Following his participation in a webinar hosted by the Jerusalem Post this week, several bodies have come out in criticism of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s comments, with one even considering laying a complaint with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
The Jerusalem Post reported that, during the webinar, Mogoeng lamented South Africa’s adoption of a lopsided attitude towards the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and said it would have greater influence if it displayed a more balanced approach.
Mogoeng took part in the webinar, along with South Africa’s chief rabbi, Warren Goldstein.
On Friday, the EFF called on the chief justice to withdraw his comments and to “join all progressive voices in an unequivocal condemnation of Apartheid Israel”.
“He must realise that Palestine needs people of the world to unite behind them as they fight for self-determination; this is just the thing to do,” the political party said in a statement on Friday.
The political party added that the people of Palestine have requested that the world isolate Israel, in the way South Africa once was, “until it ends its illegal, criminal, genocidal occupation of Palestinian land”.
“We call on the chief justice to repent from contradicting this call. We call on him to retract his position and subdue himself to the collective wisdom and call by the oppressed in Palestine. As the oppressed, Palestinians say in order to force Israel to end the occupation, it must be isolated by all,” the EFF concluded.
The party’s statement followed the ANC’s statement on Thursday on the matter.
ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe said Mogoeng had entered the arena of political commentary, which might make him vulnerable should he adjudicate a human rights matter in the future.
He added: “It was rather unfortunate for the chief justice to state that the ‘South African government policy was binding upon himself and that he was not seeking to reject it’, but then clearly and openly opposes it as a citizen.”
Human rights organisation Africa4Palestine said it is in the process of consulting with its legal advisors over Mogoeng’s criticism of South Africa’s foreign policy.
“Africa4Palestine is to lay a complaint with South Africa’s Judicial Service Commission against the recent utterances made by the South African Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in support of the Israeli Apartheid regime.
“It is regrettable that the chief justice has publicly entered the Israeli-Palestinian issue on the side of the oppressors – the Israeli regime,” spokesperson Tisetso Magama said in a statement on Thursday.
The human rights organisation believes – among other issues – that the chief justice’s participation in this dialogue was “improper”.
“We are particularly concerned since there is a current matter in front of the Constitutional Court between Cosatu and the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, involving the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
“The chief justice, having participated in such an overtly political event, hosted by the Jerusalem Post and the chief rabbi, when this matter is in front of his court, is considered improper at worst or highly questionable in the very least,” Magama added.
The council of Muslim theologians, Jamiatul Ulama, said Mogoeng’s apparent partiality towards Israel calls into question the chief justice’s commitment to South Africa’s foreign policy, “which is derived from the nation’s obligations as a signatory to the conventions and legal instruments that have pronounced the illegitimacy of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories”.
“We call upon Chief Justice Mogoeng to walk back his remarks and instead speak against the discrimination and oppression of the Palestinian people, to whom we owe solidarity for the dehumanising injustices and excesses they endure every day for over seven decades,” secretary-general Ebrahim Bham said in a statement on Friday.
Asked if Mogoeng had a response regarding the backlash, spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Justice, Nathi Mncube, said: “None.”