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The Goldstone Report is one of the very best and most complete fact-finding missions ever carried out. After the release of the report, there was an astonishing barrage of hate and defamation against Richard Goldstone, the former jurist in South Africa who led the investigation team, partly because he is a Jew and a self-identified Zionist. As the campaign against Judge Goldstone swung into high gear around the world, the public was given a fascinating insight into the peculiarly toxic nature of Zionist persuasion, and its highly calibrated use of organizations and kinship groups to manipulate and exploit Jewish suffering and fear. Above all, the Israeli political class and its proxies everywhere used excoriation and expulsion from the tribe as its major weapon, expulsion being for the religious nationalist a form of spiritual death.
On April Fools’ Day, 2011, an op-ed by Goldstone was published in the Washington Post in which he partially recanted one of his original findings of the Goldstone Report. He shouldn’t have assumed intentionality in the killing of civilians by Israel in a particular case, Goldstone wrote, although in that incident 29 people in the same family somehow got themselves killed. He wrote that Israel’s investigations of certain incidents was a good thing, tried rather unconvincingly to make the case that he was only really trying to help Israel, and took a slap at the UN Human Rights Council as biased against Israel. It was, in short, a pathetic and somewhat disgusting attempt to manipulate forgiveness, without really giving up very much. But Goldstone was still in trouble. He had committed Zionism’s worst crime, telling the truth about systemic evil in Israel.
What appeared in cold print at the Post on April 1st was a minor retraction of only one point in Goldstone’s report, accompanied by Goldstone’s rather opaque assertion that his report would be different if he were writing it today. That was immediately spun by most Israeli and American media as a total recantation of everything Goldstone had written. Goldstone must have known it would play that way, however—the poor man was clearly counting on minor recantations to be enough to allow him to grovel back into the good graces of the rightwing Israeli political class. Soon it was announced that Goldstone would go to Israel in July, invited as a guest by the same shameless murderers who originally planned the Gaza massacre. This was followed by fulsome statements by the Judge that he “loved Israel, and the Jewish people.” A photo op shaking hands with Israeli bigwigs seemed in the works, accompanied by further retractions, as the poor old duffer finally discovered—like the protagonist in Orwell’s 1984—that he really loved those who persecuted him. It is all very pathetic, and all very pathological.
This excruciating political Kabuki of Judge Goldstone reveals some difficult home truths about the peculiar tribal power of Zionist persuasion. The Marxist-Leninist used expulsion, casting the dissenter into darkness. The fascist used trauma bonding based on shared violence. Modern Zionists use trauma bonding based on constant reiteration by the Israeli state and their US proxies of the Holocaust, combined with the trauma bonding of endless Middle Eastern wars, made inevitable by the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1947-1949. The concept of truth as an independent standard doesn’t exist for the Israeli political class—there is only the higher truth of impunity from accountability, which is to say, the higher truth of Israeli state power. Likewise there is no independent morality outside of the Israeli state, because the most important thing is to save the Jewish people from their enemies, and only the state of Israel can do that. To criticize the Israeli state, then, is to bring on and hasten the next Holocaust.
Here we need to stop and face a difficult home truth about Israel/Palestine. Israel is a political entity, but the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is not about politics. It is not about geo-politics. It is about pathology. Historical events have driven the main actors insane. The political class of Israel is crazy, and the Christian West is crazy to give them impunity for their crimes, mainly because the Christian West has never come to terms with the Holocaust. Zionist persuasion is so powerful because there is no standard for truth independent from the tribe, as defined by the Israeli state. And because the sense of communal pressure implicit in religious nationalism has replaced God and the Enlightenment norms of Jewish culture, belonging to the tribe has become everything.
What is spectacularly disturbing about this pathology is that Jews, who were heroic standing up to Christian pressure to conform and convert for sixteen centuries, cannot stand up to Israel, the state supposedly founded to be a refuge for them. Zionism has turned out to be an almost diabolically self-defeating prison for the Jewish soul. The Nazis could burn the bones and skin of European Jews, but only traumatized Jews could themselves attack Jewish culture and religion from within. Yet we must remember that the proximate cause of this psychic violence was the Holocaust, which was merely an application of the industrial method to that familiar Christian institution, the pogrom. If Judaism is imploding today and becoming Judeo-Zionism, that is only because the teachings of Jesus morphed into imperial Christianity in the West, with its exploitation, its torture and its patriarchal wars. Christians invented anti-Semitism, which gave us the Holocaust, which gave us the state of Israel.
There is a kind of helpless terror and disgust in watching Goldstone’s slow, unsavory trajectory, with very little resembling catharsis on the horizon. One wants to cry out: To hell with Christianity, to hell with Judaism; what good are either one of them now, when we can see the evil, and even smell it, and there is nothing that can redeem it, or us either? The reality is, secular people must figure out this spiritual sickness on uncommon ground, in more or less secular language—it must finally be secularists who develop a workable theory of evil. And yet we are dealing with things that are much darker than midnight, which means we sometimes struggle with ghosts, wraiths and demons. Not only is organized religion currently useless in helping us through this crisis, however, it seems also that Goldstone’s generation is hopelessly ensconced in the traumatized memory of persecution that makes the Israeli victim-aggressor such a brutal psychological type. Poor old Judge Goldstone, like all of us the victim finally of his own bad judgment—one can only hope that the hasbara-meisters don’t make him yoick up his soul, make him recant everything, come back for more on his deathbed, and then deny him a spot in a Jewish cemetery. But yes, one definitely sees that coming.
LAWRENCE SWAIM is Executive Director of the Interfaith Freedom Foundation.