Whose Side are Richard Goldstone and Bill Moyers on?

by John Spritzler

October 26, 2009



Bill Moyers recently interviewed Judge Richard Goldstone, now famous as the author of the UN Report that says Israel and Hamas both committed war crimes against civilians. (The transcript is at http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/10232009/watch.html )

Both of these men are perceived by many as being "on the side of the angels." A closer look at what they actually say indicates that both of them are on the opposite side. Bill Moyers, for example, came out 100% for the War on Terror with his infamous "Winning the War on Terror" article here, discussed in depth here. (Links are in the original posting, if not visible in the version you are reading.)

But what about Goldstone? Let's see what Goldstone told Moyers about Israel. 

BILL MOYERS: Let me put down a few basics first. Personally, do you have any doubt about Israel's right to self-defense?

RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Absolutely not. And our approach to our mission and in our report the right of Israel to defend its citizens is taken as a given.

BILL MOYERS: So the report in no way challenges Israel's right to self-defense-

RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Not at all. What we look at is how that right was used. We don't question the right. ...
  BILL MOYERS: You're Jewish, and a Zionist as well. When you say, "I'm a Zionist," in your case, what does that mean?

RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, what it means, that I fully support Israel's right to exist. That's for the Jewish people to have their own national homeland, in Israel. 
What's wrong with supporting Israel's right "to exist" or "to self-defense" or "to defend its citizens"?

This is what's wrong.

First, what is meant by "Israel's right to exist" is the right of people like Israel's leaders to drive most of the non-Jews who lived in what is now Israel out of their homes and villages and into refugee camps (1947-9 & 1967), and to deny them their right to return to their country (today); in other words it means the right to carry out ethnic cleansing. Israel defines itself as a "Jewish state" and not a state of all of its citizens, a fifth of whom are not Jewish. Israeli leaders insist that non-Jews must never be allowed to become more than 20% of the population inside Israel, and that "Israel's right to exist" justifies whatever violence and ethnic cleansing is required to ensure this. There is no right for a regime like the state of Israel to exist, any more than the apartheid state of South Africa had a "right to exist" or the "Third Reich" based on the racist principle of Aryan supremacy had a "right to exist" or the slave-based Confederacy in America had a "right to exist." Denying these racist regimes a "right to exist" is the way to be "on the side of the angels" and it is in no way the same thing as denying the people living under these regimes the right to live there safely. Defending Israel's "right to exist" means being on the opposite side of the angels.

Second, it is a lie to imply, as Goldstone and Moyers do, that Israel's attacks on Palestinians, such as the recent one in Gaza, have anything to do with "self defense" or "defending civilians." If Israel's leaders truly wanted to protect Israeli civilians then they would end the conflict by allowing the Palestinian refugees (75% of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees from villages inside Israel) to return to their villages inside Israel and live in equality with Jews under the law. This is what the Israeli government would do if it really cared about the safety of Jewish civilians. Israeli leaders don't do this because their actual aim is to foment the conflict between Jews and Palestinians and use it as an Orwellian war to control the Israeli population while amassing great wealth and power for themselves at the expense of ordinary Israelis and Palestinians.

Third, if Israeli leaders ended the conflict by ending the ethnic cleansing policy that is the very definition of Israel as a "Jewish state," then any Palestinian who continued to commit violence against Israeli civilians would be considered by the great majority of Palestinians to be a criminal who should be arrested.

Did Hamas commit war crimes too?

Yes. Hamas fired rockets aimed at Israeli unarmed civilians. That's a war crime. It is certainly true that Israeli war crimes killed far far far more Palestinian civilians than vice versa, but this doesn't take away from the fact that intentionally killing unarmed civilians is a war crime. Palestinians have every right to use violence against armed Israelis who deny them their right of return and their right to live as the equals of Jews. This is justifiable violence in self-defense, and resistance against oppression. But violence against unarmed civilians, such as the rockets fired at Sderot or the earlier suicide bombings at bus stops and restaurants in Tel Aviv, is not self-defense or resistance. It accomplishes no military objective. Such violence, on the contrary, strengthens the Zionist leaders by helping them persuade Israeli Jews that the Zionist leaders are their protectors. Such violence also enables Palestinian leaders to use the conflict the same way as Zionist leaders do, to strengthen their control over "their own" people.

Did the Hamas rockets fired at Jewish civilians justify the Israeli government killing even one Palestinian before ending its ethnic cleansing?

No. In fact the Hamas rockets did not justify the Israeli government in doing anything harmful to Palestinians, armed or civilian, no matter how "proportionate"--not even verbally yelling at them, never mind shooting them. Until the Israeli government ends its ethnic cleansing it has no justification for anything: it hasn't even any right to exist.

The wrongness of the Hamas rockets is irrelevant with respect to Israel's right to do anything. To see why in a context where emotions aren't so strong, consider what happened in the United States South in 1831. Nat Turner led a slave revolt that killed 40 innocent white children. Those killings were as wrong as the Hamas rockets. But did those wrongful killings give the slave-owners the right to do anything at all to enforce slavery? Did the slave-owners even have a right to exist as slave-owners?

Why did Goldstone accuse the Israeli government of war crimes?

It is clearly not because he is on the side of the angels. But people on the "other side" can disagree with each other. It seems that Goldstone is worried that the Israeli government has "crossed a line" with its war crimes, a line that, for the sake of Israel's need to maintain support in the world, it dare not cross:

RICHARD GOLDSTONE:... I think true friends criticize their friends when they do wrong things....I've got no doubt that the laws of war are sufficient to cover the situation of fighting what is now termed asymmetric war. It's not easy; I concede that. But there's a line over which you just don't transgress, without clearly violating the law. 
Is Goldstone a sophisticated pro-Zionist propagandist?

Yes. To persuade somebody to adopt a controversial point of view, it is often more effective not to argue directly for that view but rather to argue for something else less controversial, but in a manner that implicitly, even silently, takes the controversial view as a premise. This way the controversial view enters into the audience's mind "through the back door" without announcing itself and thereby inviting the criticism or suspicion that one naturally has for any obvious propaganda message.

The controversial view in this case is that Zionism is a just cause and that Zionist leaders do whatever they do for the just cause of protecting Israeli civilians. The less controversial view is that Israel committed war crimes. (Anybody seriously following the Gaza massacre or even just reading newspaper headlines knows this is true.) Goldstone focuses on persuading people that Israel committed war crimes, but he does so while implicitly agreeing with the key Zionist premise that Israeli leaders acted, even if wrongly, for the just cause of defending Israeli civilians. This is how effective propaganda works. Let us not fall for this Zionist propaganda.


John Spritzler is the author of The People As Enemy: The Leaders' Hidden Agenda In World War II, and a Research Scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health.


Back to "World At War"

Other articles by this author


This article may be copied and posted on other websites. Please include all hyperlinks.