Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba criticised by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein for stance on Israel

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Thabo Makgoba, South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town.
Thabo Makgoba, South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town.
Jeffrey Abrahams, Gallo Images
  • Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein has criticised Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba for comments made against Israel.
  • Makgoba called for sanctions to be placed on Israel in response to the Palestinian conflict.
  • Goldstein described Israel as a "beacon of freedom".

Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein is locked in a war of words with Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba over the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine.

Goldstein criticised Makgoba for allegedly comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa.

In an open letter to Makgoba, Goldstein expressed his "deep disappointment in the moral confusion" and "disregard for the facts" displayed by Makgoba.

In his letter, Makgoba said in 2019, the provincial synod passed a resolution expressing strong support for justice for the Palestinian people.

"We did not do this lightly; our own experiences and the way the Christian faith was manipulated in the service of apartheid meant that we could not keep silent in the face of similar developments elsewhere," he wrote.

"The current state of affairs [in Israel] is unjust and evil. We, therefore, call for an arms embargo to be placed on all fighting forces in the region, just as there was a United Nations arms embargo on South Africa."

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Goldstein said Makgoba's attitude towards Israel endangered his own church.

Violent attacks

He added extremist Islamist groups attacking Christians in Africa shared the same origins and violent philosophy as the groups that attacked Jews in Israel.

"Research suggests that more than 4 000 Christians have been murdered in Africa in the last year. Many of these attacks are inspired by the same fundamentalist philosophy that inspires attacks against Israel.

"When you support Hamas, you endorse the ideology of Ansar al-Sunna, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and ISIS, and you jeopardise the safety of Christians across Africa."

Goldstein said Israel "is a beacon of freedom for all religions".

"All citizens, regardless of religion, ethnicity or any other marker, have the right to vote and to serve in government. It is quite absurd to call this apartheid."

Makgoba added the situation in Mozambique required a deeper understanding.

"Talking about and yearning for sustainable peace begins with love and having the courage to name the ills," he said.

"I minister to dioceses, parishes and people in northern Mozambique. A deeper analysis makes clear that the conflict is multifaceted, and while jihadists might be taking advantage of people's grievances there, they are real."

Religious extremism

According to Goldstein, many members of the Anglican church disagreed with Makgoba.

"As religious leaders - Muslim, Christian and Jewish - now more than ever, we need to come together to stand up against the violent religious extremism which threatens us all; we need to come together to support the forces of freedom, democracy and tolerance that make peace possible," he said.

Makgoba said land dispossession laid "at the heart of the matter" in Israel.

"Just as the chief rabbi needs to pastor his people in the way he judges is most appropriate, so I need to do the same.

"We can't dictate how we lead one another's communities. I believe some of his statements are unsubstantiated and emotive but understand his love for and protection of the current political system in Israel.

ALSO READ | Hamas chief in Egypt for talks over ceasefire between Israel and Palestine - report

"The saving grace in this interchange is that we are addressing one another with neither fear nor favour. Doing this is the first step towards building peace and trust. It is people's lives, both Israeli lives and Palestinian lives, we are talking about. It is the human face of God at stake," he added.

Tolerance

Goldstein previously called on Muslim leaders to join him in imploring their communities to be tolerant of one another's differing views regarding the conflict in Palestine.

He directed his comments to the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and Jamiatul Ulama South Africa, asking they join together and call on their congregants to behave in such a way that every citizen of this country felt safe to attend mosque or synagogue to practice their faiths and hold their beliefs and opinions as their conscience demanded.

However, the MJC publicly denied the request and reiterated its solidarity with the people of Gaza.

In a letter to Makgoba, MJC deputy president Moulana Abdul Khaliq Allie said his organisation had received a call from Goldstein, who requested a joint statement by religious leaders in solidarity for peace.

Allie added he had rejected Goldstein's proposal for a joint statement.

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