its scale and fury, amounted to the commission of the crime of genocide.

 

What the jury did agree upon, however, was that Israeli citizens, including officials, appear to have been guilty in several instances of the separate crime of Incitement to Genocide that is specified in Article 3(c) of the Genocide Convention. It also agreed that the additional duty of Israel and others, especially the United States and Europe, to act to prevent genocide was definitely engaged by Israeli behavior. In this regard the Tribunal is sending an urgent message of warning to Israel and an appeal to the UN and the international community to uphold the Genocide Convention, and act to prevent any further behavior by Israel that would cross the line, and satisfy the difficult burden of proof that must be met if the conclusion is to be reached that the crime of genocide is being committed. At some point, the accumulation of genocidal acts will be reasonably understood as satisfying the high evidentiary bar that must be reached so as to conclude that Israel had committed genocide.

 

Many will react to this assessment of Protective Edge as lacking legal authority and dismiss the finding of the jury as merely recording the predictable views of a biased ‘kangaroo court.’ Such allegations have been directed at the Russell Tribunal ever since its establishment in the mid-1960s by the great English philosopher, Bertrand Russell, in the midst of the Vietnam War. These first sessions of the Russell Tribunal similarly assessed charges of war crimes associated with U.S. tactics in Vietnam, and in Russell’s words, represented a stand of citizens of conscience ‘against the crime of silence.’ This latest venture of the tribunal has a similar mission in relation to Israel’s actions in Gaza, although less against silence than the crime of indifference.

 

It is my view that such tribunals, created almost always in exceptional circumstances of defiance of the most elemental constraints of international law, make crucial contributions to public awareness in situations of moral and legal outrage where geopolitical realities preclude established institutional procedures such as recourse to the International Criminal Court and the UN Security Council and General Assembly. That is, these kind of self-constituted tribunals only come into being when two conditions exist: first, a circumstance of extreme and sustained violation of fundamental norms of morality and international law and secondly, a political setting in which governmental procedures and UN procedures are inoperative.

 

When the interests of the West are at stake, as in the Ukraine, there is no need to activate unofficial international law initiatives through the agency of civil society. However in circumstances involving Israel and Palestine, with the United States Government and most of Western Europe standing fully behind whatever Israel chooses to do, the need for a legal and moral accounting is particularly compelling even if the prospects for accountability are virtually nil. The long suffering people of Gaza have endured three criminal assaults in the past six years, and it has left virtually the whole of the population, especially young children, traumatized by the experience of such sustained military operations.

 

It should be acknowledged that the UN Human Rights Council has appointed a Commission of Inquiry to investigate allegations of war crimes associated with Protective Edge, but its report is not due for several months, Israel has indicated its unwillingness to cooperate with this official UN initiative, and it is almost certain that any findings of criminality and related recommendations will not be implemented due to the exercise of a geopolitical veto by the United States, and perhaps, other members of the Security Council. In view of these circumstances, the argument for convening the Russell Tribunal remains strong, especially if one recalls the fate of the Goldstone Report prepared in analogous conditions after the 2008-09 Israeli attacks on Gaza known as Operation Cast Lead.

 

The Russell Tribunal is filling a normative vacuum in the world. It does not pretend to be a court. In fact, among its recommendations is a call on the Palestinian Authority to join the International Criminal Court, and present Palestinian grievances to the authorities in The Hague for their investigation and possible indictments. Even then the realities of the world are such that prosecution will be impossible as Israel is not a party to the treaty establishing the ICC and would certainly refuse to honor any arrest warrants issued in The Hague, and no trial could be held without the physical presence of those accused. The value of an ICC proceeding would be symbolic and psychological, which in a legitimacy war would amount to a major ‘battlefield’ victory. It is notable that Hamas has joined in urging recourse to the ICC despite facing the distinct possibility that allegations against its launch of rockets would also be investigated and its officials indicted for its alleged war crimes.

 

As with the Nuremberg Judgment that documented the criminality of the Nazi experience, the process was flawed, especially by the exclusion of any consideration of the crimes committed by the victors in World War II, the Russell Tribunal can be criticized as one-sided in its undertaking. At the same time it seems virtually certain that on balance this assessment of Israel’s behavior toward the people of Gaza will be viewed as supportive of the long struggle to make the rule of law applicable to the strong as well as the weak. It is also reflective in the disparity of responsibility for the harm done by the two sides.

 

I recall some illuminating words of Edward Said uttered in the course of an interview with Bruce Robbins, published in Social Text (1998): “The major task of the American or the Palestinian or the Israeli intellectual of the left is to reveal the disparity between the so-called two sides, which appear to be rhetorically and ideologically to be in perfect balance, but are not in fact. To reveal that there is an oppressed and an oppressor, a victim and a victimizer, and unless we recognize that, we’re nowhere.”

 

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RUSSELL TRIBUNAL SESSION ON PALESTINE

5 Sep

[Prefatory Note: On September 24 a special session of the Russell Tribunal will examine war crimes allegations against Israel arising from the 50-day military operation that commence on July 8th. The RT has developed a record of examining the criminality of state actors that enjoy impunity internationally because they are insulated from accountability by what I have called a ‘geopolitical veto’ in this case exercised by the United States and several major European countries. Where governments and the UN fail to implement international law, there exists a right of peoples to play a residual lawmaking function. It is somewhat analogous to the residual role that the General Assembly is empowered to play when the Security Council is unable or unwilling to perform its primary role in relation to international peace and security. To fill this normative vacuum the RT has long played made an honorable contribution to what might be called ‘the empowerment of legal populism.’ I encourage attentiveness to this event, including publicizing its occurrence and disseminating the results of its deliberations. As the announcement below indicates, I am proud to be a member of the jury for the session along with a series of truly distinguished and qualified high profile international personalities known both for their professional achievement and for their principled stands as ‘citizen pilgrims’ dedicated to a humane future shaped by global justice.]

Israel’s Crimes in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge – Extraordinary session of the Russell Tribunal

RT Israel’s Crimes in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge – Extraordinary session of the Russell Tribunal th

 

 

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24-25 September – Brussels – Albert Hall, Brussel

 

A few weeks ago, members of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, outraged by Israel’s terrible assault on Gaza and its population, decided to start working on an extraordinary session of the Tribunal that will look into Israel’s Crimes (including War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity and the Crime of Genocide) during the still ongoing “Operation Protective Edge” as well as third States complicity.

During this session, that will take place on one day in Brussels on 24th September, our jury, so far composed of Michael Mansfield QC, John Dugard, Vandana Shiva, Christiane Hessel, Richard Falk, Ahdaf Soueif, Ken Loach, Paul Laverty, Roger Waters, Radhia Nasraoui, Miguel Angel Estrella and Ronnie Kasrils will listen to testimonies from Paul Behrens, Desmond Travers, Pierre Barbancey (TBC), Max Blumenthal, Eran Efrati, Mads Gilbert, Mohammed Abou-Arab, Mads Gilbert, Paul Mason, Martin Lejeune, Mohammed Omer, Raji Sourani, Ashraf Mashharawi, Agnes Bertrand, Michael Deas and Ivan Karakashian.

The jury will give its findings on 25th September in the morning during an international press conference at the International Press Center (IPC, Brussels). In the afternoon, the Jury will be received at the European parliament and address a message to the UN General Assembly for its reopening.

To register for the session (free), email us your name and organisation at : rtpgaza@gmail.com

Do mention if you are coming as a journalist and would like to record parts of the session.

To stay in touch with our work, “like” our facebook page! Thanks. (https://www.facebook.com/russelltribunal)

Looking forward to seeing you all in Brussels.

 

Israel’s Crimes in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge – Extraordinary session of the Russell Tribunal

24-25 September – Brussels – Albert Hall, Brussel
A few weeks ago, members of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, outraged by Israel’s terrible assault on Gaza and its population, decided to start working on an extraordinary session of the Tribunal that will look into Israel’s Crimes (including War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity and the Crime of Genocide) during the still ongoing “Operation Protective Edge” as well as third States complicity.

During this session, that will take place on one day in Brussels on 24th September, our jury, so far composed of Michael Mansfield QC, John Dugard, Vandana Shiva, Christiane Hessel, Richard Falk, Ahdaf Soueif, Ken Loach, Paul Laverty, Roger Waters, Radhia Nasraoui, Miguel Angel Estrella and Ronnie Kasrils will listen to testimonies from Paul Behrens, Desmond Travers, Pierre Barbancey (TBC), Max Blumenthal, Eran Efrati, Mads Gilbert, Mohammed Abou-Arab, Mads Gilbert, Paul Mason, Martin Lejeune, Mohammed Omer, Raji Sourani, Ashraf Mashharawi, Agnes Bertrand, Michael Deas and Ivan Karakashian.

The jury will give its findings on 25th September in the morning during an international press conference at the International Press Center (IPC, Brussels). In the afternoon, the Jury will be received at the European parliament and address a message to the UN General Assembly for its reopening.

To register for the session (free), email us your name and organisation at : rtpgaza@gmail.com

Do mention if you are coming as a journalist and would like to record parts of the session.

To stay in touch with our work, “like” our facebook page! Thanks. (https://www.facebook.com/russelltribunal)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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            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!