'Goldstone's road to atonement long'
South African Jews, who pressured judge following report accusing Israel of war crimes, pleased with change in his stance. 'He caused heavy damage to Israel and the Jews,' one of Jewish community leaders says, 'but we're not vengeful'
Many Israelis and Jews around the world were furious with Judge Richard Goldstone following his scathing report on Operation Cast Lead,
which accused Israel
of committing war crimes in Gaza, but the greatest pressure was felt in his homeland of South Africa.
The Jewish community in the country launched protests against Goldstone, boycotted him and even tried to stop him from attending his grandson's bar mitzvah.
Now after he published an article expressing his regret
over the report, his friends tell Ynet that the road to atonement is still long.
Avram Krengel, chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, told Ynet that he was not surprised by Goldstone's regret. "From our point of view, this is a very courageous step. But he has already caused a lot of damage – and this is only one statement."
According to Krengel, as far as South Africa's Jews are concerned, there is a long way to forgiveness. "He has a long road to take. The damage he has caused Israel and the Jews is very heavy. He has a lot to say and do in order to atone what he did."
He said the Jewish lobby in South Africa had a part in Goldstone's surprising confession. "We met him about a year ago, and during the meeting he insisted on his stance. We, on the other hand, told him why we were angry with him.
"We asked where were the investigation committees against all those countries which are undoubtedly committing war crimes and where was the UN on their matter, and why did he only come out against Israel, which was defending itself. He said Israel was the first among many, but that didn't happen of course."
Krengel added that "Goldstone was very quiet months after that. Perhaps he self-examined himself and realized that what we said was true – that there was a bias against Israel and not a bias to probe the truth – and then he started talking and expressing reservations."
Looking back, Krengel give South Africa's Jews credit for the battle against Goldstone. "He suffered greatly, especially in the city he comes from. We took sides against him, and it encourages us to know that our way had an effect against the international pressure and made him admit and regret his remarks."
Goldstone eventually attended his grandson's bar mitzvah, escorted by many bodyguards, in a hostile atmosphere. His arrival was made possible, according to Krengel, only after Goldstone agreed to meet with the leaders of the South African Zionist Federation.
Asked whether Goldstone would be able to attend the bar mitzvah of any other relative in the future, Krengel laughs out loud. "We've made our point. We're not vengeful and we won't act against him anymore."