WATCH: Petition handover –‘Do the right thing, Mr President and stand with Mogoeng’s right to stand with Israel’

At the handover of a petition in front of Parliament on Friday, are, from the left, Pierre de Jager, Israel Support Group Parliament, Chris Eden, national director Bridges for Peace, South Africa, Pastor Barry Isaacs, Vivienne Myburgh, national director International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, South Africa, Charles Ford, President’s Office, and Steve Swart ACDP MP [See video below of petition handover]

The attack on Chief Justice Mogoeng’s right to express his Christian views on Israel is not new but a continuation of an ancient battle spoken about in Psalm 83 which says that those who hate God will attack the very people of God, said Vivienne Myburgh, national director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, South Africa last Friday.

She said this in front of Parliament to Charles Ford of the President’s Office while handing him a petition signed by more than 150 000 South Africans calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to support Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s rights to religious freedom and freedom of opinion.

On the same day the Judicial Conduct Committee was due to consider an appeal by Mogoeng against a ruling ordering him to apologise for remarks he made about Israel during a webinar last year. At the time Mogoeng lamented that the government’s attitude towards the Israel-Palestine conflict was lopsided and prevented it from contributing to peacemaking in the region. He also said that as a Christian he loved the Jews and Israel, and he loved the Palestinians.

Gateway News has not yet had a response from the Judicial Conduct Committe to our request for an update on the appeal but understands that the committee is still weighing written representations by Mogoeng and the complainants, Africa4Palestine, the South African Boycott Disinvestment and Sanctions Coalition and the Women’s Cultural Group and that it may be a while before a verdict is delivered.

Handing over the petition Myburgh said it was sad that the president of a largely Christian nation was siding with the agenda of the enemies of Israel “in this ancient battle”. She called on Ramaphosa to “do the right thing” and stand with the chief justice’s constitutional right to express his understanding of what the Bible says about standing with Israel.

“And in fact we need the blessing of Israel on this nation because God declares in Genesis 12 verse 3 that ‘I will bless the nation that blesses this one and I will curse the one that curses it.’ And I believe that South Africa needs a blessing more than ever today,” she said.

In an article in Daily Maverick this week, Arthur Lenk, a former ambassador of Israel to South Africa, says that the “success” of a small, loud anti-Israel lobby in SA is preventing South Africa from having any impact on Israel-Palestine. His point about SA’s bias precluding it from engaging constructively in the Middle East is in line with the view expressed by Mogoeng in the webinar that led to anti-Israel activists complaining to the Judicial Service Commission.

Lenk writes that the formation of a new Israeli government coalition with a wide representation across Israel’s democracy offers SA an opportunity “to reset its relationship with Israel”.

“It should quickly nominate and send an ambassador to its embassy in Israel and establish a constructive dialogue with the new government after too many years of silence,” he says.

He says that South Africa’s extreme bias has “had no impact other than to hurt its own interests. It made itself irrelevant to facilitate any positive developments between Israel and Palestine. The lack of a South African ambassador in Israel has diminished its influence, connections and relationships in the region.”

“Much of the international community, from the Emirates to Morocco and India to Sudan, has deepened relations with Israel in recent years. The news this week offers South Africa an excellent opportunity to promote issues that are important to its people and it should grab it with two hands,” says Lenk.

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