24 October, 2009
Address by Ronnie Kasrils to NADEL (National Association of Democratic Lawyers of South Africa):
Topic “Goldstone Report & The Struggle of the Palestinian People”
Justice Richard Goldstone is an internationally respected judge of integrity and credibility. Sober, reserved, most prim and proper, his reputation has been built on impeccable credentials. This has included his investigations into the apartheid-era hit-squads and violence; violations of international law in former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and in connection with the UN Iraq Oil for Food Programme; and of course his outstanding service with South Africa’s Constitutional Court.
Whilst it was expected that the apartheid era security services and generals would be afraid of the man, ironically in the aftermath of the release of the UN Report on Gaza, this life-long friend of Israel, a professed Zionist himself, has been vilified by Netenyahu and the Israeli Government; by the Chief Rabbi of South Africa; and in equally hysterical terms by many fellow Jews. It seems that this unlikely candidate for “self-hating Jew” has become top of their list. Without doubt the Israeli Government and Defence Force, and Zionist apologists world-wide, have come to fear and loathe this quiet, genteel, undemonstrative man who strives to serve truth, justice and the rule of law in the best way he can.
South Africa’s Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein, acting like some demented Israeli propagandist has weighed-in to the Goldstone Report on Gaza as “a political strategy for delegitimizing Israel”; alleging that it is “phrased in wild, undisciplined and aggressive language;” and violates the audi alteram partem (right to be heard) rule – injudiciously ignoring the fact that it was Israel that refused to participate and prevented the Goldstone team from setting foot in Israel and the West Bank. (Business Day, 20 October, 2009)
Israel’s atrocities against the besieged Gaza Strip which lasted 22 days – from 27 December last year until 17 January this year – resulted in up to 1,400 Palestinians killed (up to 74% civilians including some 200 children) whilst 13 Israelis died (3 of whom were civilians). Crucially the Goldstone findings concluded that Israel’s onslaught on Gaza was not an operation of self-defence in response to rocket attacks but was “directed at the people of Gaza as a whole, in furtherance of an overall and continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population.”
And punish them they did. Their planes, tanks and artillery reduced homes, buildings, infrastructure to rubble. Neither schools, mosques, factories, water, sanitation and electricity plants nor UN food depots were spared. Women and children carrying white flags were fired on; civilians were used as human shields by Israeli soldiers; obscene weapons such as white phosphorous bombs rained down indiscriminately from the skies. Those munitions are banned by Geneva protocols even against military personnel let alone civilians and children. Many were horribly mutilated and died in unspeakable agony. By way of “balance” the Goldstone Report found Hamas guilty of human rights violations and war crimes for firing rockets into Israel — killing some ten civilians in as many years.
By now virtually everyone knows the reason why the Israeli Government and its supporters are so hot under the collar over Justice Goldstone’s Report whom they believe, in their crude racism, should have behaved like a “loyal” Jew. Certainly it is because the Report finds Israel “guilty of crimes against humanity” and many violations of international law and carried the stamp of Goldstone’s respectability. Compared to numerous other reports on the Gaza atrocity the findings are moderate. But it is certainly reinforced by those reports of Israeli, Palestinian and international NGOs as well as testament by Israeli soldiers of conscience. All these reports found that Hamas scrupulously observed the terms of last year’s ceasefire and that it was Israel that broke this on 4th November 2008 when it carried out an incursion into Gaza killing six Hamas activists. This led to a cycle of violent retaliation by both sides which culminated in Israel’s overwhelming punitive onslaught that commenced on 27 December 2008. Such facts put paid to Israel’s claim of having reacted in defence of its security and to protect its people. The idea that this can be better done by diplomatic means has always been anathema to those in Tel Aviv who prefer a militaristic solution.
The reason for the hysteria against Justice Goldstone’s Report goes far deeper than the findings. Goldstone is a self-professed Zionist, of liberal persuasion. Some like him believe that Israel can and should live up to its founding ideals and commitment to justice, equality and the rule of law – and act as an inspirational “light unto the nations.” He clearly and sincerely hopes that Israel will reform its ways. Unfortunately this commonly held view of the past sixty years hides the reality of the expropriation by force of an indigenous people’s land, and their dispersal in a bloody process of ethnic cleansing from 1948 to present times. In their place a colonial, racist state has been installed which has become more militaristic, morally bankrupt and grotesque with time. Quite naturally those who have been dispossessed will fight for their land and rights as has happened in all other such cases of dispossession and injustice, including South Africa. Liberal Zionists like Justice Goldstone, and many governments and people particularly in the West, succumbed to the confidence trick that projects the establishment of an ethnic home for the Jews in another people’s land as a righteous act of national liberation and independence. It is like saying that an untamed South Africa was liberated by the white settlers.
Where the Gaza atrocity of 2009 has changed things is that a turning point has been reached in the history of Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians. World opinion has been aroused against Israel as never before. In fact things can never be the same again and that is why Zionists like Goldstein are so vicious and intolerant of Zionists like Goldstone who take a principled stand in the face of such unquestionable criminal actions. What Israel’s merciless aggression has opened-up at last is a world-wide process whereby the questioning of the legitimacy of the Zionist project has been unleashed.
Israel is losing the moral and media struggle; the battle for hearts and minds everywhere. Israel and its supporters are petrified of the consequences. The Goldstone Report has called on the UN Security Council to require Israel to launch “appropriate investigations” into the violations that have been detailed. If no investigation is launched within six months the Security Council is requested to pass the case to the International Criminal Court at The Hague. This has caused huge alarm — hence the backlash and the reason why the Goldstone Report must be undermined by the likes of Rabbi Goldstein – the propagandist bent on sanctifying Israel’s inhumanity. Israel has long depended on America to do the job of sabotaging action by the United Nations. The USA is likely to quash the report by exercising its veto in the Security Council, but by doing this President Obama risks undermining efforts to restore America’s standing in the world, especially in the Middle East.
Those good people interested in resolving this problem in the best interests of all those living in the region need to take into account:
1. There are unfortunate divisions and weakness amongst the Palestinians and it is essential to encourage unity. This will be helped by the growing strength and influence of the Palestinian civil rights movement within the occupied territories and inside Israel itself. Victory is only possible on the basis of national unity.
2. The pattern of Israel’s wars of aggression against Palestinians and Arab states since 1948 demonstrates that Israel is not interested in genuine peace. The Zionist objective is of a Greater Israel, “from the river to the sea”, with bantustan enclaves for the remaining Palestinians side-by-side with weak Arab and Islamic states which explains the anxiety over the rising power of Iran. Unity between progressive Israelis – no matter how few at present (although they grow in numbers as did progressive whites in South Africa) — and the Palestinians for common interests is an important way to help secure peace and equality and isolate the scourge of Israeli militarism.
3. The Western countries have supported Israel as an ally in the strategic oil rich Middle East and as a buffer against the national liberation movements of the Arab people for genuine independence. Their populations must pressurise those governments to support justice and freedom for the Palestinians in the way that international solidarity helped bring about the end of apartheid.
It is Important for us in South Africa to condemn Israel’s aggression and occupation of Palestinian territories; support the Goldstone Report and get it adopted by the UN; demand that Israel be brought before the International Criminal Court to face charges of crimes against humanity; and mobilise our people in united action behind the international Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
I started by asking the question: Who’s afraid of Richard Goldstone? It is perfectly clear that Israel and its Zionist supporters are petrified of his findings. However if we are to really change things and make a difference, we must work to strengthen the BDS campaign. Israel and its apologists fear BDS even more than they fear Judge Richard Goldstone.