Goldstone’s about-face

Whenever anything happens in the world, Jews and Israelis ask the question: Is this good for Jews? But when a South African Jew who also insists that he is a Zionist was appointed to a human rights commission, the Jewish answer was a strong no.

It was clear that the usual character assassination and political spin aimed at delegitmising anyone asked to investigate Israel’s war crimes would be much more difficult if the person is a Jewish judge.

To be sure, Israel refused to meet with Goldstone and his commission, and when they produced a report based in part of what they saw in Gaza, the Israeli PR machine was cranked up. But what appears to have been an even stronger and more effective machine was similarly put to work, this time using the wide social and religious network of the worldwide Jewish population, to put constant and unrelenting direct pressure on Goldstone.

His unexpected and sudden volte face caught many, including the Israeli PR machine and the worldwide Jewish network, slightly off guard. After all, the report of the committee that Goldstone chaired had been submitted to the UN and was, therefore, no longer accessible to him or anyone else in his committee.

It was also unusual, and rather scary, to see a well-respected judge who is familiar with the basics of judicial process write an op-ed piece that makes claims that were not shared by his colleagues in the committee and were clearly not received and discussed from all points of view.

It is very rare that a judge would actually go back on a decision or judgement even if that was not a judicial act in the normal sense of the word. A mea culpa using an op-ed after a committee report has been submitted is extremely unusual. This is where the case becomes scary.

For months, the social persecution of Judge Goldstone has been widely publicised. The head of the South African Zionist Federation, Avrom Krengel, boasted to Yedioth Ahronoth’s Aviel Magnezi how the Jewish community pressured Goldstone: "He suffered greatly, especially in the city he comes from. We took sides against him, and it encourages us to know that our way had an effect."

Goldstone who was initially denied the right to attend his grandson’s bar mitzva eventually was allowed to attend. His arrival was made possible, according to Krengel, only after Goldstone agreed to meet with the leaders of the South African Zionist Federation, according to Ynet News.

What is scary is the absence of information on so many other Jewish personalities who are in a sensitive position vis-à-vis the Middle East conflict. For years, the leading US newspaper New York Times chose not to send Jewish reporters to Israel. But once this self-imposed restraint was lifted, almost every reporter and bureau chief in Israel has been Jewish, some of them Zionists. The present bureau chief, Ethan Bronner, is married to an Israeli woman and their Israeli son serves in the Israeli army. The public editor of the NY times recommended publicly that Bronner be moved and given a "plum job" anywhere else, but the executive editor, who is also Jewish refused.

The same situation applies in diplomacy. The US was for a long time hesitant to send Jewish American diplomats to the Middle East and especially to Israel. But for some time, this is what has been happening. Dan Kurtzer served honourably in Egypt and Israel. Dan Shapiro has just been appointed as the new ambassador to Tel Aviv and the US consul general in Jerusalem, Daniel Rubinstein, is also Jewish and reportedly with relatives in Israel.

This is not to say that Jewish Americans cannot, or do not, serve honourably as neutral, unbiased reporters or diplomats, but what has been documented about the pressure laid upon Goldstone does not bode well for others who follow the Jewish faith and who might be closet or even publicly professing Zionists.

If a Palestinian, an Arab or a Muslim were appointed to any diplomatic, media or human rights council investigating Israel or Palestine, the Israelis would scream. And when a Jewish Zionist is appointed and holds views that Israel doesn’t like, the pressure, ostracising and hounding begin worldwide.

I do not believe Jews rule the world and I do abhor anti-Semitism. But the narrative of Judge Goldstone’s committee report, the pressures on him, his humiliating capitulation, coupled with exaggerated gloating by Israeli leaders, will certainly fuel more anti-Semitism than reduce it, and will make it difficult to avoid wondering whether in the future other Jews can avoid being suspected of divided loyalty and bias when serving in any position that potentially impacts Israel.

In the end, a sane person might conclude that the op-ed penned by Goldstone is most probably, in the final analysis, "not good for Jews".