Bumper 31 Top Zionist reads from Bev
We are catching up 4 weeks’ worth of Bev Goldman’s Picks of the Week. There are 31 great reads to pick from and Jewish Report Online publishes the dates, authors, titles and a synopsis of each item for the convenience of our users. There is also a live link to each item for those who want to read more completely now, or print out as a great Shabbos read. Bev searches the web for the best Zionism reads every week.
Bev Goldman has been the top pro-Israel commentator and educator in South Africa for the past 15 years.
Jewish Report Online is publishing four weeks’ worth of Bev Goldman’s picks of the top Zionist reads of the week. For the convenience of our users, we are https://www.sajr.co.za/images/default-source/People/bev-goldman—long.jpg” class=”sfImageWrapper”>2. The Revolution lives!
Beyond all the talk of centrifuges and enrichment capacities, President Obama’s deal with Iran is really a giant gamble on the nature of the Iranian regime. The core question is: Are the men who control that country more like Lenin or are they more like Gorbachev? Do they still fervently believe in their revolution and would they use their post-sanctions wealth to export it and destabilize their region?
3. A coalition against anti-Semitism
This year marks 70 years since the Second World War, and, as if symbolically, anti-Semitism has returned and soared to new heights, especially in Europe. Jews have been murdered in the streets in Brussels, Paris and Copenhagen.
4. Who’d be an Arab? Apparently not Palestinians
As long as Arab countries quarrel among themselves, and pay only lip service to the extraordinary actions of an alien essentially European country in their midst, the longer will Palestinian suffering continue. And Israel is alien, by its own choosing, looking west to Europe and the US, rather than east to seek rapprochement with its neighbours.
5. The Middle East turmoil and Israel’s security
Washington’s efforts to strike a deal with Iran that basically legitimizes its nuclear breakout status and awards Tehran the role of the regional policeman will be viewed by Cairo, Riyadh and Jerusalem as a colossal strategic mistake. The inevitable result will be further nuclear proliferation as none of these countries are likely to want to stay behind in uranium enrichment capabilities.
6. Sanitising Iran, demonising Israel
Obama the so-called “peacemaker” is creating a situation that will generate war and conflict for future generations inside and outside the Middle East. Ultimately, we oppose this deal because it condemns our children to growing up in a world where democracies are in retreat, at the same time as totalitarian regimes (like North Korea and, yes, Iran) possess weapons of mass destruction.
7. Yarmouk exposes callous double standards of ugly Israel bashers
Even on the question of Palestinian suffering, anti-Israel activists only care some of the time. If you’re a Palestinian whose life is made harder by Israeli forces, they’ll share pictures of you, march in the streets for you, write tear-drenched tweets about you. But if you’re a Palestinian under threat from a non-Israeli force, forget about it. You’re on your own.
Week Ending 8 April 2015
1. The 20th Knesset – parliament of a splintered, tribal Israel
Two weeks after the elections, a searing look at the cultural discord that continues to characterize the Jewish state, motivated and mobilized voters, and has produced a new legislature of alienated, antagonistic factions.
2. Iran funds the building of new terror tunnels for Hamas
Now comes news that makes President Obama’s hopes for a more moderate Iran seem even more ludicrous: the Islamist regime is funnelling money to Hamas in Gaza to help it rebuild the tunnels it hopes to use to launch new terror raids inside Israel. It is also funding new missile supplies to replenish stocks used to bombard residential neighbourhoods in Israel during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.
3. The West’s romance with Iran and Islamists
The West seems to have lost the capacity and the will to criticize political Islam. While “peace-loving” liberals in the West show support and sympathy for Hamas, and have removed Hamas from Europe’s terror list, Hamas leaders have been busy expressing their support and sympathy for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Why then, for Europeans, is Hamas a “more acceptable” terrorist group than ISIS? Because it targets Jews? If these Islamic jihadist groups cannot carry out their mission right away, it is not because they do not want to. It is because they do not have enough power to — at least for now.
4. Iran nuclear agreement risks projecting the weakness of the USA
Critics in Israel and elsewhere cannot understand why world powers, who could afford to play for time, did not squeeze Iran by presenting it with a mind-clearing choice between having a nuclear program and having an economy. They never believed Iran’s claims that – with oil in generous supply – it was investing such effort for nuclear energy and research. They expect Iran’s energies to now focus on fooling the inspectors and developing a bomb.
5. A new chapter in the Sunni;Shi’ite war
The assembling of a Sunni alliance to challenge the advancement of an Iranian proxy in Yemen, and the subsequent announcement in Sharm e-Sheikh of the formation of a 40,000 strong Arab rapid reaction force, are the latest moves in a war that has already been under way in the Middle East for some time. This is a war between Sunni and Shi’ite forces over the ruins of the regional order. It is a war that is unlikely to end in the wholesale victory of one side. Rather, it will end when the two forces exhaust themselves. What the region will look like when this storm passes is anyone’s guess.
6. The flawed underpinnings of the new nuclear understanding with Iran
The underlying flaw in the new nuclear understandings between the P5+1 and Iran is the fact that it leaves Iran’s vast nuclear infrastructure intact. Indeed, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif boasted, after the understandings were announced, that Iran did not have to close down a single nuclear facility, it will continue to engage in uranium enrichment, and it can engage in research and development (meaning it can develop new generations of centrifuges that operate at 10 or 20 times the speed of the first-generation centrifuges that have been installed in uranium enrichment plants like Natanz and Fordow).
7. Who are the principal violators of International Law?
The UN’s own international agreements, signed by all parties under international law, state that the Israel-Palestinian dispute is to be resolved only by face-to-face negotiations. The decades-old failure of the UN to abide by its own diplomatic agreements has created an opportunity for Palestinians to manufacture a false narrative. Furthermore, the UN has arrogated to itself the entirely false air of legitimacy for establishing yet another Arab state.
Week Ending 31 March 2015
1. Israel’s drive towards self-destruction
The prime minister is surely right about the profound danger that a nuclear Iran would pose to Israel, but Israel’s next government also needs to treat the de-legitimization movement as threat to Israel’s existence. It is, after all, about trying to deny Israel’s right to exist. One problem with the White House’s reaction to Netanyahu’s comments is that it will feed not just the de-legitimization momentum but it will make the Palestinians feel free of any obligations. The onus will be on Israel, Palestinians can push the campaign against Israel at the International Criminal Court and other international fora, and nothing will be expected of them.
2. Can Saudi Arabia Feed Its People?
An examination of the wheat industry that flourished in the kingdom between 1980 and 2007, its achievements and failures, as well as the influence of the agricultural sector on the local economy and on water resources may prove a cautionary tale, reconfirming the truths behind the law of unintended consequences.
3. A bad deal
If a deal on Iran’s nuclear programme is clinched in the coming days, it will be hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough. It will be nothing of the kind. Judging by leaks from the negotiating table, Tehran has not done enough to allay suspicions that it intends eventually to produce nuclear weapons. Worse, if the framework agreement is signed on the basis of current drafts it will contribute to a reckless recasting of the US position in the Middle East.
4. Obama’s next earthquake
Why go forward with a text that both sides would spurn? Obama’s hope would be that his initiative could win unanimous support from the Security Council and thus set the terms of reference for a future settlement, presumably under different Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He could eventually become the grandfather of Middle East peace; at a minimum, diplomats who now talk of the “Clinton parameters” from 2000 would henceforth speak of the “Obama framework.”
5. The bravery of those many Jews who fight for a fairer Israel
It took a perceptive and reflective Jew to articulate what millions felt around the world. He will, by now, have felt the slings and arrows of outraged zealots. Hamas is a wicked and dangerous force in the Middle East. But Israel is now more wicked and dangerous. Jewish thinkers and writers in the US, UK and Israel are now questioning how the Holocaust has been cheapened and used to justify inhumane policies and actions.
6. A reward for Iran’s non-compliance
As the Obama administration pushes to complete an agreement-in-principle with Iran on its nuclear program by Tuesday, it has done little to soothe concerns that it is rushing too quickly to settle, offering too many concessions and ignoring glaring warning signs that Tehran won’t abide by any accord. One story incorporates all three of those worries: Iran’s failure to deliver on multiple pledges to answer questions about its suspected research on nuclear warheads.
7. Free fall in the Middle East
Over at the New York Times, writers are doing their tortured best to say something other than that a catastrophic breakdown of the President’s foreign policy is taking place in the Middle East – but the defence is less than effective. What can you do, the world is just a mess, seems to be their take.
8. Our Shakespeare: A tribute to Yehuda Avner
When Yehuda Avner passed away Tuesday, aged 86, Israel lost a noble citizen whose entire life was devoted to serving the Jewish state and the Jewish people.
Week Ending 25 March 2015
1. Dimmed prospects for Israel Palestine peace
In spite of his triumph, indications are that Netanyahu’s victory is likely to carry significant political and diplomatic costs for Israel. His election eve rhetoric disavowing his previous support for a two-state solution may have set Israel on a collision course with the Palestinians and the international community. His incendiary remarks regarding Israel’s controversial assessment of Iran’s nuclear capacity that is at variance with that of the United States, also set alarm bells ringing in world capitals that he might be planning a first-strike option at Iran, as Israel did to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq Osirak facility in 1981. Netanyahu’s return to power likely will spell trouble for the Middle East peace efforts and could further escalate the developing tension with the United States.
2. Bibi: Bad news for Israel or Palestine?
Today, I would merely like to argue why the outcome in my opinion is not such an awful thing for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For someone who was involved with second-track negotiations during the Oslo years and who subsequently became disillusioned with this dud process, the re-election of Benyamin Netanyahu will magnify the sharply contrasting facets of the conflict and perhaps coerce the Palestinian Authority, the USA and the EU to undertake some hard choices.
3. Vindictive Obama punishing Israel for re-electing Netanyahu
Netanyahu was condemned as a racist because, in an effort to jolt his supporters to vote, he drew attention to the massive effort funded from overseas to transport Arab voters to vote for the Joint Arab List, which includes supporters of Hamas and terrorism. It was a clumsy statement and a blunder but he hastily clarified his remark, noting that he used similar arguments about the Left in his efforts to encourage a maximum turnout of Likud voters. He stressed that he was proud that Arabs enjoyed equal voting rights to Jews, but that he was no less entitled to be critical of their political party than any other opposing party.
4. Ashamed of Netanyahu, infuriated with Obama
Why the PM must urgently seek to fix the damage he’s caused to relations with Israel’s Arabs, and why the president should internalize how widely Israelis share Netanyahu’s concerns on the Palestinians and Iran
5. It’s Obama, not Netanyahu, who has killed the two-state solution
Compared with 2009, when he came to office, Obama has not only done nothing to make the two-state solution possible, he has done a great deal to make it even more unlikely. It’s not just the capitulation to Iran’s nuclear-weapons program – it’s everything he’s doing in the Middle East: the catastrophic withdrawal from Iraq, the failure to do anything about Syria, the mistreatment of the Israeli government, all of it. Yet Obama gets angry at the government of Israel, which has no power to change any of those strategic factors, and threatens to punish it for merely pointing out the abundantly obvious fact that the two-state solution has become a pie in the sky.
6. Will Obama and Bibi kiss and make up?
The Obama administration may refuse to protect Israel at the United Nations Security Council if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forms a narrow right-wing coalition government. But the White House would find it much harder to do so if the prime minister includes partners from the centre-left, especially his chief rival, says Gil Tamary, Washington Bureau Chief for Israel’s Channel 10 News.
7. Netanyahu sank into the moral gutter – and there will be consequences
Israel’s prime minister won re-election with a combination of belligerence and bigotry. His opposition to a Palestinian state is a stance the world should not accept.
8. Obama’s statement on the deterioration of democracy in Israel carries heavy price
The former Israeli Ambassador to the US said that the United States and Israel must put their differences aside and focus on rehabilitating their relationship, and come to the understanding that each serves as a vital, strategical asset for the other.
9. Manchester’s new Jewish ghetto?
Even when anti-Israel sentiment is at a low ebb there is still a thuggish element in Manchester that can make life uncomfortable for the visibly Orthodox; it is always there. But also many in this community are never fully present in the country where their actual home is. They inhabit a Jerusalem of the mind where persecution never goes away for long.
‘Wake up!’ say doctors, as third wave ramps up
Communal experts this week issued a stern warning to “catch a wake up” as the community has been hard hit by death, severe illness, and an unprecedented number of infections which continue to rise daily during the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is extremely severe,” warned Dr Richard Friedland, the chief executive of Netcare Group. “In Gauteng, we are in the eye of the storm, with things set to get a lot worse than they are.
“We should all be doing what we can to prevent a single death, to prevent people from having to be admitted to hospital,” he said.
The death rate has risen at hospitals, and hospital stays are about 20% longer, exacerbating the shortage of beds, especially in Gauteng, which is leading the uptick in infections.
“As I walk through our COVID-19 units, I see people struggling to breathe, fighting to survive this shocking pandemic. Every day, we are reminded of the pain, the suffering, and the enormous loss that it brings,” Friedland said.
Issuing a plea to the community to be hyper vigilant, he said, “I want to be abundantly clear that there can be no place for a lackadaisical approach.”
Several doctors this week told the SA Jewish Report that the situation was dire, with one doctor describing it as a “battlefield”.
“Patients, some quite young with no comorbidities, are really sick, with the vast majority on one form of ventilation or another,” said Dr Carron Zinman of Netcare Linksfield Hospital.
“Some severely ill patients are being temporarily managed in casualty because there are simply no intensive-care beds available at other hospitals,” she said.
“We are seeing a fairly young cohort, some with no underlying conditions, who are becoming seriously ill. The variants are more virulent and transmissible. We have had quite a lot of patients who have had COVID-19 before or who have received the vaccine, and got it.”
“We treat more aggressively, but there’s still no magic drug. We’re doing everything we can to turn the inflammatory response around. It takes some longer than others,” she said.
“Sadly, some people over 60 believe that once they have had the virus or the vaccine, they are safe. They aren’t. A lot of families including couples and their children are being infected,” she said.
At the time of going to print, Hatzolah had 501 active patients with 64 patients requiring oxygen at home. At least 11.7% of the active cases include children and young adults under the age of 20.
“There are a higher number of younger people including children than in the previous waves,” said Dr Anton Meyberg of Netcare Linksfield Hospital.
Sadly, the majority of patients are still the elderly over 60, but doctors have noticed a rise in the number of patients between the ages of 40 to 60, many requiring hospital admission.
There appears to be a disproportionately higher number of cases within the community, with doctors putting this down to complacency and carelessness about observing protocols.
“There is more testing, but people aren’t following the rules,” said Meyberg, “People who have been vaccinated are becoming lax, and there is a large asymptomatic spread of the virus.”
The country technically entered its third wave on Thursday, 10 June. According to the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, a new wave starts when the seven-day moving average of new infections surpasses 30% of the previous wave.
More than 70% of the new cases are now in Gauteng and the Western Cape, where there is evidence of a resurgence after a period of recovery, and there are daily increases in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
According to experts, the next two weeks will be particularly severe in Gauteng as the numbers steadily increase. Cape Town is a few weeks behind, they say.
Private-sector hospital admissions have increased four-fold since April. More than 500 patients are being admitted a day in the private sector in Gauteng, which is putting enormous strain on emergency departments fighting to open as many beds as possible to make space.
According to Hatzolah Chairperson Lance Abramson, there were 263 active cases at the peak of the first wave, 333 cases at the peak of the second wave, and now there are more than 500 active cases “with no peak in sight yet”.
“There are a staggering number of active cases in the Johannesburg Jewish community,” he said.
“Ambulances are transporting multiple COVID-19-positive patients to hospitals daily, where it is sometimes difficult to find a hospital bed. Patients are sometimes having to wait in ambulances in the parking lots of hospitals. This is very challenging for teams on the ground,” he said.
The organisation is also looking after 64 patients on home oxygen where they are closely monitored, Abramson said.
The organisation’s nurses are seeing between 80 to 100 patients a day.
Interestingly, Hatzolah has had 238 patients on the programme who have had a vaccine. Of those, 171 had received the first Pfizer vaccine, and 83 had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, two the AstraZeneca, and one Moderna. Thirty eight patients have been fully vaccinated and of those, only one required hospitalisation and has since recovered, he said.
According to Dr Ryan Noach, the chief executive of Discovery Health, globally, vaccinations have materially slowed the progression of new cases and deaths. There are early signs of reduced COVID-19 infection rates among the vaccinated pollution in South Africa post 15 days after vaccination.
“There are signs that the first dose is working, with early data showing that there are less admissions post vaccination and fewer deaths,” he said.
Worryingly, he said, “The data points to the potential for a very severe third wave, and we’re seeing the beginning of it only now.”
He said more than 50% of adults 70 years and older require admission to hospital.
“Hospital admissions in wave three have reached the level of admissions at the peak in wave one. There are currently 2 012 Discovery members admitted to hospital, of which 526 are in intensive-care, and 275 require ventilation.
“A large number of people are showing evidence of reinfections. Discovery members who contracted COVID-19 in the first wave have again contracted COVID-19 in the second wave. Three members have now tested positive three times,” Noach said.
On 13 June, President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that two million Johnson & Johnson (J&J) doses would have to be destroyed because the United States regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, found that the main ingredient with which they were made wasn’t safe for consumption.
As a result, South Africa has no J&J doses to administer at present, setting the country back in its vaccine roll-out in the midst of a third wave. The good news is that, according to the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism, J&J will replace all the doses within the next two weeks, with 300 000 due to land within a few days and another million to be released by Aspen’s Eastern Cape plant next week.
In the meantime, doctors have appealed to people to be hyper vigilant and maintain all non-pharmaceutical measures.
BDS boycott ‘creating divisions among ordinary South Africans’
“I felt targeted because I’m Jewish. It’s antisemitic,” said a businessman affected by an alleged boycott of companies purported to support Israel.
A group of 300 South African hardware stores supposedly cancelled contracts with “SA-based suppliers and companies that have relations with or who have shown support for Israel”. The executive director of Africa4Palestine (formerly Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) South Africa), Muhammed Desai, last week described the boycott as “heartwarming”.
“Many people have been pressured by their community to be part of a boycott and cause harm,” said this businessman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “This affects ordinary South Africans because it destroys long-term business relationships.”
Although there has been an impact on his company, it seems not many businesses have felt the impact of the boycott. Other suppliers listed by Desai told the SA Jewish Report that no contracts had been cancelled. “None of our relationships or sales into any of the hardware stores in South Africa have been compromised,” said one supplier, who asked not to be named.
“I can state categorically that this has had no impact on our business,” said another supplier who wanted to remain anonymous. “Our order book is full.”
“As the ‘rainbow nation’, this is just aggressively encouraging divisions that were never there before,” said the first businessman. “People are making business decisions based on religion rather than good business principles. These enforced divisions are what worry me more than anything. What happened to the South Africa that we know? This radical stance is completely nonsensical,” he said.
Desai went on to declare, “Today, standing with Israel, having ties with Israel, or serving in the Israeli military have all, correctly, become similar to, in the past, having stood with apartheid South Africa or with Nazi Germany. To stand with Israel today is now synonymous with saying, ‘I stand with Germany’ during the Holocaust or declaring, ‘I stand with South Africa’ during apartheid.”
He said Africa4Palestine welcomed “this ethical position as a morally sound example to other stores in South Africa and the African continent to emulate so that we can truly create apartheid-Israeli-free zones. Your efforts have served as another great blow to those who believe they can support the Israeli regime on the one hand, and take money and profits from principled and moral South African people.”
If the language of boycotting Jewish businesses and creating “Israeli-free zones” sounds familiar, that’s because it is. South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) National Director Wendy Kahn said, “In his congratulatory letter to the boycotters, Desai compares Israel to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. The irony of his use of Holocaust terminology is also not lost on us Jews. Nazi Germany also came to our minds when we read this letter. We remember that the Holocaust began with the boycotting of Jewish businesses.
“We aren’t fooled by his couching of words or references to those who ‘have relations with or who have shown support for Israel’ and those ‘standing with Israel, having ties with Israel’. What he actually means is Jews. According to the University of Cape Town’s Kaplan Centre study in 2019, 90% of South African Jews support Israel, so invariably, what Desai is calling for is the boycott of Jewish businesses.
“The delight that he takes in potentially destroying these Jewish businesses is gut-wrenching, not least because of the fragile and precarious economic climate in South Africa. Will Desai and the BDS organisations rejoice in the jobs lost by these businesses?
“His so-called victory of boycotts of Jewish business won’t have an impact on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. All these threats achieve is attempted intimidation of local South African Jews who hold an opinion different to BDS. The South African Jewish community won’t be intimidated. It’s effect will be only to harm South African businesses trying desperately to survive and retain jobs,” Kahn said.
“Our Constitution states that everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief, and opinion. There’s no rider that excludes Jews and people who have a connection to Israel. Nor does it call for the destruction of livelihoods of people for daring to believe differently.”
Desai issued a statement saying that the accusation of antisemitism was “a deliberate misrepresentation”, but then reiterated that “we welcome South Africans shunning, boycotting, and ending relations with suppliers and companies that are trading with, have links to, or are supportive of Israel”.
In response to the SAJBD’s statement on the matter, published on Facebook, Africa4Palestine’s Bram Hanekom wrote, “The 300 hardware stores can buy the things they need from other South African owned and ethical businesses.”
Benji Shulman, the director of public diplomacy at the South African Zionist Federation, noted that “the boycott of Jewish businesses has a long history in the BDS movement going back more than a decade, with Jewish businesses or those with Jewish management frequently targeted. What’s more, commercial boycotts against Israel have been a complete failure internationally. Since the boycott movement started, trade between Israel and South Africa has actually increased on average.
“BDS has many other failed boycott attempts,” he said. “One that comes to mind is the failed Woolworths ‘tomato’ boycott, which also produced zero results, other than a pig’s head placed in the kosher section of a supermarket. BDS may be trying to intimidate smaller Jewish businesses, but as yet, it hasn’t shown any signs that it has the capability of undertaking a full-fledged boycott campaign.”
SAZF takes on Judge Desai for his conduct
The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) has predictably come in for some heavy criticism by the anti-Israel lobby for lodging a complaint against retired Judge Siraj Desai with the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC).
Last week, the SAZF lodged a complaint with the JCC against the judge, who recently took up the position of the Legal Services Ombudsman.
The SAZF said Desai’s actions and conduct over many years was plainly in breach of the code of judicial conduct and “entirely unbecoming of a judicial officer”.
This was a bombshell complaint against Desai, who is a well-known social activist and respected jurist described by many as the “people’s judge”.
The detailed complaint against him spans many years from 2009 till the present, highlighting Desai’s actions and conduct connecting him to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, and the pro-Palestinian movement.
The SAZF said that Desai’s alleged misconduct included his involvement in political controversy, misusing the prestige of his judicial office to advance his personal political interests, failing to recuse himself in a case in which he was obviously conflicted, and involving himself in activities that used the position of his judicial office to promote a partisan political cause.
Desai, who served the legal profession for 43 years, retired as a Western Cape High Court judge last year, and almost immediately accepted the ombud position having been appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The objective of the ombud is to advance and safeguard the integrity of the legal profession in South Africa But more importantly, it’s to ensure fair, efficient, and effective investigation of complaints of alleged misconduct by legal practitioners.
Former Judge Rex van Schalkwyk of the Rule of Law Project told the SA Jewish Report, “This isn’t about whether one is pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. Did Judge Desai conform with the ethics that constrain him as a judge? Having looked at the complaint, there is at least a case that needs to be answered. Judge Desai must give an explanation about his conduct. It’s legitimate for this issue to have been brought to the professional body of the JSC [Judicial Service Commission] and to be dealt with specifically in accordance with the principle of law not in accordance with the political issues which will cloud the complaint.”
The SAZF has been lambasted for the complaint, which it lodged on 10 June, by members of Africa4Palestine and the South African BDS Coalition. They have set up a Facebook page called “Hands off Judge Desai”.
The anti-Israel lobbyists described the complaint as “spurious” and “baseless”, and called it a “vengeful attack”. Africa4Palestine criticised the “questionable” timing of the complaint, saying that it was an attempt to distract from its complaint lodged against the country’s outgoing Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
Last Friday, 11 June, the JCC appeal panel said it was continuing its deliberations on Mogoeng Mogoeng’s appeal against a misconduct finding for his remarks about Israel brought by Africa4Palestine.
Earlier this year, the JCC found that Mogoeng had contravened the code of judicial conduct with comments made during a webinar in June last year and subsequently at a prayer meeting where he declared that he would never apologise for the views he expressed. In the webinar, hosted by the Jerusalem Post, he said he believed South Africa would do well to consider adopting a more objective stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said “hatred” of the Jewish state could “attract unprecedented curses upon our nation”.
In his March ruling, Judge Phineas Mojapelo stressed that “judges are to stay out of politics”.
The South African BDS Coalition said the SAZF’s complaint against Desai was in “retaliation for the failure to secure a seat at the Constitutional Court by Judge Unterhalter” accusing him of being an “apologist for Zionism”. Earlier this year, the SA BDS Coalition demanded that Unterhalter not be selected to the Constitutional Court for his association with the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.
Rolene Marks, SAZF’s legal forum spokesperson said, “At issue here, is the role that judges play in our society. The reason that there is a judicial code of conduct is that judges need to be seen not to be promoting political causes since they may have to rule on them at some stage. However, it’s clear through his comments that although Judge Desai is entitled to his views in terms of freedom of speech, he is bound by the judicial code of conduct, and his actions fall outside of that.”
According to the SAZF, last year, Desai while being interviewed on an Iranian YouTube channel, made “inappropriate comments” likening Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini to President Nelson Mandela.
“To compare a world-renowned peacemaker like President Mandela to the despotic founding leader of a regime notorious for its disregard of human rights, and which is responsible for gross human rights violations, including torture and violence against thousands of people, is an insult to the people of South Africa, the Constitution, and our democratic institutions,” the statement said.
It added that Desai also made “several other shocking remarks” during the interview regarding foreign policy, including referring to the United States – an important trading and diplomatic partner of South Africa – as the “great Satan” which demonstrated that Desai had “engaged in conduct incompatible with his status as a judge of the high court.”
According to the SAZF, Desai has a long history of endorsing and promoting the anti-Israel political lobby.
In 2009, Desai was part of a South African delegation of pro-Palestinian activists that was to take part in a protest known as “the Gaza Freedom March” organised by the Palestine Solidarity Alliance. It was during this time that the Cairo Declaration was signed which was a call for a global movement for Palestinian rights and a boycott of Israel. The SAZF said Desai “lent his stature as a judge to the drafting and issuing of the declaration”.
In 2015, he gave an order in a review application brought by pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist organisations and activists against the City of Cape Town. There is allegedly no record in the judgment of him having disclosed his interest in BDS to the parties in that case, according to the complaint.
In 2018, Desai welcomed Hamas during its visit to South Africa and said, “We hope to make an intellectual contribution to the resolution of the Palestinian issue, but we take our leadership from you, you are the leadership on the ground.”
“This, despite the fact that the Hamas charter includes direct calls for violence against Jewish people and the destruction of the state of Israel. Using the prestige of the judicial office to publicly promote an extremist organisation is clearly contrary to the precepts underlying the judicial code of conduct,” said the complaint.
“Judge Desai has long conducted himself well outside the realms of the judicial code,” said the SAZF. “It’s therefore crucial for maintaining public confidence in the judiciary that manifest judicial misconduct is called to account.”
Desai told News24 through his spokesperson, Professor Usuf Chikte, that he was “unapologetic in his stance in condemnation of apartheid Israel”.
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