Shame in South Africa’s Jewish Community

According to a front-page article in The New York Times of April 16—fortunately below the fold—Richard Goldstone, South Africa’s most distinguished jurist, lifelong opponent of apartheid and supporter of Nelson Mandela when that was a dangerous thing to be, internationally respected prosecutor of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, Trustee of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and, yes, also the main author of the now-infamous Goldstone Report, which unfairly and one-sidedly indicted Israel for war crimes in Gaza, will be unable to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah because South African Jews threatened to demonstrate against him and ruin the happy occasion.

For shame. Is this supposed to be good for the Jews?—literally to stand between a young boy and his grandfather, because the elder has taken a position unpopular with the community? Does the Jewish community of South Africa have no other way of expressing its opinion than to destroy the joy of what should be a blessed event in the life of a boy and a family? Is it their view that the whole family must pay for the sin or the foolishness of the grandfather?

This is not the random action of some rogue elements in the South African Jewish community, or a bunch of unruly teenagers. This was an official threat from the South African Zionist Federation, and the ultimate “deal” was brokered by South Africa’s Beth Din, or official religious court. According to reports, the head of the court, Rosh Beth Din Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag, said, "I know that there was a very strong feeling in the shul, a lot of anger. I heard also that the SAZF wanted to organize a protest outside the shul – [there were] all kinds of plans. But I think reason prevailed."

For shame. Reason did not prevail, thuggery did. This was like a Mafia operation. The great rabbi and his elevated court offered to protect the boy and his family…from what? From a sort of pogrom against a Jewish family in their midst which the Beth Din could easily have prevented with another order—a just one, forbidding the Zionist Federation from taking action against the family and the synagogue.

This will be a permanent blot on the reputation of the South African Jewish community, on Rabbi Kurstag, and most importantly on the Jewish community of the world. Is this the vaunted bravery and self-defense of the Jews today? Trashing the bar mitzvah of a completely innocent boy in order to punish the sins of his ancestor? For shame.

Make no mistake. The Goldstone Report was a grave blow to the reputation of Israel and the Jewish people, a twisted, grotesque distortion of the truth. Justice Goldstone proved himself a nar, a fool, in collaborating with the enemies of Israel to condemn it one-sidedly for defending itself in Gaza. It gave scant attention to the years of provocation by rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli civilians. It noted only in passing the fact that Hamas’s basic strategy from start to finish was and is to use the civilian population of Gaza as human shields, making casualties of the innocent inevitable.

And it did not consult the expert opinion of Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, who testified to the U.N. Human Rights Council after the Goldstone Report was published, as he had said many times in public previously, that “the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”

Here is more of his testimony:

“The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy's hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.

“Despite all of this, of course innocent civilians were killed. War is chaos and full of mistakes. There have been mistakes by the British, American and other forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, many of which can be put down to human error. But mistakes are not war crimes.

“More than anything, the civilian casualties were a consequence of Hamas’ way of fighting. Hamas deliberately tried to sacrifice their own civilians.”

It is fitting to repeat this on Yom Ha’Zikaron, the day of remembrance of the fallen in Israel’s wars: Israel’s soldiers have always been more, not less careful than other armies to try to avoid civilian deaths.

But what does this have to do with the right of a boy in a Johannesburg suburb to have his tateh present in shul to hear him called to the Torah for the first time in his life? Nothing whatsoever.

The grandpa’s narishkayt—foolishness—was indeed bad for Israel and the Jews. But the actions of the South African Jewish community are not just foolishness, they are instead a deliberate and nasty attack on a child, a family, and a revered Jewish tradition. They are not defending the Jewish people with these actions, they are dragging its reputation through the dirt, and confirming the worst opinions the world now has of us.

Reason prevails when words like those of Colonel Kemp are opposed to those of the Goldstone Report, not when a mob threatens a boy’s bar mitzvah, and a rabbi, acting like a Mafia don, “reasons” with that boy’s grandfather to keep the two apart.

For shame.



3 thoughts on “Shame in South Africa’s Jewish Community

  1. Interesting that you would choose to single out this relatively minor episode out as a source of “shame” for us S African Jews.

    I would have thought that being the beneficaries and active participants in the racist apartheid state for half a century or more — the most nazi-like state in the modern world — might have been just a tad more shameful than some talk of a little anti-Goldstone demo.

    What is interesting too is that our community never raised any threat of boycott towards Goldstone when he was an apartheid hanging judge. Neither did we boycott any Jew for praising the Nationalist neo-nazi government or for co-operating with them in their brutal oppression of people with different skin colours. On the contrary, the community turned against those who fought the system and praised those who aided it. We only seem to be able to drum up official outrage when it concerns our own, ie Jewish affairs, when it affected blacks and other such untermenschen, well then we didn’t seem to have much of a problem with it . . . Now that is shameful.

    (See this piece for more

    http://forward.com/articles/143231/south-african-jews-struggle-with-legacy-of-aparthe/

    Goldstone is a fascinating figure to me because he epitomizes the way that good little Jewish boys often suck up to whoever is in power. When it was the Afrikaner storm troopers, he was their man (just like Yutar, who prosecuted Mandela and was a pillar of our community, nobody ever turned their back on him), and now he is sucking up to the ANC who are obviously anti-Israeli . . . Rereading Hanna Arendt’s Eichmann book one is constantly reminded of how the Jews cooperated in their own destruction, forming the Jew councils, running the ghetto police, etc. . . a fatal tendency.

    Joe Green (An alias)

    • I am unable to verify the accuracy of this pseudonymous comment at the moment, but I didn’t think I should suppress it. I will try to learn more about these serious allegations against Goldstone and others.