Analysis: Judge Goldstone's other religion

By Gerald Steinberg, September 24, 2009
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Richard Goldstone does not fit the model of alienated anti-Zionist Jews who promote boycotts and have no other involvement with Israel or the Jewish community. Quite the opposite. He is an active member of the community, is involved in Zionist groups, and has a daughter who lived in Israel.

So other explanations are needed for the harshness of his report on Gaza. From his activities, speeches and writings, some themes emerge.

Judge Goldstone’s life is intensely focused on the “laws of war”, in which he strongly believes, rejecting all debate or criticism.

The origins of this ‘religion’ can be found in Judge Goldstone’s experience living under dehumanising apartheid in South Africa.

As a judge on the constitutional court, Mr Goldstone played a central role in preventing mass violence at the end of the apartheid era. This explains his faith in legal institutions and in applying the “truth and reconciliation” process to entirely different and inappropriate situations, including the Arab-Israeli conflict.

But like other forms of fundamentalism, Judge Goldstone’s is misleading and dangerous. While promoting the laws of war, he has no experience in the reality of modern warfare, in contrast to most Israelis and increasing numbers of Americans, as well as NATO countries fighting in Afghanistan.

His 575-page Gaza-war report reflects an invented version of the situation, based on fictitious Palestinian and NGO “testimony”, and invokes rules that are totally inapplicable.

In the reality of dirty asymmetric warfare, in which terror groups like Hamas and Hizbollah use millions of people as a massive human shield, these rules make no sense.

To Israelis, Judge Goldstone’s religion is immoral and dangerous. Many public officials have rejected his report, and what they see as attempt to promote himself and his faith by sacrificing Israel.

Rather than creating support for the role of international law in conflict situations, the need for an entirely new and realistic human rights framework has become a very high priority.

Gerald Steinberg is president of NGO Monitor and professor of political science at Bar Ilan University

Last updated: 2:26pm, November 8 2010