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The ‘Herem’ of Judge Goldstone

richard goldstone

Richard Goldstone: the Haggadah's 'Wicked Son'

Last year, Judge Richard Goldstone revealed that he would not attend his grandson’s South African bar mitzvah because pro-Israel community leaders had let it be known that they would picket the synagogue during the celebration and generally make his life miserable.  There was a general uproar over this threatening behavior with a number of South African Jews (though not the community’s top leaders) criticizing it in the media including the New York Times.  A short time later, Goldstone announced that he would attend the festivities after all and it appeared that the community had backed down and that the judge’s honor had been vindicated.

What we didn’t realize, and which The Forward recently reported, is that there seems to have been a secret quid pro quo by which the community demanded that it meet with Goldstone privately as the price for quiet during the bar mitzvah celebration.  Judge Goldstone attended a community pow-wow with rabbis and the communal political leadership.  Until now, no one knew what was discussed and what was said to Goldstone.  Now, I can report on at least one of the speeches he was forced to endure.  It is a masterpiece of Jewish guilt.  Baruch Spinoza was subjected to no less during the proceedings of the Amsterdam Jewish community which led to his excommunication (herem).  In fact, the source who provided it to me called it a piece psychological manipulation, in other words part of a communal propaganda offensive designed to intimidate Goldstone into the position he recently adopted in his Washington Post op-ed, in which he uncharacteristically withdrew several key claims of the UN report which he helped author.  The performance in that piece was dreary beyond belief and has to be a low in an otherwise distinguished legal career.

Perhaps the most radical philosophical turnaround in the op-ed is that before, he emphatically rejected the notion that the IDF and State could adequately and fairly investigate their own possible misdeeds.  Now, he claims that Israel has done precisely that.  And makes this claim in the face of evidence which shows that the investigations have been half-hearted and resulted in no significant meting out of punishment or even discipline.

No one can say whether there was an explicit quid pro quo involved in his penning this column.  But it can be no accident that Israel’s Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, has invited Goldstone for a triumphal return to Israel and that the latter has accepted.  It may also not be an accident that he published his apologia in one of Israel’s favorite American newspapers, one which consistently, forcefully advocates Israel’s interests in its editorial pages.

Here is the address of a South African Sephardic rabbi, Laurence (Doron) Perez, to Goldstone during the May, 2010 meeting:

Justice Goldstone -

I am sure that you have had the opportunity many times both as a father and grandfather to be present with your family at the Pesach Seder. I am also sure that you are familiar with the basic narrative of the Haggadah which, as we know, describes the story of Jewish slavery, freedom and redemption. I would like to draw your attention to the famous paragraph about the four sons – the wise one, the wayward [ed. a deliberate distortion of the Hebrew, in which he is called "the wicked son"] one, the simple one and the one who does not know how to ask.  I would like to reflect for a moment on the narrative regarding the wayward son which I believe to be relevant to our discussion today.

The Haggadah states as follows

“The wayward son asks – What is this service to you? (Exodus 12;26). By saying “you” he excludes himself. And since he excludes himself from the peoplehood of Israel (KIal Yisrael), he has denied a fundamental principle of our faith (Kofer be-Ikar). You in turn should blunt his teeth (give a sharp and blunt answer) and say to him – because of what Hashem did for me when I left Egypt, I do this  (Exodus 13;8) – implying for me but not for him.  If he (the wayward son) had been there (in Egypt), he would not have been redeemed?”

This paragraph is most telling as to who the wayward Jewish son is and, further, what our response to him should be. The Haggadah describes the wayward son as the one who sets himself apart from Jewish peoplehood and places himself outside the mainstream Jewish community. His question “what is this service to you” implies that the service does not obligate him in any way. Issues of Jewish identity: – our collective fate, destiny and responsibilities are seen as something which have no bearing on his world view. So much so, that the Haggadah uses the sharp terminology since he has excluded himself from the Jewish people, he has denied a fundamental tenet of Jewish faith.

Again, as I wrote above, the rabbi is essentially warning Goldstone that his participation in the Gaza war investigation and the findings he endorsed in it, have caused him to be driven him from the Tabernacle, leaving him to wander in the desert bereft of his fellow Jews.  They in turn told him that due to his abandonment of them, they have ostracized him.

The rabbi continues in a vein that accuses Goldstone of concern only for the suffering of the Palestinian people and of his disregard for the suffering of Israelis that led up to Operation Cast Lead.  Perez tells Goldstone that when Jewish suffering conflicts with Palestinian suffering there is only ONE legitimate choice:

Remarkably, what emanates so succinctly from the Haggadah is the supreme importance of Jewish peoplehood. The community ethic is a core component of Jewish identity. One cannot call oneself a good Jew if one distances oneself from the lot of one’s People and community.

This explains a bewildering question regarding the wayward son – why is he at the Pesach table in the first place? After all, if he is so wicked, why does he want to be part of the Jewish experience? The answer is clear – he does want to have a connection to his Judaism – but he wants this to be without any commitment to and embracing of a collective Jewish fate and destiny. But the Haggadah teaches us that he cannot claim to be a good Jew, whilst at the same time separating himself from the pain and suffering of his own People. Of course, every good Jew must be sensitive to the suffering of all human beings. All are created in the image of G-d. This is without question a core Jewish value. But how can this possibly override the suffering of his own family, community and People? Kindness and charity must never end in the home, but they must most certainly begin there! Indeed, this is a fundamental principle of Jewish faith – the inextricable link between Jewish faith and the People of Israel.

…The answer given to the wayward son in the Haggadah is also most telling. We blunt his sharp criticism by highlighting the following important point – “Had you been in Egypt you would not have been redeemed” i.e. the wayward son needs to decide what side of Jewish History he is on. If his worldview does not contain this deep sense of Jewish peoplehood, then he has missed the point of Jewish identity. Our Sages tell us that many Jews chose not to leave Egypt but rather lost themselves during the plague of darkness. These individual Jews could not come to terms with Moses’ vision of redemption from Egyptian society: to journey to the homeland of their forefathers and to exercise their divine, religious, historical and moral right to self-determination in their G-d given Land. Those who left Egypt committed to this vision of Jewish destiny. Those who chose to rather stay behind in Egypt did not accept this narrative of Jewish history.

In the following passage, Rabbi Perez goes even farther and accuses Goldstone of being almost a traitor to his race by siding with the Palestinians.  Goldstone has, in effect, turned his back on a millennium of Jewish suffering through his advocacy of the UN human rights report.  He sentences Goldstone to oblivion for his actions:

Remaining behind in Egypt and perhaps even prioritizing the suffering of the Egyptians over the tears and pain of over 100 years of slavery and death of their own People at the hand of the Egyptians sidelined them from future Jewish destiny. Instead of becoming influential protagonists of Jewish history, they became a peripheral footnote.

Below, Perez commits a major bit of intellectual mendacity by claiming that Jewish interests and universal justice are consonant when everything he has said above denies it.  Unless of course the rabbi is arguing that the rights of Palestinians, such as they are, are not covered by the terms universal justice or human rights.

In conclusion – there need not be any contradiction between striving for human rights and universal justice and at the same time being loyal to one’s Faith, People and Land. One can be a champion of human rights and at the same time believe in the unbreakable link between the Jewish faith, Land and People of Israel.

Our Rabbis taught us never to give up on any fellow Jew – even when misguided.  After all, it is his actions we assess and never the person himself. We hope and pray that you undo the unfortunate and enormous damage that your report has done to the Jewish people in general and to the State of Israel and her heroic and moral defenders in particular.

Justice Goldstone – the simple question that we all need to ask ourselves is; which side of Jewish history are we on?

What is truly tragic about Judge Goldstone’s turnaround is that he has now embraced his people, but turned his back on an entire career of advocacy on behalf of peoples afflicted by genocide and egregious violations of human and national rights.  Unlike Rabbi Perez and Judge Goldstone, I do believe that universal human rights and Jewish values are not antithetical.  And unlike them, I do not believe that Israel’s behavior in maintaining the Occupation meets standards of Jewish or universal human rights.  You can have it both ways, but only if you understand that Israeli values are not necessarily kosher Jewish values in this case.

Many of us Jews who have political, philosophical or ethical beliefs that diverge from the so-called consensus have experienced this sort of herem.  I call it the Spinoza Society to denote those honored Jews who break from the pack to stand for values that should the mainstream but often aren’t.  Unfortunately, Judge Goldstone craves the acceptance of the Jewish greybeards and mandarins.  Others of us have known what it is like to have to endure this sort of treatment in order to uphold our own Jewish values.  Thankfully, many of us haven’t felt the need to cave to the pressure.  Perhaps we have less at stake than he does.  But I’d like to think that a man as eminent as Judge Goldstone should’ve done a better job of upholding these values, even in the face of the relentless pressure he undoubtedly faced.

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{ 45 comments… add one }
  • Len Schneiderman April 10, 2011, 7:31 PM

    Your statement, “What is truly tragic about Judge Goldstone’s turnaround is that he has now embraced his people, but turned his back on an entire career of advocacy on behalf of peoples afflicted by genocide and egregious violations of human and national rights”, strikes me as a review completely devoid of balance and a distorted version of what the judge actually stated in his op-ed piece.

    • Richard Silverstein April 11, 2011, 12:06 AM

      I could care less what you think. But I DID write an in depth analysis/critique of the actual WashPo op ed in another blog post. Before commenting why don’t you read it?

  • Shaun April 10, 2011, 7:44 PM

    Fascinating analysis considering you have no clue as to the make up of the South African Jewish community.
    Rabbi Perez is not Sephardic nor does his shul even use Sephardic “nusach”
    The shul he officiates over is called the Mizrahi shul because it is the acronym for “Merkaz Ruchani” the original name of orthodox religious Zionists, the umbrella organization of Bnei Akiva.
    Also, before you go quoting a supposed secret meeting that was scooped up by the forward, why don’t you do a little research and go to of the SA Jewish report website, you will find an abundance of previous copies including coverage of the so called secret meeting recently discovered by the forward,
    http://www.sajewishreport.co.za/pdf/2010/may/7-may-2010.pdf

    • Elisabeth April 10, 2011, 9:53 PM

      The analysis was of the text, and stayed close to that. What is your problem?

    • Richard Silverstein April 11, 2011, 12:05 AM

      Do I need to do a sociological analysis of the S.A. Jewish community in order to be able to properly analyze a shameful bit of pandering by a S.A. rabbi to Judge Goldstone? Despite the fact that you claim the S.A. Jewish press covered the meeting, nowhere do you say that the transcript of the rabbinical “sermon” offered to Goldstone was reported. Was it or not?

  • delia ruhe April 10, 2011, 11:36 PM

    Iqbal Jassat, writing in Pretoria, wrote: “It’s certainly turning out to be a farce. And one wonders whether a highly experienced jurist such as Judge Richard Goldstone underestimated the potential of his Washington Post op-ed turning into an embarrassing saga, not only for himself, but also for his beloved Israel?”

    Worse than a farce, it was self-destructive, for Israel is not finished with Goldstone yet. As Lawrence Swaim wrote at CounterPoint.org:

    “…Goldstone’s generation is hopelessly ensconced in the traumatized memory of persecution that makes the Israeli victim-aggressor such a brutal psychological type. Poor old Judge Goldstone, like all of us the victim finally of his own bad judgment—one can only hope that the hasbara-meisters don’t make him yoick up his soul, make him recant everything, come back for more on his deathbed, and then deny him a spot in a Jewish cemetery. But yes, one definitely sees that coming.”

    We haven’t seen the last of this.

  • Deïr Yassin April 10, 2011, 11:52 PM

    @ Gene Schulman) If you’re here ;-))
    I told you, we’re having a new Spinoza-affair. Poor Goldstone. Maybe it’s time to ask political/religious asylum somewhere. Couldn’t you pull some strings in Geneva ?

    By the way, how do you say “Fatwa” in Hebrew ?

    • Richard Silverstein April 11, 2011, 12:10 AM

      how do you say “Fatwa” in Hebrew

      I’m not aware of any Jewish law that serves to condemn someone for their beliefs as a fatwa does (other than “herem”). So it’s hard to translate it in terms that connote the opprobrium of the term “fatwa.” But there is an amazing, mysterious & frightening ceremony called pulsa di nura, by which rabbis get together using candles & other religious paraphernalia and issue curses against someone wishing them dead. Rabbis did this just before Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination.

      • Deïr Yassin April 11, 2011, 11:15 AM

        In fact, a Fatwa is an ‘opinion’ based on Islamic law, issued by an Islamic scholar, but does not only concern religious affairs, though that’s what is most known in the West, such as the Fatwa against Salman Rushdie.
        A majority of Fatwas {fatâwâ] in the history of Islam concern secular and daily life affairs: financial, moral and political questions. Fatwas have been made on issues such as abortion, contraception, banking systems etc. Bourguiba, the former Tunisian president, asked for Fatwas to make ‘hallal’ (lawful) the non-observation of the Ramadan for developmental reasons back in the 1970′s which most scholars refused to deliver.

        I wonder on what legal ground is based the ‘herem’ – reminds me of the Arabic ‘harâm’ (forbidden,illegal).

        • Richard Silverstein April 11, 2011, 12:15 PM

          Herem is an act of excommunication or ostracism by which someone is “set aside” from the community as unclean. It’s certainly related in some way to the Arabic word.

          • Shai April 11, 2011, 3:42 PM

            This is the origin of the word, from Leviticus:

            “אַךְ־כָּל־חֵרֶם אֲשֶׁר יַחֲרִם אִישׁ לַה’ מִכָּל־אֲשֶׁר־לוֹ מֵאָדָם וּבְהֵמָה וּמִשְּׂדֵה אֲחֻזָּתוֹ לֹא יִמָּכֵר, וְלֹא יִגָּאֵל כָּל־חֵרֶם, קֹדֶשׁ־קָדָשִׁים הוּא לַה’” (ויקרא כז, כח)

          • Deïr Yassin April 11, 2011, 4:51 PM

            Sometimes ‘wiki’ is rather useful. The Cherem/Herem page do mention the Arabic cognate term ‘harâm’ and Spinoza as the most famous case of herem.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherem

        • Rachel April 11, 2011, 9:45 PM

          Herem in Hebrew and Haram in Arabic are basically the same word-to boundary off, forbid, or shun. Neither has anything to do with the Arabic term ‘fatwa’ which, like every other sacred concept in Islam has been maligned by Western melodrama about cutthroat Arabs in the dark and mysterious Orient. The funny thing about the Fox News types talking about ‘issuing fatwas’ is that the fatwa has always been an advisory opinion handed down by a mufti-or expert in Islamic law. You don’t get punished for not obeying a fatwa. It does *not* mean shunning someone for their beliefs. You presumed that from reading about Salman Rushdie.

    • Gene Schulman April 11, 2011, 12:27 AM

      @ Deir Yassin. I’m here. Thanks for remembering. I don’t feel the least bit of compassion for Goldstone. If he wants to hang out with people that would otherwise ostracize him, he is of weak character. He has nothing of my long-time hero Spinoza, who was a man of principle, and had no qualms about giving the proverbial finger to the hypocritical Jewish community. Can you imagine what he might have done if there were Zionists in those days?

      At the risk of being sanctioned by Richard, I don’t know how to say “Fatwa” in Hebrew, but a close translation in colloquial English might be “Fuckya”.

      • Richard Silverstein April 11, 2011, 12:21 PM

        I didn’t mean to compare Goldstone himself to Spinoza as I agree he doesn’t merit the comparison. But I DID mean to compare the treatment of the two by the Jewish communities of their day. At the time he was harranged by the S.A. community leadership, Goldstone was viewed much as Spinoza was viewed by the Amsterdam leaders of his day.

        • Carl Rosenberg January 6, 2012, 3:09 PM

          I just wandered into this discussion, almost a year late, but still…..

          A closer comparison than Spinoza would be his contemporary (actually, slightly earlier) Uriel Da Costa, who unlike Spinoza repented of his “heresies” under severe pressure from the Jewish community leadership in Amsterdam

    • Daniel April 11, 2011, 8:35 AM

      Fatwa has some similatities with Rodef ( Din Rodef )

  • ZaraMart April 11, 2011, 12:37 AM

    We have the right to have our country, to practice our religion as we want to , walk in the streets wearing freely our kippot and not being afraid of any anti-Semitic activists.I don’t feel that we have to apologize for anything. I am a proud Israeli who happens also to be a jew!

    • Elisabeth April 11, 2011, 12:45 PM

      Are you peddling your wares here with that link ZaraMart? Funny.

    • Richard Silverstein April 12, 2011, 12:43 AM

      No spammin’ the comment threads. If you want to hawk yarmulkes do it somewhere else.

      • Elisabeth April 12, 2011, 12:02 PM

        Can you imagine ordering the ‘sales item of the month’: A yarmulke with the emblem of the tsahal on it?

        • Vicky April 12, 2011, 12:56 PM

          Back in England I volunteer at a Jewish museum that is in danger of closure because of cuts to funding. I’ve always said that we don’t get enough mileage out of the Judaica shop. If we start stocking those things we should be able to turn our fortunes right round!

  • John Yorke April 11, 2011, 3:14 AM

    Has the good Justice Goldstone really been seduced by the dark side of the Force?

    That seems unlikely. His actions rather remind me of what I used to do when trying to repair a broken machine. When I’d finally got the little beast up and running, I would start fine-tuning it to make it work at peak efficiency. Sometimes I overdid the process and that left me with even more problems than were there in the first place.

    But, supposing he has gone over to the dark side, what then of it?
    If we do not concentrate on the main issue and constantly defer to the smaller stuff instead, we risk losing sight of what this whole business is about. Let’s not be side-tracked by minutiae, symptoms that emanate from within the problem. Too often they serve only to obscure the source itself. Even the Goldstone Report remains but a symptom of a symptom.

    This entire matter has gone on for long enough. To overly concern ourselves with the multitude of spin-offs and detritus that collect about it may be very natural but that can also blind us to a greater purpose.

    As I’ve often said, think of it as a test, a test we all appear to be failing and demonstrably so. People are continuing to die, in part, because of our inactivity, our propensity to avoid the main task, one which must be to bring this episode in human history to a defined and universally acceptable ending. Nothing else will suffice.

    So, let’s get on with it. Stop being distracted by the clock or the scenery; that second hand sweeps along just fine on its own, the sun will rise and set without having our attention constantly fixed upon it.

    The object is to finish the test before our time is up. It is one we dare not fail; nor should we expect to do so
    since, within the myriad mind of Man, the answer must exist. But only if we can find it.

  • pabelmont April 11, 2011, 6:05 AM

    I’m not a religious Jew, possibly not a Jew at all, never mind all my German Jewish and Russian Jewish ancestors. I care not a fig for any Jewish community as such (except for my personal friends and, of course, the pro-Palestine and pro-HR and pro-Justice blogging community and its commentators).

    But I believe there is a large (I’d like to hope a majority) population (or perhaps community) of Jews who wish Israel and its (elderly) Jewish-Community-Leadership apologists would abandon voluntary aggression (against Palestinians, chiefly, but also against truth-tellers such as Judge Goldstone).

    I commend THIS community to Judge Goldstone, and let the South African (official) Jewish Community to take care of itself and lick its self-inflicted wounds.

    Who, really, wants to be a member of a club like that?

  • free man April 11, 2011, 6:05 AM

    I’m sure Goldstone has many friends in the world.
    Many of them Jewish. I know many Jews who see him as one of the great man who lives today.
    In addition, the idea that he may have chnged his view due to presure can play both sides. In the first place he was assigned to “investigate Israel war crimes”. That was the charter, if he’s so much influenced by presure, how much of it lead to the report itself ?
    I don’t think he gave to presure when he wrote the report and I don’t think he does now.

    • Richard Silverstein April 11, 2011, 12:18 PM

      Your characterization of Goldstone’s mandate is wrong. He was ORIGINALLY asked to investigate only Israeli actions, but he insisted on expanding the scope to include those of Hamas and the Human RIghts Commission agreed. Please be accurate and precise so I don’t have to waste my time correcting you.

      • free man April 12, 2011, 4:54 AM

        I’m accurate and percise.
        He was asked by the UN human right commity (side note: chaired by Lybia at the time ?) to investigate Israel alone, as you have just admitted.
        Now you may think about the actual issue I raised. The presure to repent what he wrote is not larger than the presure he had before he wrote the report in the other way.

  • Leonid Levin April 11, 2011, 6:34 AM

    According to rabbi Laurence (Doron) Perez’s definition, the great Prophets of the Torah could also be seen as wayward and wicked. For they were fierce in their critique of the mainstream Jewish society of the day and as such could be viewed as those “who set himself apart from Jewish peoplehood and places himself outside the mainstream Jewish community”. And what about Moses being outside the mainstream when his followers made the golden calf and started worshipping it? In rabbi Perez’s sense, he may then well be seen as wayward.

    So maybe we should ask ourselves if the so called rabbis of today are not making a golden calf out of the State of Israel and will worship it blindly whatever it does? And is there a chance that the truth seeking Jews and Gentiles of today, who criticise Israel for her unseemly behavior, may become great examples for the future generations of the Jewish people?

    • Elisabeth April 11, 2011, 9:51 AM

      Those old prophets are still read today BECAUSE they went against the mainstream. That is what made and makes them interesting. They have inspired people from all over the world into criticizing the wrongs of their own societies for many ages. One of the most important contributions of Judaism to the world.

      The state of Israel as the new golden calf. I could not agree more!

    • Vicky April 11, 2011, 11:22 PM

      “So maybe we should ask ourselves if the so called rabbis of today are not making a golden calf out of the State of Israel and will worship it blindly whatever it does?”

      With that you have summed up the reason why I am not Jewish today. For two years I was seriously considering conversion, but I kept coming up against this statement from the United Synagogues, the MO umbrella organisation in Britain:

      “The United Synagogues values stem from the principles of both Torah and Halacha. We wish to welcome every Jew, create a sense of belonging and allow for life-long Jewish learning, spiritual growth and religious practice. We strongly believe in the centrality of Israel in Jewish life…”

      I knew next to nothing about the conflict when I began attending synagogue. If I thought about Israel at all, I saw it as a fitting response to the Shoah. But that last pointer made me uneasy, especially as it didn’t seem to fit with, “We wish to welcome every Jew.” I had met anti-Zionist Jews by then. In my talks with the rabbi, we spoke less and less about Torah and more and more about some nationalist aspiration that I didn’t think could ever be mine.

      I made one final attempt, at university – I started taking classes in Biblical Hebrew, at the invitation of the chaplain. He was Israeli, and within a week of his arrival the walls of the chaplaincy were plastered with Taglit Israel posters. During my third class, a student made an offensive anti-Arab joke. There were only six of us in the room, including the rabbi. We all heard. The rabbi said nothing. I never went back.

      • Deïr Yassin April 12, 2011, 2:25 AM

        @ Vicky)
        Thanks for that testimony.
        But by not converting, you also missed the opportunity to “settle down in your ancient homeland” and become an Israeli within 24 hours :-)

      • free man April 12, 2011, 4:59 AM

        Judaism is coupled with the land of Israel.
        You don’t have to accept it, but this is how it is.

        • Deïr Yassin April 12, 2011, 5:58 AM

          “Judaism is coupled with the land of Israel”

          I read Vicky’s objection as more concerned with the STATE of Israel. And maybe she had the choice of accepting it or not, but the native Palestinians hardly had and still don’t have.

          Exactly when did Judaism turn into a real estate enterprise ?

          • free man April 13, 2011, 5:55 AM

            Judaism has nothing to do with the state of Israel and everything to do with the Land of Israel. Those are two different things.
            That is why you can find ultra orthodox Jews who see the state of Israel as blasphemy and other Jews who see it as the beginning of redemption.
            On the other hand you can find Jew Atheists, like me, who has no religious feeling what so ever to the land of Israel, only historic bonds.

          • Richard Silverstein April 13, 2011, 10:48 AM

            For most Jews (at least those who are Zionist), the State of Israel is the representation of Jewish aspirations in the land of Israel. So state & land are connected.

          • Elisabeth April 13, 2011, 6:12 AM

            Judaism accomplished great things OUTSIDE of the land of Israel and still does, so I am not convinced of the necessity of this tie to the land at all.

        • Leonid Levin April 12, 2011, 6:45 AM

          Free man, I think that Judaism is not per se coupled with the land of Israel. Maybe it’s that the people do the coupling? The Ten Commandments make no mention of the land of Israel, but the first few commandments warn against making and worshipping idols. These are the gravest offences in Judaism and are therefore listed first. The land and the state of Israel, the way they are worshipped today by the mainstream of Jews, may well have become an idol and therefore an obstacle in the human and spiritual development of the Jews.

          Yes, the land of Israel is mentioned as part of the covenant, but what use is the land if the people have essentially neglected the covenant and put the land before God’s other more important commandments?

          From a non-theistic point of view, the Torah is essentially a collection of works written throughout hundreds of years by different people, reflecting aspirations of the Jewish people in very different ages and circumstances. As such it may be used as a moral guide, as a literary and historical document, but definitely not as proof of our right to the land.

        • Vicky April 12, 2011, 6:58 AM

          Judaism as a faith predates political Zionism by over two thousand years. They are conceptually distinct. It’s perfectly possible to be Jewish and opposed to/critical of the modern-day State of Israel. You can see the evidence of this in synagogues across the religious spectrum, from the Liberal Judaism movement to the Neturei Karta. They relate positively to Israel the land and Israel the people, but not to Israel the state. Unfortunately potential converts are rarely made aware of the distinction between state and land, place and people; and they are not introduced to the diversity of Jewish opinion on the subject.

          Heinrich Heine once said of the Tanakh, “This is my portable homeland.” I feel similarly. If anybody asks me to value a patch of earth over the humans who live on it, I know that there is something wrong with their interpretation. Justice and mercy are recurrent themes in Jewish scripture, and I don’t see much of either in what the modern-day State of Israel does to people.

          Deir Yassin,

          I would live here permanently if I could. (The irony – I look into Judaism, and am completely unmoved by the Zionist philosophy presented to me by the rabbi; I find my religious home elsewhere, and end up falling in love with Palestine.) I will apply for permanent Palestinian residency as soon as there is a Palestinian state for me to be a permanent resident of. In the meantime, I will just have to keep wrestling more time from the visa renewals office.

  • delia ruhe April 11, 2011, 8:33 PM

    Check out Akiva Elder’s latest:

    “What exactly did Goldstone ‘retract’ from his report on Gaza?”

    Richard Goldstone’s strange op-ed, in which he backtracked on his report claiming Israel targeted civilians, does not seem to be grounded in the UN’s final report on Cast Lead.

    http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/what-exactly-did-goldstone-retract-from-his-report-on-gaza-1.355454

  • ZaraMart April 12, 2011, 10:42 AM

    [comment deleted for violation of comment rules]

    • Elisabeth April 12, 2011, 1:04 PM

      Yawn, you already said that. Or is this message sent around continuously and automatically to any website that has the word ‘Jewish’ in it??

    • Richard Silverstein April 12, 2011, 1:04 PM

      If you spam this comment thread again you will be banned. We don’t promote products here as you have done.

  • Medawar April 13, 2011, 11:31 AM

    Reminds me of the case of Thomas Cranmer, an Archbishop of Canterbury who preached, while England was still nominally a Catholic country, that “every man should be able to read the Bible for himself in his own language.”

    He was subjected to a VERY similar process, being barracked and harangued for days by a whole pack of Cardinals, until he agreed to sign a paper recanting his heresies and so forth.

    But once the stress and confusion of all the barracking and intimidation had left him, he realized that his sermon had been entirely right and that by recanting, he had defied God. So he recanted his recantion (if that’s the phrase) and the Catholics promptly decided to burn him. As the fire took hold, he held the hand he’d signed the paper with, in the flames so that the part of him that had sinned, would perish first.

    These days, of course, his heresy is officially accepted and almost universally practiced, even by the Roman Church -and the rise of literacy in England which he started, changed a lot more than the Church. The only way it is possible to oppose Cranmer’s view, really, is to hold that God can only speak in one language.

    Now, who would do that?

  • Deïr Yassin April 19, 2011, 9:45 AM

    Latest news on Wikileaks, the Goldstone Report and the “Special relationship”:
    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/04/18/special_relationship

    Roger Cohen (NYT) has by the way invented a new verb: ‘to goldstone’.
    Definition; to make a finding, and then partially retract it for uncertain motives.
    Etymology: the strange actions of a respected South African Jewish jurist under intense pressure from Israel, the US Congress and world Jewish groups.

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