A Tale of Two Foes

letter-447577_1280

I would be hard pressed to come up with two names in the recent public limelight that make my blood boil as much as Donald Bostrum and Richard Goldstone. They have both set off waves of anti-Israel activity and imperiled the lives of Jews around the globe. If given the chance, I would not hesitate to heap derision and contempt upon them, treating them as beyond any possibility of civil treatment. I would be utterly wrong, at least in one case.

Bostrum is the Swedish journalist who reported that the IDF might be stealing the organs of Palestinians and offering them for sale. He noted persistent claims of Palestinians that bodies came back from the Abu Kabir forensic institute with parts missing (a claim that would have resonated with many Israelis, including many in the Torah community, who have complained of its chief pathologistDr Yehudah Hiss and his disregard for the sanctity of the body). He conflated these claims with the recent arrest of a frum person charged with brokering the purchase and sale of human organs. Bostrum’s story in the Aftonbladet tabloid spread virally throughout the Muslim world, and morphed into a report that gangs of Jews kidnap Algerian children, ferret them out of the country, kill them, and then sells their organs. Think of what this factoid will do for the next Major Hassan.

The Goldstone Report, headed now for the Security Council and from there to the International Criminal Court, may soon make it possible for governments to pick up Israeli government officials and IDF officers anywhere in the world and charge them with crimes against humanity. It has turned the Gaza incursion earlier this year into a complete public relations victory for Hamas, and compromised the ability of any democracy to defend itself against terrorism.

Both Bostrum and Goldstone have had time to reconsider their actions. An Israeli media conference invited Bostrum to Dimona to defend his views. Bostrum accepted. He admitted that he had nothing to back up his story, but defended it nonetheless as worthy of writing because it could and should spark an investigation. He admitted that he had not anticipated – and would not have wanted – that his story be taken as the source of a new blood libel.

His appearance was met by demonstrators and hecklers. An angry MK pledged to undo the government subvention of the conference. What they had not bargained on is the capacity of people to admit wrongdoing. Bostrum was moved by his stay in Israel, and the chance he was given to speak his mind openly in front of Israelis. By the end of his stay, he had canceled his scheduled appearance at an anti-Israel forum in Beirut, claiming that he was rethinking his position. Inviting the enemy in for a chat had proved to be the proper approach.

Richard Goldstone has by now conceded that nothing in his report would stand up in a court of law – that it was only meant to get both parties to launch their own investigations. He has expressed disappointment that the UN Human Rights Commission accepted a revised version of his report – one that deleted any mention of Hamas’ wrongdoing. He has been asked by several people just what kind of response by Israel he would not consider disproportionate, and has not been able to come up with an answer.

Yet, unlike Bostrum, Goldstone shows not the slightest hint of remorse. He has not conceded that perhaps his report has done much harm that he should have anticipated. He has not said that perhaps he should have envisioned that those bent on demonizing Israel would try and convict Israel on the basis of his shoddy report, and endanger Jewish lives while fueling the movement to revoke the legitimacy of the Jewish State. It is unfortunately true that without some special Divine intercession, Jews will die for the sins of Goldstone. He will be remembered as one of the worst Jewish turncoats in history.

In the middle of the Bereishis season, and right on the heels of Parshas Chayei Soro, we should not need any reminders of how midos (proper character traits) are the true measure of a person. Problematic midos not only sour a person’s own development, but can be devastating to the lives of millions. Better midos – like the ability to recognize one’s mistakes and admit them publicly – can give people a second chance.

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21 Responses

  1. Ori says:

    I’d like to explain Dr. Bill’s position in a different way. How many Israeli lives is it worth to be able to buy weapons and ammunition from the US? How much is it worth to have the US government pay for them?

    Before you tell me zero, remember that modern weapon systems are incredibly complicated and expensive. Israel has the technical ability to develop and manufacture any one of them, it has good engineers. But it does not have the economic ability to design and build all of them in house. Losing US support would mean fighting with less effective weapons in case of a conventional war, possibly costing a lot more lives.

    Is it better to lose a few lives, or risk losing a lot more? It’s the kind of decision Israeli politicians have to make, G-d help them.

  2. dr. bill says:

    The state of israel under ALL prime ministers have promulgated its rules for military engagement. I appreciate that you find them overly strict and putting lives at risk, but calling them naive is a judgement neither you or I are in a position to make. Given the Kiddush haShem in being a Nes Lagoyim, one can evaluate these rules differently.”
    Comment by dr. bill — November 17, 2009 @ 11:07 am

    Huh? Why are “you and I” not in a position to make moral judgments? Because we are of lesser make than the wise luminaries that write Israeli policy?

    Sacrificing one’s own soldiers for the sake of protecting the enemy is not an act of moral illumination. To the contrary, it’s a Chillul Hashem and exactly the kind of policy that Israel should be advising other decent nations to avoid.

    Comment by Ahron — November 20, 2009 @ 12:30 am

    Your response is indicative of the problem we face. You have every right to disagree with any POV and make any moral judgement you choose.

    However, I said what we are ill advised to do, given the lack of informaton we both possess, is to call them naive. You can do that as well, but IMHO it is a tad foolish to call an Israeli government naive. Disagree if you choose, but respect another POV without categorizing it, particularly when ou cannot know what they do. (note that every PM’s rhetoric and proposals have been tempered by the position and the responsibility it entails.)

    But you go one step further and call some aspects a chillul hashem. That is not just incorrect halakhically but IMHO sinful motzei shem rah.

  3. Ahron says:

    “The state of israel under ALL prime ministers have promulgated its rules for military engagement. I appreciate that you find them overly strict and putting lives at risk, but calling them naive is a judgement neither you or I are in a position to make. Given the Kiddush haShem in being a Nes Lagoyim, one can evaluate these rules differently.”
    Comment by dr. bill — November 17, 2009 @ 11:07 am

    Huh? Why are “you and I” not in a position to make moral judgments? Because we are of lesser make than the wise luminaries that write Israeli policy?

    Sacrificing one’s own soldiers for the sake of protecting the enemy is not an act of moral illumination. To the contrary, it’s a Chillul Hashem and exactly the kind of policy that Israel should be advising other decent nations to avoid.

  4. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    Israel has to prepare to get along without any US aid and similarly go cold turkey with the Palestinians. We need to develop our own arms and have freedom to use them as we need. We also have to see that the work that goes into producing our weapons pays salaries to Israeli Jewish workers rather than Americans. We need to have our R&D working full force. Perhaps we could co-produce a fighter plane with India.

  5. Sammy Finkelman says:

    The worst thing is that they have so made the law, that something that wouild have killed nobody, or almost nobody – and might have been effective in stopping the rockets, isd asbsolutely forbidden. That wouild be cutting off the water and the electricity to Gaza, maybe not 100% of the time. Hamas wants to insist that Gaza is still occupied – for legal purposes – and therefore israel has an obligation to see to it that the civilian population is not deprived of necessities. Israel has not accepted that – making an official determination taht gaza is “hostile territory” but it has accepted a lot of taht in practical terms. So even though Israel supplies the electricity it gets nothing fgor it. Any little steps in taht direction – in teh direction of sanctions or let’s say a bombing target – is called a war crime by the Goldstone report – in fact israel is accused of haviong INTENDED to punsh the population of Gaza, while of course had it intended to do so in any – to impose sanctions – there would have bene no military action by Israel at all – none would have been needed. People may not see this, but that’s really the worst thinbg about the Goldstone report. Not even what it accuses nIsrael of doing but what it says wouild have been wrong. The effect can only be to promote bloodshed.

  6. aron feldman says:

    predict good middos will be a key factor in an even bigger battle. When President Obama starts to realize he was just a tad naive in his attempts to appease the Muslim world, will he have the strength of character to change his foreign policy? (And of course there’s another big question: Does he have a Plan B?)

    Comment by Garet Benson —

    Not as long as he has such great Jewish advicers like Emanuel and Axelrod!

  7. Garet Benson says:

    I predict good middos will be a key factor in an even bigger battle. When President Obama starts to realize he was just a tad naive in his attempts to appease the Muslim world, will he have the strength of character to change his foreign policy? (And of course there’s another big question: Does he have a Plan B?)

  8. dr. bill says:

    I found Halbertal a tad preachy,somewhat naive,and a little too willing to put Israeli lives at risk…..Academics and the media can beat their breasts about having rules

    Comment by aron feldman — November 16, 2009 @ 1:08 am

    The state of israel under ALL prime ministers have promulgated its rules for military engagement. I appreciate that you find them overly strict and putting lives at risk, but calling them naive is a judgement neither you or I are in a position to make. Given the Kiddush haShem in being a Nes Lagoyim, one can evaluate these rules differently.

  9. aron feldman says:

    Tal Benschar -thanks for the great Brisker vort!

    I have a challenge for all the Goldstone apologists out there;

    When was the last time the UN was effective in being honest brokers and preventing bloodshed and not bolstering despotic,murderous regimes?

  10. Tal Benschar says:

    Goldstone is the Lot of the 21st century.

    I once heard the following vort in the name of R. Moshe Soloveichik, zt”l. Chazal tell us that Lot was appointed a judge (chief judge?) in Sdom on the day it was destroyed. At first blush, this seem strange. While Lot was no Avraham, he did have some good qualities. (He performed hachansos orchim at the risk of his life, after all.) One would think that appointing such a person to a position of authority would indicate some hope of improvement. Why davka destroy Sdom on that day?

    Said RMS, the appointment actually made matters worse. Sdom was a corrupt society with corrupt laws. Tsedakah was outlawed. Yet it had one problem: corrupt judges. Where you have corrupt laws with corrupt judges, then at least one can bribe one’s way out of a bad situation. Lot, however, was an honest judge. The whole judicial system now appeared honest and forthright. That is much worse — the unjust becomse accepted as just, and the judge honestly enforces corrupt laws. (RMS contrasted the judicial system in Tsarist Russia with the system under the Communists. Both were anti-semitic, but at least in the former you could bribe your way out of the worst of it. The Communists, OTOH, were true believers.)

    This is precisely what happened with Goldstone. For years, our enemies have practiced “lawfare” — trying to convince all who will listen that defending oneself from rockets constitutes a war crime, that Israel is the worst breacher of “international law.” The problem is that when that charge is being made by the likes of Syria or Libya, many are skeptical.

    So what do you do? Get a prominent, Jewish jurist from a western country (South Africa), and use his prestige to give your dirty work the imprimatur of law and justice.

    One can always count on the ego and foolishness of those such as Goldstone to seal the deal.

  11. dan says:

    sorry to say but goldstone brought r’ayos bruros in his report that israel was guilty of war crimes. some of them were mentioned in his recent debate at brandeis.

    yes, i also love e”y and try to justify its actions, but to expect that goldstone should’ve turned a blind eye to those actions simply because israel was defending itself is preposterous.

    to say that the document was one-sided is one thing, but to expect that goldstone should regret his statements is absurd.

    bostrom and goldstone have absolutely nothing in common.

  12. aron feldman says:

    A brilliant and carefully reasoned response to goldstone by Prof. Halbertal was published in the new republic. Prof. Halberatl, a first rate talmid chacham, co-authored the IDF’s code of ethics, an outstanding work and a kiddush hashem.

    Comment by dr. bill — November 15, 2009

    While the article did expose the Goldstone Report for the farce that it is,nevertheless I found Halbertal a tad preachy,somewhat naive,and a little too willing to put Israeli lives at risk.While it is popular for liberals to claim they are playing by the so called rules,what good will that do for you when you are dealing with an entity like Hamas? And if the Israelis are following the so called rules it won’t matter anyway,because the Obama supported UN and the hypocritical Human Rights council harbor a pre ordained bias against Israel anyway (to put it mildly)

    So missiles can keep CV”s falling on Sderot but the Academics and the media can beat their breasts about having rules

  13. aron feldman says:

    i do not doubt that you think that we have most to fear from our misguided friends. and they might agree, and add some from the religious and political right. i wish we were large enough to afford such orthodoxy.

    Comment by dr. bill — November 16, 2009

    Why is this a matter of LW or RW? I am scared because a couple of LW secular Jews wield tremendous influence and power,and believe that you can appease Iran,and not dare take Hamas at their word?

  14. dr. bill says:

    We would be remiss if we didn’t mention Jeremy Ben Ami and Rahm Emanuel

    Comment by aron feldman — November 15, 2009 @ 6:38 pm

    i do not doubt that you think that we have most to fear from our misguided friends. and they might agree, and add some from the religious and political right. i wish we were large enough to afford such orthodoxy.

  15. lacosta says:

    and how about the vlamalshinim al tehi tikva award, to the sonei yisrael called J Street……

  16. dovid says:

    Of the 11 names listed in the first four comments following Rabbi Adlerstein’s article (Richard Goldstone, Mahmood Abbas, Khalid Meshaal, Barack H Obama, Chrisopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Vladimir Putin, Hosni Mubarak, Jack Straw, Jeremy Ben Ami and Rahm Emanuel), four are Jewish. We are in bad shape, rabbosai.

  17. Shades of Gray says:

    “In the middle of the Bereishis season, and right on the heels of Parshas Chayei Soro, we should not need any reminders of how midos (proper character traits) are the true measure of a person”

    Lev Eliyahu in Chayei Sarah, based on Eliezer’s test in the parsha and on R. Chaim Vital’s principle in Shaarie Kedusha, says that in a way, a person with good middos who lacks fear of Hashem, has a benefit over a person with bad middos who has (superficial) yiras shomayim. This is because the former can correct his deficency easier than the latter; he prefaces his remarks, IIRC, by saying “lav kol mocha saval da”, not everyone is capable of understanding this.

    There could be both a danager and a benefit in this principle. The danager is that someone can develop this to the point of saying that all that is necessary is to be a “good Jew at heart”, and advocate a humanistic version of Judaism(obviously that was not R. Lopian’s intention). The benefit is that it could provide an entrance for some at the point where they are at, based on a present nekudas habechirah.

    Besides the example in this post, there is the case of an organization in Israel whose goal is to bombard Israeli charedim with literature raising intellectual issues that they can not easily answer(see “Exclusivity, Russian Antisemitism, and the New Hatred To Come”, Cross Currents, June 2005). Now, one can raise (and debate) the point, whether intellectually, these people may attempt to absolve themselves by asking whether there are current Torah luminaries who have devoted themselves to taking on the challenges posed by general culture on the level of sophistication that they require (see “Why We Are All ID Dummies”, Cross Currents, Nov. 06; I should remember my learning as well as I remember old CC posts :) ).

    However, there is no excuse for making cartoons which mock gemeras that yeshiva bachurim are studying; that comes from a corruption in character. In this sense, if such people were at least open to the concept of middos, there would be a point of entry, a “pesach shel machat”. Perhaps in other less extreme cases, Lev Eliyahu’s principle is a point of entry because it circumvents the intellectual, and enables a someone to enter on the level where they are, and then, hopefully, “meor s’habo machaziro l’mutav”.

  18. aron feldman says:

    Mahmood Abbas, Khalid Meshaal, Barack H Obama, Chrisopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Vladimir Putin, Hosni Mubarak, Jack Straw….

    Comment by Garnel Ironheart — November 15, 2009 @

    We would be remiss if we didn’t mention Jeremy Ben Ami and Rahm Emanuel

  19. aron feldman says:

    a claim that would have resonated with many Israelis, including many in the Torah community, who have complained of its chief pathologistDr Yehudah Hiss and his disregard for the sanctity of the body).

    WADR,while the Israelis have played fast and lose with the Pathology law,I don’t think any Charedim would corroborate the canard that Bostrum perpetrated,

  20. dr. bill says:

    A brilliant and carefully reasoned response to goldstone by Prof. Halbertal was published in the new republic. Prof. Halberatl, a first rate talmid chacham, co-authored the IDF’s code of ethics, an outstanding work and a kiddush hashem.

  21. Garnel Ironheart says:

    > I would be hard pressed to come up with two names in the recent public limelight that make my blood boil as much as Donald Bostrum and Richard Goldstone.

    Mahmood Abbas, Khalid Meshaal, Barack H Obama, Chrisopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Vladimir Putin, Hosni Mubarak, Jack Straw….