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Slater on Silverstein on the Goldstone Report
By: Jerome Slater
25 February 2010

Richard Silverstein has been interviewed on the Seattle television program Moral Politics, on the Goldstone report. Richard has posted the video on his blog, and I strongly recommend it. Richard is not only wonderfully courageous in his comments on Israeli and `pro-Israel` American reactions to Goldstone, he is also highly articulate, indeed a commanding presence. For that reason, even though readers of his blog will be familiar with Richard`s general position, it is well worth watching and listening to him.

I do have one small demurral--though it is more with the Goldstone report than with Richard`s discussion of it, which perhaps inevitably focused on what the report said rather than what it didn`t say. Probably out of an excess of political caution, the Goldstone report dealt only with Israel`s methods of warfare, failing to challenge the argument--or premise--that its proclaimed cause--`self-defense`--was a just one. In my view, however understandable its probable reasoning, the report`s failure to challenge that premise was its most important error.

Any discussion of Israeli policy and behavior towards the Palestinians should start from, and continually emphasize, the most important point, which often--incredibly--seems to be overlooked: for more than four decades Israel has been occupying, repressing, killing, starving, and in all other ways making Palestinian lives a misery. In those circumstances, it has no claim to be `defending itself` when it responds to desperate acts of Palestinian resistance--even those that really are `terrorist`--not by reconsidering its repression, but by intensifying it.

In western philosophy, we evaluate the morality of military attacks by first considering whether they have just cause, and it is only when they do that we then need to go on to consider whether the methods of warfare are also just. When there is no just cause, then no methods of warfare are justified, even those that scrupulously adhere to the principles of proportionality, discrimination, and noncombatant immunity. Israel, of course, violated all of those principles, but even if it hadn`t its attack on Gaza would have been criminal.

If Israel ended the occupation but if Hamas or other attacks nonetheless continued, then it would have a clear right of self-defense. Until it does so, it`s not just Palestinian civilians that it has no `right` to attack, it`s any Palestinians.

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