South African Jewish leaders meet with Goldstone

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (JTA) – A delegation of  senior South African Jewish communal leaders met with Richard Goldstone.

Monday’s meeting, to discuss Goldstone’s participation in the 2009 United Nations fact-finding mission into the Gaza war and the contents of his committee’s report, was held as part of a deal brokered between the South African Zionist Federation and Goldstone that allowed the judge to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah on May 1 in the absence of threatened protests.

Goldstone, who now resides in the United States, initially had said he would not attend the religious ceremony.

According to a news release issued by the South African Zionist Federation, the discussion was "frank and open" and included "the hurt and concerns of the South African Jewish community regarding the findings and impact of the report." Goldstone

The Goldstone report accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Explaining his participation in the mission, Goldstone said he had spent much of his professional life championing international criminal justice.

"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 said.

Goldstone noted that it was the first time that the U.N. Human Rights Council had offered Israel the opportunity to tell its story to a U.N. inquiry and said he had hoped it might herald a new approach by the council.

"But sadly for everyone, the Israeli government squandered that opportunity," he said. "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."

In his opening statement, South African Zionist Federation Chairman Avrom Krengel expressed "our deep disappointment and dissatisfaction with your involvement, as a South African Jew, in leading the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict." Referring to "glaring disparities" in the way the parties had been treated by the mission, Krengel said certain aspects of the report were "highly prejudicial to Israel while being extremely favorable towards Hamas."

Krengel said that without Goldstone’s credentials as a Jew and pre-eminent human rights jurist, the report "would have lacked all credibility and would have failed to gain any traction."

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