Comment: Answer this, Judge Goldstone

Comment Answer this, Ju

For the record, Judge Richard Goldstone himself does not support Friday's UN Human Rights Council resolution that endorsed his report. "This draft resolution saddens me as it includes only allegations against Israel," Goldstone told the Swiss Le Temps newspaper on Friday. "There is not a single phrase condemning Hamas as we have done in the report. I hope that the council can modify the text." But the UNHRC didn't change the text, which passed overwhelmingly. For Israeli officials and observers, Goldstone's sudden discovery of the essential rottenness at the heart of the international legal system is a hollow and bitter victory. The honorable jurist has discovered at Israel's expense what should have been obvious to so great a scholar: the gaping hypocrisy that lies at the center of the process when it comes to Israel. Does it matter if his tribunal was not, strictly speaking, "judicial" if everyone everywhere believes that its judgments have judicial status? Does it matter that in acting upon ostensibly "objective" criteria for deciding the "lawfulness" of Israeli and Palestinian actions during Cast Lead, Judge Goldstone created a text that would only ever serve as ammunition against Israel? Do judges have a responsibility to take into account the ramifications of their decisions and actions, particularly if, as is the case with Goldstone, the body to which their "advice" was being given was an irredeemably and viciously prejudiced one? Assuming Goldstone is an honest man with noble intentions, the question then becomes: Is "law" the correct term for rulings in a political context that are guaranteed to be abused? Goldstone's report does not strike a blow for lawfulness, Israelis believe, but for a slightly different brand of international political apartheid. Goldstone is distraught over the UNHRC's utterly biased final decision. Yet he himself could not take on the original HRC mandate for his commission until, as he says, it was changed from the original biased resolution. So Goldstone owes Israelis an answer to a basic moral question. In the words of one Israeli observer: "Are you in the habit, Judge Goldstone, of accepting commissions whose political agenda you must first expunge so that the mandate meets the most elementary standard of fairness?" Some day, international law may hold the key to human dignity and happiness. But in using the terminology of law in a clear situation of biased political wrangling, that day is being pushed farther away. Israelis and many Jews would like to know, Judge Goldstone, if by the time this is all over, you feel your contribution - your reputation and Jewish name - was helpful or detrimental to the goals of international peace and a lawful world order. Or have you, with shocking naivete, allowed your Jewishness and judicial prestige to be abused by bodies whose motivations amount to thinly veiled bigotry?