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Mogoeng is courting controversy

Cartoon by Bethuel Mangena/African News Agency (ANA)

Cartoon by Bethuel Mangena/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 28, 2020


On Tuesday, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng participated in a webinar hosted by The Jerusalem Post in which he made very unfortunate statements that ruffled feathers, among which was that “anyone who curses Israel will invite similar wrath to themselves”.

The discussion, moderated by the editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post, Yaakov Katz, also featured South Africa’s chief rabbi Warren Goldstein.

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Now anyone with a passing interest in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict will know that in the eyes of South African Jewry, as represented by Rabbi Goldstein, Palestine does not exist.

Of course, the South African constitution, that Justice Mogoeng never misses the opportunity to extol, has guaranteed him freedom of expression. But it is worrying that the head of the justice system can be so blind to the injustice playing itself out in the Middle East.

While Justice Mogoeng acknowledges that he is bound by the laws and policies as the incumbent of his office, the reality is that it was not as an ordinary citizen that his views were sought. Jerusalem wanted the judiciary, in the person of the chief justice, to validate the cause of Israel. Katz was beside himself with glee at the scoop - the chance to have an audience with the chief justice of the South African Constitutional Court.

The chief justice is a devout Christian but, as the ANC pointed out, “Mogoeng has sought to turn the matter of the rights of the people of Palestine into a religious argument, which it is not”.

Early on in the virtual conference, the chief justice told of his experiences of the economic inequalities in Harlem, in the US. The same brain that awakens him to the disparities in Harlem, should remind him of the dispute over Jerusalem.

The ANC statement says: “We support human rights and we stand with the oppressed Palestinians who include Christians of the Holy Land, the residents of Jerusalem and Bethlehem who are living under Israeli Apartheid.”

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This should be at the fingertips of the rights-conscious chief justice, whose wish to become a lawyer came after he witnessed the racism growing up in rural North West

He spoke of land dispossession in South Africa but leaves one mystified about his politics when he asks rhetorically if it was Israel that took land away from black South Africans.

It is indeed worrying as the governing party points out that the chief justice has made himself vulnerable by entering the political arena.

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The Israel of his faith is totally different from the modern-day apartheid state under Benjamin Netanyahu.

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