Why South Africa Is Punishing a Chief Justice for Standing Up for Israel

March 12 2021

Last summer, South Africa’s chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was subjected to ferocious criticism after he suggested that his country take a more “balanced” approach to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and spoke in biblical terms of his “love for Israel.” Complaints about his conduct have led to a recent formal ruling that he violated the country’s strict laws prohibiting judges from publicly commenting on political issues, and giving him ten days to apologize—which he refuses to do. But even if there is a case to be made that Mogoeng ran afoul of official codes of conduct, argues Milton Shain, the response to the affair by both the press and the authorities betrays something far more troubling:

For decades the Jewish state has been maligned and the ideology of Zionism mangled [in South Africa]. Ironically, vilification [of Israel] in the 1950s emanated mainly from the radical white right. Neo-Nazis such as Ray Rudman, for example, located malevolent Jewish power in the Zionist enterprise. . . . Today the anti-Zionist left mirrors the old radical white right. It too characterizes Israel in sinister terms: the Jewish state is at the center of a vast conspiracy, nefariously manipulating global and domestic politics and finance.

In power since 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) has in effect separated “good” Jews from “bad” (Zionist) Jews. . . . Essentially, the ANC and the progressive left see Zionism through an South Africa prism. With a mind-boggling sweep of one-sided history, rooted firmly in a colonial settler paradigm and devoid of even a shred of historical sensitivity, . . . it simplistically frames a 100-year-old conflict within an apartheid framework, an approach largely jettisoned by serious scholars of the subject. No place is left for complexity or competing narratives.

While antagonism towards Israel cannot axiomatically be equated with anti-Semitism, it is apparent that the discourse of anti-Zionism often goes beyond the bounds of normal political rhetoric and frequently betrays vulgar Jew-hatred. Israel alone is signaled out for obloquy, while the human-rights abuses of many other states are ignored. Mogoeng made this clear. In so doing he crossed a red line.

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Read more at Business Day

More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Racism, South Africa

 

Europe-Israel Relations Have Been Transformed

On Monday, Israel and the EU held their first “association council” meeting since 2012, resuming what was once an annual event, equivalent to the meetings Brussels conducts with many other countries. Although the summit didn’t produce any major agreements or diplomatic breakthroughs, writes Shany Mor, it is a sign of a dramatic change that has occurred over the past decade. The very fact that the discussion focused on energy, counterterrorism, military technology, and the situation in Ukraine—rather than on the Israel-Palestinian conflict—is evidence of this change:

Israel is no longer the isolated and boycotted outpost in the Middle East that it was for most of its history. It has peace treaties with six Arab states now, four of which were signed since the last association council meeting. There are direct flights from Tel Aviv to major cities in the region and a burgeoning trade between Israel and Gulf monarchies, including those without official relations.

It is a player in the regional alliance systems of both the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean, just as it has also become a net energy exporter due to the discovery of large gas deposits of its shoreline. None of this was the case at the last council meeting in 2012. [Moreover], Israel has cultivated deep ties with a number of new member states in the EU from Central and Eastern Europe, whose presence in Brussels bridges cultural ideological gaps that were once much wider.

Beyond the diplomatic shifts, however, is an even larger change that has happened in European-Israeli relations. The tiny Israel defined by its conflict with the Arabs that Europeans once knew is no more. When the first Cooperation Agreement [between Israel and the EU’s precursor] was signed in 1975, Israel, with its three million people, was smaller than all the European member states save Luxembourg. Sometime in the next two years, the Israeli population will cross the 10 million mark, making it significantly larger than Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Austria (among others), and roughly equal in population to Greece, Portugal, and Sweden.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Abraham Accords, Europe and Israel, European Union, Israeli gas