Wrenching letter from Judge Goldstone to Business Day, a Johannesburg publication, on the dustup over his grandson’s bar mitzvah. (For background on Rabbi Warren Goldstein’s stiffnecked position, to which Goldstone refers, read this):
I read with dismay Chief Rabbi Goldstein’s article in yesterday’s Business Day. I was dismayed that the chief rabbi would so brazenly politicise the occasion of my 13-year-old grandson’s bar mitzvah to engage in further personal attacks on me.
I am prepared to respond fully to those attacks, but not in the run-up to my grandson’s bar mitzvah.
He and his family have been working for close to a year preparing for the once-in-a-lifetime rite of passage into the Jewish community. Of all people, the chief rabbi should be aware of the importance of this. Yet, for whatever reasons, Chief Rabbi Goldstein would rather focus on me.
I was further dismayed when I read his article because his rhetoric about “open synagogues” simply does not coincide with how my family and I have been treated. The chief rabbi has been well aware of the situation, and instead of using his position of leadership in the South African Jewish community to promote the “open synagogues” principle that he purports to profess, he would rather write articles and threaten others with lawsuits.
I must state that at no time whatsoever has the chief rabbi reached out to my family. Acting on information that we received from the synagogue, and the recent threat by the leader of the South African Zionist Federation of demonstrations if I attend the synagogue service, it was decided that it would be better if I did not attend the bar mitzvah. We have taken that decision in the best interests of my grandson and my family.
My only concern at the present time is that my grandson’s bar mitzvah should be the joyous occasion that he deserves it to be. I would dearly love to attend my grandson’s bar mitzvah. The questionable and unfortunate approach of the chief rabbi, in all the circumstances, makes it less, and not more, possible for me to do so.
Judge Richard Goldstone
I don’t understand why this isn’t a scandal, why the mainstream is not pursuing the obvious question here. Philip Giraldi reports on Lani Kass, an Israeli-American who has an influential place in the Defense establishment and the usual anti-Islamic ideas. And of course Dennis Ross formerly of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute in Jerusalem is guiding our Iran policy, and Treasury officials who crank up sanctions against Iran are friends of AIPAC. It never ends. Bush Obama, same tune. Giraldi:
A sign of how little the discourse has moved, here is Jan Schakowsky of Ohio, a leftlib congresswoman, or so we like to think, she opposed the Iraq war, celebrating Israel on its founding day yesterday in the most unreconstructed terms. The desert bloomed. A thriving democracy. Not a word about Palestinian statelessness. On the left, it is common to hear Jews in recovery talk about the trees they paid for in Israel as children, and how they feel complicit in Palestinian dispossession as a result and are making amends now.
Notice that Schakowsky is still proud of having planted those trees. I think this speech is also a sign of the fact that Jewish identity cuts across party lines, and makes even libs conservative. I know this is ceremonial boilerplate, still: Congress will be the last place to wake up, I’m afraid, but twill happen. Schakowsky, after the jump:
Madam Speaker, I rise to honor the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the Jewish State of Israel. Israel has weathered decades of war and terrorism but it remains a thriving democracy and America ’s closest friend and ally in the Middle East .
As a very young child, I remember the immense pride and joy my family felt when the Jewish State became a reality. I had the privilege of traveling once again to Israel earlier this month, and again I was struck by the resilience, courage, and innovation of the Israeli people, as well as their pride in the beautifully lush country they have built in the desert.
I thought about my childhood again and the number of times I had saved my nickels and dimes to by a tree certificate that we used for birthdays and anniversaries to plant trees in Israel and make that desert bloom.
No longer just a longing of the Jewish people, Israel today is a leader in technology, energy, and scientific innovation – including medical innovation. It is also the only democratic state in the Middle East and our steadfast friend, ally, and partner. / Today, we mark the 62nd anniversary of the State of Israel and celebrate the unbreakable bonds between our two countries.
Sixty-two years after the U.S. became the first country to recognize the new State of Israel we still share common dreams and continue to strengthen our critical relationship.
Just minutes after the declaration of the founding of the State of Israel, President Harry Truman recognized that country and it began a 62-year-long commitment, non-partisan, bipartisan – universal throughout our country – recognizing the importance of our relationship with the State of Israel. I believe that this Congress of the United States maintains that dedication and will forever more. Thank you.
A few days ago my wife and I went to a party and I got a little drunk and charmed the table. Our host had served me two vodka cocktails and then at dinner there was a lot of red wine. On the drive home my wife got upset with me for being obnoxious and I said that I was a talent and needed to express myself. For the rest of the night and the next day or so, she would say, “I get it—you’re a showoff, right, so you need to dominate a conversation? Isn’t that what you told me?”
One thing that set me off is that there were a couple of people at the party who are much more successful than I am in the media field (not to mention the Israel lobby) so my competitive instinct took over. My wife regards this as beneath me. One of the successful people was a writer who my wife wrote off as having no personality and being a suckup and a liar. A liar?
My wife had asked her something about social life, and the writer said offhandedly, Oh I never see anyone, I haven’t been out in a year. My wife said this was a flatout lie. The writer is a social type, it is completely obvious, and she obviously gets out all the time and just didn’t answer the question maybe because she regards our society as lesser or because her answer seemed clever to her. There was no sincerity, my wife said. And in turn my wife faulted me for a lack of sincerity, in my drunken holdingforthness.
I relate everything to my Jewishness, and I read this conflict in Jewish terms. The writer is Jewish and I am familiar with her manners. I grew up hearing and telling jokes about the value and pleasure of irony and deception. The famous Minsk Pinsk joke, in which one salesman accuses another of lying when he has told him the truth, was told at my dinner table. My wife doesn’t like irony. She grew up going to a Quaker resort where the three words on the dining room wall were Simplicity Sincerity and Service. I’ve come to respect those values. But can I develop them in myself, and do I even want to?
A friend advised me recently that I am struggling with the idea of chosenness. I associate New York success, that thing the three partygoers possess in greater measure than I do, with chosenness, and along with chosenness, spectacle: marketing, branding, performance. I don’t know that it’s altogether a bad thing. But chosenness is a real element in Jewish culture.
You hear even secularized Jews mention the Jewish covenant with god; why, in the middle of an academic work called Capitalism and the Jews, author Jerry Muller states in passing that Jews have such a covenant—and I bridle, because the religious language is never interrogated, and neither is the sense of specialness that comes along with it.
Videos from last weekend’s mock Congressional Hearing in Chicago about US policy toward Israel/Palestine have been posted. Below are two of the most powerful. The first featuers Amr Shurrab from Khan Younis who lost two of his brothers on the same day during the Israeli attack on Gaza in January, 2009. The second features Cindy Corrie who recounts the death of her daughter Rachel and her search for answers and accountability.
Great piece of reporting by Josh Nathan-Kazis at the Forward, on how the Israel lobby beat back divestment at Berkeley last week.
I read this with some sadness, reflected in my headline. Must all of these important decisions be subject to such back-room influence? Truman said he’d never been pressured so much as he was on his decision to recognize Israel, overruling his own State Department and U.N. representative. Obama is getting pressured now. Really, is this the best way to make policy? Don’t people resent it?
The forthcoming New Republic, not yet available online, has a hit job on Human Rights Watch written by Benjamin Birnbaum. I am told this is the same Ben Birnbaum who wrote for the Cornell Sun a few years ago:
Or there’s this jokey-joke about that funny topic, torture:
Birnbaum won a hasbara prize as an undergraduate. Zionism continues its war on Jewish intelligence, abetted by that leader of intellectuals, Marty Peretz.
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, “Setting the Trap on Iran:”
Now here is Levey, speaking before an AIPAC policy conference in 2005, and doing some Israel sign-language:
Then in the New York Times a year or so back, we had “Stuart Levey’s War.”
Is it really that surprising that Levey hangs on from Bush into Obama? Both the New York Times and the Washington Post must have an unwritten policy in which identifying any member of the administration or a Washington think tank with the pro-Israel forces is not allowed. Ignatius is not an ignorant reporter so his failure to identify Levey for what he is, an openly pro-Israel supporter serving in a critical position in the US government, must have some other reason.
Wow, another sign that Israel/Palestine is coming home, and that the American left has taken on the issue: a half-dozen Macalester College students, in St. Paul, Minnesota, participated in a lockdown of a Caterpillar distribution plant yesterday, and managed to block a driveway at the plant for some hours. The students know the issue.
h/t Alex Kane.
Norman Finkelstein’s latest book, titled “‘This Time We Went Too Far’: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion,” was released recently, and has been garnering a lot of praise in publications that reviewed the book. Below is an excerpt from a review of the book I wrote in the Indypendent, a New York-based free newspaper. You can read the whole review here.
In his prolific and rigorous writings, Finkelstein has waged incisive academic assaults against Israel’s defenders, most notably Alan Dershowitz, a lawyer and Harvard professor. Finkelstein’s latest, ‘This Time We Went Too Far’: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion, is no exception. The book takes aim at (among others) Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst for ABC News and the author of a number of books on the Middle East, for absolving Israel of war crimes in a “strategic analysis” of Operation Cast Lead he published with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cordesman’s analysis, Finkelstein writes, “synthesizes Israel’s makeshift rebuttals to criticism of the invasion.”
The hot core of the polemic against Cordesman — and the defense of Israeli conduct he represents — is Finkelstein’s masterful command of international human rights law and a sharp exegesis of the United Nations report on the Israeli assault. Much more accessible than Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (1995) or The Holocaust Industry (2000), ‘This Time We Went Too Far’ spares readers the usual thicket of research from the annals of war documentation.
Finkelstein’s work is clear, concise, well documented and burning with righteous anger, and he still devotes enough pages to developing a solid framework of historical context and critical analysis to give newcomers to this complex subject a working knowledge of the conflict’s dimensions.
When it comes to Israel, the political is always personal for Finkelstein, and facts and figures that anchor his research are humanized by accounts of his experience on the ground. In a moving passage, he describes visiting Gaza as part of a CODEPINK delegation in the aftermath of the Israeli assault, recalling an 11-year-old Palestinian girl lingering beside the demolished American International School. I visited Gaza and observed that very spot; the American International School remained in ruin, with only rubble left over.
‘This Time We Went Too Far’ is hardly light fare, though. Finkelstein saves an important commentary on the much-maligned Goldstone Report for the epilogue. Richard Goldstone, a highly respected South African jurist, has been demonized by the Israel lobby for his charge that Israel committed “war crimes,” in a report on the Gaza invasion commissioned by the U.N. His devastating indictment has earned him opponents across the political spectrum. (Alan Dershowitz, once a friend, made headlines when he called Goldstone an “evil, evil man” for his “despicable” report and he was a “traitor” to the Jewish people.)
Finkelstein argues that the publication of the report marks the “end of an apologetic Jewish liberalism that denies or extenuates Israel’s crimes” and “the emergence of a new era in which the human rights dimension of the Israel-Palestine conflict move[s] center-stage.” This point reflects one of the book’s central messages: “This book … sets forth grounds for hope. The bloodletting in Gaza has roused the world’s conscience. The prospects have never been more propitious for galvanizing the public not just to mourn but also to act.”
What’s missing from ‘This Time’ is the voice of the Palestinian people. Finkelstein’s arguments would have benefitted from the powerful testimony Palestinians gave before the Goldstone mission. Also absent in is an adequate discussion of the growing “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) movement against Israeli policy, a perfect example of the shift in discourse surrounding Israel/Palestine. Post-Gaza, the BDS movement has grown and received more international attention than ever before — an affirmation of Finkelstein’s view that the world’s perception of the Israel/Palestine conflict is undergoing a sea change.