by Hugh Fitzgerald
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Africa, the splendidly tautonymic Mogoeng Mogoeng, is being whipped from pillar to post by pro-Palestinian groups in South Africa for declaring, last June, in a webinar sponsored by the Jerusalem Post, his “love for Israel,” which came, he said, out of his deep Christian beliefs. All hell broke loose at this outrageous declaration, and the pro-Palestinian groups – there are so very many – howled with rage, while the political hyenas circled, and demanded, in the manner of the late and unlamented Andrey Vyshinsky during the Stalinist “purge trials” of the 1930s, a complete and public recantation of all that Mogoeng Mogoeng had said, and does in truth believe, about Israel. The script has been prepared; Mogoeng Mogoeng now need only sign it. Exactly like those prepared confessions that so many of the Old Bolsheviks had to sign, before being taken to the basement of Lubyanka to be shot in the back of the head by an NKVD operative. But at least Mogoeng Mogoeng will not be shot; he will have to live with the anguish of having had to testify, before the world, to a lie – the lie being that he is sorry for, and recants, that which he is not sorry for, and cannot possibly sincerely recant. He has been given ten days to sign both an apology and a recantation. And if he doesn’t? Will he lose his position? Will those who support Israel in South Africa now be more afraid to express their views? We already know that on many American college campuses those who support Israel are often shouted down, or denied the right to speak in the first place.
The report on this disturbing episode is here: “Chief justice Mogoeng told to retract and apologise for pro-Israel comments,” by Andisiwe Makinana, Times Live, March 4, 2021:
Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has been ordered to apologise for, and retract, pro-Israel comments he made during a webinar in June last year.
The Judicial Conduct Committee found Mogoeng guilty and ordered him to apologise unconditionally for becoming involved in political controversy through his utterances in the online seminar hosted by The Jerusalem Post on June 23 2020.
The committee further ordered Mogoeng to unreservedly retract and withdraw a statement he uttered after a public outcry over his initial comments. He said he stood by his comments and that he would not apologise or retract them — “even if 50 million people were to march every day for 10 years for me to do so, I would not apologise”.
“If I perish, I perish,” he said.
An NGO, Africa 4 Palestine, the SA Boycott Disinvestments and Sanctions Coalition (SA BDS Coalition) and a Durban-based Women’s Cultural Group (WCG) complained separately to the Judicial Service Commission about Mogoeng’s comments in July.
The Sunday Times reported in June last year that, in his webinar comments, Mogoeng seemed to base his pro-Israel stance on passages from the Bible.
Mogoeng participated in a webinar entitled Two Chiefs, One Mission: Confronting Apartheid of the Heart with the chief rabbi of SA, Rabbi Warren Goldstein, hosted by The Jerusalem Post.
The moderator, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, Yakoov Katz, asked Mogoeng about his love for the Jewish people, for Israel, for the state of Israel and his thoughts on the tense diplomatic relations between SA and Israel.
In a long-winded response, Mogoeng began by acknowledging that the policy direction taken by SA was binding on him, as any other law would be.
Mogoeng was not advocating for a particular position to be taken either by the South African government or by the Supreme Court. HIs remarks had nothing to do with any cases before the Supreme Court. He was not advocating a policy. He was simply expressing his personal view, as a citizen, of Israel.
“So, whatever I have to say should not be misunderstood as an attempt to say the policy direction taken by my country in terms of their constitutional responsibilities is not binding on me. But just as a citizen, any citizen is entitled to criticise the laws and the policies of SA or even suggest that changes are necessary, and that’s where I come from,” he said.
Mogoeng said he was under an obligation as a Christian to love Israel, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem which actually means the peace of Israel.
Citing Biblical scripture, he said: “The first verse I give is in Psalms 122, verse 6, which says: ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper that love thee,’” Mogoeng said. “Also Genesis 12, verses 1 to 3, says to me as a Christian, if I curse Abraham and Israel, the Almighty God will curse me too.
“And I cannot as a Christian do anything other than love and pray for Israel because I know hatred for Israel by me [sic] “and for my nation will, can only attract unprecedented curses upon our nation.”
In the main, their complaints were that Mogoeng committed wilful or gross negligent breaches of the Code of Judicial Conduct, in that he had become involved in political controversy or activity, which is in breach of code.
The Judicial Conduct Committee said Mogoeng has to apologise within the next 10 days at a meeting of serving justices of the Constitutional Court, and release a copy of the apology under his signature to the office of the chief justice and to the media in the normal manner in which the Constitutional Court and the OCJ issue media releases.
While the committee dismissed a complaint that Mogoeng should have recused himself from the webinar, it found that Mogoeng became involved in political controversy or activity, and therefore breached the code of conduct.
According to the commission, further complaints established about Mogoeng arising from his utterance at the same webinar were:
— Contravention of the Code: the use or lending of the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interest of the judge or others…
What “private interest” of the judge was advanced by his simply stating his views on Israel? Far from advancing his “private interest,” he knew that he was stating an unpopular opinion that could only have negative consequences for him, and possibly for his career, which is exactly what happened.
The committee said Mogoeng’s apology should read:
Apology and Retraction
“I, Mogoeng Mogoeng, Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa, hereby apologise unconditionally for becoming involved in political controversy through my utterances in the online seminar (webinar) hosted by The Jerusalem Post on 23 June 2020, in which I participated.
“I further hereby unreservedly retract and withdraw the following statement which I uttered subsequent thereto or other words to the same effect: “I stand by my refusal to retract or apologise for any part of what I said during the webinar. Even if 50 million people were to march every day for 10 years for me to do so, I would not apologise. If I perish, I perish.
“I reaffirm my recognition for the statutory authority of the Judicial Conduct Committee of the Judicial Service Commission established in terms of Part 11 of the JSC Act 9 of 1994 to decide on any complaint of alleged judicial misconduct against me and all judges in the Republic of South Africa.”
The obvious alternative hypothesis presents itself. Let’s suppose there is another judge of the South African Supreme Court, whom we’ll call Justice M’Bala M’Bala. He had been an attendee at the World Conference on Racism, held in Durban in 2001. That was the conference where the American and Israeli delegates walked out, after the draft documents had stated a “deep concern” at the “increase of racist practices of Zionism and anti-Semitism” — putting Zionism on the same level as antisemitism, and further talked of the emergence of “movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas, in particular the Zionist movement, which is based on racial superiority.”
Colin Powell, in the American delegation, denounced the “hateful language” that “singles out only one country in the world, Israel, for censure and abuse” in the draft text and U.S. delegate Tom Lantos’s statement that the conference had been “wrecked by Arab and Islamic extremists.”
But there was another group at the Durban World Forum Against Racism, made up not of delegates from nation-states, but of members from 3,000 NGOS. They adopted a statement that did not even bother mentioning antisemitism — as if the reason for the murders of six million people within living memory need not be addressed at a “World Forum Against Racism.” Instead, those NGOs focussed solely on the ineradicable wickedness of Israel. The NGO Forum’s declaration described Israel as a “racist, apartheid state” that was guilty of “racist crimes including war crimes, acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing.” That crazed and sickening view of Israel is still part of the atmospherics in South Africa, along with the antisemitism that feeds it, so it doesn’t take much to imagine our hypothetical Justice M’Bala M’Bala being deeply influenced by the moral debacle at Durban.
Now let’s assume that Justice M’Bala M’Bala appeared at a rally in support of “BDS.” As one of the distinguished participants, asked to speak, he would have expressed his horror at what “the Palestinians suffer every day of their lives – their lands stolen, their very identity called into question.” What would be the result? Do you think there would be consequences? Would M’Bala M’Bala be called upon to “apologise unconditionally” for “becoming involved in political controversy”? And if he had then declared that “nothing could make me take back my deepest beliefs” would he be asked to sign a recantation of what he said?
Don’t be silly. No one would raise a fuss. He’d be praised by many for “speaking truth to power,” for standing up for the oppressed,” for supporting the Palestinians “whom the world seems to have forgotten,” for “daring to challenge the all-powerful Zionist lobby.” Yes, the world “seems to have forgotten” the Palestinians except at the U.N., where the General Assembly passes more resolutions denouncing Israel than all its resolutions on China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela U.N. put together, or at the U.N. Human Rights Council, where of the last 160 resolutions passed, 90 were about Israel, and 70 were about the other 192 member states of the U.N. “Whom the world seems to have forgotten” when hardly a day goes by without the Palestinians being discussed at the U.N., where Israel’s putative mistreatment of the Palestinians is brought up – it’s Agenda Item #7 – at every session of the U.N. Human Rights Council? “Whom the world seems to have forgotten” when on campuses all across the Western world BDS rallies are held without letup? “Whom the world seems to have forgotten” when so much of the mainstream media constantly carry reports and editorials about “illegal Jewish settlements” on “occupied Palestinian land” that are an “obstacle to a two-state solution,” a subject that The New York Times, The Guardian, and Le Monde can never get enough of?
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng is so far sticking to his guns. No apology, no recanting. He’s due to retire later this year. Let’s hope he can hold off the baying hyenas calling for his immediate punishment — i.e., discharge — until then, so he can retire, his dignity intact, on his timeline, not theirs.
First published in Jihad Watch.