SA Muslim leaders reject chief rabbi's call for unity amid conflict in Palestine

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Pro-Palestinian activists and supporters during a demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in central London on 15 May 2021.
Pro-Palestinian activists and supporters during a demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in central London on 15 May 2021.
Tolga Akmen/AFP
  • The chief rabbi in SA has asked Muslim leaders to join him in calling for tolerance of one another's differing views regarding the Palestine conflict.
  • In a statement on Friday, Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein said freedom of opinion and conscience were protected by the Constitution, especially when people disagreed vehemently.
  • The MJC on Sunday rejected Goldstein's proposal for a joint statement.

The chief rabbi in South Africa has 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.

In a statement on Friday, Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein said freedom of opinion and conscience were protected by the Constitution, especially when people disagree vehemently, such as the crisis in the Middle East.

He directed his comments to the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and Jamiatul Ulama South Africa, asking that 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.

Goldstein said:

Let us jointly call on our communities not to intimidate or threaten one another because we disagree about the rights and wrongs of the bitter conflict in the Middle East.

"We can vigorously and publicly debate the issues with each other. We can make our voices heard. We can protest. But we cannot intimidate or harm one another. We can agree to disagree. That is the South African dream - unity in diversity.

"Let us, as the Muslim and Jewish religious leadership, issue a joint unified call to our communities not to verbally or physically threaten or harm each other. Let us call for mutual respect and tolerance," he added

READ | Alleyn Diesel: Is Zionism compatible with human rights?

On Sunday, the MJC openly shot down the request and reiterated the need for ongoing solidarity with the besieged people of Gaza.

In a letter to Anglican Archbishop Thabo 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 said he had rejected Goldstein's proposal for a joint statement.

He said: 

Your Excellency, the stance by members of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, headed by Chief Rabbi Goldstein is diametrically opposed to our moral position that most of the freedom-loving people have adopted in so far as it relates to condemning the violence and apartheid policies meted out against Muslim and Christian Palestinians on a daily basis by the apartheid regime in Israel.

"Therefore, a joint statement at this stage will be incorrect and a betrayal of the Palestinian cause. Furthermore, such a joint statement will only serve to further heighten unnecessary tensions within the solidarity movement and the community at large."

He added many members of the clergy were historically "either silent or supported the actions of the apartheid regime".

READ | EXPLAINER: Why the conflict between Palestine and Israel has erupted again

"Had they stood firm to the principles espoused in our respective doctrines of preserving life and the rights of the oppressed, the apartheid regime in South Africa may have fallen much sooner and many innocent lives may have been saved."

The MJC and other organisations have remained peaceful in protests against the Israeli government throughout the years, Allie said.

"The Palestinian cause is a dignified struggle that requires demonstrating the highest integrity and discipline.

"We do not support or condone intimidation, threats or violence at any level and fully respect the rights of peaceful worship of others.

"We, have therefore, reaffirmed our call on all peace-loving pro-Palestinian protesters to maintain the necessary discipline at all times irrespective of the amount of provocation and intimidation that may be encountered.

"We do not support or condone intimidation, threats or violence at any level and fully respect the rights of peaceful worship of others," he added.


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