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.