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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Double Standard implicit in the Legacy of Richard Goldstone

Legitimating Bigotry: The Legacy of Richard Goldstone
May 7, 2010  By Alan M. Dershowitz

Richard Goldstone, author of the notorious Goldstone report, did not become
a South African judge in the post-Apartheid Mandela Era, as The New York
Times and other media have erroneously reported.  He accepted a judgeship
during the worst days of Apartheid and helped legitimate one of the most
racist regimes in the world by granting the imprimatur of the rule of law to
some of the most undemocratic and discriminatory decrees.

Goldstone was--quite literally--a hanging judge. He imposed and affirmed
death sentences for more than two dozen blacks under circumstances where
whites would almost certainly have escaped the noose. And he affirmed
sentences of physical torture--euphemistically called "flogging"-- for other
blacks. He also enforced miscegenation and other racist laws with nary a
word of criticism or dissent. He was an important part of the machinery of
death, torture and racial subjugation that characterized Apartheid South
Africa. His robe and gavel lent an air of legitimacy to an entirely
illegitimate and barbaric regime.

It is no surprise that Goldstone kept this part of his life secret from
academic colleagues, friends and the general public. I recall him at the
lunch and dinner tables in Cambridge describing himself as a heroic part of
the struggle against Apartheid. Now it turns out he was the ugly face of
Apartheid, covering its sins and crimes with a judicial robe. How
differently we would have looked at him if we knew that he had climbed the
judicial ladder on whipped backs and hanged bodies.

Now that his dirty secret has been exposed to the world, he has invoked the
defense raised by German judges at Nuremberg: "I was just following the
law." This cowardly defense was rejected at Nuremberg and by the
international law that Goldstone claimed to be applying against Israel in
the Goldstone report. It should be resoundingly rejected by the court of
public opinion. Goldstone's friend and former judicial colleague,  Arthur
Chaskalson, has rushed to the defense of his fellow South African judge,
saying that it was "better to have an honest judge on the bench than another
kind." Putting aside the issue of whether Goldstone was an honest judge--his
Goldstone Report strongly suggests he is "another kind"--the German judges
offered precisely that argument at Nuremberg. "I did it to help the Jews. "
In the film Judgment at Nuremberg, based on a real case, the judge argued
that by unjustly sentencing one Jew to death, others might be helped.  He
also said he had no choice but to apply unjust laws. He was convicted.
Goldstone may have persuaded himself and other judges who served the
Apartheid regime that by hanging and torturing some blacks, they would be
helping other blacks, but the only ones that were helped were the racists
who ran the Apartheid regime and Goldstone himself, who used his Apartheid
judgeship as a stepping stone and career booster.

It is interesting that Goldstone made a similar argument to friends as to
why he accepted the chairmanship of the investigative commission offered to
him by the United Nations Human Rights Council.  He acknowledged that the
Council was biased against Israel. Indeed, it treats Israel much the way
Apartheid courts used to treat Black Africans: Just as there was special
justice (really injustice) for blacks, so too there is special justice
(really injustice) for Israel. Goldstone claims he took the job "to help
Israel," just as he took his previous job to help blacks.  In both cases he
cynically hurt those he said he wanted to help while helping only himself.
In both cases he was selected to legitimate bigotry.  In both cases, better
people than him refused to lend their credibility to an illegitimate
enterprise.  But Goldstone accepted, because it was good for his career.

Goldstone  is an ambitious opportunist who lacks the courage of his
convictions-- if he ever had any. He has always put personal advancement
over principle. He is a master of rationalization and self justification.
This time he has run out of excuses. He's been exposed as a poseur who will
sell his integrity for a careerist opportunity. Fortunately he now has
little integrity left to sell.