Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Other Mr. Goldstone

Richard Goldstone is one of the world's most distinguished jurists. He was outspoken in his opposition to apartheid in the bad old days in South Africa and he has been outstanding in his defense of liberty and liberties on South Africa's Constitutional Court. Despite the amazing success of South Africa in avoiding bloodshed--entirely, I suggest, because of the inspired leadership of Nelson Mandela, the conversion of this country from a bigoted authoritarian state to a true democratic republic has not been easy. Mandela will not be around forever, either. People like Goldstone have proven their mettle in a hard testing ground.

Benjamin Netanyahu, in contrast, has a reputation as someone who speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He owes his position as prime minister of Israel to the lawless settlers who doctor records and use force to steal land from Palestinians and block any peaceful resolution of the long-term issues. So clearly is he "owned" by the extreme right in Israel that he cannot deal reasonably with President Obama, so the latter quite reasonably pays him scant attention any more.

Netanyahu and his ilk have tried to stir up the worldwide Jewish community against Justice Goldstone because he led a UN-sponsored inquiry that said that both Israel and Hamas committed atrocities during the last war. They even tried to threaten Goldstone with bodily harm if he attended his nephew's bar mitzvah. This all reminds me of the nonsensical position espoused with some success in America some years ago by the late Norman Podhoretz that anyone who questioned any policy of the Israeli government was anti-Semitic.

Most people that Netanyahu now attacks want a fair settlement far more than he does. I think of Jimmy Carter and George Mitchell. Netanyahu's minions would have you believe that they too are anti-Semitic. Our president has tried mightily to have everyone in the Middle East see the U.S. as a fair dealer only focused on bringing peace to this beknighted region. Now that he is showing some success on the domestic front, his international standing and effectiveness may rise in tandem.

Note: In case you were wondering, the first Mr. Goldstone was the character in the movie musical version of Gypsy played by the late Benny Lessy, to whom Mama Rose--Rosalind Russell, but originally, of course, Ethel Merman--sings "Have an egg roll, Mr. Goldstone" when he decides to take a chance as a vaudeville operator on their act. Lessy was memorable in performing the part--he's just in one great long scene--without ever saying a word.

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