JSC denies discriminating against Jews in judges’ interviews
Johannesburg - The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has denied allegations by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) that some Jewish candidates were subjected to “offensive religious scrutiny” at its recent interviews.
On Tuesday, the JSC said the SAJBD’s claims were factually incorrect.
A week ago, the SAJBD expressed its concerns about the alleged discriminatory and anti-constitutional nature of the questions the commissioners asked two Jewish judicial candidates, advocate Lawrence Lever and Judge David Unterhalter.
According to the SAJBD, which describes itself as the representative democratically elected body of SA Jewry regardless of their political or religious affiliation, Lever and Judge Unterhalter were subjected to questions pertaining to their Jewish identity while no other candidates were subjected to offensive religious scrutiny.
However, the JSC accused the SAJBD of selectively quoting parts of the interviews in which candidates of Jewish descent were asked about their religious affiliations.
”It is not true that commissioners were allowed to ask discriminatory and anti-constitutional questions,“ the JSC said. ”The questions relating to the association with the SAJBD dealt with concerns that the organisation supports Zionism, which is viewed as a discriminatory form of nationalism and potentially in conflict with the values contained in the SA Constitution.”
The commission said questions about that were raised with the two candidates, following letters of objections received by the JSC, in respect of Judge Unterhalter, from various organisations including the Black Lawyers Association.
It said other candidates, who were not of Jewish descent, were also asked questions relating to their religious or cultural beliefs and how those would impact on the Constitution.
The JSC said Lever was recommended for appointment as a judge of the Northern Cape High Court while Judge Unterhalter was unsuccessful in his bid to be appointed to the Constitutional Court.
”Neither decision was linked to their religious beliefs or identities,” the JSC said.