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The Jewish Report Editorial

Eight Concourt judges can’t be wrong

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When former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was forced to apologise for his statements about Israel and Palestine and he did so, most of us thought that would be the last we would hear about it.

No matter how uncomfortable we were about him having to apologise because we didn’t believe he had done anything wrong, we understood that the law is the law. And as a judge, he was bound 100% by the Judicial Conduct Appeals Committee (JCAC’s) findings. The appeal committee dismissed his appeal against the Judicial Conduct Committee’s finding that he shouldn’t have got involved in the political controversy over South Africa’s policy on Israel.

Justice Phineas Mojapelo for the appeals committee maintained that Mogoeng’s expression of his views on relations between South Africa and Israel wasn’t compatible with the impartiality or independence of judges.

However, who would have thought that tucked away in the Constitutional Court judgment finalising a 13-year-old case against Bongani Masuku, a former official of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Mogoeng’s case would rear its head once again.

And this time, in the highest court in the land, a court that overshadows all other courts and – I would imagine – the JCAC. I mean, eight senior judges oversaw Masuku’s case in the Concourt.

I guess, if they had agreed with the JCAC, there would be no story. However, they vehemently believed that Mogoeng did absolutely nothing wrong when he made his statements about Israel, implying that it wasn’t political but rather had to do with his religious commitments. As I see it, they clearly vindicated him publicly in their judgment.

Why, you might ask, did Mogoeng even come up in an unrelated long, drawn out case about hate speech? Well, Mogoeng was one of the eight judges dealing with the case in November 2021 when the Israel haters wanted him recused, claiming he was biased.

Because of that, the judges had to deal with the issue of his demanded recusal before they could judge Masuku.

Can I say that I would like to thank the Israel haters for making a meal out of the demand for his recusal because the Concourt would never have taken up this issue in its judgment if they hadn’t?

That’s a first for me!

What, exactly, will happen now? Mogoeng has already apologised. He has already walked away from this situation, but now he has the highest court in the land backing him by saying that what he said wasn’t problematic at all.

I wonder if he’ll make a legal move now. Will he take it up again? Somehow I doubt it because I think the whole experience was shocking and unpleasant, and he just wanted it to go away. I totally understand that.

However, I would love to see him challenge the findings of the JCAC.

You see, this is the problem with issues relating to the Israel-Palestinian issue. Many South Africans are totally unbiased about it, partly because they may be oblivious to the situation. However, a large proportion of the educated intelligentsia in this country have clear and undeniable views on this issue. And for many who aren’t Jewish, these views are anti-Israel. Being anti-Israel is the popular view. It’s not easy to be a supporter of Israel in South Africa because most of the people you want to impress take umbrage against your views.

For those who believe that everyone knows how bad Israel is, it stands to reason that anyone siding with Israel must be wrong. The point is that those same “educated”, “intelligent” people have never tried to find out for themselves by visiting Israel and properly researching the situation there. They just accept the word of strong-willed and determined Israel haters.

So, now that these esteemed Concourt judges have showed the innocence of Mogoeng’s words, I imagine it will set some kind of precedent. Surely, the fact that this section of the Concourt judgment has an opposing view to judicial appeal committee must be groundbreaking, whether the former chief justice does anything about it or not.

I do hope it opens people’s eyes, and they recognise that unbiased means unbiased, not partially anti-Israel.

Also, I hope it gives more room for people to speak out about the wrong that has been said against Israel.

But more than anything, I hope it will strengthen our hand to deal with Israel haters and their belief that they can say what they want about us, Israel, and the Middle East, as long as it’s anti-Israel.

If it fits the popular belief that Israel is evil and can do no right, then whatever is said is acceptable. But anyone who comes out in support of Israel is a demon and must be censured. Well, no more, because as many as eight esteemed judges on the Constitutional Court have made their point about this. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

Lipman, champion for diaspora Jews

Then, I would like to draw your attention to a man called Dov Lipman. He’s not South African and I doubt he has ever been here, but he has become someone I admire greatly.

I have never met him, nor spoken to him, but I love the fact that he’s the champion of diaspora Jews in Israel.

He was the one who fought to allow us back into Israel after we were red-listed. He put up such a fight that now the laws are substantially relaxed for travelling to Israel.

And just as soon as that battle was won, he was back in the saddle fighting to prevent diaspora Jews making aliya from being forced to cut ties with their home countries.

He always appears cheerful and determined. I’m grateful he’s on our side, and that we have a Dov Lipman in Israel (page 3). Kol Hakavod to you, sir!

Shabbat Shalom!

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