Monday, September 3, 2012

Baruch Goldstein Trumps Rachel Corrie

"The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is deeply concerned by the verdict of Judge Oded Gershon that absolved Israel's military and state of the 2003 murder of American ISM activist Rachel Corrie. Rachel was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer while protesting the demolition of a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip. Despite the American administration stating that the Israeli military investigation had not been 'thorough, credible and transparent' and the Israeli government withholding key video and audio evidence, Judge Gershon found no fault in the investigation or in the conclusion that the military and state were not responsible for Rachel's death. Judge Gershon ruled that Rachel was to blame for her own murder and classifies her non-violent attempt to prevent war crimes as proof that Rachel was not a 'thinking person'. By disregarding international law and granting Israeli war criminals impunity Judge Gershon's verdict exemplifies the fact that Israel's legal system cannot be trusted to administer justice according to international standards." (From the ISM's response to the Rachel Corrie verdict)

Given that Israel's founding ideology - political Zionism - is a species of toxic, tribal nationalism, the very antithesis of the universal principles and standards enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and that its record in giving the finger to countless UN resolutions is legendary, verdicts such as that in the case of Rachel Corrie (and in many others over the years) are hardly surprising.

As an indication of the depth of the problem, it is worth revisiting the case of Israel's Anders Behring Breivik, Baruch Goldstein. On February 25, 1994, Goldstein, a member of Rabbi Meir Kahane's terrorist Kach organisation, opened fire on worshippers in a Hebron mosque, killing 29 Palestinians and wounding 125. Only a blow to the head by a fire extinguisher ended the massacre - and his life. 

According to the Wikipedia entry on Goldstein and his massacre, he was "denounced by mainstream Orthodox Judaism" and "widely described as insane by Israelis." One is left with the impression that Israel's reaction was somehow comparable to that of Norway's following Breivik's Utoya Island massacre. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth, as Israeli scholar and human rights defender Israel Shahak reveals in his penetrating study, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel (1999/2004). Some excerpts from Chapter 6, The Real Significance of Baruch Goldstein, serve to contextualise Judge Gershon's verdict in the Corrie case :

"Israeli policies, directed towards Palestinians, other Middle East Arabs (perceived by Zionists as non-Jews) and people of other nations, are only explainable by assuming that they are based upon anti-Gentile feeling. The anti-Gentile feeling is strongest among the most religious Jews but exists as well in this secular milieu. This is the reason why support for Goldstein in 1994 and 1995 had a sequel in the excuses by many Israeli leaders for the slaughter. These excuses were thinly disguised by mostly hypocritical expressions of shock." (p 98)

"[Yediot Ahronot journalist Nahum] Barnea reported: 'Within hours a whole edifice of rationalization was built, according to which Goldstein [a military doctor] had allegedly been under unbearable mental pressure, because he had to attend so many wounded and dead [persons], including Arabs.' The men who propagated this lie knew that Goldstein had refused to treat Arabs. Barnea continued: 'Thus, the Arabs were made guilty for what he could not avoid doing. The implication was that the Arabs assaulted him rather than the other way around and that he really acted for the benefit of the Arabs by letting them finally realize that Jewish blood could not be shed with impunity.' This brazen lie was maintained as long as possible before being abandoned without apology. The propagation of such a lie reveals the influence of Jewish fundamentalism upon the secular parts of the Israeli establishment." (p 99)

"An even greater example of Jewish fundamentalism's influence upon the secular part of the Israeli establishment can be detected in the official arrangement of Goldstein's elaborate funeral at a time that the deliberate character of the massacre could not be denied. The establishment was affected by the fact, widely reported in the Hebrew press but given little place in the foreign press, that within 2 days of the massacre the walls of religious neighborhoods of west Jerusalem (and to a lesser extent of many other religious neighborhoods) were covered by posters extolling Goldstein's virtues and complaining that he did not manage to kill more Arabs. Children of religious settlers who came to Jerusalem to demonstrate sported buttons for months after the massacre that were inscribed: 'Dr Goldstein cured Israel's ills.' Numerous concerts of Jewish religious music and other events often developed into demonstrations of tribute to Goldstein. The Hebrew press reported these incidents of public tribute in copious detail. No major politician protested against such celebrations.

"President Weizman expressed more extravagantly than others his sorrow for the massacre. Weizman, as reported by Uzi Benziman in his March 4, 1994 Haaretz article, was also engaged in lengthy and amiable negotiations with Goldstein's family and Kach comrades concerning a suitably honorable funeral for the murderer. Kiryat Arba settlers, many of whom had already declared themselves in favor of the mass murder in radio and television interviews and had lauded Goldstein as a martyr and holy man, demanded that General Yatom, the commander responsible for the Hebron area, allow the funeral cortage to parade through the city of Hebron, in order to be viewed by the Arabs even though a curfew existed. Yatom did not object outright to the demand but opposed it as something that could cause disorder. Tzvi Katzover, the mayor of Kiryat Arba and one of the most extreme leaders of the religious settlers, telephoned Weizman and threatened that the settlers would make a pogrom of Arabs if their demands were not met. Weizman responded by telephoning the chief of staff and asking why the army opposed the demand of the settlers. According to Benziman, Chief of Staff [Ehud] Barak answered: 'The army was afraid that Arabs would desecrate Goldstein's tomb and carry away his corpse.' In further negotiations involving Barak, Yatom, Rabin, Kach leaders and Kiryat Arba settlers, Weizman assumed the consistant position, as stated by Benziman, that 'the army should pay respect to the desires and sensibilities of the settlers and of the Goldstein family.' Ultimately, the negotiated decision was that a massively attended funeral cortage would take place in Jerusalem and that the police would close some of the busiest streets to the traffic in Goldstein's honor. Afterwards the murderer would be buried in Kiryat Arba along the continuation of Kahane Avenue. According to Benziman, Kach leaders at first rejected this compromise. General Yatom had to approach the Kach leaders in person and beg them abjectly for their agreement, which he finally secured. Yatom also had to obtain consent from the notorious Kiryat Arba rabbi, Dov Lior. As reported in the March 4, 1994, issue of Yerushalaim Lior declared: 'Since Goldstein did what he did in God's own name, he is to be regarded as a righteous man.' Benziman explained the conduct of Weizman and his entourage: 'After the fact the officials of the presidential mansion justify those goings on by the need to becalm the settlers' mood. After the funeral the army provided a guard of honor for Goldstein's tomb. The tomb became a pilgrimage site, not only for the religious settlers but also for delegations of pious Jews from all Israeli cities." (pp 100-102)

I could go on - there's lots more in Shahak's account - but I'm sure you've got the picture. Pro-Israel propaganda notwithstanding, Israel always was, is now, and will continue to be - this side of apartheid - a deeply tribal society in which Gentile-killers will always get special treatment. As an ethnographic state born of a monumental act of injustice to the Arab Palestinians in 1948, it simply cannot be relied upon to dispense justice to its victims, Palestinians or otherwise.

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