Ever since Yediot Achronot rehashed Richard Goldstone’s career as an Apartheid judge — 28 blacks, at least, to the gallows, and four youths to the lash — the debate has split into two points of view.
On the one hand, Goldstone defenders noted that his work expunging the vestiges of Apartheid later on in his career offered a degree of redemption, and noted Israel’s own coziness with the regime.
On the other, critics suggested that this indelibly impugned Goldstone and tainted his findings, in his commission last year, that Israel and Hamas committed war crimes in the 2009 Gaza war. One cannot compare men and states in moral choices, they say.
My view: Either the report stands up or it doesn’t. Delving into pasts that do not impinge directly on the report (barring mind-reading into Goldstone’s motives, which I do) seems to me to be beside the point.
Yossi Sarid, a lion of Israel’s left, does not agree, and he strides both arguments: Goldstone’s Apartheid era activity harms his credibility, he argues, but that does not salvage his critics, who were also complicit.
Here he is in Ha’aretz, in a piece he entitles "Little Goldstones":
If someone places his hand in the bosom of apartheid – even if he later removes it – his hand becomes leprous. This is the hand that signed execution orders and handed over the backs of children to be lashed. Although a penetrating and disturbing account can be received even from the hand of a leper, there is no obligation to shake that hand, and certainly not to wash it.
With the fall of Goldstone there are many people rejoicing here, because with him his report will fall. This is only the rejoicing of the poor in spirit, rejoicing about which we can ask: What is it doing here? After all, Israel itself cooperated with the regime of racial segregation, and the Pretoria government had no better friend that the government in Jerusalem.
This has always been our way: To relax for our own benefit on the darkened side of the globe, to spend time in the shadow of oppressive regimes. We have never refused an indecent offer from a leprous country, and a business permit has always been found for it.
Sarid wonders if the Goldstone gloating will redound:
We also have to make sure that the glass in our house will not shatter. Many are liable to be hurt – even judges – and mainly those who sit in judgment wearing uniforms. Although our military courts do not mete out death sentences, they end lives, and not necessarily according to due process of law, as Ilana Hammerman occasionally reports in her columns.
"Those were the laws at the time," the great Goldstone is now arguing in his defense, and without realizing it, in the defense of others like him; this country is full of little Goldstones, and somewhat bigger ones too.