The South African Jewish umbrella body and a top U.S. Jewish lawmaker slammed the South African Jews who pressured Richard Goldstone into not 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 to take place, an agreement was reached with the family that will keep Goldstone, a judge and the author of the Goldstone report into the 2009 Gaza War, from attending the synagogue service early next month.
“The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (Cape Council) deeply regrets that a religious milestone has been politicized and disagrees with the manner in which this matter has been handled,” a statement Thursday from the country’s umbrella body said in a statement entitled “Iin response to pressure resulting in Judge Richard Goldstone not attending his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah.”
“This position is in no way a comment on the merits or demerits of the Goldstone Commission and its subsequent report,” the Board of Deputies said.
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.
U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Middle East subcommittee, expressed outrage at the pressure on Goldstone.
“As an unapologetic critic of the Goldstone report, and of Judge Richard Goldstone’s badly warped perspective on Israel’s right to defend itself, I am appalled and utterly disgusted by reports that Judge Goldstone will not be able to attend the bar mitzvah of his grandson due to protest threats by Jewish groups in South Africa,” Ackerman said in a letter to Avrom Krengel, the chairman of the SAZF. “There is absolutely no justification or excuse for carrying legitimate opposition and criticism of Judge Goldstone’s (wretched) professional work into the halls of his family’s synagogue, much less the celebration of a 13 year-old Jewish boy’s ritual acceptance of responsible membership in the Jewish community.”
Jewish groups, including the SAZF, had planned to organize a protest outside the synagogue if Goldstone was in attendance, according to reports.
Krengel told JTA earlier 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.”