Gary Ackerman on the Goldstone bar mitzvah


Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) was not shy about condemning what he thought was the shoddy Goldstone report into Israel’s 2009 Gaza war.

And now the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Middle East subcommittee is not shy about condemning the Jews in South Africa who pressured its author, Judge Richard Goldstone, into skipping his grandson’s bar mitzvah.

Here’s a letter he wrote to the South African Zionist Federation, the body that "negotiated" with the shul to keep Goldstone away, apparently under threat of protests:

April 15, 2010

Mr. Avrom Krengel
South Africa Zionist Federation
Johannesburg, South Africa

Dear Mr. Krengel:

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.

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.

In response to this outrage, according to the Jewish Telegraph Agency, you said "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."

Actually, there’s rather a great deal more to say.

I take a back seat to no one in strenuous opposition to Judge Goldstone’s critique of Israel’s actions in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. But there is no excuse for what has been reported if it is true. Compelling Judge Goldstone to absent himself from his grandson’s bar mitzvah offends me as a believer in civil discourse and the power of debate and argument; it offends me as a believer in the fundamental human right to freedom of worship and belief; it offends me as a defender of the Jewish state and the Jewish people; it offends me as the president of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians; and it offends me personally as a Jew and a Jewish grandfather.

People are entitled to their views about Judge Goldstone, and mine is that he failed massively and consequentially when it came to his very shoddy work regarding the legal implications of the defensive operation in Gaza in December 2008. But there is no entitlement to vent justifiable anger about his work at either his community or his family, much less an innocent child.

Doing so is an abysmal moral failure, a disgrace deserving the fullest condemnation by every friend of human freedom and all those who love the Jewish people and the State of Israel.


House Subcommittee on the
Middle East and South Asia

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