I have been called a lot of names in my life, especially since breaking with the political left of which I once was a part. Usually the accusations come with words such as “counter-revolutionary,” “renegade,” “traitor to the left,” “he went over to the right-wing to get their money,” “FBI or CIA agent,” etc. etc. etc. But Andrew Sullivan today comes up with a new charge: “pro-Israel fanatic.” Faced with a choice between all of those I list, I think I’ll live with this one. To be called this by Sullivan, who previously referred to those who defend Israel as a bunch of “Likudniks,” is a badge to wear proudly, especially when it appears on his own Hamasnik blog.
When he accuses me and others of engaging in the politics of “personal smear,” however, he misses our major point. It is a quite simple one, which Sullivan and some of those who have posted comments hostile to my blog post yesterday do not understand. We are not trying to “stifle debate” on the Middle East. Calling attention to the still rather unknown record of Justice Richard Goldstone as an apartheid era judge who ruled in favor of the Afrikaner state is not a smear; it speaks to Goldstone’s very credibility of his pose as a moral exemplar whose report critical of Israel is supposed to be taken seriously.
Moreover, in my case, I was not depending for my view on the newspaper investigation that appeared in Yedioth Ahronoth, but particularly on the report I linked to in a few of my blogs, the one written by a South African who knew Goldstone well in those days, Ayal Rosenberg. He documents how Goldstone had what he calls “an illustrious career in the service of apartheid.” My blog readers and Sullivan and anyone else can read this report themselves. I find it most instructive that to date, he and others have failed to comment on and analyze the very scrupulous and newsworthy analysis that Rosenberg gives in what he calls a “Critique of Self-Apotheosis.” He notes that Goldstone’s career dovetailed with the years of the worst repression, during the reign of P.W.Botha. He gives chapter and verse on how Goldstone portrayed himself as a defender and supporter of Both, his government, and the system of lawlessness known as apartheid.
That is why the comments in the other critique offered today, that by Sasha Polakow-Suransky, a senior editor of Foreign Affairs, also fail to address the issue. Writing on the Huffington Post website, Polakow-Suransky argues that it does not matter whether or not Goldstone served apartheid, since those accusing him support Israel, which was in fact “the most significant arms supplier to that regime throughout the 1980s.” To criticize the Goldstone Report is one thing, he argues; to smear Goldstone is however a case of “character assassination.” And that, he argues, is “hypocritical.”
Really? Think a moment. We are talking about the role of an individual, who in a time of moral crisis voluntarily chose not to oppose the evil apartheid system of his own country, not even to simply live as a citizen privately opposed but not doing anything to strengthen the regime — but who chose to enforce its laws and to create “justice” by judging as if they were legal and right. As Ayal Rosenberg argues in his critique, this is what the Nuremburg trials were all about — judges ruling as if the regime they served was legal and constitutional, and ruling in order to justify legally and enforce its barbaric edicts.