Judges should not be gagged, muzzled or censored – Mogoeng on his Palestine remarks

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng is of the view that human rights organisation Africa4Palestine has taken his remarks out of context to make an example out of anyone who differs with it.

"Somehow, Africa4Palestine has, in my view, found a way to build a case by taking these remarks completely out of their obvious context to achieve its goal of making an example of me to any who would ever dare to knowingly or unknowingly differ with them," he said in a 19-page affidavit to the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) in response to the human rights organisation's complaint.

This after the organisation said it would lay a complaint with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) against Mogoeng's utterances in a webinar hosted by the Jerusalem Post.

The JSC previously confirmed on 5 July a complaint had been laid by Africa4Palestine who accused him of breaching the judicial code of conduct.

News24 earlier reported, 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.

In a statement on 25 June, the human rights organisation said it took issue with the remarks in light of a current case in front of the Constitutional Court between Cosatu and the SA Jewish Board of Deputies involving the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

In addition, Africa4Palestine stated Mogoeng displayed an utter disregard for international law in his support for Israel, "a regime that is a serial violator of UN resolutions and international law".

"The chief justice conflates the modern political entity, the racist State of Israel that was created in 1948, with the Biblical land of Israel.

"In the process, he does a disservice to the Palestinian Christians who are descendants of the first followers of Jesus Christ. He insults the Christians of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, and those who live in Jerusalem, who are currently living under a brutal Israeli occupation – deemed unlawful by South Africa together with most other countries and the UN," the organisation said.

Mogoeng also stated Bible-based prayers for peace in Jerusalem and the refusal to hate or curse were now being made out to look like a preference of Israel over Palestine.

"In sum, these are all being weaponised against me, and made to look like conduct so unbecoming of a judge as to justify the imposition of some form of punishment on me. And all this, in the name of human rights," he said.

Mogoeng added judges should not be needlessly "censored, gagged or muzzled".

"They ought to be free to continue to write articles or books, deliver public lectures or participate in radio or television programmes to share reflections on human rights, constitutionalism, policies or any other subject of public interest.

"They are not be confined to judgement-writing responsibilities as some, either out of sheer ignorance, mischief-making or stone age conservatism, have consistently advocated for."

In his 19-page affidavit, Mogoeng cited other judges who have made remarks regarding a peaceful resolution of the Israel/Palestine problem in a mutually beneficial way, but the human rights organisation did not lodge a complaint against any of his colleagues.

"I am their target," he said.

"I am pleased that Deputy Chief Justice [Dikgang] Moseneke and Justice [Edwin] Cameron were, unlike me, not hauled before the JCC by the likes of Africa4Palestine. I would have been concerned had it happened. For none of us did anything wrong."

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