/ 16 April 2010

Goldstone cleared for grandson’s bar mitzvah

Former Constitutional Court Judge Richard Goldstone, who chaired a United Nations report accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza, will be allowed to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah in Johannesburg next month, the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) said on Friday.

The SAZF and the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in Sandton were reported to have barred Goldstone from the synagogue service after an outcry over his criticism of the Israeli military in the Goldstone Report.

“Contrary to distorted media reports and false blog accusations, the SAZF states unequivocally that at no time was there any suggestion raised by any party that Judge Goldstone should be ‘barred’ or ‘banned’ from entering the synagogue,” SAZF chairperson Avrom Krengel said.

“The SAZF wishes to clarify that discussions were held with the Sandton Synagogue regarding the forthcoming bar mitzvah of the grandson of Judge Richard Goldstone, and agreement was reached between the parties that no comments would be made until after the celebration.”

Goldstone, who now lives in Washington, was quoted by the Jewish Report as saying he would not attend the bar mitzvah.

“In the interests of my grandson, I’ve decided not to attend the ceremony at the synagogue,” Goldstone was reported to have said.

The Goldstone Report on the Israel Defence Force’s offensive into Gaza in 2008/09 accused both Israeli Defence Forces and Palestinian militants of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

It recommended that the sides openly investigate their own conduct and should they fail to do so that the allegations be brought to the International Criminal Court.

The Israeli government rejected the report, saying it was prejudiced and full of errors.

The report was met widespread hostility by the South African Jewish Community.

In an article in Business Day on October 20 2009, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein wrote that Goldstone did his work without “integrity and care” and the report was a “disgrace” and “wanting in truth”.

The Jewish Report quoted Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag, the head of the Johannesburg Beth Din, or Jewish court, as suggesting the federation “wanted to organise a protest outside the shul” against Goldstone.

Goldstone, the former chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the wars in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, was selected to head the fact-finding mission into the Gaza War in 2009. — Sapa