Beyond belief (II)

April 16, 2010

In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict

Judge Goldstone has been banned by the South African Zionist Federation from attending his grandson’s barmitzvah. The Chief Rabbi a neo-conservative who has betrayed the tolerant tradition of the late former Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris has blessed this travesty.

Silencing critics of Israel’s war crimes is not enough, they have to infringe Goldstone’s equal right to practice his religion and his family life. Every decent person will sign a protest against this injustice. The tactics of the Israeli neo-fascists should not be allowed to dictate policy in South Africa. These were the people who supported apartheid and now they support the apartheid state of Israel.

How many people would be prepared to join legal action in the Equality Court against the South African Zionist Federation?

Zackie Achmat

The following report comes from the South African Jewish Report

THE AFTER-SHOCKS of the Goldstone Commission into the Gaza conflict continue, this time reaching into the heart of a family simcha. Mr Justice Richard Goldstone is effectively being barred from attending his grandson’s barmitzvah, due to be held in Johannesburg early next month.

Following negotiations between the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in Sandton, where the event is due to take place, an agreement has been reached with the family. As a result, Justice Goldstone will not be attending the synagogue service.

Some of the role-players were tight-lipped. Avrom Krengel, chairman of the SAZF, said: “We understand there’s a barmitzvah boy involved – we’re very sensitive to the issues; at this stage there’s nothing further to say.” While Krengel said the SAZF had “interacted” on the matter with the chief rabbi, the Beth Din and others, his organisation was “coming across most forcefully because we represent Israel”.

Rosh Beth Din Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag confirmed that the Beth Din had not been officially involved – though there had been “private talks” – and had not been asked by the synagogue to give a ruling on the matter. “But I know that there was a very strong feeling in the shul, a lot of anger (around the issue of Justice Goldstone attending).

“I heard also that the SAZF wanted to organise a protest outside the shul – (there were) all kinds of plans. But I think reason prevailed.”

Signalling his agreement with the turn of events, Rabbi Kurtstag said he believed Justice Goldstone had done “a tremendous disservice not only to Israel but to the Jewish world. His name is used by hostile elements in the world against Israel and this can increase anti-Semitic waves.

“I understand that he is a judge, but he should have had the sense to understand that whatever he said wouldn’t be good and he should have just recused himself. People have got feelings about it, they believe he put Israel in danger and they wouldn’t like him to be getting honour (in synagogue).

“I think (the agreement) was quite a sensible thing to avert all this unpleasantness.”

Reached in Washington where he is currently based, Justice Goldstone was reluctant to comment save to say: “In the interests of my grandson, I’ve decided not to attend the ceremony at the synagogue.”

Mr Justice Dennis Davis said that while he respectedJustice Goldstone’s decision, he assumed that pressure had been brought to bear on the family. “If that assumption is correct, then it is outrageous because it seeks to place a ban on somebody participating in his grandson’s barmitzvah.

“Have we now got to the point that because we don’t like what somebody says or does, we place a ‘cherem’ on them? What right do we have to do that? I would like to add that people who are gleeful about it must remember what Pastor Niemoller said: ‘Who will speak up for them when they are finally excommunicated for some misdemeanor?’”
Retired president of the Constitutional Court, Mr Justice Arthur Chaskalson said it was “disgraceful” to put pressure on a grandfather not to attend his grandson’s barmitzvah.

“If it is correct that this has the blessing of the leadership of the Jewish community in South Africa, it reflects on them rather than on Justice Goldstone. They should hang their heads in shame.”