SA Foreign Policy Is Centred on Human Rights for All; Justice Mogoeng's Utterances on Israel/Palestine a Dangerous Mix of Politics, Religion, Law

Cape Times (South Africa), June 26, 2020 | Go to article overview

SA Foreign Policy Is Centred on Human Rights for All; Justice Mogoeng's Utterances on Israel/Palestine a Dangerous Mix of Politics, Religion, Law


THE CHIEF Justice of South Africa, Mogoeng Mogoeng, descended down a dangerous path this week when he chose to criticise the foreign policy of his own country by quoting Bible verses and defending Israel in a Jerusalem Post webinar.

This at a critical juncture when Israel is about to annex massive swathes of Palestinian land, continues to violate international law and numerous UN resolutions, and denies Palestinians their basic human rights and freedoms.

Justice Mogoeng is not an ordinary South African citizen, he is the head of the apex institution - the Constitutional Court - that safeguards the rights and freedoms of our citizens.

But despite his role as the chief guardian of rights and freedoms in South Africa, he has failed to recognise that Palestinians also have human rights. His failure to criticise Israel's violation of those rights is an attempt to protect the oppressor, using religion as his justification.

The advancement of human rights, freedoms, and the rule of law are the foundational values of our democracy. The role of the state is to promote those values.

Our foreign policy is centred on human rights, and as a country we have an obligation to respect and defend international law both at home and abroad. International law played an important role in South Africa's Struggle for freedom, and it continues to play a critical role in the struggle of the Palestinians for freedom. Israel consistently shows a total disrespect for legality and justice. Israel's settlement policy is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the International Court of Justice has ruled that Israel has contravened the laws of occupation.

The Fourth Hague Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring its people to the territory it is occupying, but this is what Israel has consistently done through its settlement building projects - in total violation of international law.

States have an obligation under international law not to recognise acts of wrongdoing by other states, and South Africa is bound by that obligation as much as any other country.

South Africa cannot defend what Israel is doing when we are bound by the following legal obligation: "All states shall co-operate to bring an end through lawful means to any serious breach of international law."

Justice Mogoeng acknowledges that the policy direction taken by South Africa is binding on him, but he claims that as a citizen, he is entitled to criticise his country's policies. But what he says informs his criticism are Bible verses such as that in Genesis 12:1-3: "If I curse Abraham and Israel, God will curse me too. …

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