Monday, February 21, 2011

Richard Goldstone Lecture at Berkeley

Last Thursday, Justice Richard Goldstone spoke on campus at an event entitled “International Law and Human Rights: The Search for Justice,” sponsored by the Institute for International Studies. Two points Goldstone made—that Israel is not Apartheid and the sanctions do not work—stood out. Goldstone’s report was the lynchpin of the argument in support of divestment at UC Berkeley last semester. Integral to the argument for divestment was that it is either untrue or irrelevant that a double standard is being applied to Israel, and that divestment had the possibility to put pressure on Israel.

Goldstone claimed that sanctions are not effective and it seems impossible that divestment could make a difference either. Goldstone also admitted that a double standard is applied to Israel. He defends his report with the following metaphor. To him, the situation is analogous to a city where 14 murders are committed in one day; however, the police department is only able to prosecute three of the murders. Goldstone asks, shouldn’t the police still complete their investigations even if not every murderer can be brought to justice? The analogy has a major flaw, the same flaw in every argument supporting singling out the Jewish State. In Goldstone's city, what if the suspects in three of the murders are Jewish, and the other eleven from different ethnic groups. Wouldn’t there be something wrong if only the murders where Jews were suspected are investigated and prosecuted while the other eleven are ignored?

While there is much criticism of the methods and assumptions Goldstone made to complete his report, Goldstone still makes it clear that Israel is not Apartheid and does not speak of the nation as pariah in the same way as those who have embraced his report. Even more appalling than the shoddy investigative methods Goldstone used is his continued tacit-approval of people using his report to support claims that he does not make, like the claim that Israel is an Apartheid State. Furthermore, his lecture made it clear that the divestment movement is happy to pick and choose whom they find credible based on what is being said. To them, Goldstone is credible when he says Israel commits war crimes, but despite what he said on Thursday, Israel Apartheid week is sure to be held this year.

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