Attempts to get Judge Unterhalter's ConCourt bid rejected ‘because of association with the board'

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Judge David Unterhalter. (Twitter, Monckton Chambers)
Judge David Unterhalter. (Twitter, Monckton Chambers)
  • The Jewish Board and SA DBS are embroiled in a war of words over Judge David Unterhalter's application to the ConCourt.
  • Unterhalter did not make it to the final shortlist for the two vacant Constitutional Court posts.
  • The panel shortlisted five judges.

A war of words has erupted between the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and the South African Boycotts, Divestments and Sanction (BDS) over Judge David Unterhalter's bid - and subsequent rejection - for one of two vacant posts at the Constitutional Court.

Unterhalter was not on the Judicial Service Commission's final list of five candidates to be handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa who is set to appoint two to the Constitutional Court.

Judges Fayeeza Kathree-Setloane, Jody Kollapen, Rammaka Mathopo, Betty Molemela and Bashier Vally were shortlisted.

SA BDS tried to get the panel to reject Unterhalter because of his association with the board.

"When calls are made for Jews who serve on the Jewish community's democratically elected representative body to be excluded from public service, it amounts to gross anti-semitism," said Kahn.

READ | JSC grills ConCourt candidate on his age with only six years to retirement

"There is a long and dishonourable history of Jews targeted for boycotts and other discriminatory treatment based on their religious and or ideological beliefs.

"The demand by the SA BDS Coalition that anyone associated with the SAJBD be denied the right to serve on public bodies like the Constitutional Court is just the latest chapter in this shameful saga. This is in no way surprising."

Kahn said the BDS movement had persistently incited hatred and even harm against the mainstream Jewish community and its democratically elected leadership throughout its existence.

"The SAJBD is the elected, representative spokes-body of South African Jewry. For 118 years, it has fought to uphold the Jewish community's civil rights, combating anti-Jewish prejudice in all its forms and building bridges of friendship between Jews and their fellow South Africans. 

"It also works closely with other human rights bodies like the Hate Crimes Working Group to ensure that all people in South Africa are protected from the evils of discrimination and intolerance,"  Kahn said.

BDS national convenor Roshan Dadoo said the organisation objected against Unterhalter's application because of his association with the SAJBD.

Dadoo said according to the Judges Matter website, Unterhalter was appointed an executive member of the SAJBD in 2020.

"The values, ethos and actions of the SAJBD do not align with our government policies and our constitutional values. The SAJBD is akin to the Broederbond and serves as a conservative organisation that supports and minimises the actions of the Israeli apartheid state, much like the Broederbond did concerning apartheid South Africa. 

"The SAJBD has supported the Zionist state's brutal oppression of the Palestinian people. The values that a judge brings to the Constitutional Court are pivotal," Dadoo said.

Dadoo said a judicial nominee's views of culture, history, transformation, judicial philosophy were fundamental. 

"Seeking judges that support progressive understanding of human rights is essential. It is disingenuous to reject apartheid in South Africa yet be a defender of Israeli apartheid. 

"A judicial nominee cannot honestly proclaim to be a supporter of human rights for South Africans, but be a member of an organisation that supports and defends war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Palestinians. Ubuntu represents the recognition and upholding of the humanity of everyone," Dadoo said.

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