OPINION| Israel is important to us as well, debate on it must not be silenced

Current Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng

The Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng just like all the citizens enjoys the constitutional right of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The recent attacks directed at him by some sections of our society are unfair, and trample on his constitutional rights.

We are in a democratic country, and an open debate on subjects that are considered taboo is needed. Debates on the Israeli and Palestinian conflicts is important but it seems those who choose to side with Israel or tend to believe in a solution brought by Israel aligned thoughts are crucified and not given a space in the discourse.

The Israel and the Palestinian conflicts date back to many decades and some have taken sides, and the South African narrative driven by the ruling Party the ANC is that Israel is an apartheid state. The ANC stance is not a stance for none ANC members, and South Africans are not zombies who must be forced to advance the ANC political stance and policy.

What prompted the ruling party to decide on supporting Palestinians might not be of interest to the Chief Justice and other South Africans. In a state like South Africa where religious rights are enshrined in our constitution and everyone has a freedom to choose a religion of their own liking, it should not be a crime for the Chief Justice to pronounce on his personal capacity to support peaceful resolutions in Israel.

The Jewish community in South Africa enjoys the religious right to support the Jewish state in Israel much as the Islamic community enjoys the right to support the Palestinians. There have been numerous organizations that have advocated for the sanctions against the Jewish state due to its human rights record in the Palestinian territory but the same is not happening when suicide bombs and terrorist acts are committed against the Jews in Israel.

The Israeli and Palestinian conflict needs more than a political stance which is driven by propaganda and political sympathy. The solution lies on freedom to speak without victimization as seen with how the Chief Justice was subjected to even formal complaints laid with the Judiciary Service Commission.

Israel and Palestine are too important for South Africans and many Africans in General, majority of Africans are believers in Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The land of Israel is significant and symbolic for the three dominant Abrahamic religions. It for this reason that South Africans in particular should have a say in the debate about the future of Israel and the process to find peace.

It does not help to treat Israel with disdain and not engage but name calling it. How does it help us to call it an apartheid state and cry about human rights violation when millions of our people visit the Holy land annually? It is about time that people should speak freely, let those who support Israel have a say and not silence them.

Ntsako Shivambu

A Freelance Journalist and this is an independent opinion.

Main image courtesy of The Daily Maverick