OPINION | Stop bullying Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng into silence

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
Simon Sonnekus

The tragic aspect of this story is that it underscores a fallacy that the ANC continues to perpetuate. Palestinian rights and statehood should not be about hatred for Jews and hatred towards Israel, writes Howard Feldman.

Mostly, South Africans don't care. Their concerns remain centered around employment, the economy, crime, healthcare and education. And yet, in its classic and predictable modus operandi, the ANC has chosen to become somewhat hysterical at the utterings of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

The reaction should come as no surprise, given that he committed the sin of saying that he "Loves Jews and Israel". That he also said "I love Palestinians and Palestine" is apparently little comfort for a movement that has nailed its hatred of the Jewish state to its corrupt mast.

The furore followed a webinar hosted by The Jerusalem Post in which the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Dr Warren Goldstein, shared a platform with the chief justice. It was largely a benign affair that could have been well paired with a menu of canapé and watered-down white wine, chilled to the wrong temperature and served in error in Champagne flutes.

But it was pleasant and interesting, and it's always lovely to meet a man that we know only from the press.

It did, however, become a little spicy when the chief justice ventured his view that the ANC had, by choosing sides to the conflict, given up a potentially important role that they might play in the mediation and settlement of the age-old dispute.

The reflux was felt immediately and what followed was a poorly written and somewhat dramatic statement by someone, but issued in the name of the movement. That they hadn't even bothered to get the name of the host newspaper correct must have been mortifying to The Jerusalem Post (now renamed the Jerusalem Times by the ANC).

The statement seemed to challenge itself by seeing how many times the phrase "apartheid Israel" could be used in a sentence, without losing its meaning. Spoiler alert: It didn't succeed in retaining any meaning whatsoever.

Before losing sight of the issues, it is worth considering if he was wrong to say what he did: 

  • that he loves Jews and Israel;
  • that he loves Palestinians and Palestine;
  • that the ANC has taken sides and therefore, has lost the role of mediator.

Given the ANC statement, the last point needs no further debate. The ANC has made it patently clear that it has sold what was left of its soul to Hamas and thereby, is not interested in a peaceful solution. There should be no surprise there, considering its close ties with Iran, Cuba and Venezuela.

The other statements are more troubling.

Is it so offensive for him to have said that he loves both the people of the region? Is it so offensive to the ANC and others who issued their statements that he could love Jews or Israel? He is a Christian of deep faith, and yet he was criticised for having a conversation with the chief rabbi where he quotes scriptures.

To react in such a dramatic manner to these utterings is offensive in itself. Never mind the issues of freedom of expression and religion which South Africans hold dear. It's offensive to be offended!

What was particularly interesting is the incredible attempt by BDS, the ANC and all other haters of Israel to turn this into something of relevance. I followed the ANC's tweeted statement and was blown away at how little traction it received. Of course, news outlets, wound up by the horror of it all, did their bit keep the story alive.

And yet, somehow, through it all, many, or even most, hardly paid attention. Which proves that maybe the repeated mantra of apartheid Israel over and over and over again, not only doesn't make it true but also weakens the meaning of the real apartheid.

The tragic aspect of this story is that it underscores a fallacy that the ANC continues to perpetuate. Palestinian rights and statehood should not be about hatred for Jews and hatred towards Israel.

The Palestinian authority and Hamas are just as much to blame (some would argue more) than Israel is. And to assign no responsibility to them whatsoever is to deliberately and intentionally deny the truth.

The fact that the ANC is so desperate to shut up or shut down anyone who dares to even hint at this, indicates that they are aware of that too. It means that they cannot allow freedom of expression and that they need to do whatever they can to stop the voices that don't agree with them.

This has been the tactic of the BDS movement and now adopted by the movement.

We can agree with Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng  - or disagree with him. We can hate his view and hate that he is a Christian. We can hate Israel and hate Jews. But we do more damage in the long run if we bully alternate views into silence.

Especially when most of the country has other things to worry about.

- Howard Feldman is a keynote speaker and analyst. He is the author of three books and is the morning talk show host on ChaiFM.

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