Beyond belief

April 16, 2010

In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict

April 15, 2010

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (JTA) — South African judge Richard Goldstone has been barred from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah.

Following negotiations between the South African Zionist Federation and the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in Sandton, an affluent suburb of Johannesburg where the event is due to take place, an agreement was reached with the family that will keep Goldstone from attending the synagogue service early next month.

Goldstone was the head of a United Nations-appointed commission that investigated the Gaza war in the winter of 2008-09. The commission’s final report accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Some of the participants in the negotiations were tight lipped about the decision when contacted by JTA, with Avrom Krengel, chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, saying that “We understand that there’s a bar mitzvah boy involved – we’re very sensitive to the issues and at this stage there’s nothing further to say.”

Jewish groups had planned to organize a protest outside the synagogue if Goldstone was in attendance, according to reports.

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

Arthur Chaskalson, a retired chief justice of South Africa, said it was “disgraceful” to put pressure on a grandfather not to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah.

“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 Judge Goldstone,” Chaskalson said. “They should hang their heads in shame.”