Reported By Quinton Mtyala & Shaun Smillie

(source: Independent Newspapers + SAPA)

Retired  judge Albie Sachs has joined the defence of Judge Richard Goldstone after he was banned from his grandson’s barmitzvah at the behest of Zionists opposed to his UN report fingering Israel – and Hamas – for war crimes.

"Jews are telling other Jews how to conduct themselves. Why should someone be made to choose between being a Jew and having a conscience?" he said yesterday at a Cape Town Press Club lunch.

Sachs, who retired from the Constitutional Court in October, said the first time he heard about Goldstone’s banning was in a Sea Point deli. "A customer who I hardly knew rounded on me and asked aggressively: ‘Are you for or against Richard Goldstone?’ I was astonished by his abruptness, but not surprised." Sachs could reply only that Goldstone was his friend.

The customer was not happy with his answer and told Sachs how Goldstone had been barred from attending his grandson's barmitzvah because the SA Zionist Federation and other Jews had threatened to protest if Goldstone appeared at the Sandton synagogue. He added that a man had threatened to have a posse of 20 Jewish "stormtroopers" outside the synagogue to keep Goldstone away, Sachs said. "I felt sick," Sachs added. "I could not believe that political anger against him, which people had every right to express, had evolved into an uncontrolled and unconscionable rage that sought to violate the spirit of one of the most sacred aspects of formal Jewish tradition." Recalling great minds like Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx and Albert Einstein, all of Jewish heritage, Sachs said their legacies of "engaging, daring, uncontrolled inquisitiveness" was being stamped out. Sachs said Goldstone had, for decades, been the darling of SA's Jewish community for being an accomplished lawyer who had an international reputation and strong ties to Israel. That was until he issued the UN-ordered Goldstone Report. "What saddens me today is that any Jew who speaks out with an independent voice, especially with the conduct of the State of Israel, is regarded as a self-hating Jew. "This is an ignominious and totally unsubstantiated response," said Sachs. He added that Jews who demanded that Israel conduct itself by international conventions did so because they loved Israel. Yesterday, when The Star contacted Goldstone in the US, he said he stood by the letter to Business Day blaming Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein for brazenly politicising his grandson's barmitzvah. He said he would respond fully to these attacks after the barmitzvah. Goldstone, now with the UN Human Rights Council and a visiting professor at Georgetown University in Washington, confirmed he would not turn up at the synagogue. Several public figures, including Zackie Achmat and Judge Dennis Davis, spoke out against the barring of Goldstone. Earlier this week Goldstein dropped his threat to sue Achmat for defamation, following online claims that the former had been involved in the decision to have Goldstone banned.