Durban - THE human rights group Africa4Palestine has until Friday to respond to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s affidavit to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
In June, Justice Mogoeng featured alongside Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein in a webinar hosted by the Jerusalem Post newspaper.
In the online programme, Justice Mogoeng expressed what some interpreted as his love for Israel. He also criticised the ANC for its approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Africa4Palestine, formerly Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) SA, reported Justice Mogoeng on the basis that a judge should not become involved in political controversy or activity.
In the complaint, the group said his conduct was improper for a judge.
Justice Mogoeng responded to the JSC that judges should not be needlessly censored, gagged or muzzled.
He said that they ought to be free to continue to write articles or books, to deliver public lectures or participate in radio or television programmes to share reflections on human rights, constitutionalism, policies or any subject of public interest.
Justice Mogoeng said judges should not to be confined to judgment-writing responsibilities as some, either out of sheer ignorance, mischief-making or “stone-age conservatism” have consistently advocated for.
“Somehow, Africa4Palestine has found a way to build a case by taking these remarks completely out of their obvious context to achieve its goal of making an example of me to any who would ever dare to knowingly or unknowingly differ with them.”
He said crucial parts of his statement that contextualised his views on the webinar had been strategically and tactfully left out by the group.
He said that during the webinar he said: “I love Jews, I love Israel, I love Palestine. I love the Palestinians. I love everybody.
“One, because it is a commandment from the God in whom I believe, but also when you love, when you pursue peace with all human beings, you allow yourself the opportunity to be a critical role player whenever there is a dispute.”
Justice Mogoeng said South Africans were denying themselves the opportunity of being the game-changer in the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
“We know what it means to be at loggerheads, to be a nation at war with itself. And therefore the forgiveness that was demonstrated, the understanding, the big heart that was displayed by president Nelson Mandela, and we the people of SA following his leadership, is an asset that we must use around the world to bring about peace where there is no peace, to mediate effectively based on our rich experience.”
Muhammed Desai, the national director of Africa4Palestine, said it was disappointing that the Chief Justice had turned the issue into a religious one.
“This is utterly incorrect and mischievous. Factually, our organisation is one made up of a diversity of people, including having members of the South African Council of Churches.
“His attempt to use freedom of expression as his defence is disingenuous because the JSC code of conduct places certain limitations on judges.”
Desai said these limitations were not unusual.
“For example, a doctor signs an oath not to divulge information regarding her or his patient. For the doctor then to violate the code is wrong and they can be held accountable. The doctor can’t use freedom of expression to defend herself or himself.
“We are in the process of finalising our reply, that will be handed to the commission on Friday.”