Rabbibrian's Blog

A Voice for Justice and Peace in Israel/Palestine

A remarkable conversation with Judge Goldstone

Posted by rabbibrian on October 19, 2009

Last night Judge Goldstone spoke to about 150 rabbis in a conference call that we, Taanit Tzedek  Jewish Fast for Gaza, organized.   It was a remarkable conversation with a true moral hero of our time.   As I listened to Judge Goldstone I was so moved by his courage in taking on the assignment as head of the Fact Finding Mission and his clear commitment to apply the same standards to Israel that he applied in South Africa, Yugoslavia, Rwanda and all over the world.   You can listen to a recording of the conversation on our website.   If you have an hour, I would strongly recommend it.  It is an inspiring conversation with a moral hero of our time.  During the call a rabbinic colleague sent me an email, “He makes me proud to be a Jew.”   I felt the same way.   I also recommend a detailed blog post by Rachel Barenblatt and an article on the JTA website.

For me, personally, the call was one of the highlights of my rabbinic career.  I felt so blessed that I had been given the opportunity to organize and to participate in such an important conversation.

I have so many reactions to what Judge Goldstone said and will just share one or two of these.

Judge Goldstone spoke movingly about his experience growing up under Apartheid, about his  first relationships with Black South Africans at the university that transformed his life and set him on the path to becoming an advocate for the human rights of all.   It brought back memories of my own experience at college in South Africa, where I learned so much about justice and activism that has informed my work as a rabbi.

Reflecting on his own Jewish identity, he pointed to the complete integration for South African Jews of Zionism and Judaism.  Judaism and Zionism were one, there was no distinction between them.  This is true of my experience as well.

This is the second time I have heard Judge Goldstone talk.  The first was when he spoke at the National Press Club.  On both occasions, he has calmly and clearly countered the many distortions of the Report, the many lies that have been spread about him and the process of the investigation.  At the press club he faced questions that repeated these distortions and his answers were so clear and compelling.  Unfortunately it seems to have had little effect.  Jews in Israel, South Africa and the U.S. are determined to kill the messenger, to characterize him and his Report as “anti Israel” or even “anti Semitic.”   The alternative of looking at the overwhelming evidence of egregious and shocking actions by the Israeli forces in Gaza is just too confusing and painful.

The reality of what happened in Gaza is shocking and he is bearing the brunt of this painful reality that our community is determined to avoid.  All our pain and confusion, all our efforts to avoid the truth are channeled into vicious attacks on him.  He shared that these attacks keep him up at night and how painful it is for him to see the ways in which the members of his  family are suffering as a result of his demonization in our community.  He shared that the only other time he had been attacked as viciously was   during Apartheid when he was the head of a commission looking into secret government armed groups who were torturing and killing opponents of Apartheid.  Then he was attacked by Whites and Jews as a traitor to the white community; now he is attacked as a traitor to the Jewish community.  In both cases his courage in placing his moral commitments above any ethnic, religious or racial affiliation, elicited vicious attacks.

When the call ended I got a small reminder of this dark side of our community, when I received an email that read,  “Expletive you, you self hating Jew, if it was 1940, you would have been a kapo.”

I so admire Judge Goldstone’s courage.  We are all indebted to him and as my colleague Rabbi Brant Rosen told me a little while ago, the Jewish community owes him an enormous apology.


4 Responses to “A remarkable conversation with Judge Goldstone”

  1. ron cope said

    How does the Goldstone report help Israel or the Jewish people? What of the children of S’Drot and other Jewish towns who have been traumatized for life by the endlesss rocket attacks by Hamas? My sympathies are with those children and not with the terrorists. Where was Goldstone when the rockets were raining down on Israel? Where were you? No country in the world would have put up with those attacks for five minutes let alone years.
    My sympathies are with the Jews and not with the Arabs whose goal is to destroy Israel.

  2. rbarenblat said

    I’m so sorry to hear that you got hatemail after the call. I’ve been fielding some challenging comments and emails in the wake of my blog post as well, but knowing that rabbis I admire are standing firm on this issue helps me follow suit.

  3. I am attempting to understand how and why you have come to place Judge Goldstone on such a high pedestal.
    You and those you lead obviously did not explore the distorted lack of true investigation in the Gaza report.
    How can one honestly call this an investigation when it ignores material broadcast on the official Hamas TV channel in Gaza, such as Hamas Member of Parliament, Fathi Hamad declaring,proudly in public, on the public record, that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields?
    If I could find it, surely Judge Goldstone could, judge for yourself


  4. Steve said

    It takes no courage to be hijacked by a bunch of anti-Semtic governments at the UN. Sorry, But this is NO voice for peace and justice. What I love about life is that we both can hear the same person but our personal political, ethical, and moral development is predetermining what we want to hear and believe. Apparently living in Israel and seeing life in the Jewish State first hand does give one a better and more honest appraisal of the Truth.No illusions or delusion about facts on the ground including the IDF. I served in the IDF and it is in fact basically a very moral and ethical army.

    It appears that your intense desire to seek the truth and the need to put Israel in its place blinds you to the goodness that does exist daily in this part of the world. The daily cooperation not in the press between Palestinians and Jews. The terror organizations love your Kumbaya 1960’s lets all be friends attitude. Sounds good but it is usually superficial and phony as a 3 dollar bill.

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