Judge Richard Goldstone has met a delegation of South African community leaders, with whom he had agreed to hold a discussion in return for being able to attend his grandson’s barmitzvah unhindered.
Judge Goldstone, author of the controversial UN report into Operation Cast Lead, had originally agreed not to attend the barmitzvah, which took place this Shabbat. He came to an agreement with the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and the Johannesburg Sandton Synagogue.
The SAZF had reportedly threatened to protest outside the shul should Judge Goldstone attend.
Although the content of the discussions has not been made public, both Judge Goldstone and the chairman of the SAZF, Avrom Krengel, made on the record opening statements.
Mr Krengel explained the disappointment and the frustration the South African community felt personally towards Judge Goldstone.
He said: “As a member of the Jewish community, we ask you to reach out to us and understand our pain and anger at what you have done and to work with us in ensuring that Israel is not treated in a manner different to any other nation.
He detailed, specifically referring to page numbers of the report, the problems he had with the way the report was conducted.
He said: “Over 100 pages of your report are devoted to giving the reader a history of every actual and alleged human rights violation Israel has committed since 1967.
“One can only presume that this endless list of Israel’s ”violations” is designed to provide the report’s readers with an understanding as to why Hamas resorted to rocket fire into southern Israel and the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
“In respect of Israel however, no such contextualisation of its actions is provided in any meaningful manner. Nowhere in your 573 page report do you feel it is of value “for contextual purposes” to mention that Hamas’ founding charter calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.
“You fail to disclose that Hamas killed over 500 Israeli civilians in suicide bombings committed during the years 2000 to 2009. You fail to disclose that the introduction by Hamas of suicide bombing into the Middle East has caused the death of tens of thousands of Muslims in the region. “
Mr Goldstone began his reply by saying how delighted that the negotiations had allowed him to attend the barmitzvah after all.
He said: “I have taken no pleasure in seeing people around the world criticise the South African Jewish community and I commend the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and all responsible for bringing an end to the unfortunate public issues that had arisen relating to my grandson’s bar mitzvah.”
Turning immediately to address concerns about his UN report, which found both Israel and Hamas guilty of war crimes, Judge Goldstone said: “It would have been hypocritical for me to continue to speak out against violations of international law and impunity for war crimes around the world but remain silent when it came to Israel simply because I am Jewish.”
He expressed his frustration that the Israeli government and the IDF did not use the opportunity to present their case to the UN Human Rights Council.
“I anticipated that this might herald the start of a new approach by the Human Rights Council to adopt an appropriate policy in which all similar human rights valuations around the world receive equal attention. But sadly for everyone, the Israeli Government squandered that opportunity. “
“The right of Israel to act in self-defence was also not questioned by the report.”
Concluding his opening address to the leaders, Judge Goldstone admitted he had some regrets over the dealings with the Israeli government during his investigation: “That Israel refused to co-operate meant that we had to do the best we could with the information we were able to gather.
“I only wish that the energy that the government of Israel and its supporters had put into discrediting the report had been invested in co-operating with our mission.
“It is obvious but must be stated: Had Israel provided us with credible information to respond to the allegations we received they would have been given appropriate consideration and could potentially have influenced our findings.
“That was unfortunately not forthcoming. We cannot undo the past.”