The decision by Tikkun magazine to give its 25th annual ethics award next year to Richard Goldstone, author of the U.N. report on the Gaza war, is dismaying, to say the least.
The Goldstone Report damaged the image of Israel, making it more legitimate than ever to treat the country as a pariah. And it is not only Jewish groups that have spoken against it. The U.S. Congress passed a non-binding resolution calling it biased and unworthy of further consideration, and urging the administration not to endorse it.
According to Rabbi Michael Lerner, the magazine’s founder and editor, the fact that the timing of the announcement was made during the controversy over Goldstone’s attendance of his grandson’s bar mitzvah in South Africa was coincidental. (Goldstone initially said he would skip the family simcha to avoid planned protests at the event by Zionist groups in South Africa, but late last week an agreement was reached to allow Goldstone to attend the event without protest.)
One might have understood Lerner, as a humanitarian gesture, making public statements urging that the jurist be permitted to attend the bar mitzvah unharried. Indeed, before the bar mitzvah situation was resolved he issued an invitation to Goldstone to relocate his grandson’s bar mitzvah to Lerner’s congregation in Berkeley, Calif. Even those who disagreed with him over this would have understood his intentions.
But to honor him?
Goldstone is doing a service “for the Jewish people in reinforcing the notion that our ethical judgments are not tied to blind support for any government,” Lerner said, explaining the rationale for the award. In addition, he said, it reflects on “his contribution to the Jewish people in affirming the independence of loyalty to the policies of the State of Israel.”
Those are fighting words. It assumes that those who love the State of Israel have somehow been tricked into doing so, or do so as a knee-jerk reaction, or simply lack complete information or superior analytical skills. It ignores the fact that those who defend the Jewish state may recognize her shortcomings and are working on some level to address them. Or they may not perceive them as shortcomings at all. And this may be after deep reflection, not due to “blind support.”
No, Rabbi Lerner, we are not all so simplistic. Nor are we foolish. The only thing here that can be thus described is honoring a man who has harmed his people.