Goldstone Flinched Due To Social Pressure -- Plus Great NY Times Column On Judge
(Huffington Post) -- by MJ Rosenberg --
A terrific article in the Jewish Forward today explains what was behind Judge Richard Goldstone's decision to amend his original findings on the Gaza war: social pressure.
The article describes how Goldstone's community in Johannesburg summoned Goldstone to a meeting with the Jewish Federation at which communal leaders essentially indicted Goldstone for being a traitor.
"It was a heavy meeting. They went in very hard against him. There were no smiling handshakes afterwards. Avrom's [the head of the South African Zionist Foundation] opening statement was pretty merciless."In other words, Goldstone couldn't handle the anger of friends and, perhaps, even members of his family. (His family's decision to go ahead with a Bar Mitzvah at a synagogue that banned the Bar Mitzvah boy's grandfather from attending seems positively bizarre).
The meeting in South Africa came on the heels of Goldstone's 11th hour decision to attend his grandson's bar mitzvah -- a decision he took only after threats were withdrawn by prominent community members to protest outside the synagogue. Did all this add up to an emotional punch that would cause Goldstone's turnaround? It may be too simplistic to reduce the process to that. But several friends cited what they viewed as the cumulative toll of a stream of calumny hurled at the famously unemotional jurist.
So Goldstone decided to appease his crowd. His article in the Washington Post was not designed to repudiate his own report (and it didn't). It was designed to win back the friendship of people whose nationalist feelings were hurt.
This is all understandable, if not admirable.
It is also common. The cravenness of some progressive Jewish organizations (like the Reform movement) in supporting the Gaza war may be dictated as much by social ostracism as by donor intimidation organized by AIPAC. Even J Street, which bravely opposed Gaza, felt the need to praise Goldstone's decision to step back from his original report.
This fear of ostracism by fellow Jews severely damages the ability of progressive Jews to help end the conflict. So long as they are always looking over their shoulders to see what the status quo crowd is saying, their effectiveness is limited...
POSTSCRIPT: Some of the progressives who are intimidated on matters relating to Israel are the same people who would never back down on economic issues, marriage equality, the environment, immigration, civil liberties and a host of other issues. The difference is that the mainstream Jewish community allows deviation on every single issue but Israel, the one area in which progressive Jews can do the most good. There will be no "Profile in Courage" awards for those who are progressive only when it won't cost them financial support or "friends."...MORE...LINK