The great, strongly anti-Apartheid South African journo Allister Sparks has penned a powerful rebuke of his country’s Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein, over the latter’s strongly expressed criticism of Constitutional Court member Richard Goldstone, and Goldstone’s role in heading the UN’s fact-finding mission for Gaza.
Sparks starts by noting that three of the major IDF war crimes reported by the Goldstone commission in Gaza were in fact recently confirmed to have been such by a military investigation undertaken by the IDF high command itself.
He comments, “the real importance of this military investigation is that it vindicates the Goldstone commission,” adding:
- For Judge Richard Goldstone, particularly, this is a personal vindication, for he was excoriated by leading members of the local Jewish community for chairing the commission. He was told his commission’s findings were lies; that he was naive and gullible for accepting the version of events given by terrorists; and that, since he is a Jew, he was a traitor to his people.
His critics were given support by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, who chastised Goldstone for “doing great damage to the state of Israel”. He should have recused himself instead, Goldstein said, and taken no part in the investigating mission.
He then issues this important reproach to Goldstein:
- We secularists need to know what a religious leader in our community means when he seeks to impose such an ethical dictum on a prominent member of his faith — someone who was a founding father of our Constitutional Court and an interpreter of our infinitely important national constitution in this new democracy.
I am reminded here of the conflict between the Dutch Reformed Church and Beyers Naude over the issue of apartheid.
I attended the Dutch Reformed Church service in Linden, Johannesburg, at which Naude had to respond to the church leaders’ demand that he choose between the church’s doctrine of support for apartheid and his commitment to the nonracial Christian Institute he had founded.
In other words, Naude was forced to choose between his moral principles and his loyalty to his own people and their church.
I heard Naude announce his decision that memorable day before the glitterati of Afrikaner nationalism in the packed pews before him. Smilingly, boldly, he told them simply: “I choose God before man.”
In other words, principles, truth and justice before ethnic or group loyalty. It was the defining moment of that great man’s life.
So I ask the chief rabbi that same question today: what is your choice? Then, at the level of plain human decency, don’t you think, Chief Rabbi Goldstein and those members of the Orthodox Jewish community and the South African Zionist Federation whom you lead, that you owe Judge Goldstone an apology? A public, abject apology.
Leaders of the federation went to the extremes of cruelty when they took their religious war against Judge Goldstone (dare I call it a fatwa?) into the heart of his family by trying to ban him from his grandson’s bar mitzvah. Eventually, but it seemed to me somewhat reluctantly, negotiations enabled the family to celebrate this important event together.
But I’m sorry, that wasn’t enough. In this land of ubuntu, this land of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, you must stand up, Chief Rabbi Goldstein, and on behalf of the co-religionists you supported in this calumny, bow your head, apologise and, like the man of God I’m sure you are, beg forgiveness of Judge Richard Goldstone.