South African Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP) wishes to register our deep concern and dismay at Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s recent comments supporting relations with apartheid Israel and counselling against any critique of Israeli actions while remaining silent about Palestinian dispossession, the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territory, the intended annexation of more Palestinian territory, as well as Israel’s serial violation of international law (a strange omission for a Constitutional Court chief justice) and the general denial of basic human rights to Palestinians.
It is worth noting that these comments were made in a webinar hosted by the right-wing Zionist Israeli newspaper, The Jerusalem Post (TJP). The English language TJP is well known as a propaganda machine for the extreme annexationist elements within Israel and the world Zionist movement.
In this regard, it is ironic (or perhaps not) that many of its leading journalists were/are Jewish South Africans nurtured by the South African Zionist movement that has, over the past 30 years, adopted extreme ethno-nationalist positions. The topic of the discussion was personal racism — the “apartheid of the heart” — another irony.
In defence of these racist positions, critics of Israeli violations of human rights and international law are branded as anti-Semites. And in this process, Jewish supporters of the global Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement are vilified as self-hating Jews who are pawns of a wider global anti-Semitic campaign which is bent on the destruction of Israel and the perpetration of another genocidal attempt on the Jewish people.
These views are, of course, those espoused by Israel’s corrupt and demagogic leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, whose current government is a fitting testimony to the degeneration of democracy in that state — even as enjoyed by its privileged Jewish citizens.
In addition to the tainted character of the webinar host, the Chief Justice must also have been aware that his fellow participant, the South African orthodox Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein, is also a fervent supporter of the current Israeli regime and has steadfastly ignored the blatant and continuous history of Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people.
In so doing, he has blindly sided with the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and the South African Board of Jewish Deputies (SABJD) in their self-declared task of defending these actions irrespective of their gross violation of Jewish ethics, historical experience and international law.
And so, for the Chief Justice to imagine that an exchange of views with such a supporter of right-wing extremism — religious and nationalist — under the auspices of a thoroughly biased host could lead to an open exchange of views which of necessity would have to include a moral and legal critique of Israeli actions is well nigh impossible. We must therefore conclude that the Chief Justice willingly and knowingly lent his personal credibility, and by inference that of his office, to a white-washing of Israeli crimes.
Moreover, given the specific timing of the webinar — the eve of a decisive Israeli step to extend Israeli sovereignty over 30% of the West Bank without extending full and unequivocal Israeli citizenship to the Palestinian inhabitants of this territory — a step which will also decisively balkanise what remains of Palestine into tiny, disconnected islands with no possibility of creating a viable state — the Chief Justice also cannot evade the charge that he is supporting this major unilateral step that condemns Palestinians to indefinite oppression and servitude.
In summary, it is tragic that our Constitutional Court, a key and worthy institution that safeguards our Bill of Rights and the independence of the judiciary, should be tainted by its head declaring support for a pariah state. Accordingly, we join a host of civil society organisations, such as the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL), the SA Council of Churches, the Muslim Judicial Council and the South African Federation of Trade Unions in condemning the Chief Justice’s ignorance of Palestinian history, international law and general disregard for the current situation of heightened Israeli aggression.
In light of the above, a public debate on the fitness of Justice Mogoeng to lead the Constitutional Court is merited so that as South Africans we are seen to be steadfastly opposing apartheid-type regimes wherever they may be and play an active role in pressurising them to change via non-violent campaigns, such as BDS and other grassroots initiatives, as well as state-led actions.