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Rhodes is hotbed of anti-Israel activity

SAUJS, Jewish & Christian Zionist students & staff at Rhodes express concern over deteriorating situation at Rhodes where anti-Israeli resolution was rejected by the Senate last week. “Jewish students keep their heads down & don’t advertise their religious affiliation,” said SAUJS’ national chairman Ariela Carno this week. During Operation Protective Edge the campus once again became ground-zero for anti-Israeli activities. So much so, that who have spoken to SAJR have asked not to be named for fear of reprisals. SEE THE VIDEO of a supposed impartial debate on the Media and Gaza.





The event, above, was billed as: “Featuring Professor Steven Friedman (Centre for the Study of Democracy – University of Johannesburg and Rhodes University), Dr Irene Calis (Palestinian scholar), Professor Anthony Collins (Media Studies) and student media representatives.”

Last month Rhodes held a “supposedly neutral panel discussion” on the media reaction to Gaza (see the video on SAJR.CO.ZA), said Carno, and only one panellist was truly neutral. Media Studies Prof Anthony Collins went as far as suggesting the international community should disarm Israel. A Jewish student in the audience asked if this should apply to Hamas as well. No, came Collins’ reply.

One student told SAJR Online that “For what it’s worth, I think they tried to keep it neutral, but the presence of (Prof Steven) Friedman made that impossible. And then, instead of asking the SAUJS rep to sit on the panel, they invited someone who was less informed.”

Some of the Gaza lectures turned into vigils, say students. “I was given a report of one lecture that turned into an anti-Israel propaganda event and snowballed from little to tgho hours of hate,” says Carno.

She says that the environment can be really uncomfortable. One student had complained of being “cornered several times” and asked: “How can you support the massacring of children.”

A Jewish staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the campus had become increasingly frustrating and hateful. SA Jews are becoming synonymous with Israelis,” he said. “There are some people who separate the two, but most don’t. They show us pictures of dying children – which are usually from Syria.”

He said he has not bothered to take this up with the Rhodes management. “I would never go to the institution itself – it is so one-sided – the only way to do it is to fight individual battles. Rhodes have never done anything whatsoever despite their being aware of the prevailing situation,” he said.


Despite the rose-coloured glasses coming off for the handful of Jewish students, they are adamant that they intend to continue their studies at Rhodes and to fight back. “They have the moral support of Christian Zionists,” explained Ariela Carno, in their ongoing struggle against the Palestinian Solidarity Forum. “Despite the institutional hatred – they won’t give up on Rhodes,” she says.

The small pro-Israeli lobby have worked hard to start a society this year but have come up against hurdle after hurdle. “We need to start with a solid foundation, to offer education, people really don’t know what Israel goes through and we think they would like to,” says a Christian Zionist who did not want to be named. “We need to find a way to penetrate that bubble, we need to have a public, transparent, process – put up posters, issue information packets, facilitate proper and fair panel discussions,” he added.

During Israel Apartheid Week, he says, the Israeli students who were sent to assist them, mostly black girls, “had an incredibly helpful effect.” That is why they believe a formal society where both sides can come together could be effective. “I’d love to have a platform where we can come together and have these debates. I am really upset that I never got a chance this year,” he said, “but now that I know how to navigate the system, I think we may be able to (form a formal society) next year.”

So toxic is the environment for practicing Jewish students that most of them who enrol as Rhodes leave their religion blank in documentation.

“There are students who are interested to know about Israel, but they are hiding among the general population. They want to understand what the conflict is all about,” said Carno.

One of the Christian Zionist faculty-members, who also asked not to be named for fear of persecution, told Jewish Report that he looks at faces of the ill-informed at anti-Israeli events “and see they are asking themselves: ‘hold on, what’s going on here’ because the parable they are being fed doesn’t always add up.”

Prof Steven Friedman at it again

Last week, Sarah-Jane Bradfield published “Truth is often the first casualty in conflict” on the RHODES WEBSITE. The story is quoted verbatim and illustrated the institutional attitudes that pervade the Rhodes Campus.

Describing the intractable conflict between Israel and Palestine as comprising the best illustration of the greatest gap between reality and mainstream accounts of the violence, Professor Steven Friedman challenged contemporary accounts, saying that “truth is often the first casualty in conflict”.

Prof Friedman delivered a public lecture recently at Rhodes University entitled: “Why Memory Matters: Gaza, Recent History and the Campaign Against Truth.”

 “It seems to me that in any conflict which is fundamentally about domination, which Palestine is, the truth is very often the first casualty. It seems to me that truth is a casualty in this conflict in a very profound way,” Prof Friedman argued.

 “Having lived through the struggle of apartheid I cannot think of any other example of a conflict in which the divergence between observable reality and mainstream accounts of the conflict has been so wide. The gap between what we read and hear and are told in the mainstream does such great violence to the facts and evidence that one has to ask why this is so,” he said.

Prof Steven Friedman has worked as a trade unionist, journalist and academic and is a highly regarded public intellectual. He currently directs the Centre for the Study of Democracy which is a combined project of Rhodes University and the University of Johannesburg.

Over the last decade he has concentrated on the relationship between democracy, social inequality and economic growth and stressed the role of citizen voices in strengthening democracy. He is widely regarded as one of the most respected political intellectuals and theorists in the country.

In “Why Memory Matters: Gaza, Recent History and the Campaign Against Truth” Prof Friedman suggested that Hamas have been offering ceasefire and truces since 1997. He said Hamas has been repeatedly ignored by the Israeli government and that the news media are complicit in a broad misrepresentation of reality.

 “On one level the story is very simple – it is not often understood that whatever biases the media may have, the reality which shapes the coverage of all conflict is sheer bullying, a very unsubtle and crude process.”

A strong supporter of rights for Palestinians and a proponent of a one state solution in Israel and Palestine, Prof Friedman used two themes in Jewish ethics to illustrate why he believes the coverage to be misrepresenting and “divorced from reality.”

 “It is impossible to see this any longer as conflict between two warring groups who just can’t get on with one another. This is about a group of people deciding that the only way of controlling is by creating ethnically exclusive state by force,” he said.

Ideally, both parties, in the case of Israel and Palestine, should work at resolving their differences, but this “is not possible because it is not the reality of Gaza.

“We are not dealing with two groups who can’t find one another; we are dealing with one group who dominates the other in brutal ways and refuses to contemplate the end of the domination. Yet we continue to see accounts in which the relations of domination are never mentioned. The only way to refrain from mentioning domination is to do some very serious violations to the truth,” added Prof Friedman.

Related reads:

RHODES VC ACCUSED OF ‘HATRED OF JEWS’ published on 3 September which has links to various past anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish behavior at the once venerable University.

FRIEDMAN, GORDON & USERS FIGHT IT OUT published over the past week, Victor Gordon and Prof Friedman have been exchanging letters in SAJR and users have piled in with comments too.

SENATE’S ‘NO!’ TO ANTI-ISRAELI RESOLUTION – PUBLISHED TODAY! It took three days of relentless pursuit by Jewish Report before Rhodes would admit that the resolution had been tabled before Senate. Read the full Resolution that was tabled.

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  1. Gary Selikow

    Sep 10, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    ‘Friedman’s venom towards Israel and every Israeli man, woman and child i s well known

    His evil claim that ‘We are not dealing with two groups who can’t find one another; we are dealing with one group who dominates the other in brutal ways and refuses to contemplate the end of the domination’. is something no decent human can concur with

    Arabs attacked Jews in Palestine from 1920 when they started to peacefully return to their ancient homeland

    Pogroms took place In 1920 Jews where massacred by Arabs in Jerusalem, in 1921 in Jaffa and in 1929 in Hebron. Thousands of Jews where murdered in 1936 to 1939 in the Nazi inspired Arab Revolt. The Arabs attacked the tiny fledgling State of Israel again

    in 1948 despite it taking up such a small proportion of the original Palestine Mandate.

    In 1947, the Jewish state settled on 18% of the original British Mandate land. This was accepted gratefully. The Arabs rejected it with a vengeance and seven Arab states immediately declared war against Israel.

    Hamas and Hezbollah, two of the terorist organizations that work for the physical annihilation of Israel describe Jews as ‘pigs’, ‘cancer’. ‘garbage’,’germs’ ‘parasites’ and ‘microbes’.

    In 2003 on the Eve of the Jewish New Year, seven month old Shaked Abraham was shot dead in her crib by an Arab murderer who forced his way into her parent’s house as the family was celebrating the New Year.

    A ten-month-old Jewish baby, Shalhevet Pass, was shot in her father’s arms by an Arab sniper in 2001.

    The following year, a five-year-old girl, Danielle Shefi, was shot to death at point blank range by an Arab killer, while cowering under her parents’ bed.

    That same year, two boys, four- and five-years old, Matan and Noam Ohayon where shot dead together with their mother as she read them a bedtime story, in a kibbutz, by Arab terrorists.

    In the summer of 2005 pregnant Jewish women Tali Hatuel and her four terrified little daughters were executed at point blank range by terrorists of the Popular Resistance Committees, one after the other after Tali’s car had been spun off the road by gunfire.

    Then there are the thousands of suicide bombing perpetrated by Arab terrorists in malls, restaurants, schools, buses and everywhere else where Jewish men, women and children in Israel gathered.Victims were killed, burned, maimed and shards of metal infected with rat poison lodged into their bodies.

    Unlike a traditional war zone, the victims are often riding, sitting in schools or enjoying a meal.

    So far 128 Jewish children have been killed, 9 of them less than a year old, 9 pregnant women have been murdered, 886 children have lost one parent and 31 have lost both. The youngest victim of terror was just one day old.

    what about the fogel family killing where Arab murderers entered a Jewish home and stabbed a whole family to death including a four year old boy and decapitated a three month old baby girl

    There has been no condemnation of these atrocities by vile propagandists like Steven Friedman, Virginia tilley, Ronnie Kasrils,  Greta Berlin, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein , Robert Fisk, George Galloway, etc etc etc. but Israel must protect her children from would be murderers and will continue to do so.

    One must always continue to ask why the powerful organizations, unions, church groups, academics ,governments etc advocate a boycott of Israel and only Israel, while not advocating any boycott or censure of States that do engage in genocide or severe repression and persecution like China, North Korea, Zimbabwe,Syria Iran or Sudan.

    no matter how much hate-obsessed fanatics may use incidents deliberately provoked by their accomplices as a stick to try to beat Israel to death. Why don’t the left just live and let live and leave the tiny micro state of Israel alone?

  2. Myron Robinson

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:30 am

    ‘Friedman & his so called liberal cohorts are the main reason why there is so much anti-Semitism & anti-Israel propaganda. The fact that they are all silent on the atrocities in Syria etc. speaks volumes for their hypocrisy. I listened on line to the debate between Calis & Pogrund in East London. Calis mislead the audience with factually incorrect data yet the audience was substantially in her favour. I think that Israel should act the way that they are accused of doing because if so there will be no Gazans left as they would all then be dead. Problem solved.

  3. Gary Selikow

    Sep 11, 2014 at 11:27 am

    ‘you only wrong on one thing- Myron, Friedman and his cohorts are not liberals-liberal in its true sense means open minded and flexible

    They are anything but that

    They are hard core extreme leftists (Stalinists and Trotskyites)  who want to see Israel and its people burn and cannot come to term with Israel’s existence’

  4. brett jhb

    Sep 12, 2014 at 7:05 am

    ‘To just to be 100% clear:

    Myron Robinson is suggesting that the solution to the problem is ethnic genocide “Israel should act the way that they are accused of doing because if so there will be no Gazans left as they would all then be

    dead. Problem solved.”…

    and the only objection Gary Selikow has to this is that he called Prof Friedman a liberal?

    Just making sure I have this right. ‘

  5. Myron Robinson

    Sep 12, 2014 at 9:34 am

    ‘Brett I am not suggesting ethnic Genocide. That is what Friedman et al accuses Israel of. If there was genocide committed by Israel in Gaza why has the Palestinian population increased by 600% since 1967. It is also typical of Friedman & his ILK to participate in debates that only propagate one view. And Friedman is an Associate Professor (Centre for the Study of Democracy – University of Johannesburg and Rhodes University). What a great leading light for democracy he & Rhodes U propagate.’

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Teen vaccinate, or not teen vaccinate? Not a question, say doctors



As the news broke that South Africa would allow children aged 12 and up to get vaccinated with a first Pfizer shot, some parents were thrilled but others expressed fear, uncertainty, even anger.

“As the daughter of a polio survivor and the mother of an asthmatic child, I feel strongly that we need to get vaccinated, not just for ourselves, but for others,” says Vanessa Levenstein, a copywriter at Fine Music Radio in Cape Town. “My son, Sammy, is 14 and my daughter, Safra, is 17, and this past Shabbat, we all said how grateful we were that the vaccine was now available to them. I feel we are privileged to have it.”

Her husband, Jonathan Musikanth, an attorney, agrees. “We look forward to giving our children some sort of normality again,” he says. Levenstein adds, “We’re living in a society with huge social inequalities: someone living in a crowded Manenberg flat cannot self-isolate if they get infected. The only way to stop the spread is through the vaccine roll-out. ‘If I’m not for myself, who will be for me? And being only for myself, what am I?’ The words of Hillel still ring true.’”

The SA Jewish Report asked parents on Facebook what they thought, and a mother responded, “The judgement and anger towards people who don’t want to be vaccinated is extreme and frightening.” For this reason, she asked to be quoted anonymously.

“My children are healthy and have been exposed to COVID-19 and didn’t have any symptoms,” she said. “I don’t feel that I need to vaccinate them against something that I feel isn’t dangerous to them. They didn’t have any symptoms, so I don’t feel I need to protect them from dying. The fact is that nobody in the world knows the long-term effects of this vaccine. I’m not willing to risk it.

“It’s all well and good saying we should do it for herd immunity, but I won’t allow my children to get vaccinated to protect others when they don’t need the protection themselves,” she said. “Also, I don’t feel that 12 year olds are old enough to make a decision about this. My kids would agree.”

Asked how she felt about her children navigating a post-COVID-19 world unvaccinated, she said it was “a huge concern”.

“I’m concerned that their freedom will be taken away because of this. However, is that a good enough reason to go against what I wholeheartedly believe to be the truth about the vaccine?” she asked. “I don’t believe that by not vaccinating kids, I’m putting anyone else’s life in danger.”

Johannesburg pulmonologist and parent Dr Anton Meyberg told the SA Jewish Report, “This is definitely a scary and emotive time in our lives as parents. It’s one thing to vaccinate ourselves, the adults, but now we are being asked to trust science with our own children. Whereas we know that children definitely don’t get as sick as adults, they definitely can still get sick [from COVID-19]. And some get severe multisystem inflammatory syndrome while others can suffer from ‘long COVID’.

“There are so many myths and misconceptions about vaccination and they need to be dispelled,” he says. “As a doctor on the frontline, it’s a ‘no brainer’ to me that my daughter and children over the age of 12 should be vaccinated. As parents, we have the responsibility of safekeeping and caring for our children, and vaccinating them allows us to do this. No doubt by vaccinating our teens, we’re protecting their parents and grandparents, but we’re also making sure that schools can remain open and our children can lead almost normal lives.

“The most documented side effect in children after the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, mainly in boys 16 to 30 years of age, is myocarditis [inflammation of the heart muscle],” Meyberg says. “Males aged 12 to 17 are more likely to develop myocarditis within three months of catching COVID-19 at a rate of 450 per million infections. This compares with 67 per million after the vaccine. The condition is self-limiting and easily treatable, and it’s crucial to avoid exercise for up to a week post vaccination in order to decrease the chances of its occurrence. Widespread vaccination is a critical tool to help stop this pandemic. The question shouldn’t be if you’ll vaccinate, but rather when.”

Jeffrey Dorfman, associate professor in medical virology at Stellenbosch University, says “the arguments for vaccinating children are very strong in countries such as South Africa and the United States where there’s still a lot of COVID-19 transmission and the potential for more waves. Children may be at lower risk of severe COVID-19 disease than adults, but not zero. In the United States, more than 63 000 children have been hospitalised since August 2020, and more than 500 have died. More than 4 000 have been diagnosed with multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which is dangerous.

“Additionally, the vaccines in use prevent many COVID-19 infections – not 100%, as we all know about breakthrough infections, but even for the Delta variant, vaccination prevents about 70% of infections based upon current studies,” he says. “That’s enough to matter to the people around children who are vaccinated, and may be enough to stop or reduce school outbreaks. Vaccination will certainly reduce the risk of a child bringing a COVID-19 infection home to vulnerable adults. It’s certainly not unheard of for children to bring an infection home from school resulting in the death of a caregiver, and this is tragic and preventable.

“Additionally, I know of cases of children who were asymptomatically infected and had to move away from vulnerable grandparents,” he says. “It was scary for the people involved. The children had no symptoms and were tested only because they had a COVID-19 positive contact. Were the contact not known, they would have continued to live with the grandparents, who would have been at risk. Even children who have had COVID-19 can have it again, and a large study from Kentucky in the United States shows that vaccination further reduces the risk of COVID-19 re-infection. We aren’t going to get on top of COVID-19 unless we use the tools at our disposal. As a society, we can’t afford serious lockdowns and have to use less disruptive tools. Vaccines should be high on everyone’s list.”

A third mother expressed mixed feelings about vaccinating her teenage sons. However, after reading a letter by Johannesburg family physician Dr Sheri Fanaroff, she has decided to go ahead with it. In the letter, Fanaroff laid out all the questions and concerns to show that “the risk of getting COVID-19 infection far outweighs the risk of vaccination in teenagers. I can say without hesitation that I will be relieved to have my own teenagers at the front of the queue to get vaccinated this week so that they can return to a more normal lifestyle.”

She explained amongst other points that “vaccination reduces the risk of teenagers dying: the virus was the fourth leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 24 and the sixth leading cause for those aged five to 14”.

Fanaroff also explained that “vaccination reduces the risk of severe infections, hospitalisation, and the need for oxygen and intensive care in teenagers. Recent figures from the US show that the hospitalisation rate among unvaccinated adolescents was ten times higher than that among fully vaccinated adolescents.

“There’s no biological reason or proof that a COVID-19 vaccine can interfere with the progression of puberty. There’s also no biological mechanism whereby hormones associated with puberty can have an impact on immune responses to COVID-19 vaccines. There’s no evidence that the vaccine has any impact on fertility.”

During the health department briefing on Friday, 15 October, acting Director General of Health Dr Nicholas Crisp stated that based on the Children’s Act that allows children aged 12 to 17 to consent to medical treatment, children in this age group don’t require their parents’ consent to have a COVID-19 vaccine. Teens can register and consent to being vaccinated without permission.

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SA warmly welcomes Palestinian foreign minister



Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Dr Naledi Pandor, warmly welcomed the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the State of Palestine Dr Riad Malki to South Africa last week – hospitality certainly not offered to Israelis.

Malki was in the country from 7 to 9 October, and was hosted by Pandor on 8 October for bilateral talks, according to a media statement made by department of international relations and cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela.

In reiterating their commitment to each other’s causes, “both sides agreed to exert joint efforts aimed at reversing the decision to admit Israel as an observer member to the African Union”, according to a joint post-talks communiqué. The ministers also agreed to a planned a state visit in which South Africa would host Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

South Africa is also going to host a conference for Palestinian heads of missions in Africa this year to deliberate Palestine’s policy towards Africa.

“South Africa attaches great importance to its relationship with Palestine, which is underpinned by historic bonds of solidarity, friendship, and co-operation. South Africa’s support for the Palestinian cause conforms with the basic tenets of its foreign policy,” Monyela said.

“The international community has an obligation to find a comprehensive and just resolution to the Palestinian issue,” he said. “South Africa calls for international support and increased efforts for the just cause of the Palestinian people to address their legitimate demand for an independent state alongside a peaceful state of Israel. The visit aims to further strengthen the relationship between South Africa and Palestine.”

In their joint communiqué, the ministers “expressed their satisfaction with the cordial relations that exist between the two countries, which is to be further augmented by Abbas’s visit and the Palestinian leaders’ conference to be held in Cape Town in November this year”.

The South African government committed its support for initiatives that would refocus the international agenda on Palestine and the Middle East peace process. South Africa reiterated its support for a two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The two ministers agreed that “they would continue to work to achieve peace for the Palestinian people”, and “in the absence of sustainable peace in the region, there could be no global peace, stability, and economic prosperity”.

In their communiqué, the ministers insisted that “security and stability in the Middle East is being undermined by continued occupation of Palestinian territories and the aggressive actions of the Israeli regime”. Having said that, they called on the international community to “further strengthen their support for the return of all parties to the negotiation table without pre-conditions”.

They agreed to “exert joint efforts aimed at reversing the decision to admit Israel as an observer member to the African Union”. They also expressed support for “the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action” which they say “remains a clarion call for anti-racism advocacy and action worldwide”.

The Durban Declaration was the document that emerged out of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, also known as the infamous “Durban Conference” held in South Africa in 2001.

According to the Embassy of the State of Palestine in South Africa Facebook page, Malki also met with a group of African National Congress leaders in Pretoria, and Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) groups Africa4Palestine, Palestinian Solidarity Alliance, and the South African BDS Coalition, amongst other meetings.

Local political analyst Steven Gruzd says the visit shows that South Africa’s support for the Palestinians “continues to be vocal and loyal. The hot issue, however, is the granting of Israel’s observer status at the African Union. The two pledged to work together to overturn it. Relations with Israel will remain tense. There has been no change from South Africa towards the [Naftali] Bennett government.”

He says the visit “reinforces ties [with the Palestinians] and puts South Africa squarely in the Palestinian camp. It has shed all pretensions of being an ‘honest broker’ in this conflict, and for a long time, has chosen sides. The key thing to watch is what happens at the African Union. Israel has its fair share of African opponents, but also many African friends. Will they stick their necks out for Israel? We will see. South Africa has been lobbying against the [observer status] decision, and has influenced southern African states to oppose it.”

Gruzd maintains there’s “virtually no chance” of Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid being invited for a similar visit. “Relations remain tense, and South Africa won’t be seen to reward Israel for its policies and practices,” he said.

Wendy Kahn, the national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), says, “The SAJBD believes that for South Africa to play a meaningful role towards a peaceful outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian situation, it would need to engage with both Israelis and Palestinians. Without speaking to the Israeli leadership, it’s not possible to truly understand the situation and to gain trust in order to bring the parties to the negotiating table.

“The dogged campaign by South Africa to exclude Israel from the African Union is antithetical to our international-relations policies of conflict resolution through negotiation and talking,” she says. “This action only seeks to push peace building and the attainment of a sustainable two-state solution even further away.”

“The South African Zionist Federation [SAZF] has noted the comments of Minister Pandor and Palestinian Minister Malki. It seems the entire focus of the engagement was to undermine Israel’s admission as an observer to the African Union,” says SAZF National Chairperson Rowan Polovin. “We believe this is a foolhardy and hypocritical approach to international relations.

“Israel has had a mutually beneficial relationship with African states for more than 70 years. It has been at the forefront of efforts to help solve some of the most important developmental challenges on our continent, including in the areas of health, agriculture, youth development, water, education, and energy,” Polovin says.

“The admission of Israel as an observer to the AU, alongside more than 70 other countries, is a historic and welcome development. The South African government remains out of step with the rest of the continent who are moving swiftly ahead with relations with Israel,” he says.

“The new Israeli government’s prime minister and foreign minister have been warmly welcomed in the major capitals of Europe, the United States, Africa, and the Arab world. It’s not Israel, but South Africa, that’s the odd one out. We would encourage the South African government to take the opportunity to reach out to Israel to engage for the mutual benefit of both nations and as a means of making a positive, proactive contribution to finding further peace in the region.”

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Unterhalter’s bid for Concourt thwarted again



It was a case of action replay for esteemed Judge David Unterhalter this week at the re-run of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Constitutional Court judge interviews. The internationally renowned lawyer was yet again grilled about his brief charitable association with the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) during the pandemic.

Never mind his years of pro bono work, mentorship, and dedication to academia, as well as his global expertise gleaned from serving on the World Trade Organisation’s Appellate Body, it appeared to many commentators that his gender, race, and possibly even his faith stood firmly in his way of being included on a shortlist for possible appointments to the apex court.

He was again excluded from the latest JSC shortlist for two vacancies.

The JSC was forced to re-run its highly controversial and heavily politicised April 2021 Constitutional Court interview process after the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) challenged its lawfulness in the High Court.

Casac accused several members of the JSC, including Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, of “political grandstanding”, and argued that “party political considerations and political agendas should play no role in the JSC’s decisions and processes”.

During the first round of interviews, Unterhalter was interrogated about his association with the SAJBD after his candidacy was vehemently opposed by the South African Boycott Divestment Sanctions Coalition and the Black Lawyers Association.

Unterhalter briefly assisted the SAJBD with the upliftment and welfare of the Jewish and broader community during the direst phase of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. He resigned from the SAJBD because he recognised that it sometimes litigates in the Constitutional Court which might cause conflicts.

The issue was raised yet again this week. JSC commissioner Advocate Thandazani Griffiths Madonsela, one of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s candidates on the JSC, rehashed the now stale objections to his candidacy and persistently probed him about his time at the Board.

The Board criticised the JSC interview process describing it as “Groundhog Day for the Jewish community”.

“Once again, a Jewish candidate for the Constitutional Court, Judge Unterhalter, was targeted for his association with the democratically elected representative body of the Jewish community,” it said in a statement, adding “Once again, bias was evident.”

The Board maintained, “In a series of four questions, Commissioner Madonsela’s political agenda was distinctly evident, particularly his comment, ‘It seems to me that the fundamental premise of the objection is the assertion that the SAJBD is a body that is pro-Zionist and that is in fact bullying all their people and organisations who are objecting to the Israeli establishment in the Palestine region’.”

Unterhalter denied this, saying, “Members of the Jewish community in this country, as in many other countries, hold a very wide variety of views about Zionism and the state of Israel. That’s why people who are Zionists subscribe to organisations that bear that name and seek to pursue that particular political agenda.

“The Jewish Board of Deputies is a body that existed long before the state of Israel was ever created, and has its roots in the 19th century in this country, where it’s simply founded to look after the interests of a particular community, in this instance the Jewish community, and largely to take care of its welfare as many community organisations representing many different parts of our society do,” said the esteemed judge.

Unterhalter said that it was on this premise that during the COVID-19 pandemic, when there were “peculiarly large demands” placed on the welfare not just of the Jewish community but also in respect of its charitable work with other communities, he accepted a position on the Board thinking that it could be of some service to the community and the work it did.

The SAJBD said the depiction of the Board as a “bullying” organisation was “a baseless and highly offensive smear against an organisation whose mandate is to protect South African Jews’ civil rights”.

“If anyone should be accused of bullying, it’s Commissioner Madonsela, whose factually inaccurate, prejudicial, and irresponsible assertions have no place in an interview to assess judicial competence. The SAJBD objects strenuously to this vile characterisation of our organisation.”

It said it found it “indefensible” that a person’s association with a body that protects Jews’ human rights in South Africa could preclude them from public office.

Advocate Mark Oppenheimer said the question from Madonsela about Unterhalter’s affiliation with the SAJBD “showed an extreme prejudice against the Jewish community”.

“It tries to insinuate strongly that Zionism is an unconstitutional project, and that it’s a sinister belief system and anything even adjacent to it taints one so thoroughly, that one cannot sit as a judge on the Constitutional Court. I think that borders on a blood libel, and the question should have been interrupted by the chair.

“It’s clear that that series of questions which were there during the first series of interviews were inappropriate, and it’s also clear from the Judicial Services Act that judges have every right to participate in charitable work which Judge Unterhalter was doing when he was at the SAJBD.”

Oppenheimer said many of the other questions faced by Unterhalter were pertinent, addressing his career.

“Anyone watching the interviews would be awed at the breadth of the work that he has done,” he said.

Casac’s Lawson Naidoo told News24 that it was crucial that the JSC explained its reasons for excluding Unterhalter and Advocate Alan Dodson.

There are currently no white judges on the Bench.

Their exclusion from the shortlist has raised eyebrows in the legal fraternity over whether the JSC is taking seriously its responsibilities in terms of Section 174(2) of the Constitution, which says that the judiciary must broadly reflect the demographics of South Africa in terms of race and gender.

Said Oppenheimer, “There’s an impression that has been created by the JSC that your race, gender, and possibly your faith can be factors which can permanently exclude you from the Court. It would be a pity to exclude eligible Jews from the apex court, given the fact that they have played such an important role, which should not be forgotten.”

Unterhalter and Dodson, both internationally renowned legal minds, were pressed about their race and gender.

After a full day of interviews and deliberations, the JSC reaffirmed its April 2021 shortlist, producing exactly the same list as it had done before.

The list of candidates on the shortlist include Constitutional Court Justice Rammaka Mathopo, former Free State Judge President Mahube Molemela, and High Court Judges Jody Kollapen, Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane, and Bashier Vally. Their names will be forwarded to President Ramaphosa to select two to fill vacancies.

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