45 thoughts on “The ‘Herem’ of Judge Goldstone – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. 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.

  2. 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,

    1. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. @ 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 ?

    1. 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.

      1. 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).

          1. 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)

        1. 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.

    2. @ 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”.

      1. 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.

        1. 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

  5. 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!

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

        1. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  9. 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?

    1. 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!

    2. “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.

      1. @ 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 🙂

        1. “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 ?

          1. 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.

          2. 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.

        2. 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.

        3. 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.

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

  10. 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?

  11. Latest news on Wikileaks, the Goldstone Report and the “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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