South Africa Chief Justice appeals demand to apologize for Israel comment

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Chief Justice of South Africa Mogoeng Mogoeng has appealed against a demand by the country’s Judicial Conduct Committee to apologize for comments he made in a webinar hosted by The Jerusalem Post.

In June last year, during a discussion between Mogoeng and South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein that was moderated by the Post’s Editor in Chief Yaakov Katz, Mogoeng said he loves and prays for Israel, and accused critics of Israel of hypocrisy for not seeking to cut ties with former colonial powers in Africa and nations who exploit the continent today as they do with Israel.

“Have we cut diplomatic ties with our colonizers? Have we disinvested from our former colonizers and those responsible for untold suffering in South Africa and Africa? Did Israel take away our land or the land of Africa, did Israel take our mineral wealth,” Mogoeng said during the webinar.

“We would do well to reflect on the objectivity involved in adopting a particular attitude towards a particular country that has not taken as much and unjustly from South Africa and Africa as other nations that we consider it to be an honor to have diplomatic relations with us,” Mogoeng said.

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In other comments he acknowledged his strong Christian faith and said that “I’m under an obligation as a Christian to love Israel, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, which actually means the peace of Israel,” citing the Bible as the source of this obligation.

His comments caused outrage among pro-Palestinian activists and groups, including Africa 4 Palestine and the South Africa BDS Coalition, who filed complaints against him to the Judicial Conduct Committee of the country’s Judicial Service Commission.

The complaints argued that Mogoeng had “become involved in political controversy or activity,” and “failed to recuse himself from a pending case where there has arisen a reasonable suspicion of bias against one of the parties.”

On March 4, Judge P.M. Mojapelo dismissed the complaint that he had failed to recuse himself from a case where he may be biased, but upheld the complaint about becoming involving in political controversy and ordered Mogoeng to apologize.

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The judge also ordered Mogoeng to apologize for a subsequent statement saying he would under no circumstances apologize, and even drafted the exact wording Mogoeng should use in his apology.

On Sunday, the deadline for Mogoeng to apologize, he formally appealed the decision of the Judicial Conduct Committee.

The South African branch of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, an pro-Israel evangelical organization, has been heavily involved in campaigning for Mogoeng and has decried what it says are efforts to deny him right to freedom of expression.

The organization drafted a petition calling on South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to publicly support Mogoeng and underline his right to freedom of expression.

The petition has garnered almost 125,000 signatures as of Sunday.

“We fully support the right of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to express his Christian convictions and support for peace in the Holy Land and we denounce those who are mischievously misinterpreting his message towards their hateful

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agenda,” said ICEJ’s South African branch last week.

“His message has been one of love for all people caught up in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the branch said. “His message has been balanced and entirely fair. His message has been one of hope for a peaceful resolution to the

conflict and his expressed desire to see our country, South Africa, play a mediating role in achieving this peace is something we fully support.”

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